Though March Madness run ends, Cyclone fans anticipating another big year from Hoiberg’s crew

The Iowa State Cyclones opened up the NCAA tournament against No. 14 seed North Carolina Central. They won the game that night with ease 93-75, but the loss that they endured was the biggest news. With just under nine minutes left in the game, Georges Niang, quite possibly the team’s most important player, had his foot stepped on and had to leave the game a few plays later. Niang suffered a fractured right foot and would miss the rest of the NCAA tournament.

The Iowa State student section rushed the court after a big early season upset of then No. 7 Michigan.

The Iowa State student section rushed the court after a big early season upset of then No. 7 Michigan.

Speaking with CBS Sports, head coach Fred Hoiberg said, “You can’t sit here and cry about it. We’ll miss him, but at the same time, I believe in these guys, the five guys we’ll put on the floor.”

The loss of Niang was a big one, but luckily for the Cyclones, they didn’t lose the most important thing that night allowing them to move ahead and face perennial college basketball powerhouse and No. 6 seed, North Carolina.

Hoiberg had a lot of scheming to do with the loss of Niang. He inserted Daniel Edozie into the starting lineup after he averaged 5.2 minutes and 1.0 points per game. Size hasn’t been a strength of the Cyclones this season and didn’t get any easier with the matchup against potential first round pick, 6’9” James Michael McAdoo and 6’9”, 290-pound Kennedy Meeks.

The disadvantage was apparent when Iowa State missed nine of their first 10 shots to open the round of 32 matchup. The Cyclones were up by three at halftime but found themselves down by eight with just under four minutes to play. Clutch buckets from Naz Long, Monte Morris and Melvin Ejim tied the game allowing Coach Hoiberg to draw up a play for the win.

The clock read 16 seconds, and the ball was in senior DeAndre Kane’s hands as he drove right and flipped up a shot over North Carolina defenders. The ball bounced off the backboard and right through the nylon of the net. The Tar Heels were down two when the clock ran out after a bit of controversy. Nonetheless, Kane propelled the Cyclones to their first Sweet 16 since 2000.

The boys from Ames advanced to play the UCONN Huskies with a trip to the Elite 8 on the line. Despite 34 points from junior Dustin Hogue, Iowa State was unable to overcome a 16 point deficit with seven and half minutes left and a huge disparity in free throw shooting, losing 81-76.

Big 12 player of the year, Ejim and fellow first team All-Big 12 performer Kane will move onto the next stage of their basketball careers, possibly the NBA or overseas basketball.

Losing such big parts of their team is a tough loss, but the 2014-2015 Iowa State Cyclones actually have a chance to be better than this year’s team. They should be ranked in the top 25 to start the season with the return of Niang, Hogue, Morris, Long and last year’s top recruit Matt Thomas. The biggest newcomer to the team will be Marquette transfer Jameel McKay, the 6’9” big man who would have contended to be the best player on an already stacked team this season.

With continued success, Hoiberg is becoming a hot commodity in the NBA. The former NBA player and executive has revitalized and restored the competitive and fan-friendly basketball that fans haven’t seen in Ames since the days of Jamaal Tinsley at the turn of the century. Hoiberg is widely considered one of the best coaches in all of college basketball, and with “The Mayor” at the helm, deep runs in the NCAA tournament will come with a sense of familiarity.

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