Game 1: #3 Iowa State vs. #6 North Carolina
For the first time this season, the Iowa State Cyclones would be suiting up without their big man Georges Niang. On Friday in their first tournament game against North Carolina Central, Niang broke his foot putting a premature end to his season. This was a major blow to the Clones and because of this many people assumed North Carolina would punish the undersized Iowa State team in the paint and send them back to Ames with ease, punching their ticket into the Sweet 16.
Unfortunately for North Carolina, Iowa State has this guy on their team named DeAndre Kane. I have been present for Iowa State’s last five games and even though Melvin Ejim won Big 12 Player of the Year, Kane is without a doubt the biggest impact player on this team. He’s the X-factor. He made the big plays all game long so it made sense that with the game tied at 83 he would be the one to drive to the lane fearlessly, banking in the shot that would elevate his team over the sixth seeded Tarheels 85-83.
He had some help from Ejim who finished with 19 points and Naz Long who added 12 including a huge 3-pointer that would tie the game at 81 with 50 seconds left to play. Two other Cyclones also finished in double figures with Dustin Hogue finishing with 14 points and Monte Morris adding 13 making it a total team effort. Marcus Paige led North Carolina with 19 points.
After the game I asked Kane what kind of statement a win like this over a historically good team like North Carolina makes for the basketball program at Iowa State. While devouring a piece of pepperoni pizza he said:
“It makes a big statement knowing that we can compete with the highest level of basketball teams in the country. North Carolina is a great team, great coach, and they’re well coached. We’ve been playing great teams all year and we’ve been winning just believing in each other and playing for one another.”
Iowa State advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000 where they will meet UConn on Friday in New York at Madison Square Garden.
Game 2: #3 Creighton vs. #7 Baylor
It was one of those days where everything went right for Baylor as they routed the #3 seed Creighton 85-55 putting an end to one of the best scorers in the history of college basketball’s career. Doug McDermott did everything he could for his team but when a team hits 78% of their 3-pointers (7-9) in the first half it is just their day. On top of not being able to stop Baylor’s incredible three-point shooting, there was nothing Creighton could do about their big men Isaiah Austin and Corey Jefferson in the paint who scored 17 and 14 points respectively.
In his final game as a Bluejay, McDermott scored just 15 points, well below his season average thanks to the stellar defense by the Bears. When he was subbed out toward the end of game, he hugged his coach/dad and laid his head in his chest in an emotional embrace, receiving a standing ovation from both Creighton and Baylor fans. After the game Coach McDermott says he wishes every parent could experience what he did the last four years in getting the opportunity to witness history and coach his son.
Baylor advances to the Sweet 16 and will meet the #2 seeded Wisconsin Badgers. Once again the Baylor Bears will enter the game as the underdog but I think this is a position they enjoy being in. Being able to prove everybody wrong one more time is what the Bears will set out to do.
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