Jan 7, 2017; Fort Collins, CO, USA; Colorado State Rams head coach Larry Eustachy celebrates this 500th game coached following the win over the Air Force Falcons at Moby Arena. The Rams defeated the Falcons 85-58. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Few games haunt the minds of Iowa State fans more than the Cyclones’ loss to Michigan State in the 2000 Elite Eight. Unsurprisingly, that game often comes across former Iowa State head coach Larry Eustachy’s mind, too.
Eustachy, now the head coach at Colorado State, won the 500th game of his career on Saturday when the Rams defeated Air Force. He was asked afterwards which of his 500 wins he thinks about most.
Larry brought up that specific loss before any of the 500 wins.
Asked Eustachy which of his 500 wins he thinks of most. He answered with a loss, at Iowa State vs. Mich. St. in 2000 Elite Eight.
— Nick Kosmider (@NickKosmider) January 7, 2017
The Cyclones rolled into the regional final matchup against the Spartans coming off a regular season that saw them win their first conference championship since 1945. Led by All-American Marcus Fizer, the Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament and entered the game with a 32-4 record.
Those are the credentials of a team deserving of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but Iowa State was given the two-seed in the Midwest Region, which set up the game at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“We played in an Elite Eight game for the national championship,” Eustachy said of the 75-64 loss at the hands of Mateen Cleaves led Michigan State. “Had the lead and it just didn’t work out. Then Michigan State went on to cakewalk in the Final Four. They beat Wisconsin by 20 and Florida by 25 or vice versa. So really that was the national championship game.”
Here’s Larry Eustachy re-living that 2000 regional final game as Iowa State’s coach pic.twitter.com/DW34Ushd7i
— Nick Kosmider (@NickKosmider) January 8, 2017
In reality, the Spartans beat the Badgers by 12 and the Gators by 13 on their way to Tom Izzo’s first and only national championship, but the message is still the same. The two best teams in college basketball likely did battle on that court in Detroit one week prior to the Final Four.
According to Eustachy, everything could’ve been different if the Cyclones were one of their conference rivals.
“If our name was Kansas,” Eustachy said. “Iowa State would’ve gotten the one-seed.”
Nobody will ever know how things would’ve played out if the Cyclones had been the No. 1 seed. But, it is possible Eustachy could’ve gotten his 500th win two or three games ago and could have a Final Four, or national championship ring on his finger.