Before a late February game back in 1989, Iowa State fans flocked to the Hilton Coliseum praying for a miracle victory over the then-No. 3 Missouri Tigers. For the next two hours, Cyclone fans enchanted their players and pestered opposing players as Iowa State brought home the 82-75 victory.
Writer Buck Turnbull declared a presence there he deemed “Hilton Magic.” A gift from the basketball gods brought on from faithful fans. He wanted more in the upcoming game versus Oklahoma State, who had destroyed them earlier the month by 28 points.
The “Hilton Magic” proved its powers once more with a 90-81 win over the Cowboys.
The powers extend off the court as well.
Twenty years later, the magic showed up once more when Craig Brackins decided to return to a team stuck in the Big 12 basement giving up a likely lottery selection in the NBA draft.
This past season the Cyclones finished 15-17 and 4-12 in conference play. They showed some life at home with 13 of the 15 wins in Ames, Iowa including all of their conference wins.
Not only that, but Brackins “welcome to” moment came at home when he dropped 42 on Kansas and pulled down 14 rebounds in an 82-67 loss.
If only they could play all their games at home. As a team, they averaged 60 points on the road and 65 at home.
But the main difference is on defense. Opponents averaged 64 points at Hilton Coliseum, but the Cyclone defense gave up 73 points per game on the road.
But that is some what understandable with three sophomores in their starting five last year. Next years team will likely have three juniors and at least one senior starting giving the team much need experience.
They bring in a lot of scoring and athleticism with Chicago-bred guard Chris Colvin fresh off a AAAA state title. Chris chose Iowa State over Kentucky, Florida State, and in-state power Illinois.
The Cyclones also welcome Antwon Oliver, who is an athletic tweener at 6'5". He is a very good defender and a great rebounder for his size and will add depth to the team and bring energy off the bench.
Former Clemson commit LaRon Dendy gives the team another big man. He is a great rebounder, a bruiser down low, and will take care of the dirty work for the team.
Fellow transfer Marquis Gilstrap is a great scorer. He can shoot the three, post up smaller guards using his 6'6", 215-pound frame, and drive by big men showing off his great athleticism in the process. He only has one year of eligibility, but should team up with Brackins for a very impressive tag team.
Iowa State has had success with transferring players. The 1994-95 and 1995-96 starting fives included four who transfers. They made it to NCAA Tournament twice and had one Sweet 16.
The 2001 team was led by transfer Jamal Tinsley and got a No. 2 seed in the tournament.
Coach Greg McDermott is excited about his new transfers and plans to have a more uptempo offense. The offense has struggled and would greatly benefit from pushing the ball.
“A way to get your team more up-tempo is to create turnovers with your defense. That really comes down to having some length, quickness, and speed to take those chances and have them pay off by forcing turnovers and creating opportunities on the offensive end,” said coach McDermott.
“We really enhanced our ability to create baskets with our defense with the guys that we have returning and with the addition of some very good athletes in the recruiting class.”
Lately the coach has been on the hot seat mainly for letting Wesley Johnson get away after the player decided to transfer to Syracuse.
Greg McDermott took Northern Iowa to three straight tournament appearances with a 65-60 loss to Georgia Tech, 57-52 loss to Wisconsin, and in his final season, a loss to Georgetown, 54-49.
With that impressive résumé you would expect more time before they turn the heat up especially with their last coach leaving in a minor scandal.
McDermott will have to prove himself on the recruiting trail if he wants to keep his job long-term.
But the only way for him to gain some job security is to win games.
Next season they will have depth in the frontcourt and backcourt, they will be a scrappy team with star power in Brackins, and will have the experience to become more poised on the road.
McDermott and the Cyclones will have a little help. Hilton Magic showed up again when Craig Brackins committed to Iowa State. The Magic saved the Cyclone faithful by keeping Brackins on campus for at least one more season.
And maybe, just maybe, it will prove itself one more time when Harrison Barnes puts on the cardinal red and gold hat.