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Big 12 Tournament: Iowa State overcomes slow start to win a Big 12 title

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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.

MOREUCLA upsets Arizona in the Pac-12 title game

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.

MORE: Just how good is Louisville this season?

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?

Naz Long forces OT in No. 16 Iowa State’s come-from-behind win over Oklahoma State (VIDEO)

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At this point, there should be no questioning whether or not Oklahoma State is back to being the team that they were back in December.

If it wasn’t for a missed free throw from Phil Forte, an 88.9% free throw shooter, and a buzzer-beating three from Naz Long at the end of regulation, the Cowboys would have gone into Hilton Coliseum and knocked off No. 16 Iowa State:

Instead, DeAndre Kane scored seven of his 27 points in overtime as the Cyclones pulled out an 85-81 come-from-behind win. Oklahoma State took a 32-25 lead into the break and opened the second half with a 13-4 run to go up 16 points, but the Cyclones responded with a 34-12 surge setting up the thrilling finish.

Hilton Magic is real, y’all.

Kane, a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate, added eight assists and seven boards. Georges Niang finished with 22 points and six boards, but he and Melvin Ejim both fouled out of the game.

The story here isn’t how good Iowa State is, however. We know they are, and we know that they don’t lose at home. If you’re surprised by this outcome, you shouldn’t be. The talking point needs to be the Cowboys. This is a team that can make a long run in the NCAA tournament.

Marcus Smart scored 27 points (on 8-for-17 shooting) and added five assists and four steals while committing just two turnovers. Since the midway point of the second half against Kansas last Saturday, Smart has been simply sensational. He’s playing within the offense. He’s not forcing as many off-balance jumpers as he had been earlier this season. He’s still wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.

In fact, if he hadn’t fouled out of this one at the end of regulation, the overtime period could have played out very differently.

When Smart is playing this way, the Pokes can beat anyone in the country. I truly believe that. They knocked off Kansas in Stillwater. Kansas committed roughly 500 turnovers in that game and Andrew Wiggins had an off-night, so if you want to chalk that up as a fluke, go ahead. But the fact that Oklahoma State came within a missed free throw and a buzzer-beating three from beating Iowa State in Ames — which is tougher to do that beating Kansas at home — should make you reconsider.

The Pokes are probably going to end up being somewhere between a No. 7 and a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. That’s what happens when you lose seven straight conference games. I’ll tell you this much: If you’re a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, you’re much more concerned about running into the Cowboys in the Round of 32 than you are running into Kentucky.

Bench production pushes Kansas State past No. 15 Iowa State

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No. 15 Iowa State has three of the Big 12’s best players in guard DeAndre Kane and forwards Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. That trio combines to average 52.0 points and 19.7 rebounds per game, and when they’re clicking the Cyclones are a difficult team to beat. But Fred Hoiberg’s team isn’t particularly deep and that was an issue in their 80-73 loss in Manhattan.

Kansas State’s reserves scored 38 points on the night, with Shane Southwell scoring 13 points and D.J. Johnson 12. Johnson, who also grabbed six rebounds, made all five of his shots from the field and was another valuable front court option alongside Thomas Gipson (12 points, eight rebounds).

Iowa State received just two points from its bench, with this becoming a bigger issue than usual due to the offensive struggles experienced by both Niang and Dustin Hogue. Niang wasn’t able to establish himself against the Kansas State front court, scoring eight points on 3-for-14 shooting and grabbing just two rebounds. And even though Hogue (12 rebounds) isn’t asked to score at the rate of Iowa State’s three best scorers he’s still averaging 10.8 points per game on the season, meaning that he’s clearly capable of more than the two points he tallied in Manhattan.

Ejim (30 points, 16 rebounds) and Kane (24, eight rebounds and six assists) did much of the heavy lifting for Iowa State, and this was the first subpar performance put forth by Niang after enjoying a run of 13 straight games in double figures. Saturday’s result was more about Bruce Weber’s team working together to add another quality home win to its resume.

The Wildcats don’t have a bonafide star, although freshman Marcus Foster could eventually reach that point. Against Iowa State five players scored in double figures and they also defended, limiting the Cyclones to 35% shooting from the field and 7-for-27 from beyond the arc. Kansas State’s a tournament team, but their lack of success away from Manhattan made Saturday’s contest important when it comes to their seeding.

Kansas State has one more road game remaining as they visit Oklahoma State on Monday night. And if they can put forth the same effort displayed on Saturday, the Wildcats can add a decent road/neutral result to its resume before the Big 12 tournament.

No. 16 Iowa State outlasts No. 19 Oklahoma State in a 3OT thriller

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It took a little bit longer than they expected, but No. 16 Iowa State got the win they needed.

The Cyclones outlasted No. 19 Oklahoma State in a way-too-empty Gallagher-Iba Arena on Monday night, winning 98-97 in a triple-overtime thriller that did well to remind the nation that it is, in fact, basketball season.

DeAndre Kane led five players in double-figures for Iowa State, finishing with 26 points, nine boards and nine assists, while Melvin Ejim and and Dustin Hogue combined to go for 32 points and 26 boards in the win. More impressive? The win came with Georges Niang on the bench with five fouls for the entire overtime, a major blow especially when you consider that Iowa State built their gameplan offensively around him.

The biggest play of the night came at the end of the second overtime. With Iowa State down three, Matt Thomas missed a three pointer, but Kane was able to corral the offensive rebound. Instead of hoisting up a contested triple — which would have been the third terrible shot he had taken in the final minutes — Kane gave the ball up to Naz Long, who buried a three to tie the game:

Long had missed his last nine three pointers on the season.

Iowa State took control at the end of the third overtime, but things got interesting when they turned the ball over with 20 seconds left and a one point lead. But Oklahoma State settled for two fadeaway jumpers, both of which came up short, and that was that.

The enormity of this win for the Cyclones really cannot be overstated.

For starters, the Cyclones actually beat a good team on the road, something that the Cyclones have developed a reputation for being unable to do the past couple of seasons. That’s big for their tournament resume and, quite frankly, for their reputation on a national level. It’s one thing to ride the wave of Hilton Magic. It’s another thing to go on the road in February and beat a team with a first team all-american on it.

This also is a shot in the arm in terms of confidence. Iowa State had lost four of their last five games and three in a row heading into the month of February, but in the last three days, they’ve landed wins over both Big 12 teams from the state of Oklahoma. Not only does get the Cyclones back above .500 — to 5-4 — in league play, it means that they’re now through their schedule’s most brutal stretch. Iowa State had played eight straight games against teams that are ranked now or were ranked when they played them.

Their next six games? TCU, at West Virginia, Texas Tech, Texas, at TCU, West Virginia.

Is this when the Cyclones make their run?

College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: At this point in the season, I probably don’t need to do much more than simply write McDermott’s name here. Everyone else is battling for second-place. It doesn’t matter how you break it down: McDermott is the second-leading scorer in the country; he’s the highest-usage weapon in the nation’s most efficient offense; he’s a two-time first-team all-american playing on a top 25 team that just upset the No. 4 team in the country. Whether you’re a casual fan, a numbers geek or an old-school, eye-test type, McDermott is the easy vote for Player of the Year. How often does that happen?

2. Shabazz Napier, UConn: Considering the lack of depth UConn has in their front court and the fact that their second and third options offensively (Deandre Daniels and Ryan Boatright) are brutally inconsistency, the Huskies should probably be an NIT team. But they’re not. They have a win over Indiana in the Garden, a win over Florida at home and a win over Memphis in Memphis. Shabazz is the guy to thank for that. As a result, I’ve adjusted my thinking on where he should sit in this rankings.

3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Smart can dominate a game in so many different ways, but what I’ve been most impressed with has been his ability to rebound the ball now that Michael Cobbins is out. In the five games since then, Smart is averaging 9.6 rebounds. If only he could learn to shoot the ball consistently.

4. Deandre Kane, Iowa State: Some of the hype surrounding Deandre Kane has dissipated in the last week as the Cyclone’s star guard has dealt with a sprained ankle and the Cyclones have suffered through three straight losses. The biggest concern? 22 turnovers the last four games.

5. Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker looks like he’s worked his way through the five-game slump he was in, popping off for 23 points in a 35-point win over N.C. State. I’ve dropped him to fifth, however, because after watching a ton of film on Jabari, I’ve become horrified at how bad he can be defensively.

6. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Johnson continues to fly under the radar as “just” the nation’s No. 1 team’s leading scorer, best defender, best perimeter shooter and best playmaker in crunch time. Ho-hum.

7. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: I’m still shocked that I see Player of the Year lists with C.J. Fair listed above Tyler Ennis. He’s the only point guard on the Syracuse roster, he doesn’t turn the ball over, he forces a ton of turnovers and he’s the go-to guy in the clutch for the nation’s No. 2 team. I think I have him too low.

8. Julius Randle, Kentucky: Randle is still putting up monster numbers, but he’s become less of the focal point for Kentucky offensively as teams have started to collapse on him more and more. Doesn’t help that he got lit up by Jarnell Stokes on Saturday.

9. Casey Prather, Florida: He missed two games because of a knee injury, coming back to score 21 points in a far-too-close win at Auburn. He’s the leading scorer for a team that goes through too many inexplicable scoring droughts.

10. Joel Embiid, Kansas: This is a little bit of forward projecting. Embiid has not earned this spot yet. But if he continues to play the way that he has played in the last few weeks, and Kansas keeps on looking like a top five team, Embiid is going to have to be in this conversation eventually. Might as well toss him in there now.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Keith Appling, Cameron Bairstow, Sam Dekker, C.J. Fair, Aaron Gordon, Rodney Hood, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Jayvaughn Pinkston, Russ Smith, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Chaz Williams

College Basketball Talk’s Player of the Year Power Rankings

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The 2013-2014 season is sure to be a thrilling Player of the Year race, so to keep track of it, we will be posting weekly Player of the Year Power Rankings for your reading goodness.

Who’d we miss? Who’s ranked too high? We love to overlook your team’s best player and overrate your rival’s superstar.

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott is the National Player of the Year right now. You won’t find much debate from anyone on that subject. And while McDermott is awesome around the basket and deadly when he gets his feet set and a look at the rim, what makes him such a great scorer is how he moves without the ball.

I found a perfect example from Creighton’s win over Xavier. In the first frame, once the ball is swung to Austin Chatman on the wing, McDermott (red circle) has two screens set for him. He cut to the block off of Jahenns Manigat’s back-screen or use Ethan Wragge at the top of the key to try and find space for an open three:

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McDermott gets a decent look, but Xavier’s Justin Martin closes out hard:

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Instead of forcing a three, he swings the ball to Manigat and sets him a ball-screen, popping to the corner afterwards:

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The ball eventually winds up in Wragge’s hands on the other side of the floor, and McDermott makes his favorite cut, curling off a screener at the foul line and running right at the rim:

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Here’s the full possession:

2. DeAndre Kane, Iowa State: An ankle injury didn’t slow Kane down against Kansas, as the Cyclone point guard finished with 21 points, eight boards, three assists and four steals. Since Boise State dared him to shoot threes on national TV on Christmas day, Kane is 9-for-19 from three. Two straight losses — at Oklahoma and against Kansas, keep that in mind — sullies this a bit, but Kane’s earned this spot. For now, at least.

3. Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker has struggled in the last five games, averaging just 10.5 points and shooting 32.2% from the floor and 14.3% from three during a 3-2 stretch for the Blue Devils. His numbers on the season are still impressive, but he needs to buck this slump and turn Duke back into an ACC contender.

4. Julius Randle, Kentucky: Kentucky got away from pounding the ball into Randle over the course of the last two games — he finished with a combined 15 points on just 17 shots — but the big fella still did his damage on the backboards, finishing with 25 rebounds in wins over Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

5. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: The battle for Big 12 Player of the Year may end up being more fun to follow than the National Player of the Year award. Kane and Smart both belong at the top of that conversation, while Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid will certainly stake their claim to the award before the season’s over. Smart’s turnovers and perimeter shooting are still a concern, but it’s worth noting that without Michael Cobbins in the lineup, Smart’s averaged 10.o rebounds in three games. No guard can dominate the game on both ends of the floor the way that Smart is capable of.

6. Nick Johnson, Arizona: There may not be a player in the country that is as underrated as Nick Johnson. He is the No. 1 team’s leading scorer and best perimeter defender. He’s there best outside shooting threat as well, and in a win against UCLA, he also just so happened to be the guy asked to take big shots down the stretch. There isn’t a better off-guard in the country right now, save for maybe a healthy Gary Harris.

7. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: We’ve been over and over Ennis’ importance to Syracuse on the offensive end of the floor, but he’s a pretty good defender as well. Ennis is averaging 2.8 steals after snagging six against Boston College on Monday night. Not bad at the top of that Syracuse zone.

8. Keith Appling, Michigan State: Adreian Payne could easily be on this list in this spot, but I’m rolling with Appling. His development as a lead guard — 16.4 points, 4.6 assists, 3.5 boards, 48.3% 3’s — and numerous big shots for the Spartans this season make all the difference.

9. Casey Prather, Florida: Prather’s been injury-plagued during his tenure at Florida, which is why it’s concerning that he’ll miss his second consecutive game today with a bone bruise in his knee. Hopefully he can get healthy. 

10. Shabazz Napier, UConn: Napier’s fallen out of favor in some other Player of the Year rankings, but look at these numbers: 16.4 points, 6.4 boards, 6.0 assists, 2.1 steals, 47.3% 3’s. UConn is not as good as we thought they were a month ago, but they’re a tournament team and Napier’s penchant for late-game heroics is the biggest (only?) reason why. He deserves to be on this list.

Others: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Cameron Bairstow, Jordan Clarkson, Aaron Craft, Joel Embiid, C.J. Fair, Aaron Gordon, Rodney Hood, Marcus Paige, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Russ Smith, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Chaz Williams, Joseph Young