|Jekyll-and-Hyde Iowa State draws Ohio State first|
Surprising, but enigmatic, Iowa State carries plenty of swagger and momentum as it battles Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Tulsa, Okla.
But which of the Jekyll-and-Hyde Cyclones teams will step on the floor against the Buckeyes-- the one that lost the final three games of the regular season and six of its final eight, or the squad that swept through the Big 12 tournament last week in impressive fashion?
Iowa State (23-11) drew the sixth seed in the Midwest Region, while Ohio State (19-14) is the 11th seed after losing in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament to eventual champion Michigan State.
The Cyclones rediscovered their championship pedigree in Kansas City, reeling off three straight wins, including a 78-66 victory over Kansas in the finals to clinch their fourth conference tournament title in six years.
Iowa State is doing plenty of homework this week in preparation for the Buckeyes and their physicality, but Cyclones coach Steve Prohm said his team has to "be who we are."
"If we're who we are, then we'll have a good chance to do some good things, regardless of where we play or who we play," Prohm told the Ames (Iowa) Tribune. "The Big Ten... a little bit different style of play. It's a game that we've got to match the physicality around the basket. We've got to match their toughness."
Iowa State has gone to the NCAA Tournament seven times in the past eight seasons. If the Cyclones advance to the Sweet 16, they will return to the Sprint Center, site of the Big 12 tournament, next week.
"The experience in Kansas City helps the young kids already understand the tournament atmosphere," Prohm told the Ames Tribune. "We've been through that this week so I think the guys -- young and old -- are used to that. There should be some nerves. It's a big-time deal, being a part of the NCAA Tournament."
Zoran Talley, a senior wing, missed all three of Iowa State's games in the Big 12 tournament after entering the concussion protocol last week. He is expected to return to practice Tuesday, Prohm said.
The Buckeyes, led by second-year coach Chris Holtmann, will make their 33rd all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
After winning 12 of their first 13 games of the season, the Buckeyes lost straight, ending the season with an 8-12 record in Big Ten play.
"We have had our struggles, we have, there's no doubting that, and we all take responsibility for that," Holtmann said. "But we have also won some games, and we won some important games."
Kaleb Wesson paces Ohio State with 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest, while C.J. Jackson adds 12.2 points per game and a team-best 113 total assists for the Buckeyes.
"We knew coming into this year that a lot of people were going to count us out for different reasons," Jackson told the Columbus Dispatch. "We did what we had to do throughout the season to put ourselves in position to make the NCAA Tournament. With a young team, that's all you can ask for."
Jackson feels the Buckeyes can do some damage in the "Big Dance."
"We're not here just to e game in the tournament, we're here to actually win some games and make a run," he said.
Friday's game will be the seventh all-time meeting between the two programs, with Ohio State winning the first six.
The Buckeyes and Cyclones last squared off in the Round of 32 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, a 78-75 Ohio State victory in Dayton, Ohio. The two teams also met in 1985 in Tulsa, a 75-64 first-round victory for the Buckeyes.
Friday's winner will play third-seeded Houston or 14th-seeded Georgia State in the second round on Sunday.
--Field Level Media