By KEVIN LONNQUIST
Big 12 Insider
So you’re Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg and you know you that if the NCAA Tournament started Saturday, your Cyclones are probably on the outside looking into the field of 69.
The 13-5 Cylones have been walking the line all season. There have been debates as to whether they were worthy of a bid. Some say yes. Some say no. I’ve been in the latter argument simply because the Cyclones have not won a standup game all year. They’ve won games that don’t jump out and get your attention. There’s decent win over BYU and that’s about it. The RPI is in the mid-40s and the strength of schedule is in the 80s.
ISU lost its standup games to ranked Cincinnati and UNLV at the Global Sports Classic in November in Las Vegas, lost at Iowa and lost at Kansas in overtime, a game it let slip away.
And then there was this past Wednesday in Lubbock against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have struggled all year. They are just trying to get through the season with Billy Gillespie out of the picture.
The Red Raiders pulled off the huge 56-51 upset and really damaged Iowa State’s body of work. Of course, the Cyclones didn’t help themselves by shooting 35 percent and 23 percent from 3-point range.
These are the kinds of losses that the NCAA Tournament selection committee will frown upon. If there’s not an upset of Kansas in Ames, IA in February and splitting with Kansas State and Baylor, it could really make things tough. What cannot happen is another Texas Tech.
There’s time. But this is a critical time for the Cyclones. A big stretch starts Saturday in Ames against the Wildcats and then it’s at Oklahoma State Wednesday and home to Baylor on Feb. 2. The likes of guard Will Clyburn and post Melvin Ejim have to take more of a leadership role.
We should know where their fortunes lie within the next 10 days.
BIG 12 WEEKEND
A look at the upcoming games this weekend:
Noon, Saturday (ESPNU)
The skinny: Pretty important game for the Cowboys who need to get back into NCAA conversation.
Le’Bryan Nash is starting to put the rest of the Cowboys on his back.
12:30 p.m. Saturday (Big 12 Network)
The skinny: This is a game the Cyclones need to move back into the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa State is 12-0 when leading at the half.
3:00 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)
The skinny: Jayhawks have won 16 consecutive games.
Oklahoma can really gain national intention with a win in Lawrence.
3:00 p.m. Saturday (Big 12 Network)
The skinny: The Bears have held their last five opponents to 61 points or fewer.
Point guard Pierre Jackson is becoming a tougher player. Baylor won the first meeting, 51-40, Jan. 12 in Waco.
7:00 p.m. Saturday (LHN)
The skinny: Is this where Texas breaks the Big 12 losing streak? Texas Tech has been ok despite its scoring problems.
NEWS & NOTES
- Big Monday is Kansas at West Virginia. This is the first time the Mountaineers have their appearance on it. Of course, it’s not been a good season in Morgantown. Following a humiliating 79-52 loss at Purdue, coach Bob Huggins really called out his team. They responded with a 71-50 win over TCU on Wednesday.
- Youth is being served in the conference. Among the top 20 scorers, 10 are freshmen, sophomores and newcomers. Among the top 20 rebounders, 11 are the same classifications.
BIG 12 BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS
During the Big 12 Conference basketball season, Rattle and Hum Sports unveils its power rankings. We also provide our postseason tournament projections.
1. Kansas – The separation from the rest is widening.
2. Kansas State – Wildcats have held 12 consecutive opponents to 69 or less points.
3. Oklahoma – Sooners continue to work to establish credibility.
4. Baylor – Could the Bears actually be more physical than their perception?
5. Oklahoma State – Cowboys 0-3 on the road in Big 12 play.
6. Iowa State – The loss at Texas Tech could be a postseason killer.
7. West Virginia – Bob Huggins rips his team.
8. Texas – The Rick Barnes-Sheldon McClendon feud heats up.
9. Texas Tech – The Red Raiders have as many Big 12 wins as Oklahoma State.
10. TCU – They don’t score and their offense bogs down constantly.
Projected NCAA Tournament teams: Kansas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor
NIT Tournament teams: Oklahoma State, Iowa State