#1 Virginia vs. #4 Iowa State. In an interesting contrast in style and mindset, we’ve got two really inspiring programs with senior leadership looking to play their way to the Elite Eight. While both teams boast NBA talent, these teams are built to play in March.
Georges Niang was the least heralded recruit on a high school team at the Tilton School that featured Philadelphia 76ers’ Nerlens Noel, free agent Goodluck Okonoboh (was #1 in his class till he reclassified), and Kansas’ Wayne Selden, but he migh the most polished player at this juncture for all these players. He can shoot from deep and down low and he’s the IQ that makes a difference late in games. Even with a hurt lineup (Jameel McKay not 100%), this team has been able to get the job done.
Abdel Nader has been a pleasant surprise and guy with more range than anyone thought and could be the difference in the game. While Monte Morris has been a very dependable point guard, he’s been getting solid help from shooter Matt Thomas and stocky guard Deonte Burton. Hallice Cooke is another solid player but hasn’t been able to contribute much.
Without a deep bench there’s not much to lean on if they get into trouble. So it will be important that the Cyclones are as efficient as they can be. Virginia will be the wood and Tony Bennet will make sure of that.
Malcolm Brogdon is a great two-way player who has the potential to take over games. He will be that guy when the Cavalier need him most but they might need more from their guards to offset the strong frontcourt performance of Iowa State. London Perrantes’ play will go a long way in answering how Virginia can support Brogdon.Isaiah Wilkins, Darius Thompson, and Devon Hall all have the ability to step in and help out and likely will be asked to do so next year. For now, they need to step up when called upon.
Anthony Gill is the emotional leader for Virginia, but it will be important that he gets plenty of help. Mike Tobey is a 7’0 big man with the potential to do more than he tends to. Evan Nolte is a bigger 3 who can hit shots if he gets going. But he’s not likely to play much. Thus, the Cavs need to go as much out of the aforementioned players as possible. Luckily, the Cyclones don’t stay under the basketball all day.
This is shaping up to be a tough game for both teams. Iowa State will want to run and Virginia will try to slow things down. Both teams can play the other teams’ style, so it shouldn’t get out of hand. Still, I think a lot of it will come down to guard play and who can get the most of their guards. And this time it’s all about the Cavs. Virginia 68, Iowa State 62.