2000 ISU football team that won the Insight.com Bowl over Pittsburgh to finish 9-3.
A couple of fantastic teams, no doubt about it. In fact, the 2000 ISU men's basketball team was the top choice for each of the 11 members of the voting panel. The nominations for the Cyclone Nation.com Hall of Fame were submitted by Cyclone Nation.com readers.
Here are my thoughts and some of the comments made by voters regarding the inductees:
1) 2000 ISU men's basketball team that finished 32-5. What a tremendous team to watch. Coach Larry Eustachy earned National Coach of the Year accolades for taking a team that was picked to finish at the bottom of the Big 12…and turning it into perhaps the finest team in the country by the middle of March.
Jamaal Tinsley and Marcus Fizer were a terrific 1-2 punch, but the guys around them (Michael Nurse, Kantrail Horton, Martin Rancik, Paul Shirley and Stevie Johnson) were also outstanding role players. If the tourney game against Michigan State had been played at a "neutral" location, ISU may well have won the national title.
I am still bitter that the Cyclones were given a #2 seed in the Midwest that season with a 29-4 overall record…and Big 12 regular season and tournament championships. Instead of giving ISU the #1 spot in the Midwest (which it had clearly EARNED), the Selection Committee chose Michigan State, which had a 26-7 mark going into the postseason. Uh…WHAT? Can you imagine if a team like Duke or Kansas were to suffer such an injustice? Dick Vitale would pass out…ESPN would shut down…and the Big Dance would probably be cancelled. Ugh.
One of my all-time favorite Cyclone victories was when Iowa State absolutely dismantled Steve Lavin's UCLA team in the Sweet 16 after much of the national media was on the Bruin bandwagon. The rest of the nation found out that Thursday night what Iowa State fans already knew…this was a very special team.
Comments from other voters:
"For my money, the best college basketball team in the history of this state. Two NBA first-round picks, the National Coach of the Year, and they swept the regular season and Big 12 tournament championships. If not for some questionable bracketology from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, they could've spoiled Michigan State's national title run."
"This was a no-brainer for me as a number one choice. Larry Eustachy's team accomplished things that no one believed it could. If not for some unfortunate calls down the stretch against Michigan State, the Cyclones would have been off to the Final Four and a field that they would have matched up well against. Two of the greatest players in the history of Iowa State athletics graced the court during the 32-win campaign, but don't forget about the role players that made this team special…Nurse, Horton, Johnson, Shirley and Rancik."
"I have to list the 2000 ISU men's basketball team first. It was one bad call against Paul Shirley made by a referee who was intimidated by a ‘home' crowd away from the Final Four."
"Probably the best team in the nation that year. To play Spartan Nation in Auburn Hills after a four-loss regular season, complete with Big 12 regular season and tournament titles remains the biggest injustice the NCAA Selection Committee ever committed. Michigan State that year, many forget, had SEVEN losses going into the Big Dance. (Oh yeah, but Mateen was hurt for some of that season, so really, I think the Selection Committee figured Michigan State really only had one loss.)"
"Every year when people like Dick Vitale scream about teams playing at home—the INJUSTICE of Pitt playing the Badgers in Milwaukee for example—I ALWAYS scowl and think of the zebras making two calls at once against Paul Shirley and seeing the Best Team in the Nation totally screwed. I'm sure that call would have been made on Cleaves in that situation…or on some Duke player during a tourney game in Charlotte."
"Anyway, the Clones came from absolutely nowhere that year…I was predicting a 4-25 season when Drake beat 'em 48-44 or something like that…little did I know of Coach Eustachy's—and this squad's—ability to turn it all around."
"Arguably, this was the best team in the country. Had they been able to play on a neutral court or had they received some semblance of fair treatment from the officiating crew, they could have been hanging a nice banner in Hilton."
"Nobody carried the spirit of winning better than the 2000 ISU men's basketball team. 32 wins and five hard-fought, down-to-the-wire losses put the Cyclones in the spotlight. That team was loaded with pro talent…Fizer, Tinsley, Shirley, Horton, Nurse, Rancik, Johnson…all of whom are still getting paid to play. I don't know if we'll ever see a team come together like that again in this state…or just wait 'til next season."
"One of the best Iowa college hoop teams of all time."
"I'll never forget the week leading up to the Sweet 16 game vs. UCLA. All Jim Rome could talk about was how UCLA manhandled Maryland and had the hottest team in the tournament. Somebody forgot to tell Jamaal Tinsley. He filleted UCLA like a fish. I spoke with Skip Bayless (then with the Chicago Sun Times) and Gene Wojciechowski (with ESPN) prior to the game vs. Michigan State…and they both felt that THAT would essentially BE the national championship game…pitting the best two teams in the remaining field. I think they were right. If that game had been played anywhere else, ISU might have a national championship banner hanging from the rafters at Hilton right now."
2) 2000 ISU football team that won the Insight.com Bowl over Pittsburgh to finish 9-3. This team capped off a memorable season by knocking off Pitt, 37-29, in Phoenix on December 28, 2000 for Iowa State's first bowl victory in school history (in its fifth bowl game…and FIRST in 22 years).
Sage Rosenfels was one of the heroes in the bowl game, completing 23 of 34 passes for 308 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. JaMaine Billups returned a punt 72 yards for a score in the fourth quarter, which gave ISU a little breathing room.
Along with Rosenfels and Billups, Coach Dan McCarney's 2000 team had many players who made key contributions all season long. Guys like Reggie Hayward, Ennis Haywood, J.J. Moses and Ryan Harklau will long be remembered by ISU fans for their efforts.
Comments from other voters:
"The only bowl win in school history. The only 9-win season in school history. The last time Iowa State finished in the final top 25 of college football polls. The best football season ever for a school with an anemic tradition for winning."
"Although some of the Cyclone teams of the '70s under head coaches Johnny Majors and Earle Bruce were also great ones, this was the first unit that took it to the next level by winning a bowl game. I will always remember my week-long experience in Phoenix, Arizona and the capper that December night in Arizona when ISU knocked off the Panthers."
"The 2000 Cyclone football team that won the Insight.com Bowl completed the resurrection of ISU football."
"Feel-good story about the perseverance of Mac and his staff to finally get over the elusive hump and put a quality product on the field that was able to accomplish many of their goals. Unfortunately, the hump soon returned…"
"Maybe there have been better ISU football teams. It's hard to say. You could make a very strong case for the 1976 team. But, given the circumstances, this group gets my vote. They started their careers with a 1-10 record…and finished with the school's first bowl victory and nine victories. They had an All-American center, a two-time first-team All Big 12 running back, and at least a half-dozen NFL players. And, the best part, was that 30,000+ ISU fans were in Phoenix to witness it."
Breakdown of the voting…
Each member of the panel voted for three teams (1st team gets 3 points, 2nd team gets 2 points, 3rd team gets 1 point). The panel includes some very knowledgeable sports personalities…
Steve Deace … Popular radio personality on KXNO and Publisher of Cyclone Nation.com and "CN" magazine.
Bill Seals … Senior Writer for Cyclone Nation.com and "CN" magazine.
Marc Hansen … Columnist for the Des Moines Register and one of Iowa's all-time best sports writers.
Bob Helmers … Producer/Director for ESPN and ESPN+Plus.
Eric Heft … Former ISU basketball standout and long-time Cyclone Radio Network color analyst.
Chuck Offenburger … Long-time columnist and co-host of RAGBRAI for the Des Moines Register, he now publishes Offenburger.com.
B.J. Schaben … Sports Director, Iowa Radio Network.
John Walters … Sports Director at WOI-TV and play-by-play voice of the Cyclones.
Marty Gallagher … Me.
2000 ISU men's basketball team (39)
2000 ISU football team (12)
1969 ISU wrestling team (7)
2001 ISU men's basketball team (7)
1976 ISU football team (4)
1987 ISU wrestling team (3)
2002 ISU football team (2)
1989 ISU men's cross country team (2)
2001 ISU baseball team (2)
Look for the Cyclone Nation.com Hall of Fame inductees in other categories—Athletes, Coaches, Media, Games and At-Large Bids—in the coming weeks. Feel free to e-mail your comments and feedback to me at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com and now publishes IowaPrepsToday.com. E-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)