Barske: The case for Iowa State winning the Big 12 Championship


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State defeated Kansas 70-66 in the 2015 Big 12 Championship final on March 14 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Emily Barske

Cyclone fans haven’t forgotten the back-to-back Big 12 Championship titles in 2014 and 2015. And it’s not likely Monté Morris, Matt Thomas and Naz Mitrou-Long, who played on those teams, have either.

Those three seniors know what it takes to get the job done at “Hilton South,” but this year will be different. Why? Because the Big 12 is different.

The Big 12 is no longer just a “good” league in the country. It’s the best conference, a basketball powerhouse conference and an unpredictable conference. That being said, the Cyclones have a chance — not just because of the cliché “anything can happen in March” — but because they have a team loaded with invaluable assets that can compete with anyone on the right day.

But in a tournament, they have to have consecutive “right days.” So if No. 23 Iowa State (20-10, 12-6 Big 12) is going to pull out a title and take home the trophy, here’s how:

Take a stroll downtown

The Cyclones lead the Big 12 in 3-pointers made with 299 on the year. They’ll need to make a few more during the tournament if they want to come away the champions.

Not only that, but they need the 3s to come from more than one player — and they have proven that more than one player can shoot them. If Iowa State shoots well from downtown, it will have a chance to get an early lead and get back on defense.

Solid defense — or at least some of it

Iowa State is pretty low on the totem pole when it comes to letting its opponents get offensive rebounds, but that hasn’t stopped its defensive success this year.

Many of the Big 12 teams are good shooters. So if the Cyclones are going to have a chance at stopping those offensive threats, they’ll have to contest shots. Too many times this season, the Cyclones haven’t gotten a hand in the face of the shooter — or if they have, they have been up in the air allowing the other team to get any easy foul call.

That can’t happen in the tournament. The Cyclones need to play good on-the-ball defense, get a hand up on the shooters and force a few fast breaks off turnovers. 

Feed the beast

Solomon Young has made some freshman mistakes this season, which is kind of what you’d expect from a freshman. But in games where he’s played well, Young has added a big-man variable that is much needed for Iowa State’s winning formula.

With the way Iowa State can shoot, if there’s a post player getting points in the paint too, the Cyclones will be hard to beat. In order for Young to make a difference, he’s got to stay out of foul trouble. And he needs to be selective with his fouls, making sure that he’s getting after the ball and not just letting the shooter catch him in the air. If he’s able to get good minutes, he’ll make the difference for Iowa State.

The cheering section

Iowa State hasn’t been a great road team this season, so if its going to win the tournament, then it will need to feel at home. This part of the formula is simple: pep from the cheer squad, Simeon Carter dance moves on the bench and loud cheers from the crowd. If Iowa State is going to cut down the nets in the best league in college basketball, the Sprint Center needs to feel like “Hilton South.”