Men’s basketball likely punch ticket to NCAAs with win against Kansas State


ISU forward Royce White passes the ball behind his back to guard Scott Christopherson in the first half of the Cyclones’ 65-61 win over Kansas State on Saturday, Feb. 25. White led the Cyclones with seven assists in the game. It was White’s fifth game with five or more assits this year.

Jeremiah Davis

MANHATTAN, Kan. — It’s not official yet, but with the ISU men’s basketball team’s 65-61 victory against Kansas State, the NCAA Tournament seems all but a certainty.

The berth would be the first since 2005 for the Cyclones (21-8, 11-5 Big 12).

“I think we should be in,” said forward Royce White. “That’s just what I think, though. Who am I? I don’t know [anything].”

Coming into the matchup with the Wildcats (19-9, 8-8), most tournament prognosticators had the Cyclones in the postseason with relative ease. But there remain a few dissenters who believe the ISU men are not yet in.

And the Cyclones can hear them.

“Who knows? Who knows with the way they select it,” White said. “It’s a crapshoot. To me, to say that we we’re on the bubble before this game was kind of a slap in the face. We’re just embracing the naysayers and they’re fueling [us] right now.”

In a season of milestones, Iowa State passed a few more on Saturday in Bramlage Coliseum.

Led by senior guard Scott Christopherson’s 29 points and five rebounds, the Cyclones swept the Wildcats for the season, making it four Big 12 sweeps — Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma the others — for the first time since 2001. The four sweeps also match Iowa State’s total team sweeps from 2002 to 2011.

It was also the first time Iowa State has beaten four Big 12 opponents on the road since 2005, which was the last year the Cyclones made the NCAA tournament.

“[This win is] a huge one,” said coach Fred Hoiberg. “We want to always come out and play well on the road. When you can get a road [win] in as tough an environment as Bramlage Coliseum is, it really does wonders for your confidence.

“We’ve got to build off this one, enjoy it for a day, get back to work on Monday and go back to another hostile environment at Missouri.”

Despite affirming the win was a big one, Cyclone coaches and players remained wary of guarantees or saying definitively they believe they’ve made the tournament.

One of the reasons — with the season-long mantra of “taking it one game at a time” — said guard Chris Babb, is that nothing is 100-percent certain until it is announced by the NCAA.

Players will not even say the words “NCAA tournament.”

“I’ve been screwed out of that before, when I was at Penn State [and] we thought we were in,” Babb said. “I think we have a pretty good resume up to this point, but I just think we’re going to try and solidify it with these next couple games and try to put ourselves in position to get a better seeding going into the Big 12 tournament and just go from there.”

The last two games Babb talked about are against No. 3 Missouri and No. 13 Baylor. If the Cyclones can’t win but at least keep it close, White said, just playing them will not hurt Iowa State’s tournament resume.

“Like I said, I think we’re in, but I could maybe see where they say we’re still on the bubble,” White said. “We’ve got two top-15 teams left. But even by playing them our RPI goes up.”

The Cyclones stay on the road for their next game, heading to Columbia, Mo., to face Missouri at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Mizzou Arena.