There’s going to be lots of UConn-Kentucky talk in the next few days.
Really, though, there should be UConn-Iowa State talk. It’s far from a guarantee that the Huskies escape the first round.
Let’s get an in-depth look at their opponent:
Record: 22-10 (12-6)
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (third year)
The rundown: Bombs away. Just like their coach, the Cyclones aren’t afraid to shoot the 3-ball. In one game, they did it 36 times. Hoiberg likes to spread the floor with one pivot man — sophomore Royce White — and surround him with shooters. It’s worked out O.K.: Iowa State is in the midst of its best season since the Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley era. The Cyclones have only been to one NCAA tournament (in 2005) since Fizer and Tinsley left for the NBA.
This team, an interesting collection of transfers, has four players who have made 50 or more 3-pointers: Starters Chris Allen (72), Chris Babb (64), Scott Christopherson (63) and sixth-man Tyrus McGee (50). Only three other schools — Florida, UMass and Youngstown State — have four guys with 50+ 3s.
How they got here: Iowa State’s path to the NCAAs wasn’t quite like UConn’s. Then again, the Huskies had a pretty unique year (putting it nicely). The Cyclones jumped out to a 11-2 start, which included victories over rival Iowa and Texas. And they were relatively consistent afterwards, never losing more than two games in a row.
Iowa State’s success is remarkable considering its make-up: Seven players on Hoiberg’s roster are transfers from other Division-I schools. And three of his best players — Royce White, Chris Babb and Chris Allen — sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules. Clearly, it hasn’t taken them long to gel.
Oh, and by the way, Hoiberg gets Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious for the 2012-13 season.
Signature win: A late January victory over Kansas solidified Iowa State’s tournament resume. Highlights are below.
Royce da 6’9”: load at 6-foot-9, 270-pounds, is the only player in the nation leading his team in scoring (13.1 points), rebounds (9.2), assists (5.1), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.9). So the question is obvious: Who guards him? Andre Drummond can physically matchup with White. Alex Oriakhi may get his shot, too. Because White plays the 5-position and the Cyclones fill out their lineup with smaller, quicker guys, don’t expect to see Drummond and Oriakhi on the floor together much. Roscoe Smith should get plenty of minutes.
Great Scott: I’m sure Jim Calhoun is telling his players “Don’t help off of Scott Christopherson.” The 6-foot-3 senior guard shoots 45 percent from 3-point range. He’s the most accurate shooter on a team that can fill it up in a hurry.
He’s not Babb either: Senior guard Chris Babb, a transfer from Penn State, leads the team in minutes played (33.4). He’s not shooting the long-ball as consistently as some of his teammates, but since Babb takes six per game, a few are bound to go down.
Remember this guy?: Of all the players in this year’s NCAA tournament field, senior shooting guard Chris Allen has played in the most NCAA tournament games (14). If you recall, Allen played for the Michigan State team that knocked UConn out of the 2009 Final Four. He was dismissed from the program for a “failure to meet obligations” following the 2010 season, and he landed in coach Fred Hoiberg’s arms. He’s put together a nice year, averaging 11.8 points per game while shooting 38 percent from deep.