There's this nifty Big 12 basketball tourney bracket generator going around — Click Here — in which one can experiment with different game outcomes to project the tourney's bracket for mid-March.
Iowa State has but four games left. If you project the No. 15 Cyclones to win tonight against West Virginia (7 p.m., Big 12 Network), lose to Kansas State and Baylor on the road and beat Oklahoma State at home — kenpom's game predictions have ISU losing those two road games by close margins — and then press "submit" without changing any of the projected picks, you'll see the Cyclones as the No. 4 seed in the Big 12, set to face Texas in Thursday's quarterfinals and then most likely Kansas in the semis.
If you want to tweak it some, say Iowa State beats Baylor on the road, while leaving the other picks (OSU beats KSU in Stilly, OU beats Texas at home) the same.* The Cyclones are suddenly the No. 3 seed in Kansas City, facing No. 6 West Virginia, No. 2 Oklahoma in the semis and not big, bad Kansas (or Texas or K-State) until Saturday's finale.
So that'd be big.
*The site has TCU beating Oklahoma on March 8 in Fort Worth. Despite this being a road game, I'd pick the Sooners.
The next week or so will make the picture clearer, the less games there are to project, especially after ISU plays at Kansas State this weekend. But if there's one thing for certain right now, other than KU taking the No. 1 seed, it's this: Any loss hurts the Cyclones, but if the pundits are already projecting them to lose both road contest, they'd better take care of business at Hilton Coliseum.
Which sets us up for tonight's matchup, for which we get to sprinkle in some of the revenge factor, West Virginia having kicked ISU around in Morgantown a few weeks back, 102-77, and Dustin Hogue having literally kicked a WVU player. As retaliation, Monté Morris was punched while going to the hoop by Eron Harris, earning Harris a Flagrant 2 and the ejection. Hogue was assessed a Flagrant 1.
"Obviously you're gonna have that date circled on your calendar when a team beats you that bad on their homecourt," Georges Niang said Monday. "Obviously we're excited to get them in here and get things rolling.
"(The loss feels) pretty fresh. I have a pretty good memory of what it felt like walking off that court."
As for Morris, he'll refrain from any baseball-type retribution with Harris: "We went out there and good embarrassed. The only revenge I've got is to play better as an individual and as a team we've got to play better than we did."
It remains Iowa State's worst defeat of the season. The Cyclones tuned the ball over 14 times, to just 13 assists, and shot 17.4 percent from three-point range and 36.6 from the field while West Virginia drilled 13 of 22 perimeter shots (59.1) and made over 50 percent of its total shots.
In conference play, the Mountaineers have a 38.3 shooting percentage from distance, which leads the Big 12.
A year removed from a poor shooting season, Bob Huggins' team now lives and dies by the three-pointer. WVU gets 31.1 percent of its total points from the shot (No. 69 nationally) and is 3-7 when shooting worse than 35 percent from distance.
"They're really spreading the floor out, running a lot of pick-and-rolls with shooters at every position," ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Per CBS Sports' game tracker, the Mountaineers spread their three-pointers across the court, with three shots in the left corner, one on the left wing, three at the top of the key, one on the right wing and five in the right corner. Remi Dibo made 6 of 8 threes and Terry Henderson went 4-for-7.
"When a team makes those many contested shots, it's tough to deal with," Ejim said. "We don't expect them to make that many shots again. But we are going to play them differently."
After the 25-point loss to West Virginia on Feb. 10, Iowa State dropped six spots in the next week's AP poll, from No. 11 to 17.
On a three-game win streak, the Cyclones are No. 15 currently. In the big picture, ISU has won six of seven after the schedule let up once the series against Kansas concluded.
ISU did struggle at TCU on Saturday, but Feb. 18 against Texas looked very much like the top 10 team from early January, beating the Longhorns by nine.
"Whenever you lose by 25 points to an unranked team it should wake you up," Niang said.
Projected Starting Lineups (ht, yr, ppg, rpg, FG %)
*denotes assists per game; ^denotes three-point percentage.