Cyclones' Sweet 16 foe knows Garden intimately

UConn has played 111 games in New York arena

Published: March 24 2014 | 9:02 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:04 am in

So, Iowa State more or less has to play a road game in the Sweet 16.

The Cyclones face Connecticut Friday night in New York, and Madison Square Garden is new and fresh to Iowa State. For UConn, though, it's ultra-familiar territory. Until this season, the Huskies were in the Big East, and the Big East has held its postseason tourneys in the Garden since 1983. UConn won seven of those.

UConn has played 111 games in the Garden over the years.

Though the Huskies left the new, condensed Big East for the American Athletic Conference, they did play two games in the Garden in November in a four-team tournament, defeating Boston College and Indiana.

UConn's campus is a little more than two hours from Manhattan, and the Garden will be overrun with Huskie fans Friday night. That's just the luck of the draw. UConn is the No. 7 seed of the East Region, but after beating No. 10 St. Joseph's in overtime, it ousted No. 2-seed Villanova Saturday, 77-65.

It has been 53 years since the Garden hosted an NCAA tournament. Tickets from ticke-t

Matchup-wise, this looks like a good one for the Cyclones. UConn is guard-oriented. It doesn't rebound particularly well. Its star is a terrific player. Senior guard Shabazz Napier averages 17.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists, all team-highs.

Like Iowa State, the Huskies like 3-pointers. They have made 262 in 36 games. The Cyclones have made 295 in 35 games.

UConn has won seven of its last nine games, with the only missteps two decisive losses to Louisville.

It means virtually nothing relevant to this game, but Iowa State ran Connecticut out of the second round of the 2012 NCAAs in Louisville, 77-64. Napier had 22 points in that game for the Huskies, and current UConn starting guard Ryan Boatright had nine points in 26 minutes.

Melvin Ejim, then a sophomore like Napier, had 11 points in 29 minutes.

Meanwhile, Iowa can't be looking at how Tennessee has played in the NCAAs without thinking "That should be us."

The Volunteers are headed to Indianapolis to play Michigan in the Sweet 16. Oh, how the Hawkeyes and their fans would have enjoyed an Iowa-Michigan matchup in Indy. With Kentucky-Louisville in the other game there, it would be the most wound-up regional site the NCAA has seen in a long time.

Tennessee beat Massachusetts by 19 points and Mercer by 20 after escaping Iowa in overtime in last Wednesday's play-in game. If the Vols could have routed those two, couldn't Iowa? Well, you can't really assume that or anything about this year's Iowa team, but still ...

By the way, my pick of Michigan State to beat Michigan in the national-title game can still happen. That also was my pick in the Big Ten tourney. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But deep down, I'm not as sold on the Spartans cutting the nets as all those ESPNers who picked them.

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