Stephen F. Austin v UCLA

No. 4 UCLA reaches their first Sweet 16 since 2008

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Jordan Adams finished with 19 points, Normal Powell added 16 and Kyle Anderson finished with 15 points, eight boards and five assists as No. 4 UCLA rolled past No. 12 Stephen F. Austin, 77-60.

It will be the first trip for UCLA to the Sweet 16 since 2008. That was the last of three straight Final Four trips for former Bruins head coach Ben Howland, who was let go last season despite winning the Pac-12 title. The Bruins’ brass wanted to win more, especially in March, and it looks like Alford is getting that done.

And if you know anything about Alford’s past, there is some irony there. This is the first time that he has reached the Sweet 16 this century. Seriously. The last time that he was in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament was three jobs ago, when he was the head coach Southwest Missouri State and made a run as a No. 12 seed. He has won as many tournament games this season as he did in the 14 years between Sweet 16 trips.

The Bruins will advance to the Sweet 16, where they will have a date with the overall No. 1 seed, Florida. UCLA will have their work cut out for them in that game, as Florida’s last loss came on Dec. 2nd. They are undefeated with Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin both in the lineup.

The loss was the first for the Lumberjacks in exactly four months, as they had won 29 straight games.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.