4 ISU vs 13 IONA
Time: 1 PM CT
Spread: ISU -7.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Iowa State Cyclones finished the season ranked No. 22 nationally with a 22-11 record and a fifth place finish in the Big 12. The Cyclones will face No. 13 seeded IONA in second round action 1 PM Thursday. College basketball oddsmakers favor Iowa State by 7.5 points with a high over/under set at 166.5.
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Iowa State lost its final two games of the regular season, falling 85-78 to Kansas and 79-76 to Oklahoma. Even so, that is a loss to the No. 1 and No. 6 teams in the nation, and the Cyclones are a strong three seed in this tournament.
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Iowa State is led by big man Georges Niang. The 6’8” senior forward is averaging 19.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, while also coming up with 1.6 blocks/steals per contest in 32.9 minutes a night. Niang is bolstered by Monte Morris and Abdel Nader. Morris is a 6’2” junior guard who led the Cyclones in assists with 6.9 per game in addition to his 13.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Morris is a good shooter, hitting 48.9 percent from the floor and 36.1 percent from three this season.
Morris has not shot well of late, though, and that could end up hurting Iowa State. He shot just 8 of 31 from the field in the Cyclones’ past four games, and the team is just 2-2 over that span. The Cyclones were just 2-3 this season when Morris scored 10 points or less, and as much as Niang is relied upon, he needs to play well as the Cyclones’ primary playmaker. They are a much tougher team to beat when opponents have to respect his jump shot.
Nader is a 6’6” 230 pound senior forward who has averaged 13.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.7 blocks/steals per game in 31 minutes a night. Nader shot 47.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from three where he attempted four-plus per game. He transferred from NIU following the 2012-13 season but this has been the big season of his two years at Iowa State. No doubt he is looking to add a major notch to his belt in this tournament. He shot just 4 of 12 from the field in the loss to Oklahoma, but against Oklahoma State on Feb 29 he had 19 points on 6 of 9 shooting, highlighting just how good he can be when he is efficient in looking for his offense.
The Iona Gaels finished the season 22-10 and were 2nd place in the MAAC standings, before winning the conference 79-76 over Monmouth. The Gaels ended the season on an eight-game winning streak and if nothing else the team is having no trouble putting up big numbers. Iona averaged 80 points per game this season.
The Gaels are led by A.J. English, who averaged 22.4 points, five rebounds and six assists per game while being a game changer on both ends (see: 1.5 steals per game). English had an off game against Monmouth, hitting just 4 of 13 from the field (3 of 10 from three-point range). But in the four games prior to that he had connected on a total of 19 threes while scoring 20 or more in all four games. The Gaels are a hot team with plenty of shooting, but it is a long shot to imagine them really putting the scare into Iowa State. That said, this game will likely also not be a blowout. The 7.5 point spread is logical and sound.
Of course, if the Gaels are to cover the spread it will likely be because English went nuts. He is capable of lighting it up from behind the arc and he is a premier talent on an underwhelming Iona roster.