Round Of 16 Matchup: #3 Iowa State Vs. #7 Connecticut
- CoachingFred Hoiberg grew up in Lincoln, Neb., went to Iowa State and played basketball there as well, so if it comes down to knowing your program, Hoiberg has the edge. Since 2010, the Cyclones have steadily improved under their coach, including three 20+ win seasons. They’ve got two trips to the Big Dance under their belt, but they’ve not gone deep under Hoiberg.It’s only Kevin Ollie’s second season as the new UConn head coach, but already he’s got the Huskies back in the Sweet 16. When these two teams last met back in 2012, it was in the first round of the NCAA tournament and Iowa State came out on top by eight, but Ollie’s style is much different than Jim Calhoun’s, and it looks to be the breath of fresh air that Connecticut needed.
- OffenseThe Cyclones had the sixth-best offense in the country during the regular season, led by guard DeAndre Kane, who was only the second-best scorer for Iowa State. Kane dominated the Tar Heels, scoring 24 points, with seven assists and 10 rebounds. Pressure doesn’t seem to be much of a factor for the young player either, as Kane was the one who setup the game-winning drive and layup.Guard Shabazz Napier will be the player to watch in this match up—with 17.8 points per game in the regular season, he’s already averaging 24.5 ppg so far this tournament. Napier took command of the UConn offense over Villanova, and he’ll look to do it again against Iowa State.
- DefenseIowa State, for the most part, has been pretty subpar this season on defense, allowing 74.2 points per game (giving them a 285th ranking in the country). One exception is their rebounds, where they ranked second overall with 28.6 per game, which is one reason why their offense is so prolific – they don’t have to share the ball.The Huskies had no easy task in putting a stop to the Villanova offense, but they managed to handle the Wildcats fairly well despite a few hiccups. Iowa State’s offense is on a whole new plane, but UConn only allowed 63.7 points per game in the regular season, and was eighth overall in the nation in blocks. If any team has a chance to slow down the Cyclones offense, it’s probably the Huskies.
- Bench DepthThe Cyclones got a great performance from backup guard Naz Long against the Tar Heels, but other than that, it’s been the dynamic group of starters that have catapulted Iowa State into the national spotlight for its offense. If the need arises for talent from the bench, the Cyclones may be left wanting.Connecticut got two huge performances from key bench players in the match up with Villanova, including double digit scoring performances from guards Terrence Samuel and Lasan Kromah. Lately, though, UConn doesn’t often have to rely on their bench, with star Shabazz Napier hauling in 20+ points per night.
Both of these teams have knocked off major NCAA tournament players in North Carolina and Villanova, so the showdown between these two giant-killers should be nothing less than entertaining. Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in creative writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in near Ann Arbor, MI. Additional writing can be found at Examiner.com.