The Iowa State Cyclones were many things over the course of this season, but if one word would describe them best it would be inconsistent.
The Cyclones season started as you might think after dealing with injuries to both Solomon Young and Lindell Wigginton, as well as suspensions to Cameron Lard and Zoran Talley Jr. It forced coach Steve Phrom to start two of his freshmen in Talen Horton-Tucker and Tyrese Haliburton, in addition to the trio of Marial Shayok, Nick Weiler-Babb, and Michael Jacobson, with a sparse depth the aftermath.
Despite that, the Cyclones were able to start 9-2 before their leading returning scorer Lindell Wiggington came back into the fold.
Wigginton returned on December 21st for a game against Eastern Illinois, coming off the bench. Wigginton expected this move to be temporary, but with the way the team was playing, Steve Phrom decided to keep him in that role. It worked for awhile.
The Cyclones moved to 12-2 overall and 2-0 after a 77-60 statement win over Kansas in a game where everyone on Iowa State played well. With that specific victory, it appeared the process was working, and that the Cyclones were at full strength.
However, as is life in a league like the Big 12 often highlights, getting caught up in a big win can actually end up being detrimental. Following the Kansas victory, the Cyclones lost back to back games to Baylor and Kansas State.
Following those two losses, Iowa State would begin to play their best basketball of the season, as they would win six of their next eight games. After a big 78-64 win at Kansas State, it appeared this team was on the road to a Big 12 title.
Keyword there being “appeared.”
After Kansas State, things went downhill fast as the team lost five of their final six games to finish the regular season 20-11 overall and just 9-9 in league play. In the process, Marial Shayok injured his toe while reportedly “kicking door during what he claimed was a physical practice.” As a result, questions swirled and the thought of this team doing anything significant in either the Big 12 or NCAA Tournaments was quickly coming to a halt.
The Cyclones were set to play in Kansas City in the Big 12 Tournament. If you follow this event, you should know by now that Iowa State fans pack it like no other fanbase. Meanwhile, the Iowa State Cyclones had tried to build itself back up following a rough finish, hoping to put everything behind them. And they did so, as they won three games in three days to take home the Big 12 Championship.
The Cyclones built some momentum with the NCAA Tournament coming up. A run in the Big Dance seemed more than possible.
Fittingly, with how the season played out, that run ended Friday night when the Cyclones lost to 11th-seeded Ohio State 62-59. After the game Center Cameron Lard said, “They came more focused than us tonight,” and that “We didn’t buy into the details the coach was telling us of not giving easy angles and all the little things.”
This would explain a lot of Iowa State’s misgivings during the season.
The Cyclones had potentially four future NBA players in Marial Shayok, Talen Horton-Tucker, Tyrese Halliburton, and Lindell Wigginton. Iowa State had — at times — the chemistry working in their favor, as it did in the Big 12 Tournament. Yet on a nightly basis, they were not able to show it.
Some teams can get away with not performing well in the NCAA Tournament. For Iowa State, they were not capable of doing so against Ohio State, and as a result they head home disappointed.
Iowa State often showed flashes of brilliance; the most recent coming just last week when they won the Big 12 Tournament. That being said, with so much talent on this team, an early upset in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament will leave this team wondering, what if those flashes of excellence were a bit consistent instead?
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