Virginia has had a great team for three seasons in a row. In each of the last two, Tom Izzo's Michigan State teams beat the Cavaliers before they could reach the Elite Eight. This year, the Spartans aren't around, but there's still one big obstacle between No. 1 seed Virginia and a Midwest Region final: Iowa State.
The No. 4 Cyclones have had a typically impressive season. After former coach Fred Hoiberg departed late in the coaching cycle last offseason for the Chicago Bulls, Steve Prohm took over and has stewarded the Cyclones to a fifth straight NCAA Tournament. They'll face Virginia in the Sweet 16 on Friday night, and if the Cyclones can win, they'll reach the tournament's final eight for the first time in the modern era. There's a lot up for grabs for both teams.
Prohm's job has been made easier this season by having one of the most experienced, skilled rosters in the country. The Cyclones' seven top per-game scorers are all juniors or seniors. Most of the rotation has played in the NCAA Tournament four times now, and the Cyclones still have a trump card in senior forward Georges Niang. He pitches in 20 points, six rebounds and three assists per game and is one of America's best all-around forwards.
On the other side, Virginia's pack-line defense under head coach Tony Bennett is just as formidable as ever. The Cavaliers are the top-rated team in the country on Ken Pomeroy's index, with the No. 4 overall defense by adjusted efficiency. But the Cavaliers also have a dominant offense; they don't score a ton of points because Bennett prefers to run his offense at a molasses-like pace, but they're highly efficient. Senior guard Malcolm Brogdon ought to be a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate, mixing elite defense with 19 points per game.
How to watch
Who: No. 4 Iowa State Cyclones vs. No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers
Where: United Center, Chicago
When: 7:10 p.m. ET
TV information: CBS
Online: NCAA March Madness Live
Radio: Westwood One
* * *