Depth of the Big 12 set to test Cyclones


Georges Niang, left, Matt Thomas and Naz Long talk during a timeout during the men’s basketball season opener against UNC-Wilmington on Nov. 10. The Cyclones won 95-62, and the trio scored a combined 52 points against the Seahawks.

Dean Berhow-Goll

Whether a team is ranked in the top-25 doesn’t carry a lot of weight or change how a team prepares for an opponent. 

The ranking is simply recognition from those who have watched the teams, studied up, and done their due diligence.

When it comes to the Big 12, those voters have given the nod to six teams from the Big 12, with Kansas at No. 8, Oklahoma State at No. 11, Iowa State at No. 16, Kansas State at No. 22, Oklahoma at No. 24 and Baylor at No. 25. 

What does this mean for the stretch of conference play over the next six weeks? There aren’t any nights off. 

“Pretty good huh?” said ISU forward Georges Niang. “I think we have six ranked teams in the Big 12 right now. It’s a stronger conference than people thought, so obviously you’re going to have your hands full night in and night out.”

The No. 16 ISU men’s basketball team has had its hands full the last three games, falling from No. 8 in the AP Poll after a record-setting 14-0 start. 

Against Oklahoma on Jan. 11, the Sooners held a 22-2 advantage on second-chance points and contained Iowa State’s 3-point attack to an inefficient 6-for-26. Then against Kansas, potential top-five NBA Draft picks Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, combined for 33 points on 14-for-24 shooting and grabbed 28 rebounds, dominating the paint in the second half. 

In the last game of the losing streak, Iowa State hit 11 3-pointers, but uncharacteristically turned the ball over 18 times and allowed Texas’ Jonathan Holmes to take over the second half with a game-high 23 points. 

At the beginning of the year, experts picked familiar favorites Kansas and Oklahoma State to dominate the Big 12, but the real surprise has been how deep the league has been through the latter part of January.

Texas Tech, picked to finish ninth in the ten-team league, knocked off Baylor, who was rated as high as No. 7 in early January. Baylor has knocked off powerhouse No. 14 Kentucky. Texas has taken down No. 22 Kansas State. Kansas State has taken down No. 11 Oklahoma State, while the Cowboys blew out No. 11 Memphis in December. 

“I think everybody thought it was going to be really good at the top — and the top being Kansas and Oklahoma State,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “You see what has happened with the way the league is right now … Every night you better be ready. I think teams have the youth, but that youth’s pretty talented in our league, so I think top to bottom, it is the best league in the country.”