DENVER — Little Rock head coach Chris Beard was blown away by what he saw from the Cyclones on Saturday night the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Following Iowa State’s 78-61 thrashing of the 12th seeded Trojans, Beard went on to say that he thinks Iowa State is good enough to play for a national championship.
“It’s the best offensive team we played this year,” Beard said. “Very, very difficult to guard. As good as advertised. And I thought their defense tonight was fantastic. Maybe a little bit better than we were expecting. But that’s a team we have a lot of respect for.”
On the back of Georges Niang (who led all scorers with 28 points), Iowa State shot 56 percent from the field and held the Trojans to a 37 percent mark.
“We’ve played a very tough schedule this year, so I think when I say something like that’s the best team we played this year, hopefully that will bring a little merit,” Beard said. “I think that’s a team that can win the regional and play in Houston. I really believe that.”
He had kind words for Niang too, who scored 28 points in both of Iowa State’s games this weekend and also became the schools second all-time leading scorer.
“He’s a pro,” Beard said. “He’s going to play on TNT. I think he’ll play in the NBA. He’s as good as advertised. Watching all of his clips, you know, we kind of had an idea that he might be better going right than left. So we were thinking about trying to force him left a little bit. But it’s a lot harder to do than talk about.”
Niang was so good that figuring out how to defending created controversy in Little Rock huddles.
“I was getting on the guys a little bit in the timeouts,” Beard said. “Can we force him left? Roger and all these guys, ‘Coach, there’s so much space, he can go left, too.’ That’s what pro players can do. There’s no real weakness.”