#5 Iowa State vs #12 Nevada
Player to Watch: Monte Morris
If I could pick one point guard for the NCAA Tournament I would pick Frank Mason and then Monte Morris. Morris has been incredible this season averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Georges Niang may have graduated but Morris keeps the Cyclones at the top of the Big-12. Morris has the experience as a senior who has played significant minutes in the Cyclones’ last three tournament runs. Look for Morris to lead the way.
X Factor: Rebounding
Iowa State is very heavily backcourt laden team. Morris is joined by Naz Long and Matt Thomas in the backcourt. Even combo guard-forward Deonte Burton only checks in at 6’4″. The Cyclones like to play small and fast but it really hurts them on the glass. They struggle on both the offensive and defensive glass. If Iowa State cannot secure the defensive rebound, Nevada will have plenty of extra possessions.
Player to Watch: Marcus Marshall
When in doubt, look for the senior guard that can fill it up as a potential player to go off. Marshall averaged 19.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. The Missouri State transfer has 3 years of experience under his belt and can really score the ball. That is the combination for success in the NCAA Tournament. If Nevada wants to keep up with Iowa State’s potent scoring attack, they will need Marshall to have a good day.
X Factor: Defensive Scheme
Nevada must find a way to slow down Iowa State and Monte Morris. They have used a number of defensive schemes using man to man and a number of different zones. They will need to throw the kitchen sink at Morris to get that offense off track and keep the Cyclones from getting in a groove.
Match-Up to Watch: Iowa State Bigs vs. Cameron Oliver
This will be an interesting matchup to see Nevada’s Cam Oliver against Iowa State’s variety of big men. Oliver averages 15.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. The 6’8″ forward will be one of the most skilled bigs that Iowa State has faced this year. The Cyclones rotate three players through that center position and they are going to be tasked with stopping big Cameron Oliver.
Key Stat: Iowa State’s 3-Point Percentage
Iowa State ranks 11th in the country knocking down over 40% of their deep looks. Nevada ranks 15th in only allowing opponents to shoot 30% from deep. If Nevada can win this battle they will be in very good shape for an upset. If Iowa State wins this battle they can win by double digits.
Prediction: Iowa State 74, Nevada 71
This will be a very close game right until the end but I think Monte Morris will hit a big shot to clinch it for the Cyclones. Deonte Burton is a matchup nightmare for Nevada and they will not be able to keep him out of the paint.