‘Take care of business’: Cyclones take on Pitt in NCAA Tournament


Jacob Rice

Robert Jones and Tre King celebrate Jaren Holmes field goal at the 2023 Big 12 Tournament Semifinals versus Kansas in the T-Mobile Center, Mar. 10.

Christian Royston, Sports Editor

Iowa State is preparing to take on Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 2:10 p.m. Friday. 

The Cyclones traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina, earlier in the week and awaited the outcome of the play-in game that would decide their first-round opponent. Pitt took on Mississippi State in what turned out to be an exciting start to the tournament.

Pitt and Mississippi State traded blows Tuesday, as Pitt came out victorious 60-59. Pitt demonstrated great resiliency as there were over 20 lead changes in the back-and-forth game.

Pitt started the year rocky but has come into its own later in the year, picking up crucial wins when it mattered most. Before Tuesday, Pitt hadn’t made an NCAA Tournament since 2016 and hadn’t won a tournament game since 2014.

“Certainly later in the year they picked up a lot of momentum overall,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

Not knowing who they were going up against was weird for the Cyclones. Robert Jones said it was strange knowing that it could be either team, especially since both teams play differently, but he said it gave the team a chance to focus on themselves.

The entire season has been about being the best Cyclone team they can be, so getting a few extra days to focus on who they are will be crucial. 

“We feel good about the way we’re playing right now,” Otzelberger said. “So we just have to come out and be at our best Friday afternoon and do what we can to play to the best of our ability and see what happens from there.”

Pitt will be an interesting opponent for the Cyclones, as they look to be more familiar than most teams. The first striking similarity is the fact that Pitt will be an 11-seed.

Iowa State entered last year’s tournament as an 11-seed, before making a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16. Now it’s the Cyclones’ turn to play spoiler, as they don’t want Pitt to make the same run over them.

Pitt also bears a striking resemblance to Baylor, in the way the team can shoot well from beyond the arc and score in transition. This won’t be too big of a deal for the Cyclones, as they beat Baylor in all three meetings this season.

The biggest key to victory for the Cyclones will be containing the three-point shooting, as Pitt kept up Mississippi State’s size by taking advantage of the deep shots. Pitt shot over 47 percent from beyond the arc Tuesday, which ended up being the difference as Mississippi State ended the game on a missed wide-open three.

For the Cyclones, when it comes down to it, the game could be decided on how they play, not how Pitt plays.

“Not letting our opponent take away what makes us great,” Jones said.

According to Jones, the parts of the Cyclones’ game that makes them great is lockdown defense, rebounds, dominating the paint and taking care of the ball. Keeping up the pressure on defense should force mistakes from Pitt for Iowa State to capitalize on.

Out of those categories, taking care of the ball will be crucial when playing Pitt. Pitt forced 14 turnovers against Mississippi State, which was double the amount Pitt had.

Those turnovers kept the Panthers in the game. Now Iowa State has to figure out how to keep the turnovers to a minimum if it wants to advance to the second round.

“We just gotta take care of business,” Jones said.

Iowa State still has some time to figure out how to take care of business Friday afternoon. The Cyclones face off against Pitt at 2:10 p.m. Friday in Greensboro. The game will be aired live on TruTV.

“Everything that we’ve done… has led to this moment and I’m excited to see what we do,” Tre King said.