Michael Jacobson may have become one of the most unlikely X-factors for Iowa State over the past weekend, and it was exactly what they needed.
The Cyclones’ struggles over the past three weeks have been out in the wide open, pointing down a dark path to what seemed to be imminent collapse. Their toughness was questioned both nationally and locally, and fans became angry after a slight fall in the standings. All of the signs of cracking and breaking came to a head the week of the West Virginia game, when Iowa State had an intense practice that led to Marial Shayok missing a game with a mysterious toe injury, and Jacobson and Talen Horton-Tucker had a disagreement on the court in their loss to West Virginia. It didn’t look or sound good, but it may have been for the best.
Iowa State needed someone to step up and help get things pointed in the right direction. Whether it was with their play or leadership, a shot in the arm was needed. Michael Jacobson came away this weekend giving Iowa State both solid play and leadership.
An argument could be made that Jacobson was Iowa State’s best player during the Big 12 Tournament, which isn’t a discredit to Marial Shayok at all, with gutsy performances all weekend long. Against Baylor in the quarterfinals, Jacobson scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds. His effort on the glass didn’t nab him every rebound, but his positioning down low allowed other Cyclones to clean up on the boards. Against Kansas State on Friday, Jacobson grabbed 16 boards and scored eight points against one of the toughest teams in the conference. Against Kansas, Jacobson scored 14 points while pulling down five more rebounds, an impressive feat considering he sat out a large portion of the first half with foul trouble.
Not only did his play takeover, but it was revealed that Jacobson took over the primary leadership role behind closed doors. Jacobson sent out a text to all of his teammates, trying to get everyone on the same path. Jacobson told reporters after the game on Saturday; “I felt like I couldn’t let us go in that direction”. The Cyclones’ talent got them through the early portions of the season, but when times get tough, leadership is what guides you through it.
Jacobson’s leadership and play showed up when the Cyclones needed most, and it was easy to see that his effort and intensity had become contagious throughout the squad. Now, Jacobson has become Iowa State’s biggest x-factor as they move into the NCAA Tournament. If Jacobson puts out the effort and stats he did during the Big 12 Tournament, coupled with some intense leadership, these Cyclones are worthy of making a deep run into the NCAA Tournament.