The Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament, but had lost three straight heading into the competition. The Buckeyes were on the bubble for most of the season, but beat fellow bubble team Indiana to essentially secure their spot in the dance.
Date/Time: Friday, March 22, 9:50 p.m. ET
kenpom.com projections: Iowa State def. Ohio State 72-68
Betting Line: Iowa State -5.5 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
No. 6 seed Iowa State
Coach: Steve Prohm
Record: 23-11 (9-9)
Conference tournament finish: Won Big 12
Player to Watch: Lindell Wigginton
The Cyclones bring the nation’s ninth best offense to the dance, according to kenpom.com. They have four players averaging double figures with Virginia transfer Marial Shayok leading the way.
Wigginton suffered injuries earlier in the season, but he’s been on fire lately. He won the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year award, and his impact off the bench keeps the Cyclones afloat when Shayok needs a breather.
Iowa State didn’t face many tournament teams in the non-conference schedule, but after winning the conference tournament, the Cyclones should feel like they’re clicking on all cylinders.
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No. 11 seed Ohio State
Coach: Chris Holtmann
Record: 19-14 (8-12)
Conference tournament finish: Lost in quarterfinals
Player to Watch: Kaleb Wesson
The Buckeyes were at the top of the NET rankings in the first release of the NCAA’s newest evaluation rankings. Then Big Ten play hit, and Ohio State struggled to consistently win.
Wesson was suspended three games for violating OSU’s athletic department policy at the end of the regular season, but came back for the conference tournament. Ohio State needs him to build on his 14.4 points-per-game average to keep pace with the Cyclones.
The Buckeyes have wins against tournament-bound Cincinnati and Minnesota, but their recent struggles are more troubling entering a matchup with Iowa State’s high-powered offense.