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A little over a month ago I was within earshot of a friendly shouting match between Georges Niang and DeAndre Kane. If you are around the Iowa State team at all this is not an uncommon occurrence; Niang and Kane are always talking and often at each other. Kane was trying to convince anybody in the area that his last Marshall team could have defeated last year’s Iowa State team. This on its face is an illogical argument. Kane’s last Marshall team went 13-19 and Iowa State made it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. But facts did not deter Mr. Kane. "Who’s going to guard me? Who’s going to guard me? Not even Chris Babb could guard me." The argument abruptly ended when Niang pulled up the box-score on his phone of Marshall’s 102-46 loss to Southern Miss from last February, "You lost by 56 and had 11 turnovers DeAndre."
Everyone laughed as Kane shook his head with a smile. Deep in his mind, I bet Kane was still convinced he was right. It is this same irrational belief that has helped lift Iowa State to the Sweet 16.
All the cards were stacked against Iowa State. They trailed by eight against North Carolina with four minutes left and the Tar Heels had the ball. Iowa State appeared out of gas and their most reliable scorer Niang looked on helplessly from the bench. UNC had started to impart their size and depth advantage; it was a mighty effort by the under-manned Cyclones but they were on their way to bowing out. At that point, it would have been easy to acknowledge that it wasn’t Iowa State’s night. Marcus Paige catapulted a three that would have buried the Cyclones. It clanked off the side rim and Iowa State had one last life.
This Cyclone team would hit on 17 while playing Blackjack in Vegas.
Kane found Naz Long for a three, Ejim stepped in the way of runaway truck James Michael McAdoo to take a charge, Kane located Monte Morris in the corner and Iowa State was back within two. On the ensuing possession, the Heels helped the cause by missing a few chip shots at the rim; Kane secured the board and orchestrated the most irrationally confident play of the tournament.
Down two with two minutes remaining, possessions are at a premium. The "smart" play would be to pull the ball out and setup one of Fred Hoiberg’s specials. But Kane is the Honey Badger, he don’t care. On a full run, he lined up a one hand, 30 foot bounce pass from mid-court that needed to thread between two defenders to a sprinting Melvin Ejim. It was a low percentage and reckless play, but damn if it didn’t work perfectly.
DeAndre Kane could step into a tank full of sharks and think that the sharks should be afraid.
With the game tied at 81 and 30 seconds remaining, Iowa State found a way to get one more stop and retrieve a rebound. Once again, the logical play would be to pull the ball out and hold for the last shot. But this Cyclone team pays no heed to the conservative. Ejim launched a 60 foot outlet pass while hundreds of thousands of Cyclone fans hollered at their TV, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING." Yet there at the other end was a wide-open Kane to give Iowa State the lead. Self-assurance doesn’t mix well with cautious.
Iowa State is the short, balding guy at the bar that always has a super-model on their arm.
The rest is history. DeAndre Kane isolated with the ball and ten seconds on the clock. Kane’s argument with Niang from a month ago echoed through my head, "Who’s going to guard me. Nobody can guard me."
Ball-game. That play instantly became timeless. It is the Jeff Woody plunge against Oklahoma State, the Ja’Maine Billups punt return in the Insight Bowl against Pittsburgh, the Fizer dunk over Mihm.
There are a lot of times in this world when you are down by eight with four minutes left and nothing is going your way. When the adverse strikes, you can give up and say it wasn’t your day or you can throw one handed bounce-passes from thirty feet between two defenders. Time and time again, this group of Cyclones has proven that confidence trumps rational. They are now two wins away from the Final Four because of it.
There are more talented and deeper teams left in the tourney, but don’t tell DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones. They don’t care for your logic.