3. Iowa State Cyclones (26-7, 11-7 Big 12)-Statistically, this Iowa State team is one of the best offensive clubs in the country. They spread the ball out, can score from all positions, and lead the nation in assists per game at 18.5 per. Head coach Fred Hoiberg has done an outstanding job of turning this into one of the preeminent programs in the Big 12.
Senior forward Melvin Ejim was honored with the Big 12 Player of the Year award after averaging 18.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Ejim scored 48 on 20-of-24 shooting and grabbed 18 rebounds in a win over TCU and hung 30 and 16 on Kansas State. He is a terrific college player and could easily end up first-team All-America.
It doesn’t end with Ejim, though. DeAndre Kane (17.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 5.8 apg) is one of the best point guards in the country, and can take over games at will. Georges Niang (16.5 ppg) was outstanding in the Big 12 tournament as well.
This Iowa State team is good enough to reach the Final Four, but whether or not they get there will depend on how well Niang
1st Assists per Game (18.5)
6th Points per Game (82.9)
23rd Rebounds per Game (38.8)
40th Field Goal Percentage (.471)
14. North Carolina Central (28-5, 19-1 MEAC)- N.C. Central was one of the best D-2 programs in the country before it made the jump to Division 1 in 2008. Now, the Eagles are heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. They won’t be a pushover, either. North Carolina Central has won 20 straight games and handled NC State by ten early in the year. They also played Wichita State to an 11-point game and lost to Cincinnati in the opener by just 13.
6-3 senior guard Jeremy Ingram was named MEAC Player of the Year and leads the Eagles in scoring at 20.3 per. No one else is even close. Ingram is the team’s clear go-to guy, and he’s good enough to play in a major conference. 6-7 guard Jordan Parks (10.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is hot-and-cold, but the Eagles can win without him. He scored just 5 points in the Eagles’ win over NC State.
Remember when Norfolk State beat Missouri in 2012? This team might be better than that group. Statistically, the Eagles are among the best defensive teams in the nation.
46th Points per Possession (1.09)
7th Points Allowed Per Game (58.5)
4th Points Allowed per Possession (0.89)
4th Opponent Field Goal Percentage (37.9)
PREDICTION: Iowa State