"I would definitely love to run the table down here and win this tournament," said Jared Homan, the only current Cyclone to have played a game in the arena. "That would mean a lot. There would be nothing like going out on top in the Big 12 Tournament. We'll have a lot of fans down here. That would really sit well with the committee and get us a great seed in the NCAA Tournament."
The odds will be stacked against the Cyclones winning four games in four days. But first thing's first. They will put all their time and effort into Thursday's tilt against 12-seed Baylor, which tips off at 2:30 p.m. ISU rolled to a 77-51 win over the Bears on Feb. 1 in Ames.
They will need a repeat performance to advance to the quarterfinals.
"We're all really happy to be here," said head coach Wayne Morgan. "We were happy to play well down the stretch and get a five seed in the conference tournament. We really respect what Scott Drew has done with the (Baylor) program. We know that they're going to come out tomorrow and give everything they have to win the game."
Doing so would likely push the Cyclones solidly into the NCAA Tournament field of 65. Would just one more win be enough for that to happen? Homan doesn't know.
"We need to keep on winning and that will take care of itself," he said. "We don't want to leave it up to the selection committee. We want to win out the tournament and have ourselves a guaranteed spot."
ISU and the ARCH-PI
The Cyclones have confided in their own resident bracketologist during the stretch run of 2005. When second-year coach Damon Archibald isn't assisting in practices or recruiting future players, he studies college basketball happenings across the nation.
"One of our assistants, Damon Archibald has the ARCH-PI," Homan said. "He kind of says which teams he thinks are in, which guys are on the bubble, and who has to win to get in. He's the main one who deals with that."
What exactly goes into the selection formula? ISU's senior center wasn't quite, but just hopes that the Cyclones will be in this Sunday.
"He tried to explain it to me, but I couldn't catch all the angles," Homan said. "He gives certain points for home and road wins, and just your record over the last 10 games. There are a whole bunch of factors he puts into it. According to him he could pick all 65 teams in the tournament. He likes the way we're sitting right now."
Projecting ISU in the Big 12 Tournament
The Cyclones won't be looking past Baylor and the initial round Thursday, but fans and those in the media are welcome to. ISU has a very favorable draw in this year's league tournament, and has the possibility of playing four teams it has beaten this season (#12 Baylor, #4 Texas Tech, #1 Oklahoma, and #2 Kansas).
Assuming the Cyclones beat the Bears on Thursday afternoon, they would be paired up against Bobby Knight's Red Raiders.
ISU throttled Tech in Hilton Coliseum, 81-68, on Feb. 12. The Red Raiders have a huge void in the paint, which was exploited by Homan in the first meeting. The senior dominated in the paint, scoring 23 points and grabbing five rebounds in 38 minutes.
As was the case during the Cyclones' season-closing run of nine wins in 11 games, a freshman stepped up to have a big game. Guard Tasheed Carr scored 17 points off the bench and helped keep Tech's defense from totally collapsing on Homan.
If history repeats itself on Friday, ISU would likely draw the league's top seed in Oklahoma. Morgan said in his press conference that the Sooners deserve a one-seed in next week's NCAA Tournament bracket, but they would need to pick off the Cyclones in the semifinals.
OU stubbornly stuck with a man-to-man defense against ISU in the first meeting at Hilton, and Kelvin Sampson's team paid dearly. The Cyclones started a seven-game winning streak with a 74-66 triumph over Oklahoma.
Stinson scored 23 points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out four assists in the meeting. Freshmen Carr and Rahshon Clark combined to score 19 points.
If the bottom part of the league's bracket plays out as expected, a championship game matchup with Kansas would await Morgan's team.
The Jayhawks edged ISU by five points early in the conference season, only to see the favor returned in Lawrence, 63-61, in overtime. The zone defense employed by the Cyclones has given the Jayhawks fits in four meetings the teams have had the past two seasons.
Morgan watches his team's practice Wednesday afternoon in Kemper Arena.