KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- You screwed up, Tom Izzo, but don’t take my word for it.
“He screwed up,” Tonya Morris screamed from the front row behind Iowa State’s bench Saturday night.
That was the mother of Monte Morris, the best true point guard in the country. Again, don’t take my word for it.
“There’s not a better true point guard in the country,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “There’s just not.”
The Cousy Award folks had already been reminded via a Prohm mini-rant this week. Iowa State’s senior was left off the list of five finalists for the nation’s best point guard.
There was a lot of blame to go around following the Cyclones’ 80-74 win over West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament championship game. But it might as well have been like the confetti drifting down from the Sprint Center rafters -- drifting through the air.
This was a high -- for Morris, for the Cyclones and for the Big 12. Two days after Kansas -- and its loyal legions -- exited the Big 12 tournament, Sprint was packed to the rafters Saturday with fans from campuses a combined 1,200 miles from here.
The Cyclones stole the show by winning their third conference title in four years with a slight point guard from Flint, freakin’, Michigan.
We’ll pause here for the obvious question: Doesn’t every Flint guard go to Michigan State? Not in this case. This one became the tournament’s most outstanding player, averaging 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5 assists.
More than that, Morris neared the end of an inspiring four-year run, shedding a label as a Michigan State reject.
The story has been repeated over and over again, but Izzo didn’t recruit Morris hard enough and has since owned up to missing out.
“If you talk to those guys at Michigan State, they know they let one slip,” Morris said.
Meanwhile, Mama Morris continued to let it rip from the front row.
“I was told third party Izzo thought he was too small to play in the Big Ten. I respected that,” Tonya said. “Then he did come back and through that same third party said he screwed up.”
Whatever the case, Morris’ game is a reasonable facsimile of Magic Johnson’s. In the tournament opener he was one assist short of a triple-double. Morris grew up playing with Miles Bridges, Denzel Valentine, Gary Harris, Brandon Dawson and Keith Appling.
Even in the Cardinal and Gold, Morris just looks like a typical Michigan State guard. Unless there is a statistical Armageddon, he will be become the NCAA’s career assist-to-turnover ratio leader at about 4.8-1.
“Sometimes you miss out on guys,” Morris said. “I definitely wanted to be a Spartan, though.”
He’s a big reason the Cyclones (23-10) are playing as well as just about anyone in the country. They led for almost 96 of the 120 total minutes in the three tournament games. They shot a combined 55 percent this week, dropping in 30 threes to tie the tournament record.
Morris and his bullish buddy, Deonte Burton, are a Batman-Robin combo on the court.
They trained together in Atlanta in the offseason. Now they look for each other on the court -- half the time with the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Burton bringing the ball up.
“We’re really just chill,” Burton said.
Not when Burton slammed down an alley-oop dunk with his signature left hand with 2:07 left that popped the lid off of Sprint.
Not when Morris started jawing at West Virginia coach Bob Huggins in the first half.
“When I missed my shots early, I told him ‘I won’t miss too many more.’ He said, ‘What’d you say?’ I smirked at him,” Morris said after leading the Cyclones with 17.
The Great Plains version of Batman and Robin (108 total points) accounted for 42 percent of Iowa State’s offense this week. Not a bad result after Prohm lost all-time Cyclones great Georges Niang off last year’s team that went out with a Sweet 16 loss to Virginia.
The first thing Prohm did when he arrived from Murray State in 2015 was to visit Tonya. Morris was making noise about leaving early. Instead, he has been that (seemingly) rare star who stayed to improve his game because it wasn’t ready.
And now it is. Morris has played in the most wins in program history, 99.
“Morris is rare,” Prohm said. “His assist-to-turnover ratio is so special but because his role is different now he can show people, ‘Hey, I can score too. I can make 3s, I can score off the bounce. I’ve got a floater game.’ “
And he has a purpose. Four years ago Monte and mom flew into Des Moines International Airport looking for a basketball lifeline, 30 miles away in Ames.
Michigan had given Morris a 24-hour ultimatum to commit. That was too quick. During a recruiting trip to Arizona State, he was “ready to commit right there because the weather was great.”
But Morris didn’t. Upon arriving in Des Moines, Tonya declared, “There’s nothing here. What are we going to do? There’s absolutely nothing here. What are we here for?”
Monte said, “Mom, give it a chance.”
For lack of a better term, they loved him up in Ames. The people were nice. They call it Hilton Magic on those frozen winter nights at Hilton Coliseum.
The loyal, hard-partying, fun-loving Cyclones fans long ago began making the trek three hours south to Kansas City each March bound for what they called Hilton South when the Clones were rolling in the Big Eight/Big 12 tournaments.
That might be why Tonya felt so comfortable in the front row detailing her plight in downtrodden Flint. Her water tested zero for lead as part of the city’s tainted supply. But that didn’t stop her from taking precautions.
“Like I told everybody, the water runs through the same pipes, so I’m still [buying] my water,” she said. “We can bathe in it but as far as drinking it, no. I don’t even give it to my dog.
“This is my getaway. This is when I come and don’t think about what’s going on with all the water issues and enjoy him.”
And Monte enjoys his mom back.
“I did this for Flint,” Morris said, standing amid the confetti. “My city is hurting with the water situation … We got bottles stacked up in our house. That pushes me to be great, to get my mom out of the ‘hood and honestly put her in a better place. If I have an opportunity to do that I’m going to do it.”
Next cause, though, is to make a return trip to the Sprint Center in two weeks. It could happen if the selection committee has a heart and puts the Cyclones on a road that leads back to Hilton South.
The Midwest Regional is here March 23-25 in what is still technically known as the Sprint Center.