There is no doubt that the 2013-14 Iowa State men’s basketball team is tough, both mentally and physically.
Dec 13, 2013; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes center Adam Woodbury and Iowa State Cycloness forward Georges Niang (31) battle for a lose ball at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State beat Iowa 85-82. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Some would argue this is the toughest Cyclone team since Larry Eustachy’s 1999-2000 squad that won the Big 12 conference regular season and tournament trophies on their way to an elite eight appearance and a tough loss to eventual national champion Michigan State.
Both mental and physical toughness have played a key role already this season. Close games against Michigan, BYU, UNI, Iowa, and Boise State were all won with toughness. While good coaching, good decision making, and strong defense also play a role in close games, toughness supersedes all. It is something this Cyclone team already has, while some of Fred Hoiberg’s previous team’s needed time to develop.
Struggles on the road have been evident for Iowa State over the last couple seasons. This couldn’t have been truer last season when Iowa State lost close games to a poor Texas team and a very bad and unathletic Texas Tech squad.
Now that conference play is upon us, the ability of this Cyclone team to remain tough will become more and more important as the season continues. Iowa State has only played one true road game, a close win over a traditionally strong BYU team.
Iowa State’s history of struggles on the road are worth noting, as seven conference opponents currently are in the RPI top 80 according to RealTimeRPI, including Kansas who is currently has the top RPI nationally despite losses to Villanova, Colorado, and Florida.
It appears everything has gone right for the Cyclones this season. Close games have been won, Melvin Ejim recovered quickly after a left knee injury, and backups have stepped up when they’ve needed too. There is no guarantee this luck will continue for Iowa State in Big 12 play, especially considering teams like Kansas, Baylor, and even Oklahoma State have more talent.
In close games though, the more mentally tough and better coached team will often win.