One Shining Moment in Tallahassee

One of my top five songs of all time is "One Shining Moment"…the song that CBS always puts its NCAA Tournament highlights to after the end of the championship game. Watching these highlights has long been one of the best parts of the greatest event in sports.

CBS has screwed it up a little in the last few seasons, by adding too much animation, graphics and artistic wizardry to the highlights, instead of focusing completely on the raw emotion, energy and effort that fans love to see from players they may not even recognize.

Not just the joy of victory and agony of defeat…but also the sweat dripping down a player's face at the free throw line, the grimace on someone's face as he dives full-out for a loose ball or the reaction of a player who has just fouled out, possibly for the final time in his career.

And the lyrics fit those scenes…all of them…to perfection.

With Iowa State's 62-59 victory over Florida State on Tuesday night, I began to think about the road that this Cyclone team is on right now. Sure, it's the NIT…but does that really matter to seniors like Jake Sullivan, Jackson Vroman and Marcus Jefferson when they're on the court?

Do you think for a moment that Jefferson's free throws meant any LESS to him in the final minute against the Seminoles because it wasn't an NCAA Tourney game? Do you think that Sullivan was any LESS happy to keep his collegiate career alive by winning that game?

These guys have pushed through some difficult—very difficult—times at Iowa State in the last couple of seasons. They have gutted it out, made some mistakes, bounced back and kept fighting to win some exciting games this season. These efforts are definitely a credit to Coach Wayne Morgan and his staff. There are also some young players like Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock who have come through for the Cyclones in a HUUUUGE way.

But, this team has been led in spirit and energy by the likes of Sullivan, Vroman and Jefferson. And I would LOVE to see them—and their Iowa State teammates—go out on top with an NIT title in New York.

Maybe it is "just" the NIT. I know that. It's NOT the Big Dance…and these guys all know it, too. But, there is something important happening with this team right now that shows the type of leadership that Iowa State has and it bodes very well for the future of this program. It seems like a little thing, but it isn't.

When faced with the option of shutting it down by giving a half-hearted effort in the NIT, knowing that many people don't really care how this tourney plays out, this Iowa State team has shown enough pride in itself—and in the school and community it represents—to keep pushing and striving to succeed.

In the process, Iowa State defeated a good team on the road Tuesday night, something we all wanted to see this season. And I think we're all learning a little bit more about the coaching staff and players that make up this program right now…and I like what we're seeing.

So as this season winds down, one way or the other, I am going to have some very positive memories about the seniors who are finishing their Cyclone careers…and I'm also going to have some very high hopes for where Coach Morgan is taking this program.

Even though this is the NIT and most of the nation doesn't have the spotlight on how this tourney is playing out, it's great that Iowa State is refusing to go down easily.

So, as I hear the following lyrics in a couple of weeks, I will probably insert the mental images of Jake Sullivan burying deep threes with a guy in his face, Jackson Vroman racing down the floor for a dunk to finish a break and Marcus Jefferson nailing a pair of free throws to help keep the Cyclones' season going…

The ball is tipped and there you are…
You're running for your life, you're a shooting star…
And all the years, no one knows… Just how hard you worked, but now it shows…

It may be just the NIT to most people, but to the Cyclones, it's a reason to keep playing…and winning. In a season that has included victories over Texas, Kansas, Xavier and Missouri, I'm just as proud of the last two victories over Georgia and Florida State.

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com and now publishes IowaPrepsToday.com. E-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)


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