Sunday, February 27, 2005

Play in, play out

ISU's seven game win streak played them into NCAA tourney contention. Sunday's loss may have played them out.

When the NCAA committee looks at the resumes of bubble teams, one of the big things are the "best wins" and "worst loss" lists. This lost to at 15-14 Nebraska team, at home, may hit the "worst loss" list.

The Cornhuskers exploited ISU's two big weaknesses: lack of depth inside, and flaky outside shooting.

By sending 4 to the offensive glass, NU got multiple chances, and also limited ISU's transition game by forcing the Cyclones to work hard for every defnsive rebound.

1-11 3 point shooting allowed the NU D to sit back and clog the middle, limiting Homan's touches and stymying penetration by the guards.

That game looked like January all over again, and ISU looked miles from being an NCAA worthy team. Even with two days off, they looked a half-step slow, and tired both physically and mentally. Even if they find a way to beat Mizzou Wednesday, I am unsure if they have enough in the tank to win in Boulder on Saturday, or to win more than their first round gaem in KC.

Eevn if they made the NCAA's as a 12 seed, it would take a tremendous effort to beat a 5, and effort I suspect this group doesn't have left in it.

I said this several times during the 0-5 start: Wayne's World only has one speed, and that's flat out aggressive and hustling. If ISU's 6 1/2 man rotation isn't able to do that, they are sunk.


A look back for the women

Past, present and future were all on display in Staurday's win over a$m.

First, the present. The Cyclones won the kind of game they often lose on the road: physical, with little flow, and often downright ugly. a$m, without any height, depend on speed and in your shirt (and often pulling your shirt) defense to keep the opponent from finding a rythym. That's a 180 from how ISU plays, and it the style of play they are most succeptible to, as has been noted in this blog before.

ISU might have lost that game had it been played in College Station. But it was in Ames, and they got the win. Good for them.

Now the future. Only 18 of ISU's 68 points against a$m came from players who return next year. On the year, 64% of the scoring comes from graduating seniors. Ouch.

While Lindsey Medders and Megan Ronhovde, who earn 20 points between them, are a formiddible pair, there are plenty of question marks going into next season.

And now the past. The CSJ staff went to lots of WBB games in the 80's and 90's before Bill arrived- now known as the BB period, as in "Before Bill"- and the experience was nothing like game day now. The most appropriate 80's costume for Saturday would have been someone dressed as 14,000 empty seats. I suspect the season attendance average then was less than 10% the 7230 the ladies are averaging this year. It was strickly friends, family, and those who had to be there. There were box scores that clearly added int he band and ushers to pad the numbers. It was that bad. And fortunately just a memory.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Tired legs end the streak

The Cyclones seemed a step slow all night, and lost to a marginal A$M in College Station. Passes and shots that normally work didn't, and the pathetic shooting percentages reflect that.

It was the kind of night that had the game been in Ames, they might have survived. No way tonight.

4 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and an 8 minute stretch without a field sealed the deal.

Hopefully Wayne and crew do nothing but a few shooting drills the next few days leading up to Nebraska. The Clonies just look beat.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Now that ISU has everyone's attention.....

Win at some gym in Lawrence and suddenly everyone notices you're playing good ball.

Stinson is POTW on ESPN. (Follow the link at the top right corner.)'s hoops writer leads off his column with the Cyclones.

The RPI is rising to bubbe territory.

ISU is appearing on projected brackets.

Losing streak? What losing streak?

Wayne has lost the team? What?

To illustrate how good things are going, CyBlogger notes the press in Iowa City is wishing they were ISU.

Now comes a HUGE trap for ISU: College Station.

The school with the worst winning percentage since the league was formed, the Aggies are playing well at home. The team has spent the weekend reading all the good ink. Homan has to be exhausted from all the minutes he has played of late. Stinson has a long list of nagging injuries.

At some point this run has to come to an end.

I'll repeat it again: If ISU gets 2 more wins out of the remaining 4 games, and gets one in KC, they are in, no worries. Any wins outside of that will only improve their NCAA seeding.

Go get 'em fellas.


Sunday, February 20, 2005


Now that Wayne Morgan has the Cyclones on the "Rising With A Bullet" list, and their RPI has jumped about 100 points during the winning streak, how long before his name is linked to some other school who has a coach on the hot seat?

I'd say we won't have to wait until March.

Considering that a vocal minority were jumping on the "Can Margan" float only a month ago, it is further confirmation that college sports are ever more a "What Have You Done For Me Lately" business.

Enjoy the ride, Wayne. I hope it continues.



I always make a point of reading the papers that cover the opposing team. It is very illuminating to read what others think of ISU and their latest game. Saturday's win in Lawrence is no exception.

Begin with the Register's writeup, which reads of a team that did evrything well except shoot free throws, and one player who put the game on his back and took it for the win.

On the other end of the scale is the Kansas City Star, whhich call the game pitiful. They are hard on the Jayhawks. In their eyes, KU should have dispatched of the Cyclones like the hot dog wrapper that B12 teams usually are in Lawrence. But they didn't. It isn't about what ISU did or didn't do, if they earned the win or not. The visitor never wins. If KU loses, KU lost the game. This guy is Exhibit A.

Now KU has to struggle down the stretch to regain their status as a potential Number 1 seed. A team with 3 losses, the first of which didn't appear until this month, suddenly has issues. In the mind of Jayhawk fan, the entire season is single-elimination. Lose once, and hopes are dashed. This Isn't The Year. We Aren't Good Enough To Win The Big One. We Stink.

That's a tough way to view the world.

One final change in peerception fromm Saturday: Phog Allen is just another gym to Iowa State.

The last 6 years, ISU is 3-3 in Lawrence- and it could/should be 4-2 or 5-1.

The rest of the B12 is 0-40.

That's amazing, for both KU and ISU.

But it's just another gym if you're from Ames.



Fennely gambles and loses

Bill Fennely has had made a coaching career of stopping the opponents best players, and making a role player rise to the occation. Most of the time, it works. Saturday in Waco, it didn't.

When a player averaging 4 points a game uncorks 20 on you, maybe it wasn't meant to be.

Instead of being in the driver's seat for the conference title, the Cyclones will now have to win out just to get a bye in the first round of the Big XII Tourney. Not bad for a team projected to finish as low as seventh in the preseason.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Clarification: ISU's tiebreak versus KSU

Under the rules stated at, ISU loses the tiebreaker against KSU:

If both teams finish tied, since they split their head-to-head, the next tiebreaker is the record against North Division teams.

Right now, ISU has losses against KSU and Nebraska. KSU has only a loss to ISU.

Unless the Cornhuskers can do to KSU what they did to ISU in Lincoln, ISU loses that one.

The third tiebreaker is record against teams in order of finish, which can't be computed until the season ends.

Cross your fingers it doesn't come into play.


It ain't over yet for the women

Some interesting developments tonight.

First, the Twister Sisters dispatched of Okie State tonight. That is good.

Texas won in Manhattan, pulling the Wildcats back even with ISU with 3 losses. That is good.

With Saturday's trip to Waco, ISU has a shot of the only team ahead of them in the loss collumn. A win there and they gain another tiebreaker. Considering ISU ends with 3 games they will be favored in, they would suddenly find themselves back inthe drivers seat.

The Cyclones already win tiebreakers against Nebraska and Texas. They may win a tiebreaker against KSU. Beat Baylor, they earn a tiebreak there. Since Tech has games left against Baylor and OU, both on the road, hopefully the losing tiebreaker there becomes a moot point.

All this is setting up as winner take all for ISU Saturday. Win, and with a tiny bit of help, they can clinch the title. Lose, and they will need tiebreakers just to get one of the top four seeds in the B12 tourney.

Here's hoping.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Good news and bad news out of Ames tonight

First, the good: The Cyclones played a stellar half of basketball in the first half, putting the game away in the first 10 minutes. They led KSU 38-19 at the half, then came out and mustered only 19 point of their own in the second. The 15 point margin belies how out of reaach the game felt for the entire night.

My only quibbles: coming out of the under-4 TO, there were still 4 starters on the floor, including ISU's most important player, Homan. Sure, he got yanked a minute later, but if he could sit at 3 minutes, he should have been sitting at 4.

I know, it's not like ISU goes 12 deep right now, so it's hard to empty the bench without breaking out guys who are only a pair of free shoes away from intermurals, but I suspect Agnew could have learned more in a couple minutes than Jared did.

The bad news? Dave Armstrong announced that he has been renewed for next season.

As Dave would say, Wow.

Dave's a genuinely nice guy, from the very limited time I've been around him. He brings a bunch of enthusiasm to the broadcast. But his forced jokes, puns and play on words make me wince 4 or 5 times a game. "Stinson's teardrop makes the Wildcats cry!" Ouch.

He's like that friend we all have who REALLY wants to be an emcee at any gathering, to hold that mic, and be loved. He tries so hard, but it's just painful.

And ISU gets another season of it. I had no idea we were that far down the TV food chain. Who does Dave have naked pictures of?


Monday, February 14, 2005

Only one speed in Wayne's World

The most striking thing about the winning run of the Cyclones as of late is not just the quality of play, but the overall pace.

A quick look at the tape from the Xavier game- a loss to #163 that is dragging down ISU's RPI to #72- shows a lack of the hustle on both sides of the ball that has been keying the team during this run. The guards slashing to the hole, Homan crashing the boards, everyone running the floor like there is free food at the other end; all were lacking during the down streak. All are there now.

Consider these intersting numbers of the first 5 and second 5 games of the B12 season: during the losing streak, ISU was giving up 67 points, but only scoring 60. Ouch. During the winning streak, ISU's defensive numbers have improved to 65 ppg, but scoring have lept to 78 ppg. Wow.

Clearly, some 3 point shooting has helped. But it seems that Stinson and Blalock can now drive and score at will, and are generating even more turnovers at the top of the key. Biggest of all, they finish the break. I wish I had the stats on how often a turnover ends up as points on the other end.

Wayne's World only works when the pedal is floored. Against Tech, even when they feel way behind, they kept trying to force the issue on defense. Eventually it worked, and ISU overwhelmed tech over the last 30 minutes.

Right now, ISU is tied with Texas for 5th place, but they win that tiebreaker. The next goal: a bye in the B12 tourney. A fresh ISU versus a UT or A&M or Nebraska that played the day before? I like that action.


Work for the bye for now

Despite the help ISU got on Sunday, at this point the best the WBB team can hope for is a first-round bye in the B12 tourney.

Tech and K-State both lost on the road, but the tiebreakers still hurt ISU. The only potential tiebreaker ISU can swing in their favor is Saturday's trip to Baylor. Win that, and the title is still in reach. Lose and they may need help just to get the bye.

To win, the Cyclones will have to overcome last weeks's trend of getting blown out by good teams when they wear the red unis. Try two walk throughs when they hit town. Maybe skip them altogether. Sacrifice a chicken courtside before the game. Something.

Just win.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Wayne's World is at full mojo

This was a day the staff regrets it couldn't be a Hilton.

To think walking out of the CU loss that ISU would pull off what they have would have been inconceiveable. One wag insisted that the Cyclones had just played themselves out of not only the NCAA's, but the NIT as well. Scamp.

The fellow who wrote after the loss at Xavier that ISU won't be good until they find someone to score other than Blaylock, Stinson and Homan was a savant. ISU now has 6 legit scorers. The problem for opponents is that you have no idea who the breakout guy will be each night.

Making a Bobby Knoight team turn the ball over 10 times more than usual is fantastic. Forcing Bob to use a zone, a walk-on football player as anti-Homan muscle and a three-man midcourt trap to slow down Stinson, and surviving, means you have arrived as Opponent Teams Respect. Not only to they give you their best punch, they break out the bag of tricks.

ISU isn't on the NCAA bubble. Yet. But they can see it from here.

There are officially on the list of "Teams You Don't Want To Play Right Now" list.

Next unfortunate volunteer? Kansas State, whom ISU should have beaten in Manhattan, and couldn't win in OT in Austin the way ISU did last week. Way to stop the freefall, Horns.


There goes the title

This will be a tough one to recover from.

The Twister Sisters path to the league title had such a small margin for error, and required so much help, that there was little room for slipup. Tonight was a big one.

The Tech-UT and Baylor-OU games on Sunday will clear the picture some, but ISU is now a clear longshot when you start to factor int he tiebreakers.

Another post, perhaps in the summer when times are slow, we will surmise the Cyclones struggles on the road against quality competition. For now, put your head down and focus on thumping Okie State Wednesday.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

It's all Curtis

I am Curtis Stinson.

I am Hard.

I've led my team to a 7 point lead inthe second half.

The team goes into a many-minute scoring drought, and we fall behind by 5.

So I take over.

I force turnovers.

I score at will.

I post up guys 6 inches taller, yet still score.

I make the critical free throws down the stretch.

My team wins two conference road games in a row for the first time in forever.

I am Hard.


It's a race to the finish

The Cyclone women took it on the chin in the second half in Lubbock Tuesday.

The 50-26 margin in the sealed their fate, and the last six games are now almost must-wins.

Since ISU now loses a tiebreaker to Tech, and may also to KSU (I'm not current on the details of the system), they will almost need to win out, plus get some help with Tech to win the title. Fortunately, Tech must still visit UT, OU and Baylor to finish up. They won't earn that hat trick.

ISU must bounce back in Lincoln against surprising Nebraska. They Huskers limped out of Hilton with a January thumping, but are certainly good enough to win Saturday.

By the call on the radio, Katie Robinette, frustrated by swarming physical D, tried to push the issue by forced up plenty of bad shots and earning travelling calls. So it goes.

The Cyclones are certainly good enough to run the table from here on out, and with help, don't need to be perfect. But controlling your own destiny is preferable to having to watch the scoreboard, crossing your fingers.


RPI and rep

A continuation of the update on the WBB ranking and RPI. On further examination, ISU has, by far, the worst Stregnth of Schedule of teams in the top 30, at 114. That may be the biggest drag on the Cyclones ranking.

The Top 6 of the B12; RPI, SS:

Baylor 9, 39
Tech 13, 26
KSU 16, 38
Texas 17, 6
ISU 24, 114
Nebraska 44, 29

Granted, if ISU were to get wins in Lubbock and Waco the RPI would jump tremendously.

But the NC schedule didn't help.

ISU lost to their best non-con opponent, Iowa, who has struggled mightily in Big 1011 play. Consider who they have beaten so far:

291 Cleveland St.
283 Northern Colorado
308 IPFW
91 Wisconsin
168 Drake
95 Northern Iowa
96 Eastern Kentucky
115 UNLV
227 Eastern Illinois
189 Murray St.
16 Kansas St.
117 Colorado
84 Kansas
139 Missouri
44 Nebraska
39 Oklahoma
117 Colorado
17 Texas

Or as groups:

4 1-50
4 51-100
5 101-200
4 201+

Now scheduling is a crap shoot, because you can't know for sure how a team is going to work out. I suspect UNLV, Wisconsin and Drake all looked better in October than they do now. It's not ISU's fault that Mizzou and Colorado are struggling.

Beat two or three of the Top 50 left on the schedule, and another in KC, and it all works out. But they gotta win to get good seeding in the NCAAs.


Monday, February 07, 2005

A Curious Situation

UPDATE: The new poll is out, and ISU has at least slid ahead of KSU and Texas, and are only 1 spot behind Tech. It's a better situation, but still funny that the team that is a loss up on the rest of the eague lags a bit. Bayor has a filthy RPI, which explains alot. The other 4 ranked teams all have a better RPI than ISU, simply doesn't have many quality RPI wins, UT being the best (17).


Take a quick look at the Big 12 WBB Standings. notice anything unusual?

Yes, ISU being alone in first place is a surprise with 9 games played. Yes, the one game lead in the loss column is a head turner. But look again.

The league has 5 ranked teams.

Of the 5, ISU is ranked lowest. First place, lowest ranking. Odd.

Granted, they have 3 brutal road games left: Lincoln, Waco and Lubbock. Those three games will prove ISU as Contender or Prentender. By Saturday night we will know, with trips to the Red Raiders and the resurgent Cornhuskers back to back this week.

But ISU only has 2 losses all year, both on the road, both to ranked teams at the time they have played. (The case of basketball Cooties the Iowa women have picked up is another post) How many more will ISU need to win to get the nod? Will their "soft" reputation dog them as long as Bill is the coach?

A hat trick, begining with Saturday's win over Texas and ending in Lincoln, could seal the deal for ISU.

This is a pivital week for ISU basketball, both the men and women. The men are pushing for an NCAA bid. The women, a championship.

Each will have to earn it.


Two Streaks Are Dead

Improbable seems the only correct word to describe what happened on Saturday.

The Cyclone men ended both an impossible-to-imagine 28 game conferfence road losing streak and an OT losing streak in beating ranked Texas 92-80. After scoring only 20 points in the first half of a home game against CU two weeks ago, they explode for 24 in OT, two shy of the NCAA record. Unbelieveable.

Freshman Tasheed Carr led the surprises with 13 of his 22 in OT, and his 5-8 3 point shooting has officially ended the Cyclone 3 point funk.

With three wins in a row, ISU has gone from Everyone's Favorite Opponent to The Team Nobody Wants To Play. What is most remarkable is the stunning intestinal fortitude the team exhibits. Suddenly, nobody is afraid to shoot, even in crunch time with defenders around. How a team flips that switch after so many listless games I don't understand.

The Clonies get to push their luck on the road with a trip to Lincoln Tuesday, which always seems to result in wild games, regardless of the quality of the teams involved.

Here's hopin'.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

And so the climb begins

It's good to see Wayne's World working after so many called it DOA.

Baylor clearly wants a slow pace, and ISU gave up some layups trying to force the issue. But teams always want to run, whether they are suited for it or not, and BU got harried late in the first. Hopefully ISU can continue forcing the issue on other teams, too.

Now that ISU has gotten themselves out of the basement, they begin the slow climb up the standings. There is not much margin for error with five road games left, including stops in Austin and Lawrence. An 8-8 finish would be a heck of an accomplishment considering the start this team had, and would get them firmly on the bubble. But to get there the Streak That Won't Die must, and it must die hard.