What a start to Fred Hoiberg’s coaching career.
While most of the college basketball world was fixated on North Carolina – Duke, the Cyclones clawed their way back from an 11-point second half deficit to down the puzzling ninth-ranked Baylor Bears in a 80-72 shootout, weathering a career night from the Bears Pierre Jackson who finished with a season high 35-points.
With the victory, the Cyclones clinched a No 3 seed in next week’s Big 12 Conference Tournament, earning a tie-breaker over the Bears due to their victory over Kansas earlier in the season.
Fittingly named “Transfer U” due to the abundance of players on the roster seeking a second lease on their college basketball careers, former Marquette guard Scott Christopherson led the Cyclones with 23 points, proving he’s one of the better scoring point guards in the country
So, once the celebratory hugs and well-wishes subside, are the Cyclones for real or just another decent team that plays really well at home?
At 16-2 at Hilton Coliseum this season, including wins over Kansas, Kansas State and Texas, Hoiberg’s team only has six wins on the road, all against teams of little significance. Determine its importance as you like, but they did finish 2-0 with wins over Providence and Rice back in November as part of the South Padre Invitational.
But before you disregard Iowa State’s chances to win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament, know this: they’re tough, cause match-up problems and are one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country.
Because they lack a true post presence – just like Baylor! – they love to spot up from deep. Royce White is the team’s only player who plays more than 15 minutes a game and is listed taller than 6-8. To make it work, ISU spreads the floor, going four-out, one-in, with that one being White, forcing forwards out along the perimeter and creating space to the basket.
From beyond the arc, the Cyclones are 8th in the country in three-pointers made and 14th in three-point point percentage (37). Relying on the deep ball isn’t the most reliable strategy, but it’s also what so many great tournament runs are built on.
With five transfer players, this is a rotation that has played in a lot of games in a lot of different locations. I’d like to think that the adversity they’ve faced that brought them to Ames means they can handle a tournament atmosphere.
Match-ups will be crucial, but I have a hunch there could be a bit of magic to cast outside of Ames.
Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN