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Daily Word: Can Iowa State be trusted during the NCAA tournament?

Each weekday, our college hoops experts discuss the biggest issues, trends and themes in college basketball.

1. What's your level of trust in Iowa State in the NCAA tournament: First weekend out? Sweet 16? Deeper?

Andy Katz: First weekend. This team has been too erratic and at times too thin to trust for a deep run.

Dana O'Neil: Not terribly high. The Cyclones' roller-coaster finish doesn't do much to engender confidence. But more, it's their 75.3 points per game allowed that frightens me. March has proved that most teams win when they can defend because there's going to be a night that shots don't fall or a matchup isn't in your favor. Until Iowa State learns to stop people they'll be a shaky pick.

Jeff Goodman: I trust them -- as long as Jameel McKay's head is on straight. The Cyclones went out in the first game of the tourney a year ago, and I think Georges Niang and Monte Morris will make sure they go deep.

2. What is the biggest thing that could hold North Carolina back come tournament time?

Katz: I still think it comes down to late-game decision-making and a punishing mentality when the game is tight.

O'Neil: Strange as it may sound -- Marcus Paige. Once the Tar Heels' biggest threat, he's now their Achilles' heel. North Carolina desperately needs Paige to rediscover his confidence and his consistency in order to win in March. It's not just the points, but the absence of his leadership that is sorely felt.

Goodman: Toughness and defense. Those are the two things that remain a question with this group. Are the Tar Heels tough enough -- and can they stop people when it matters?

3. Which team has the most at stake this week?

Katz: Vanderbilt. The Commodores could be a second weekend team if they get into the field. They can't waste the momentum and go winless this week against Tennessee at home and at Texas A&M. They cannot afford to give the committee a reason not to take them after the recent run, which included a win over Kentucky.

O'Neil: Yale. I know this is supposed to be a bubble question but when a team is in a league without a conference tournament, in a fight to the finish and hasn't been to the tournament in 54 years, it doesn't get much more desperate. The Bulldogs have to win at Cornell and then finish out with a win at Columbia, currently in third place in the Ivy League, or hope that Princeton slips up to avoid another playoff game. That scenario didn't go so well for Yale last year and no doubt the Bulldogs would prefer to avoid it.

Goodman: I am going to pick one conference instead of one team: The SEC. Florida, Alabama, Vandy and LSU are all on the bubble -- and all could use two wins to get on the right side of the bubble. The Gators have lost three straight and have Kentucky and Missouri. Alabama has Arkansas and Georgia on the road, Vandy is coming off a big win over Kentucky and has Tennessee at home and Texas A&M on the road -- and LSU has Missouri in Baton Rouge and a date against Kentucky at Rupp on Saturday.