Iowa State

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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.

Preseason preparations include hot yoga sessions for Iowa State

Georges Niang
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Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State Cyclones were one Aaron Craft shot away from taking Ohio State to overtime in the NCAA tournament Round of 32 last season. Alas, Craft’s clutch shot fell and it was the Buckeyes, not Iowa State, who booked tickets to Los Angeles for the West regional semifinals as a result.

With four of their top six scorers gone from that team, the Cyclones do have some work to do when it comes to role allocation. But they won’t lack for talent, with forwards Melvin Ejim (11.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and Georges Niang (12.1, 4.6) returning and Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane (15.1, 7.0 apg, 4.4 rpg) arrives to give Iowa State some much-needed firepower on the perimeter. With an eye towards the 2013-14 campaign Iowa State’s added an activity to its preseason workout routine: weekly hot yoga sessions.

Yoga can be very useful for athletes due to its effects on breathing techniques and flexibility, with the latter being an issue for some due to the weightlifting done in order to increase physical strength. Adding heat to the process, with the temperature in the studio reaching in upwards of 100 degrees, can act as a cleanser of sorts as noted in a story written by Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune.

“With the added heat, you sweat a lot more, which is great for caloric burn,” Emily Hampton, owner of Ignite Yoga and the team’s instructor, said. “But really most importantly you get rid of toxins. In yoga we squeeze a lot, release toxins, flush them with water and then get them out with our sweat. It’s kind of cleansing.

“The heat is really an important aspect in my opinion.”

The players were hesitant at first, which is understandable given the fact that hot yoga was a departure from their regular training regimen. But they’ve begun to notice the benefits, both mentally and physically, of hot yoga.

“I feel like it’s definitely built our mental toughness,” Niang said. “If you’re not used to doing something, just pushing your body to a new limit and having yourself know at the end of the day that you can do it when you went in to it thinking that you couldn’t.

“When Emily is telling you not to let up, this is all in your head, it’s so true,” he added. “It’s like when you’re down five with 30 seconds to go. You have to tell yourself you can do it and fight through.”

Whether it’s boot camps or yoga, teams will do some “unconventional” things during the offseason and it’s a good idea. It deviates from the standard routine, and the forced adaptation could ultimately benefit teams on the court in crucial moments. It’ll be interesting to see just how much of an impact the yoga sessions have on Iowa State’s production this season.

Former USC point guard Maurice Jones looking for a fresh start

Maurice Jones, Josh Huestis
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Just a few days into the fall semester last year, it was announced that USC point guard Maurice Jones was academically ineligible to play in 2012-13. Coming off of a season in which he averaged 13.0 points and 3.5 assists per game, Jones would have seen his role change some due to the addition of players who missed the 2011-12 season due to injury or transfer rules would could have helped handle the scoring load.

In theory that assistance would have made Jones a more efficient player, as he posted an offensive rating of 85.4 despite having a possession percentage of 27.4% as a sophomore according to But Jones’ ineligibility turned out to be the first sign that the 2012-13 season wouldn’t be a stable one for the Trojans, who struggled with inconsistency all season long and eventually handed the keys to the program over to Andy Enfield in the spring.

What happened to Jones after being ruled ineligible? He transferred to Iowa State with the intention of being eligible to play for the Cyclones in 2013, but that plan fell through when he was ruled ineligible to join Fred Hoiberg’s program. With that door being closed the Saginaw, Mich. native spent last season at home. No basketball, no school. Jones is back on the college landscape this fall however, as he’s enrolled at Division II Northwood University in Midland, Mich. and has joined the basketball program.

“When I found out I didn’t have a scholarship, I transferred from Southern Cal, but then I couldn’t get a scholarship at Iowa State either,” Jones said. “I didn’t even go to school last year.

“Nobody was interested in letting me play. I was shooting around with one of my best friends from Saginaw, Darvin Ham, and he plays for Northwood. He said to give Northwood a chance. It’s funny, but once people found out I was going to Northwood, other coaches were a lot more interested.”

Jones expects to hear from the NCAA in regards to when he’ll be eligible to take the floor in a couple of weeks, with the hope that he’ll be allowed to play immediately according to Hugh Bernreuter of Jones’ situation is a bit more complicated than that of the standard transfer however, as he has two appeals to file.

According to the story not only is there the appeal to be allowed to play immediately, but also an appeal to regain the semester lost since he began the fall 2012 semester at USC. But regardless of what happens with his appeals Jones knows at he will have another opportunity to play somewhere, it’s just a matter of when.

Just a year ago, that possibility wasn’t a sure thing.

Iowa State dismisses senior guard Bubu Palo from program

Bubu Palo
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Iowa State senior guard Bubu Palo, who missed most of last season due to suspension, was dismissed from the Cyclones’s program on Saturday, the school announced.

This time last year, Palo was suspended indefinitely after being charged with second-degree sexual assault, stemming from a May 2012 incident. Following the investigation, charges were dropped and Palo was allowed to return to the floor for ISU in January.  He missed 18 games during that time.

Though charges were dropped, Palo was subject to the school’s code of conduct, according to The Gazette. He was at first found innoncent, but following an appeal that initial decision was overturned, which resulted in Palo’s dismissal.

The latest news to come out of Ames, Iowa makes the addition of Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane that much more important. Palo was expected to have a larger role this season for Fred Hoiberg, who lost the senior tandem of Korie Lucious and Tyrus McGee. Palo was coming off a strong summer at the Capital City League this summer.

The 6-foot-1 Palo appeared in 17 games this season, averaging 2.8 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 11 Preview

notre dame neon
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The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

If you thought yesterday was crazy, which it was, make sure you to strap your self in tight and hide all the sharp objects. This is one of those “Skip work and watch college basketball all day” types of occasion.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Friday.

Game of the Night: Big East Semifinals
Whatever your plans were for tonight, make sure to change them immediately. The stage has been set for a truly magical set of semifinals at the final Big East tournament before the realignment shift. One semifinal showcases a rematch of the longest game of the season, a five-overtime classic between Louisville and Notre Dame. the second semifinal pits the conference’s greatest rivals against each other for the final time. Bonus fact: three of the four semifinalists are soon-to-be-former-members, and the fourth is the keystone of the new basketball order. Friday night at The Garden. Ain’t nothing better than that.

– Watch this too: Iowa State vs. Kansas
The Jayhawks won both regular season match-ups but needed magic, luck and bad officiating to get the sweep. Iowa State had the first game won until Ben McLemore banked in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime. Kansas squeaked by in the second match-up thanks to two horribly bad officiating blunders and Elijah Johnson’s 35-point masterpiece. A win over the Jayhawks would cement their place in the field of 68.

– Watch this too: Kent State vs. Akron
Once the hottest team in the country, the Akron Zips have lost two of their last three games, including a loss to the Golden Flashes in the regular season finale. These two bitter rivals have produced many memorable postseason clashes, including a brawl at the end of overtime in the 2011 MAC Championship game.

Player to Watch: Russ Smith, Louisville
Notre Dame has been kryptonite to Russ Smith this season, so it’s fitting that the Irish will be wearing their hideous neon green Adidas uniforms against the Cardinals today. Whether it was Smith’s 5-point performance in the regular season finale, or his numerous mental gaffes during the late stages of their fiver-overtime epic in South Bend, Smith has not had his best stuff against the Irish. Smith needs to follow up his 28-point performance against Villanova with a strong showing against Notre Dame.

He’s good too: Dez Wells, Maryland
The dynamic guard is the Terrapins most talented player, and he will need to have his best game of the season against Duke today if the Terrapins want to keep their postseason hopes alive. Wells is coming off a 21-point performance against Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC tournament and had two good showing against Duke during the regular season.

He’s good too: Cannon Burrage, UT-San Antonio
Awesome name, better game. The senior guard has fueled the Roadrunner’s surprise run out of the No. 9-seed in the WAC tournament with a 20-point performance against San Jose State and a 26-point, 13-rebound performance in their shocking upset over heavily favored Louisiana Tech.

Miscellaneous Madness:
Friday is day-2 of the March Madness dry-run. By the end of today, 95 elimination games will have been played since Thursday morning. That’s more games than the entire first weekend of the NCAA tournament. If you want to be ready for next week, I suggest you take the day off today and get acclimated to the madness.

Friday’s Schedule:

Atlantic Coast Conference Quarterfinals
Noon – Boston College (8) vs. Miami (1)
2 p.m. – North Carolina State (5) vs. Virginia (4)
7 p.m. – Maryland (7) vs. Duke (2)
9 p.m. – Florida State (6) vs. North Carolina (3)

Atlantic 10 Conference Quarterfinals
Noon – Charlotte (9) vs. Saint Louis (1)
2:30 p.m. – Butler (5) vs. La Salle (4)
6:30 p.m. – St. Joseph’s (10) vs. VCU (2)
9 p.m. – UMass (6) vs. Temple (3)

Big 12 Conference Semifinals
7:30 p.m. – Iowa State (5) vs. Kansas (1)
10 p.m. – Oklahoma State (3) vs. Kansas State (2)

Big East Conference Semifinals
7 p.m. – Syracuse (5) vs. Georgetown (1)
9:30 p.m. – Notre Dame (6) vs. Louisville (2)

Big Sky Conference Semifinals
7:30 p.m. – North Dakota (3) vs. Weber State (2)
10 p.m. – Northern Colorado (5) vs. Montana (1)

Big Ten Conference Quarterfinals
Noon – Illinois (8) vs. Indiana (1)
2:30 p.m. – Michigan (5) vs. Wisconsin (4)
6:30 p.m. – Nebraska (10) vs. Ohio State (2)
9 p.m. – Iowa (6) vs. Michigan State (3)

Big West Conference Semifinals
9:30 p.m. – Cal-Irvine (4) vs. Long Beach State (1)

Conference-USA Semifinals
4 p.m. – UTEP (3) vs. Southern Mississippi (2)
6:30 p.m. – Tulsa (5) vs. Memphis (1)

Great West Conference Semifinals
6 p.m. – Houston Baptist (4) vs. NJIT (1)
8:30 p.m. – Chicago State (3) vs. UT-Pan America (2)

Mid-American Conference Semifinals
6:30 p.m. – Kent State (4) vs. Akron (1)
9 p.m. – Western Michigan (3) vs. Ohio (2)

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Semifinals
6 p.m. – Bethune-Cookman (8) vs. Morgan State (5)
8 p.m. – North Carolina A&T (7) vs. Delaware State (6)

Mountain West Conference Semifinals
9 p.m. – South Dakota State (4) vs. New Mexico (1)
11:30 p.m. – UNLV (3) vs. Colorado State (2)

Pac-12 Conference Semifinals
9 p.m. – Arizona (4) vs. UCLA (1)
11:30 p.m. – Utah (10) vs. Oregon (3)

Southeastern Conference Quarterfinals
1 p.m. – LSU (9) vs. Florida (1)
3:30 p.m. – Tennessee (5) vs. Alabama (4)
7:30 p.m. – Vanderbilt (10) vs. Kentucky (2)
10 p.m. – Missouri (6) vs. Mississippi (3)

Southland Conference Semifinals
6 p.m. – Southeastern Louisiana (4) vs. Stephen F. Austin (1)
8:30 p.m. – Sam Houston State (6) vs. Northwestern State (2)

Southwestern Athletic Conference Semifinals
3:30 p.m. – Prairie View A&M (4) vs. Jackson State (2)
9 p.m. – Alabama A&M (6) vs. Southern (1)

Western Athletic Conference Semifinals
9 p.m. – Texas State (7) vs. New Mexico State (3)
11:30 p.m. – UT-San Antonio (9) vs. UT-Arlington (4)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Iowa State’s NCAA tournament hopes take a hit after loss to Oklahoma

Fred Hoiberg
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With some questionable officiating and a tough overtime loss to Kansas still weighing heavily on its mind, Iowa State had a chance Saturday to creep closer to the NCAA tournament and reach the 20-win plateau against Oklahoma. The Cyclones missed that chance in an 86-69 loss in Norman, Okla.

Iowa State’s bubble hopes are now dwindling, as it only seems natural, however painful it is, to point to the Cyclones’ two losses to Kansas as the reason they might not make the NCAA tournament. Not only were they losses in the obvious sense, but they missed out on a chance for two quality wins on a resume that is lacking a true signature. Right now, Iowa State’s home win over No. 11 Kansas State is its best, but there are no others that stand out.

Chances still remain to bolster their resume before Selection Sunday, though. Iowa State welcomes No. 15 Oklahoma State on Wednesday which affords an opportunity before the Big 12 tournament to get a quality win. Then all eyes will be focused on Kansas City to see what coach Fred Hoiberg’s team can do on a neutral court.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_