Monday, April 1, 2013

Predictions for 2013-2014 part I

I broke this down into sections.  It got long.

- It all starts with Fred.  The improvement that he's shown as a coach from one year to the next has been remarkable.  I don't know if it's the dedication that he honed as a player or exposure to the 365 nature of the NBA, but he's brought something new every year, and his players have shown marked improvement over the offseason, and maybe the best I've seen during the season.  I thought when he was hired, he'd be a recruiter and would have to rely on others for the X's and O's.  I was wrong.

- Other big 12 schools see it too.  My KU friends used to root for Fred and the Cyclones.  They don't any more.  ISU played them tougher than anyone else in the conference.  KU swept #2 KSU three times and two of them weren't even close.  Self showed twice he thinks he has to get T'd up to beat ISU.  Travis Ford tried it too.  Second year in a row ISU was picked 8th in the big 12.  Second year in a row they finished at least three spots higher.  The coaches might pick them that low again, but they're just hoping.  I'd put my money on something much higher.

 - New look for next year.  This is a trend for ISU.  They're losing 3/5 of the starting lineup again.  They're losing 65% of their scoring AGAIN.  But I feel good about it.  Next year will be the first Iowa State team that Fred has had.  Sure, JUCOs will play a role, but next year's squad will be built around Niang and Ejim, two ISU recruits.  Morris and Thomas and SDW won't know anything other than the Cyclones and could start from day one.  Bubu and Percy could be big parts at the beginning of the year.  It wouldn't have taken much to push ISU over the top in two games against Kansas this year.  A game against OSU.  One against Texas.  If a little more heart and dedication to ISU does it next year, I'm ok with it.

- Playing to the refs.  For most of the year, this wasn't an issue.  I was frustrated in the Big 12 tourney, because it was obvious the refs were going to let the players bang, and it seemed ISU was slow to catch on. But they redeemed themselves in NCAA tournament.  It was evident from the first games of Thursday, the refs were going to let the players play.  That seems to favor teams from the Big 10 and Big East to a lesser extent than teams that play with a little more finesse.  But the Cyclones seemed to acclimate just fine.  Niang played his game.  Ejim didn't get beat over the top for boards.  Booker brought a couple hard fouls.  I predict next years' team is more suited to playing how the refs' allow.  If Niang can know when he can be more aggressive, and when he needs to back off, he can be even more effective.

- Play better than the refs.  I'm tired of seeing the Cyclones get screwed.  I think Fred and the rest of the team are too.  They just need to take it out of the refs' hands.  Much like in boxing or UFC, when a fighter gets screwed in a decision, there's something ISU could have done about it.  And it's to wail on people.  The goal has to beat teams by 10.  And KU by 20.  After the anguish Fred and the rest of the team showed, I think there will be a little more killer instinct next year.  At least I hope so.

- No more Mr. Nice Fred.  This goes with the item above.  Now, I don't expect to see Fred acting like a clown like Bill Self, but it's evident he needs to do more than the Jim Boeheim "I"m tired" routine.  He can subtly work the refs from the start and still keep his dignity.  Self would obviously act like an ass to influence the refs every game if it meant a win, so I think Hoiberg can/will come that direction just a little more.

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