By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
SAN ANTONIO – Embrace recent success and let that fuel the next goal.
That's the message that Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg has delivered to his team since the Cyclones won the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship last Saturday. The No. 3 seed in the East Regional, Iowa State is a trendy pick to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
"I've talked to the guys about how fun it was being up on that ladder to cut the nets with confetti falling on you," Hoiberg said Thursday. "That's a warm up compared to what we're in now. If we play like we have and we can, we can beat anybody in this tournament. We're looking forward to the challenge."
That challenge starts with No. 14 seed North Carolina Central, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's representative. The Eagles are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in just their third season of Division I eligibility. They carry a 20-game winning streak.
MEAC teams have a history of stunning Big 12 teams. No. 15 seed Hampton shocked No. 2 seed Iowa State in 2001 while Norfolk State upset Missouri in another 15 over a 2 upset.
The Cyclones, though, took notice of two double-digit seeds (Dayton and Harvard) winning Thursday.
"Seeing Ohio State go down to Dayton … that's a big-time upset," Iowa State freshman guard Monte Morris said. "Any given night, it's about the better team for those 40 minutes."
To begin preparation for the Eagles, Hoiberg reached out to North Carolina State assistant coach Bobby Lutz, who was Hoiberg's assistant when The Mayor started his coaching career with the Cyclones. North Carolina State beat the Wolfpack, an NCAA Tournament team, by 10 points.
"He told me how well-coached they are," Hoiberg said. "They get their guys in good spots on offense and they change up defenses to keep teams off balance. I've been very impressed. I think it will be a close game.
"I don't think our guys will overlook this game. And if they do overlook this game, we won't be playing on Sunday."
8:50 p.m. Friday, San Antonio
No. 3 Iowa State (26-7) vs. No. 14 North Carolina Central (28-5)
Probable Iowa State starters: DeAndre Kane, 6-4 Sr. G; Monte' Morris, 6-2 Fr. G; Melvin Ejim, 6-6 Sr. F; Dustin Hogue, 6-6 Jr. F; Georges Niang, 6-7 Soph. F.
Probable North Carolina Central starters: Jeremy Ingram, 6-3 Sr. G; Emanuel Chapman, 6-1 Sr. G; Alfonzo Houston, 6-3 Sr. G; Jay Copeland, 6-7 Jr. F; Karamo Jawara, 6-8 Jr. F.
Fast breaks: Iowa State's DeAndre Kane is one of four players in the nation who average at least 17 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. He's scored or assisted on 42 percent of the Cyclones' points during their last 10 games. The Cyclones are sixth in the nation in scoring (82.9 per game) and lead the nation in assists per game (18.5). … In three of the Cyclones' last five tournament appearances, Iowa State been knocked out of the NCAAs by the eventual national champion. … North Carolina Central is located in Durham, N.C., which is also home to Duke. … The Eagles' Emanuel "Poobie" Chapman averages 6.5 assists per game, tied for sixth in the nation. He owns the school's season record with 213.
What's next: The winner of Iowa State-North Carolina Central plays on Sunday against the winner of No. 6 North Carolina and No. 11 Providence.