Here is everything you need to know about the Iowa State Cyclones and the LSU Tigers in our Iowa State vs. LSU NCAA Tournament men’s basketball preview.
Midwest Region – First Round
No. 11 Iowa State (20-12) vs. No. 6 LSU (22-11), 6:20 p.m. CT, Friday, TBS, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
How They Got Here:
Iowa State earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. LSU earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Winner gets: A second-round game against the winner of the Wisconsin-Colgate game.
Projected starting lineups
Iowa State: G Gabe Kalscheur, G Izaiah Brockington, F George Conditt IV, F Aljaz Kunc, G Tyrese Hunter.
LSU: F Mwani Wilkinson, G Xavier Pinson, G Brandon Murray, F Darius Days, C Efton Reid.
Players to watch
Iowa State G Tyrese Hunter: Izaiah Brockington is the present for the Cyclones, but Hunter, the true freshman, is the future. Hunter was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year after he set the Iowa State freshman record with 157 assists. With five steals in the NCAA Tournament, Hunter would tie that freshman record, too. While Hunter has run a quality point for the Cyclones, his overall game is growing, too. In the season’s last five games, he’s recorded his first double-double and then had a career-high 13 assists in the regular-season finale against Baylor. With averages of 9.4 points, 7.4 assists and 2.0 steals, he has the potential to explode in the NCAA Tournament.
LSU F Tari Eason: The Cincinnati transfer enters the NCAA Tournament as a First-Team All-SEC selection and the SEC Sixth Man of the Year. He was also named an honorable mention All-America by the Associated Press. Eason is worth keeping your eye on, not just in the NCAA Tournament but in the future, as he’s only a sophomore. He goes into the NCAAs averaging 16.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and two steals per game. He had four 20-point and 10-rebound games in SEC action and was in the Top 10 in the SEC in both categories. Don’t put him on the free-throw line, either. He shoots nearly 80 percent from the line this season.
Iowa State: Iowa State is making its 21st NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2019 in one of the best turnaround seasons in college basketball. The Cyclones won 18 more games than they did a season ago under first-year head coach T.J. Otzelberger. It’s the biggest turnaround in Big 12 history. And it’s exactly what the Cyclones were hoping for when they hired the former assistant, who had worked for three different Cyclones head coaches. He is now the eighth Cyclones head coach to lead ISU to the NCAA Tournament, and he’s one of four first-year coaches at their school to lead a team to the ‘Big Dance’ that had a losing record the season before.
LSU: Well, in case you didn’t hear, the Tigers have a new head coach — or at least a temporary one. When the Tigers fired Will Wade ‘for cause’ late last week after LSU received a notice of allegations from the NCAA with five Level I violations levied against the program. Kevin Nickelberry, Wade’s assistant, will serve as the interim coach as long as the Tigers are in the tournament. He’s been a head coach before, logging more than a decade at Hampton and Howard. But he had a .331 career winning percentage. He’ll be working with a Tigers team that lost five of its previous eight games but has undeniable talent that includes senior guard Xavier Pinson and senior forward Darius Days.
Iowa State (No. 10) and LSU (No. 6) are two of the nation’s top teams in defensive efficiency.
Iowa State 59, LSU 57. Two terrific defenses means the winner doesn’t have to score a ton of points to win the game. This game hinges on whether LSU is ‘mentally there’ after the firing of Wade.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.