Thursday, February 19, 2015

McKay vs Ejim Update

With a larger sample size I figured I would compare McKay's numbers to those of Ejim's Big 12 POY year last year.  Here are the raw numbers:


Obviously Ejim's raw numbers are far and away better than McKay's in everything except for blocks.  When you factor in the minutes played it tells a little different story.  McKay hasn't played as many minutes as Ejim for a number of reasons this year.  One would figure that McKay's minutes will continue to rise as the year goes on.  I calculated their stats per 40 minutes to even out the minutes.  Here are the results:

Per 40 MinPointsReboundsAssistsStealsBlocks
Those are a lot closer than people might think.  Ejim scored a touch more but obviously had the benefit of being able to shoot the three pointer.  He also added over an assist more a game but didn't come close to matching McKay's 4.0 blocks per 40 minutes.  Ejim's season was great.  Earning Big 12 Player of the Year is nothing to bat an eye at.  None of this is meant to take anything away from him or his season.  It is simply to point out just how productive McKay has been.  If you take away Ejim's 48 point performance against TCU (or at least knock it down to his season average) it would take away a point per game.  That probably isn't fair to do because he did accomplish it but its worth noting.  Devil's advocate would say Ejim being able to log that many minutes added to his value and so comparing 40 min per stats isn't fair.  My response would be a) McKay's minutes will continue to rise and b) its not like ISU is playing 4 on 5 when he isn't on the floor.  There is production coming from that spot on the floor whether it is as good as McKay's or not.  For example when McKay isn't on the floor it probably means Niang is getting more touches which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Just because I was curious, on top of the 40 minute stats I wanted to compare at this point based on McKay's minutes and based on Ejim's minutes so here they are:

McKay's MinPointsReboundsAssistsStealsBlocks
Ejim's MinPointsReboundsAssistsStealsBlocks


What can we draw from all of this?  McKay is really playing at an all-conference level and he is just starting to hit his groove.  His numbers, in my opinion, should go up more before they plateau.  One might argue that McKay has the ability to be a little more valuable given his defensive value.  It is very possible Iowa State could have three contenders for Big 12 Player of the Year in 2015-16.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

All Big-12 Teams Update

We're about three quarters through the season, so it's time for another All Big 12 team update.

Monte has slipped behind Buddy Hield for POY, but he's well ahead of everyone else.  If Monte doesn't finish on the first team, it'll be a real shame.

Jameel McKay makes his first appearance on the list.  TaShawn Thomas is still the frontrunner for newcomer of the year but Jameel could make it interesting in the last couple of weeks. 

Georges made some progress since the last update, but the stats are being concentrated as everyone's rotations are tightening up. 

It's a little surprising that ISU is in second place in the conference and only has three people on my list.  I think it speaks to the depth of the team.  There are seven players who could lead the team in any stat on any night.  It also highlights the impact McKay has had in only two months.  Moving into the starting lineup gives him more opportunity, obviously, but I think it helps Hogue moving to the small forward spot.  And BDJ looks to have free reign off the bench.  Nader's brought a scoring punch in limited minutes too.  ISU's starting to peak at the right time.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Take a Deep Breath

There is a quote out there that goes "It's never as good or as bad as it seems."  It would be hard to reach that conclusion on your local message board.  In fact you might conclude the opposite is true.  To me, I think the quote is pretty spot on and applicable when it comes to this ISU basketball team.  As we enter the final straight away of Big XII play the words tossed around about this team are concerned, mentally weak, lazy, selfish.  You would think we are talking about a bubble team that is on the verge of pissing their postseason hopes away.  This is where the "not as bad as it seems" part of the quote comes in really handy.

If I asked someone to put together a mock resume for a team with this proclaimed characteristics at this point in the season it wouldn't be favorable.  14 wins?  A 6-6 conference record? Would you consider an injury free team with a potential for a 3 seed to be causing fans much anxiety?  I wouldn't, but it has.  As we sit today Iowa State is solid 17-6 and 7-4 in conference with several big wins on the resume.  So what is the problem?  I really don't know but I'll try to explain.

Message board fans don't (at least I hope) represent the entire fan base but I'm starting to think more and more it is a pretty strong barometer of where most of the fan base sits.  I go to work the day after a game (win or lose) and the negative opinions from the message boards find their way there too.  Negativity truly does breed more negativity.  I used to get a lot more upset about losses than I do now.  In fact, I'd turn all 50 shades of red and usually just go mute for hours afterward.  The close losses still sting, as do the bad losses but somewhere between becoming a teacher and a father I realized that the season is one big process.  It is a long tumultuous season that will have ups and downs.  It is what makes watching sports great.  Big wins wouldn't mean as much without tough losses.  There will be losses and poor performances along the way.  Please, accept that.  It is a process.

There is another saying out there that goes something like "what have you done for me lately."  As we waited for this basketball season to start we were left with the memories of a great season just a year ago.  A Big 12 championship, a Sweet 16 appearance and national writers telling us we were a Final Four team pre-Niang injury.  That is what winning six of their seven will do.  We don't remember the three game losing streak, or the fact that the team would have been riding another three game losing streak heading into postseason play had Phil Forte not missed a late free throw at home.  Last season was fun, it really was, but this season hasn't been all that different.

What I'm trying to say is that almost everything last years team accomplished is still on the table for this years team.  In fact, there are a couple things that this years team could accomplish that last years couldn't.  As we sit here on February 12th this team is only a game behind last years "pace" overall and a little ahead of their conference "pace".  This team still hasn't lost at home and still hasn't lost two games in a row.  When you look at Bracketology this team has already earned credibility as a high seed that last years team didn't earn until their Big 12 tournament run.  More importantly, this years team still has the ability to make a deep run in the tournament.

I ask that you do me a favor as you watch this team the rest of the year.  Enjoy.  For four hours a week in the midst of some of the longest months Cyclone basketball gives us an escape.  Sure, they are frustrating at times to watch, but it makes the moments that "click" that much more enjoyable.  This years team is pretty damn good.  There are still big games ahead.  They will win some, they will lose some.  The fun part is still ahead of us.  This team has the tools to do some things in the postseason ISU hasn't done in quite some time (and maybe ever).  Take a deep, deep breath.  You just might be holding it until April.

Monday, February 2, 2015

One Big Key for ISU vs KU

If there has been on constant in Bill Self's preparation for Iowa State it has been to let Niang let it fly from deep.  In seven career games against Kansas Niang has hoisted up 40 three point attempts.  That is almost six a game!  In his career he has averaged 2.8, 4.3 and 3.4 three-point field goal attempts per game in each of his three seasons.  His lowest number of attempts (4) against Kansas came in the Big 12 tournament win last season.  This happened to be the first game Niang played against KU in which they did not have a shot blocker on the floor in Whithey or Embiid.  What did he do?  He proceeded to go 10-18 on two-point field goals in route to a 25 point effort.

Kansas doesn't have that 7 footer they have had in the past although they do have some athletic big guys that could block a shot.  Playing the Niang 3 point lottery could result in a win for the Cyclones but it more than likely favors Kansas.  Self wants to make Niang one dimensional and although he can shoot it from deep he is much better around the rim.  If Niang finds himself wide open on the perimeter it may not be as much about ISU moving the ball well, but rather Kansas letting Niang chuck it up from deep.

Is there some risk involved for Kansas?  Yes, especially with the way Niang has been shooting lately, but there is also the possibility of him going 0-9 like he did on Big Monday last year.  I think ISU really needs Niang to try to establish himself inside first.  If we see Niang taking 9 three point field goals tonight, it may not be good for the Cyclones.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Monte Morris Big 12 POY?

With the strength and depth of the Big 12 this year, it's no surprise there are a lot of individually talented players vying for the end of the year conference awards.  The stats are spread a little more evenly, which means a little less strength at the top but much more competition for the third and honorable mention teams.  There will be some very good players show up lower on the list than might have been expected.

ISU does have a player in the hunt for the Big 12 POY, but it's not who you think.  Monte Morris, who was on my first team in my previous update, has now pulled essentially even with Buddy Hield.  Monte has held strong as the leader in the conference for assists, and near the top in steals.  But over the last three games, he's averaged over 16 points a game, pushing him to 12th among all scorers. 

Could Monte really be considered for the award this year?  I think so.  Every broadcast, the announcers mention him as one of, if not the best, point guard in the country.  If he's the best in the country, he's certainly the best in the conference, and that deserves some kind of recognition.  Monte has been a little more assertive with his scoring.  After his drives to the basket lately someone comes up and does the Kane flex thing which makes me think something was said.  He's been efficient so it would help the team if his usage went up a bit.

I'd switch Anderson and Perry Ellis, but otherwise feel pretty good about the first two teams.  There's virtually no separation between the players on the third team and honorable mention.  A bunch of solid names through the end of the list. 

TaShawn Thomas looks like the front runner for newcomer of the year (unless I'm missing someone).  Bryce has some ground to make up, but I think it's possible.  His rebounding numbers are still good and Fred seems to have taken the reigns off his offensive game.  A couple more points per game and he'll be right there with Thomas.

Georges can't get much higher on points alone, so I still think he needs to move up in rebounds and assists.  He'd need to average about 7 rpg and 4 assists for the rest of the season to get on my first team.  Georges is currently averaging 5.1 and 2.9.  He's been pretty consistent in both categories so a couple big games would help.