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KANSAS CITY — Forget the stitches.
Flip open the notebook.
Iowa State forward Georges Niang hopes to avoid the bloody mess — and the necessary giant bandage — the blow to his right eyebrow created during last season’s Big 12 Tournament championship run.
“I was contemplating bringing it out, but I think that was last year’s gig,” Niang said in reference to the famous, blood-soaked band-aid that fans made their own on Twitter after last year’s jarring 94-83 semifinal win over Kansas. “So we’ll have to create a new one this year, but without injury.
So instead of “Nianging,” the 6-8, first team all-conference performer took to a less perilous pursuit: Note-keeping.
Niang planned to help start the second-seeded Cyclones’ title defense Wednesday by meticulously recording his in-game observations as Thursday’s potential quarterfinal opponents fought it out at the Sprint Center.
Would it be No. 7 Texas (19-12) or No. 10 Texas Tech (13-18)? Either way, Niang would be armed with page upon page of added knowledge well before the Thursday’s 6 p.m. tip-off.
“I think guys will go in there with a Coach (Fred) Hoiberg type of mind — watching it to pick up flaws in the other team rather than just sit there and watch the game and enjoy it,” Niang said of the team-wide game watch of Wednesday night’s matchup between the Longhorns and Red Raiders. “Like, we can attack this person or this kind of set. So I just think it will be a learning experience.”
Just like the entire tournament.
Hoiberg said danger lurks from Kansas at No. 1, to Tech at No. 10 — and everywhere in between. And, as big man Jameel McKay said, “there’s no secrets” between any of the league’s teams.
“The things that we do are the things that we do,” said the Big 12 Defensive player of the year, who’s averaging 15.5 points and 10 rebounds in the past four games.
With a round-robin schedule, it’s not rocket science when it comes to prepping for anybody.
But every little bit of updated information helps. Hence Niang’s note-keeping — mental and otherwise.
“It’s definitely strange,” Hoiberg said of not having his team’s first opponent in the tournament set before leaving Ames for the first time in his five seasons. “But you’ve played everybody in this league twice, so you should know their stuff. They will change and tweak things like all coaches do, but for the most part, they are who they are. If it happens to be Texas, their length is impossible to simulate. It’s a team, with (guard Isaiah) Taylor — he’s one of the fastest guards in the country from end line to end line. Theyv’e got guys who can knock down shots. If it’s Texas Tech, they’re going to come out and defend you and it’s going to be a rock fight.”
The Red Raiders did manage to shockingly upend the Cyclones 78-73 on January 24 in Lubbock, while the Longhorns allowed ISU to score an average of 87 points — 27 above their defensive average.
But if Texas were to fully find itself this week …
“They’re like a sleeping giant, willing and able to get up at any time and win games,” said ISU’s Dustin Hogue, who scored 19 points while grabbing 10 rebounds in last year’s quarterfinal win over Kansas State.
We’ll see about the “willing part” — if the ‘Horns avoid a possible Wednesday upset.
The Cyclones will be watching, plotting out personal game plans before Hoiberg and his staff unveils the official one.
“We’ll probably watch it as a group,” point guard Monté Morris said. “I mean, if not, we’ve got joint hotel rooms. We’re right next to each other. We’re going to be tuned in.”