Arkansas Little-Rock has provided the country with the most exciting game thus far in the NCAA Tournament, securing an 85-83 win over Purdue in double OT and moving on to the Round of 32 for the first time since the Trojans upset Notre Dame in 1986. First-year head coach Chris Beard may have already cemented his place in school history, and the Trojans are certainly not satisfied just yet.
No. 12 Arkansas Little-Rock Trojans (30-4) vs. No. 4 Iowa State Cyclones (22-11)
When: 6:10 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Where: Pepsi Center (Denver, Colorado)
Line: Iowa State -7
Keys for Arkansas-Little Rock
The Trojans played an extra 10 minutes of basketball on Thursday and still didn’t score as many points as Iowa State did during regulation of its easy victory over Iona. UALR did get its 30th win of the season, something only the Kansas Jayhawks can boast along with the Trojans. Arkansas-Little Rock and Iowa State play nearly opposite styles of basketball, and it is crucial that the Trojans do not attempt to play the Cyclones’ game. The Sun Belt Tournament champions must slow this game down and let its No. 3-ranked defense frustrate Iowa State. Shutting down Georges Niang isn’t easy for anyone, as the 6-foot-8,. 230-pound senior forward is a walking mismatch. If the Trojans can limit Niang’s touches and his production, they have a chance to pull of another upset.
Keys for Iowa State
The Cyclones avoided another first-round collapse like the one they suffered at the hands of Georgia State in last year’s Tournament. However, they didn’t come into this year’s Big Dance just looking to get one win. Iowa State wants to make a prolonged run and send Niang, the team’s leader, out with fond memories. Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm also wants to prove he was the right man to replace Fred Hoiberg at the end of last season, and a deep run in his first year could establish trust with the fans in Ames for years to come.
The battle of rookie head coaches in the second round is sure to be exciting, and this game could very well come down to which one makes the smarter decisions on the bench. Iowa State is one of the most gifted teams in the entire field, but its No. 257-ranked defense will need to step it up to prolong the Cyclones’ stay. The loss from last year still stings and I believe this team is on a mission. Purdue would have been a very tough matchup, so the Cyclones must capitalize on getting a No. 12 seed in the second round. Although as Arkansas-Little Rock showed against the Boilermakers, sometimes a seed is just a number.