Big 12 Team Resumes: Iowa State CyclonesPosted by dnspewak on February 5th, 2013
Over the next two weeks, we’ll break down where each Big 12 bubble team stands in terms of its current NCAA Tournament resume. We begin with a snapshot of Iowa State, a program seeking its second straight trip to the Big Dance under coach Fred Hoiberg.
Current Record: 15-6, 5-3 Big 12
This is the team you’ve forgotten about in the Big 12. Oklahoma State’s roller-coaster of a season caught your attention early. Oklahoma’s rapid improvement did too. But the Iowa State Cyclones have quietly built a case for another NCAA Tournament at-large selection, and it’d look a heck of a lot more impressive if the basketball gods hadn’t guided that Ben McLemore three-pointer off the glass and into the hoop on January 9. Blown chance against Kansas aside, Fred Hoiberg’s team has worked its way back into the at-large conversation by knocking off Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma in a two-week span. Nothing is guaranteed, but Monday night’s flawless victory at home over the Sooners is proof that Hoiberg might have the most dangerous bubble team in the league.
Case For An At-Large
The Cyclones did not fare all that well in non-conference play. They own a solid home victory over BYU, but they lost every other significant game outside of the Big 12. That’s why their 6-3 start in the conference — good for third place so far — has been so important. As stated earlier, the past two weeks have been critical. Iowa State has picked up three victories over the RPI Top 50 in Ames, which means Hoiberg’s squad is now an even 4-4 in that category. Not terrible. Plus, six games remain against the Top 50 in league play, so it’s not as though Iowa State’s opportunities are finished.
Case Against An At-Large
Win a game on the road, please. Iowa State lost both games in Las Vegas against Cincinnati and UNLV in November. It lost at Iowa. Heartbreak happened in Lawrence and Stillwater. And there was that whole debacle in Lubbock, where a bad Texas Tech team won by five points by holding the Cyclones to 35 percent from the floor. Luckily, that’s the only bad loss on Iowa State’s resume. Still, every single major victory for this team has come at Hilton Coliseum, so keep an eye on how the final five road games shake out.
Do They Pass The Eye Test?
Certainly. The Cyclones all but won that game in Lawrence before falling apart late and losing on a bit of a miracle shot. They just blasted Oklahoma, too, and they appear to have improved since non-conference play. We knew it might take a few months for Hoiberg to rework his roster, but he’s finally getting more consistent play out of Will Clyburn and Korie Lucious. Lucious has been the key at point guard, and he’s elevated his game drastically since the turn of the calendar year. In Big 12 play alone, he’s averaging an even six assists a game and has overcome the turnover problems that plagued him early in the year. Melvin Ejim is perhaps the league’s best rebounder and one of the most respected glue guys in college basketball. Tyrus McGee has made everybody forget about Scott Christopherson (no small feat), and Clyburn’s playing well enough that the loss of Royce White has been somewhat minimized. Freshman Georges Niang has been a pleasant surprise, too. This is a very impressive, tough roster with good rebounders, shooters, a solid point guard and a star in Clyburn. Eye test passed. Now, win a road game!
What They Must Do From Here
Don’t lose at Texas or West Virginia. Beat TCU and Texas Tech at home, obviously. Win those four games, and you’ve got at least 10 wins in the league and Big 12 record better than .500. Then, we’ll see what Iowa State can do in five other critical games: at Kansas State (February 9), at Baylor (February 20), vs. Kansas (February 25), at Oklahoma (March 2), vs. Oklahoma State (March 5). The Cyclones could really use at least one road victory in that group. Knocking off Kansas on Big Monday would all but seal the deal, and it wouldn’t hurt to take out the Cowboys in early March. They’ve done good work in the past two weeks, but now it’s time to kick it into full gear.