Iowa State faces seventh-seeded UConn tonight for a Sweet 16 battle in Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is set for 7:27 PM ET.
Iowa State won a tense Round of 32 match against North Carolina, shooting incredibly well from deep down the stretch. And of course, DeAndre Kane attacking the paint helped seal the win.
UConn is coming off a 77-65 upset of two-seed Villanova, in which Shabazz Napier led the way as always with 25 points. Napier, the team’s leader in scoring, rebounding, and assists, has carried the Huskies in the tournament thus far. He added 24 in UConn’s overtime thriller versus St. Joe’s.
It’s safe to say Iowa State will make shutting Napier down its number one defensive priority. The 6’1” guard will likely face off against stalwart senior guard DeAndre Kane, who had a Napier-like game against North Carolina- 24 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists.
If the Cyclones can neutralize Napier, they have an excellent shot to win even without Georges Niang. After Napier, there’s a drop off in production for UConn. In the Villanova game, the second leading scorers, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, scored only 11.
Iowa State can run away with this one if their prolific scoring in the tournament continues. Fred Hoiberg’s squad has scored at least 85 points in each tournament game so far, and UConn just isn’t as high-flying an offense- they manage only just under 72 a game.
Expect Melvin Ejim to have a great game in the post. DeAndre Daniels just isn’t in Ejim’s league, and the senior Cyclone is sure to put up around 17 tomorrow. Ejim will likely be a force in the paint, grabbing rebounds left and right. UConn isn’t a great rebounding team (146th in the nation), so I can easily see the Big 12 Player of the Year propelling ISU to winning the rebounding battle.
I’m excited to see what Naz Long does on the floor tonight. His three pointers against North Carolina were momentum shifters, and his deadly shooting will be able to silence the pro-UConn crowd if the Huskies manage to put a scoring run or two together.
I see Iowa State’s excellent shooting continue in the tournament. Ejim will be a dominating presence, Naz Long will be a momentum shifter, and the matchup between Napier and Kane will be an absolute dogfight. Ultimately, Iowa State just has too many weapons for UConn to stifle (yes, even without Niang), and Iowa State will win by double digits.
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