#7 Seed – Connecticut
The Huskies lost to the fifth-ranked-in-the-nation Cardinals of Louisville for the third time this season, all by double digits, in the inaugural AAC title tilt. Connecticut got a generous 8 ½ point head start in NCAA basketball odds from the sharps who deal the lines but it was not quite enough to reward their backers as they fell behind by 14 at the half and ultimately failed to get the cover in their 71-61 loss to the Redbirds.
However, UConn drew the number seven seed in the East and was paired with St. Joseph’s in the opening round of the Big Dance. The oddsmakers made the Huskies a five-point favorite and it took an overtime session to not only win the game but give their backers an unexpected cover when they rolled to a 89-81 victory, courtesy in large part to senior guard Shabazz Napier who dropped in nine huge points (of his 24 on the evening) during overtime.
In the second round many thought UConn would be playing for the last time this season when they were pitted against second seed Villanova. However, the Huskies held a one point lead at the half and then drew away to a stunning 77-65 win that paid off to those who bought a ticket on the boys from Storrs, Connecticut.
#3 Seed – Iowa State
Cyclones is an apt name for Iowa State who have leveled the competition this season with a hard charging, high scoring brand of basketball. They ranked 6th in the nation in scoring with an average of almost 83 points per game which was manifested by seamless distribution (18.5 assists per game, ranked first in the nation) and tenacity on the boards (ranked second, averaging 28.6 rebounds per game).
Iowa State wrapped up their first Big 12 title in 14 years with a 74-65 win over Baylor and then outgunned an overmatched NC Central team 93-75 as 8 ½ point chalk in NCAA basketball odds. In the second round the oddsmakers installed the Cyclones as one-point favorites over North Carolina. Even the Tar Heels couldn’t quite keep pace as Iowa State outlasted them in the end, securing an 85-83 victory and a cover for all those who believed they were destined for the Sweet 16. Senior guard DeAndre Kane led the Cyclones with 24 points and 10 boards while Monte Morris nailed three of four from beyond the arc.
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Iowa State suffered a huge loss when Georges Niang fractured his foot in the opening round against NC Central. Niang averaged 16.5 PPG and over four rebounds per contest. His absence did not preclude Iowa State from defeating UNC but it certainly made it much more difficult. Melvin Ejim, Dustin Hogue and Naz Long all contributed to the win but it was DeAndre Kane who was the difference maker.
When the Cyclones take on a determined Connecticut squad, the results will be different. Though Iowa State is a prolific scoring machine they are inept on the defensive side of the ball. The boys from Ames, Iowa surrender an average of 74.2 points per game and rank a dismal 284th in the country. On the other hand, Connecticut is solid defensively and averages a respectable 72 points per game. That alone should allow them to keep pace with the Cyclones, sans Naing, and propel them to victory on Friday night.
Play Connecticut +2 at Bet365.com in your NCAA basketball picks.