Carolina Tough Matchup for ISU

Iowa State advanced to the NCAA Tournament's round of 32 with an impressive victory over Minnesota on Friday. What did the Cyclones get for all of their efforts? Try a matchup with one-seed North Carolina, the prohibitive favorite to cut down the nets next month, in its own backyard on Sunday.

But this doesn't figure to be as good of a matchup for Wayne Morgan's team. ISU was able to control the tempo and let its pressure defense fuel a dynamic transition game. But that kind of approach on Sunday might play right into North Carolina's hands.

The Tar Heels, who cruised to a 96-68 victory over play-in 16-seed Oakland, play exactly the same way the Cyclones want to. Roy Williams' squad flourishes on the fast break with phenomenal athletes, but can also pound it inside with a cast of big men that includes Sean May, Jawad Williams, and freshman phenom Marvin Williams.

North Carolina are also a lot deeper than the Cyclones and featured eight players with at least 18 minutes of action on Friday. The Tar Heels have had at least four players score in double figures in 26 of 32 games this season, and five are averaging double digits in scoring.

That depth and an up-tempo style of play could wear out an ISU team that goes just six players deep and was put to the test two days earlier against Minneosta.

But its Raymond Felton, Melvin Scott, Rashad McCants, and the Tar Heel transition game which make this squad so dangerous. It helped UNC lead the ACC in scoring (88.8 ppg), scoring margin (+18.5 ppg), field-goal percentage (49.6), and steals (10.39 per game).

That fast break should be even more lethal with McCants returning to health following an intestinal disorder. McCants missed four games but returned for the ACC Tournament. He hit on 6-of-9 shots for 16 points against Oakland Friday.

What makes the Tar Heels so dangerous is that they can win in a variety of different ways – on the break or just pounding it inside in the half court. May averages a double-double (16.5 points and 10.7 rebounds), and is the team's go-to guy inside.

Either way, the Cyclones' best bet may be to slow the game down a bit. If they can hold the score in the 60s and 70s their chances are better than by trying to beat Carolina in a track meet. That could pit ISU's Jared Homan against May inside, which could make for an entertaining matchup.

ISU will need a great 3-point shooting day from its perimeter players. Tasheed Carr has shot well in a lot of the team's big victories this season. Will Blalock will need to end a shooting slump that has seen him miss 20 consecutive 3-pointers.

On paper this game looks like a mismatch for an undermanned Cyclone team, but stranger things are happening in this year's NCAA Tournament. Anything can happen. Just ask Syracuse and Kansas.

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