In case you’ve been living under a rock or in denial, Iowa State is going to the Sweet 16. There’s a lot of sweetness from this run, but I tried to narrow it down to the 16 sweetest moments from the First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
16. Winning a road game in Wisconsin: For a team that, in recent history, has gotten good luck on neutral sites this was the opposite. The Cyclones played in front of a crowd that was 90% Badger fans and they were extremely loud. But do you know what they did? Shut them up.
Bonus points for being the home of TJ Otlzberger, Tyrese Hunter and one of Iowa State’s biggest recruiting hotbeds.
15. Jazz Kunc: What’s sweet about Jazz? Well, there wasn’t anything specific that Kunc did to make this list, but it didn’t feel right having him off this list. Jazz came in and did all of the dirty work: he dove after loose balls, deflected passes, took charges, rebounded and hit a few big shots. Jazz Kunc is the player I love to have, but I would hate to play against.
I think the question we should be asking ourselves: what isn’t sweet about Jazz?
14. They did it without Brockington’s A-game: Izaiah Brockington didn’t play poorly by any means, but he didn’t play anywhere near his standard. In two games, Brockington scored 29 points on 32% shooting, which is about 13% worse than his season average. Thanks to Tyrese Hunter and Gabe Kalscheur for stepping up, but Iowa State winning two games in March Madness without an A-game from Brockington is something that would’ve seemed impossible just two weeks ago.
The good news is that I can’t see Brockington not getting hot next weekend.
13. The Pat: Sometimes when a guy hits a shot like the one Tyrese made over Darius Days, all you can do is smack him on the butt and tell him “nice job.” That’s the type of game that Tyrese Hunter had on Friday night.
12. Holding the Big Ten POTY to 4-16 shooting: Now I know what you’re thinking, “Jake, Iowa State held Keegan Murray to 4-16 shooting back in December, that wasn’t a part of this tournament run.” RIGHT AND WRONG. Iowa State held Keegan Murray, who wasn’t the Big Ten Player of the Year, to 4-17 shooting. Actual Big Ten Player of the Year Johnny Davis outdid Murray and shot 4-16 from the field, but it wasn’t enough for the win.
Izaiah Brockington and Gabe Kalscheur made life difficult for the first-team All-American and held Wisconsin to a season-low 49 points.
11. TJ Otzleberger not getting a technical: The officiating was out -of control in the first half against Wisconsin. They were calling legal screens by Iowa State illegal, rewarding Davison’s flopping, they were allowing Tyrese Hunter to get tackled going to the basket. I rarely criticize officiating, but it was terrible.
Every basketball “expert” in the world wanted TJ to get a technical to “send the refs a message.” Instead, he decided to not give the other team free throws and the ball back, which ended up being a ballsy call that paid off. For the record, the officiating got much better in the second half.
10. Caleb Grill’s dunk: I don’t need to say much, just watch this dunk.
9. Making haters sick: According to sources, haters are just sick at the thought of this Iowa State team making the Sweet 16. My sources (@CycloneLarry69 on Twitter) are saying that haters are making excuses that Iowa State’s path was easy, LSU fired their coach and Johnny Davis was playing hurt.
Well, haters, you might want to grab a popcorn bowl to puke in, because Iowa State is going to the Sweet 16 and I don’t care what you think of it.
8. Ending Brad Davision’s career: I’ve watched a lot of Brad Davison in his six-year college career and every time I’ve watched him, I’ve thought to myself, “wow, I’m really glad my team doesn’t have to play against that guy.” Well, my team played against that guy and I’m really glad it’s over.
Davison was cheap and dirty and had a horrible attitude in his last college game ever. Now it’s time for him to play in Turkey, thank you for everything, Brad.
He literally jumped into Conditt… pic.twitter.com/9vBSpJg6FN— Sound The Cyrens (@soundthecyrens) March 20, 2022
7. George is going home: George Conditt’s freshman season saw Iowa State win the Big 12 Tournament with a team loaded with young talent. I’m sure Conditt thought that he was going to play in the Big Dance every season and make a run to the Sweet 16. Unfortunately, that run was brought to an end in an upset loss to Ohio State followed by the worst two-year stretch in Iowa State history.
It’s safe to say that when his career didn’t go as he planned, when the coach that recruited him got fired and when everyone except for Tre Jackson and Jaden Walked transferred, he had every right to look for an opportunity elsewhere. But he stuck it out and is now a part of one of the best stories in college basketball history. Even better, George gets to play in his first Sweet 16 as a senior in his hometown of Chicago.
6. Winning ugly: Iowa State won two tournament games by scoring a combined 113 points on 35% shooting from the field and 29% from three. I wouldn’t say Iowa State was bad offensively in the first weekend, but I wouldn’t call it good either. They won by uglying the game, hustling and playing in-your-face defense.
I really couldn’t care less how they won, because a win is better than a loss. Coach Otz said it best back in January.
TJ Otzelberger on the post-game show, “We’re not going to apologize for a win. I don’t care if it was ugly, I care that it was a win.”— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) January 6, 2022
5. The Godfather’s call: John Walters truly is the best, and his call from the end of the Wisconsin game is just so sweet.
4. Tyrese’s grandma: Iowa State point guard lost both of his parents at a young age and his older brother and grandma split time taking care of him. His grandma hasn’t gotten to watch him play since middle school, but she was in Milwaukee cheering on her grandson as he had the game of his life. WHO 13’s Mark Freund had a great story on how much the game meant for Tyrese, you can watch that here.
Not only did Tyrese get to play in front of his family just 30 miles away from his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin, but he played the best game of his college career with 23 points and seven three-points. Just watch him look up to his grandma after this shot.
3. Gabe Kalscheur: If there’s one guy that deserved to have a big game, it’s Gabe Kalscheur, one of the hardest-working people on the team. Kalscheur does all the right things, constantly puts himself in a position to hit shots, but hasn’t really reaped the benefits this season. Shooting just 1-7 against LSU and 36% from the field all season, Kalscheur has struggled to make shots and has gotten a lot of criticism from the fanbase.
That’s what makes his 22 points on 10-19 shooting even sweeter. Iowa State doesn’t win this game without Kalscheur hitting big shot after shot, and after the season he has had, that just feels fitting.
2. The dagger: This weekend will go down in Cyclone lore forever and this is the shot that will represent it. What a shot by Tyrese Hunter on the biggest stage. This will be the moment will look back and see where his stardom really started.
1. From 2 wins to 2 tournament wins: No matter how ugly this season has been. No matter how many missed layups. No matter how many disappointing losses. No matter how many coached picked Iowa State to finish last, Iowa State has completed the greatest single-season turnaround in college basketball history.
After the undisputed worst season in Iowa State history, they have turned it around and made the Sweet 16. No matter what happens next weekend, this team has accomplished more than anyone could’ve possibly dreamed of. Let’s enjoy how sweet this is.
Be sure to stay tuned with WRNL all Iowa State basketball coverage and for next week’s “The 8 most elite things about Iowa State’s March Madness Run.”