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Staff Picks: Iowa State vs. Illinois

Keshon+Gilbert+points+to+air+after+securing+the+lead+during+the+second-round+game+against+Washington+State+in+the+NCAA+Tournament%2C+March+23%2C+2024%2C+at+CHI+Health+Center+Arena+in+Omaha.+
Jacob Rice
Keshon Gilbert points to air after securing the lead during the second-round game against Washington State in the NCAA Tournament, March 23, 2024, at CHI Health Center Arena in Omaha.

Christian Royston, Sports Editor

No. 2 Iowa State 77, No. 3 Illinois 73

This could turn out to be the game of the year for Iowa State.

Illinois is a major threat in the scoring department, as it has shown time and time again that it has no trouble putting points on the board. The Fighting Illini have put up over 90 points nearly a dozen times this season and have shown they can score 100 points if they want to.

Although I do not see Illinois putting up that many points, this could still be a high-scoring game. Iowa State does have one of the best defenses in the nation, which has put the lid on explosive teams throughout the season.

The biggest problem for Iowa State will be Terrence Shannon Jr., who has continued to prove himself as one of the best scorers in the nation. Shannon averages over 23 points per game. Since the tournament season has started, he has not scored less than 26 points, as his average bumped up to 28 points per game.

Shannon will be the best player that Iowa State has played against, and I have no doubts that he will fill out the stat sheet. Despite that, I still have Iowa State coming out on top due to its offensive potential.

Illinois does not have a good defense at all, and the Cyclones have proven throughout the postseason that they can be dynamic on offense at times. With all that being said, Iowa State will have a tough test to get to the Elite Eight, but I do not see the magic running out quite yet.

Logan Shanks, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 3 Illinois 78, No. 2 Iowa State 70

For a basketball fan, this matchup between the Cyclones and the Fighting Illini is a dream. With the nation’s No. 1 offense against the nation’s No. 1 defense, undoubtedly this is going to be a fun one.

However, for Iowa State, I think the team is going up against a team whose offense will be too much to stop. Outside of Shannon, the Fighting Illini boast a pair of forwards in Marcus Domask and Coleman Hawkins who both average over 10 points per game on 45.7% shooting from the field.

While the Cyclones’ size disadvantage fared well against Washington State, it took them a while to get going offensively. They got away with relying on their defense to keep the game close, but if they get into that situation again against Illinois, the Cyclones could find themselves in trouble.

I could be underestimating Iowa State’s offense and the team’s ability to shut down high-flying teams, but I just think this Illinois team is too good to stop for 40 minutes. The Fighting Illini have weapons up and down the roster, which has led them to average nearly 85 points per game.

It has been a good run, but this is where I see the Cyclones’ postseason run ending.

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