Monday, March 12, 2012

ISU Faces Brutal Draw

Well, crap.  ISU found themselves in that dreaded 8/9 matchup.  Thats tough.  Facing the defending National Champions?  Ouch.  Lets look at how Fred Hoiberg's first trip to the tournament is shaping up.

Danny Sheridan Line-- UCONN by 2
Kenpom-- ISU by 1
Tourney Challenge-- 69.5 pct have picked UCONN

How we got here...

Its been mentioned numerous times that Connecticut is the defending national champ.  A championship caliber team typically doesn't end up in the 8/9 matchup and this is no exception.  To be honest, Iowa State has the better resume.  UConn at times was on tournament life support and won games at the right time just to get into the field.  Connecticut is a team many picked to repeat as champs because of two NBA lottery picks in Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond.  However, chemistry and playing team basketball has not always been their forte.  Many have criticized this team of playing AAU basketball and the results have shown.

Iowa State struggled to find chemistry early in the year and needed a pep talk from former Cyclone Dedric Willoboughy to get things turned around.  The 3rd place team in the Big 12 typically doesn't end up in the 8/9 matchup by I guess thats where Iowa State lands.  Using the "eye-test" would show Iowa State is playing better than their seed indicates.  Iowa State has really only struggled in 3 conference games.  In those games they struggled to find their shot, yet in two of them still had a chance to win the game.  This matchup, to me, resembles more of the 4/5 second (third) round matchup.

Why Connecticut will win...

  • Connecticut has size down low.  If they are able to control the boards and get offensive rebounds ISU may be in trouble.  Iowa State's defense has never been accused of being stingy and allowing Connecticut to get 2nd chance points will dramatically decrease their chances.  
  • Chris Babb will keep one of the guards in check.  That will most likely be Jeremy Lamb.  Connecticut will win if the "other" guard goes off, most likely Shabazz Napier.  Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen are by no means lock-down defenders.  If Bubu Palo contributes significant minutes it is because their guards are going off.  Palo doesn't contribute much offensively.  Advantage UCONN.
  • Its better to be lucky than good.  At least that is what I have heard.  UCONN has been known for not defending the 3 this year.  ISU will get those shots.  If they aren't going in it could be a long day for the Cyclones.
Why the Cyclones will win...

  • They score 70 or more points.  Iowa State has only lost one game this year when scoring more than 70.  UCONN may shoot a higher percentage but not enough to compensate for Iowa State's 3 point attempts.
  • Connecticut's 3 point defense has been poor this season.  That makes ISU salivate.  If they right people are getting the right looks the Cyclones will win.  Attention Royce:  You are not a 3 point shooter.
  • Royce White will stay out of foul trouble.  Iowa State doesn't need him to score.  They need him to rebound and distribute.  In road and neutral games Royce is averaging over 12 rebounds a game.  
  • Chris Babb will disrupt Jeremy Lamb.  It has been amazing to watch his defense all year.  If Lamb can't get his share who will pick up the slack?  
Looking Ahead...

The winner is lucky enough to get Kentucky (most likely) in the "3rd round".  Goody!  Interesting enough Kentucky's only really vulnerable to teams that can shoot it and have a decent big guy.  See: Iowa State.  Do I think Iowa State can take them?  I've seen crazier things, but they have to get there first.  This regional sets up very nicely for the winner of this four-team tourney.  I am not too scared of Witchita State and Indiana.  That could set up a regional final with Duke?  I honestly think the winner of this four-team pod, no matter who, goes on to the Final Four.

The Pick...

Iowa State could get absolutely slaughtered Thursday night.  Everyone is picking UCONN.  However, the motto for all things ISU this year has been "expect the unexpected".  Whether its beating the #2 team in football or beating Kansas at home in basketball this university has experienced some of the greatest games in their history.  Why not add another one or two to that list?

Iowa State 73 Connecticut 68

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