As the days before Thursday’s tip come and go, there’s a cyclone of questions surrounding the field’s upcoming unraveling. Will Mark Few finally get Gonzaga to the Final Four? Which 12 will inevitably upset their respective 5? Will Wichita State prove their mis-seeding and advance to the Sweet 16, or will Dayton thwart the Shockers in the opening round? Will we get a Duke/North Carolina Championship Game? Will Jack Henkels finally have a perfect bracket this year?
Amid all those uncertainties, there’s one surefire fact – Iowa State will end up in Phoenix. It’s nothing against Kansas or Louisville or anyone else in their region. I’m not a weird Iowa State fanboy or anything. You might be wondering, “but Jack, you were born in Iowa! Surely, you have a strong bias in that direction!” To which I would say, “No, you are mistaken. I am actually a born-hawkeye, not a cyclone. Get your facts straight, boss”. To which you’d apologize for your false accusation and we’d go our separate ways, but we’d promise to hang out at some point in the future. (Sure enough, a couple years later, I’d see you at a gas station while we’re each filling up. You’d wave, I’d ask how the kids are, you’d say they’re good, we’d shake hands, and then return to our vehicles.)
Iowa State is making it to Phoenix simply because they got everything to break their way – due, in part, to their Big 12 Tournament Championship.
In the round of 64, Iowa State drew Nevada. The Wolfpack apparently had a fine season (I really have no idea, I’m just going off what I hear). But, of the four 12 seeds, they’re the least terrifying. Iowa State will shoot them out of gym. Cyclones, easy.
Then, if you’re a sane person (not me, I picked Vermont), Iowa State draws Purdue in the second round. Most analysts (at least, the ones I’ve seen over the past day or so) are selecting the Boilermakers here, but I don’t really get it. Purdue isn’t really that good. I know Iowa State isn’t deep down low, but we saw Purdue lose last year to Arkansas Little-Rock, which isn’t really known for its post-play. It’s very possible to beat Purdue without a strong inside presence – you just have to make sure you control the pace. Let Biggie get his (because he will), but control the tempo, get out, run, and shoot threes. Iowa State will beat Purdue in the most Cyclone-basketball game of all-time. Something like 89-82.
Well, well, well. In the Sweet 16, Iowa State’s likely to clash with their Big 12 brethren from Lawrence. Let’s rewind and check out what happened in the Cyclone/Jayhawk matchups from earlier in the year:
- Jan. 16th, Kansas wins at Iowa State, 76-72
- Feb. 4th, Iowa State wins at Kansas, 92-89
So, they split the season series, but a 1-1 road split is FAR more encouraging than a 1-1 home split. Iowa State went into The Phog and beat a Kansas team at full strength in the heart of Big 12 Conference play. Translated: Iowa State can beat Kansas anywhere, at any time, at any place.
Place – that’s the other intriguing aspect here. Kansas had a great year and earned the #2 overall seed, slotting them in the close-to-home Kansas City regional. The weird thing about Kansas City is that Iowa State just won the Big 12 Tournament there. Kansas? Yeah, they lost to TCU. Sure, they were without Josh Jackson (suspension – he ran into a woman’s car, then fled the scene, was caught, and offered to pay the victim to avoid any paperwork or publicity. Needless to say, the bribe was rejected), but they lost to TCU in the Big 12 quarters. Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, TCU, and West Virginia en route to a conference title.
Oh, and the title game against WVU? Yeah, it was a SEA OF MAROON AND GOLD. It was Hilton-South. I know Kansas will travel, but this will be far from a Kansas home game. The Ames, Iowa faithful will make the 4-hour journey down the midwestern highway and flood Kansas City, much like last weekend.
Iowa State will once again play at THEIR pace, and despite Frank Mason’s best hero-ball efforts, the Cyclones will scoot past the Jayhawks rather easily. I’m thinking 12-14 points. At this point, Iowa State looks like they’re on an absolute mission.
Ok, so at this point Iowa State is in the Elite 8, Duke has lost to Troy, North Carolina has beaten everyone by 50, Syracuse replaced USC in the field and is on its way to the Final Four, and everyone on Kentucky has already declared for the NBA Draft.
They face Louisville. Or Oregon. Or Michigan.
Either way, by this point, every Kansas fan has sold their tickets to the regional final on Stub Hub, turning Kansas City into a full-Cyclone city. Louisville is really great, but they won’t be able to keep up with Matt Thomas. (That doesn’t really make any sense, but we’re going with it). Oregon just isn’t good enough without Boucher – they rely too much on him to space to floor AND protect the rim.
Likely, Iowa State faces Michigan, and we’re treated to a Derrick Walton/Monte Morris point guard matchup. Oh, and DJ Wilson/Deonte Burton. Oh, and Matt Thomas/Duncan Robinson. Oh, and Nazareth Mitrou-Long/Zac Irvin. Guys, they’re basically mirror images. Largely underachieved through the regular season, but eventually shaped into form and won the Conference Tournament despite a low-seed. But, Iowa State is just a slightly better version of that blueprint, and they ride the home-court atmosphere straight to Phoenix.
Guys, I’m not that smart. I frequently fail reading quizzes in my college english class. Sometimes, I forget to bring a towel to the shower. I struggle with finding a tupperware top that matches the bottom. I’m easily frustrated by my microwave’s popcorn button.
But, I do know this: Iowa State is running to the Final Four rather easily. I don’t know what happens after that, but pencil them to your Final Four.