Iowa State will be making its sixth straight NCAA appearance, and the Cyclones have several players on their roster who have played in multiple NCAA Tournament games.
This is Nevada’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since the 2007 season when the Pack beat Creighton in overtime and lost to Memphis in the second round. The Pack has zero players with NCAA experience.
Advantage Iowa State? Maybe, maybe not.
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm was asked how big of a factor his team’s postseason experience would be when the teams square off Thursday (6:57 p.m., TruTV) in a first-round game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
“I don’t think you ever take (making the tournament) for granted,” Prohm said on the recent Big 12 conference call. “Not many programs can say they have been to the tournament six straight times. Our senior class has won three of the last four conference championships
“They (Nevada) have done a lot this year. I don’t think the stage will be too big for them. It (experience) is a positive for us.”
Matt Thomas, Monte Morris and Naz Mitrou-Long will be playing in their fourth straight NCAA tournament.
Nevada coach Eric Musselman said ISU has a lot of experience.
“They have won the postseason tournament three of the last four years,” he said. “They have a lot of experience. They are used to playing in big games. The bright lights aren’t going to phase them at all.
“Iowa State is going to be the favorite. We know that. We are going to have to play near-perfect basketball to keep the game close. We’re just going to go there and play as hard as we can.”
Fenner said he’s OK with being the underdog.
“I’ve been an underdog ever since I’ve been here,” he said. “We have been the underdog all year for the most part. We are just going to go in with a chip on our shoulder and do the best we can.”
The Cyclones, who are favored by 6 1/2, also have the advantage of playing close to home. The campus in Ames is five hours from Milwaukee, and ISU players Deonte Burton, Donovan Jackson and Darrell Bowie all grew up in the Milwaukee, meaning it will likely be a pro-ISU crowd.
Playing close to home means more fans can attend, but that also means more distractions. This is one area Prohm feels the Cyclones can handle.
“I think the guys will handle themselves the right way,” Prohm said. “I think guys understand they have to minimize those (distractions).”
“It should be fun,” Thomas said. “I have family and friends who will make the trip for the game. We travel pretty well.”
The 6-foot-5 250-pound Burton wore a determined look on his face after Selection Sunday festivities ended.
“This is a business trip no matter where we go,” he said. “We are going to be preparing like we do for any other game. I won’t be talking to people I know (from Milwaukee). I don’t want to get beat because of distractions.”
Burton is a tough match-up. He scored 29 points against both Gonzaga and Kansas.
“He can score from the perimeter, put the ball on the deck and get to the free-throw line,” Musselman said.