KANSAS CITY, Mo. How tough an out could Iowa State be in the early stages of the NCAA Tournament?
So tough that Kansas coach Bill Self drew his only two technical fouls of the season against the Cyclones including one in the Jayhawks' dominant 88-73 Big 12 Championship semifinal win Friday at the Sprint Center.
"Iowa State's good," Self said after his team's third win the first two in overtime over ISU this season. "It was important that our guys played with unbelievable emotion to match their emotion. So if the players are going to play with emotion, the coach might as well have some emotion, too."
ISU now turns its attention to Sunday's 5 p.m. tournament selection show, which could start slightly late, depending on how long the Big Ten championship game runs.
What's certain: The Cyclones (22-11) will be among the 68-team field in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2000-01.
What's unknown: ISU's seed, which is projected by leading bracketologists to be in the 10-11 range
"We put ourselves in position to be playing meaningful games at this time," Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Our backs were against the wall last week."
And that's when ISU tends to be at its best.
The Cyclones have lost back-to-back games just three times this season and each time setback number two came on the road.
The latest, an 86-69 rout at Oklahoma two weeks ago, preceded crucial wins over No. 13 Oklahoma State, West Virginia and the Sooners, all of which cemented ISU's return trip to "the Big Dance."
"We'll see where we're at," Cyclone point guard Korie Lucious said after a seven assist, four turnover effort against Kansas. "We'll see who we get, who we end up playing and where we end up playing. Just get ready for the next game. We wanted to win this game, but we've got to put it behind us, just try to move forward."
ISU's prolific offense makes them a dangerous early NCAA Tournament foe.
The Cyclones entered Friday's game at fourth nationally in points per game at 79.8.
"I've got great respect for their players," said Self, who picked up an intentional technical in his team's overtime win in Ames last last month. "They're talented and they stretch it hard to guard."
The rub for ISU remains defense.
The Jayhawks racked up 88 points, shot 69.2 percent in the second half and got to the line 18 times to the Cyclones' seven after ISU aggressively gained a 10-to-2 edge there early.
They dominated the glass by a 40-30 margin.
They were more physical and more determined something ISU looks to turn around this week, wherever, and against whomever.
"We can make a big run," Cyclone guard/forward Will Clyburn said. "I think everybody on this team still believes in each other, one through 15, and we're going to go out there and play like that. Like a family."