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:
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.
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