Saturday, December 24, 2005

Nice road trip guys

Get on a plane, return with a trophy.

ISU found a way to win three games in Hawai'i against three decent teams.

If they can convert that can-do attitude to the XII schedule, things could get interesting.

I look forward to seeing the men play on TV again, though. Each game was too late for even this hard-core to listen- the mini-Clones in the house get up far too early for midnight radio!


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bad news for ISU

Colorado made a great hire in Dan Hawkins.

He only won 3 titles in 5 years as head coach in Boise. His team clubbed ISU in the Blue Turf Bowl in 2002. His offensive philosophy will further push the wishbone/triple option days of the 80's Big 8 even further into the recesses of our memories, and continue the evolution of the B12 into the second coming of the 80's WAC.

One has to wonder, though, if he will be coaching under the Walden Clause: We don't care whether you win, but you have to be clean. After the scandals that have rolled through that football program the last 15 years, a clean coach will be a breath of fresh air.

Then again, as the only survivor of CU's 2004 round of firings, Barnett only got canned after the product on the field went bad. So perhaps all is acceptible, as long as one wins.

We will know in a few years. Snyder's rep at KSU didn't take long to ferment, and I suspect Hawkin's rep will solidify quickly.


Early Guess: ISU's in!

One of the favorite winter activities of the basketball writer is predicting the Field of 65. Fox Sports has an early one.

Two things jump out: ISU is "one of the last in", and the XII only gets 4 teams in. Clearly, TEXTI'm not the only one who has noticed that the league isn't very strong this year.

I expect that either one team will rise up and roar through the league with less than two losses (OU is a likely suspect), or it will be a wild any-team-on-any-night that will drive fans and bettors nuts, and produce a champ with 4, 5 or even 6 losses and needing tiebreakers to get the #1 seed in Dallas.

Hang on for a crazy ride.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Opportunity Ahead

Just when one is getting down in the mouth about ISU dropping a game they shouldn't have, some possible sun on the horizon:

The Big XII is, shall we say, in transition. There isn't a single standout team yet.

A quick look at the Sagarin rankings has Colorado- yes, a team coached by Ricardo Patton- at the top of the heap in the XII. When your best win is over #125 St. Mary's, we don't know much about you yet.

Look down the schedule at the start of ISU's B12 run:

KSU (#35, SOS 269) and suddenly struggling Texas (#17, 191) at home, roadies to Tech (#171, 295) and Nebraska (#133, 307), a$m (#87, 333- weakest in the league) at home, at Mizzou (#114, 170), then home for KU (#93, 68) and CU (#10, 125). I'm not going to predict a 8-0 start, but there are plenty of winable games there. If ISU can get its offense into a flow, a strong start is there for the taking.

The next two weeks will be the key.



Sunday, December 18, 2005

Two Trick Pony

My rough count of the last 5 minutes for the ISU offense against Ohio State:

7 possessions
2 turnovers
1/7 shooting (including an airball 3)
1 missed 1/1 front end
2 made free throws
7 points

That isn't going to do it, friends. It seems the ISU offense is too often a Two Trick Pony: create fast break points off defense and rebounds, or points off dribble penetration. The last 5 minutes had too much standing around waiting for someone else (read: Curtis or Will) to get things going, and not enough cohesion to know what play to run to give them a high-percentage shot.

With the number of new faces, this is to be expected. Ohio State is a pretty good team, and has a whole fistfull of seniors who know how to get things done. Hopefully ISU can work out those end of game issues before any more losses that kill their RPI, and B12 games in general.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Excellent Iowa Analysis

Visit Crosscyed for a nice player breakdown of the win over Iowa, plus some notes.

From the other side, check out the Pat Hardy's column in the IC PC: Alford says the right things. Alford says the right things.

Wha? Could this be the SA we know and love may be maturing as a coach? Where's the fun in that?


When will this end?

At what point does SUI again stop scheduling in-state schools in athletics? It's just embarrassing for them.

They earn nothing from the games. When they win, they will be criticized for not winning by enough. If they lose, the sports world reacts with "What is wrong?" horror. 2005 is another perfect example. Football got dumped by an ISU team that peaked in September and needed 6 weeks to get back on stride. Basketball looked to be Top 10 worthy until UNI and ISU appeared on the schedule. Now a cloud of questions surround the team, as it has 3 of the last 4 years.

Steve Alford has shown during his career that he can focus his team on the big goals- like Big 10 Championships- but they stumble over the pesky teams that don't understand their place in the basketball universe: UNI, ISU, Northwestern, and St. Louis come to mind. Second rate programs daring to battle with Top Tier programs like Iowa. Don't they know who they are?

The simple solution is to just stop scheduling teams that are beneath Iowa's abilities. UNI and ISU are not worthy a date with Iowa. The don't have the fan base, the money, the stadium size or the coaching talent that Iowa has.

In fact, the whole Cy-Hawk trophy concept should be scrapped. It simply brings Iowa down to the level of trade schools like ISU. We stated flat out last spring that the Cy-Hawk Trophy is an award that ISU should never win. If you are Iowa, why would you make a big deal out of something that should never happen? Why not have a trophy competition with Wartburg? It is just as likely Wartburg would win the series as would ISU.

The sooner Iowa realizes how damaging their scheduling of in-state schools is to their Championship prospects, the better.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

This will be a maddening bunch

Basketball will be a wild ride all winter.

ISU lays an egg against Fresno State, then dominates Drake in Des Moines. Go figure.

Each game will be a question of "Which team will show up?" Monday, it was Good Cyclones. Friday it could be Bad Cyclones, or at least, Cyclones Who Are Trying Too Hard, which is easily mistaken for Bad Cyclones.

This bunch could easily beat KU twice and Texas at home, and yet get swept by CU and lose at Baylor.

If I was Steve Alford, my plan would be to have Brunner touch the ball on every possesion at least once. The old "Shoot it up and crash the boards" strategy will work well on two fronts: SUI will get lots of garbage buckets, and will decimate the ISU front line with foul trouble. It's a perfect plan.


Upon further review

I got a chance to watch the KU debacle on tape. Some thoughts:

1) It's concerning how easily ISU can be made one-dimentional. Stack 8 in the box and it's all on Meyer's shoulders.

2) KU's 2nd TD wasn't.

3) ISU gets little pressure with the 4 man rush, and needs 6+ to really put heat on. Rushing 5 only ensures a pass completion for a first down.

4) The players and coaches clearly got "tight helmet" down the stretch and choked. Just like MU '04. Just like NU and MU '05.

5) Game plan for TCU: allow ISU to jump out by 14, insert the backup QB they don't have tape on, and watch said QB shred ISU's prevent D. TCU wins. It worked for MU and KU, (and almost CU) why not TCU too?

I hope I get proven wrong.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Hang on, this could be rough

You can't say you weren't warned.

I called Iona as a possible loss for ISU. While they responded with a win over a feisty UNI club,win over they then followed that with a home loss to a Fresno State team that few think much of. Witnesses (like the excellent Lone Clone) blame a lack of effort on defense for the FSU loss.

Now come Drake and SUI, two clubs who circle their date with ISU as soon as the schedules are announced (although SUI would deny that). Defensive intensity may be the only chance ISU has in these games. I now expect ISU to lose both games, especially SUI, given their strength inside. Brunner should score 30+.

Until the five new bodies on the interior figure out where they are headed, this could be rough going. Hang on tight.


Charlie Brown

There is no other way to describe ISU football other than as the Charlie Brown of the Big XII.

Given their performance with titles on the line (MU '04, at KU '05) and in OT (see previous, plus NU and MU '05) Cyclone fans have no choice but to know, deep down in their hearts, that when ISU has the chance to achieve greatness, they will find the way to lose in the most agonizing of fashions.

They never got blown out in '05, which is a vast improvement over the past, but they gave each of their 4 losses away, and to arguably inferior teams.

Their Bowl prize? A genuinely good TCU team that could easily kick their butt if helmets aren't screwed on correctly.

We will give a more detailed analysis in the coming weeks, but we can only assume that somehow, some way, Lucy will pull the football away.