AMES — When senior Iowa State guard-turned-Big 12 newcomer of the year DeAndre Kane met the media last fall, he spoke earnestly, never swerving off-message.
“I just want to win,” the transfer from Marshall said repeatedly.
The force behind that five-word mantra showed up all season — and helped frame the calling of his team’s name Sunday as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’d never watched the selection show,” Kane said as he prepared for his first trip to the grandest stage. “I had no reason to watch it.”
Now it’s not about “want.”
It’s about “need.”
But in truth, maybe it’s been that way all along.
Kane and the Big 12 Tournament champion Cyclones (26-7) continue their journey Friday in a second-round tournament game tipping at a time to be determined against 14th-seeded North Carolina Central at San Antonio, Texas.
“It’s a team that beat (12 seed) N.C. State by 10 points and played (6 seed) Cincinnati very close,” said ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg, whose team won the Big 12 Tournament for the first time in 14 years, then earned its best NCAA seed since 2001. “From what I understand, very well coached. We’ll get to work. We’re going to get to work (Sunday night) and try to put a game plan together.”
Part of that plan included leaving the deep euphoria that radiated from ISU players, to coaches, to 15,000-plus Cyclone fans rocking the Sprint Center after Saturday’s 74-65 win over Baylor behind in the team’s Kansas City hotel room.
“Yeah, we accomplished one goal, but you can’t be on your high horse too long,” said ISU’s Georges Niang, who isn’t sure when the five stitches over his right eyebrow will be removed. “You’ve just got to put that in your back pocket and try for your next goal.”
Momentum, however, is an entirely different matter.
That surge of confidence gleaned from the Cyclones’ stirring run through Kansas State, Kansas and the Bears remains firmly in place.
“We’re going to try to bring it with us,” said Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim.
That’s not all.
Humility’s along for the ride, too.
As far as Kane is concerned, the only thing the 2013-14 MEAC champion Eagles (28-5) lack is a national platform — until now.
“Same approach,” Kane said about preparing for a non-power conference foe. “Scout these guys. Whoever you’re guarding; you look at the match ups. Coach gives you the principles — what you do, what you don’t do. You go from there. But you never overlook a team, no matter where they’re coming from. Mid-major, high-major, every team’s got players.”
Hoiberg loves his.
The Cyclones swept through a tough non-conference slate, going 14-0 for the first time in program history.
They overcame a stretch in which they lost four of five Big 12 games and beat eight top 25 teams.
“You prepare yourselves for this time of year,” Hoiberg said.
That’s what Kane’s been doing the last four years — even if only one’s been at ISU.“We can make a run,” he said. “We can make a deep run.”