College Basketball Pick
Of all the Sweet 16 Games, this one probably features the most contrasting matchup. Virginia is known for its slow-it-down Game, dominating on the defensive end and taking its time on offense. Iowa State is almost the opposite, always looking to push the ball up the cOurt and not really known for being a good defensive team. Defense wins championships, but will it win this Game?
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The Cyclones are one of the highest scoring teams in the nation, reaching almost 82 points per Game, but they also gave up the most points per Game in the Big 12. Arkansas-Little Rock tried to slow it down against them, but it backfired because while Iowa State is great in transition, they also have an efficient half-cOurt offense, which came into play in the 17-point win. And of course, Georges Niang was a nightmare to match up with for the Trojans.
The Cavaliers Scorejust over 70 points per Game, but also allow fewer than 60 points, which is second best in the country. After their first two Games, this one will be a little different, especially as Butler tried to beat them at their own Game last round. The Bulldogs stayed close, but when it mattered most, Virginia got defensive stops and ended up shooting 55.8% from the floor.
That shooting percentage is the important thing to notice about this Virginia team, as many people assume they don’t have a good offense because of the low scoring numbers. But in fact, the Cavs led the ACC in shooting percentage and are actually a good, efficient offense when it comes down to it and that will be the key in this Game.
Starting with Virginia’s defense, this won’t be an easy matchup for them (obviously). The Cavs like to capitalize and force turnovers when opponents throw it down to the post, but Iowa State doesn’t do that very much. Jameel McKay is their big guy and they rarely give it to him with hopes of scoring down low. The Cyclones can spread the floor out, always with Four guys that shoot above average numbers from deep.
Niang will likely draw the matchup with Malcolm Brogdon and that battle is going to highlight this Game. The two seniors have been great this year and lead their teams in a number of categories. Brogdon is a slightly better shooter when it comes down to it, but Niang has the size advantage and he may force Brogdon to defend him on the block. If that becomes a problem, Virginia will probably try the taller Isaiah Wilkins on him. But when Niang draws double teams down low, it’ll decide the Game if he can find open shooters on the outside or not.
The Cyclones also have one of the better point guards remaining in the Tournament in Monte Morris, who is great at setting up teammates, but can also create shots himself. Iowa State is an athletic team with multiple guys that can score from all over the floor. They can sort of be compared to the previous Michigan State teams that took down Virginia the last couple years. It’s likely the Cyclones will want to try and push the ball as much as possible, and if they have success with that, it’ll be on the Virginia offense to keep up.
And that shouldn’t be a problem led by Brogdon, who has been sensational over the last month and averaging 18.6 points on the year. A lot of teams have trouble matching up with Brogdon, but the Cyclones do have bigger athletic guys that could give him some issues and that includes defensive and three-point specialist Matt Thomas.
The Cavaliers will probably attack the smaller Cyclones down low with Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey. If they can get McKay into foul trouble, that would be a huge advantage because ISU isn’t a very deep team. London Perrantes will likely have to step up as well. He isn’t called upon often on the offensive end, but if Iowa State is scoring, Perrantes will need more points than the 10 he’s averaging in the Tournament so far.
The Cavaliers are the favorite, but the Cyclones will definitely keep this close and may be the better team to back here.
Our Pick – Virginia -5