At the end of last week, those of us on staff at Cyclone Fanatic were starting to put together a content plan to work our way through the Coronavirus Outbreak and the impending halt of the sports world. We kicked around a lot of ideas, many of them you will see in the coming days and weeks, but the biggest undertaking was what you will be reading about in a few paragraphs as we hope to intertwine basically every medium at our disposal, including the written word, social media, podcasts and possibly even some video.
Welcome to CF’s Greatest Cyclone Basketball Games of All-Time (all-time being the modern era of Iowa State basketball or since Johnny Orr got to Ames) Bracket. The name isn’t really that long, as you can see in the graphic above, but I figured I should throw that disclaimer in there before somebody asks me why Iowa State’s 87-76 win over No. 8 Vanderbilt in 1955 didn’t make the bracket.
Starting today, I will unveil the first region of our field of 64 games broken down by four different eras. This article will be focused on the Niang Regional, comprised of games from the 2010s. On Friday, you will be introduced to the Grayer Regional, featuring contests played in the 1980s. Monday will be the unveiling of the Fizer Regional, games from the 2000s, and Tuesday will bring the Hoiberg Regional with games from the 1990s.
Voting will begin immediately when the Hoiberg Regional is released and there will be further direction on how to vote at that time.
Now, you’re probably wondering who came up with our list of games and how they were seeded. Well, that is the point when I send you to CF analytics guru Kirk Haaland because he did all of that with very little help from anybody else. I’ll also ask Kirk to skip this next paragraph and move directly to the one below it. Just pretend it isn’t there because it isn’t important for you.
So, everyone besides Kirk, say, for example, you’re upset Iowa State’s win over Baylor in the 2014 Big 12 Tournament final, also known as the rebirth of Hilton South, was not included in the field. This is the time when you’ll log-in to Twitter, open up a new tweet and write, “@khaal53 your an idiot. cant beleave u didnt put the 2014 big 12 championship game in the bracket. baylor sux. hilton south rulezzz. go get stuck in a locker nerd.”
Obviously, there are other games you could be upset didn’t make the cut, and if you want to send Kirk four or five individual tweets about each of those games then that’s fine, too. If you saw the spreadsheet Kirk sent me with the list of games, you would see that he had a heckuva time narrowing down this 2010s list to just 16 games.
He has 44 games just from a 10-year span on that list and only 16 could make the cut. That’s why we will briefly touch on a few of the “snubs” in my mind before we dive into the final bracket. I know I could complain to Kirk privately in an email or even send him some tweets like the one I included for you above, but why would I do those things when I could put my complaints in an article that has the potential to be clicked on
thousands millions billions of times? No-brainer.
Iowa State 74, Baylor 65 – March 15, 2014 (Big 12 Tournament Final): Are you freaking kidding me, Kirk? The rebirth of Hilton South, Iowa State’s official arrival on the big stage, Fred Hoiberg out-dueling Scott Drew then cutting down the nets, Georges Niang playing with a band-aid over his eye. Ugh, this is an absolutely iconic Iowa State basketball game. It has to be iconic if Brent Blum will write about it.
Iowa State 85, Oklahoma State 81 (OT) – March 8, 2014: I only have to say one thing — Threezus of Nazareth.
Iowa State 90, Iowa 75 – Dec. 12, 2014: Again, only have to say one thing — The Kiss.
Iowa State 83, Iowa 82 – Dec. 10, 2015: I just rewatched this game again the other day. Jarrod Uthoff scores 30 of his 32 points in the first half. The No. 4(!!!!!) Cyclones erase a 20-point deficit with a 32-11 run capped by a Monte Morris floater with nine seconds left. It was one of those nights during the stretch where Hilton Magic was more of an expectation than a possibility.
Iowa State 77, Michigan 70 – Nov. 17, 2013: Unfortunately, this is one of only a handful of Iowa State home games I’ve missed in the last seven years (I had an upper respiratory infection) and it was a horrible one to miss. Johnny Orr makes his final appearance in Hilton Coliseum before passing away a month later, Melvin Ejim bounces back from a hyperextended knee and comes off the bench to score 22 points against the No. 7 Wolverines.
Alright, time to quit messing around. Here are the 16 games that will make up our Niang Regional with their corresponding seed number.
#1 – No. 9 Iowa State 85, No. 19 North Carolina 83 – March 23, 2014
The Cyclones entered the Round of 32 in the 2015 NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed, but few people outside the state of Iowa probably expected an Iowa State victory. Sure, Iowa State had easily dispatched North Carolina Central in the first round two days earlier, but it came at a cost as sophomore forward Georges Niang was lost for the year with a broken foot.
On the other side, North Carolina was led by a group of young players, including Iowa native Marcus Paige, that would eventually help the program reach back-to-back national title games, winning it all in 2017.
It was a back-and-forth game from the opening tip with each team building leads as big as eight points at different times. In the end, DeAndre Kane, who finished the contest with 24 points and 10 rebounds, finished a layup in the lane with 1.6 seconds on the clock to send the Cyclones to New York City and the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.
#2 – Iowa State 92, No. 2 Kansas 89 – Feb. 4, 2017
Never forget Kansas blew a 15-point lead in the Phog. Iowa State entered this game 13-8 overall, 5-4 in Big 12 play and had more or less completely underwhelmed leading up to that point despite returning a quartet of key players from the previous year’s Sweet 16 team.
Built around senior All-American point guard Monte Morris, the Cyclones had one of its best 3-point shooting teams in school history with Matt Thomas, Naz Mitrou-Long and Donovan Jackon among the deadeye spot-up shooters at Morris’ disposal. Throw athletic freak into the mix and you had a core capable of doing amazing things — and on the first Saturday of February 2017, they did just that.
The Cyclones connected on a school-record 16 3-pointers, including seven from the streaky shooting Burton, who scored 29 points, and ended the Jayhawks’ 51-game winning streak in Allen Fieldhouse. Morris added 25 points of his own while Mitrou-Long poured in 22 with six makes from deep.
But, it was Jackson who made the biggest one of all, silencing the Allen Fieldhouse faithful for good.
#3 – No. 13 Iowa State 70, No. 9 Kansas 66 – March 14, 2015
The Cardiac ‘Clones of 2015 were good at a lot of things. Shooting, passing, creating mismatches and timely defending, to name a few. But, the thing they were absolutely the best at was digging themselves a big hole, going on a ridiculous run to dig out of that hole and most likely giving us all crippling anxiety for life in the process.
The Cyclones trailed by 14 points at halftime and by as much as 17 points early in the second half of this game. They rallied back to tie the score at 51 with 8:00 left after a breakaway dunk by Bryce Dejean-Jones. The score continued to bounce back and forth for the next seven-plus minutes before Abdel Nader’s free throws with 46 seconds on the clock gave Iowa State the lead for good and clinched the program’s second-consecutive Big 12 Tournament title.
The game was the Cyclones’ fifth straight win after trailing by double-digits. Few teams played with fire better than that 2015 squad, but, as we all know, the more you play with fire, the likelier you are to get burned. These Cyclones got burnt eventually, but they gave us some pretty great memories in the process.
#4 – Iowa State 80, No. 9 Baylor 72 – March 3, 2012
All five of Iowa State’s starters scored in double-figures, led by 23 points from Scott Christopherson, and Royce White finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double to hold off the top-10 ranked Bears, who were led by 35 points from star point guard Pierre Jackson.
The win moved Iowa State into the AP Poll at No. 25 for the first time since the first week of the 2005-06 season and more or less clinched the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2005.
#5 – Iowa State 72, No. 5 Kansas – Jan. 28, 2012
The game that put Iowa State back onto the national map snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Jayhawks. It was also Royce White’s coming out party as the former Minnesota transfer scored 18 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished five assists.
White knocked down 6-of-11 free throws in the game and the postgame stories make note of the eventual All-American having nightmares about his struggles from the charity stripe. He entered it shooting 39 percent from the line in Big 12 play, but no two shots at the line were bigger than the pair that put Iowa State up five with less than two minutes to play and, ultimately, clinched the program’s biggest victory in years.
Hilton Magic was back.
#6 – No. 17 Iowa State 85, No. 23 Iowa 82 – Dec. 13, 2013
The noise was deafening as Mike Gesell went to the free-throw line with 13 seconds left and Iowa State holding an 83-82 lead after a reverse layup by sophomore forward Georges Niang put the Cyclones in front. Gesell, the Hawkeyes’ sophomore point guard would end his career in Iowa City as a better than 72 percent free-throw shooter, but if you heard the noise in Hilton Coliseum on that Friday night, you knew he had no chance of making that pair of freebies.
As we now know, he missed both shots at the line. Dustin Hogue corralled the rebound and made a pair of his own at the line. The Hawkeyes got one last look to tie, a wide-open 3-point attempt by Zach McCabe, but, in a moment that can only be described as Hilton Magic, the ball went halfway down then popped out. Two more tip attempts by the Hawkeyes didn’t go in and an unimaginable roar erupted from Hilton Coliseum as the Cyclones clinched a victory in this series’ first game between two ranked teams in 26 years.
After the game, Niang, who finished with 24 points, declared the rivalry was “back,” but it was what he said next that lives on in Cyclone lore.
“At the end of the day,” Niang said. “We all know it’s a Cyclone State.”
#7 – No. 16 Iowa State 98, No. 19 Oklahoma State 97 (3OT) – Feb. 3, 2014
While the shot that etched the image of Naz Long with his arms in the air into our minds forever came more than a month later, it was his shot with 1.4 seconds left to extend this game into a third overtime that marked the beginning of his clutch heroics. That three, along with a pair of free throws that pushed Iowa State’s lead to three late in the third overtime, marked Long’s only points in the Cyclones’ first win in Stillwater since 1988.
The game’s best individual performance belonged to DeAndre Kane, who finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists despite playing a large portion of the overtimes with four fouls. Honestly, the game featured heroic clutch moments from so many different guys that they can hardly all be mentioned here, but each one was needed to notch the 2013-14 team’s sixth win over a ranked opponent.
At the end of the day, none of those shots are remembered as well as Long’s straight-away 3-pointer to extend that Big Monday.
#8 – No. 17 Iowa State 74, No. 14 West Virginia 72 – Jan. 10, 2015
Less than a week after ending nonconference play with a disappointing loss to South Carolina in Brooklyn and a few days after notching a nail-biting win over Oklahoma State, this victory in Morgantown moved Iowa State to 2-0 in Big 12 play and gave the Cyclones the appearance of a team capable of competing for the league title.
Abdel Nader scored 19 points just days after playing only eight minutes and going scoreless against the Cowboys. Georges Niang broke out of a slump to score 16 points and helped the Cyclones leave West Virginia with a win despite twice surrendering eight-point leads that could have put the game away with little anxiety.
#9 – No. 17 Iowa State 77, No. 15 Oklahoma 70 – March 2, 2015
Honestly, I’m not really even going to write anything about this game. Just watch the dang video and get goosebumps with me.
#10 – No. 11 Iowa State 86, No. 9 Kansas 81 – Jan. 17, 2015
One of the greatest days in the history of Iowa State athletics. It started with College Gameday from the floor at Hilton Coliseum with thousands of screaming Cyclone fans as the backdrop.
It culminated with the 2015 Cyclones playing one of their most complete games of the season, trailing only in brief spurts and running their way past a Kansas team that entered on a five-game winning streak. Naz Long scored 20 points and hit three 3-pointers, Jameel McKay streaked past the Kansas defense in transition on his way to 11 points off the bench and the Cyclones seemed to prove they were not going to let Kansas breeze their way to an 11th straight Big 12 title.
#11 – No. 13 Iowa State 69, Texas 67 – March 12, 2015
Another game that I’m not sure requires any explanation from me. Just watch the video.
Actually, one brief thing from me, have we really appreciated how freaking amazing this team was when they trailed? Like, yeah, I know we all realize they were really good at making comebacks, but the idea of winning five-straight games in which they trailed by double-digits, including this win over Texas in the Big 12 quarterfinals where THEY DIDN’T LEAD UNTIL THE GAME WAS OVER, is crazy to think about now.
It was an absolutely insane time to be a Cyclone.
#12 – No. 23 Iowa State 80, No. 11 West Virginia 74 – March 11, 2017
Few teams in college basketball were playing better at this time in March 2017 than Iowa State. The Cyclones had ended the regular-season by winning six out of seven games with the only loss being to the Mountaineers in the regular-season finale.
They arrived in Kansas City as the tournament’s No. 4 seed and promptly breezed past Oklahoma State and TCU into the final. Despite having lost four-straight to West Virginia coming into this game, the Cyclones were more or less dominant after early-struggles turned into a six-point lead at halftime on the back of 10-straight points from, of all people, Darrell Bowie.
Iowa State built its lead up to 12, Bob Huggins got a technical foul, the group of outstanding senior guards, led by Tournament MOP Monte Morris, navigated West Virginia’s junk 1-3-1 then Deonte Burton threw down the dunk heard ’round the world as the Cyclones brought the trophy home from Hilton South for the third time in four years.
#13 – No. 19 Iowa State 82, No. 1 Oklahoma 77 – Jan. 18, 2016
Fifth-nine years and four days after Iowa State’s first win over the nation’s No. 1 team, a Kansas squad headlined by Hall-of-Famer Wilt Chamberlin, the Cyclones did it again. Oklahoma had moved to the top of the AP Poll just hours before they were set to take on the Cyclones in Hilton Coliseum on Big Monday.
Buddy Hield was the favorite for national player of the year. Georges Niang was entering the final stretch of his time as a Cyclone. This was going to be a big one — and it did not disappoint.
The two teams traded taking leads the entire first half with each of them having the upper hand for roughly eight minutes apiece. In the end, it was 22 points from Niang, plus 20 points from Monte Morris, that sunk the Sooners despite Hield pouring in 24 of his own on his way to being the consensus national player of the year.
After a long, nearly six-decade, wait, Wilt had some company.
#14 – No. 16 Iowa State 94, No. 10 Kansas 83 – March 14, 2014
I know I wrote about the game that followed this one in the snubs section, but, in reality, this is probably the game that clinched Iowa State its 2014 Big 12 Tournament title. The Jayhawks were the hump the Cyclones needed to get over and they finally did so in Kansas City despite Georges Niang leaving the game early with a towel pressed to his bloody face.
That came after Niang had scored 25 points against the Jayhawks, who were playing without star 7-footer Joel Embiid. DeAndre Kane, the eventual MOP of that tournament, added 20 points and five 3-pointers, plus Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim gave the Cyclones 19 points of his own.
The Cyclones were headed to their first Big 12 Tournament title game since 2000. Thousands upon thousands of Cyclone fans were headed south to Kansas City with band-aids attached above their right eyes.
Nianging had been born. Hilton South’s rebirth was coming shortly behind.
#15 – Iowa State 77, UCONN 64 – March 15, 2012
Iowa State’s first NCAA Tournament win since 2005 is crazily enough only the second game from the Big Dance to make the field in this region, which is probably an indication of how freaking good the Big 12 was during the 2010s. In this game, Chris Allen scored 20 points, Royce White was dominant with 15 points and 13 rebounds and Scott Christopherson poured in 15 points of his own.
The Cyclones rolled past the defending national champions into the round of 32 on the back of White, who thoroughly kicked eventual No. 9 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft Andre Drummond’s butt for 40 minutes.
#16 – No. 16 Iowa State 81, No. 23 Oklahoma 75 – Feb. 1, 2014
Honestly, and I hate to admit this because I like to think I have a pretty great memory when it comes to this stuff, but I did not really remember this game, or its significance, when I first saw it on the list. Well, after a little bit of research, I can safely state it was a big one considering what came next for Iowa State basketball.
On this Saturday in Ames, Georges Niang scored what was at the time a career-high 27 points while Melvin Ejim scored 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Those are all great numbers, of course, but the big story was the skinny freshman point guard from Flint, Mich. who made his first career start.
That kid making his first career start was Monte Morris, who after coming off the bench for the first 19 games of his career, promptly went on to start all 120 games followed the win over the Sooners. The Cyclones won 100 of those contests 140 games Morris played in, by the way.
So, yeah, I can understand why that one makes the cut.
Check back on Friday for the unveiling of the Grayer Regional and our 16 games vying to be the best of the 1980s.