By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
*** CycloneFanatic.com’s coverage of the 2012 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament in Kansas City is brought to you by WCI Pools & Spas located in Urbandale and Ames. Bring your Big 12 Tournament ticket stub into WCI Pools & Spas by March 31st and receive and extra $500 off of a Jacuzzi Hot Tub. ***
KANSAS CITY — Chris Allen has played in 14 NCAA Tournament games.
The rest of the (non-redshirted) 2011/12 Iowa State Cyclones have participated in how many combined?
You guessed it.
The goose egg. Zero. Zip.
March Madness is upon us and the man his teammates call "CA" feels alive because of it.
“The lights are as bright as they can be right now. It’s March," said a beaming Allen after Iowa State’s shootaround on Wednesday morning. "That’s all I’m thinking about. It’s March. If you’re not ready to play now than there’s no point for you to even be talking about it. You just need to go home.”
Allen’s ear-to-ear grin while discussing the month of March told the story.
In three NCAA Tournaments at Michigan State, Allen played in two Final Fours and an Elite Eight. To the his teammates, Chris Allen is Mr. March.
Allen, an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection, has embraced the role of elder statesman that was given to him by head coach Fred Hoiberg leading up to the postseason. That is to lead the way while entering uncharted waters. For and Iowa State program that hasn’t been to a Big Dance since 2005, that’s meaningful tournament play altogether.
The message that Allen is sending to his younger teammates is a fairly simple one.
“This is the time where everything that you worked on during the year, everything that you messed up on during the year, you’ve got to almost have a moment to yourself," said Allen. "Like five minutes to just think about everything. Look at all of the stuff that you want to do better. This is the time to do it better and it counts. That’s how I approach it."
— Being the fact that Texas is what most believe to be an NCAA Tournament "bubble" team, much of the talk in Kansas City is that Iowa State got a tough first round draw. After all, Vegas has tabbed the desperate Longhorns as a one-point favorite over the Cyclones for Thursday night’s (8:30) contest.
According to sophomore Royce White, Texas’ unique situation doesn’t mean much. At this time of year, every team should be focused and wanting to win.
Texas has its motivation, as do the Cyclones.
"We have a lot of hunger about us too," said White. "We blew a shot at the regular season conference title and we have another shot to win a conference title here.”
Scott Christopherson agrees.
“Everybody says you know that they are playing for their tournament berth," said Christopherson. "Well, we’re playing for a tournament seed. We’re playing for a chance to make a huge run.”
— At his press conference on Monday, Fred Hoiberg was asked about junior Chris Babb not making the Big 12’s All-Defensive Team.
“I was a little surprised by it," said Hoiberg.“It’s hard to argue against the guys that were on that but I know how valuable Chris has been to our team with what he has done on that defensive end. Night in and night out, he is guarding anywhere from the one to the three and some nights the four.”
Hoiberg went on to call Babb one of the most versatile defenders that he’s ever seen.