When Chris Williams sent me the pairings for our Field of 64 to pick the best Cyclones men’s basketball player of all-time, the potential matchup in the finals was the first thing I noticed.
Georges Niang vs. Jeff Grayer.
1 vs. 2 on the school’s all-time scoring charts. One guy with his name in the rafters vs. another who will inevitably see his No. 31 hanging in Hilton Coliseum.
It was the perfect matchup to close the bracket. Old generation vs. New generation. Johnny Orr era vs. Fred Hoberg/Steve Prohm era.
It was truly hard to predict which of them would come out on top and it seemed as though it would largely depend on the demographics of the voters.
As the bracket began, both guys steamrolled through their competition. Grayer dispatched Don Medsker, Lafester Rhodes and DeAndre Kane in the first three rounds without surrendering more than 15 percent of the vote.
Niang secured 100 percent of the vote (seriously) in the first round against Robert Wilson. He got 99 percent of it against Jackson Vroman in round two. Curtis Stinson was able to take away five percent of the vote in the Sweet 16 while Jamaal Tinsley pulled a whopping 21 percent in the Elite Eight.
Not even Grayer matched that level of owning the vote in the semifinals as he passed Marcus Fizer with 57 percent of the tally. Niang cruised past the great Barry Stevens with 85 percent.
Finally, the matchup was set. The science wasn’t perfect, but for the most part Kirk Haaland’s algorithm and Brent Blum’s seeding had held up.
Niang vs. Grayer for the Cyclone Fanatic Field of 64 title.
In the end, it was the new generation that showed out the most. Georges Niang is the champion of our first Field of 64 with 58 percent of the final vote.
Now, the kid from Massachusetts, who won two Big 12 tournament titles, played in two Sweet 16s and hit enough big shots to last a lifetime, can add that illustrious honor to his resume.