Some people believed in the Iowa State Cyclones. Many others didn’t. The Cyclones were a trendy pick to do damage in the Big 12 this season, especially after entering conference play 12-0 and winning their first two games in Big 12 competition. But a three-game losing streak followed, and when Iowa State got demolished at West Virginia by a 102-77 score (and it wasn’t that close), there weren’t many people left on the Cyclones’ bandwagon.
After Saturday night, however, that Iowa State bandwagon is back at full capacity. The Cyclones rallied from 10 down to knock off Baylor, 74-65, capturing the Big 12 tournament championship. The title is the second for Iowa State, which also won the Big 12 tourney in 2000. That year, the Cyclones went all the way to the regional final before losing to Michigan State. It was fair to say that entering the tournament as a fourth seed, the Cyclones had already won a fair share of respect with their 94-83 victory over Kansas in the semifinals on Friday. There is no doubt the Cyclones could score, but there was some question if they could play the kind of defense necessary to win games in the postseason and the blowout loss at West Virginia only served to reinforce those fears.
But now, Iowa State (26-7), who were led Saturday by DeAndre Kane‘s 17 points (among five ISU players in double figures), has erased all doubts and rewarded those who kept the faith in the Cyclones all season long. Iowa State beat Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor in the Big 12 tournament, after going 2-4 against those teams in the regular season. While the Cyclones’ defense wasn’t stellar for the most of the conference tournament, it was enough considering the Cyclones averaged 86.3 PPG.
As Big 12 champs with a decent record, Iowa State is probably in line for no worse than a four-seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. That would make for a tough Sweet 16 draw against a top seed barring a major upset, but the Cyclones should have plenty of confidence entering the Big Dance after capturing one of the toughest conference tournaments in the nation and silencing their critics. Iowa State is a team no one is going to want to be drawn against in the NCAA tournament.