Life as a Cyclone fan was much different 365 days ago (March 24th) though not due to a drastically different set of circumstances. A year ago, Iowa State trailed by 13 to Ohio State with just six minutes remaining when the Cyclones made a furious run only to have the game slip through their fingertips in the waning seconds.
On Sunday, against North Carolina the Cyclones faced an eight point deficit with just under four minutes to play when they made a familiar run at a last gasp effort. It was fueled by Naz Long and Monte Morris hitting from the perimeter, Melvin Ejim’s defense and run outs, and, of course, DeAndre Kane.
We even got to see the same director of officials after the game, only this time we all had smiles on our faces.
Cite whatever driver you wish to what spurred on the Cyclone’s success against the Tarheels with no Georges Niang to help; their toughness, Fred Hoiberg’s wizardry, Naz Long’s shooting, the clock operator’s struggles, or DeAndre Kane’s remarkable performance. What’s important is that it all took place and this time Iowa State did what they had to do to win. There was no kick to the stones and bad luck was even overcome in the process.
This next statement may reach your brain with plenty of doubt, but it is entirely true and at least a little bit ironic. I had every intention early last week to write a column titled, “Cynical Cyclones”. It was going to be an expose on those who anticipate the awful and expect the worst. It was going to mock them for their “woe is me” attitude and the constant pointing to no luck.
Trust me when I say, “I know”. I know that there has been bad and I know that there has been tough luck. All of last season seemed to be littered with the negative but those memories always seem to stick in our craw with more of a hook.
Historically we don’t really talk about the hand check that was called on Kansas late in the 1996 Big 8 Title game to send Dedric Willoughby to the free throw line in the final seconds. A foul that was committed 75 feet from the hoop and gave the Cyclones the two go ahead free throws.
We don’t really feel too bad for the 1997 version of Bob Huggins when Iowa State was playing Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA Tournament when there was a late scramble for a loose ball and Kenny Pratt grabbed a Bearcat’s leg. He fell and was called for travelling. ISU got the ball and Klay Edwards hit the most famous left handed baby hook in Iowa State History (unofficially).
There was Jeff Hornacek’s buzzer beater against Miami (OH) in the first round of the 1986 NCAA Tournament in overtime. That setup the historic win over Michigan.
We often acknowledge the feeling of Hilton Magic yet rarely give it the credit it deserves in receiving some good luck and having a ball bounce in the right direction.
All I’m saying is, yeah, there have been some rough patches of luck and we remember those really, really well. But let’s not forget that sometimes things have worked out the other way, too.
The comparison of last season and this season creates quite the dichotomy in things going well when it really mattered most. You know the bad luck from last year, but the win over Iowa this year required some things going the way of the Cyclones. Naz Long killed the Cowboys, twice. Etc, etc…
But of course I didn’t write that article. Why? Because while I have a “lucky” pair of boxers I know it has no bearing on the outcomes of games. I’m logical enough to not believe in such things, yet scared enough to not want to be the jinx. I sat on my “Cyclone Streaks” column at the start of the year until I felt the coast was clear as the winning streak began to mount. I don’t believe in jinxes, but if there is such a thing as jinxes, I wasn’t going to be the one left holding the bag. Ya know?
Imagine how I felt on Friday after the Niang news. “Phew.” Right? Talk about an all-time back fire narrowly avoided. The Twitter vitriol would have been off the charts relative to my little corner of the Tweeting world. Or maybe it would’ve been prophetic after what unfolded against North Carolina.
The real question is, “is it luck, skill, or the will to win”? Honestly, anymore, I don’t know. I don’t really believe in will power deciding games but there’s one thing I know about this year’s Cyclone basketball team. They’re a tough bunch. Mentally, physically, and otherwise.
There is a reason I said at the beginning of the season that you’d take this bunch with you if you had to win a basketball game or if you had to win a bar fight. It isn’t that they’re destined to dominate the UFC it is the mentality that they approach each and every game with.
All of that is really just a look into the scary world that is my own personal thoughts…but you have your scary world too.
Whatever the reason or method Iowa State came out on top and is still dancing. That is despite the loss of perhaps their best offensive player. The Cyclones fought, Naz did his thing, Kane was a man, and Fred Hoiberg danced.
Nobody was ready for the season to be over yet. Though, I’m not sure we ever really will be with this bunch of Cyclones that will go down in history. Just the fourth Cyclone squad to make it to this point of the NCAA tournament (not counting the 1944 Final Four team that started with an eight team tournament).
But, most importantly, there is still at least one game to be played and a whole lot of opportunity ahead. Enjoy the ride.