Iowa State wins on the road
Randy Peterson, email@example.com
So you’re hoping for Iowa State to start the NCAA Tournament at home — or at least a half-hour or so south on Interstate 35.
You’ve already sent the NCAA your credit card number, its expiration date and those three extra numbers on the back. You’ve received confirmation that you’re guaranteed to be among what’s sure to be a large crowd — and likely a first-weekend sellout on March 21 and 23, and you don’t want to be disappointed.
Winning the Big 12 Conference title outright almost certainly would clinch it. Beyond that? Hope upon hope that Steve Prohm’s Cyclones are among the NCAA selection committee’s top 16 — and then cross your fingers that they fit ESPN bracket guru Joe Lunardi’s equation.
“They would have to be one of the two best teams on the final seed list for whom Des Moines is the closest option,” he said.
No ifs, ands or Badgers, in other words.
If Wisconsin and, let’s say Michigan State and/or Michigan are on the Des Moines list and seeded above the Cyclones, then Iowa State to The Well would be a longshot.
If Iowa State is at least the second-highest of the Des Moines-sensible seeds, in geographical terms, then it’s likely that secondary Wells Fargo ticket demand will outpace supply.
“For ISU, it’s a matter of being a high enough seed to get priority,” CBS sports bracketeer Jerry Palm said. “The good news, is that the only teams that are potential top-four seeds where Des Moines is closest (geographically) are ISU, Marquette, (more of a long shot) Iowa and Wisconsin. The bad news, is that Des Moines is second-closest for Purdue, Texas Tech and the Michigan and Kansas schools.
“So, if ISU is going to Des Moines as the highest-seeded team there, it’s going to need to be seeded higher than most of those teams. It’s really going to depend on the competition for that site — and it goes in 1-through-16 order.”
So, Iowa State’s cleanest and easiest path to Des Moines during what’s left of this regular season is to win the Big 12. Don’t even share it with anyone. If that doesn’t lock up what would be Des Moines’ Hilton Coliseum annex for Prohm’s team, then fans have every right to complain.
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Here’s what’s standing in that path, after Saturday’s home game against TCU:
At Kansas State, Feb. 16
First, some background. It should have been an Iowa State victory when the teams met in Ames on Jan. 12. The Cyclones led by three until Barry Brown’s two free throws with 16 seconds remaining. Lindell Wigginton missed the front end of a one-and-one situation a second later. Brown dribbled past Wigginton for the game-winning layup with four seconds and play, and Wigginton missed a long three-pointer at the horn.
“Brutal,” Prohm said after his team’s 58-57 loss at Hilton Coliseum.
Marial Shayok scored just nine points in the game. Nick Weiler-Babb was the only Cyclones in double-figures, with 11. Cam Lard didn’t even play, and he’s coming off a wonderful all-around game last Monday at Oklahoma.
Iowa State has improved more than Kansas State has improved — and don’t be stuck by the “it’s tough to win in Manhattan” cliché. The Cyclones have won two of past three there.
Vs. Baylor, Feb. 19
I don’t want to sound like Lard is Iowa State’s key to everything; however, he must be more than just a casual player down the stretch. The Cyclones led Baylor by seven points with 6:38 left in the first half Jan. 8 in Waco. Then he sprained his ankle, and Iowa State’s 21-17 advantage evaporated into a 73-70 loss, after Weiler-Babb missed a long shot just before the horn.
Tristan Clark scored 16 points for Baylor in that game, and he’s now out for the season with a knee injury. It’s too soon to say whether the rematch in Ames will be for the Big 12 lead. It isn’t too soon to say, though, that it’s one of the games that could determine if someone’s ending Kansas’ 14-season domination in the league.
At TCU, Feb. 23
Iowa State won at Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State won Wednesday at TCU.
Vs. Oklahoma, Feb. 25
The Cyclones didn’t play their best game in Monday’s 75-74 win in Norman. Tighten up the perimeter defense against whom 6-foot-9s Brady Manek and Matt Freeman combined to make six out of 12 three-point shots, and this should be another Iowa State victory. The Cyclones had eight dunks, including multiples from Talen Horton-Tucker, Shayok, and Lard.
At Texas, March 2
Games in Austin rarely end well for Iowa State, where it’s lost three in a row since an 85-77 triumph in 2015. The Cyclones beat the Longhorns in Ames last week 65-60 during a game in which Texas couldn’t keep Babb and Horton-Tucker from combining for 6-for-11 3-point shooting. Babb owned Texas in that game with statistical line that included 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“Without him, we don’t win,” Wigginton said after the game.
Iowa State won despite Shayok missing 11 of 14 shots, including all three of his 3-point attempts. The Cyclones missed multiple alley-oop dunk attempts. Iowa State finished strong, though, with 20 in the game’s final 5 ½ minutes.
“The way we defended for the first 34 minutes — that’s a recipe for winning on the road,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “But when you give up 20 in the last six minutes, obviously that’s not going to get it done.”
At West Virginia, March 6
If you’re expecting another 25-point blowout like Iowa State dealt the Mountaineers in Ames a couple weeks ago, forget it.
The Cyclones’ stars aligned that night against a team that’s having its first real horrible season in a long time. It’s similar to Austin — Iowa State rarely wins in Morgantown. Coach Bob Huggins’ team won last season by 15 points, by 11 in 2017 and by 10 points the season before that. Should the Cyclones break their drought at West Virginia? Absolutely. Will they? Probably.
It’s the setup to what could be a regular-season final Saturday that might determine who — if anyone — stops the Jayhawks’ run.
Vs. Texas Tech, March 9
Stay tuned for the standings significance of this 1 p.m. game at Hilton. It could be one of the games that determines the winner, if Texas Tech manages to hang around toward the top. Iowa State’s 68-64 win in Lubbock started the Red Raiders’ three-game losing streak. They recovered by beating Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and then TCU, before losing by 16 at Kansas.
It’s really too soon to predict much about this game, but remember: Iowa State won at Texas Tech despite going just 5 of 21 from 3-point range, including a combined 0-for-6 from Horton-Tucker and Tyrese Haliburton.
Big 12 Tournament
Let’s go with what’s known, as the March 13-16 event at Kansas City’s Sprint Center pertains to Iowa State:
Unless Prohm’s team falls off the face of the planet, they’re not playing until the quarterfinal round. And it’s purely speculative beyond that, of course.
For the purpose of this prognosticative exercise — and if the pairings were drawn this midweek — Iowa State’s seed would be behind Kansas State and in front of Baylor. The No. 2 seeded Cyclones would face either TCU or West Virginia in the quarterfinals of a half of the bracket that also includes the Bears and Texas.
What if Iowa State wins the Big 12’s regular season?
Prepare for a 1:30 p.m. Hilton South game on March 14 against whichever team emerges from the game matching the eighth and ninth seeds …
And for a trip to the Hilton Annex for the Big Dance.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register