|Posted by Steven Myers on March 28, 2014 at 5:20 PM|
It has been a while everyone. In fact, it has been 14 years since the Cyclones have made it to this stage of the Big Dance. The best team in Iowa State history (up to this point) was the last team to reach the Sweet 16. They also made their way to the Elite 8 that year by besting Steve Lavin's UCLA Bruins.
This year's Cyclone squad is going for the same result in New York City. This time the University of Connecticut stands in their way. The Cyclones are 1-0 against the Huskies all time. That win was 2 years ago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was actually one of the more dominating performances in Iowa State basketball. UConn didn't stand a chance and ISU cruised to a 77-64 victory. What made this particular win so special is that Uconn was the defending national champions, granted they no longer had Kemba Walker. This UConn team looks a lot like the 2011 champs, being led this year by 'do it all' Shabazz Napier. Both teams came into the tournament hot after seasons that were perhaps thought of as sub-par. The Huskies are playing very well, beating St. Joes in OT, and shutting down the #2 seed Villanova.
Once again, Iowa State finds themselves playing basically a home game for an opponent in the NCAA Tournament, and with Georges Niang out, one would assume its a long shot for the Cyclones, but why doesn't anyone feel this way? Answer: this team is resiliant, they play with poise, and there is ice in their veins. DeAndre Kane was built for the spotlight, and it is shining on him more than ever. Ejim has moved from glue guy to leader, opening up a spot for Dustin Hogue to fill in. Monte Morris is playing beyond his years at the point, and he actually dictates the flow of the game as much as anyone else. Its incredible to think of him as a junior and senior. Niang is now the emotional bench leader (a role he is REALLY good at). With Niang out, everyone has to step up, but Daniel Edozie, Naz Long, and Matt Thomas have to all make a bigger impact than originally asked for. Naz has shown time after time that he's ready for it. Edozie played well in the Big 12 Tournament, but can he do it again? Matt is definitely smart on the court, but this is when we need his confidence to come out. Shoot the ball 6 times from downtown Matt; we want you to; we know what you are capable of.
They showed what they are capable of even with Georges on the bench against a much bigger North Carolina team. UConn isn't that big, but they will still have a height advantage (heck any team the Cyclones play will). The story will be DeAndre Kane vs Shabazz Napier and rightfully so. Both guards are going to take it at each other. Much like the Oklahoma State/Iowa State games, the guard that wins in the stat sheets will more than likely carry their team to victory. I for one think this is Kane's year, and I think he will take over down the stretch. The Elite 8 is in our future with a potential date with Michigan State--where I have 2000 reasons for revenge.
Cyclones advance with a 82-70 win over the Huskies. Go Cyclones!