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2016 NCAA Tournament Preview: Iowa State Cyclones vs. Iona Gaels

Featuring EXTREME best case and worst case scenarios!

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, remember that one time when Iowa State lost to UAB in the first round of the NCAA Tournament? Ha, oh gosh, that was a bummer. Remember when almost everyone, including Cyclone fans and the national media, brought it up as talking point while discussing why Iowa State could lose to Iona in the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament?

Quite frankly, I'm so damn tired of hearing about UAB that I want ISU to squash the Gaels by 30 today to (sorta) make up for their last outing in the NCAA Tournament.

There's certainly reasons to pick against Iowa State... The team's mediocre-at-best defense has been well chronicled ever since a large enough sample size developed earlier in the season. Rebounding has been an issue at times as well, and that could actually be what's caused most of the breakdowns on defense for the Cyclones with opposing teams gaining extra possessions on offense.

However, despite ISU's obvious weaknesses, it seems to me a large reason why so many "experts" are picking Iona to pull the upset this afternoon is because we saw the Cyclones fall at the hands of a lesser opponent last year in the tourney. Had Iowa State taken care of business and advanced past the round of 64, and then had the same season in 2015-16, I'm confident fewer people would be going with the Gaels today. And that sorta makes me mad to think about.

Just because Iowa State losing last year busted your bracket doesn't mean it'll happen this year too.

If anything, the loss to UAB should be reason to believe that scenario WON'T happen again this time around. ISU is one of the most experienced teams in the nation (the most experienced remaining in the tourney per KenPom after Tulsa was eliminated last night), and personally, I think there's no way in hell a guy like Georges Niang finishes his college career by losing in the first round of the tournament two years in a row.

Niang's one of the greatest players to ever come through Ames, and he's not going to let the Cyclones lose today, even if he has to score 50 points to do it.

Though, if you think about it, Georges Niang has never had a good NCAA Tournament.

His freshman year, Aaron *freaking* Craft buried a last second 3-pointer over Niang's outstretched arm. Niang openly sobbed in the locker room following the game, taking full credit for the loss even though it obviously wasn't his fault.

His sophomore year, Iowa State made it to the Sweet Sixteen, but Niang watched from the bench after breaking his foot in the opener against North Carolina Central. That team probably would have gone further had Niang stayed healthy.

His junior year, well, I already talked about it above.

After looking up from writing this article, I see Travis Hines has published the following while I was writing... Nice timing.

If there's one thing I want more than anything else this tournament, it's for Georges Niang to have a good one. If he does, chances are the rest of the Cyclones will too.

So while the pundits are making Iona over ISU one of, if not THE "trendy" upset pick of the first round, I just can't see it happening. Not with the bad memories of last year still fresh on the players' minds.

I was starting to get a little worried about Monte Morris' shoulder injury and how it'd affect the play of the team (Morris is the straw that stirs the drink), but it sounds like he's feeling healthy. Even if he's not 100%, Morris playing at close to full speed is better than most point guards in the nation.

And if he DOES ever get to 100%, that should scare the living bejesus out of the rest of the Midwest Region. The floor might be low for the Cyclones, but the ceiling is equally as high.

I guess I should get off my soapbox and give you something that resembles a preview now. Just know that I'm in the camp that strongly believes ISU won't lose today. If you're looking for a prediction, I'll say Iowa State by about 10.

Real Stats!

I'm no stat guy, but there are a few that have jumped out at me when researching Iowa State and Iona over the past few days. If you'd like a great in-depth statistical look, I'd recommend checking out Kirk Haaland's article over on CF.

(All stats via

  • 1: Iowa State has played the #1 ranked schedule when it comes to opposing defensive strength in the nation (Iona's played the #170 ranked defensive schedule)
  • 2: The Cyclones are the 2nd to last team in college basketball at getting to the free throw line. Liberty is the only team who's worse, and they went 13-19 this year.
  • 3: Iowa State has the 3rd best offensive efficiency in the nation (Iona's ranked 67th)
  • 6: ISU has played the 6th toughest schedule overall in college basketball (Iona's played the 195th toughest)
  • 8: The number of spots separating Iona and Iowa State in the adjusted tempo rankings (Iona 45, ISU 53)
  • 19: Iona scores 37.7 of their points on 3-pointers, the 19th most in the country
  • 100: Iowa State has the 100th best defensive efficiency in the nation (Iona's ranked 127th)
  • 326: The Cyclones are ranked 326th out of 351 teams when it comes to "Luck" (Iona is 181st)
  • 351: ISU is dead last in the country (351st overall) at percentage of points scored from the charity stripe (13.7%)

Not So Real Scenarios!

Even though I don't think Iowa State will lose, I know there are a few of our readers who are down on the team and/or just want to keep expectations at rock bottom to avoid feeling too upset if things do indeed go south. Being the people pleaser I am, I'm going to cater to both optimists and pessimists in the rest of this article!

The Twitter folk have spoken, and this is where I'll include some of that humor/craziness. I'm going to provide best case and worst case scenarios for today's game! There will be no in-between... One of the two scenarios will happen. The question is, which one?

Before going any further, if you're looking for more of a traditional preview, Ian Rewoldt wrote a good one a couple days ago that you should check out if you haven't already. Some good thoughts on offensive and defensive game plans for both teams in there.

But if you're ready to get on with the crazy shit, let's start with the good guys doing good things...

The Sunshine, Rainbows, Lollipops and Unicorns Scenario

Georges Niang scores the first 49 points of the game, passing Barry Stevens for second on ISU's all-time scoring list before exiting the game to a standing ovation with 14:28 left on the clock in the first half. He sits the remainder of the game to rest for the matchup on Saturday against Arkansas Little Rock (who beats Purdue in quadruple overtime).

To prove his shoulder is fine, Monte Morris plays the entire game with his left arm tucked into his jersey. Using only his right arm, Morris compiles a stat line of 10 points, 22 assists and 11 steals with just one turnover on an alley-oop pass that soars over Stu Nezlek's head on a fast break in garbage time. "If he'd jumped as high as he does when his name gets called to enter a game, he could have got it," Morris says after the game.

Much to the surprise of everyone, Abdel Nader shows up to the game in a full Darth Vader suit and is allowed to play in it. Dressed as the dark lord of the Sith, Nader dunks over every single Iona player in consecutive possessions. The producers of Star Wars Episode IX catch highlights of Nader's performance and are so amazed that they contact him and offer him a deal to play the role of Darth Vader's clone in the film. The contract for the role is huge - the biggest deal ever for an actor. Nader donates all of the money he makes from the role back to Iowa State to build the Darth Nader Memorial North End Zone.

Matt Thomas has a perfect game from the field, going 13-13 from 3-point range and 20-20 altogether. Posters on CycloneFanatic question if he's a Division I caliber player.

Jameel McKay blocks every single shot Iona shoots during the game. Afterwards, he posts a picture of himself on Instagram with the caption "This team tho..." It receives a billion likes and everyone praises Jameel in the comments.

Deonte Burton is inserted into the lineup after Niang is taken out in the first half. Upon entering the game, he rips down one of the hoops on a dunk and instantly shatters the backboard. A replacement hoop is brought in, and Burton does the same thing to that one. Feeling content, Burton subs himself out of the game and sits on the bench with a smug smile for the remainder of the game. Apparently he met his goal.

Hallice Cooke, Jordan Ashton and Simeon Carter all get 25+ minutes of playing time and each score at least 30 points. Analysts look at the box score of the game and begin calling Iowa State's bench "the best in the nation" and declare ISU as "the deepest team in the country."

Stu Nezlek makes a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the game with a final score of 229-0. Coach Prohm looks at him for a second, then smiles and winks.

Iowa State fans throw a nationwide party and don't leave a single drop of alcohol unconsumed.

The Death, Destruction, Sadness and Apocalypse Scenario

(This might be hard to read for some of you even if it's completely fake... You've been warned.)

Monte Morris trips and falls to the court on the first possession of the game. On impact, Morris' shoulder collides with Georges Niang's foot and both players exit the game with broken bones. Niang's college basketball career concludes and Morris decides to declare for the NBA Draft in the postgame presser.

Abdel Nader dunks over five different Iona players on consecutive possessions, but is called for a charge every time by referee Tom Eades. Nader punches Eades after the fifth charge and the NCAA bans Iowa State from next year's NCAA Tournament.

Matt Thomas goes 0-20 from the floor. Thomas apologists defend him valiantly on Twitter following the game, but it's all for naught when Thomas announces he's transferring to Oakland to continue the tradition of ISU players bolting for the attractive lifestyle that Rochester, Michigan offers.

Jameel McKay throws a chair at Coach Prohm during halftime and walks out of the arena. Afterwards, he posts a picture of himself on Instagram with the caption "This team tho..." He's ruthlessly attacked in the comments by random people who follow him and later deletes his account.

Deonte Burton is mistaken for a tank when trying to enter the arena. Stadium security bans all weapons from the premises, and they won't make an exception for Burton.

Hallice Cooke, Jordan Ashton, Simeon Carter and Stu Nezlek all managed to lock themselves into their hotel room. People who've claimed ISU "has no bench" throughout the season are pleased to see the Cyclones literally don't have any bench players while watching the game.

Using the Hoiberg method, Steve Prohm bolts to the NBA despite losing his last college game in horrible fashion (Iona defeats Iowa State 100-0). The Los Angeles Lakers proceed to go 81-1 next year with Prohm at the helm, beating the 2016 Warriors' record of wins during the regular season.

Iowa State fans across the country leave no drop of alcohol unconsumed as they drink themselves into a coma. The end.

What else could go right/wrong for the Cyclones today against Iona? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

But Seriously Though...

The logic of Iowa State and Iona being similar teams when it comes to offense/defense/tempo with ISU being more talented is pretty spot on if you're looking for reasoning for a Cyclone victory. However, as we've seen many times, the more talented team doesn't always win.

Shutting down Iona star A.J. English is a great place to start for Iowa State. Easier said than done, but I predict Matt Thomas will do a great job on defense against him and frustrate him at times, seeing as how English hasn't gone up against a whole lot of talented athletes during the regular season. Thomas did a mostly admirable job tracking Buddy Hield during ISU's three games against Oklahoma this year, and that's a pretty good comparison to the role English plays for the Gaels.

Once English is (hopefully) contained, keeping Iona from heating up from long range is the next priority on defense for the Cyclones. With English locked down and limited 3-point chances for the Gaels, Iowa State should be able to control the game and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa State 85 - Iona 75

Game Notes

Tip: 1 p.m. CDT


Radio: Cyclone Radio Network Game Notes: Available here

Iona SB Nation Site: Mid-Major Madness