#3 – Iowa State
Dancing for the fourth straight year under head coach Fred Hoiberg, the Cyclones bring one of the more well-balanced, potent offenses to the field of 68. They have six players averaging double-figures. Georges Niang, perhaps college basketball’s most unique player, is the main cog in their attack, averaging 15.4 rebounds. But, what makes him so special is that he’s an extremely versatile player and very willing passer. His size and skill make him a difficult matchup, especially when you factor in the talent around him. The Cyclones are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the field, averaging eight makes a contest at a 37 percent clip. They’re also extremely unselfish and always willing to make the extra pass to get the better shot. They went an even 5-5 against the RPI top 25, but 5-0 against teams in the 26-50 range. In the Cyclones’ losses, they allowed 81 points. There are only going to be a handful of teams in the tournament that are capable of scoring with them, but once the Cyclones get past the opening weekend they’re really going to need to be able to get stops when they need them. Look out for Jameel Mckay, a consistent double-double threat over the last few weeks, as a potential X-Factor.
#14 – UAB
In basketball they say it is very difficult to beat a team three times, but that is just what UAB did on their surprise run to the Conference USA championship, defeating Middle Tennessee for the third time this year (maybe 3 ½ times because one game was triple OT). The Blazers (19-15, 12-6) are now riding some serious momentum and a team that has played eight total over time sessions this season is undoubtedly dangerous, because they are not scared of the moment. Unfortunately for UAB, they score 68.7 PPG and concede 67.7 PPG, so they had better find the answer to both ends, and quickly. On the offensive side they struggle to score in both transition and the half court, with an efficiency of 0.862 PPP, while on the defensive side they check in at a solid but by no means spectacular 87th, conceding 0.839 PPP. With seven players averaging 7.2 PPG or more the scoring is evenly spread out. Success will depend on the production of Robert Brown (12.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3 APG). The 6’5” Virginia Tech transfer can do a little bit of everything, and if he gets going, can hit from deep (four-of-eight from beyond-the-arc in CUSA championship) or get into the paint and dish (100 assists) or finish at the rim and get to the foul line (95 FTA). Nothing is impossible, but if the Blazers are going to bust any brackets it will take an other worldly effort.
– Cody Toppert
Yannis Koutroupis: Iowa State wins
Cody Toppert: Iowa State wins
Dan Barto: Iowa State wins
Cody Toppert is a former standout player at Cornell University (one of the top three-point shooters in Ivy League history), who played eight years professionally (NBA D-League, Spain, Italy, Germany) and now serves as the Director of Basketball Development at ELEV|8 Sports Institute (Ganon Baker Basketball Academy). He trains professional players (five 2015 NBA Draftees) and coaches prep schoolers for Ganon Baker’s nationally ranked prep school program. Toppert also serves as a contributing writer for FastModel Sports. You can follow Cody and ELEV|8 on social media @Topp33 and @E8hoops.
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