When Iowa State selected Fred Hoiberg as its next coach three-plus years ago, the hire received mixed reviews outside of Ames.
Some called it a boom-or-bust act of desperation to hire a local hero with no coaching experience at any level in hopes of reviving one of the Big 12's most downtrodden programs. Others questioned why a man revered as "The Mayor" in Ames would risk tarnishing his reputation at Iowa State by taking on such a difficult job.
It's a testament to the incredible job Hoiberg has done at Iowa State that concerns that were completely valid in April 2010 now seem silly in Nov. 2013. Fueled by overlooked recruits and transfers who welcomed a last chance at redemption, Iowa State reached the NCAA tournament in Hoiberg's second and third seasons and appears poised to make a third trip this March.
Three days after the support of a raucous home crowd propelled the Cyclones to an upset victory over No. 7 Michigan in Ames, Hoiberg's team proved it didn't need Hilton Magic to beat a quality team. They rallied from a five-point halftime deficit, survived a series of BYU runs and hung on for a 90-88 road victory behind 21 points apiece from Deandre Kane and Melvin Ejim and 19 from Georges Niang.
Two defensive stands in the final seconds stand out as the biggest moments of Iowa State's victory.
Junior college transfer Daniel Edozie got a finger tip on BYU star Tyler Haws' potential go-ahead jump shot with four seconds remaining and Iowa State clinging to a one-point lead. BYU's Kyle Collinsworth had a chance to tie it after Edozie hit one of two free throws, but his off-balance runner at the buzzer was off target.
Thus, Iowa State is now 4-0 with the most challenging part of its non-conference schedule behind it, though a home game against Iowa and road tests at Northern Iowa and George Mason will all be tricky. Regardless, the Cyclones have the look of a Top 25-caliber team with a chance to improve upon round of 32 NCAA tournament exits the past two seasons.
There's no better measure of how Iowa State has progressed the past few seasons than the discrepancy between how Hoiberg was viewed nationally in 2010 and how he is viewed today.
Hiring Hoiberg was the risk back then. Today the only concern is that an NBA team may someday lure him away.
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