And then there were four.
Oklahoma picked up their biggest win of the season on Saturday afternoon, knocking off previously undefeated Iowa State 87-82 in Norman. And they did it despite a rough shooting night from leading scorer Cameron Clark, who finished just 4-for-16 from the floor. Buddy Hield, who has morphed into one of the nation’s most under-appreciated players, finished with 22 points, hitting six threes in the process, while big man Ryan Spangler added 16 points and 15 boards.
So congrats to the Sooners, because that’s a huge win.
But the much more important news is that the No. 9 Cyclones may have lost their best player.
Deandre Kane, who was No. 3 in our most recent Player of the Year rankings, rolled his left ankle over in the final minute. He had to be carried off the court and couldn’t stand on it while going through the handshake lines at the end of the game. Losing Kane for any significant amount of time would be just devastating for the Cyclones, as his ability to score off the dribble and create open looks for his teammates is so important for what Iowa State likes to do.
It also doesn’t help that Iowa State is just one game into what may be the toughest seven-game stretch for any team in the country this season. They played at Oklahoma today and will host No. 18 Kansas on Monday night, which means that Kane has less than 60 hours to get healthy if he wants to play in that game.
(UPDATE: Iowa State’s trainer told Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune that Kane’s ankle injury is not a dreaded high-ankle sprain and that there is nothing structurally wrong with it. No torn ligaments, no broken bones, no dislocations. That means that the amount of time that Kane misses will be a result of how much pain he can tolerate in that ankle. Putting a timeframe on it now would be foolish.)
The next five games: at Texas (18th), Kansas State (25th), at Kansas (29th), Oklahoma (Feb. 1st) and at Oklahoma State (Feb. 3rd). That stretch could be what makes or breaks Iowa State’s season. That could be what determines whether this is a team that can compete for a Big 12 title and get a top two or three seed, or if they’ll slide back to somewhere around the 7-10 game again.