Date: March 15th, 2012
Time: 8:20 PM (CST)
Where: KFC Yum! Center (Louisville)
Spread: Iowa State (-2.5)
Know the Foe: For an 8/9 matchup, I can’t imagine Iowa State playing a better team than UCONN in the first round. Although, they haven’t lived up to the expectations of UCONN fans this year, they are still a very dangerous team in the postseason. You should remember their run in the Big East and NCAA Tournament last year. Although they are without Kemba Walker this time around, this team may have more talent than last year’s.
Filling the absence of current Charlotte Bobcat, Kemba Walker, is Jeremy Lamb. Lamb played a pivotal roll in last year’s championship run. Lamb is a lengthy shooting guard at 6’5 (7’1 wingspan) which allows him to get off clean shots. He leads the UCONN team in scoring, averaging 17.7 points per game. It doesn’t take many shots to get that as he shoots 48.1% from the field. Jeremy Lamb is Connecticut’s best player, so Chris Babb will have the tough assignment of guarding an all-Big East performer.
Jeremy Lamb is a projected top 10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. That’s great, but his teammate, Andre Drummond, is a projected top 5 selection. Drummond, a 6’10 freshman, was highly touted coming out of high school (the best according to ESPN). UCONN fans will tell you that Drummond hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations, but he is still a key player for Jim Calhoun’s team. Drummond is a big and very athletic center, like the player he idolizes and wears the same number as; Dwight Howard. The freshman averages 10.2 and 7.7. I expect Royce White on the young, talented freshman. Drummond has a 2-inch height advantage on White.
Those two are the most notable Huskies, but UCONN has plenty of other solid players. Point guard Shabazz Napier is second on the team in scoring at 12.7. He also leads UC in assists, 5.8 assists per game. Napier prevents a matchup problem for the Cyclones because of his quickness.
Ryan Boatright is another guard that can do damage to the Clones. Boatright is third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points per game. Alex Oriakhi was a great post player for the Huskies in the past two year. However, with the addition of Drummond, Oriakhi’s production hasn’t been the same since he has been forced to play more on the outside. Still, Oriakhi averages 6.8 and 4.8.
This team is a 9-seed, but has enough talent to probably be a 1-seed. So why have the Huskies struggled so much this year? Well, the leader of the team, coach Jim Calhoun, missed a lot games this year. He missed eight straight games in the Big East due to his health. In that time, the Huskies went 3-5. With Calhoun back on the sidelines, UCONN looks like a totally different team. Roscoe Smith was also suspended by the NCAA in the beginning of the year. Anyways, Cyclone fans should ignore that they are a 9-seed, because it is a new season and UCONN tends to dominate postseason tournaments.
Prediction: This should be a great game. Both teams present matchup problems for the other. UCONN has an offensive advantage down low, with the height of Andre Drummond. On the other hand, UCONN struggles guarding the 3-point line and we know that the Cyclones can get red hot from behind the arc.
If Iowa State is shooting the ball well, I like them to win. As Doug Gottlieb pointed out on Selection Sunday, Connecticut is the worst in the Big East in 3-point defense. Good news for the Cyclones, but they have to shoot better than they did against Texas, only 5 for 18.
I’ve talked about the problems that Drummond and Lamb will present to the Cyclones. Another thing that concerns me is guard Shabazz Napier. Napier is fast and quick. With Babb on Lamb, that will force either Christopherson or Allen to take Napier. Advantage Napier.
With the facts that I mentioned, I can’t help but like UCONN. The way that Iowa State came out last week against Texas scares me. I hope I’m wrong, but I think UCONN will win this game. They have tons of talent and Jim Calhoun back in the postseason, which is a great thing for UCONN fans. If Iowa State can get hot from behind the arc, they’ll win this game. But I don’t see it.
UCONN Huskies – 75
Iowa State Cyclones – 68
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