Jan 30, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Michael Jacobson (12) grabs a rebound against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Mountaineers 93-68. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Williams: I honestly don’t know. My gut tells me that Iowa State wins on Thursday and Friday both. Get past Baylor (Iowa State is favored) and the Cyclones would be favored over Kansas State (I happen to think that TCU might make a run into the semifinals). So the path to Saturday is absolutely there for the taking. I kind of think it might happen too. I’ll go with that, but do not think this team can beat Texas Tech right now. Chris Beard is the most underrated coach in the country (not for long) and that team is in a zone right now.
Jared Stansbury: I have a good feeling about this week. I have said it multiple times on podcasts, but I can already see how this week will go. People will be leery entering Thursday’s game against Baylor. Then the Cyclones will come out and finish with a somewhat convincing win. That will turn into optimism plus debate of whether or not people want to head down to Kansas City. Most people will make the drive down I-35 in time for Friday’s night game against a Dean Wade-less Kansas State. The Wildcats missing their stretch forward will open the door for the Cyclones to end up in Saturday’s championship game against Texas Tech. Once the ‘Clones get to Saturday, anything can happen.
Rob Gray: Saturday’s return to hard-nosed play — and at least a solid performance on both ends, despite the loss to Texas Tech — has reinvigorated my hopes for the Cyclones. A lot of “if-then” propositions still frame this ISU team’s ceiling, but I actually like them to knock off kryptonite-like Baylor. Couple that with the strong possibility Makai Mason won’t play and I like the Cyclones in Thursday’s game. I’ll take that a step further, too: With or without Dean Wade, I think K-State falls to ISU, as well, perhaps helping the good guys cement a No. 6 seed for the Big Dance (and maybe creep back to that 5-line?). Again, a lot of “ifs,” but I like the way this team looks now, finally, again. Not sure the sky is the limit anymore, but there are certainly fewer clouds obscuring what can still be a bright horizon.
Kirk Haaland: Optimism can be a curse. I’m the guy down 20 with six minutes left crunching numbers and trying to find an angle to a win. The Cyclones played better on Saturday and came up short but Texas Tech is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. I think Iowa State gets past Baylor and with Kansas State waiting and no Dean Wade could well get to the finals where I can’t see them winning but we will all rejoice in the return of their mojo and a 5 or 6 seed next week.
Brent Blum: The last two times Iowa State played the Thursday morning game, the Cyclones went on to win the entire tournament. But this team doesn’t have a Monte Morris clearly. Iowa State will likely be favored in both the game against Baylor and the semi-final game should it make it there. I’m not confident in anything this team will do, other than it will be an experience. I’ll be optimistic and say Iowa State gets to the final before bowing out to Tech or KU.
Kevin Fitzpatrick: Rob Gray hit the word that I was going to use: kryptonite. Baylor is exactly that for Iowa State. Even if they are without Makai Mason, it’s going to be a struggle for ISU to take down the Bears. I’ll predict a one possession loss on Thursday and a couple more days to “refocus” before the Big Dance, but would certainly love to be proven wrong.