Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 Microsite writer.
One shot does not define a program. Aaron Craft’s dramatic, I-can’t-believe-that-just-went-in three-pointer in the final milliseconds of regulation on Sunday will become an iconic moment of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but as much as it will pain Iowa State fans for all eternity, it will not ruin Cyclones basketball. It will not overshadow Fred Hoiberg’s rebuilding job and two straight NCAA Tournaments, nor should it overshadow the fact that ISU will return the Big 12’s leading rebounder in Melvin Ejim next season. Hoiberg’s program is in fine shape, and Craft’s pull-up three won’t change that.
But boy, does this one hurt. And it’s hard not to think about what might have happened had Craft’s shot not fallen. Say he misses, and the 10th-seeded Cyclones upset Ohio State in overtime. Say Chris Babb does not get injured, or the officials make a different call on that charge in the final minutes and it changes the outcome of this game. If Iowa State could have found a way to knock off the Buckeyes and advance to the Sweet Sixteen, it would have made its first trip to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2000. That’s a full 13 years ago, when Larry Eustachy roamed the sideline and Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley wore the Cyclones jersey. It was the end of a strong era for Iowa State basketball, as Eustachy’s success built upon the work of Tim Floyd and Johnny Orr in the ’80s and ’90s. When Iowa State earned a two-seed in the 2001 NCAA Tournament, this program couldn’t have soared any higher.Then Hampton happened. Out in the first round to a 15-seed. A short while later, the infamous party pictures of Eustachy forced his departure after the 2002-03 season. His replacement, Wayne Morgan, won one game in the NCAA Tournament a few years after that but nothing more. When Greg McDermott took over in 2006-07, four seasons of mediocre, tournament-less basketball followed.