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Royston: No team is safe from Hilton Magic

Iowa+State+players+Milan+Momcilovic+and+Jackson+Paveletzke+celebrate+with+fans+after+a+Cyclone+victory+over+the+Jay+Hawks+on+Jan.+27%2C+2024+in+Hilton+Coliseum.
Joseph Dicklin
Iowa State players Milan Momcilovic and Jackson Paveletzke celebrate with fans after a Cyclone victory over the Jay Hawks on Jan. 27, 2024 in Hilton Coliseum.

Could the Cyclones win a national title if they played the NCAA Tournament at Hilton?

This is a really interesting question that has a more complex answer than you would think. Obviously it is something that could never happen, but if it were possible, the Cyclones have shown they can take down any team in the nation at Hilton Coliseum.

The Cyclones’ success at home, especially against top-ranked teams, is something that needs to be studied. I mean, the craziest stat is that the Cyclones have taken down the last six top-10 teams that entered Hilton.

Of those last six wins, the Cyclones beat No. 2 Houston this season, took down Kansas three times, toppled a heated rival in Texas and took down a Kansas State team that made the final four. In fact, the last loss against a top-10 team at home was in the 2021-22 season when the Cyclones lost by five points to No. 1 Baylor.

The mentality T.J. Otzelberger has instilled in the team is a big factor in the team’s performance at home. They know how important defending home turf is and prove it every night out.

Although the Cyclones have not been perfect at Hilton, as there have been a handful of embarrassing losses, they do perform significantly better against teams that tend to be built to make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.

The Cyclones recently proved that they have a handful of shooters who can knock down big-time shots when needed. Milan Momcilovic hit the dagger against Houston, and Keshon Gilbert hit the dagger against Kansas.

Along with those two, Curtis Jones can hit threes at a high rate, Tamin Lipsey has proven his reliability from beyond the arc, Jackson Paveletzke is a proven shooter and even Demarion Watson and now Tre King have solid strokes.

The Cyclones also feed off the energy of a full Hilton crowd, which can fuel a 3-point shootout like we saw against Kansas. The Cyclones just have not needed to rely on the 3-pointer as they tend to dominate the paint.

Pair the 3-point potential of the team with the skilled play of Lipsey and Gilbert and the paint presence of the big men, and Iowa State has talent across the board.

With how balanced the team is, they have the talent and capability to hang with any team.

The wins over Houston and Kansas this season should give everyone an idea of how tough it is to win in Hilton. With Hilton Magic alive and well, the Cyclones could take down any team in the nation.

In the last three years, the Cyclones have not only toppled giants in the Big 12 and the non-conference season, but they have also played a lot of other top teams closely, such as No. 1 Baylor and a UConn team that won the tournament a season ago.

Winning the NCAA Tournament really comes down to getting hot at the right time, and there is no better way for the Cyclones to get hot than playing at Hilton. I genuinely think the Cyclones could win it all if they played at home.

However, that could be true with most other teams as well. There is a reason that the Big Dance is set up the way it is.

Teams feed off the energy of their fans, as is clear with the Cyclones. Taking away that extra energy is the best way to see who the best team is.

So, although it is a fun theory to consider, it just is not possible. However, one thing is for sure: There is no place like home when it comes to Iowa State basketball.

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