Ames, Iowa harnesses some truly mystical energy in the winter. The locals call it “Hilton Magic.”
The Baylor Bears experienced Hilton Magic tonight. They came into Ames with a 12-1 record and a No. 7 ranking, but they left mesmerized by their host’s showmanship, multitude of special effects and sleight-of-hand movements. The 87-72 beat\down that the Bears received was no illusion. It was a very real event, a proposal from Ames to the entire Big 12 Conference that Hilton Magic will determine the conference title.
David Blaine, Criss Angel, and David Copperfield have no magic as powerful as Hilton Magic. They know it, and so do the Iowa State Cyclones, who call Hilton Coliseum home.
Ames has come alive since Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg returned to his alma mater. Hilton Coliseum has been the perfect amplifying device for residents to express their satisfaction toward the job Hoiberg has done so far. The arena was built totally out of concrete, uses steel doors, and allows fans to sit perilously close to the action on the court, so it is literally and figuratively an amplifier. All the better for drumming up Hilton Magic.
Hoiberg has led Iowa State to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32, losing to eventual the national champion Kentucky Wildcats in 2012 and suffering a last-second heart-breaking loss to Elite Eight participant Ohio State last season. He has been able to win quickly because he took in transfers from other power conference teams — Royce White, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb and Jameel McKay come to mind right away — but he has also built a program that has staying power.
Iowa State is currently undefeated at 14-0 and is ranked ninth in the nation. Baylor presented a major challenge early in conference play, and the Cyclones whisked the Bears away like an annoying stage assistant. Who is going to challenge the Cyclones for the league title, especially when Iowa State has talent and magic on its side?
The Kansas Jayhawks were expected to continue their dominance in the Big 12, but they are an anomaly at 9-4. The Cyclones will play them at home next week, two days after the Jayhawks have their semiannual knock-down, drag-out affair with the Kansas State Wildcats, who can beat — or lose to — any team in the league. Oklahoma State, which just lost to Kansas State, will be missing its starting center and backup point guard for the rest of the season. Baylor is probably the team other than Iowa State that is best-suited to lay claim to the Big 12 throne, which is why tonight’s win over Baylor was so important, and so impressive.
Iowa State will gladly allow Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State to saw each other in half while the Cyclones perfect their newer tricks on test audiences. Then, once Iowa State plays the big boys, they can unveil their full assortment of Hilton Magic tricks on each opponent individually. The Big 12 Conference is in need of a maestro. Iowa State — like any quality magician — has some (Hilton) magic up its sleeve for these situations. Sounds like a perfect match.