On Friday night, the Iowa State Cyclones beat the North Carolina Central University Eagles 93-75, in turn advancing to face the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Round of 32 at the NCAA tournament. If the first game of the tournament was any indicator, then Iowa State should be able to breeze by North Carolina, and should even become a contender to make the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
Iowa State was stunningly methodical during their win against NCCU, as they moved the ball around with great efficiency, crashed the rim, and won the battle on the boards. The dominance on the offensive end can be shown by the fact that the Cyclones shot 63.6 percent from the field, 52.9 percent on three point field goals, won the rebound battle 34-24, and only turned the ball over nine times. When you add in the fact that each of their five starters scored at least 14 points, it is utterly clear this victory was a team effort.
Moving forward, it is clear that Iowa State will see much tougher opposition than NCCU, but recent history shows that they will be up for the task. During the 2013 season, the Cyclones posted a 8-2 record against ranked opposition, with victories coming against Michigan State, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State. These wins are part of the reason why Iowa State was ranked ninth in the nation prior to the NCAA tournament, and it is clear they will be prepared for any team.
Aside from big wins, Iowa State had impressive rankings of sixth in college basketball in points per game, first in assists per game, and 23rd in rebounds per game. Along the way Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane, Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue, each averaged 10 points per game, and unlike most top college teams, each of these guys is either a sophomore, junior or senior. This may be irrelevant in some instances, but after losing in the Round of 32 the last two years, the Cyclones’ veteran core is clearly on a mission to ensure things are different this time.
None of this is to say that taking down North Carolina and then other top teams on the way to a Final Four appearance will be easy, but if the Cyclones continue to crash the boards, shoot efficiently, and play a team-oriented style, they can make it happen. And after crashing out of the NCAA Tournament in disappointing fashion during the last two seasons, it is clear that head coach Fred Hoiberg and company are intent on making sure they have reason to celebrate this season.