Monday, April 01, 2019

Disapointment Or Success?

In October, NCAA trips would have been a successful season for both Iowa State basketball teams.

But given how each was playing in early January, fans rightfully raised the bar for the season.

While the women were able to finish first in the Best Big 12 Team Not Named Baylor race, the men stumbled down the stretch. The women's march to the title game and the men's run to the title had fans giddy.

The individual losses that knocked each out of the tournament were uncharacteristically poor shooting nights, yet each had chances to win in the final minute. When you get in that situation you cross your fingers and hope you get the bounces. Neither did.

But the body of work was solid, and compared to the previous year, were solid steps forward. Now the job is to maintain that level of play despite big changes in production. The parts are there. The question is if the parts can improve and mesh.

The winter of 2019-20 should be worth watching.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

A Victory Of Effort

While the last three weeks have not gone the way that Cyclone fans had hoped, today's home loss to Tech was a minor victory (I'm not using the term "moral victory").

The effort was the effort that is needed on a nightly basis. Everyone seemed to be working the game plan. They were where they wanted to be with four minutes left. The better team ended up winning the game and a share of the league title. Bully for them.

Is the season a disappointment? From where we stood three weeks ago, yes. But I try to take the long-term view at moments like this. A bad effort today would have been a red flag for the long term health of the program. We may have avoided a full implosion.

Beat Baylor in Kansas City and things get interesting again. Go get 'em.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Giddy. Up.

An impressive second half in Manhattan pushed Iowa State back into the conversation for a conference title. ISU shouldn't have lost to K State back in the first week of January, but the way the Wildcats have played in the league takes that game out of "bad loss" category.

Keep winning and cross our collective fingers that the needed losses come to pass.

Hopefully the home loss to TCU won't block the Cyclones from a title. This is more fun than guessing if ISU will avoid the Wednesday game.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


Kansas State entered Saturday's game in the top 10 for defensive efficiency- and the way they denied the drive befuddled Iowa State's offense. If adjustments were being made, they were not apparent until the second half.

It also took a full half for the Cyclones to realize that fouls were not going to be called on the defense, so you might as well get rough with the Wildcats. Rough they got, and physical defense helped get them a 7 point lead with 5 minutes to play. Had that change come in the first half, perhaps KSU never builds their 11 point half-time lead.

The last three offensive possessions were empty, and the last ten possessions resulted in only 6 points. That is sub-optimal.

But it also means they are very close. Small improvements move losses into the win column.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Reverting to the mean

The CSJ staff agreed after an entertaining dismantling of Kansas on Saturday that the true test would come Tuesday in Waco, and the collective hunch was right.

The effort was a click lower, the details just a bit off, the shots a little less smooth, a little more forced. In other words, it was the typical game after a team gets a big win and has to go on the road. It's all good when the shots are falling like Saturday, but another nut when they are not.

Reminder: Don't complain about bad calls at the end when you put yourself in position to get squeezed by a bad call. The last three minutes of offense were lousy for Iowa State, and clinched the loss.

Learn from Waco and improve.

Sunday, December 30, 2018


I recently read an analysis of college football victory margins (but of course can't link to the original article) that suggested that good teams win lots of games by a high percentage of "definitive wins", or wins by 8 points or more. Bad teams lose a lot of games by 8 points or more. Seems obvious, no?

The kicker is that great teams only win "close games"- 7 points or fewer- at a 54% clip.

Close games come down to random events and luck. The fumble bounces towards the offensive player rather than the defensive player. A safety falls down covering a slant and gives up a TD. Field Goals are pushed Wide Right. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Which brings us to Iowa State's loss to Washington State in the Alamo Bowl. Wazzou only had the ball inside the ISU 45 4 times- and all 4 possessions resulted in a TD. Iowa State crossed WSU's 45 8 times, but only came away with 3 TD's.

Game. Over.

Why the failures inside the 45? 8 false starts, mostly on the plus side of the field. One INT trying to hit a covered receiver. A FG try off the upright. One drive stalled at the WS 38, resulting in a punt. A FG from the 6. Any of those drives hit the end zone and the failed 2-point conversion may not matter.

When the game is close, random events that might not normally matter cast a longer shadow. Even great teams can't avoid random effects. A two-score margin in the 4th is important.

The Alamo Bowl was a bigger stage for our Cyclones, and the offense, especially the line, wasn't ready for it. But you only learn by being there.

Thursday, December 06, 2018


The CSJ staff were impressed with the Drake staff and players Saturday. Playing in the worst field conditions we can recall, Drake developed a solid offensive plan after the second possession, and used it to put themselves in a spot to win the game. When players can't cut or really push off, whatever speed and strength advantage a team has disappears. Drake took advantage.

Our Cyclones, however, appeared to use the same game plan they had run the week before, assuming they could manage despite not being able to cut.  Not so much.

Changes were made in the fourth to avoid what would have arguably been the biggest upset in college football history, and at the end of the day a win is a win.  The Russian judge still hated it.

Either the staff didn't adjust their game plan to fit conditions, or they did adjust and little of it worked. I'm not sure which was more worrisome.

Perhaps they Cyclones effort and focus would have been higher if that had been a conference game. We know that the next time ISU is asked to play in the slop we will be holding our collective breaths.