Another opponent, another win for the Iowa State Cyclones, who continue to show why they are going to be a main contender along with the Kansas Jayhawks and Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Big 12 Conference. On Sunday, the Cyclones stayed unbeaten (9-0) with a 79-67 victory over the George Mason Patriots in the Diamond Head Classic quarterfinals Honolulu, Hawaii.
Georges Niang led the Cyclones with 22 points, while forward Melvin Ejim contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds. Iowa State went 22-for-28 from the free-throw line.
Iowa State has climbed to No. 17 in the national rankings and the Cyclones have two more chances in Hawaii to try and impress voters. The Diamond Head Classic is there for Iowa State to take. The Cyclones are the only nationally-ranked team entered in the tournament.
Life in the Big 12 will prove tougher, but the Cyclones are a threat to take seriously despite all the hype that has (deservedly) gone to Kansas, who are the perennial kings of the conference. Iowa State entered Sunday’s game as the highest scoring team in the country, and the Cyclones run their offense like any coach would love, as seen by the fact that Iowa State is also the top team in the country in assists.
In the win on Sunday, Iowa State had assists on 18 of its 26 field goals. But the Cyclones only had nine turnovers. That kind of assist-to-turnover ratio (2 to 1) will keep Iowa State competitive against anyone in the nation. Already this season, Iowa State has two wins over ranked team, having beaten the Michigan Wolverines and the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Big 12 will offer similar challenges, with Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor all currently ranked in the Top 25. Despite those tough opponents, there’s no reason to think Iowa State can’t win 12 to 14 games in the Big 12 this season — a mark that would definitely put the Cyclones in contention for the regular-season conference title.
Another advantage for Iowa State is how tough they are at home in the Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones went 16-1 at home last season, and the only loss was to Kansas in overtime. Iowa State is 6-0 at home this season, with two wins on neutral courts and the Cyclones’ one true road win so far was at BYU — a team that nearly won at Oregon on Saturday night, leading most of the game before losing in overtime.
Led by five players who average in double figures in scoring and an almost unbeatable advantage at home, Iowa State’s unbeaten start is not a mirage, as teams will find out once Big 12 play begins January 4 at Texas Tech.