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2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (3) Iowa State vs (6) North Carolina

A breakdown of Iowa State-North Carolina and a chance to vote on who you think will win!

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Iowa State Cyclones
The North Carolina Central Eagles came in rolling, losing just once in 2014, and fought admirably through 20 minutes of play. However, in the end the Cyclones were just too much for them to handle defensively as they ran away in the second half to earn a 93-75 victory and a spot in the Round of 32 against the North Carolina Tar Heels. After the win, though, there wasn’t much celebrating going on in the Cyclones locker room as they suffered a serious loss. Sophomore big man Georges Niang, who scored a team high 24 points, suffered a broken foot in the win and will miss the rest of the NCAA Tournament as a result. Niang is a unique, inside-outside threat and will be impossible to replace. The Cyclones are simply going to have to step up and adjust to playing without him. He’d be sorely missed no matter who they played, but the North Carolina Tar Heels are a particularly tough draw as they have one of the biggest and most formidable frontlines in the country. They really beat up Providence on the glass in their opening round victory and will certainly look to do the same against the shorthanded Cyclones. Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg really only used six players including Niang against North Carolina Central, with the sixth man being a 6’4 guard in sophomore Naz Long. It’s going to be interesting to see if he looks to go small, or trusts one of his backup big men to step up in prime time after seeing limited minutes previously. A lot of the responsibility in the interior will fall on the shoulders of Melvin Ejim. The 6’6 senior is one of the best players in Cyclones history, and they’re going to need him to come up large more than ever in order to keep this run alive.

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North Carolina Tar Heels
There probably wasn’t a team in the country that could have slowed down Bryce Cotton on Friday night. The Tar Heels certainly couldn’t at least, as the senior guard made the most of his opportunity on the big stage, scoring 36 points while also grabbing five rebounds and handing out eight assists. He was electrifying, but his eruption wasn’t enough to hold off the Tar Heels and Roy Williams remained perfect in Round of 64 games with a 79-77 victory. The key was unquestionably their rebounding as the Tar Heels manhandled the Friars on the glass, outrebounding them 40-26, including 21 second chance opportunities. Had the Friars only given up 20 offensive rebounds, they would have had a chance to win it late. But, they allowed James McAdoo, who posted a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, to grab his own missed free throw with three seconds left and the deficit at one. He’d knock down one of the next two, but the Friars didn’t get the ball back and the Tar Heels moved on. Perimeter play is the major concern for the Tar Heels, but Marcus Paige had his typical solid outing with 19 points and four assists while J.P. Tokoto contributed 10 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals. They did however shoot 4-15 from beyond the arc as a team, so it’s going to be important to continue to work inside then out and look to really pound the Cyclones in the interior. They’re going to be without one of their top physical presences in Georges Niang. As long as the Tar Heels play their game and their frontline continues to be dominant, they had a great chance to pull off the upset.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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