Williams: Tech loss bad but not a season ender
Nobody saw Iowa State losing at Texas Tech coming prior to last night. Nobody - and the meltdown on our message board after a 56-51 Cyclone loss to the Red Raiders was one of the worst that I have ever seen in my three plus years of publishing this site.
Heading into this week, the Cyclones were that hot team in the Big 12 after nearly knocking off Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse and starting league play with an impressive 3-1 record.
How could you not like this group full of shooters and experience. Fred Hoiberg’s team scores a lot of points. Unlike most teams in this specific league, the Cyclones play an exciting brand of up-tempo basketball. Iowa State is kind of like West Virginia was at the beginning of the football season (let’s hope that it doesn’t end that way for the Cyclones) – that sexy pick to upset the big dog.
Like all of you, I was stunned by what happened last night in Lubbock. I actually picked the Cyclones to win that game by 20. I thought that playing at TCU only four days ago was the perfect primer for what was awaiting Iowa State in Lubbock – a dead arena with little to no atmosphere at all. I saw the Cyclones as a dreadful match-up for a struggling Texas Tech team.
Obviously I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. In my mind, I couldn’t possibly imagine a scenario in which Tyrus McGee, Georges Niang, Chris Babb, Korie Lucious, Will Clyburn and Melvin Ejim could all have “off” nights at the exact same time.
Well it happened.
The game reminded me of an old school Iowa State road trip to Colorado when the ultra-talented Cyclones would somehow drop an unexpected game to the lowly Buffs. I’m not blaming last night’s loss solely on the arena. Iowa State wasn’t ready to play but that morgue of a basketball court certainly didn’t help the situation.
However as I mentioned above, the fan meltdown that I saw last night and this morning was a mixture between expected and troublesome.
On one hand, you have a passionate group of hungry fans that expects more a lot out of its team. That's a good thing. Passionate fans give money and time to help build a program. Losing isn’t what bothered these folks – but how the Cyclones lost most certainly did. Iowa State’s turnovers were careless. The Cyclones seemed disinterested in the game at times. If you watched the game, you know exactly where I am going with this.
On the other hand, I saw a lot of threads about the NIT and what not – basically people just giving up on the season - season that won't be considered a success without a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Heck, I saw 10 different meltdown threads going at once at one point in the evening. This is where I feel some perspective is needed.
Immediately following last night’s game, I tweeted the following:
“That’s a bad loss right there. That’s a loss that changes everything.”
It was a heat of the moment tweet but one that I still believe to be very true. Losing to Texas Tech, a team on the outside looking in of the RPI’s top 200, is generally very damning to a bubble team come March. Losses like that, on the road or not, are hard for a tournament committee to ignore.
That loss does change everything. Iowa State didn’t have a great non-conference resume to begin with but however, all season long, the Cyclones have avoided that dreaded “bad loss.” Now Iowa State has one of those marks.
After writing a little postgame story for our front page and before putting my computer away for the evening, I tweeted this:
“Loss was a season changer. Much more of an uphill fight now. But not a season ender. A lot of basketball still to be played.”
And don’t forget that Cyclone Nation. Remember last year’s loss to Drake? What about the home defeat via Northern Iowa? Fans were writing that team off before Big 12 play even began a year ago. Those were bad losses but Iowa State was able to snag enough good wins in league play to make up for it.
This year's team will have that opportunity as well and it all begins on Saturday at home against a ranked Kansas State team.
The point is that there are a lot of games still to be played. Heck, if Iowa State can pick up a road win or two from here on out, say over the likes of Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Kansas State (take your pick), while winning out at home, it will probably erase what happened last night altogether.
Maybe that will happen, maybe it won’t. But it’s Jan. 24 for gosh sake. It’s way to early for anybody to be throwing in any towels.
Last night was a bad loss - no doubt. But in a phone conversation this morning with the best basketball mind I know, a man who has been through this, that and more over the span of decades, he simply told me, "quality wins are more important that bad losses."
I believe that to be the case as well.
We’ll be talking about last night and looking ahead to Saturday’s home game with Kansas State on tonight’s Cyclone Fanatic/Wilson Toyota Radio Show. Tron Smith, Matt Van Winkle and I will be live from BenchWarmers in Ankeny on Des Moines’ Sports Station, 1460 KXNO from 7-8. Of course, we’ll post the podcast on Cyclone Fanatic sometime on Friday morning for those who miss it.