Monday Musings

Our publisher is sick and tired this week. Sick and tired of road losses. Sick and tired of opportunity slipping through the Cyclones' grasp. And sick and tired of the NIT.

I really wasn't planning on coming on here today and writing about another road loss. Yet, here we are again, and I'm as sick about it as all of you are.


There's simply no excuse for losing that game on Saturday. They had a three-point lead with just over a minute to play. They had the game in their hands late, but couldn't convert a simple inbounds play. They let it slip through their fingers.




Despite the fact the Cyclones feature one of the best shooters in the history of the Big 12 in Jake Sullivan, and perhaps two first-team All-Big 12-caliber players in Jackson Vroman and Curtis Stinson, there are three reasons why they'll be left out of March Madness again.


Baylor, Kansas, and Nebraska.


Those three road losses are the reason Iowa State will now start lobbying the NIT to host the Hawkeyes again next month. Win those three games and the Cyclones go from an also-ran to perhaps a top 25 team with a 9-5 league mark and 18-6 overall record.


Coach Wayne Morgan won't like me mentioning this, but the now legendary conference road-losing streak stands at 24. It's now been 1,104 days since the Cyclones last won in the Big 12 wearing the dark jerseys. Morgan is right to defend his program against the streak, since neither he, his recruits, and most of his coaches inherited this jinx from the previous regime. Nonetheless, these things take on a life of their own, whether you like it or not.


Case in point, look at the final minute Sullivan had on Saturday.


The ball deflected off him on the inbounds play. The eventual game-winning basket was scored on him. He then missed a desperation three-pointer that would've tied the game.


Sullivan has had an excellent career, he's one of my favorite athletes ever to cover, and I'll personally miss him when he's gone. However, one has to wonder if any of those plays would've happened to Jake had this game been played at Hilton Coliseum?


The answer is probably no. 


I don't know what the answer is. Should Morgan have called a timeout after Nebraska took the lead in order to set something up? Maybe, although he didn't do that last week at Kansas, either. Plus, you'll find just as many coaches in the country in favor of playing on as you'll find that are in favor of calling a timeout in that situation. As for me, I would've preferred to call a timeout there, if for no other reason than to settle down my players.


Could their shot selection improve when the going gets tough? Probably, but that doesn't make the Cyclones unique in college basketball. Could their free throw shooting be better? Certainly, but that wasn't the problem against the Huskers.


Even when ISU brings it for a full 40-minutes they fall victim to bizarre officiating, bad bounces, or the opposition hitting every three-pointer in sight. It's always something. Mathematically, the odds of ISU going 0-for-25 in Big 12 road games are something like 1 in 370,000. You think they'd just get lucky at least once, wouldn't you?


Maybe the Cyclones are cursed?


I'm mad, disappointed, and looking forward to the NIT about as much as I am my next trip to the dentist. But what can you say when the play hard and well enough to win and don't? That's the most frustrating situation.


Before the season began, I projected the Cyclones to finish 7-9 in the Big 12 and 16-11 overall. It appears that forecast will turn out to be right on. A good season, for sure, especially considering the turmoil of the offseason and the resulting coaching turnover.


But oh, what might have been…


Shakeup in the Big 12

Don't look now, but as many as seven Big 12 teams could end up in the NCAA Tournament.


Oklahoma State will win the league, and might earn a number one seed in the process. If Texas could win the conference tournament, it might be a No. 2 seed. Kansas is also a lock for the Tournament, and Texas Tech – despite a recent slide – is still a solid choice.


The three teams to watch are Colorado, Missouri, and Oklahoma.


The Buffaloes and Tigers, considered two of the preseason favorites for the Big 12 crown, have put distractions and poor chemistry behind them to surge as of late. Both are now 9-5 in the conference. Colorado is 16-8 overall, while Missouri is 15-10. One more win for either school this week assures them of being in the field of 65, in my opinion. This week, Missouri is 35th in the RPI while Colorado is up to 52nd.


The Sooners came into last week with the loftiest standing in the RPI among the trio of bubble-dwellers, but they're mired in their second four-game losing streak of the season, and the best they can finish in the conference is 8-8. They do have two, quality non-conference wins over Purdue and Michigan State, and their RPI is still a solid 36th. Still, I think Oklahoma may need to get to 20 wins between now and Selection Sunday in order to feel safe because of their inconsistency.


Planting Seeds

Two weeks from Selection Sunday, here's how I see the top of the bracket.


East—1. St. Joseph's, 2. Connecticut, 3. Wake Forest, 4. Illinois, 5. Kansas, 6. Memphis, 7. Vanderbilt, 8. Seton Hall.


West—1. Stanford, 2. Kentucky, 3. Gonzaga, 4. North Carolina, 5. Syracuse, 6. Louisville, 7. Texas Tech, 8. South Carolina.


Midwest1. Mississippi State, 2. Oklahoma State, 3. Pittsburgh, 4. N.C. State, 5. Southern Illinois, 6. Michigan State, 7. Alabama, 8. Arizona.


South—1. Duke, 2. Texas, 3. Providence, 4. Cincinnati, 5. Florida, 6. Georgia Tech, 7. Wisconsin, 8. Boston College.





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