As I noted earlier in the week, New Year's Day is mostly about football. I get it. But the most interesting thing happening on this Saturday in sports will actually be a college basketball game originating in Ames, Iowa, where Iowa State will try to extend a start-the-season winning streak literally nobody could've imagined, much less predicted, eight weeks ago.
The Cyclones went 2-22 last season and won zero Big 12 games before firing Steve Prohm and replacing him with T.J. Otzelberger. Like any smart coach, Otzelberger immediately turned to the transfer portal to remake the Cyclones' roster. He added Izaiah Brockington from Penn State, Gabe Kalscheur from Minnesota, Caleb Grill from UNLV, Aljaz Kunc from Washington State, and Tristan Enaruna from Kansas — plus Tyrese Hunter, a top-50 prospect from the Class of 2021. It was a recruiting job well done. But his Cyclones were still picked to finish last in the Big 12 for obvious and understandable reasons.
Then the season started.
Iowa State opened with four whatever-wins before upsetting Xavier and Memphis in New York during the week of Thanksgiving. That launched the Cyclones into the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1. Since then, they've won six more games — including a road contest at Creighton, and a home game against in-state rival Iowa — to create a 12-0 record featuring four wins over top-50 KenPom.com opponents. Iowa State is the biggest surprise, and best story, of this college basketball season. And now, on this Saturday, the Cyclones will host Baylor — the reigning national champion and current No. 1 team — inside a sold-out Hilton Coliseum that'll provide an incredible atmosphere and tremendous opportunity.
"When we came here [last March], I got asked a lot, 'When are we going to bring back Hilton Magic? When is the magic going to be back?'," Otzelberger told reporters Friday. "And, I feel like, from our guys' standpoint, they have done what they can to help do that."
To be clear, Iowa State is a 8.5-point underdog against Baylor -- and KenPom only gives the Cyclones a 25% chance to win the game. So, barring a surprise, Otzelberger's team will drop from the list of unbeatens Saturday afternoon. But if they somehow win, man, what a story that'll be. Because a 13-0 Iowa State team would have a strong case -- a really strong case -- to be ranked No. 1 in the country just two months after being picked last in the Big 12 preseason poll.
For now, Iowa State is No. 10 in Saturday morning's updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings. Baylor remains No. 1. The Cyclones and Bears are scheduled to tipoff at 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
Top 25 And 1 rankings
|James Akinjo finished with 27 points and nine assists in Tuesday's 104-68 win over Northwestern State. The Bears' next game is Saturday at Iowa State.||--||9-0|
|Paolo Banchero finished with 23 points and eight rebounds in Wednesday's 76-65 win over Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils are currently on a COVID pause.||--||5-3|
|Jamie Jaquez finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds in a 67-56 win at Marquette on Dec. 11. The Bruins are currently on a COVID pause.||--||5-2|
|Zach Edey finished with 21 points and five rebounds in Wednesday's 104-90 win over Nicholls. The Boilermakers' next game is Monday against Wisconsin.||--||8-1|
|Julian Strawther finished with 15 points and four rebounds in Tuesday's 93-63 win over North Alabama. The Zags are currently on a COVID pause.||--||7-1|
|Christian Braun finished with 22 points and four rebounds in Wednesday's 86-59 win over Nevada. The Jayhawks' next game is Saturday against George Mason.||--||8-1|
|Gabe Brown finished with 24 points and seven rebounds in Wednesday's 81-68 win over High Point. The Spartans' next game is Sunday at Northwestern.||--||4-4|
|Walker Kessler finished with 16 points, 11 blocks and 10 rebounds in Wednesday's 70-55 win over LSU. The Tigers' next game is Tuesday at South Carolina.||--||5-2|
|Boogie Ellis finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in a 67-53 win over Georgia Tech on Dec. 18. The Trojans are currently on a COVID pause.||--||5-3|
|Izaiah Brockington finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds in a 79-48 win over Chicago State on Dec. 21. The Cyclones' next game is Saturday against Baylor.||--||6-2|
|Josh Carlton finished with 20 points and five rebounds in Wednesday's 80-47 win over Texas State. The Cougars are currently on a COVID pause.||--||8-0|
|Davion Warren finished with 15 points and two steals in Tuesday's 75-53 win over Alabama State. The Red Raiders' next game is Wednesday at Iowa State.||--||5-2|
|Arizona missed 18 of the 27 3-pointers it attempted in a 77-73 loss at Tennessee on Dec 18. The Wildcats' next game is Monday against Washington.||--||7-0|
|E.J. Liddell finished with 28 points and nine rebounds in a 73-55 win over Wisconsin on Dec 11. The Buckeyes are currently on a COVID pause.||--||7-1|
|Tennessee was without two of its top three scorers in Wednesday's 73-68 loss at Alabama. The Vols' next game is Wednesday against Ole Miss.||--||5-3|
|Noah Horchier finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds in Wednesday's 70-65 win over Seton Hall. The Friars' next game is Saturday at DePaul.||--||7-2|
|Seton Hall missed 15 of the 19 3-pointers it attempted in Wednesday's 70-65 loss at Providence. The Pirates' next game is Saturday against Villanova.||--||5-3|
|Tre Mitchell finished with 14 points and six rebounds in Tuesday's 78-33 win over Incarnate Word. The Longhorns' next game is Saturday against West Virginia.||--||6-1|
|David Roddy finished with 19 points and seven rebounds in a 66-63 win over Mississippi State on Dec. 11. The Rams are currently on a COVID pause.||--||8-0|
|Justin Moore finished with 17 points and three rebounds in a 71-58 win over Xavier on Dec. 21. The Wildcats' next game is Saturday at Seton Hall.||--||6-4|
|Xavier missed 17 of the 23 3-pointers it attempted in a 71-58 loss at Villanova on Dec. 21. The Musketeers' next game is Friday at Butler.||--||4-5|
|Kellan Grady made seven 3-pointers and finished with 23 points in Friday's 92-48 win over High Point. The Wildcats' next game is Tuesday at LSU.||--||6-2|
|Noah Gurley finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday's 73-68 win over Tennessee. The Crimson Tide's next game is Wednesday at Florida.||--||6-2|
|LSU missed 23 of the 29 3-pointers it attempted in Wednesday's 70-55 loss at Auburn. The Tigers' next game is Tuesday against Kentucky.||--||5-3|
|Steven Crowl finished with 21 points and nine rebounds in Wednesday's 89-85 win over IIllinois State. The Badgers' next game is Monday at Purdue.||--||7-2|
|Braden Norris scored 18 points and finished with nine assists in a 69-58 victory at Vanderbilt on Dec. 10. The Ramblers are currently on a COVID pause.||--||5-4|