Iowa State will host Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday night in its penultimate tune up prior to conference play. The match up itself likely won't provide much intrigue and drama, but the plot lines surrounding this game will be rich with subtext and memorable nonetheless.
It was one year ago today that the legendary Johnny Orr passed away, leading to an over pouring of powerful and sentimental tributes to the father of Hilton Magic. An emotional Iowa State team took the floor that night and posted a 36-point win over Northern Illinois, but it was a bittersweet victory at best.
One year later, it's still tough to believe Johnny is really gone. There are larger than life figures and then there are icons like Johnny Orr. It's rare that a coach endears himself to a fan base and a community like Orr did for the Iowa State faithful. He was our legend and he loved Iowa State and its fans as much as we loved and admired him.
It's only fitting then that perhaps Orr's greatest legacy, Fred Hoiberg, is chasing his 100th win as a head coach tonight, which would make him the fastest in Cyclone history to reach the milestone. The Mayor will be the fifth Iowa State coach to reach the century mark in wins.
On a much smaller note, with a win this evening, Iowa State will have notched its 500th victory all-time inside the walls of Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones are 499-166 since the venue opened in 1971 (courtesy of Cyclones.com's game notes).
A Brief Note on the Delta Devils
These two teams met back on New Year's Eve in 2011 and Iowa State eeked out a narrow 67-65 win as Royce White played just three minutes in the contest as he apparently had the flu. That MVSU team justified the challenge though, ripping off 17-straight wins after the loss to the Cyclones en route to a SWAC championship and an NCAA tournament appearance.
This Delta Devils edition, however, shouldn't pose much of a threat. MVSU comes into this game at 1-11 and has been downright awful to date as only two of those 11 losses have come by single digits. They have a 51-point loss to Indiana, a 39-point loss to Tulane, a 53-point loss to TCU and a 52-point loss to Northwestern on their ledger. All four of those opponents scored 100 points or more and none of them packed the punch of Iowa State and their 10th-ranked scoring offense (84.6 PPG).
Kenpom.com is calling for a 37-point win (102-65) and gives the 347th-ranked Delta Devils just a 1% chance at coming away with a win.
The students will be on break, which always creates a semi-weird vibe in the building, but this New Year's Eve game has become an annual fixture on the Cyclone athletics calendar and should be close to a sell-out as families pack the building.
It's been 11 days since Iowa State last took the floor, but I don't expect there to be any signs of rust as the now 10-deep rotation that Hoiberg employed against Drake will keep fresh legs on the floor at all times. That's bad news for MVSU.
Iowa State 107 - MVSU 58
Tip: 6 PM CST
Radio: You can tune in to the Cyclone Radio Network on your way out to dinner with the wife
But wait, we're not done. Here's a bonus talking point...
Best in the Big 12?
It's been bandied about since the AP rankings were released on Monday, which put Iowa State at #9 and coincidentally, the highest ranked team in the Big 12, but have the Cyclones become the favorite to win the league entering conference play?
It's a valid talking point and entering this season, many thought (myself included) that this had the potential to be Fred Hoiberg's best team since he's been in Ames. Still, the fact remains that for all the success Iowa State has enjoyed over the last 3+ seasons, the Cyclones have never finished higher than third in the league standings.
It's no secret that winning on the road has been the biggest bugaboo over that span and ultimately, the main reason Iowa State hasn't finished a little higher up the ladder. In each of the past three seasons, Iowa State lost only one conference home game, but their best road record came in '11-'12 when they posted a 4-5 record away from Hilton Coliseum.
Iowa State opens conference play against Oklahoma State at home on January 6th and then comes the proving ground. Back-to-back road games against #17 West Virgina and #22 Baylor will tell us just how serious of a threat this Cyclone team is to end Kansas' reign.
Enjoy the final hours of 2014 and go Cyclones!