Ames, Ia. — Depending which side of the scoreboard you reside, Friday night’s Iowa-Iowa State basketball game is either bigger than the most recent Cy-Hawk football game — or it isn’t.
There’s not much middle ground when talking sports at the state’s two major universities, and that’s especially evident in this one.
The 8:30 p.m. game at Hilton Coliseum marks the first time since Dec. 19, 1987 that they tipped off as ranked teams, Iowa State sitting 17th among Associated Press rateds and Iowa 23rd.
They’re a combined 17-1, the game is on national television and … you get the point.
But is it bigger than the September Cy-Hawk football game that Iowa won?
“In my opinion it is,” longtime Iowa State backer Gene Meyer said. “As you recall, last September both fan bases were certain the opposing team would win. Compare that mindset to the current thinking. Both teams are rated, playing at a high level, and fans on both sides expect to win.”
Furthermore, it’s NCAA Tournament resume fodder – especially if Iowa pulls off a big road upset against a highly-regarded unbeaten.
Iowa State participated in the past two NCAA Tournaments, while Iowa hasn’t advanced that far since the 2005-06 season.
The Cyclones are 7-0 – with significant wins coming against Michigan and Brigham Young. Iowa is 10-1, the loss coming in overtime against Villanova in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
But is it bigger than when 56,800 fans crammed into the Cyclones’ Jack Trice Stadium to witness the Hawkeyes’ 27-21 victory on Sept. 14?
“A loss to another ranked team in basketball is not going to keep you out of the NCAA Big Dance,” said Gregg Sunner, an Iowa State fan who lives in Ankeny. “A win, obviously, strengthens the resume and may help your seeding. So the reason people think it’s bigger is more because of the media hype than anything else.”
Expectations weren’t great back when the football teams played — unlike Friday night when a pair of teams in everybody’s 2014 NCAA Tournament brackets collide.
ESPNU is showing the game nationally. A sellout crowd of 14,400 or so will watch in person — some of whom probably paid big bucks to partake in the experience.
On the StubHub website, tickets were listed for between $100 and $999. Iowa State sold tickets for $30 – and all were gone within 10 minutes of when they went on sale Oct. 16.
But is this bigger than that night back in September when the Hawkeyes beat the Cyclones for the first time since 2010?
“Football is more important, but bragging rights are always nice,” Cyclone fan Ted Flint tweeted. “Plus, this game could affect both’s seeding.”
It’s such an anticipated game that Ames restaurant Hickory Park planned ahead for an early-evening rush.
“With the volume of food that we use, we don’t order more, but we’ll prepare more,” said Mark Petrus, the restaurant’s kitchen manager. “We always have food on hand in freezers; we’ll have more of it ready to prepare immediately.
“This isn’t going to be a normal Friday night.”
He has worked at the restaurant more than 20 years. He knows big games draw big crowds.
“What I’m expecting is a crowd just as big as a football Saturday,” he said.
But Iowa-Iowa State on Friday night bigger than Iowa-Iowa State last September?
Not if you’re Iowa fan Barry Crist, who said: “Basketball is never bigger than football in Iowa.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball