College Basketball Nation: 2012 Louisville Region

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- What are you gonna do?

Seriously, how are you going to beat Kentucky in this NCAA tournament? That's what Iowa State -- and maybe the rest of America -- must be thinking after watching the preposterously gifted Wildcats break out a new weapon and push back the Cyclones' upset bid with extreme force in Saturday's 87-71 third-round NCAA tournament victory.

Just when it looked like Iowa State was going to create the first real drama of the weekend at the KFC Yum! Center and put the No. 1 overall seed on red alert, the Wildcats unleashed a 10-minute tsunami. Along the way, they threw safety nets over all their potential postseason pitfalls, such as:

Point guard play. John Calipari's best teams have had great point guards, but Big Blue fans haven't been sold on Marquis Teague most of the season. Truthfully, he's been solid most of the way after a shaky beginning. But he's rarely been much more than a game manager, and the fear was that his lack of offense and decision-making might prove a liability in a tournament often dominated by guards.

Teague, though, had his best game of the season against Iowa State. He erupted for 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, scoring eight more points than he had in any other game of his freshman season. He finished in transition and sank jump shots as ISU sagged off him. He also had seven assists with only two turnovers.

Teague knew skeptics had wondered whether he would be the team's weak link.

"I heard a lot people say that, but I knew my time would come if I just continued to work," he said. "On a team like this, they don't really need me to score. I know I can step up and do that, but because we have so many scorers around, I don't have to."

Kentucky already is really, really good. If Teague is going to operate like an elite point guard, it's scary good.

"He did a great job not only scoring, but being a floor general," teammate Darius Miller said. "When he's playing like that, we're a totally different team."

Outside shooting. Vanderbilt beat the Wildcats in the SEC tournament final in large part because the Commodores went to a zone and Kentucky missed shots late. Iowa State collapsed its defense to try to handle Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones, hoping UK's guards would have an off night.

They didn't. Miller, who was slumping during the early rounds of the SEC tournament, and Doron Lamb combined to hit eight of their 13 3-point attempts. The Wildcats made their first six 3s of the second half and were 10-for-20 for the game, shooting 64 percent overall in the final 20 minutes.

[+] EnlargeMarquis Teague
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesFreshman point guard Marquis Teague sent the tournament's remaining teams a warning with a career night in Kentucky's impressive victory.
"We don't shoot a lot because we get to the rim, we throw lobs," Calipari said. "We play different -- we get a lot in transition. If you make us shoot 3s, we will shoot them."

And if they're making them as well as they did Saturday night, forget it.

Terrence Jones' psyche. The talented sophomore forward has had a tendency to disappear in big moments, as he did in the loss at Indiana in December. But Calipari rightly described Jones as a beast for the way he's played so far in March.

In his past six games, Jones is averaging 15 points and nine rebounds while attacking the rim. He scored only eight against Iowa State, mainly because he concentrated on trying to slow down the Cyclones' version of Charles Barkley, Royce White. But Jones ignited the team's backbreaking 18-2 second-half run with a drive for a dunk and a lob to Davis. He also pulled down 11 rebounds.

"I've just been trying to be a little hungrier and step up my role on this team," he said. "I felt I was letting my team down by not being as aggressive and thinking too much. I wanted to change that for [the] postseason and get us as deep as I could."

Three-point defense. Anybody can go down in March if another team starts raining home 3s. Indiana did it in the Dec. 10 upset in Bloomington and just might do it again next week in Atlanta.

But Calipari has the luxury of letting his players defend tightly on the perimeter, because Davis and Jones can erase mistakes if they are beaten on dribble penetration. Iowa State is one of the most prolific 3-point-shooting teams in the country, with four shooters ready to snipe from outside at any given time. The Cyclones went just 3-of-22 from the 3-point line Saturday night. After making six of their first seven shots of the second half to tie the score at 42, they hit only 28 percent the rest of the game.

Kentucky was content to let White get his points -- he had 23 -- and stop the shooters.

"Coach Cal told us that it was just like last year against Ohio State," Davis said. "If Sully [Jared Sullinger] gets 30 and nobody else can score, then they can't win. So we just tried to contain their [guards] with high hands and make it hard for them to score."

Foul trouble. Calipari usually goes only seven deep, and on Saturday, his top six guys played all but three minutes of the game. Lamb picked up his fourth foul early in the second half, and Jones fouled out after 33 minutes. That's pretty close to the doomsday scenario, yet Miller's fiery play off the bench more than made up for Lamb's extended absence. And even though White is built like a bull and tried to go into Davis' chest, Davis continued to get his hands on the ball without fouling. He had only two fouls Saturday night.

Kentucky is not unbeatable, and its next opponent definitely knows that. While the players said all the right things Saturday night about the rematch, it's no secret the Wildcats have been itching for another shot at the Hoosiers. Expect them to be incredibly motivated for next week in Atlanta. An effort similar to the one they gave in Louisville should be plenty good enough.

"[Calipari] after the game came up to me and told me that's the best game they played all year," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They can't play any better than they did."

The rest of the tournament better hope that's true.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Marquette is going to the Sweet 16, which is like saying the sweat-soaked dress shirts of MU coach Buzz Williams are going to the dry cleaners. It's almost a given.

Saturday evening at the KFC Yum! Center, Marquette defeated Murray State, 62-53, in a game that was part MMA, part football and all big-boy basketball. Unless you lost a body part on a play, the refs swallowed their whistles.

"We're thankful," said Williams. "I thought the physicality game was as much as we have seen in a long time."

Get a large bag of truck lug nuts. Now hit yourself repeatedly in the face and chest with them. That's what it's like to go 40 minutes against Williams' Golden Eagles.

For the rest of Gene Wojciechowski's column, click here.

Video: Kentucky coach John Calipari

March, 17, 2012

John Calipari on Kentucky advancing to Sweet 16 for third straight year.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Kentucky comfortably survived the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in its own backyard, and now we have a pretty sweet rematch on tap for next week in Atlanta.

But first, here's a quick look at the No. 1 seed Wildcats' 87-71 victory over No. 8 seed Iowa State at the KFC Yum! Center.

Overview: The top overall seed faced its first test of this tournament early in the second half, when Iowa State tied the score at 42. The sea of blue in the stands began to squirm.

But Kentucky turned in a brilliant response, seizing control of the game in breathtaking fashion, zooming ahead by 24 points in just 10 minutes of action. Point guard Marquis Teague had the best offensive game of his young career, Darius Miller scored 19 points off the bench and Terrence Jones' defense finally slowed down Iowa State's multidimensional Royce White.

The Wildcats hit 6 of 7 3-pointers and shot better than 60 percent in the second half. If they are going to make shots from the outside like that, nobody is going to beat them. Iowa State, which played a pretty solid game, found that out the hard way.

Turning point: After Iowa State erased an 11-point halftime deficit in short order, Kentucky went on a devastating run that showed how much talent it has. Jones, who's been on a tear all of March, started things off with a baseline drive for a dunk. Moments later, Jones grabbed a tough rebound in traffic, dribbled the length of the court and threw a lob to Anthony Davis for another slam. Then the rest of the Wildcats started getting into the act, and suddenly the Cyclones were blindsided by an 18-2 spurt.

Key player: Teague is not normally a big scorer for Kentucky, but Iowa State gave him open looks and he drained them on Saturday. Teague scored a career-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting. The freshman had not scored more than 16 points all season.

Key stat: Teague, Miller and Doron Lamb went a combined 22-of-33 for the field and made nine 3-pointers. Iowa State was just 3-of-22 on 3-point tries.

Miscellany: Twice early in the second half, White went coast-to-coast for dunks with no Kentucky players even attempting to impede his progress. After the second one, which started when he blocked Davis, White yelled out, "I'm the best player in the country!" White -- who had 23 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists before fouling out -- was very impressive here this week and likely made himself some money with his performance against Kentucky's future pros. ... Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg was slapped with a technical foul with 11:35 left when he disputed a Cyclones turnover. Davis sank the ensuing two free throws. It was the first technical foul of Hoiberg's two-year coaching career. Kentucky's Jones got a technical for unsportsmanlike conduct with 10:11 left. That was the second technical levied against the Wildcats in two games, as Davis picked one up Thursday night for hanging on the rim. ... Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's mysterious late-season offensive swoon continues. The Wildcats freshman did not score before a meaningless layup in the final minute, though he did have seven rebounds.

What's next: Kentucky advances to play No. 4 seed Indiana in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Atlanta. The Hoosiers, of course, handed the Wildcats their only regular-season loss in a 73-72 thriller on Dec. 10 in Bloomington.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- You'd never know it now by looking at his sculpted body, but Marquette's Jae Crowder used to be pudgy, to put it kindly.

Going into his junior year of high school, Crowder was a 5-foot-11 point guard. He weighed 235 pounds.

"I still had my Gary Payton shuffle," he said. "Backing people down. That was me."

What Crowder is now is one of the most versatile, important players left in this NCAA tournament. He led Marquette into the Sweet 16 for the second straight year with two enormous games at the KFC Yum! Center this week, including his heroics down the stretch in a 62-53 victory over a tough Murray State team Saturday.

Crowder had his second consecutive double-double, with 17 points and 13 rebounds, but that only partially reveals the 6-foot-6 senior's importance. His fingerprints were all over the Golden Eagles' closing kick, during which they went from down 46-41 to up 55-48 to take control. He hit a key 3-pointer during the run after struggling with his shot in the first half. He also took a big charge and came up with a steal late as Marquette's defense clamped down in the final minutes.

That's what the Big East player of the year has been doing all season.

[+] EnlargeJae Crowder
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesJae Crowder was crucial on both ends of the floor as Marquette polished off Murray State to advance.
"He doesn't care about stats or anything," Marquette guard Junior Cadougan said. "He just plays to win."

Crowder didn't even get serious about basketball until the end of his high school career in Villa Rica, Ga. He preferred football, in which he played quarterback. That is, until he broke his hand late in his senior season on a running play, and when he realized he wasn't going to play Division I in that sport. Besides, he had hit a growth spurt that took him up to 6-foot-4, helping his body better carry his weight. And basketball was in his genes, as his father, Corey, had played in the NBA and professionally overseas.

So Crowder got focused and started his college career at South Georgia Tech. To his horror, he later found out the junior college wasn't accredited, meaning none of his coursework would transfer to another school. He had no choice but to go to yet another two-year school, this time heading to Howard College in Texas. He spent the summer holed up in his dorm room, taking courses online to make up for lost time and not knowing a soul in town.

Through all that, Crowder kept flourishing on the court, eventually leading Howard to its first national title. He had to fight perception that disciplinary or other reasons sent him to two different junior colleges. But he found a kindred soul when Marquette coach Buzz Williams came on a recruiting call.

"He said, 'If you want a coach to be on your butt -- he used profanity, of course -- come play for me,'" Crowder said. "If you want a coach to give you stuff and not get you better as a basketball player and a person, go elsewhere."

Crowder loved the honesty, and he fit right in with Marquette's mindset of toughness and physicality, pulling sleds and doing other football-type drills to build strength. The 240-pounder is now built like a defensive end, and Williams said NFL teams have even asked him about Crowder. But he also still has his point guard skills and can play anywhere on the court.

"He can be a physical player and he can shoot jumpers," said 6-foot-8, 290-pound teammate Davante Gardner, whom Crowder sometimes checks in practice. "He does everything."

Crowder was a good player on a Sweet 16 team last year, but he knew he had to make the transition to great in the offseason. He spent the summer in Fort Myers, Fla., working out daily with his father, running through cones, using a basketball shooting machine and doing other exercises.

"You could see a drastic improvement," Cadougan said. "He really learned how to work."

Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom are the two leaders on this team, and the Golden Eagles needed every bit of them to slip past Murray State. The Racers showed everybody this weekend why they went into Saturday at 31-1, matching Marquette's intensity beat for beat. They just couldn't hit shots down the stretch.

And they didn't have Jae Crowder. The definitively non-pudgy version.

Video: Breaking down Marquette's win

March, 17, 2012

Hubert Davis on Marquette advancing to Sweet 16 with 62-53 win over Murray State.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Here's a quick look at No. 3 seed Marquette's 62-53 victory over No. 6 seed Murray State at the KFC Yum! Center.

Overview: The storyline going into this game was that these teams were mirror images of each other. That proved true and led to a highly entertaining game played at an express-lane pace, if a little ragged at times.

It was possible to cramp up just watching Marquette and Murray State trade possessions in transition over and over. Ultimately, Marquette pulled away late with excellent defense and a lack of marksmanship from the Racers, who made just 31.3 percent of their shots and went only 4-of-21 on 3-point tries.

But this was a street fight for 40 minutes, and Murray State vindicated its 31-2 season with two top-flight tournament performances, even if the Racers failed to make their first Sweet 16. Marquette, meanwhile, now has an advantageous path to the West Region final and is looking like a serious Final Four threat.

Turning point: Neither team could get much distance from the other most of the way, but Murray State looked like it had all the momentum when it used a 7-0 run to take a 46-41 lead, its biggest of the game, with less than eight minutes to play in the second half. The pro-Murray crowd, bolstered by Kentucky fans who were rooting for their fellow state school, was going nuts. After a pair of timeouts, though, Marquette regrouped and charged back with a 14-2 run of its own, which included a couple of big baskets inside by reserve big man Davante Gardner and lots of defensive stops. The run was aided by missed shots from Murray State star Isaiah Canaan, who suffered through a brutal 4-for-17 night.

Key player: Marquette's Jae Crowder had another huge night after putting up 25 points and 16 rebounds Thursday against BYU. Crowder struggled with his shot early but played great defense in the second half, and finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Key stat: Canaan and Donte Poole, Murray State's top two scorers, were a combined 7-for-30 from the field.

Miscellany: Marquette advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year. ... The Golden Eagles made a big play just before the half, as Darius Johnson-Odom picked up a loose ball in a crowd and laid it in just before the horn after a Murray State turnover. That cut the halftime deficit to 28-25. ... The Racers' Ed Daniel was all over the place and finished with 14 rebounds, but he was quiet late. ... Murray State players said they did extra work on free throws Friday in practice after bricking 13 of 26 attempts from the foul line in their victory over Colorado State. The practice paid off, as the Racers went 9-for-10 on free throws.

What's next: Marquette advances to play the winner of Sunday's game between Norfolk State and Florida. The Golden Eagles should be a heavy favorite over either one of those teams in that game, scheduled for Thursday in Phoenix.

Video: Kentucky guard Doron Lamb

March, 17, 2012

Brian Bennett and Kentucky guard Doron Lamb preview the Wildcats' match with Iowa State.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Thursday's slate of second-round games at the KFC Yum! Center didn't offer a lot of intrigue. All four higher seeds won by an average of 16 points.

Maybe they were just setting the stage for a dramatic doubleheader Saturday. On paper, at least, we have the possibility of two great games. The opener features teams with similar, fast-paced styles, while the nightcap pits the tournament's No. 1 overall seed against an upstart that might have the right ingredients for an upset.

Here's a closer look at Saturday's two third-round games in Louisville:

No. 3 seed Marquette (26-7) vs. No. 6 Murray State (31-1), 5:15 p.m. ET

What to watch: Each team must feel like it's looking into a mirror when scouting the other. Both like to crowd passing lanes and push the pace, and though neither is particularly big, their frontcourt players are active around the rim. So the question is, which one does it better? Marquette has more ability to switch up styles and pound the ball inside, especially when 6-foot-8, 290-pound forward Davante Gardner comes off the bench. He is averaging 17 points and six rebounds in three games since returning from a knee injury. But Murray State should have a significant crowd advantage from its fans who made the short trip here, and from Kentucky backers who likely will pick up their fellow state school's cause.

Who to watch: Both teams have terrific lead guards who could match up against one another. Murray State will almost assuredly need a big game from star Isaiah Canaan to have a chance to advance. The Racers' backcourt will have to slow down Darius Johnson-Odom, who can fill it up from outside or stutter-step and drive the lane. But the Golden Eagles' Jae Crowder presents the toughest matchup problem with his versatility. The 6-6 slasher had 25 points and 16 rebounds in the win against BYU. It's not height but bulk that might bother Murray State, as players like Johnson-Odom and Crowder look like they've spent as much time on their bench press as their jump shot. "They look like they should all be in spring practice at Alabama and LSU playing defensive back and linebacker," Racers coach Steve Prohm said.

Why to watch: This has all the makings of an entertaining, up-and-down game that shouldn't tax the shot clock operator. Canaan and Crowder are among the best players in the country. The winner of this game has a very real chance at making it to the West Region final and beyond.

What they're saying: "For people to look at us as a Cinderella story, it's an honor. But we try to stay level and remember the things that got us to this point, and try to remember to do those things. Because we know if we do that, everything else will take care of itself." -- Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan.

"You just visualize what the moment will be like when you see your 14 guys celebrating going to the Sweet 16. And that's how you're preparing right now, so those guys can have that moment." -- Murray State coach Steve Prohm.

"It's like watching Syracuse. You watch six or seven games, and by the time you're watching the eighth game, you're like, 'Yeah, they just do the same stuff over and over and over. Not to be over-simplistic, but maybe that's why they win." -- Marquette coach Buzz Williams, on scouting Murray State.

"They've got good guards, their bigs run in transition. We've got to get back in transition and keep the ball out of the paint. They look like they come to play and fight every night, and that's how we play." -- Marquette guard Junior Cadougan.

Of note: Donte Poole took an elbow to the nose on Thursday against Colorado State. The Murray State guard said his nose was sore and congested, but he plans on playing Saturday without a protective face mask. ... Marquette is looking to make its second straight Sweet 16 appearance and 15th overall. Murray State has never advanced that far. ... This is just the second meeting between the schools. The first came in the 1969 NCAA tournament, with Marquette winning 82-62.

No. 1 seed Kentucky (33-2) vs. No. 8 Iowa State (23-10), approximately 7:45 p.m. ET

What to watch: Kentucky should get its first real challenge of the tournament against an Iowa State team that took out defending champion Connecticut with ease Thursday night. The Cyclones can bury you from 3-point land by putting four shooters outside the arc on most possessions, but they also can get physical inside, as they showed against UConn. Of course, Kentucky still has Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones and all that other NBA talent, and it will be playing in the friendliest Big Blue confines outside of Rupp Arena. So Iowa State will be a heavy underdog, but that's a role this team has wholeheartedly embraced.

Who to watch: Iowa State's Royce White nearly transferred to Kentucky from Minnesota two years ago. John Calipari visited him in Minneapolis and said "it was done." But when it came time for White to enroll in summer school, he balked. White, who has an anxiety disorder, said he felt uncomfortable getting on a plane, and the mother of his first son had just found out she was pregnant again. Could White come back to haunt the Wildcats? He's one of the most unorthodox players in the country, a 6-8, 270-pounder who serves as the team's primary ball-handler and distributor. If he can throw his weight around inside and find open shooters, look out. But Kentucky also has big men who can play on the perimeter. "He's not LeBron James," Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said. "Can we pressure him? Yeah. He's not special."

Why to watch: The tournament favorite against a very game underdog? That's appointment television.

What they're saying: "We've got to do a great job of trying to keep their guards in front of us and try to make them shoot contested jump shots over us. Because if you do give up guard penetration to the middle, they have incredible athleticism and length, and they can just kind of flip it up there on the rim." -- Iowa State guard Scott Christopherson.

"I think I read somewhere that we were only picked in 32 percent of the brackets on the ESPN challenge. We have played that underdog role, and we have played it well. Our guys have gone out there and taken it personally. And hopefully, we'll do that again [Saturday] night." -- Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.

"It's not nerves that I'm worried about. Iowa State is a really good team. I watched some tapes where I had to stop watching because I started getting worried that we can't beat this team. So I'm trying to watch a tape or two where they've lost. ... This is going to be one of the toughest games we've played in a while." -- Kentucky coach John Calipari.

Of note: Hoiberg played against Kentucky in the second round of the 1992 NCAA tournament when he was a Cyclones freshman. Hoiberg scored two points and fouled out of a 106-98 loss. "It was the only game in my college career that I fouled out," Hoiberg said. ... Looking ahead? Kentucky guard Marquis Teague said he hopes to see No. 4 seed Indiana -- which handed the Wildcats their only regular-season loss -- in next week's Sweet 16. "We want to play them because of the way they beat us," he said. "We're upset about that." ... White is Iowa State's only starter taller than 6-6, but the Cyclones have outrebounded their past 10 opponents. ... Kentucky's Jones is on a roll in March, averaging 20.8 points and 11 rebounds in his past four games.

Video: How far can Iowa State advance?

March, 16, 2012

Cassidy Hubbarth and Jimmy Dykes discuss Iowa State's chances of upsetting Kentucky on Saturday.

Video: Bennett, Wojciechowski in Louisville

March, 16, 2012

Brian Bennett and Gene Wojciechowski recap Thursday's action in Louisville and look ahead to Saturday's Round of 32 matchups.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Early in the first half of Kentucky's game against Western Kentucky on Thursday evening, as the Wildcats tried to scrape the 16th-seeded Hilltoppers from the bottom of their sneakers, a chorus of boos arrived without warning.

From the upper reaches of the KFC Yum! Center to the lower bowl, thousands of UK fans made their displeasure known to the 14 players walking slowly to their seats three rows behind the baseline. They wore dark blue sweatsuits and a school logo despised by Kentucky followers.


Big Blue Nation has a long memory. It remembers what happened last April 2, when the Huskies defeated the Cats in the Final Four semis by a single point. Kentucky went home, Connecticut went on to win a national title.

But come Saturday, in the South Region round of 32, UK would exact its revenge. At least, that was the office pool plan.

One problem: Iowa State beat Kentucky to it.

Actually, ISU beat UConn 77-64 and threw a very large water balloon in the face of everyone who assumed the Huskies and Wildcats would get their 2012 NCAA tournament rematch. Instead, Iowa State advances and the Huskies are a one-and-done.

For the full story, click here.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Chris Allen played his first three years at Michigan State, experiencing two Final Fours and a Sweet 16 with the Spartans.

His old team expected to do great things in March. Back in the NCAA tournament as a senior with Iowa State, Allen senses an entirely different feeling.

"People see us and say, 'That's Iowa State. Who are they?'" Allen said. "But you can't worry about the name on the front of the jersey. You just have to worry about the players."

Plenty of folks saw the name Connecticut and automatically assumed the Huskies would brush past Iowa State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. UConn was the defending national champion, after all, while the Cyclones were a collection of castoffs at a program that hadn't gone dancing in seven years. Forget that Iowa State was seeded one spot higher, at No. 8, than Connecticut. Everybody was already looking forward to a third-round matchup between UConn and top seed Kentucky.

Except that Iowa State's players were better than Connecticut's. A lot better, and they showed it during Thursday's 77-64 dethroning at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Cyclones felt disrespected leading into the game and believed they would win. In the waning seconds, big man Royce White barked at the Iowa State radio crew, "I told you!"

"Nobody picked us to win," White said. "That bothered me a lot. Personally, I was as tuned-in as I've been all year to this game as far as my effort."

White showed it on the first possession of the game, throwing down a dunk off a rebound to set an early tone. Twelve minutes later, Iowa State led 36-14 after what coach Fred Hoiberg called his team's best stretch of the season.

[+] EnlargeScott Christopherson
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesScott Christopherson (15 points against UConn) transferred to Iowa State from Marquette in 2008.
The Cyclones hit eight of their first 11 shots and drilled six 3-pointers in the first half. But this wasn't simply the story of a team getting hot from outside and pulling off an upset. Iowa State didn't make a 3-pointer in the second half and instead took it to the Huskies physically, outrebounding them 41-24 and just wanting it more. After UConn cut the lead to six points at the under-eight-minutes timeout, Iowa State responded by scoring seven consecutive points and grabbing four offensive rebounds during that stretch.

"That's just hunger," White said. "That's us being the underdog."

UConn suffered from the same disinterested, disjointed vibe that plagued the team all year. At one point after a Cyclones run, Jim Calhoun called timeout and just stared at his team from the court for several moments, unsure of what to say. He later said the Huskies got caught "being nothing more than a street sign as [Iowa State] went by us by a thousand miles." With a 2013 tournament ban looming plus Calhoun's uncertain future, who knows what path Connecticut takes the next couple of years?

Truth is, Iowa State presents a tougher matchup for Kentucky than UConn ever did. This is a team that beat Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor this season and plays an odd style that is not easy to prepare for in one day.

"We have a lot of stuff that's abnormal to the college game," guard Chris Babb said.

That starts with White, a 6-foot-8, 270-pounder who often brings the ball up the court and initiates the offense. Hoiberg puts four shooters on the court with him most of the time. Teams that can spread Kentucky out and shoot -- think Vanderbilt and Indiana -- can beat the Wildcats, though it will still take a monumental effort.

There's very little that's conventional about Iowa State. Hoiberg had never coached at any level before he was hired two years ago. Looking for a quick fix, he brought in six transfers, four of whom are playing for the Cyclones in this tournament. Some of them had checkered pasts.

"It's kind of weird, because we have so many different people coming from so many different places," said guard Scott Christopherson, who transferred in from Marquette in 2008. "But we have all bonded together."

They used that togetherness to knock off the defending champions. Up next is the No. 1 team in this year's tournament. Win that one, and people will know all about Iowa State.

"There's nothing better you could have as far as a plot line for an underdog that wants to achieve something great," White said. "We've got to embrace the spot we're in now."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The games in Louisville have all wrapped up, and the chalk advanced with every higher seed winning by double digits. But the late-game result still might surprise some people.

Here's a look at No. 8 Iowa State's 77-64 victory over No. 9 seed Connecticut in the final game at the KFC Yum! Center on Thursday:

Overview: Fans and TV executives probably wanted the appetizing third-round matchup between Kentucky, the presumed favorite in this year's field, and defending national champion Connecticut. But you get only what you deserve in the NCAA tournament, and Iowa State certainly earned its way into a matchup against the nation's No. 1 team.

The Cyclones had a better season than Connecticut and were the better team on Thursday night. They rode a hot-shooting start -- making eight of their first 11 attempts -- to a 22-point first-half lead. And even though Fred Hoiberg's 3-point-loving team didn't make a single triple in the second half, it surprisingly outmuscled and outhustled UConn.

Don't sleep on this Iowa State team, whose unique style of play could cause Kentucky trouble. Just ask the defending champs.

Turning point: Connecticut's Ryan Boatright scored seven straight points, the last of which was a 3-pointer, to cut Iowa State's lead to 58-52 with a little more than eight minutes left. But Kemba Walker was not walking through that door. The Cyclones would score the next seven points by beating the Huskies around the rim.

Key player: Chris Allen knows how to win in the NCAA tournament from his days at Michigan State, so it was no surprise Allen made a lot of winning plays when needed. The Iowa State guard scored a team-high 20 points, including a key putback to repel UConn's second-half rally. Honorable mention to Royce White, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Key stat: We knew Iowa State could shoot it, but we weren't sure the Cyclones could push around a Big East team. But that's exactly what they did on the backboards, outrebounding the Huskies 37-20.

Miscellany: UConn became just the fourth defending champion to lose its first game of the NCAA tournament since seeding began in 1979. The other three teams to do so (1996 UCLA, 1988 Indiana and 1981 Louisville) were all No. 4 seeds. ... The 42 points scored by Iowa State in the first half were one more than Butler managed in the entire national championship game last year against Connecticut. ... Two plays that seemed to sum up the Huskies' troubles, if not their season: Roscoe Smith threw up a Hail Mary from beyond half court near the end of the first half, only there was still more than three seconds left and he let Iowa State have the ball back with time remaining. And at the end of the game, Jeremy Lamb attempted a wind mill dunk just before the buzzer. He missed, badly.

What's next: Iowa State will face No. 1 overall seed Kentucky in the third round Saturday. The two teams met in their second game of the tournament 20 years ago, with the Wildcats winning.

Video: Kyle Wiltjer on Kentucky's win

March, 15, 2012

Kentucky's Kyle Wiltjer talks about his team's 81-66 win over Western Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.