Nevada-Iowa St. Preview (Mar 16, 2017)

Iowa State, the champions of the Big 12 tournament, is playing in its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament — and this one comes with a location bonus.

The Cyclones, the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region, will take on No. 12 seed Nevada at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, a 373-mile drive from Ames, Iowa, which is the hometown of three Iowa State players. The game tips off at 9:57 p.m. ET on Thursday.

“I’ve played AAU ball in that building,” Cyclones guard Donovan Jackson, who played for Pius X high school on the city’s west side, just a few miles from the Bradley Center.

Guard Deonte Burton also knows the building and city well. He starred at Milwaukee Vincent High School and originally signed with Marquette, where he earned Big East all-rookie honors in 2013-14.

Burton, who transferred to Iowa State midway through his sophomore season, is third on the team this season with 14.8 points per game. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior leads the Cyclones with 6.2 rebounds per game. He hasn’t been known for his consistency, but he is playing some the best ball of his career, with six consecutive games of at least 16 points.

Now, he’s coming home.

“It’s a business trip,” Burton said. “We’re coming to play basketball, not to see friends and family. We’re coming to play basketball.”

Iowa State (23-10) has won nine of its last 10 games, including three in a row to capture the Big 12 Tournament title, but Nevada (28-6) has been on a tear, too, winning nine consecutive games.

The Wolf Pack held off Colorado State for the Mountain West regular-season title, then beat the Rams in the conference tournament title game to earn a NCAA berth for the first time in 10 years and just the seventh time in program history.

“It’s been our year-long goal, so obviously everybody feels great about seeing our name up there,” coach Eric Musselman told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It’s great exposure for the university, and now we have to put some work in and figure out a way to compete with Iowa State.”

Nevada led the Mountain West in scoring at 80.0 points per game, shooting 45 percent from the field and a league-best 38.5 percent from 3-point range.

Senior guard Marcus Marshall, a transfer from Missouri State, leads the Mountain West with 19.8 points per game, shooting 38.6 percent from behind the arc. Forward Cameron Oliver averages 15.8 points and 8.7 rebounds, while wing Jordan Caroline averages 14.8 and 9.2.

Iowa State’s best player is senior point guard Monte Morris, averaging 16.3 points and 6.1 assists. He holds school career records for assists and steals. Guard Naz Mitrou-Long is averaging 15.5 points and is a high-volume 3-point shooter (94 of 244, 38.5 percent).

Musselman said Sunday he’s seen Iowa State play “four to five” games.

“I know they have two really star-quality players and they’re a veteran-laden team,” he said. “They’ve won their conference tournaments in three of the last four years, so they have a lot of experience and they’re used to playing in big games.”

The winner will face either No. 4 Purdue or No. 13 Vermont in Saturday’s second round.