Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What Can We Expect From McKay Going Forward?

I'm going to do something very, very dangerous on this New Year's Eve.  On a night where everyone is out letting loose and throwing caution to the wind one last time for the year I am going to do the same.  Kids, don't try this at home.  I'm going to take McKay's numbers thus far in just two games and use them to predict his future production.  Why is this dangerous?  Well, I once scored 5 points in a span of 30 seconds in a student vs staff basketball game.  I haven't exactly kept up that pace.  Anyway, here we go!

As I've stated above, I realize its only two games and two games against teams that barely have a pulse (no offense, Drake).  However, this is the data we have to draw on and I don't think McKay's game will change a whole lot based on competition.  He will get garbage points and those don't have a lot to do with defense.  I "extrapolated" the data to show his numbers for 30 minutes.  Do I think he will get 30 minutes a game soon?  Probably not, but those are "starter" minutes and I think McKay will creep closer and closer to that threshold.

vs Drake134.
vs MVSU175.
Season Avg154.

Should we expect to see McKay produce a line of 18/11/3 against better competition?  Probably not, but what if he produces at just 80 percent of that clip?  Here is the line:

Comp. Adj.307.29.614.48.82.4

Still pretty good huh?  Just how good?  Well, here was Melvin Ejim's production in similar criteria last year...

I adjusted Ejim's totals for 30 minutes per game to match McKay's.  Ejim shot a lower percentage, but also shot many more 3pt FGA's than McKay will ever take.  Ejim also contributed in a lot of other ways that McKay might not such as free throw makes and assists, but you get the drift.  McKay is pretty close to Ejim's numbers from last year.  A year in which Ejim won Big 12 Player of the Year.  Look, no one expected McKay to come in and be the Big 12 POY.  Ok, maybe some people did.  But, the point is his numbers are awfully close even after taking 80 percent of their values.

It will be interesting to see how this all correlates on Saturday against much stiffer competition.  Projecting him for 30 minutes is probably a bit high especially considering the pace at which he plays but the point remains, he has produced at a high level thus far.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Predicting the 2015-16 Non-Conference Schedule

These have been 11 of the longest days ever waiting between Hoiball experiences.  Hoiball is a drug and I am going through withdrawals.  With that being said as this season's non-conference season winds down I wanted to take a look at next years schedule.  I will assume ISU plays 12 non-conference games.  They can play 13 but they always choose to play 12.  I'm not sure why but my guess would be schedule flexibility.  If a quality opponent needs a game late in the scheduling process ISU has some room to work with.  Also, if the 13th game would just be a "buy game" why risk the loss?  Maybe I will have to call in next week and ask.  Anyways, here we go.

Guaranteed Games

vs 2 of (Chicago State, Alabama State, Chatanooga, Jacksonville State) *Emerald Coast Classic*
vs Virginia Tech (in Fla) *Emerald Coast Classic*
vs Illinois/UAB (in Fla) *Emerald Coast Classic*
vs Iowa
vs UNI (At Wells Fargo)
Big 12/SEC Challenge (AWAY, most likely)

That is 7 of 12 games already decided.  My guess is ISU goes on the road and plays Arkansas for the Big 12/SEC Challenge although it would be nice to get the chance at UK, but I'd rather wait to have them come to Hilton.

The Rest of the Games

It is important to note that there are really only two "buy games" from the list above and both of those come as part of the Emerald Coast Classic.  At least three of these five games will be against lower quality opponents.  Some names that make sense based on past schedules (Southern, UMKC, Northern Illinois, Nebraska-Omaha) might be included again or Fred may look elsewhere.  Anyway, expect AT LEAST three of the remaining five games to be these types of games played at Hilton.

Fans are clamoring for better non-conference opponents and I think that is easier said than done.  Like you see above, 7 of the 12 games are already accounted for.  One of the most important parts of non-conference schedules is keeping losses off the resume.  People can say all they want about a team going 7-5 in non-conference being tested and ready for conference play.  The truth is they will need to be ready because they are now on the bubble.  On the other side of that, Iowa State just can't go out and schedule Duke and North Carolina.  Not yet, anyway.  So what do I see happening?  Something like the following.

I've heard a lot of smoke about a possible Iowa State vs Minnesota series starting up.  I think this would be a great series for both parties.  I think Iowa State owes Minnesota a return trip via a scrimmage so I don't know if this will happen next year, but it might.  I could also see Iowa State scheduling a rematch with South Carolina.  Maybe at the Sprint Center in Kansas City?  That would make a lot of sense.  Here is how I see it going for the "other 5" games.

vs Nebraska-Omaha
vs Southern
vs Toledo
vs Minnesota
vs South Carolina (at Sprint Center)

That would give them a total of 7 home games, 4 neutral games and 1 true road game, which is exactly what they had this year.

Down the Road

Every fan would like to see their team get a crack at the Duke's, Kentucky's and Carolina's of the world every year.  It just doesn't happen like that.  A lot of the blue bloods do like to schedule each other in the non-conference and those teams need "buy-games" too believe it or not.  Here are some games I'd like to see that also are realistic and make a little bit of sense.

UConn--Hoiberg and Ollie are still pretty close I've heard from their playing days in the NBA.  It would be a quality opponent for each and for UConn, it would help balance that awful AAC schedule.

Washington- As long as TJ Otzelberger is there, this series makes a little bit of sense.  I don't see this being a home and home, but rather a neutral-neutral.  Iowa State might have to use Wells Fargo or the Sprint Center as a chance to lure some bigger names.

SMU- Hoiberg has credited a lot of his coaching pedigree to Larry Brown.  I'm sure Larry would be on board, but would Fred?  SMU presents a lot of risk as a quality opponent, but they lack the name recognition.

Non-Conference Critique

A lot of the Cyclone Fanatic brethren has clamored for more high quality games in the non-conference.  Would it be more entertaining for us fans?  You bet.  Is it best for the program?  I'm not sure it is.  While other teams have piled up the losses ISU has gone a combined 21-1 in their last 22 non-conference games.  This has allowed them to enter the Top 10 in each of the past two seasons at the beginning of conference play.  Rankings are important.  They don't affect what happens on the court, but they matter in the overall image of a program.

"But, these games won't be on television"-Anonymous.  Iowa State had games against Georgia State and UMKC nationally televised on the ESPN Networks this season.  People want more Hoiball, and people are getting more Hoiball.  Only four of the 12 non-conference games were on Cyclones.Tv this season.  That is a pretty solid rate.  We need to remember it is important for Cyclones.Tv to get some content as well.

When looking at future non-conference schedules take into account the Iowa, UNI/Drake, SEC Challenge and holiday tournaments before giving Fred a hard time about scheduling.  If ISU lands is one of these big 8-team events, that is six games already against fairly high competition before walking into a brutal 18 game conference season.

That's all I have for now.  Lets hope the Cyclones finish off this year's non-conference slate at 11-1 and do some work during the conference season.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bracketology 12/29

Bracketology is back!  I will start by using my tried and true formula from last year and make adjustments as need be.

Here is the formula:
1/3 Human Poll Avg.
1/3 Computer Avg. (KenPom, Massey, Sagarin)
1/3 Lunardi S-Curve

Here are the results thus far:

Our composite ranking would indicate being on the border of a 3 and a 4 seed which I think is pretty accurate right now.  If we think about last year at this time, the Cyclones are further along in the seeding process.  Remember, the selection process is human.  To me, it is a little concerning that the computers are a little less optimistic than the humans but computer rankings aren't fully calibrated in the non-conference portion of the schedule.  Iowa State's strength of schedule hasn't been the greatest and Hoiberg has been messing around with different lineups during blowouts.  The result has been games with closer margins of victory than the computers saw coming.  Conference play will sort a lot of this out.

KenPom Prediction: 21-9 (10-8) w/percentages, 22-8 (11-7) Straight-Up
Massey Prediction: 23-7 (12-6) Straight Up
My Prediction: 24-6 (13-5)

Big Wins: Arkansas, @Baylor, Kansas, Texas, WVU, Baylor, Oklahoma
Jury Still Out Wins: vs Georgia State, vs Alabama, @Iowa
Losses: vs Maryland, @WVU, @KU, @OU, @OSU, @Texas

Tournament Prediction: 3 seed (without Big 12 Reg season or Tourn. Champ) or 2 seed (with either Big 12 Reg season or Tourn. Champ)

Note: My prediction is a little more optimistic than the formula would indicate but its not too far off.  I've been watching a lot of college basketball (probably more than any normal person should) and there just aren't very many great teams out there.  I like Iowa State to stay in the top 12 on the seed line by the end of the season.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Post-Game Thoughts vs UMKC

Once again the Cyclones looked like they were disinterested after getting a big lead.  In the grand scheme of things I suppose there are worse problems to have.  The good news is that for the second straight game Iowa State came out really, really strong to start the game.  They will need to do that again on Friday.  I'll take a page out of Chris Williams' book and do a three up, three down to summarize my thoughts on this game.  We'll start with the negative.

3 Down

1. Taking the foot off the pedal.  
I'm really not too concerned about this because Fred's teams have always played to the stage but it would have been nice to see them blow them out of the water.  It is crazy to think, but I almost believe this would have been a game Fred's first team would have won by more.  They wouldn't have done it by talent, but rather just going out there and playing fast for 40 minutes.  They lacked talent, but didn't suffer from lack of focus mainly because they didn't have any expectations.

2. Hogue's finishing around the rim.
He used to be automatic.  I'm starting to believe this has to be with playing the four spot more this year.  They guys guarding him are bigger and longer, but this should change when McKay returns.  (Gollly, I hope he is everything he's cracked up to be).

3. Naz/Nader 3-point shooting
I've been told Nader has a nice long range shot.  I've also been told a lot of other things that haven't been entirely true too.  As for Naz he has some nights like this.  I still think every time he releases it its going in but it appeared he was getting back to fading away.  When he does this he struggles.  When he gets straight up and down with good form he is close to a 50 percent 3 point shooter.

3 up

1. BDJ continues to stay hot on the offensive end.
I'm starting to believe this could be the second year in a row Iowa State has not only two players on the Big 12 1st team, but also two in the running for "Player of the Year".  The part I like is he is putting up numbers with such few shots.  His long range shot is looking good and he is knocking down his free throws.  It seems like the light bulb has clicked that he doesn't have to shoot it 20 times to score 20 and that he can contribute in other ways too.  I don't know how Fred does it but he keeps getting these guys to buy in.

2. Nader starting to shake the rust off.
It was great to see him get some extended minutes and a couple of dunks.  I still think he can contribute a decent amount this year and be a major player next year but he is still trying to catch up.  I was as impressed with him this game as I have been yet this season.  If he could just buy an outside basket he would really "stretch the floor".

3. Niang maturing against the zone.
In the past Niang would have taken 16 mid-range shots against the zone and made 4-5 of them.  It almost seems like he knows he will get his on certain nights and on others he is determined to get others involved.  He only took two shots (even though this is inflated a bit because he got fouled on some attempts)!  He probably should have had 10+ assists as Naz missed some open looks that he usually knocks down.  It is really nice to see Niang not force it like he has in the past.

Looking ahead

A pretty big opportunity is on the horizon for both Iowa State and Iowa on Friday.  For Iowa State, should they win, they have a chance of getting into the Top 10 before the conference season starts.  People will say rankings don't matter and in terms of outcomes in games they don't but in terms of building a program they do.  Being in the Top 10 during that three week "Big Monday" stretch would be big for attracting top end high school talent.  For Iowa, every non-conference win against a decent opponent means one less they need in the Big 10.  If they take both the Iowa State and UNI games, they might only need to go 9-9 in the Big 10.  If they drop both?  Well, in my opinion they are looking at needing the RIGHT 10 or 11 wins in conference play.

Monday, December 8, 2014

MBB Thoughts on the Arkansas Game

I'm rewatching the Arkansas game since I didn't get to see all of it the first time.

-So far, the only shots they've missed or not been fouled on have been when guys try to go it alone.  Monte had an ill-advised shot from the free throw line, and Thomas tried a step-back three.  When they move the ball, they're getting good looks and making them.

-Naz is showing a lot of confidence in his ball-handling.  He was really pushing the ball up the court.  ISU was still trying to get the outlet pass to near half-court even with the press defense after missed Arkansas shots.  Naz might even push the ball faster than Monte.

-The drop step make by Nader was really, really sweet.  Hope we get to see a bunch more of that over the next two years.

-Musburger "loves" Hilton, especially when the team gets on a run.

-Fran Fraschilla works hard during the breaks.  Musburger checks to see what time Old Chicago will shut down the "barooni."  And he's still creepy when they show girls on the TV.  "He he he, it's a lovely night in Iowa." Fran - "Are we making a star tonight?" Musburger - "Ahhhhh yeahhhh."

-Georges played defense on Portis, by far the toughest assignment.  If he can play effective defense, without fouling out against a player of that caliber, that'll be HUGE for the rest of the year.

-Naz does a nice job of sneaking into the corner.  When ISU moves the ball, the defense sags off and he can get a set shot.

-Morris shoots a lot of midrange jumpers.  I guess Fred allows this.  In my uneducated view, he's made about half of them.  That's not terrible.

-Edozie's been better than I give him credit for.  When he's in the game, he takes the ball hard to the rim, usually missing but drawing a foul. On the foul stripe he's been really good.

-Hogue picks up some easy buckets.

Final thoughts:  Mike Anderson said they played their worst basketball in the first half against Iowa State.  I haven't watched any Arkansas basketball before or since, but it seemed Arkansas was trying to play their game early and ISU out-ran and out-shot them.  It reminded me of the North Carolina game last year.

Portis played 31 minutes, but it didn't really feel like it.  To me, it seemed like he was missing for huge stretches of the game.  With a player like that, you need to keep them involved throughout.

The starters for ISU all played between 31 and 37 minutes.  Those people looking for a 10-man rotation are disappointed.  Only 26 minutes total off the bench in a game that was in double digits from a few minutes in.

Iowa will be a tough test.  ISU can't hit 60% of its shots every game and the Hawkeyes look a lot more like Maryland than Arkansas.  If the Cyclones prove they can win an ugly game, I'll feel pretty good about the team going into the conference season.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Game Two Reaction

Does this team have a "Chris Babb" on it?

I don't know know if anyone is quite to that level yet but the Cyclones had three guys (Naz Long, Bryce Dejean-Jones and Monte Morris) play spurts of lock-down defense.  I was really impressed with the job Naz and BDJ did on RJ Hunter.  I think Hoiberg would have rather had Bryce on him but was afraid of getting him into foul trouble.  With the return of Thomas and Nader on Monday both of these guys should be able to lock it down a little more aggressively.  Hoiberg likes to have someone chase around the other teams best scorer and takes away their help responsibilities.  It will be even easier to do this once McKay returns.

Niang (and the rest of the team) still has trouble getting started against a zone defense.

I had a feeling the team would come out much better in the second half against the zone after letting Fred make some adjustments at the half.  I feel Niang struggles a bit because it limits the amount of isolation opportunities he gets which is where he really excels.  I'd like to see Fred schedule more zone defense teams in the non-conference to get some more reps before the Baylor's and West Virginia's of the world come calling.

Monte Morris is becoming an elite point guard.

He rarely makes a poor choice with the ball and he's really improving his scoring and rebounding this year.  Niang might get most of the headlines but its possible Morris is as important to this team as anyone else.  I'm not sure who will spell Morris when he needs a break or gets into foul trouble but it might be Niang running the point-forward.  My only concern is whether the amount of minutes Morris might accumulate will affect him down the stretch.

Bryce Dejean-Jones is quickly shaking the "volume shooter, ball hog" label.

Fred has challenged BDJ to be a more complete player here at ISU and so far he is really responding.  He is second on the team in assists through two games and he has made dramatic improvements already to his shot selection.  He will be an exciting player to watch this year, especially if he plays within himself.

If McKay is "as advertised" this could be a really, really fun year.

Georgia State wasn't a traditional "buy game".  The game was hyped up by a variety of people both attached to Iowa State and nationally.  It turned out to be a rout.  If the "reinforcements" come in and are able to add everything people think they will then this team can win in a variety of different ways throughout the season.  Most people talk about McKay's defense but I think he will be just as fun to watch run the floor (alley-oop!) and against zone defenses (alley-oop!).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Game One Reaction

It was great to have some quality basketball in our lives again last night.  It wasn't the blowout that some of us expected (and probably shouldn't have), but it was the first win of hopefully many this year.  When it comes to college basketball I could probably write a book about every game, week, season, and so forth but I'll try to keep this short as there is another game in just two days.  Here are a few thoughts from last night.

Georges Niang really could be an All-American this year.
I know the pre-season publications have touted him as someone that could be in the mix, but to be honest I didn't completely buy it.  I didn't think he would score enough or do anything else well enough to be first-team.  There are so many options on this team that his numbers might not get to where they need to be.  Well, after the first game it is pretty obvious he will be force fed the ball.  I didn't expect to be impressed with Niang after the first game.  I thought Niang would be Niang and we would leave it at that.  It is pretty clear that the weight loss has helped him in a couple of ways and to me his most impressive stat was the nine rebounds he had.  With the pre-season hype he had and as active as he was last night I think he certainly has a shot.

It is pretty clear Hoiberg is only planning on going eight deep in his rotation...again.
Why do people think every year that Hoiberg will all of a sudden roll out all of these guys?  It just isn't going to happen.  I said it before the season and I will continue to say that you lose your talent edge when you rotate more guys in the game.  Is it great to have some depth?  Yes, but it is like insurance.  Its great to have for peace of mind but you hope you don't have to use it.  Hoiberg essentially ran with a seven man rotation last night and I think when the three amigos return SDW and Edozie will fall to limited roles.

This team won't live by the three point shot.
People have said ISU has lived and died by the three point shot under Hoiberg and I don't think that is fair.  They have shot a lot of them, and made a lot of them under Hoiberg and they will do the same this year but I think this team is the best equipped to score without shooting from beyond the arc.  It was apparent last night that they are going to attack the basket and the rim.  When Nader and McKay return I think this will hold even more merit.  There were an awful lot of free throws shot last night.  Free throws aren't exciting and it was Paul Janssens crew calling every touch but being able to score from the line is a huge benefit when the shots aren't falling.  ISU hasn't shot many free throws under Hoiberg because of how perimeter oriented they were.  This could make a big difference at the end of games.

ISU needs McKay on the interior of the defense.
I have a hard time believing Oakland's big guy would have had the night he did had McKay been down there instead of Niang.  My hope is that the perimeter defense will improve when Nader and McKay return.  If it doesn't it looks like ISU won't be able to shake its Achilles heel from the past couple of seasons.

BDJ's shot selection is a work in progress.
There will be some times that he will force it this year but if Fred can get him to buy-in to the style of play they were playing last year this team could be really special.  The analytic side of me was wondering if he would eliminate the "long two" from his game when he came to Ames.  I noticed on all of his highlights from UNLV he had a tendency to settle for the long two.  Of course on the highlight reel they all went in.  Over the course of the year they won't.  BDJ needs to understand if he gives it up there is a good chance the ball will come right back to him if he's open.

Why the long (two) face?
The basketball analytics people would say the long two is the worst shot in basketball.  Under Fred the Cyclones have largely stayed away from it.  Last night I noticed several players take some long twos.  I'm hoping it gets looked at in film and corrected.  Maybe I will call in to the call-in show and suggest it.  Kidding....kind of.

Monte Morris is going to play a lot of minutes this year.
I wasn't surprised to see Hoiberg use a short bench.  I was surprised to see Custer have as limited of a role as he did.  I won't jump to any conclusions about Custer after last night because he has battled mono and the game was fairly close all the way through, but I fully expected Custer to spell Morris for a little more time and/or play together a little bit.

Hogue should be more assertive on the offensive end.  
There were glimpses last night of his performance against UConn where he scored 34 points.  He has a little extra giddy up in his step and for the most part finishes around the rim.  People may not think of him as an offensive weapon but his overall game as drastically improved since his arrival in Ames.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pre-Season Q and A Part IV

What else will you be looking for out of this year's team?

JMeeks writes:

Everyone knows the Cyclones will play fast and score a lot of points.  It looks like this team will play even faster and score more points, if that's possible.  The next step is to start playing quality defense.  You can play undersized and shoot threes and try to outscore the other team, but defense is harder.  To play great defense, you need size and pride.  One or the other isn't going to cut it.  ISU has had plenty of prideful players over the last few years, but just hasn't had the size and depth to compete all game in the paint.  This year, they'll have size and depth with Niang, Hogue, McKay, Nader, even Edozie and the Greek.  That should provide them with enough minutes and fouls to bang down low all game.  But will they have pride to play great defense for 40 minutes?  I know Hogue and Edozie do, and Niang tries hard within the constraint of 5 fouls.  It'll come down to the newcomers McKay, Nader and BDJ.  McKay is definitely the most athletic big man ISU has had in a long time, but he isn't Joel Embiid.  He'll need more than talent to make an impact in the Big 12.  Will Nader be willing to use his size to defend big men?  Will he work hard enough to defend guards if he has to?  Being an off the ball defender might be the most demanding position in basketball.  Will BDJ be able to provide stretches of shut down defense like Chris Babb was beloved for?  Team defense is better than no defense, but it's still a compromise.  To make the jump to elite, the Cyclones will have to be able to play great individual defense when it counts.  For what it's worth, I'd be disappointed if they didn't.  Having the transfers practice against the current players every day for a year had to bring out some intense individual battles.  Niang is the on-court motivator and Naz is the on-court mediator.  Since Coach Fred Hoiberg has already called out the ultimate goal, he won't tolerate a lack of effort and has the depth to back that up.

GreenIvy writes:

Because you mentioned defense I’ll stick with the subject because I think they will be significantly improved.  By the time conference season rolls around and for the first time in Hoiberg’s regime, ISU won’t be undersized all of the place on defense.  There will be no more conceding two point baskets in certain spots like we have seen before and in the grand scheme of things hopefully it will help them land a few more calls.  Hoiberg has actually mixed in a zone to disrupt the pace.  Is this something he will employ more this year?  There are certainly some matchups it will come in handy, namely against Texas.  Fred has a lot of length to use so its certainly something to keep an eye on.  Do I think he will use much of it?  No, I don’t because it typically slows down the pace and generates fewer possessions but its something they could have in their arsenal if the time is right.

I’m also looking to see if this year’s team has a Chris Babb defensive force on it.  Abdel Nader could be that guy.  When Babb was here you knew that no matter who the other team’s stud was, he wasn’t getting his points that night.  It was such an advantage to make sure their stud wasn’t the one that was going to go off.  I think they might employ more of this strategy this year with their depth and the fact that their help is down low in Jameel McKay.

Pre-Season Q and A Part III

How will the minutes be handled?

JMeeks writes:

Along with how McKay is introduced in the middle of the season, is the question of how Fred will manage minutes.  There are at least nine guys who should see playing time during the heart of the season, but Hoiberg has always been a coach who leaves players on the court for long stretches, letting them play through poor shooting or mistakes.  Will there be less tolerance of that?  Will playing time be determined by defensive matchups?  My uninformed hunch is that he was watching the Spurs on their run to the title, and how they managed to get so many people on the court and get production out of everyone.  He could get Georges rest around the middle time out breaks of each half, similar to how Popovitch handles Duncan at the quarter breaks. Or play some with a full second unit, like the Spurs did effectively in the playoffs last year.  Even Popovitch says its a feel thing, but it seems like it would be difficult to effectively play call a game and manage minutes outside of obvious score/foul situations.  

GreenIvy writes:

Talk about a loaded question.  My answer is I have no freaking clue.  What I do know is that Fred will play his best players for the most minutes.  College basketball is different from NBA basketball in terms of rotations.  First off the game is an entire eight minutes shorter.  Secondly, they aren’t playing nearly as many games and in all reality their bodies probably recover easier.  If the NBA is a marathon, college basketball is a sprint.  If you aren’t keeping your top 7-8 players out there for “starter” minutes you are doing a disservice to your team.  This is why I think Calipari ends up scrapping the platoon system come conference play.  No matter how much talent you have, some of your talent is better than the rest.  Will there be times to expand roles and save some legs?  Sure.  I just don’t see Hoiberg using a 9 or 10 man rotation.  The one advantage he will have this year is encouraging a more aggressive defensive approach, especially with the guards.  I think we will know more once Matt and Abdel return and we see the minutes adjust accordingly

Pre-Season Q and A Part II

What is your biggest question mark going into the season?

JMeeks writes:

Everyone assumes Jameel McKay will start immediately when he is eligible, but I don't think that will be the case.  Hoiberg has always made changes to the starting lineup slowly.  Georges didn't start his freshman year until the Big 12 games started, same for Monte last year.  If the Cyclones have good chemistry with a starting line up (I'll say Morris, BDJ, Nader, Georges and Hogue), Fred won't rock the boat.  You'll see McKay get minutes off the bench to begin with, perhaps switching spots with Nader by the end of the year.

GreenIvy writes:

I agree its taken Fred until late in non-conference or early in conference season to make adjustments to his starting lineup, however they will only have three games to get it sorted out before conference play.  In this case I think if Fred thinks he is a starter, he starts right away or at least by the South Carolina game.  Regardless, I don’t think the starting lineup is really that big of deal for Fred’s teams.  The best players will play the most minutes regardless if they start or not.  There are going to multiple “starters” coming off the bench.

My biggest question mark was going to be about BDJ and whether he could play team basketball.  From all accounts so far this hasn’t been a problem and rather than pin it all on him I will throw all of the transfers under one umbrella?  Is this the year that the transfer “side effects” rear their ugly head?  This is the most talent Fred has had in his tenure.  You can say all you want about what left the team last year in terms of talent, the amount of players deserving minutes is more than last year.  Who becomes the odd man or men left out and how do they respond?  Do guys like SDW, Matt and Naz start to see their roles diminish and how do they handle that if they do?  For the record I don’t think Matt and Naz will see a diminished role by any means but it might look different than it did a year ago.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pre-Season Q and A Part I

Before the season starts, we thought we would each take a crack at some burning questions surround the Iowa State Men's Basketball team starts play this season. Here is the first part. 

Which non-conference game scares you the most?

JMeeks writes:

The obvious choice is Iowa, the highest ranked non-conference opponent and it's a road game. But after last year's game, and the picture Georges sent out on twitter, I know he's all-in on this rivalry, and he'll make sure everyone else is too.  I'll be picking the Cyclones to win, and if they don't, it shouldn't be a bad loss come tourney time.  The next obvious choice would be Arkansas or Georgia State.  By the time the season starts back up in Hilton, fans will be ready to move on from football and support their basketball team with a fervor.  The fans are smart enough to know these are the biggest non-con games.  So that leaves Alabama, maybe a surprising pick.  They aren't a big name school that opponents would traditionally get up for.  Also, the atmosphere in Kansas City might be an issue.  I'd expect ISU to have more fans there than all the other teams combined.  But how many will be there?  The Cyclones have had issues the last couple years in underwhelming environments (at Tech, at West Virginia).  Being on a weeknight, it won't be Hilton South.  If the team's as good as advertised, it won't matter.

Green_Ivy writes:
I have had the Georgia State game circled as the scariest game since the schedule came out.  Since that time it has been announced Nader and Thomas would be missing that game to go along with McKay not being eligible for this one either.  Recently,it was made known that 30 NBA scouts would be in Hilton for this game.  There is some serious talent on this team between RJ Hunter, Ryan Harrow and Kevin Ware.  ISU will be favored and in all reality they should win this game but it is an awfully tough game for the second game of the season.  Aside from that, not everyone recognizes how good Georgia State is.  They will come March. Could it be a quality win on the resume come that time?

Monday, October 27, 2014

ISU MBB Better 1 through 9?

Fran Fraschilla has been spending time at ISU practices again this fall.  Here's one of his comments:

Fran Fraschilla @franfraschilla
My thoughts on Iowa State: While Ejim/Kane will be missed, talent level from 1 to 9 better this year. McKay is 1st rim protector Fred's had.
At first blush, it appears reasonable.  But when you consider that Ejim and Kane were two of the very best players in the conference and country, it makes Fran's assessment a very bold one.  Could it be true?
First you'd have to decide who the best 9 players were last year and this year.  Going off my All-Big 12 rankings last year, the top 5 were Kane, Ejim, Morris, Niang, and Hogue.  Arbitrarily, I'll go Naz, Thomas, Edozie and SDW after them.  From this article, the top 7 are Niang, BDJ, Hogue, McKay, Morris, Long and Nader.  For the next two I'll pick Custer and Thomas. 
Starting from the top, could Niang be better this year than Kane was last?  Qualitatively, Niang was their 'most important' and probably 'most talented' player last year, so it'd be easy to reason he will more talented and more important this year.  Quantitatively, it will be very hard for Georges to match the volume of statistics Kane put up last year.  DeAndre was among the leaders for every major category except blocks, including second in points, first in assists and third in steals.  Niang could eclipse Kane's scoring; he's projected to average 18.4 ppg in the article referenced above, and I think could average closer to 20 during conference play.  His rebounding could improve, with increased quickness and playing a more suitable SF or PF defensive position.  SI's projection has him at 5.6 rpg and I have him at 6 per game, which would get close to the top 15, where Kane was last year.  3.5 assists per game would put him about where Niang was last year, well off the top of the leaderboard.  I don't expect him to be among the conference leaders in blocks or steals or minutes.  Statistically, this matchup goes to Kane.
In my All-Big 12 ratings, I take into account minutes per game, because they're listed on the Big 12 website and it should be a good indication of the total impact a player has on his team's success.  Both Kane and Morris were in the top 10 of minutes played per game, but I don't expect to see any Iowa State players on this list.  Fran was right about there being 9 players who could see playing time on any given night, and there just aren't the minutes to go around.
A few things are working for Georges in his pursuit of POY honors.  First is the preseason hype.  He's been listed on the All-Big 12 first team and several individuals' All-American watch lists.  This gives him an advantage that Kane certainly didn't have, and puts him ahead of Ejim at this point.  Secondly, the Big 12 seems to have transformed into a guards' league, but both my list and the official preseason lists are split between guards and forwards, with only Staten and Anderson being the type of stat sheet stuffers Kane and Smart were the last couple years.  It doesn't look like either's team will be good enough to put them in serious contention for end of the year POY.  There are no super freshmen guards coming in either.  If Niang can outplay the best of the forwards, he's got a shot.
Ejim might not have been super talented, but he put up big numbers as well.  BDJ should contribute nicely but he won't be expected to carry the same type of load that Ejim did.  Another case of more talent but fewer numbers.
Hogue and Morris were very close in my ratings last year, so I'll say the 2014-15 Hogue will statistically be better than the 2013-14 Morris. 
McKay certainly looks to have more athletic talent than Niang will ever have, and may be able to outperform statistically if he's near the top of the league in rebounds and blocks.  It will depend on how many minutes he plays early in the Big 12 season, which will essentially be his first action of the year.
Again Morris and Hogue were close last year so I say each will be better this year, and better than each other last year.
Naz should improve, as a 3 point specialist with plenty of other options around him.  It sounds like he could handle the ball a little more too, which would help his assist numbers.  He could see some nice minutes off the bench, mostly at the 2 with some at the 1 and 3.
Here is where this year's team becomes undoubtedly stronger than last year.  Nader should be a huge upgrade over Matt Thomas.  He can score in more ways than Matt and defend more positions.  Nader will see minutes as a staple of the second unit.
Custer over Edozie is a no brainer.  He fits a role as a scoring point guard backup whereas Edozie was a spot minutes space filler. 
Matt Thomas had a bit of a rough go as a freshman, but he was obviously better than SDW last year, and should have improved over the off season.  Unfortunately for him, he won't see nearly as many minutes as he did early last year.
So I think statistically, ISU will be better at 6 or 7 of the top 9 spots.  That's impressive in it's own right.  If you assume all the returning players improve, will BDJ, McKay, Nader and Custer be able to replace the production of Ejim and Kane (and Edozie and SDW)?  I think so.  All four can score in their own ways.  BDJ and Custer will replace some of Kane's assists, and the combination of BDJ, McKay and Nader should replace all of their rebounds. 
Back to Fran's assessment.  As a whole, 1 through 9, Iowa State is easily both more talented and better statistically than last year.  Individually, matching Kane and Ejim's production probably won't happen for a variety of reasons, but you can argue that Niang is already more "talented" than either, and BDJ and McKay are too.  Fran looks to be right in that every spot on the depth chart is more talented than last year.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

ISU @ Texas, October 18, 2014

Somebody wanted my analysis of yesterday's game, so here it is.  The offense had a great game against what had been a very stout Texas defense.  Sam Richardson set a record with 37 completions last week and nearly matched it with 36 last night.  Richardson was accurate too, completing 65%, and pushing his season percentage to a very respectable 61%.  A Mangino-coached unit can be expected to throw the ball a bunch but this is unprecedented for Iowa State.  Sam is on pace to set season records in attempts (Wallace, 443), completions (Arnaud, 247),  and touchdowns (Bandhauer, 20), with an outside shot at completion percentage (Wallace, Jantz, .621) and yards (Wallace, 3245).  There's one more record he's on pace to break - lowest interception percentage.  Richardson's current percentage is 2.1%, ahead of Arnaud's 2.5% in 2008.  In other words, he could end up being the least turnover prone QB in ISU HISTORY.  That puts things in perspective a bit.

Mangino seems to be getting back into the play-calling groove.  It's improved every week and he's really starting to get the most out of all 'his' players.  People forget he hasn't called a game in 5 years, since he was at Kansas.  In his first year, he's had to make his scheme fit the existing players instead of finding players to fit his scheme.  Of everything about the Cyclones, his influence on the offense now and in the future excites me the most.

What worries me the most about the future is the continued stagnation of the defense.  Once again, two of our best defensive players (Knott, 3rd in tackles and Brackens, 8th in tackles) as of the middle of the season, weren't in the starting lineup the first game of the season.  The personnel decisions on that side of the ball have been suspect for the last couple years.  ISU needs to win their early games to go to a bowl game, and to win those games, they need to play their best players from the very first snap.

Jared Brackens is getting a bad rap for allowing the long pass late that gave the Longhorns the go ahead touchdown.  I think he did the best he could, but was put in a bad spot.  Brackens, a linebacker, shouldn't have had to cover Jaxon Shipley a senior wide receiver, without help over the top.  If the two corners were covering the outside receivers, one of the two safeties should have been available to cover the slot.  At the least, they should have had the safeties in a two-deep zone available to help the man coverage underneath.  Especially considering Texas needed about 30 yards in 28 seconds for a long field goal attempt.  The coaching on the defensive side of the ball needs to improve.

Updating a previous 'feature', I've got ISU projected for just over 4 total wins for the year.  I guess that'd be an improvement on last year.

New Feature!!! - I'd always wanted some way to measure ISU's football team against all others.  Similar to a kenpom for college football.  The closest thing is the former BCS standings, which were calculated for any team that was in the top 25 of either poll or the computer rankings.  The BCS is over, but the site still maintains the rankings, albeit with a slightly different formula.

ISU is not on the bcsguru list.  And rarely found itself on the BCS final standings.  So the best I can do is use the six computer rankings, which are available for every D-I team.  I'll use the same method the BCS used, throwing out the top and bottom rankings and averaging the remaining 4.  Using this method, ISU's current ranking is 80th, out of 128 FBS/Div I-A schools.  I wish I had context for that ranking but I don't.  Maybe my next project will be to calculate their year-end ranking as far back as I can.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My 2014-15 Pre-Season All-Big 12 Basketball Team

I'd like to get this out before the official team gets released but missed it this year.  The Big 12 looks to have a lot of individual talent again this year, returning 15 of the 27 players listed on the year-end All-Big 12 teams.  Iowa State, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and West Virginia all bring back talented freshman.  Only 3 of the 10 listed on the official teams are seniors, so the conference looks to have plenty of talent next year, too.

Here are my teams, based on last years' stats.

My top 10 matched 8 players on the official teams.  The differences were Anderson (this is the last year you'll have to hear about him from me!) and Monte, with Foster and Nash replacing them.  

My feelings on Anderson are well known.  If there's a player I feel bad for, it's him.  He's in the same vein of do-everything Big 12 guards like Staten and Kane last year.  Trent Johnson is a good coach and unlike other teams that are out-matched every game, TCU keeps playing hard.  They picked up a good player in Karviar Sheppard before last year and would seem to have the same built-in recruiting advantages that Baylor has - proximity to the DFW market and a Christian school.  A couple things going against it are a terrible basketball arena and really, really poor fan support.  It wouldn't surprise me to see TCU build something within the Big 12 but if they can't make the first step (8th or better finish) this year before Anderson leaves, they could be really bad for a while.

Monte was undervalued last year in the postseason awards.  He was 5th in assists and 7th in steals while playing the 9th most minutes in conference play.  This year, I'd expect his assists to improve since he should handle the ball more with the change of Kane to BDJ in the backcourt.  His steals may improve too.  If the backcourt provides the rim protection as advertised, it will allow more defensive gambling around the perimeter.

Foster was a good freshman last year, scoring a bunch of points.  He'll have to add more to his game to make the first team post-season.  LeBryan Nash is my pick this year for player most likely to underwhelm.  Last year was preseason first team pick Eron Harris.  If there's a second guy I might feel bad for it would be Nash.  He's shown no progress to this point in college, if anything maybe some regression.  As a top 10 overall recruit, he should have been in the NBA a couple years ago, and is now looking like a second round pick.  Most other coaches would be able to take advantage of his physical gifts but not Travis Ford.  

I'm surprised neither of the big recruits made the list, Cliff Alexander or Myles Turner.  Every year since I've been following, there's been a freshman make the first team.  Both these guys were top 10 recruits.  I expect both of them to make at least third team (and then go pro). 

All three of the new ISU players have a shot at post season honors.  I was glad to see BDJ make newcomer of the year.  It's about time people start recognizing what Hoiberg is doing with transfers.  Post-season, I'd expect BDJ to be second team, at least, with McKay and Nader having a shot at honorable mention.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ISU Football Projections 2014

Well, tough day for ISU.  I wanted to say "good guys" but there weren't many of those today.  This year, like the last couple, I used the historical winning percentages to project a number of wins for the football team.  Last year, I projected ~6 wins and the team finished with 3, and I had to look up the record.  The reasons for the disappointment are pretty obvious and I'll get into them below.  Here are my pre-season wins predictions.

I projected, based on probabilities, 5.817 wins.  Not enough for a bowl game, down from last year's 6.08 and 2012's 6.42.  This year's total was assuming they were favored in four games, one of which was the opener against NDSU.  Now the adjusted total is 5 wins, but that's based on them being favored in 3 more games (I'd guess maybe one now).  What happened?

For starters, Paul Rhoads' teams quit beating teams they were favored against.  Through four years, that was a hallmark of Rhoads teams, winning at a 77% clip.  ISU was 9-0 at home and favored.  And they upset teams at a reasonable pace, 36% again through the first 4 years.  Last year, ISU lost against UNI at home, favored.  And only won 2 of 9 games they were 'dogs in, 22%.

That's where we're starting this year.  A loss in which ISU was favored, at home.  In this post, I said the following:
The bad news – ISU needs to win EVERY game in which it is favored AND pick off 3 upsets a year to have a shot at a bowl game.
 It's the truth, and it's a lot to overcome just to be bowl eligible.

The Paul Rhoads tenure had been defined by winning games ISU is supposed to, and picking off a team or two each year they aren't supposed to.  The hope was as the upsets piled up, ISU would get more respect and be favored in more games.  Rhoads' teams would continue to win the favored games and still get upsets, eventually breaking through that 6 win ceiling.  Instead, they've regressed over the past year and a game.  ISU might pull off an upset or two this year (there will be plenty of opportunities) but without taking care of the teams they're supposed to, a bowl game isn't in the future.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Projected Minutes Distribution, 2014-2015 MBB Team

I've read a lot of opinions lately that expect Sherron Dorsey-Walker to have a bigger impact this year, and Giorgios average 10 minutes/game.  I don't see how either of those happens.  There are at least 7 players, if not 8 or 9 that should earn minutes ahead of either of them.  Especially considering generally Fred keeps it to a rotation of 6 or 7 players, minutes are going to be scarce.

Rotations tighten up at the end of the season.  And I think it's a good place to start to see who will be playing big minutes next year.  In the postseason, Monte averaged 32 minutes, Hogue 34, Niang 31 (not counting the final two games), Naz 24 minutes, and Thomas 10.  That's 131 minutes/game there.  The two players lost from last year's team combined for 71 mpg.  So I believe, there's only about 70 minutes left to hand out for the upcoming season.  BDJ will start, and should be penciled in for about 30 minutes a game.  Nader and McKay will likely be the 5th starter/6th man in some fashion and should easily share a combined 40 minutes. 

That's it.  That's your 200 total player-minutes per game.  There aren't another 20 minutes for SDW to make an impact and certainly not 10 minutes for the Greek.  You could argue Hogue only sees 25-30, but those extra minutes would go to Nader/McKay.  And maybe Naz sees a reduction, but those would go to BDJ first (Kane averaged 35 mpg last year) and I think Custer second as a backup point guard. 

With Nader and McKay and Thomas out to start the season, against an easy non-conference schedule, everyone should see minutes.  Come the end of the season, I think it'll be Morris, BDJ, Niang, Hogue, Nader, McKay and Naz seeing nearly all the minutes.  And I'm OK with that.  It's still a deeper, and better, team than they had last year.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

2013-14 Individual Players Recap and Predictions

How the players did this season and what to expect going forward.

DeAndre Kane - He finished All-Big 12 first team, Newcomer of the Year, All-American honorable mention and still might have been underappreciated even by his own fanbase.  I've said all year long he's been the best player on the team and in the conference and he didn't disappoint in the postseason, averaging 17 points, 7 rebound and 6 assists.  He flirted with a triple double in each of the last two games.  Royce White was flashier, but Kane impacted the game in all facets the same way and had more team success.  He's my pick for best transfer of the Hoiberg era, and just had the greatest single season of the Hoiberg era.

Melvin Ejim - Looking over some of my previous posts, I noted where Melvin had 70 points and 30 rebounds over two games.  That's silly.  Ejim might see his jersey retired some day based on his career numbers and achievements, but for that one week, he was as good as any player in ISU history.  In recent memory, Marcus Fizer is the only player that would have been even capable of putting up a stat line like this over two games.  And before that you're probably talking Abdul-Aziz and Alexander, both of whom have their jerseys in the rafters.

Georges Niang - Georges took a big step forward with his game.  He continued to improve his conditioning, averaging 31 MPG in his last 4, scoring 20 PPG in that stretch.  Niang might have been the 3rd best player on the team this year, but he's the one opposing fan bases know about.  With Kane and Monte, he didn't have to play as much point-forward as I thought he would at this point last year, but they still ran plenty of offense through him.  Niang was the one who kept the team going when they were stuck in the mud and was the one to get buckets at the end of games.  He should be the #1 scoring option next year, and with the addition of McKay will get some help on the defensive end.  20 points per game and an increase in assists would put Georges right at the line between first and second team All-Big 12, depending how the team finishes. 

Monte Morris - Matt Thomas was the freshman starting at the beginning of the year, but Monte Morris was the starter at the end.  He played 32 minutes combined in their two big non-conference games against Michigan and BYU and in the postseason averaged 32 minutes/game.  Monte came on as perhaps the team's best defender and showed the ability to score too, averaging 10.6 per game in the postseason.  Most of his assists early in the season came in the flow of the game but by the end he started creating a little more, while still keeping his turnovers down.  I'll reiterate my prediction that he'll be at least third team All Big 12 next year.

Dustin Hogue - Wow.  Who knew he had that type of game in him?  I bet even he wouldn't have predicted that type of scoring outburst.  His big night (along with DeAndre Kane) kept ISU in that game with UCONN and gave the Cyclone fan base something to be excited about heading into next year.  He had a Ejim '12-'13 type season this year, and while it's too much to expect him to have a Ejim '13-'14 type season next year, who knows.  He averaged 17.6 PPG and 34 MPG in the postseason.  I thought he could have been named honorable mention All-Big 12 this year and that should be his floor next year.

Naz Long - 2014 will forever be known for the birth of 3sus of Nazareth.  Slaying OSU not once by twice, and extending the season for one more game, Naz provided more heroics per minute played than anyone I can remember.  That he was even on the floor to make those big shots was either incredible foresight by Hoiberg or extremely good luck.  Either way, we'll take it.  He justified the swagger shown by Kane and Niang but was humble and deferential in post game interviews.  His peacekeeping ability with Kane was an underrated aspect of the season.  Often when Kane started getting worked up, Naz was there to step in front of him and let him vent.  It's an impressive trait for someone whose roll was undefined to start the year.  And a big reason why the transfer "experiment" will continue to work for Iowa State.

Matt Thomas - Matt had a tough year.  Looking back, it's pretty obvious that Monte should have been the freshman starting at the beginning of the year, but since it was Matt, he had some unfair expectations placed on him.  It's tough to be a shooting specialist as the fifth option on the court.  When he got going, he played OK but went through some slumps like any shooter.  Hopefully he'll put in the same work that Naz did last season and get his 3P% up around 35-40%.

Daniel Edozie - I still think we should have seen more of him this season.  This team lacked size at times and could have used his minutes and fouls.  He was great when he played but I think he'll be outside the rotation with the additions of Nader, McKay, Custer and another transfer.

SDW and Gibson - I've seen SDW's name more times since the season ended than any other player on the team.  While it would be nice if he'd make an improvement like Naz, I just don't see it happening.  As a fan, I'm rooting for Thomas to make that leap and would love it if Custer could come in and play ahead of him.  Unfortunately, both of these guys signed on when the team was thin and have been left behind by the team's huge upswing.  It'll be tough for either of these players to move on - Percy is coming into his senior year and SDW has already used his redshirt, but it wouldn't be the first time Fred has seen players leave.  While they don't NEED to cut either, I'd be surprised if both return for next year. 

Calmer (and More Optimistic) Reflections on the 2013-14 Cyclones Season

NOTE:  Just like last year, this thing ran long.  I've broken it up into a couple different posts.

It's only been a week but it seems like a month.  Last Friday, the Iowa State Cyclones played their last game of the 2013-2014 season.  It was hard for some of us to accept, but after some time to reflect and read what the players and others have said, we realize this season was special for all those involved.

This team hit some pretty impressive milestones - winning a preseason tournament, winning the Big 12 tournament, making the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.  It set it's share of all-time records too - longest winning streak (14 games to start the season) and most points scored in a season (2989)  And got close in a couple others - second most games played (36), second most minutes played (7324), second most field goals made (1062), second most 3 pointers made (301), second most rebounds (1387), second most assists (663) third best win percentage of the last 50 years (77.8%), 5th highest ranking (8th).  The Cyclones also have an all-time record over .500 for the first time in their history.

What does it all mean?  This team was as entertaining as any since Johnny Orr was the coach and right at the top of most entertaining in all of college basketball this year.  There were "big" question marks heading into this year, just like heading into last.  All they've done is score more points, and win more games.  Scoring went from 73 in 2011-12 to 79 last year to 83PPG this year, leading all major conference schools again.  If we've learned anything since Fred has come back home, it's that his teams get better each year.  Replacing 60%, 70% of scoring and minutes, doesn't matter. 

Hoiberg has also started to dispel the conventional wisdom that you can't score points and win important basketball games.  You don't need to average 50 points to win championships.  I think next year, the Cyclones start to prove you can score a lot of points and play defense too.  Monte brought it against one of the best guards in the nation and Hogue guarded Wiggins pretty well in their meetings.  Adding McKay will add a shot blocking dimension they haven't had and Nader adds a fourth forward to the rotation, easing some defensive assignments for Georges.  Looking back, I was reminded that ISU went from a 6 man rotation last year to 7 guys this year, and it looks like they'll have 8 for next year.  That'll be depth that isn't watered down.

My friend, a Kansas fan, made the remark that if you really wanted to play in a NBA style offense, as a lot of kids say they do, there's nowhere better than Iowa State under Fred Hoiberg.  He's also the one that gives Niang a lot of praise.  Iowa State's profile within the Big 12 is starting to rise and nationally there's been some favorable press too.  The big game against Michigan early in the year really kickstarted all of it.  Getting Dickie V on our side doesn't hurt, and respected college basketball pundits like Fran Fraschilla have been effusive with praise too. 

The next step is obviously a Big 12 regular season championship.  ISU needs to be the team to dethrone Kansas.  It was a closer race this year than a lot of people expected but the Cyclones will need to at least split with them next year to truly keep it interesting down the stretch.  At first, I thought the double round-robin schedule was good for the Cyclones because they can get used to seeing the elite talent that teams like Texas bring in every year, but I now realize ISU is the team getting scouted.  Losses to WVU and Baylor in their second matchups show this.  It can be expected that teams will slow down the offense the second time which is why defense will be important to pull out these types of games and win enough for a Big 12 championship.

At this time last year, I wrote the following:


If good season, another 23-11.

If great season, 26-9.

- ISU finishes 3rd in the Big 12 - validating Fred's pay.  7 seed in NCAA.  Fred wins two to make it to Sweet Sixteen.

If great season scenario - ISU competes with KU for regular season and tournament championship.  Gets a 3 seed.  If 3 seed, Elite Eight. 

Well, the Cyclones had a great season, didn't they?  At one point I commented this could be the greatest Iowa State team ever, and by the records listed above and the success they had in the postseason, I'd say it was the second best team of the last 50 years behind only 1999-00.  Now they didn't really compete for the Big 12 regular season title, and missed the Elite Eight, but did win the Big 12 tournament and had more wins and fewer losses than my most optimistic of predictions. 

The ceiling has been raised, so too has the baseline.  I'd be surprised if we saw more than a single-digit number of losses.  Wins in the upper 20's is the new expectation, and with records like that, ISU will be competing for conference championships and the big one in the near future.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Way Too Early Reactions

I was wrong, dead wrong about Iowa State cruising to a victory.  I felt like Napier could play that good but didn't expect two others to hit jumpers like that too.  The Cyclones got straight up beat in the first half.  Every jumper fell for UCONN and every close look rimmed out for ISU.  Or so it seemed.  They were on a different level.

I thought ISU would come out different in the second half, and to an extent, they did.  The action made more open looks to the basket.  Dustin Hogue took beast mode to a whole 'nother level with 34 points total.  But UCONN switched their game up too.  Instead of settling for the long jumpers, they got the ball into the paint and scored some easy buckets.

Here's where I'm disappointed.  Kane guarded Napier for much of the first half.  Napier had whatever he wanted.  Morris guarded Napier most of the second half, and I don't remember Napier getting much of anything.  In fact, I think Morris won more than he gave up.  So why so long to make the switch?

In the second half, UCONN moved away from the jumper and started attacking the rim.  ISU has no rim protectors and UCONN kept making bucket after bucket low.  Why wasn't Edozie in late to at least force fouls?  I get they wanted offense but Thomas attempted one three point field goal.

As much as it pains me to say this, I think Coach Hoiberg got outcoached.  UCONN's offense in the first half torched the defense with the jumper.  And in the second half, ISU got worked down low.  I thought I'd be the last to say this but Coach Ollie made the adjustments and Hoiberg didn't  That's probably an unpopular opinion but one that I'll stick by.

Fully loaded (with Georges) I think ISU rolls UCONN.  There were obvious stretches in the first half where the Cyclones offense was stagnant and I think Niang would have pushed through that.  His high post looks and moves would have created trouble for the UCONN bigs.  But it wasn't to be.

The Iowa State Cyclones got beat tonight by a better team.  No ref shenanigans.  No questionable clock calls.  They just got beat.  But a better Cyclone team will emerge next year.  And I can't wait.  

Predictions for a Sweet Sixteen

Iowa State made it through the first round of the big tournament, not unscathed, but victorious.  ISU turned a close game against NCCU into a blowout and a close loss against UNC into a win.

I've reviewed a couple of the predictions I wrote last year and I'm excited to recap this year but it'll have to wait.  The Cyclones still have more games to win. 

For my preview of the Cyclones SWEET SIXTEEN matchup I'll play off a few of the things I've read lately.  A few of my favorite gems from that "other" Cyclones site.

He is a NBA style coach who makes great in-game adjustments and exploits mismatches.
Kevin Ollie is the same style coach who also has a ton of NBA experience.. The chess match between these coaches is one of the biggest aspect of the game. -some UCONN fan
Here's the deal, a few years ago I would have agreed.  I didn't think Fred would be able to coach.  Last year I might have agreed it would be a fair matchup.  This year?  Fred will abuse Ollie.  Ollie's in his second year coaching.  Fred's in his fourth year going on 34th.  Sure they both had extended NBA careers as role players.  And of course they're buddies who are the exact same age.  But the similarities stop there.  I was yelling for a timeout at the end of the UNC game but ISU didn't need it, everyone already knew what the play was going to be.  Fred has taken his knack for imbound plays and extended it to all of coaching.

One fact the many Iowa State fans might not know.. 3 of UCONN's starters have won a National Championship and have big game experience these are Seniors who have been through the wars, they are not 19 yo. one and done players... Not like the in-fighting babies you whoped up on in 2012.

So I looked it up.  One of those 3 starters (Napier) started that game in 2012.  Boatwright played 26 minutes.  And those "babies" who started are now three players in the NBA.  In the words of Coach Orr "And we kicked your ass!"

I'm sure Napier and Boatwright are better players as upperclassmen.  But I'll bet that Fred's team is better than two years ago too, even without Niang. 

I saw a shot chart for Napier, look for Monte or Naz to shade him hard to his left to force him right.  Hopefully he takes pull ups off this instead of finding teammates. 

ISU wins and it isn't all that close.  The Cyclones knock down shots at the beginning of the game for a change, stretch it to a double digit lead, let it slack a little bit to start the second and finish the game out strong for a win about like 2012.  They take the crowd out early and keep them out of it.  80-68.