The Iowa State Cyclones gained an edge for the third seed in the Big 12 tournament with a 72-69 upset victory over the No. 9 Baylor Bears on Saturday.
The Cyclones were able to hold serve on their home court thanks to lights-out shooting. They hit 57.8 percent of their attempts from the field, using that to overcome a decided 37-17 rebounding advantage for Baylor, including 20 on the offensive glass.
Just going by second-chance points in the first half, it would be impossible to assume this game was even competitive, let alone tied at 36, per Baylor Basketball:
Deonte Burton, who had a team-high 22 points, had the key shot for the Cyclones, draining a three-pointer to take a 65-61 lead after Baylor had gone on a 7-2 run to close the gap to one point with less than two minutes to play.
Since starting the season 15-0 and reaching No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 and Coaches' Poll on January 9, Baylor has gone just 8-6 over its last 14 games following the loss to Iowa State.
On the other side, Iowa State is catching fire at the right time. It has now won six of its last seven games, including victories over Kansas and now Baylor during that span. That resume, combined with a 19-9 record, will start to bump the Cyclones up in NCAA tournament seeding.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, this upset should have been easy to predict based on Iowa State's recent run of success at home against top-10 teams:
In his most recent bracketology breakdown published on February 23, ESPN's Joe Lunardi had Iowa State ranked as a No. 7 seed in the midwest region.
It's a testament to the job done by head coach Steve Prohm, who took over a strong program from Fred Hoiberg after the 2014-15 season, that he has been able to keep the Cyclones among the best in the Big 12 despite losing Georges Niang and Jameel McKay from last year's roster.
Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports offered high praise for Prohm in is column published on Friday:
The veteran quartet of Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long, Matt Thomas, and Deonte Burton has carried this club to its current state (18-9), with Burton being its only viable hope for interior scoring in each and every game.
The future will look significantly different for Iowa State than the present or past due to the loss of the four players mentioned above, but Prohm’s meticulousness and ability to manage games like they’re a chess match has put the Cyclones in position to advance to the field of 68 for the second time in his tenure.
Where Iowa State is starting to jell late in the season, Baylor's slide in Big 12 play is more akin to an overachieving bunch falling back to the pack.
Expectations were low for the Bears when the season started. They weren't ranked in the AP preseason poll, so making it all the way to No. 1 was completely unexpected.
Nicole Auerbach of USA Today noted in January the level of talent on Baylor's roster was not what would normally be seen from the top-ranked team in the nation:
But consider the number of top-50 recruits on this year’s roster: Zero.
The number of times Baylor has been ranked No. 1 in the country? One.
That speaks to player development, cohesiveness and chemistry. It speaks to leadership, which this team has. And most of all it speaks to the coach who has orchestrated one of the greatest turnarounds in all of college basketball during his 14-year tenure in Waco. Often times, with little-known players who developed into future pros.
Bears head coach Scott Drew has been inconsistent throughout his career, but the sky isn't falling despite this latest defeat. A home game on Tuesday against No. 12 West Virginia can erase all the bad vibes.
This game was more about the Cyclones' continued rise up the Big 12 ranks. It's been a slow burn season for Prohm and his players, but they have turned on the jets heading into March and look poised for another deep run in the conference tournament after winning it in 2014 and 2015.
Prohm opened his post-game press conference talking about the magnitude of the win for Iowa State, via Cyclone Basketball:
Morris is clearly confident in his team and where they are headed with March on the horizon.
"This team is peaking," Morris said, via the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "We trust in each other ... (and) winning five games in a row in this league isn't easy if you don't trust each other."
On the losing side, Drew could only forward to the future when Iowa State loses some of its key players, via Joseph Hoyt of the Ames Tribune: