If it's the Big 12 Championship Game, Iowa State is going to make an appearance most years.
It didn't seem like that would be the case this year, as the Cyclones finished in fifth place in the conference with a 9-9 record.
But Iowa State has won three of the past five Big 12 tournaments, and when the Cyclones came up with a 63-59 triumph over Big 12 co-champion Kansas State in the semifinal round, it was not huge surprise—or at least, it shouldn't have been.
The Cyclones will face perennial Big 12 powerhouse Kansas in the title game. The Jayhawks nearly always come into the Big 12 tournament as the regular-season champion, but Kansas struggled this year and finished third behind Kansas State and Texas Tech, the regular-season co-champions.
Iowa State has been a much better team in the conference tournament than it was in the regular season. The Cyclones hammered Baylor 83-66 in the quarterfinal round before outlasting Kansas State.
Guard Marial Shayok keyed the win over the Wildcats. He hit a pair of three-pointers in the final minute and scored a game-high 21 points in the win.
"I had all the confidence in the world despite missing a bunch of shots in the second half," Shayok said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "I just kept my confidence. This team has my back and the coaches have my back."
Fellow guard Talen Horton-Tucker keyed the win over the Bears with his 21-point effort. He knocked down eight of 15 shots, including five three-pointers as Iowa State kept Baylor at arm's length throughout.
Kansas overpowered upstart West Virginia in the semifinal round, downing the Mountaineers by an 88-74 margin. Dedric Lawson scored 24 points as he connected on 9-of-13 shooting, and freshman Quentin Grimes added 18 points for the Jayhawks.
Kansas defeated Texas 65-57 in the quarterfinal round, with Devon Dotson scoring 17 points in that game and Lawson adding 16 as Kansas took charge in the second half.
Big 12 Championship Game
Kansas (25-8) vs. Iowa State (22-11), 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
The title game will be played at Sprint Center in Kansas City, and it will mark the third meeting of the year between the two rivals.
Iowa State pulled off a surprising 77-60 win at home in the first meeting, but the Jayhawks rebounded with an 80-76 triumph in Lawrence, Kansas.
Kansas head coach Bill Self will depend on Lawson to lead the way in the title game. The forward is averaging 19.0 points per game and connecting on 48.8 percent of his shots. Dotson, meanwhile, is averaging 11.9 points per night and connecting on 47.9 percent of his shots.
As for Iowa State, Shayok is a big-time scorer who is averaging 18.9 points per game and connecting on 49.9 percent of his shots from the field. Horton-Tucker is contributing 12.4 points per night and coming down with 5.0 rebounds per game.
Kansas earned the Big 12 tournament title in 2016 and 2018, but Iowa State won it in 2014, 2015, and 2017.
Look for the Cyclones to dictate the pace in this game, but the Jayhawks will take charge in the final 10 minutes and roll to the victory.