Saturday, January 28, 2012

ISU Basketball Rankings for 1/28/12

Ken Pomeroy rankings
Rank - 45 (6th out of 10 in the Big XII)
Record by projected wins and losses - 19-12 (9-9 in Big XII)
Aggregate projected record - 19-12 (9-9 in Big XII)

Sagarin rankings
Rank - 48 (6th out of 10 in the Big XII)
Record by projected wins and losses - 17-14 (7-11 in Big XII)

Short one today, but a lot has changed since the start of conference play.  ISU has risen through the rankings, and appears to be at the doorstep to an invite to the NCAA tournament.  Both kenpom and Sagarin have them ranked in the 40's and 6th in the Big XII.  The projected records are a little apart, with Sagarin unchanged since two weeks ago.  However, only 5 teams would be considered 'safe' to make the tournament, so the Cyclones still have some work to do.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Turning Point for ISU Athletics?

With the recent success of ISU men's basketball I couldn't help but take a step back and look at how this 2011-2012 academic year is progressing.


It started with a football season that was destined for at best mediocrity and a below .500 record.  What turned out doesn't appear to be much better with the final record reading 6-7.  However, for a team that was favored it just TWO games all year long this is monumental.  Add in a thrilling victory over Iowa, some domination over Texas Tech and a victory over the #2 team in the nation and ISU football now has several monkeys off their back.

Maybe more important for future success was the publicity ISU got throughout the end of the season because of Paul Rhoads.  As with any successful coach, other schools will come calling.  Rhoads answered those calls with a 10-year extension.  An almost unheard of length for a college football coach.  ISU has had consistency before at the head coach position in Dan McCarney.  He brought ISU from the dead to having a pulse.  It looks like Rhoads is now primed to take this program to being recognized nationally.  If you have any doubts check out some of the offer lists of this recruiting class.  This kid, Gary Simon, will choose on National Signing Day between Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State.  That is significant.  Sure, ISU is still going to arm wrestle with some MAC schools over a few recruits.  Almost every BCS program does.  However, athletes are beginning to take notice of what is going on in Ames.  They see a passionate coach that doesn't appear to be leaving any time soon, possibility of early playing time and a chance to take down the big boys on ESPN.  ISU hasn't got this much publicity since the year of Seneca.  Even then, their publicity was short lived.  The key for ISU going forward is consistency.  This means making bowl games every year, knocking off an upset a year and periodically sneaking up to 8 or 9 wins.  ISU has consistency in the coaching staff, a very, very young offense and a wizard calling the shots on defense.  Football may never look back.


Pollard took a calculated risk in hiring Fred Hoiberg just a season ago.  As an ISU legend he was a popular hire with the fan base.  If anyone would get the support of the fan base it would be Freddy.  Fred  had ZERO coaching experience when he was hired.  Although at times it has reared its ugly head, Fred has also shown, in my opinion, what is even more important: the ability to recruit talent.

Many were skeptical of Hoiberg bringing in transfer players.  Afterall, there was a reason that they were leaving their former schools.  That didn't stop Hoiberg from bringing in a former 19th ranked recruit, a player with two Final Fours under his belt and two other significant contributors.  As if that wasn't enough for him he brought in the point guard from a Final Four team and the second leading scorer in the Mountain West behind Jimmer Fredette.  According to multiple Hoiberg quotes Clyburn has the most NBA potential out of anyone on the team.

It does appear as though he has slowed down on the transfer front, but he is competing with the big boys for the diaper-dandies now.  Hoiberg has a stigma to him that is hard to ignore.  The guy has the looks and style to steal any mom's heart.  He has the NBA contacts and sales pitch to steal an 18 year olds heart.  There is just something to be said for having a plethora of NBA scouts in the stands every home conference game.

Young basketball players are selfish now.  They want to shoot, they want to score the want to get into the league.  Hoiberg is offering every kid this opportunity.  I am a firm believer in the thought that the smartest coach on the floor is the one with the best players.  Hoiberg is growing as a coach, but his knack for recruiting is hard to ignore.

As we sit here six games into the conference season, ISU has hope once again of making it into the NCAA tournament.  This is how it is supposed to be at ISU right?  Even the last time ISU made the tournament they started 0-5 in the conference.  ISU is 4-2 with close losses to two separate top-10 teams.  The point of the matter is that once again ISU is looking toward post-season play.  Hilton Magic is coming back slowly and recruits are looking towards Ames, Iowa as place to spend their collegiate career.

I realize there is more to ISU than just football and men's basketball.  Let's be real.  Those two sports run the athletic department at a majority of universities.  What I enjoy most about these teams is they put a product on the field and court that I can be proud of.  Their style of play is fun to watch and I am filled with optimism once again.  I am not asking for a National Championship (give it a year or two), but I enjoy watching every game knowing there is a chance to win, not just cover the spread.  ISU has long been the underdog and for the first time in a while it appears they are biting back.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thoughts from New York

I could write a novel on my experiences in the "city that never sleeps".  I will instead choose to keep it as brief as possible.  Here is my "Top Ten" from New York City.

10.   Chicago-style pizza is superior to New York-style pizza.  The best piece of pizza on the trip may have been from small shop at 10:30 in the morning.  I wish I would have visited more of those shops during the trip.  Grimaldi's Pizza is vastly overrated and I have concluded that coal-oven pizza is not my thing.
9.    Central Park is very unique.  It really is just as the movies and shows and pictures depict it.  It is quite something to have this giant park right in the middle of the city.  We went through what I thought was a lot of it, but after looking at a map appears to have been only a small fraction of it.  Would be fun to see in the summer and/or with snow on the ground.
8.  New Jersey is kind of a dump.  At least what we saw anyway.  I'm sure there are nicer parts but North Bergen and what we saw driving through Hoboken leave a little to be desired. 
7.   There are always a s*** ton of people in Times Sqaure.  I would be interested to find out what percentage of them were true New Yorkers and what percentage were tourists.  I can't see any resident in their right mind routinely passing through there unless they had work obligations.
6.  Rockefeller Center was interesting.  I would like to tour the NBC studios sometime and get to the top of a building (either Rockefeller or Empire State) the next time I go, but it wasn't first on my list this time.
5.  The World Trade Center site is going to be really incredible when finished.  Right now, it is missing information.  Soon, people that will be visiting will not have experienced or been alive when the events occurred.  They are building a museum so this should improve.
4.  The subway system was pretty incredible.  It is quite amazing how impressive the logistics of the whole operation are.  It was fun to learn how it operated and get a good feel for how millions of people commute on a daily basis.  When I go again I will stay within walking distance of a subway station and the whole trip should prove to be much easier.
3.  New York City doesn't have to be expensive.  There are plenty of people that call NYC home that live on small salaries and wages.  I quickly learned that these people probably do not buy rounds of jager bombs or eat at Dylan's Prime, but everyone deserves a learning experience.  You would not have the need or the desire probably to own a car in New York.  Public transportation actually works pretty effectively there.  There are certainly places to eat and get groceries that aren't all that different in price from here.
2.  Brooklyn and the bridge itself are pretty special.  I could live in Brooklyn.  The parts I saw anyway were much more low key yet at the same time just minutes away from the city.  The bridge offers tremendous views of Manhattan and we were lucky enough to walk across twice at dusk.  There really is no skyline that compares with that of Manhattan's.
1.  The Pinstripe Bowl, the reason the trip was made, was a pretty cool experience even with the loss by the Cyclones.  The "table-gating" beforehand with ISU fans was great and Yankee Stadium is a surprisingly good place to watch a football game.  Paul Rhoads certainly opened up some questions going into spring ball, but at the end of the day I think a lot higher of the Pinstripe Bowl than I did going in.  It was really a first-class bowl game and through a little Twitter-stalking I think the players thoroughly enjoyed themselves as well.  I probably would not make a repeat appearance next season but would consider it down the road if the Big XII tie-in was still in tact.

In conclusion, I had never really considered New York as a place I wanted to visit.  After being there, I definitely want to go back.  There is enough to do there to take up several trips.  As with Vegas, I think each time you go you get a sense of familiarity and things go a little smoother.  The next time would be a blast without the pressure of having to see everything.  I'd really like to get off the tourist track and see a little bit more of how the New Yorkers live.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

ISU Basketball Rankings for 1/4/12

I like writing these while watching the games, so once again, tonight's game against Texas isn't included.  However, fueled by a good first half defensive showing and prodigious offensive output (with the notable exception of free throws), Iowa States rankings should improve.

Ken Pomeroy rankings
Rank - 83 (8th out of 10 in the Big XII)
Record by projected wins and losses - 15-16 (5-13 in Big XII)
Aggregate projected record - 16-15 (6-12 in Big XII)

Sagarin rankings
Rank - 68 (7th out of 10 in the Big XII)
Record by projected wins and losses - 17-14 (7-11 in Big XII)

Revisiting last week's prediction - Bubu Palo has played a little more (40.2 percent of minutes vs. 40 percent) but more importantly, his usage is up over the last three games (20.1 percent of possessions used vs. 19.3).  I predicted this would help Iowa State's turnover percentage on defense.  It doesn't appear to have had an effect (18.3 vs. 18.5).  

However, Bubu's fouls against has risen to 7.0 per 40 minutes of play.  This is the best on ISU (Royce White is second at 6.0) and good for 25th nationally.  This stat plays into one of the four factors - free throw attempts per field goal attempt.  This stat has increased from .437 just a couple of weeks ago up to .455, good for 32nd in the country.  Why would this be important?  It means the team is getting the opportunity to score with the time stopped.  Unfortunately for Bubu, the added play seems to have had an adverse effect.  He's banged up with a wrist injury and seems to be a step slower than earlier this year.  His minutes are up 15% over last year and usage is up 35%.

A little qualitative bonus note - it seems like Iowa State has figured out how to allow Royce White bring the ball up the court.  It was effective tonight (vs. Texas) against man defense.  The big man guarding White had to come out to him at the top of the lane and allowed White to either penetrate or kick to a shooter if the big man got help.  It continued to stink against zone, where the big man can hang back in the paint and White was picked up by a guard.  Also the zone allows more rotation to cover the shooters and minimizes the passing lanes.  ISU needs to be quick to adapt to changing defenses to continue this effectiveness.