Earlier this week, I picked Iowa State to win out after Monday’s humdinger of a loss to Kansas.
The reason why I’d go out on such a limb was simple. I sensed a bit of extra resiliency within Fred Hoiberg’s basketball team. A chip on the shoulder if you may. After that heartbreaker in Hilton, I saw a fifth-year senior in Korie Lucious take ownership for a loss that he had little to do with. I saw a determined freshman in Georges Niang as fired up as I’ve ever seen him. And Tyrus McGee, well he’s playing the best basketball of his career right now.
This Iowa State team is a confusing group. As up and down as they’ve been, you can’t take away the fact that the Cyclones have been resilient bunch. Heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss, Iowa State has always been able to bounce back.
Not this time though. Iowa State allowed three ridiculously bad calls from Monday night to put two losses in the “L” column after Saturday’s 86-69 loss in Norman. The Cyclones never got off the bus. I don’t know about you all, but I sure didn’t see this coming.
After the “Hilton Screwjob” (props to WRNL for that), I thought we’d see an even more determined Iowa State team show up at Oklahoma on Saturday. It featured a match-up of the Cyclones and a team that anybody with a basketball brain knew was a good match-up, the Oklahoma Sooners.
After a loss like this, everybody is always looking for someone to blame. As sad as that is, that is human nature. Everybody always wants to point a finger at someone. It’s the reason why most of you love me after an Iowa State win and the reason why I get hate tweets/mail after Cyclone losses. (Don’t feel for me Cyclone Nation – it comes with the territory. I still love you all.)
Where does the blame go for this one? Well let’s start with Iowa State’s defense, or lack there of. The Cyclones have given up an average of 97 points in their last two games (to be fair, KU scored 108 points but the Jayhawks got an overtime on Monday). That ain’t gonna cut it in the Big 12 folks.
Defense has been an issue all year but the guys who you count on, seniors, not showing up hasn’t been a problem. Will Clyburn and Chris Babb combined to go 1-for-9 from the field in this one. One-for-nine. Add Korie Lucious to the mix and that combination went 4-for-16.
That just can’t happen. It can’t. Not on the road. Not if you want to win.
The silver lining
Iowa State still controls its own destiny. Win on Wednesday and in my opinion, the Cyclones are in when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament. Yes – I still believe that and yes, I still believe that Iowa State will play in that prestigious tournament this season.
That would put Iowa State at 10-8, which by no means is a sure thing. Eleven and-8 is a lock. Ten-and-8 with a win in Kansas City would put Iowa State in good shape. We still don’t know how the NCAA Tournament committee will judge the Cyclones based off of Monday’s controversy. One can only imagine that Iowa State will get the benefit of the doubt.
The thought of losing to Oklahoma on the road wasn’t a crazy one heading into Saturday. After all, the Sooners are now 7-1 on their home court in Big 12 play. That’s a good basketball team. Keep in mind that heading into Saturday, Oklahoma’s RPI was No. 29 heading into Saturday.
But after Monday, with their backs against the wall, Iowa State’s lack of pretty much everything was disappointing to say the least.
As a good friend text me with about five minutes left to play in Saturday game and I thought that this message summed things up pretty well. “Welcome to the bubble,” it read.
Yep. Wednesday’s date with Oklahoma State is a big one.