Melvin Ejim, Hudson Price

Sweet 16 Preview: No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 UConn

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On Wednesday and Thursday, we will be breaking down all eight of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here is our look at No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 UConn:

RELATED: Sweet 16 Power Rankings | Top 16 Players | Eight Critical Individual Matchups

WHEN: Friday, 7:27 p.m.

WHERE: Madison Square Garden, New York City (East Region)

MAJOR STORY LINES: Just how much are ticket prices to these games? As of Thursday morning, the cheapest tickets available on the secondary ticket exchanges online were more than $600. Seriously! That’s more than tickets to go see Louisville play Kentucky in Indianapolis. Tickets for the games in the South Region are available for $28.50, or less than 5% of what it will cost you to see UConn make their return to Madison Square Garden. Excuse me if this is a dumb question, but why would anyone spend that much money to watch a game when couches are more comfortable and beer is way cheaper at home?

KEY STATS: UConn is a very good defensive team. They ranked 10th nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings, which is precisely where Iowa State ranks nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. Iowa State wants to get out and run. They want the game in the 80s. UConn’s defense is much better in the half court than it is in transition, so if they want to slow this game down, preventing Cyclone fast break will be a key.

SWEET 16 PREVIEWS: Stanford-Dayton Wisconsin-Baylor | Florida-UCLA | Arizona-SDSU

Iowa State-UConn | Michigan-Tennessee | Virginia-Michigan State | Louisville-Kentucky

KEY PLAYERS: DeAndre Kane vs. Shabazz Napier. It doesn’t get much better than that, as these are arguably the two most productive point guards in college basketball. Napier was a first-team all-american this season. Kane probably would have been had he not dealt with an ankle injury midway through the season. Napier has a flair for the dramatic and a vicious habit of tough jumpers in critical moments. Kane hit the shot that sent the Cyclones to the Sweet 16. Length can bother Napier at times, so it will be interesting to see if Fred Hoiberg uses Kane to guard Napier. At the other end, Hoiberg likes to take advantage of the fact that Kane is 6-foot-6 by inverting his offense and posting his point guard.

POINT SPREAD: Iowa State (-1.5)

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. UConn’s defensive matchups: UConn caught a break when Georges Niang broke his foot as the Cyclone forward would have been a nightmare for them to try and guard. The Huskies are not a big team, and Niang would have given Fred Hoiberg three forwards for the Huskies to guard, meaning that either Shabazz Napier or Ryan Boatright would have been forced to defend the much bigger Kane. Look for Hoiberg to use three guards now, playing Matt Thomas, Naz Long and Monte Morris more minutes alongside Kane. That will allow Niels Giffey or Lasan Kromah to matchup with Kane. Don’t be surprised if the Huskies go small, with DeAndre Daniels teaming with Giffey and Kromah up front.

2. DeAndre Daniels: For the most part, you know what you are going to get out of Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier, but Daniels is an x-factor for the Huskies. He’s talented enough that 25 points and 12 boards is never out of the question, but he’s inconsistent enough that three points on 1-for-9 shooting is always a possibility as well. UConn needs him to be a major factor on both ends of the floor

3. Melvin Ejim: Like Kane, Ejim is going to have a favorable matchup regardless of how UConn matches up tonight. He’s more physical than Daniels, he’s bigger than Giffey and there’s no way that Amida Brimah or Phil Nolan can chase him off the three-point line. He’ll need to attack that mismatch.

CBT PREDICTION: Iowa State

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.