Third-seeded Iowa State opens the NCAA Tournament this morning in the South Region against UAB in Louisville, Kentucky. Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg says they have work to do, but he also wants the team to enjoy the moment.
“I think sometimes you forget to enjoy this a little bit, you get so caught up with everything and the pressures of playing in this event,” Hoiberg says. “One thing I talked to our guys about was going out and having fun and playing loose and absolutely playing the best that they can.”
ISU’s run up to the tournament saw them coming back from double-digit deficits in their last five games, including the Big 12 Tournament that they won. Hoiberg says he wouldn’t mind ditching the comeback kids moniker. “I’d love to see us come out of the gate and get off to a great start and us jump out to a doubletree lead,” he says. He says the comebacks started against Oklahoma on senior night as he says they switched things up after getting down 21. Hoiberg says that game gave them confidence to come from behind and they went on to do it four more times.
The Cyclones’ tournament run ended last year with Georges Niang on the bench after breaking his foot in the first game. They beat North Carolina without Niang, but lost to eventual champion U-Conn in the next game and Hoiberg says that left them wanting more.
“I think it left a lot of hunger, specifically Georges Niang, who I thought was playing as well as anybody in the country last year. If you looked at the stretch that he had leading into the tournament, and then scored 24 points in 26 minutes in that first game,” Hoiberg says. He says he still remembers being told right before he had to do a postgame interview that Niang’s foot was broken. Hoiberg says it was hard to get through the interview and then having to tell the team about the injury.
The Cyclones are in their fourth straight NCAA tourney with a record of 25-8. UAB comes in at 19-15. The game begins at 11:40 Iowa time on truTV .
The University of Northern Iowa women host the University of Missouri tonight at 7 o’clock in the Women’s NIT. The UNI men, Iowa men and women, and ISU women will all open NCAA tournament play on Friday too. The Drake women host an NIT game Friday.