There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the 8-9 matchup in the South Region between the vagabond Iowa State Cyclones and the defending champion Connecticut Huskies.
Iowa State-Connecticut Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut in South Region
- Iowa State-UConn Date: Thursday, March 15th
- Iowa State-UConn Tip Time: 9:15 ET
- Iowa State-UConn Location: Louisville
- Iowa State-UConn TV: TBS
- Iowa State-UConn Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery
- Iowa State-UConn Point Spread: UConn -2
- Tickets: Iowa State-Connecticut Tickets
- Tickets: All Louisville Sessions
- Tickets: South Regional Tickets in Atlanta
Iowa State-Connecticut Analysis and Prediction
I can’t wait for this matchup, in large part because I just love watching Royce White play. The Iowa State forward does it all for the Cyclones and should prove to be a matchup problem for virtually any opponents based on his versatility and unique skill set. UConn has also struggled to defend the three-point line, which will be an issue against an Iowa State team that takes (and makes) a lot of shots from long range.
On the other end of the floor, the Cyclones have a strong defensive rebounding rate, but they’ll need to find a way to maintain it against the likes of Andre Drummond on the offensive glass. The Huskies need to pound the ball inside to take advantage of their size and ISU’s poor two-point defense, but based on what I’ve seen from UConn this year, I question their ability to recognize that. The Cyclones may also want to consider playing zone against a Connecticut squad that has struggled from beyond the arc.
I fully expect a close game, but I will side with Royce White and Iowa State, who has certainly played with more heart throughout the season.
Predicted Winner: Iowa State
Iowa State Cyclones Team Capsule
- Conference: Big 12
- Record: 22-10 (12-6 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 6-7
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Baylor, Lehigh, Kansas, Kansas State (2), Texas
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Baylor, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri (2), Texas (2)
- Player to Watch: Royce White (6’8” F, So.) – 13.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.1 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.9 bpg, 52.1 FG%
Iowa State Bottoms Line:
The Cyclones got off to a slow start with early losses to Drake and Northern Iowa, but the team has improved over the course of the season and finished tied for third in the Big 12.
Everything for ISU begins with Minnesota transfer Royce White. The 6-foot-8 forward can do a little bit of everything and essentially serves as the point guard for the Cyclones. He will be a matchup nightmare for tournament opponents, although he does make only 49 percent from the free throw line.
Outside of White, five other players score at least 8.1 points per game. Scott Christopherson is a dangerous shooter who canned 45 percent of his threes this season, while Michigan State transfer Chris Allen also connected on over 38 percent of his long-range attempts. Melvin Ejim is undersized at just 6-foot-6, but he’s an outstanding competitor on the glass.
In all, the Cyclones rank inside the Top 50 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Their offensive strength is their strong three-point shooting, as Iowa State takes over 42 percent of its shots from long range as a number of talent shooters combine to hit 38.0 percent. On defense, the Cyclones are equally effective at defending the three-point line, and they rarely allow offensive rebounds or put their opponents on the line.
Connecticut Huskies Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 20-13 (8-10 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 5-5
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 7-8
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Florida State, Harvard, Notre Dame, South Florida, UNC-Asheville, West Virginia (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Syracuse (3)
- Player to Watch: Andre Drummond (6’10” C, Fr.) – 10.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 54.2 FG%
UCONN Bottoms Line:
The defending champs got off to a 12-1 start but proceeded to go 5-11 in their next 16 games. While the talent is there, leadership has been an issue, and coach Jim Calhoun has missed games due to health issues and suspension. Outside of an impressive offensive rebounding percentage, none of the offensive numbers jump off the page.
Sophomore Jeremy Lamb leads the lead with 17.7 points per game, but he has struggled with his outside shooting this season. He shoots 60.7 percent on two-pointers but just 33.7 percent from beyond the arc. Lamb does a nice job on the glass from the guard spot, and his length helps him on the defensive end.
Shabazz Napier and freshman Ryan Boatright join Lamb in the backcourt, and both score in double figures and have strong assist rates. They also combine for 9.9 dimes per game and have decent steal percentages, but neither shoots all that well from the field.
Inside, freshman Andre Drummond has been inconsistent in his first season, and his shot-blocking prowess deters opponents from attacking the rim. He boasts an impressive offensive rebounding percentage, but try not to look directly at your TV when he’s shooting free throws though.
If the Huskies are to make any noise in March, they need Alex Oriakhi to rekindle his magic from last year’s tournament run. The big man has struggled this season and averages just 6.8 points and 4.8 boards.
Related: Jump to our South Region Bracket Breakdown.
See our other individual game previews and predictions:
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- East Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama