There are 16 “Round of 32” games on Saturday and Sunday as the most exciting weekend of the sports calendar continues. As we always do every March here at MSF, we try to cover you with previews, informed and reasoned predictions, and pertinent viewing info as soon as we can get it posted.
In this post, we preview the South Region’s second round matchup between #1 overall seed Kentucky and the #8 seed out of the Big 12, Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State Cyclones.
Kentucky-Iowa State Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #1 Kentucky v #8 Iowa State in South Region
- Kentucky-Iowa State Date: Saturday, 3/17
- Kentucky-Iowa State Tip Time: 7:45 ET
- Kentucky-Iowa State Location: Louisville
- Kentucky-Iowa State TV: CBS
- Kentucky-Iowa State Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery
- Kentucky-Iowa State Point Spread: Kentucky -11.5
- Tickets: Kentucky-Iowa State Tickets
- Tickets: South Regional Tickets in Atlanta
Kentucky-Iowa State Analysis and Prediction
Top overall seed Kentucky blew out Western Kentucky on Thursday night, led by 22 points and 10 rebounds from Terrence Jones. On Saturday, they will face eighth-seeded Iowa State, who knocked off defending champ UConn by 13 points. The Cyclones got yet another double-double from Royce White and 20 points from Chris Allen in the victory.
When you look at the numbers though, there isn’t much reason to believe the Cyclones can spring the upset.
Kentucky ranks third in adjusted offensive efficiency and is in the Top 75 in all four factors and in the Top 30 in everything but free throw rate. Iowa State isn’t terrible defensively and their defensive rebounding percentage and opponents’ free throw rate are both solid. However, they rank 253rd in two-point defense, while Kentucky shoots 52.5 percent inside the arc. If Terrence Jones plays like he did on Thursday night, that’s trouble for the Cyclones.
On the other end of the floor, the Wildcats are among the Top 10 in defensive efficiency as well. They would appear to have a distinct advantage on the glass as well as in free throw rate, which means it will be imperative that the Cyclones, who take over 42 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, get hot from downtown. They shoot 38 percent from long range for the season, and even though Kentucky has solid three-point defense, that’s the potential equalizer for Iowa State.
The other key for Iowa State is obviously Royce White and how Kentucky defends him. The 6-foot-8, 250 pound power point guard can beat teams in a variety of ways, and it would seem the logical choice to guard him is Anthony Davis based on his quickness and length, but that also presents the risk that Davis gets in foul trouble. For the Cyclones to win, White needs to finish with close to 20 points and around eight assists.
There are few players I enjoy watching more than White, and I have been impressed with the Cyclones throughout the season. However, this just isn’t a great matchup for them, because of Kentucky’s size and defense. Look for the Wildcats to move on in front of a partisan UK crowd.
Predicted Winner: Kentucky
Kentucky Wildcats Team Capsule
- Conference: SEC
- Record: 32-2 (16-0 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 11-2
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama, Florida (3), Kansas, Lamar, Louisville, Loyola (MD), North Carolina, Vanderbilt (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Indiana, Vanderbilt
- Player to Watch: Anthony Davis (6’11″ F, Fr.) – 14.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 4.6 bpg, 1.4 spg, 64.3 FG%
Kentucky Bottoms Line:
The Wildcats earned the overall top seed and will be picked by most pundits to win it all – and rightfully so. Kentucky finished in the Top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and steamrolled all comers in the SEC. On offense, the Wildcats are in the Top 25 in two-point shooting, turnover rate, and offensive rebounding percentage and have a number of offensive weapons.
In all, six players score at least 9.4 points per game, led by freshman phenom Anthony Davis who is a strong candidate for National Player of the Year. He averaged a double-double and shoots a high percentage, but his shot-blocking ability is a game-changer on the defensive end. Fellow frosh Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a fiery, do-it-all competitor who will do whatever it takes to win. Sophomore Terrence Jones gives the Wildcats yet another talented frontcourt player, and if he brings his A-game, look out. The backcourt features freshman Marquis Teague, who has really improved at the point over the course of the season, and lights out shooter Doron Lamb, who hits over 45 percent from beyond the arc.
For all the discussion about Kentucky’s weapons on offense, they are just as impressive on defense. They boast the top-ranked block percentage, two-point defense, and effective field goal percentage defense to go with a Top 10 opponents’ free throw rate.
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.
Related: Jump to our South Region Bracket Breakdown