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KANSAS CITY — With the Iowa State – Kansas “Trilogy” only hours away, here are 10 random thoughts from the Big 12 Championship with a prediction to boot…
10 – If I’m Fred Hoiberg, I’m going to gather up highlights from Will Clyburn’s outburst in the second half yesterday and will start showing that to one and done type recruits immediately. That’s Hoiberg’s big push on the recruiting trail isn’t it? He gives his talent freedom and as a result, his talent gets noticed. There aren’t too many coaches in the country who would have handed the keys over to Royce White last season. On Thursday, Will Clyburn showed exactly dynamic he can be as well.
9 – Last night started off rough but Baylor’s Pierre Jackson proved to everybody just how wrong the Big 12 coaches were by not voting him first team all-league. Jackson’s final stat line from a 74-72 loss to Oklahoma State: 31 points, three assists and one turnover. To anybody who watched that game, can you really say with a straight face that Jackson isn’t one of, if not the most dynamic player in this league?
8 – For hypothetical purposes, let’s just say that Iowa State will beat Kansas tonight. If that’s the case, Cyclone fans should be rooting hard for Oklahoma State in its semi-final vs. Kansas State. From a matchup perspective, this argument isn’t even close. It’s a laugher really. Iowa State beat the Cowboys by 11 two weeks ago and lost in heartbreaking fashion at Stillwater on Jan. 30. I think that Oklahoma State has more talent but those Wildcats are a bunch of bruisers. Pound for pound, the Cyclones match up much better with Oklahoma State.
7 – I’m very happy for the thousands of Iowa State fans that made their way to Kansas City and actually saw a win. I bumped into a lot of fanatics last night and I’m not sure if they were more relieved or ecstatic with what went down yesterday in the Sprint Center but it doesn’t really matter. Good golly they were having fun. Clone fans had essentially taken the Power and Light District over as of around midnight.
6 – Last night, I challenged a couple of my friends in the media to name a better annual sporting event than the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. Nobody could find anything better. These people weren’t affiliated at all with Iowa State either. The thing about KC is that you don’t even have to go to the game to take in the experience. Once you step outside of the Sprint Center, you’re at the party. Seeing thousands of fans from 10 different schools (okay – more like five or six but still) congregate around one giant television to watch Baylor’s comeback last night was epic. For the record, for that 20 minutes or so, Kansas City had a fever and the only prescription was more Pierre Jackson.
And the 70 degree temps don’t hurt either…
5 – I take it you’ve heard by now that Mark Phelps got fired at Drake yesterday? I also take it that you’ve heard Iowa State associate head coach T.J. Otzelberger’s name pop up as a potential replacement? He very well should be a front-runner for this gig.
I don’t care what Drake does but they need to hire somebody who will make Drake basketball cool. What exactly that means, I’m not really sure. But right now, when I think of Drake basketball I think of horrible crowds and elderly people. Do students even attend games if Iowa State, Iowa or Creighton aren’t in town? Drake needs a vibrant personality who will demand media attention in a market that is obsessed with the Hawks and the Clones (and rightfully so) at the helm.
4 – Finally, let’s get to Iowa State – Kansas. There is obviously going to be a lot of emotion in this one. I see it going one of two ways for the Cyclones. Iowa State is either going to come out on fire in the first half or KU could have a solid 15 point lead at the break. Ask yourself this question: Is this Iowa State team ready for this kind of a spotlight?
3 – I say yes. Listen, this is a very experienced Cyclone basketball team. It isn’t like last year’s roster that was full of guys who were going through this whole postseason thing for the first time. In March, you like basketball teams that feature solid guard play and experience. Sound familiar?
2 – Remember that Kansas has a big mark on its back every single game throughout the course of the season. So when the Jayhawks hear a guy like Will Clyburn say that he wants payback, it really means nothing to them. Kansas is used to that so don’t expect the Jayhawks to be flustered at all by this emotional scenario. Plus, Bill Self is the best basketball coach in America in my opinion.
1 – The good thing is that by picking Iowa State to win tonight, I shouldn’t be viewed as a homer. A lot of people are picking Iowa State to win tonight. Most people I’ve talked to think that Iowa State will win tonight. The Cyclones have been one of those “sexy” teams for media folks for the last few weeks and should Iowa State find a way to slay the mighty Jayhawks then watch out.
There’s really no need for me to provide any hard-hitting analysis of tonight’s matchup. The Cyclones have given the Jayhawks fits all year by getting Jeff Withey away from the basket. Iowa State scored 89 and 96 (both in overtime) in two games this season. I just don’t sense that offense will be an issue tonight. But can the Cyclones muster up enough stops to come out on the right side tonight?
Stay tuned. It is going to be a zoo in Kansas City.
Iowa State 82, Kansas 79