Belinson: Don’t expect any Big 12 Tournament magic from the Cyclones

Zion Griffin, Solomon Young, Rasir Bolton, Tre Jackson and Tyrese Haliburton head back onto the floor against No. 1 Baylor on Jan. 29.

Matt Belinson

Throw out the past success. Throw out the numbers. It doesn’t matter for the Cyclones, not this year.

I’ll make this short and sweet for those Cyclone fans out there that still have hope that no matter how bad the Cyclones have been this season, that can all change once they arrive in Kansas City. But there is no way around the honest reality if you have truly been watching this team all season: Iowa State will not make a run in the Big 12 Tournament; that’s a guarantee. 

Now, I know history is not on my side in this one, but I feel pretty confident considering how poor the Cyclones have been all season that any shot of a run in the Big 12 Tournament is out of the question.

Iowa State may have won the tournament in 2000, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019, and that’s nice and all, but those wins have no bearing on how bad this year’s team is and why they have no shot at attempting a serious run at the tournament crown.

There is no Marial Shayok (2019 Big 12 Tournament MVP), Lindell Wigginton or Talen Horton-Tucker walking through the doors into Iowa State’s locker room. Iowa State is stuck with what it’s got — and it isn’t much to have confidence in.

If injuries persist for Rasir Bolton and Prentiss Nixon leading into Wednesday’s opening round matchup with the No. 8 seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys, it’ll be a lineup of horrors for the Cyclones to try and muster together a level of competitiveness against the Cowboys. That said, I would expect that Bolton could be available to return after having over a week without live game action, but if there is one thing that has been clear about this season, it is that Iowa State never gets the good news.

But let’s assume for a moment that both Bolton and Nixon aren’t available for the Cyclones on Wednesday — still feel like they have a shot? 

How about a potential Solomon Young, Michael Jacobson, Caleb Grill, Tre Jackson and Terrence Lewis lineup? If the game against Kansas State gave any answer to what the Cyclones look like with a thrown-together lineup with their best available options, the outcome is going to be ugly.

To the Cyclones’ credit, playing without your second-best point guard in Bolton and then losing Nixon to an ankle injury will obviously make it much harder to generate any sort of offense, but ending the season with a 16-point loss to the worst team in the Big 12 really adds insult to injury (no pun intended) on a forgotten season.

Even before Nixon left the game with an injury, Lewis and Jackson showed their inexperience and fouled out, leaving Iowa State with even less options than before. Walk-on Nate Jenkins had to come off the bench and step in amid the firestorm for Iowa State and play 11 minutes. 

The continued lack of discipline, depleted roster and just an overall lack of talent makes Iowa State a non-threat for any team in the Big 12 Tournament.

Now, if Bolton and Nixon were to come back, Iowa State’s lineup is improved no doubt, but is it enough to make a legitimate run at winning it all? No chance.

Iowa State still doesn’t have a true point guard, as much as Prohm wants Bolton and Nixon to play the point at the same time, which, as we have seen this season, hasn’t worked out smoothly as they have not been able to create any sustainable offense. The Cyclones’ post play is spotty at best, and with George Conditt and Jacobson creating more negatives than positives when they are on the floor, at this point in the season, Iowa State sits with bad options, with or without injuries.

Nothing is really in the Cyclone’s favor. Injury-stricken, no real playmakers who can take over and win games and no talent or competitive edge over any potential team they’ll face; it all combines to end in Iowa State having a quick exit in the tournament.

But let’s entertain the idea that Iowa State beats Oklahoma State on Wednesday and moves on to Thursday afternoon.

Beat the Cowboys, No. 1 Kansas will be next, the same Kansas team that beat the Cyclones by at least 20 points in both meetings this season. In both of those matchups, the Cyclones played with a much healthier roster than what it might have come Wednesday. 

By some miracle from the heavens, if Iowa State can take down No. 1 Kansas, then a matchup awaits with either Texas or Texas Tech. Both options aren’t ideal for the Cyclones, with both teams edging the Cyclones this season. The Red Raiders stomped Iowa State in both matchups, and the Longhorns are riding into the tournament as the No. 4 seed after ending 5-1 in its last six games.