(8) Iowa State vs. (9) UConn Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(8) Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones, who are making their first tournament appearance since 2005, were one of the biggest surprises in the country this year. They were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. Instead, they finished in a tie for third, earning former-NBA player Fred Hoiberg the conference’s Coach of the Year award. He has really embraced second-chance players, welcoming in a handful of transfers. Sophomore Royce White has thrived under Hoiberg, leading the team in points (12.9), rebounds (9.2), assists (5.2), steals (1.2) and blocks (1.0). On any given night though, Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen could also lead them in scoring. Overall, the Cyclones have six guys averaging at least eight points. They are a volume three-point-shooting team, making nine a contest at a 38 percent rate. The Cyclones struggled against the RPI Top 25, going just 2-5, because they’re not a strong defensive team. If they’re on offensively, they can definitely win a couple of games.
(9) Connecticut Huskies
At the beginning of the season, the Huskies were looking like a team capable of defending their national championship despite the loss of 2011 Most Outstanding Player Kemba Walker. Then, conference play started and everything went downhill for the Huskies. They were sub .500 in league play, very nearly missing out on the tournament because of it. Head coach Jim Calhoun has been in and out of the lineup due to various health issues and this team has failed to come together like last year’s group. As far as talent is concerned, they’re overflowing in it. Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond are future lottery picks. Every member of the Huskies nine-man rotation will likely play professionally somewhere. Yet, those talented pieces just didn’t fit together well somehow. They sorely lack shooters and their bench, which is full of youth, has not been overly reliable. For the Huskies to avoid an early exit, their top players are going to have to play like stars and put forth big efforts. Keep an eye on freshman point guard Ryan Boatright as a potential x-factor.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Connecticut. Fred Hoiberg has done a fine job at Iowa State this season and the future of the program is bright, but the Huskies aren’t going out in game one of their title defense.
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