Iowa State Basketball: Keys to Cyclones' 2012 NCAA Tournament Run

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IMarch 12, 2012

Iowa State Basketball: Keys to Cyclones' 2012 NCAA Tournament Run

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    Earning a bid into the NCAA Tournament wasn't a walk in the park for the Iowa State Cyclones, but now that they're in, they will be one of the more dangerous No. 8 seeds in the entire tournament.

    The Cyclones are playing some of their better basketball of late, finishing the regular season with four wins in their last five games before bowing out against Texas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.

    Iowa State will look to finish their remarkable season with a strong showing in March Madness, so let's look at some keys to their tournament run.

Chris Allen Must Lead the Way

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    Iowa State Cyclones senior guard Chris Allen is the team's leader and third-leading scorer.

    Allen, the most experienced March Madness participant on the Cyclones, will be counted on to show composure and leadership throughout the tournament. He always guards the other team's best perimeter player while not letting that affect him at the offensive end of the floor.

    Via the Des Moines Register:

    “It’s March,” the big-game Iowa State guard said after the team’s 45-minute workout at the Sprint Center. “The lights are coming on brighter than ever.”

    “I’ve accomplished a lot of stuff, but there’s still more to go,” said Allen, who has played in 14 NCAA Tournament games.

    Allen, who transferred to the Cyclones from Michigan State, lost to Butler in the Final Four back in 2010 while with the Spartans.

    Allen is one of the team's best players and must shine for the Cyclones if they are to make a deep tournament run.

    Photo taken from here.

Player Who Must Shine: Royce White

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    Royce White is Iowa State's best player and leading scorer with a 13.1 points-per-game average. He affects the game in so many ways, two of which include rebounding and shot blocking.

    He has to play well at both ends of the floor for the Cyclones to have a successful NCAA Tournament run.

    White will need to exceed his 9.2 rebounds-per-game average and put up double-doubles for Iowa State to win a game or two.

    His ability to score in the post or make a quality pass to an open teammate makes him a dangerous player that opposing defenses must gameplan for.

Weaknesses That Could Be Exposed: Rebounding, Lack of Size

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    The Cyclones rank 51st in the nation in rebounds per game and lack the size needed to compete with many of the teams outside the Big 12 conference.

    With only one player taller than 6'9", Iowa State will need to crash the boards with multiple players and box out very well to stay close in the rebounding battle.

    Forward Royce White is the only Cyclones player who averages more than seven rebounds per game, which means Iowa State must make a collective effort to hit the boards and help out their big men.

    If they get dominated in the rebounding battle, the Cyclones will make a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament.

Biggest NCAA Tournament Hurdle

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    If the Cyclones advance far enough, they could find themselves matched up against top-seeded Kentucky or second-seeded Duke.

    But Iowa State needs to worry about getting past UConn first. The Huskies won the NCAA Tournament last season, and this year, they should be considered a dark-horse candidate to make another deep run through the tourney.

    The biggest problem for Iowa State is the sheer amount of talent UConn has on its roster. The Huskies had a down year, but they have outstanding players and they are led by one of the greatest coaches in the history of college basketball in Jim Calhoun.

    It suffices to say UConn is not to be underestimated. 

Last-Minute NCAA Tournament Prediction

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    The Cyclones deserve plenty of credit for the great season they had in 2011-12, and they have been rewarded with their first trip to the Big Dance since 2005.

    It won't last long.

    There's no point in sugarcoating it: UConn is a very tough draw for Iowa State. The Huskies have more talent than the Cyclones, and they're very well-coached.

    The Huskies will handle them.