Iowa-Iowa State returns to spotlight

Both set about transforming their teams, albeit in completely different fashions. McCaffery convinced some players left behind – Roy Devyn Marble crucial among them – to stick around and take a chance, and then did what he's always done, pounded the pavement in search of four-year guys.

Hoiberg went Ellis Island, accepting a host of transfers who had worn out their welcomes elsewhere, and eventually his own four-year players.

"The plan was to get as much talent as possible, not to take so many transfers. It just worked out that way,'' Hoiberg said. "It worked for us and Fran's way worked for him, too. He's built things up really well and they're playing some of the best basketball I've seen.''

McCaffery's fans are still waiting for the ultimate reward. His team has made back-to-back NIT appearances, including a run to the title game last season, but the dangling carrot of an NCAA tournament invite still hasn't been realized.

Meantime, Hoiberg's quicker fix has resulted in speedier results. The Cyclones have made the past two NCAA fields and were this close to the Sweet 16 last season.

"I respect how Fred has done things,'' McCaffery said. "He's done a terrific job of blending pieces, sometimes pieces he didn't know he was going to have. He's made it work and people don't realize, it's very hard to do things the way he has.''

But enough with the mutual admiration society. Back to the task at hand – a one-time second-string rivalry game that will extend into the national picture.

Cyclone fans camped out for the Michigan game in November and Hoiberg expects them to do the same this week (it's 18 degrees in Ames, which is slightly more daunting than waiting for tickets in Florida, Durham, N.C., and San Diego).

It's not unlike it was in 1987. Hoiberg remembers Ames in the days before that game and then remembers the rarity, a game that actually lived up to the hype.

Now the Cyclones and Hawkeyes will try to recreate history. They certainly might match the 80s version in scoring.

Iowa State ranks first in the nation, averaging 91.7 points per game; Iowa is a hair behind, sixth at 89.5.

"You've got two talented teams with shot-makers,'' McCaffery said.

But is there a present-day LaFester Rhodes? That's the bigger question.

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