San Antonio, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Meeting for the first time since the 2005 NCAA Tournament, the Iowa State Cyclones and the North Carolina Tar Heels will square off in the second round of this year's event on Sunday.
The top-seeded Tar Heels rolled to a 92-65 victory over the ninth-seeded Cyclones during their run to the 2005 national title when these teams last met. North Carolina leads the all-time series, 3-0.
Iowa State is the higher seeded team this time around, earning the No. 3 spot in the East Region. The Big 12 champion Cyclones easily avoided an upset in their first game on Friday, pushing past NC Central, 93-75. However, they also suffered a major loss as Georges Niang (16.7 ppg) was lost for the rest of the tournament with a fracture in his right foot.
James Michael McAdoo secured two offensive rebounds and hit a pair of free- throws in the final seconds to lift sixth-seed North Carolina to a 79-77 win over 11th-seed Providence on Friday. The win was the 110th in this event all- time for the Tar Heels, who are seeking their 26th official Sweet 16 appearance.
The Tar Heels trailed 71-64 with 4:34 left to go against Providence, but consecutive buckets from Brice Johnson and a 3-pointer from Marcus Paige allowed the Tar Heels to tie things at 71-71 with just over three minutes to play. North Carolina still failed to take a lead until McAdoo collected an offensive rebound off a missed jumper from Johnson with three seconds left and, after being fouled, split a pair of free-throws. The 6-foot-9 McAdoo missed the second foul shot, but managed to collect the rebound. He was fouled immediately and sent to the line, where he split his attempts yet again, but Providence didn't have enough time to get off a good shot to tie or win the game, allowing North Carolina to escape.
It is rather fitting that a pair of key rebounds would lead North Carolina to such an important win. The Tar Heels have been one of the best teams in the country on the glass this season, ranking eighth at 39.8 rpg. They have also been solid when it comes to the offensive end of the floor, ranking second in the ACC in scoring (76.4 ppg), assists (15.5 apg) and field goal percentage (.463). Paige (17.5 ppg, 4.3 apg) is the team's best playmaker, creating for himself and others at an impressive rate. He is also a clutch performer. as he proved by sinking a pair of 3-pointers late against Providence. McAdoo (14.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Johnson (10.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Leslie McDonald (10.1 ppg) provide further depth.
Iowa State's first game of this tournament did not provide as much as excitement as the thriller between the Tar Heels and Friars. The Cyclones, led by 24 points from Niang, connected on 63.6 percent from the field and outscored NC Central 48-32 in the paint, en route to an 18-point triumph. Niang was the top scorer among five players that reached double figures for the team, which recorded assists on 21 of its 35 field goals.
Losing Niang is clearly going to take quite a toll on Iowa State. However, the Cyclones have the offensive depth to sustain his absence. They are the fifth- best scoring team in the country (83.2 ppg), while shooting the 25th-best percentage from the floor (.476). The key to the attack, other than the tremendous pace, is the Cyclones' unmatched ability to share the basketball, as they lead all Division I teams in assists (18.6 apg). DeAndre Kane (16.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 5.8 apg) does a lot more than lead the team in assists, providing plenty of production across the board. However, it was Melvin Ejim (18.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) that earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors. Dustin Hogue (10.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Monte Morris (6.4 ppg, 3.89 apg) and Naz Long (6.9 ppg) will all need to step into bigger roles to make up for Niang's loss.