Notebook: Cyclones vow to not look past N.C. Central

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Iowa State (26-7) is saying all of the right things when it comes to Friday’s second-round NCAA Tournament game against the East Region’s 14-seed, N.C. Central (28-5). 

“I can promise you this,” Fred Hoiberg explained in Iowa State’s locker room on Thursday afternoon. “Our guys will not overlook this game and if we do overlook it, we will not be playing on Sunday.”

From Hoiberg to every player on the roster, that was Iowa State’s message before Thursday evening’s shoot around at the AT&T Center. N.C. Central, the champions of the MEAC, have won 20 games in a row and is one of the most experienced teams in the country. It is N.C. Central’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance so the full expectation is that the Eagles will bring forth a spirited performance. 

“It is a very, very good basketball team that we are playing tomorrow night,” Hoiberg said. “They really do a nice job of controlling tempo. They run a lot of different sets. We put in probably three-quarters of their actions and we still have a lot more to put in.” 

Hoiberg noted two upsets that occurred early during Thursday’s NCAA Tournament action, when an 11-seed (Dayton) topped sixth-seeded Ohio State. A 12-seed in Harvard also defeated fifth-seeded Cincinnati.

“We have to be more focused than we have been all year,” DeAndre Kane said. “This is when teams really upset others. Everybody can play. For us, just be focused and play every game like it is your last.”

Old friend gives ISU tips 

N.C. Central defeated N.C. State 82-72 on Nov. 20. Of course, former Iowa State assistant coach Bobby Lutz is now an assistant for the Wolfpack. Who do you think Fred Hoiberg called when he saw Iowa State’s NCAA Tournament draw on Sunday  night? 

“The first person we talked to was Bobby Lutz,” Hoiberg said. “He talked about how well coached they are. That’s the one thing that I noticed. LeVelle Moton does a great job of getting these guys ready to play. He puts them in great spots on the floor. He runs good actions for them and he changes up defenses to keep teams off balance.” 

Think Boise…

I asked Iowa State assistant coach Cornell Mann who he would compare N.C. Central to, amongst the low to mid-major programs that the Cyclones played in the non-conference portion of the season. He told me Boise State, a team that the Cyclones narrowly defeated by four in Hawaii on Christmas Day. Sophomore guard Naz Long agreed.

“They had a guard that liked to drive left a lot and watching film on NC-Central, I could see that,” Long said of the comparison. “Their point guard is actually right handed but he uses his right hand a lot. That is similar to Boise State. Boise State has a great scorer and they have Ingram, who scores 20 a game.”

More scouting of N.C. Central…

Fred Hoiberg…

“It is a team that you just have to try to keep the game plan simple and go out and focus on yourselves and go out and do what you have to and give yourself the best chance to win. It’s a really, really good basketball team. I believe they are the fifth oldest team in all of the NCAA and they are hot right now. Any time that you play a team like that it obviously makes it dangerous.”

Georges Niang… 

“They all have good size. They have really good talent. Their backcourt is really good with Chapman and Ingram. We are going to have our hands full there. Their big guys do a good job of sealing the lane and getting easy buckets.”

Naz Long on slowing down Jeremy Ingram…

“Play tight. Limit his shots. Get in his space and stuff. Nothing different than how we would play another great scorer.”