12 Nevada (28-6) vs 5 Iowa State (23-10)
When: Thursday, March 16th 2017
Where: Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
Time: 9:57 ET | TV: truTV
The Nevada Wolfpack bring their nine-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament to take on the Iowa State Cyclones in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with the winner facing either Purdue or Vermont on Saturday. The Wolfpack won the Mountain West Conference regular season and tournament titles to punch a ticket for the first time in ten years. The strength of Nevada is their 3-point defense against Iowa State’s productive unit. The Wolfpack have held their opponents to shoot 30.7% from 3-point range – the 15th-best mark in the country. The Wolf Pack feature four players who average from 14.1-to-19.8 points a game led by Marcus Marshall. Utah State managed to hold him to 1-of-12 shooting and San Diego State to 1-of-10 during conference play, but he’s otherwise been consistent and has been getting to the free-throw line more frequently of late, combining to shoot 21-of-28 in his last two games. Forward Cameron Oliver is a force inside, averaging 15.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, and totaling 87 blocked shots on the season. Nevada has played just two teams in this year’s tournament, splitting a pair with Iona early on and losing at Saint Mary’s in their season opener.
The Cyclones are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation at 40.2% (14th) and are led by point guard Monte Morris, who averages a team-high 16.3 points and 6.1 assists. Morris also leads the country with an impressive 5.17 assist-to-turnover ratio – the third time in four years he has done so. Morris also has the experience of reaching the Sweet Sixteen twice and has played in seven NCAA Tournament games overall, averaging 13.3 points and hitting 9-of-17 from 3-point range, while also recording 34 assists and 11 turnovers. Morris should have added incentive to play well after he was passed over as one of the five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, which annually goes to the nation’s top collegiate point guard. Iowa State also has two other solid guards that can score in Nazareth Mitrou-Long (15.5 points) and Deonte Burton (14.8). Mitrou-Long has made six or more 3-pointers five times this season, including a 6-of-11 effort in an overtime win February 4th against then-No. 2 Kansas. Burton (14.8 points) can score from outside or above the rim, evident by his thunderous slam dunk off a lob pass in Saturday’s win over West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament final – the sixth straight game in which he topped his scoring average.
This Iowa State team is much more seasoned for a tournament run and I don’t see them slipping up in this contest against Nevada. The Wolfpack have played a weak schedule and the Mountain West Conference was as bad as it’s been in years. The Cyclones should come away with an easy win here and move on.
Pick: Iowa State -6.5
HEAD TO HEAD
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