(4) Iowa State Cyclones vs (1) Virginia Cavaliers (-5, 141 o/u)
Hey friend, do you enjoy contrasting styles of basketball? If so, have I got a deal for you! Two of the most stylistically disparate teams in the nation are set to clash in the Sweet 16, and the game can be yours for the low, low price of sitting on your coach. Tonight, the high-scoring Iowa State Cyclones (23-11, 17-13-1 ATS) meet the plodding, defensive force that is the Virginia Cavaliers (28-7, 18-15 ATS) at the United Center in Chicago (6:10 PM Eastern) with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line.
Iowa State averaged 86.0 points per game during the regular season. Head coach Steve Prohm employes a lot of pro schemes, and knows, with the likes of Georges Niang (20.2 PPG) and five other double-digit scorers, the Cyclones’ best chance to win on a nightly basis is by simply outscoring opponents.
The team stuck to its guns in the first two rounds of the tourney, rolling over Iona (94-81) and Arkansas-Little Rock (78-61). Niang had 28 against Iona and another 28 against the Trojans, shooting 53-percent from the field.
The Cyclones don’t just score a lot of points, they do so efficiently, with the third-best field goal percentage in the nation (50.3-percent).
All that scoring comes at a price, of course. Unsurprisingly, it costs Iowa State a general ability to keep the ball out of its basket. The Cyclones’ season average (71.2 points against per game) doesn’t look so bad, but the team got lit up by other potent offenses, including giving up 90-plus in losses to Baylor (94-89) and Texas (94-91 OT), and triple-digits in a subsequent loss to the Bears (100-91 OT).
Their season average was kept low thanks, in part, to holding a string of non-conference opponents under 70 PPG.
Unlike the Cyclones, the Cavaliers’ primary focus is on defense. Virginia grinds out every possession on both ends of the floor. Their slow pace and stifling D has limited opponents to just 57.0 points per game, sixth-best in the nation.
Virginia took down Hampton (81-45) and Butler (77-69) in the first two rounds.
The Cavaliers trailed Butler 25-23 at halftime, but showed in the second stanza that they can win games in different ways. The team shot a ludicrous 70-plus-percent from the floor in the second half en route to dropping 54 points on the Bulldogs over the final 20 minutes.
Leading scorer Malcolm Brogden led the team with 22 points in the win.
In the trends, the Cavaliers have covered the spread in six of the last eight games (each time as a favorite). Iowa State also comes in hot ATS, covering five of its last six, including four straight.
Don’t expect either team to try to get away from what it does well. That means Iowa State will try to push the pace while Virginia tries to slow it down. In offense/defense battles in March, the defense tends to frustrate the talent. Take the top seed and lay the points.
Pick: Virginia (-5).
(Photo: Credit Daveslyk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)