Despite hype, ISU men staying focused


Photos: Grace Steenhagen/Iowa State Daily

Chris Allen drives to the lane around Kansas State’s Martavious Irving with five minutes left in the game Tuesday, Jan. 31. Allen scored 12 points in the second half to help Iowa State win 72-70 against the Wildcats.

Jeremiah Davis

Chris Allen is no stranger to hype.

Having played on two Final Four teams at Michigan State, the senior

has been there, done that.

With the ISU men’s basketball team

sitting at fourth in the Big 12 and the NCAA Tournament

expectations rising quickly, Allen believes he can be someone his

teammates can rely on since he has the experience to get them where

they want to go.

“If everybody just, I don’t want to

say ‘follow me,’ but I could help,” Allen said. “I could definitely

help with just, demeanor, poise you have to have in big games. You

can’t get out of control, you can’t mess up for one second, because

if you do, that’s the end of your season.”

Having been there before is a trait

the Cyclones will rely on with Allen, especially given the amped up

attention the team has been receiving since beating then-No. 5

Kansas on Saturday.

With multiple prognosticators

putting Iowa State in the tournament now, it would be easy for

players and coaches to follow such coverage closely. 

Following the win against Kansas

State on Tuesday, coach Fred Hoiberg said he and his team were not

responding to NCAA predictions at this point.

That sentiment is shared by his

players, who like to stay away from paper predictions, rather

letting the play on the court decide things.

“I try to stay away from

[predictions],” Allen said. “I’m not the guy to look in the paper.

The only time I look in the paper is when my mom texts me and says,

‘There’s an article I wanted you to look at,’ and that’s just

respecting my mom. I just stay in the gym, and that’s how I get

through all my problems.”

While Hoiberg’s players take the

questions about a tournament berth with good nature — like Allen’s

joke about his mom — he has seen his team mature over the last

several games.

How they respond to those questions,

he said, is indicative of where their priorities and focus


“They’ve been great,” Hoiberg said

about his players’ ability to handle NCAA Tournament talk. “They’ve

really been focused since the conference season started. They come

in every day really willing to learn from the things we didn’t do

great the previous game. … Our guys have done a good job with

their focus, and I anticipate they’ll [continue to] do the


Forward Royce White has been

fielding NCAA Tournament questions regarding the Cyclones’

tournament chances since media day on Oct. 12, 2011. He has not

wavered in his confidence of his team’s chances, and that continued

Thursday at practice.

“In my opinion, I think we should be

in the NCAA Tournament anyway,” White said when asked about

predictions. “I have incredible confidence in our team and coaching

staff, and Iowa State as a university, so I think we should be in

there anyway. [Wins against Kansas and Kansas State] helps because

of the way they select it.”

Hoiberg acknowledged after the

Kansas State game that he was using a cliche, but he and his team

have hammered home a “one game at a time” mantra since before the

Big 12 season started.

White used the phrase when asked if

— with the wins piling up and talk increasing — goals are changing

from just making the big dance to advancing through it.

The sophomore said the focus is

still just getting there, and letting the nature of the tournament

take over.

“I think that we know that if we get

to the tournament, it’s going to be a game by game thing,” White

said. “We’re talented enough to play with anybody. The goal is to

just win every game once you get there. Getting there is the

hardest part, and staying focused on that. So I think that’s what

we’re doing right now is staying focused on just getting


In the course of “getting there”

this team has brought up memories of past tournaments for


He said reminders of deep tournament

runs with Michigan State sometimes catch him off guard.

“I get flashes sometimes,” Allen

said. “Like when I’m in the game and I remember something from

Michigan State, I’m like ‘yeah, we’ve got to keep this pace, this

is going to keep us rolling.’ That’s what I try to do when I get

those feelings.”

The effort to “get there” continues

in Norman, Okla., on Saturday, when the Cyclones take on Oklahoma.

Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.