The 12th seeded Nevada Wolf Pack will travel to Milwaukee to face off against the fifth seeded Iowa State Cyclones in the first round of the Midwest regional of the NCAA tournament. The game will take place on Thursday night (approximately 10 p.m. ET) and will be on truTV.
This will be Nevada’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 when the Wolf Pack advanced to the round of 32 that year. But listening to the words of head coach Eric Musselman, he does not want his players to be content with just making the tournament.
“We are not going to the dance to just go there.” Musselman said to his team on Saturday after the Wolf Pack had won the Mountain West tournament championship. “We are going to win a game and then see what happens the next time.”
Mussleman (who played in two NCAA tournaments while at the University of San Diego in the eighties) and the Wolf Pack are facing an Iowa State team that has made six straight appearances in the NCAA tournament and last year made it to the Sweet 16 and just recently, won the Big 12 Tournament championship so it is safe to say that this is a battle tested Cyclone team.
However, this game is the 5 vs 12 matchup that is famous for the 12 seed knock off the five seed in the first round. In the last five seasons, the five seed and the 12 seed has split the last 20 meetings. And since 2000, at least one 12 seed have beaten a five seed in 15 of the last 16 NCAA tournaments.
“When I was filling out brackets, I always had a 12-seed beating a five” said Nevada guard DJ Fenner. “Now, I’ll definitely have a 12-seed beating a five.”
For Nevada to pull off the upset, they must contain point guard Monte Morris and Deonte Burton. Morris is averaging 16 points, six assists, and five rebounds a game for the Cyclones while shooting 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. Burton is a high energy, but undersized, athletic big man who has averaged 15 points and six rebounds per game this season.
Both Morris and Burton are a talented pair and for the Wolf Pack to win they must put the clamps on Morris (a task that will more than likely be given to Nevada guard Lindsey Drew) and put Burton in check and not let him get going for Iowa State.
Also, another key for the Wolf Pack to secure the victory is that they must attack the boards. Iowa State is one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation as they are ranked 295th in rebounding margin at minus 3.6. The Wolf Pack are a strong rebounding team with a rebounding margin of plus-3.9 (64th in the nation). It is up to the front court duo of Jordan Caroline and Cameron Oliver to crash the glass against an undersized Cyclone front court.
This game should be an exciting game to watch as these are two teams that like to go up and down the court and play fast. Iowa State has had a successful run these last few years winning three Big 12 tournament titles in four years and making the Sweet 16 in two of the last three years and this team, led by Monte Morris, is another talent Cyclone squad.
But the Wolf Pack have been playing well in the last few weeks and they have the front court presence and the defense to cause problems for the Iowa State offense. I think that will be the difference as I see the Wolf Pack defeating the Cyclones and adding another upset in the 5 vs 12 matchup in the NCAA tournament.