March 15, 2012
If you're too busy Thursday to see the first full day of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, make sure you're settled in front of the TV by 9:20 p.m.
That's when the most intriguing game, at least for Gwinnett County basketball fans, will be played.
To most of the nation, it's just eighth-seeded Iowa State (22-10) vs. ninth-seeded Norcross (20-13). To many around here, it's Iowa State's Chris Allen against UConn's Jeremy Lamb. Though they're separated a few years in age, both are former Gwinnett prep basketball stars, Allen at Meadowcreek and Lamb at Norcross.
Fans should get to see plenty of both tonight.
Allen, a 6-foot-3 guard, is one of the most experienced players among the 64 teams left in the NCAA field. He played in 14 NCAA tourney games in his first three college seasons at Michigan State, which included appearances in two Final Fours with one national runner-up showing. He sat out last season because of the transfer and now plays for a team without any NCAA tourney experience, so his leadership Thursday and possibly beyond will be vital for the Cyclones.
He has started every game this season and averages 11.8 points. Though his offensive game is more diverse in Iowa State's free-wheeling offense than it was in Michigan State's more structured set, Allen is still a dangerous 3-point shooter, making 72 shots from long range this season.
He shares that trait with Lamb, who has made 69 3-pointers for the Huskies.
Lamb, a 6-foot-5 guard, is one of the nation's most proven scorers in general, though, not just with the 3-point shot. He averages a team-high 17.7 points along with 4.9 rebounds, earning All-Big East honors this season after a breakout freshman season in 2010-11, when the Huskies won the NCAA title. He was UConn's second-leading scorer in the NCAA tourney run last season (with a 16.2 average) behind the phenomenal Kemba Walker.
Lamb rarely leaves the court for UConn, so fans will see plenty of him vs. Iowa State. He averages 37.2 minutes, getting just one short rest per game.
Thursday also could be the last college basketball game for the loser since Allen is a senior and Lamb, just a sophomore, is a possible early entry into the NBA Draft after two stellar college seasons.