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Iowa State vs. UCONN
March Madness Pick
Can UCONN Defend Their Title?
What the University of Connecticut Huskies (20-13 RPI: 32) will seek to do over the course of the next month is considered one of the hardest feats in all of sports. That is winning back to back NCAA Tournaments. Last year's dream team featuring Kemba Walker is gone, but several key cogs remain for this team that has experienced hard times down the stretch. Future HOF coach Jim Calhoun is back too.
The foe for UCONN's Thursday game is the University of Iowa State Cyclones (22-10 RPI: 33). They have put together a strong season that includes wins over Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas. The Fred Hoiberg coached team did well enough to finish fourth in the Big 12. This game will take place in Louisville, Kentucky and Connecticut is a 2 point favorite.
Connecticut didn't have an easy path to the Big Dance. Statistically speaking, they played the second hardest schedule in all of the land of college basketball. They lost two heart breakers to Syracuse first by two points and then by three in the Big East Tournament. They also lost to Tennessee and Providence, two dreadful teams. It wasn't all bad though. They defeated a strong Florida State team early in the year and dropped West Virginia twice.
Senior G Scott Christopherson is the leader for Iowa State. He averaged 12.5 PPG to go with 3.1 RPG and 2.3 APG this year. The 6-3 Wisconsin native had a season high 29 points against Kansas State late in the season. Christopherson is complimented by two very good sophomores. F Royce White is great in the paint and has put up 13.1 PPG as well as 9.2 RPG and 5.1 APG. He had a double-double against Baylor in Big 12 Tournament. F Melvin Ejim is coming into his own at the right time. He also looked great against Baylor, posting 15 points which is better than his 9.4 PPG average.
Swing man Jeremy Lamb will pose a big problem for Iowa State. The sophomore as a big reason why this team won the Tournament last year and has only got better since then. He's a surefire lottery pick in the NBA Draft too. He averages 17.9 PPG to go with 4.9 RPG.
Iowa State could have a lot of difficulty matching up with C Andre Drummond. The 6-10 beast averages 10.2 PPG and 7.7 RPG. He steps it up against top competition too. Even though they lost, two of his best games were against Syracuse's tough zone defense. G Shabazz Napier is a huge reason this team made the Tournament. He dropped 26 on West Virginia in the first game of the Big East Tournament. To put it simply, UCONN is loaded with talent. Despite that, they have always lived up to expectations.
Connecticut is a team that rebounds very well. They also play great defense. A tough Big East schedule may have them bruised, but it has likely hardened them too.
Our model says this will be a close one. When using season to date data, the model says UCONN 68 Iowa State 67. When using data from the last 7 games only, it has Iowa State on top 72-69.
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