NCAA Tournament Predictions: Iowa State vs. Iona

Iowa State forward Georges Niang reacts after a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 58-50. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa State forward Georges Niang drives past Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Niang scored 22 points as Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
All-American candidate Georges Niang will not be satisfied with another early NCAA Tournament exit. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

4. Iowa State (21-11, 10-8/Big 12)–The Cyclones are hungry for March success after falling victim to perhaps the most stunning upset of the tournament last season, when they lost to 14th-seeded UAB in what was the first game of the tournament. This year, senior star forward Georges Niang is determined not to let that happen again, even telling a reporter that when asked about a first-round opponent after the team lost in the Big 12 tourney.

There’s no doubt that this group is talented, and first-year head coach Steve Prohm has done a nice job getting it to buy in after ‘The Mayor’ Fred Hoiberg departed to coach the Chicago Bulls. Niang is a first-team All-American candidate, and can beat you both inside and out, as he shoots nearly 40 percent from deep. The 6-8 senior reminds you of Draymond Green (not so much defensively), as he puts up 19.8 points, 6.8 boards and 3.2 assists per game. Guard Monte Morris is explosive and heady (13.9 ppg, 3.3 apg), and forward Abdel Nader can beat you in a number of different ways as well. The problem with the Cyclones is depth, because once you get past their first seven, there’s not much there.

KEY STATS:

81.8 points per game (15th)

16.5 assists per game (23rd)

75.0 points allowed (T-257th)

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Iona guard AJ English could be an NBA Draft pick this year. (AP Photo)

13. Iona (22-10, 16-4/MAAC)–With all of the attention surrounding MAAC regular season champ Monmouth (which was snubbed), Iona flew under the radar this season. But the Gaels are very good team, too–as they proved by beating the Hawks both on the road and then in the conference title game. Iona is an up-tempo team that loves to push the ball up and down the floor, and they’ve got a few guys who can give opponents fits, including 6-4 senior guard A.J. English.

The Wilmington, DE native averaged 22.4 points, 6.2 assists and 5 rebounds per game this season and has drawn the attention of NBA scouts. It’s not all about English, either–as 6-8 senior forward Jordan Washington can fill it up (13.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), as can sophomore guard Deyshonee Much (13.1 ppg).

PREDICTION: This might be the worst possible matchup Iona could have seen in the first round, as they’re playing a team that loves to push the tempo as much as they do, and one that remembers the sting of losing as a highly-seeded team in the first round last year. If this were say, California, Maryland or Indiana, we could advise picking the upset. But we can’t quite see it against the Cyclones. Look for Iowa State to redeem itself from last year’s first-round flameout, and perhaps advance to the Sweet 16 before it succumbs to Virginia.

Other tournament games:

EAST:
Which teams can beat No. 1 North Carolina?
8. USC vs. 9. Providence
5. Indiana vs. 12. Chattanooga
4. Kentucky vs. 13. Stony Brook
6. Notre Dame vs. 11. Michigan/Tulsa
3. West Virginia vs. 14. Stephen F. Austin
7. Wisconsin vs. 10. Pittsburgh
2. Xavier vs. 15 Weber State

SOUTH:
Who can beat No. 1 Kansas?
8. Colorado vs. 9. UConn
5. Maryland vs. 12. South Dakota State
4. California vs. 13 Hawaii
6. Arizona vs. 11. Wichita State or Vanderbilt
3. Miami (FL) vs. 14. Buffalo
7. Iowa vs. 10. Temple
2. Villanova vs. 15. UNC Asheville

MIDWEST:
How far will No. 1 Virginia advance?
8. Texas Tech vs. 9. Butler
5. Purdue vs. 12. Arkansas-Little Rock
4. Iowa State vs. 13. Iona
6. Seton Hall vs. 11. Gonzaga
3. Utah vs. 14. Fresno State
7. Dayton vs. 10. Syracuse
2. Michigan State vs. 15. Middle Tennessee State

WEST:
Is No. 1 Oregon really that good?
8. St. Joseph’s vs. 9. Cincinnati
5. Baylor vs. 12. Yale
4. Duke vs. 13. UNC-Wilmington
6. Texas vs. 11. Northern Iowa
3. Texas A&M vs. 14. Green Bay
7. Oregon State vs. 10. VCU
2. Oklahoma vs 15. Cal St. Bakersfield

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