Iowa State missed their first 13 shots in Saturday night’s Big 12 title game.
They would missed 11 more the rest of the way, finishing the night shooting 50% from the floor as they knocked off the Baylor Bears, 74-65.
DeAndre Kane led five players in double figures with 17 points, seven boards and seven assists as the Cyclones were able to hold Baylor’s talented front line of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson to 6-for-24 shooting despite being massively undersized in the paint.
And with that, Iowa State will enter Selection Sunday with a real shot at getting a No. 2 seed, something that would have seemed unfathomable in the first year that Fred Hoiberg was at the helm. The Mayor led his alma mater to a 16-16 record and just three wins in the Big 12, capping off a four-year stretch where the Cyclones managed all of 15 wins in league play.
Fast forward three years, and suddenly Iowa State is a Final Four contender despite the fact that they lost their top three scorers after the 2011-2012 season and four of their top six scorers in 2012-2013.
Think about that for a second.
This isn’t a case of Hoiberg bringing in one loaded recruiting class that has grown and developed and, finally, thrived together. He hasn’t turned Ames into Lexington or Lawrence, either, where one-and-done freshmen dominate for a season before heading off to the NBA.
Hoiberg has essentially rebuilt his roster each of the last three seasons by bringing in the cast-offs that, for whatever reason, couldn’t find a way to make it work at their previous stops. Granted, Melvin Ejim has been a Cyclone for his entire career, slowly developing into this season’s Big 12 Player of the year. Georges Niang appears to be on that same trajectory, as he already is one of the most difficult players in the conference to matchup with.
But Kane, who could have been a first-team all-american if he hadn’t sprained an ankle midway through the season, was shown the door at Marshall before his senior season despite the fact that he averaged 15.1 points and 7.0 assists as a junior. And, like so many of Hoiberg’s transfers before him, he showed up in Ames and checked his baggage at the door.
The job that Hoiberg has done with this program is truly remarkable.
But the work isn’t done yet, because Iowa State has a very real chance of making a lot noise over the next three weeks.
What makes them so special this season is that they have a number of players that are a nightmare to matchup with — Kane, Niang, Ejim — and Hoiberg excels at getting them in a position where they can take advantage of whatever mismatch they have.
Just how far will the Cyclones be able to ride that wave?