It is hard to put into words how bitterly disappointed, shocked and devastated I am about this Iowa State loss.
As a fan and believer in the team’s capabilities, of course I picked them to emerge out of the South Region. If their Big 12 tournament run had told me anything, it was to believe in this team. Believe that they will not be denied.
I believed in Iowa State to rid their conference tournament magic through March. I believed in Georges Niang being dominant after missing the tournament last year to a broken bone in his foot. I believed in this team.
I didn’t believe Niang would shoot 1-11 in the second half and 4-15 overall Thursday. I didn’t believe Iowa State would shoot 6-23 from downtown. I didn’t believe they’d allow UAB to grab 19 offensive rebounds and out-rebound them 52-37. And I certainly didn’t believe that UAB could outscore Iowa State, especially if the Blazers shot 35 percent from the floor.
Being this terribly wrong is tough to accept, and having to watch other teams progress in March instead of Iowa State hurts. But I can’t change that.
What I can do is try to remember what Iowa State basketball accomplished before Thursday’s 60-59 loss to 14-seed UAB.
The Cyclones put together an incredible Big 12 conference tournament run, using huge second half rallies to take down Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Before that, the Cyclones used similar second half rallies to take down Oklahoma on Senior Night, as well as TCU several days later. They finished the regular season with a 12-6 conference record, good for second place in the very competitive Big 12.
Iowa State’s regular season and conference tournament showcased the team’s explosive offense and transition game, but it also illustrated weak areas on defense and the free throw line. More often than not, Iowa State’s incredible prowess on offense delivered them big and exciting wins. It just so happened that their weak defense (and uncharacteristically poor shooting) hurt them too much against UAB.
I commend their accomplishments during this recent campaign, and I look forward to what this team will offer next year. It’s not a stretch to assume that Iowa State will find itself as a near-top seed in next year’s tournament, because the core offense will return.
Iowa State only loses seniors Dustin Hogue, Bryce Dejean-Jones and Daniel Edozie. Everyone else returns. Edozie never really saw the court, so he’s not a huge loss. Dejean-Jones started off hot, but then he lost his starting spot to Jameel McKay and could never earn it back. His play really dipped in quality as time went by. I don’t see him as a huge loss, either.
Hogue will be missed, though. A capable three-point shooter and rebounder, Hogue was that scrappy kind of guy who does all the little things but isn’t in the spotlight. Hogue brought a lot of toughness, energy and leadership to the court, and it’s sad to see him have to go.
Luckily for the Cyclones, Niang, McKay, Monte Morris, Naz Long, Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas are all returning. There’s a starting five in their already, and assuming a few solid recruits by the master Fred Hoiberg, this team will be right back in the thick of things next year.
So, while the terrible day against UAB puts the 2014-15 campaign to a bitter and disappointing end, the season as a whole was a positive one for Iowa State. And given the players returning next year, I can only expect more positivity in the future, ideally in the form of a deep March Madness run.