USA TODAY Sports offers instant analysis of Saturday night's Big 12 men's basketball championship game.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
HOW THE CYCLONES WON: This was a terrific matchup between two surging teams that had not won the Big 12 tourney title in a while, if at all.
Iowa State won it once, in 2000. Baylor had never won it.
The Bears, the No. 7 seed in the Big 12 tournament, became the only team to make a Big 12 tournament title game as a No. 6 seed or lower. And the Bears were looking to become the first team to win four games in the event.
BOX SCORE: No. 16 Cyclones 74, Bears 65
It didn't happen, as Iowa State won, 74-65. Iowa State is a dark horse Final Four team for a reason. The Cyclones are not only very good, but they have tremendous poise, as they exhibited Saturday.
After shooting so well from three-point range in Friday's victory over Kansas, Iowa State was frigid from the field for more than eight minutes against Baylor. The Cyclones missed their first 13 shots from the field.
The problem for Baylor was that it could not fully take advantage on the scoreboard.
ALL-AMERICAS: Two Cyclones third-team
And despite its early shooting woes, Iowa State showed great composure the rest of the half. Baylor was the team unraveling in the waning moments of the half. The Bears could not get to halftime fast enough.
After missing its first 13 shots, Iowa State shot 68.6% from the field, an outstanding shooting exhibition.
Both teams traded clutch jump shots in the final minutes of the game. Iowa State's early game shooting struggles against Baylor's zone defense were a distant memory. The Cyclones were the best team in Kansas City this weekend, and they appear poised for a deep tournament run.
Usually calm and composed Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg showed quite a bit of emotion in the game's final seconds, as did his assistants, who were emphatically hugging and high-fiving on the bench. Afterwards, Hoiberg walked around the court pumping his fist and waving to the thousands of Iowa State fans that packed the arena.
STAR WATCH: Iowa State was led by balanced scoring. DeAndre Kane, Iowa State's 24-year-old offensive catalyst, had another terrific game, collecting 17 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Naz Long was on point from three-point range throughout. And Dustin Hogue also had a strong effort in scoring and rebounding.
Baylor sharpshooter Brady Heslip made his first three three-point attempts of the game and finished with 14 points.
WHAT THIS MEANS IN A NUTSHELL: Let's be clear, both of these teams could make a run in what promises to be a unpredictable NCAA tournament.
Baylor began 2-8 in Big 12 play but steered its season back on course in arguably America's toughest league. This is not close to being Scott Drew's most talented Baylor team. But he has length and several "good" players.
By thriving in most of the Big 12 tournament, the Bears should escape playing in the dreaded 8/9 game in the NCAA tournament. A No. 6 or 7 seed appears more likely, and they have a realistic chance to advance to the Sweet 16. No one would have made such a statement when Baylor started out so poorly in league play.
Iowa State is on the short list of teams that opponents do not want to play in the NCAA tournament. The Cyclones are a tough, disciplined and veteran team. Coach Fred Hoiberg creates and exploits mismatches as well as any coach in the nation. When Iowa State shoots well from three-point range, it can beat any team in the nation.
The Cyclones do not have a player taller than 6-foot-7. With the right matchups in the NCAAs, Iowa State, a potential No. 3 seed destined to play its first two games in San Antonio, could be a dark horse Final Four pick.
TWEET THAT SPEAKS VOLUMES: Iowa State fans invaded Kansas City this weekend. At least 90% of the fans inside the Sprint Center were Iowa State supporters, which made for a challenging road environment for Baylor.
AND-1: By halftime of the Iowa State-Baylor game, Baylor had played 3½ games in the Big 12 tournament and trailed for a total of 1 minute, 37 seconds.
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