Thursday March 15 9:20 p.m. EST on CBS
NCAA Basketball Spread: UConn -2.5
The defending champions of the NCAA Tournament got into this year’s tournament despite a lackluster regular season. Can the Huskies create some March magic again, or will they be lost without Kemba Walker? Iowa State won 22 games this year, and the Cyclones are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance under Coach Fred Hoiberg. Let’s take a closer look at this South Region matchup.
Jim Calhoun missed some time again this year due to a back problem, but he seems to be much better of late. The Huskies definitely struggled through the time that he was away. UConn looked much more competitive in the Big East Tournament, where they almost knocked off Syracuse. Jeremy Lamb led the Huskies with 17.7 points per game this year. Lamb showed just how talented he was in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but he isn’t the vocal leader that Walker was last season. Shabazz Napier is a guy who has looked great at times and terrible at others. Napier leads the team in assists, but he also has 93 turnovers. He is a streaky shooter, but the team needs a solid contribution from him in this game.
The Huskies have a couple of great freshman in Ryan Boatright and Andre Drummond. They both average about 10 points per game. Boatright is a quick guard who can get to the rim or shoot it from the outside. Drummond leads the team in rebounding at 7.7 boards per game. He also leads the team with an impressive 88 blocks. Defensively, UConn allows opponents to shoot just 38.3% from the floor.
Iowa State picked up tons of talent through transfers from other schools. Royce White is the clear leader of this team. White leads the team in every single major category. He leads the team in scoring, assists, field goal percentage, rebounds, steals, and blocked shots. White is a major matchup problem for every team the Cyclones play. He is a 6’8 forward with the ability to bang around on the inside or create for his team like a point guard. Scott Christopherson is a senior leader for this team, and he can really shoot the ball. Christopherson is a 45% shooter from three-point range. Chris Allen and Chris Babb both transferred in from the Big Ten last year. Both of them are capable of carrying the team when they get hot.
Iowa State relies heavily on the three-point shot, and they shoot 38% from beyond the arc as a team. Offensively, the Cyclones average 73.2 points per game. Defensively, they allow opponents to shoot just 29.8% from three-point range. The Cyclones do give up some easy looks inside though. Opponents average 66.7 points per game on the season.
This may be the best #8 vs. #9 seed game in this tournament. UConn has the higher upside, but they haven’t played to their potential very often this year. In a game that should go right down to the wire I’ll take the underdog and the points.
Free College Basketball Pick: Iowa State +2.5
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