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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Comparison of My All-Big 12 Teams to the Official Ones and Some Predicitions Too

While anxiously awaiting the start of Iowa State's second season, I'm going to pass the time by seeing how my All-Big 12 team stacked up against the official list.

So I wasn't too far off.  Melvin Ejim won the Big 12 POY award, which is great for him and great for ISU, as well as being one of two unanimous All-Big 12 picks.  As seen in my previous projections, I would have selected DeAndre Kane for the honor.  Working for Ejim were 4 years of starting and production along with All-Academic honors.  Kane leveled off in the second half of the conference season (albeit at a very high level) and being a transfer didn't help.  Both were in my top three with Andrew Wiggins so I'll allow that the coaches made the right call.

Of the top 5, I had 4 on my list, with Marcus Smart being the only omission.  I still don't believe a player who was suspended for three games should be rewarded by making the first team, even if his numbers in the other 15 games were worthy.

Of the top 10, I had 8.  Again, pretty good in my opinion.  The two UT guys were pretty close, but I only had Marcus Foster in my honorable mention list.  After watching ISU play KSU in the tournament, he's got a ton of skill and is the best player on Kansas State.

Thirteen of our players matched on the top three teams.  Clark and Crockett got on by their names.  They're good players but I think others were more deserving.

Twenty seven players in all were honored.  My top 27 matched 23 of the coaches'.  And when you get to the end of the top 30 players, the differences are very small.

Biggest Snubs:  Kyan Anderson - I should be president (and one of few members) of this guy's fan club.  Too bad he had to go play for an historically bad Big 12 team in TCU.  That he was as successful individually as he was, on that team, is a testament to how good of a player he is.  TCU has a good coach and has shown the ability to bring in top talent with Karviar Shepherd so he might have a chance to win some games next year.

Monte Morris - He's going to set a NATIONAL record (even if a short-lived one) in assist to turnover ratio.  As a freshman.  Against a legit schedule.  Starting every game during conference play.  He wasn't one of the more heralded freshmen to enter this year.  And no he wasn't the "lead" guard for ISU, which at 6 foot makes his contributions more impressive.  His assists and steals numbers should improve, but I don't see him being in the top 20 in points (about 13 per game) so my prediction is All-Big 12 third team for him next year.

Dustin Hogue - Again, a transfer, in his case from JUCO, It was too much to ask for all 5 cyclones starters to be on this list out of only 27 players, but his case is there too.  He reminds all of us of Ejim last year, but Ejim led the league in rebounding.  Hogue can do that next year.  He'll still be the 4th or 5th scoring option for the Cyclones (behind Niang, Nader and I think Morris) which will make him more aggressive at rebounding.  Hogue leads the Big 12 in rebounding next year, and makes the All-Big 12 third team.

So at each level, I matched 80% or better.  85% or better without Smart.  I think that's pretty good!  No need to tweak my formula as I thought might be necessary earlier in the year.  

I got it right.  Or the coaches got it right.  Or we just happened to agree.  I've said this before, but the Big 12 is LOADED with talent.  From one and done freshman to multi-year transfers to JUCO transfers to graduate transfers and all the 4 year guys in between, I'd put this conference up against any in terms of talent.

And think about this, while Kansas was led by two one and done freshmen, they failed to get an impact from their transfer Talik Black.  OSU couldn't get it done with a four year guy (Brown) and a lottery pick in Smart.  Baylor the same way (Jefferson and Austin).  Fred won the Big 12 tournament championship with development (4 year player Ejim), graduate transfer Kane, JUCO transfer Hogue, recruitment in Niang and an impact freshman Monte Morris - all in the starting five.  In this one year, Hoiberg has exploited all five avenues for success for a college team.  He's managed to not only have all these players coexist, but thrive and be happy doing it. A coach with his skill set and the whole universe of college eligible players available means there is no limit to what Iowa State can achieve in the future.  They've got a pretty good opportunity in the present too :) 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

All Big 12 Final Update

I feel better about this one.

All worked out in the end.  Wiggins made my first team, which was my biggest issue with my previous draft.  Everybody else is about where I'd expect them.  Now we just wait and see how the official teams look.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

All Big 12 teams updated March 7th

I'll be honest, I don't love the picks here.  Kane and Ejim are locks for the first team.  And Staten deserves a spot too.  The prevailing opinion is that Wiggins and Embiid are both on the first team as well.  I'd concede Wiggins, as he's been solid, contributing in every statistical category except assists.  I don't fully understand the love for Embiid.  Statistically, his season is pretty similar to Isaiah Austin's last year, which landed Austin on the second team.

Of Brown, Hield and Anderson I think one makes the first team instead of Embiid and I'd guess it's Hield, rewarding OU for their good season.

I still like Smart on the second team.  He'd be a no-brainer for first team if he'd played all season, but the suspension has to count for something.  

All five Cyclone starters are on this list, and I don't think that's unreasonable.  I like Monte on the third team and with two on the first, Niang on the third balances that out a bit.  Houge has been incredibly consistent down the stretch but pretty quiet too.  There are only seven or eight guys who should be in the running for honorable mention tomorrow.

If an Iowa State player is going to be picked Big 12 POY, my vote is still for Kane.  He's produced at the same level as Smart did last year, if not a little higher.  Ejim is a great story, and it'd still be great for ISU but Kane was far and away the best player this year.

Like I said above, I like the people I've got on this list, and in general where they are placed but it looks like I'll need to do some tweaking to my formulas.  I think this year is going to turn out to be a little bit of an anomaly in that there are a bunch of guards producing highly in multiple categories and unfortunately a few of them that aren't playing for great teams.  Depending how it shakes out, I could make the team ranking more important, give Wiggins and Embiid a bump for being lottery picks next year, or maybe try to adjust based on team tempo vs. average tempo of the conference.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Updated All Big 12 Teams - March 2nd

Here are the updated all-big 12 teams as of March 2nd.

It's looking like a two-man race between ISU's stars for Big 12 POY.  I've actually got Kane well out in front and the top three way ahead of anyone else.  Ejim's got more publicity lately and the Academic All-American award, but I'd still vote for Kane.

For Marcus Smart, I calculated his averages based on all 16 games, instead of the 13 he actually played.  I figure it was his fault he missed the 3 games (not because of injury).  He's been one of the top 3 or 4 players in the conference outside of those three games so I think second or third team is a fair spot.

I'd love to see Monte make the third team but I doubt it will happen.  Monte is now top 6 in assists, steals and top 10 in minutes played for a team in a big tie for 2nd place.  He's actually very, very close to Georges in my ratings.

No other surprises here.  Wiggins makes it onto the first team, Embiid is on the second team, where he should be.  OU and UT are well represented.  KSU might slip another player on and ISU or KU will likely drop one.  

I've got to keep touting Kyan Anderson.  He is the ONLY thing going on for TCU right now.  Watching them play the Cyclones, he was active in the first half (~50% utilization I'd guess) and it was a tight game.  After half he disappeared and the Horned Frogs disappeared too.