Michigan State and Northern Iowa both made headlines for their second-round NCAA Tournament victories last weekend. In the Spartans' case, it was because of Korie Lucious' dramatic game-winner and Kalin Lucas' season-ending injury. The Panthers, meanwhile, pulled off a monumental upset of top-seeded Kansas, a team many experts had considered the tournament favorite.
Friday, MSU and UNI will compete with an Elite Eight berth on the line. Andrew Logue, who covers Northern Iowa for the Des Moines Register, shares his insights with TOC on the Sweet Sixteen match-up between the Spartans and Panthers.
The Only Colors: On the radio this morning, Bob Knight suggested that Cinderella teams like Northern Iowa are vulnerable to second-weekend fall-offs, because after returning to campus during the week and finding that they've already achieved icon status, they can lose a little competitive fire. Considering that UNI is on the cover of Sports Illustrated and that the Panthers' coach just got a raise and contract extension, that seems like it could apply. What do you think?
Andrew Logue: It's an understandable concern, but this is also a very veteran team. [UNI] hasn't weathered anything quite like this, with the cover of SI and that sort of thing, but they still feel that chip on their shoulder. They are slight underdogs, so they still have a little bit of that 'We want to prove the world wrong’ attitude.
TOC: Let's talk about the matchups. Will MSU get a steady diet of Jordan Eglseder, the seven-footer, up front?
AL: Jordan sometimes only plays 20 minutes a game, and a lot of that is dependent on matchups. I think we might see a little less of Jordan because Michigan State doesn’t have a Cole Aldrich. I think UNI may go with a smaller lineup, which probably means we'll see a little more of [forward] Lucas O'Rear, a very aggressive, blue-collar player, and also a little more of [guard] Kerwin Dunham off the bench.
TOC: Michigan State has struggled with turnovers all season, and now the Spartans are playing without Kalin Lucas against a disciplined UNI defense. On the other hand, the Panthers looked a little shaky against the Kansas press in the final minutes last weekend. What will you be watching for, defensively?
AL: I think Coach Izzo has watched the tape from the last 12 minutes of the Kansas-Northern Iowa game, where UNI turned ball over pretty often, so I’m very interested to see how UNI reacts the first time Michigan State tries to do a little full-court pressure or half-court trapping. You would think UNI has worked on that over the week, but they showed that they were vulnerable there. I’m very curious to see how UNI will react to pressure.
TOC: I know you're on the Northern Iowa beat, and probably glad not to be covering the Iowa Hawkeyes this season. But a couple of former Michigan State assistants, Brian Gregory and Jim Boylen, are on the Hawkeyes' radar. What can you tell us?
AL: I'm not covering the beat so I won’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of it, but what Iowa needs is someone who will come in and, frankly, bring in players to up the level of athleticism on that team. These guys who have worked under Coach Izzo, I know they’ll have that experience and will know how to do that.
TOC: As Iowa and Iowa State have slipped over the last few years, while Iowa's two other D-I schools, Drake and UNI, each have recent NCAA tournament appearances. Has the in-state recruiting balance changed?
AL: The Big Ten and Big 12 schools are recruiting different athletes, and take more of a national approach to recruiting. What UNI and Drake have been able to do in recent years is that they've been able to get the Iowa kids to stay in Iowa. For years that wasn’t the case—you had Creighton, for example, sending teams to the NCAA Tournament every year with four or five Iowa kids in the starting lineup. That doesn’t happen anymore, because now those Iowa kids are staying in-state at Drake and UNI. But [Iowa and Iowa State] have more of a national approach, so there still is not a conflict between the big two and little two in recruiting.
TOC: Did Ali Farokhmanesh deal a death-blow to the fundamentals of Iowa youth basketball players? Will they all think it's okay to hoist a fast-break three with 30 seconds left on the shot clock while nursing a lead?
AL: Actually, I think that’s kind of their mindset already. Seriously, this team has always played with a 'What have we got to lose?' attitude. And the great equalizer in all this is that kids today play so much AAU basketball, so when you get Northern Iowa kids matched up against a Kansas or a Michigan State, they’re not in awe like they would have been 20-25 years ago. [Kwadzo] Ahelegbe and Eglseder both talked about going up against Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins in their AAU days, so they weren’t intimidated.