Are the Cyclones 'Dance-Worthy'?

Iowa State HAD to have that victory over Iowa on Wednesday night. And the Cyclones got it. There may not have been an over-abundance of defense exhibited by either team, but when ISU needed a big play, it usually got that, too. Isn't that one of the traits that is common to successful teams? When a big play is needed, someone usually delivers. And for the teams that have a chance to make some noise, that "someone" could be a different guy every night.

It could be Jake Sullivan, drilling three-pointer after three-pointer. It could be Jackson Vroman ripping down 15 rebounds. It could be Curtis Stinson penetrating and scoring in the final minutes of a close game. It could be Damion Staple coming off the bench to provide a spark in the paint. Hey, it could even be John Neal nailing a pair of bombs in the final five minutes of an in-state rivalry game.

That's what you like to see. That's certainly the type of basketball team that is fun to watch.

And the crowd at Hilton Coliseum obviously had a blast during the victory over the Hawkeyes this week.

The 11-3 start for Coach Wayne Morgan's team has helped raise the expectations for this team seemingly every week since the season began. You can say what you want to about the Iowa squad, but it's a team that defeated both Louisville and Purdue this season…and the Selection Committee will look at the Iowa game as a "good win" for Iowa State.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we must remember that the next two games are EXTREMELY important to the remainder of this season. Why? Because these are games the Cyclones SHOULD win, which when you look at the next seven games on the schedule, the contests against Baylor and Texas A & M become MUST wins.

Following the game at Baylor (which will finally put an end to the drought on the Big 12 road schedule) and the game with Texas A & M, the Cyclones have a very difficult seven-game stretch that will ultimately PROVE whether this team is "Dance-worthy" or not.

(All right, NOW it's OK to get too far ahead of ourselves.)

Just for fun, here is an optimistic viewpoint of how the rest of the regular season COULD go for Iowa State…

1/24 at Baylor (WIN)
1/28 Texas A&M (WIN)
1/31 Kansas (loss)
2/4 at Oklahoma (loss)
2/7 Oklahoma State (WIN)
2/11 at Kansas State (loss)
2/14 Texas (WIN)
2/18 at Missouri (loss)
2/21 at Kansas (loss)
2/25 Kansas State (WIN)
2/28 at Nebraska (loss)
3/2 Colorado (WIN)
3/6 at Texas Tech (loss)

Thirteen games remaining. And the optimist—the OPTIMIST—in me has the Cyclones finishing the year on a 6-for-13 stretch. A stretch that includes home victories over a couple of ranked teams…Oklahoma State and Texas. A 6-7 finish would give ISU an overall record of 17-10, with a Big 12 mark of 8-8. One victory in the conference tourney would then put the Cyclones securely on "the bubble" at 18-11 with a .500 mark in a good conference.

Two victories in the Big 12 Tournament would put ISU at 19-11 overall…and then I think the Cyclones would be in for some March Madness.

But, if Iowa State ends up on "the bubble," how do the Cyclones stack up in some of the categories? First of all, they would be limping to the finish, even with the optimistic viewpoint I've shown. That would include a 4-7 record in the final 11 games before the league tourney. However, ISU would have "good wins" against Xavier, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Texas and Colorado…and really no "bad losses."

So, it can happen. But, it will definitely take a couple of more "big wins" for the Cyclones to make the "Field of 64."

Two keys:

Iowa State MUST win its next two games: At Baylor on Saturday and Texas A&M in Ames on Wednesday. Anything less than a sweep of these two games is unacceptable.

How the Cyclones fare during that brutal seven-game stretch, beginning with a home game against Kansas, will likely determine whether Iowa State is invited to the NCAA Tournament.

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)


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