Has everyone's heart rate stabilized since Wednesday night? Good, glad to hear it. If you're like me, you went through just about every emotion possible over the course of the Cyclone's two-point victory over West Virginia. I was so tense and nervous and elated all at the same time that I had to take my dog for a walk around the block just to unwind. I went back and read through the game thread just to recap the comments and responses many of us shared during that game and I just had to laugh at how it all played out.
One prevailing thought and response that I kept coming back to though, was the helpless and hopeless feeling many expressed once West Virginia tied the game with 11 seconds to play. To paraphrase, "we are Iowa State; losing in this type of fashion is what we do". It's hard to blame anyone for thinking that. After all, we can all recite heartbreak after heartbreak verbatim, noting down and distances, the time left on the clock, the name of the referee, etc. You're not truly indoctrinated into full Cyclone fandom until you've experienced that gut-punching, deflating loss - and there have been plenty.
So with West Virginia storming back from 18 points down, seemingly unable to miss a three-point shot, we all started to get that sinking feeling, knowing all to well how the script was going to play out. Sports and cinema trains us to keep the faith in these dire moments. These are when the heroes arise. As Iowa State fans, we know better. Or so we thought.
And just like that, Will Clyburn takes the inbounds pass, 13,000+ nervous fans are on their feet. Clyburn brings it into the front court, drives the right side and is roadblocked by two defenders. Here comes the wild shot or the turnover. Brace yourselves for overtime. But what's this! A beautiful pass to a wide open Georges Niang! OH MY GOD! He made it! Get back on defense you fool! Don't foul! WE WIN!
The home court winning streak lives. Iowa State is 2-1 in conference play. We're all relieved. I need a beer.
We've all taken a metaphorical shot in the nuts as Iowa State fans a few too many times. Under Fred Hoiberg though, that seems to be happening less and less. He's inspired hope and instilled passion back into an entire fan base. At the end of the day, Wednesday's win over a .500 West Virginia team wasn't going to do anything for the Cyclone's RPI profile and there certainly wasn't going to be a feature on ESPN.com about this game, but that's not the point.
The Iowa State men's basketball team learned a valuable lesson from that game. They learned that no matter how well they're playing and no matter how big of a lead they're holding, they have to finish. As fans, we learned that maybe it's time to start trusting this team and especially the leadership of Fred Hoiberg. I made mention before Iowa State opened conference play that trust was the one thing missing from this team and how crucial it was for this team to develop that over the next 18 games. I think we saw that on Wednesday night and I think we as fans are starting to feel that as well.
Record: 9-8, 0-4
Kenpom.com Ranking: 257 (ouch)
CBSSports.com RPI Ranking: 221 (way to bring down the SOS Purple Frogs)
TCU has been stricken by the injury bug which certainly isn't making their debut season in the Big 12 any easier. Statistically, this is the worst team in the conference by a wide margin. In 17 games, the Frogs have scored 70 or more points just twice. Iowa State on the other hand has hit the 70-point mark in 15 of their 16 games and the one time they didn't, the Cyclones scored 69. In conference games, TCU is averaging a Big 12-worst 48 points and is getting outscored on average by 12.8 per game. They're also last in the conference in field goal percentage (35.6%) as well as defensive field goal percentage (47.1%). They average a mere 7.5 assists as a team. Korie Lucious is averaging 6.3 by himself in Big 12 play. You get the idea.
Winning on the road is never an easy proposition and despite TCU's offensive ineptitude, they know how to muck a game up and kill the pace. Expect coach Trent Johnson to slow this game down as much as possible and limit Iowa State's offensive opportunities. Don't be surprised to see a half-court trap and multiple defensive looks, changing possession by possession. If TCU is going to stay in this game, they're going to have to create turnovers and disrupt any rhythm the Cyclones try to develop by making the ISU ball handlers pull it back to identify the defensive look.
It might work for a little while, but this game should end up being pretty one-sided. The post players for ISU could have a huge day with TCU expelling so much energy on the perimeter. Look for a lot of back cuts, slip-screens and high-low passing to get guys like Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and Percy Gibson going. When the Frogs start to collapse on the inside, well then, we all know what's in store. Bombs away.
Iowa State 77 - TCU 54
Tip: 12:45 PM CT, Fort Worth, TX - Daniel-Meyer Coliseum
TV: Big 12 Network (ABC5/WOI in central Iowa)
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Big 12 Weekend Predictions
West Virginia @ Purdue - 1 PM CT, CBS
Yes, you read that right. Odd non-conference match up here, but the Mountaineers are on the road again and facing an improving Purdue team in West Lafayette, Indiana. I think the 'Eers bounce back from a couple tough-luck losses and win a defensive battle.
West Virginia 62 - Purdue 56
Kansas @ Texas - 1 PM CT, CBS
Well, it looked like a big test for the Jayhawks back in November, but with Myck Kabongo still serving a suspension, Kansas shouldn't have too much trouble battling an inexperienced Texas team. The Horns have had a week to stew over their 20-point loss to Iowa State and should come out hot, but Kansas is just too talented and reports indicate that Ben McLemore should be in the line up after spraining his ankle against Baylor.
Kansas 68 - Texas 53
Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech - 1 PM CT, ESPN2
I was impressed with the effort Tech had against Kansas. If the Red Raiders continue to play that type of style of basketball, they may surprise somebody and steal a win at home at some point this year, and not just against TCU. Unfortunately, this Saturday doesn't look like the day to do that. Oklahoma State suffered a tough setback to in-state rival Oklahoma last Saturday and had a week off to work out the kinks.
Oklahoma State 74 - Texas Tech 61
Hardin-Simmons @ Baylor - 2 PM CT, Fox Sports Southwest
What the hell Baylor? What's wrong with you? Seriously.
Baylor 107 - Hardin-Simmons 42
Oklahoma @ Kansas State - 3 PM CT, Big 12 Network
Easily the game of the weekend in the conference. Both the Wildcats and Sooners are unbeaten in conference play and this is a game where we can find out who's for real. The Sooners actually swept K-State a year ago, which is something that I'm sure Rodney McGruder and the rest of the team remember. Oklahoma was certainly impressive in their win over Oklahoma State, but this is Bramlage and I'm a buyer on this K-State team.
Kansas State 67 - Oklahoma 61
One Man's Power Rankings
1. Kansas 3-0
2. Kansas State 3-0
3. Iowa State 2-1
4. Oklahoma - 3-0
5. Baylor 3-1
6. Oklahoma State 1-2
7. West Virginia 1-3
8. Texas 0-3
9. Texas Tech 1-3
10. TCU 0-4
Kansas retains the top spot to the surprise of no one. I think Kansas State has a real shot to challenge Kansas. I'm giving ISU the #3 slot based on what they've shown. Oklahoma comes in at #4. If they win in Manhattan this weekend, they could be a big mover. Baylor has more talent than the three schools in front of them but has not looked that impressive. Oklahoma State could make a big statement by winning at Tech and then winning at Baylor on Monday night. West Virginia is better than their record and may have figured it out offensively in the second half against Iowa State. Texas' NCAA tournament hopes are on life support. Tech is improving and well, TCU is just plain bad.