By Matthew Budkofsky
Just one week ago, when your final picks locked in for the NCAA Tournament, plenty of people, myself included, picked Iowa State to make it pretty far. If you listened to our podcast, you heard us rave about how good the Cyclones are and how a deep run in the tournament is not out of the question. Then they took the floor and everything changed.
When the game started, it seemed like everything was going to be okay. Iowa State jumped out to a 12-2 lead, and it looked like they were going to dominate a team they were expected to dominate. But UAB fought their way back into the game and took a 3 point lead into halftime. The teams went back and forth before UAB closed out the game on a 7-4 run to win the game 60-59. So where did it all go wrong for Iowa State?
At first glance, it is puzzling to think that the Cyclones lost. UAB had only 2 players score in double figures compared to Iowa State’s 4, and as a team the Blazers shot 34% from the field. They made 3 of 18 from behind the arc and turned the ball over 13 times. Usually, this is a recipe for success for any 3 seed trying to cruise past a 14 seed. Not this time. The Iowa State players could not have thrown a rock into the ocean if they were standing on a boat. The Cyclones shot 37% from the field (26% from three) and got outrebounded 51-34. It is hard to win any game with those numbers.
When the game came down to it, Iowa State just failed to execute. Even so, Iowa State had the ball while down by 1 point with less than 30 seconds to go. They missed their shot (surprise) and UAB forward William Lee secured his 12th rebound of the game, and sunk the proceeding 2 free throws to put the Blazers up by 3 points. Once again the Cyclones had a chance to tie the game, but they missed a 3 point attempt, and subsequently tipped in the miss because, why lose by 3 when you can lose by 1? It could be argued that UAB did not win this game; rather, Iowa State just lost it. That does not take away from anything that the Blazers accomplished, but 9 times out of 10, Iowa State wins that game.
So if you are like me, you are looking back at your bracket, wondering why you didn’t just pick Duke or Gonzaga, and you are also cursing Georges Niang under your breath. Games like this one are the reason nobody can pick a perfect bracket. Games like this one can also force you to despise a team that you never had a problem with. But all of this is why millions of fans love March Madness.