As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 25-8 (12-6 in Big 12)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 118.9 (7th)/97.7 (82nd)
Seed: No. 3 in South
Impact player: Georges Niang, junior, forward. 15.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 107.3 offensive rating.
The Case For: Iowa State has six different players who average double-figure scoring, which makes them incredibly hard to defend. They're led by Niang, a first-team All-Big 12 selection whose broken foot suffered during the Cyclones' opening game of last season's NCAA tournament may have derailed their Final Four chances. This team can put up points in a hurry, and they play at one of the fastest tempos in the nation. Iowa State is also battle-tested, having emerged from the Big 12—where the most shocking thing was if you weren't facing a top 50 team each game—by finishing tied for second in the regular season and then winning the tournament title.
Defensively, the Cyclones are led by Jameel McKay, a 6'9" transfer from Marquette who did not become eligible until December yet still won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors after blocking 50 shots in 21 games.
The Case Against: Even with McKay, this isn't a team that is going to beat you with its defense. The Cyclones led the 10-team Big 12 in adjusted offensive efficiency but ranked next-to-last in adjusted defensive efficiency, better than only cellar-dweller Texas Tech. Iowa State is not a particularly strong free throw shooting team either—it makes 69.6% on the season—and if the game is on the line that could prove costly. The Cyclones are also a much different team away from home. In true road games, ISU was 5-5 this season (compared to 15-1 in Ames) and lost to both Maryland and South Carolina at neutral sites. And as good as Iowa State has been, this is still a team that lost to the aforementioned Red Raiders in January.
Lastly, keep an eye on Niang's three-point shooting as a good barometer of the Cylones' chances. He made 44 percent from deep in their wins but only 32.4 percent in their losses.
SI prediction: Beat UAB in Round of 64, beat SMU in Round of 32, lose to Gonzaga in Sweet 16