Cyclones start tournament in showdown with Blazers

Mar 19, 2015 - 2:33 PM Louisville, KY ( - The second round of the NCAA Tournament begins Thursday and includes a matchup pitting the 14th-seeded UAB Blazers against the third-seeded Iowa State Cyclones in South Regional action from the KFC Yum! Center.

The winner moves on to the third round to face either sixth-seeded SMU or 11th-seeded UCLA.

UAB earned the Conference USA automatic bid to the Big Dance after cruising through competition in the league tournament. The Blazers, who are making their 15th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their 26th postseason bid overall, defeated Western Kentucky (53-52), top-seeded Louisiana Tech (72-62 in overtime) and Middle Tennessee (73-60) to win the C-USA title.

Iowa State didn't necessarily need the Big 12 Conference's automatic bid, but the Cyclones went for it anyway and won the league crown for the second consecutive season, this year by beating Kansas in the title match, 70-66. This is Iowa State's 17th tournament appearance, as the Cyclones bring in a 16-16 all-time tournament record into this event.

This will be just the third meeting all-time between UAB and Iowa State. The programs haven't met since a 71-70 Iowa State victory back in 1980. Before that, UAB claimed a 79-67 win in its inaugural season in 1978.

UAB played exceptionally well in the Conference USA Tournament championship match against Middle Tennessee, connecting on 51.9 percent of its shots from the floor with a 9-of-19 mark from 3-point distance. Robert Brown scored 22 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists to pace the Blazers, while Williams Lee chipped in with 13 points and six boards. UAB was able to cruise past Middle Tennessee despite playing in a tight overtime battle against top-seeded Louisiana Tech just a day prior.

Brown enters the NCAA Tournament as the only player on UAB's roster to own a double-digit scoring figure. The redshirt junior guard who transferred in from Virginia Tech, is netting 13.1 ppg and has dished out 104 assists to rank second on the team behind Nick Norton's 130 helpers. The Blazers as a whole are scoring 68.9 ppg on 43 percent shooting, and are giving up 67.7 ppg to opponents. UAB is a relatively young team, with freshmen players like Chris Cokley (8.0 ppg), William Lee (5.8 rpg) and Norton all contributing heavily.

Iowa State needed a huge rally in the Big 12 Tournament final in order to overtake Kansas. The Cyclones connected on 51.6 percent of their field-goal attempts in the second half to erase a 17-point deficit to earn the win and the Big 12 title. Georges Niang scored 19 points to pace Iowa State, while Abdel Nader chipped in with 13 points off the bench. Jameel McKay and Monte Morris added 11 points apiece, with McKay grabbing eight boards and Morris dishing out six assists.

The Cyclones will try to overpower their opponents using an extremely dangerous offensive attack. Iowa State enters the tournament netting 78.4 ppg on 48 percent shooting from the field, led by Niang's 15.5 ppg. Defensively, the Cyclones are surrendering 69.3 ppg to opponents, so a strong offensive effort is usually necessary. Morris (11.8 ppg), McKay (11.0 ppg), Bryce Dejean-Jones (10.9 ppg) and Naz Long (10.3 ppg) all average double digits for the Cyclones. Niang was named the Big 12 Tournament MVP following his 19- point effort in the title match.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!