Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Down the Rabbit Hole

Perhaps the most disconcerting part of ISU's recent troubles at Hilton is how the Cyclone Basketball World has been seemingly turned upsode down. Water flows uphill. The sky is yellow, not blue. Hawkeye fans are decent to be around. No of it makes sense.

So far in league play, ISU has 2 wins on the road, yet 3 losses at home. They are 3-0 at neutral sites- all three wins coming in Hawaii. They won at Drake, which always gives them trouble. They lost 2 non-conference games at home, which is especially unheard of to anybody other than Iowa. It's the Orr years, but backwards.

During Johnny's run, ISU was a tough out in Ames and a walkover on the road. They seemed to always find some pathetic way to lose when wearing the red suits, whether it be a close loss at the end, or a blowout from the get-go. It was maddening, but at least you got to see the good show in person- the horror flick was always on TV, and you could just walk away.

Perhaps that is what exlemplified Hilton Magic the most- the fact that for no apparrent reason, a team that was lousy to average for some reason could rise above it all and dump the big boys at home. It made no sense. There was no logic to it. It just happened. It was Magic.

Until the scene normalizes, and ISU returns to it's routine of home wins and road struggles, I will try to enjoy the scenery here in the Rabbit Hole: Road success, home failures, friendly bumblebees, and free beer.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Turning point

ISU now has no margin for error.

After another humbling loss in Hilton, the Cyclones are in essentially do-or-die mode for the rest of the season. With a stunningly bad Donut Defense (nothing in the middle) ISU will earn an NCAA bid the hardest of hard ways- having a winning record on the road to compensate for a losing one at home.

That means at least four wins out from games at:


Despite recent success on the road, I think three is pretty optimistic.

A sweep of the remaining home games goes without saying:


But without Marston or gaining another year of eligibility for Jared Homan, what can change? I doubt the scheme will, and that will be the noisiest part of the remainder of the season. The Zone Haters will be at full roar.

And they are wrong, unfortunately. I don't see ISU's soft interior defense being any better in a man scheme than what they are doing now- all the same issues apply. But anytime one tries to live outside the norm- be vegetarian, not wear a tie at the office, live without a car- you become a magnet for criticism. I suspect the fans at Tech are complaining about a lack of talent, which is exactly what ISU fans should be complaining about, too. We are still experiencing the LE Hangover.

Bitch about talent and effort- both are valid. But I don't think the scheme is at fault, yet.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

It's the little things

A turnover here, a turnover there, and the other team shoots 50%+ and becomes hard to beat.

Miss a freethrow here, miss a freethrow there, and a team can hit a late 3 to send it into OT.

Bad D on the press here and there gives the opponents 10 easy points- points you struggle to make up out of your offense.

Small things add up to be big losses, losses that may send you to the NIT if you aren't careful.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Viva la Hilton West!

Check the note at the bottom of the Omaha World Herald story.


Surprise, No Surprise

Tuesday's win in Lincoln will be a benchmark for the remainder of the season.

On offense, ISU was composed, efficient, and usually made the extra pass to find the player ready to shoot. Granted, you always look better when the ball goes in the hole, but ISU generally took makeable shots, and converted Husker turnovers into at least 25 points.

On defense, Nebraska never got into the flow. For every time they broke the press and scored a layup they twice turned it over, or otherwise looked nervous when running the offense. Both teams tried to surprise the other with shifting defensive looks; only Nebraska was rattled by it.

There will be several nights over the next two months that we will collectively ask: "Why can't they play the way they did in Lincoln?" I expect every team in the XII will have a near-perfect night, and some horrid nights as well. While the league is even (but for Texas), each team has a major weakness. When teams hide the weakness, they win; when opponents expose the weakness, the team loses.

I was surprised that KU choked a 9 point lead in 90 seconds; I was surprised that ISU didn't just win in Lincoln, they were in control for most of the game. When surprises become the norm, they are no longer surprises.

Normalcy ahead!


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Iowa fans can be a soft bunch

Kinnick Stadium is in the middle of a (well-deserved) $100 million dollar renovation. Part of that renovation will increasing the width of the seats- or rather, repainting the numbers on the bleachers from 16 1/4 inches to a whole 18.

As a result, every single ticket holder in the stadium is being reseated, according to the Paper Iowa Used To Depend On:

"Fans earn the right to select earlier based on a system that factors in longevity of season-ticket purchases, every $100 of giving from records dating back to 1973, membership in groups such as the Kinnick Society, being a U of I graduate and being a male or female letterwinner."

A high score will be a bad reward, because when you visit the "select my seats" area of the special Kinnick Renovation website, you learn that to earn the right to a seat along the sideline- known among fans as "A Seat That Doesn't Suck" you must contribute anywhere from $50 to $600 per seat, per year.

Per Seat, Per Year. That will pay off a $100 million dollar debt in a hurry. They are officially Big Time.

Thanks for all the years of support and cash. Your reward? The privilege of writing an even bigger check.

There is one big downside of fans throwing that kind of cash at a football program: When things start to turn south, the crowd will turn ugly in a big, big hurry. If fans thought the grousing about Kirk was loud after losses to Michigan and Iowa State, imagine the roar when the bottom falls out of a season and 4-8 is the result. $600 per seat will generate a pile of indignation.

My favorite quote was this:

Ross, a student season-ticket holder the past six years, said those who were attending games when Iowa's team was struggling in the late 1990s should be rewarded.

"I know it's a big deal for the athletic department to make money, but it kind of stings when you're put in the cheap seats," Ross said. "You feel your loyalty is not rewarded."

Yeah, those three non-bowl season you had to endure were just brutal: 3-8, 1-10, 3-9. If you get points for suffering through that "drought", the then ticket holders who endured the 20 Consecutive Losing Seasons get seven fold the points the recent "sufferers" get. It's only fair, isn't it?

I can just imagine the requests for extra considerations for ticket holders who have to sit through the next losing season, whenever it happens. Call them Suffering Rewards.


Monday, January 16, 2006

KU lost in its own Phog

For the Jayhawks, it doesn't get much worse than this.

15 games in, and KU still doesn't know who they are.

Jan. 16th, and an NCAA bid may be on the line?

That's Must-See-TV .


Old coach shows us a new way to beat ISU

For most of this season, the MO to beat ISU has been along the lines of this: Pack your defenders into a zone, limit the penetration by the guards, and force ISU to beat you with the three. For the better teams, this has worked.

But not for Bobby Knight and Tech. They went the other way, using their man defense to shut down Stinson, rolling the dice that the rest of the team couldn't do it without him. Blaylock tried, but after he got the same faceguard treatment Stinson was recieving, ISU's offense ground to a halt. Tech's offensive rebounding didn't hurt anything, either. It seemed that for most of the second half, every possesion by Tech resulted in either a bucket, a foul, or a 3 rebound garbage bucket by some big man.

The number of one missed shot possesions by Tech in the second half could be counted on one hand, and that may be the biggest liability for ISU the rest of the season.

Until the big men collectively learn to rebound and play defense, ISU will have to be very efficient on offense. They have no margin for error.

Now they face a Nebraska team that should be feeling good about itself. With wins over KSU and OU, they have the momentum that ISU lacks. I'll let Ryan at Crosscyed give you the nitty gritty breakdown, but this is already a crossroads game for ISU. NU's power ratings are in the 90's- like Tech's- so while ISU has dropped to around 50, this is still a winnable game. But with a whole slew of teams in the 70-115 range ahead, if ISU can't right the ship and start beating teams the are "better than", an NIT invite will be their only postseason hope.


Monday, January 09, 2006

UT too tough

Texas killed ISU in every way: 3 point shooting, offensive rebounding, breaking the press, free throws, disrupting ISU's flow on offense, eliminating the ISU crowd.

Sometimes you play bad, and sometimes you just get beat. Tonight, ISU just got beat. So it goes.

Hope the long roadie to Lubbock goes better.


Storm cloud ahead

Texas claims the Big 12's two best rebounders.

ISU's biggest weakness: rebounding.



Sunday, January 08, 2006

An improvement over last year


That has a nice ring to it.

ISU's win over K State sure beats last season's 0-5 conference start. It was the classic half-empty, half full game for fan's.

ISU beat a team with a good record/KSU had played a lousy schedule.
22 KSU turnovers were converted into 24 ISU points/KSU shot 57% thanks to layups after beating the press
ISU won a close game late/ISU blew a 12 point lead with 6:50 to play
KSU only made 3 three pointers/all three came inthe last 5 minutes, helping to make it close
ISU was 15-19 from the line/ISU missed the front end of TWO one-and-ones late
The 9-day layoff put rust on the Cyclones, but they overcame it/A better opponent would have buried ISU early
ISU's offense improved as the game wore on/ISU offense dissapeared late
ISU beat KSU's zone after making some 3's/ISU shot way too many threes

Visiting the various message boards, I suspect there are too many fans who weight style points too highly. There are those who seem frustrated that ISU can't pitch a shutout defensively and score 100 every night. Granted, this Cyclone club has serious flaws, but so does almost every team in the conference. This year, given no clear favorite, there should be only one goal for each game:

Just win, baby. I'll be half full.


Now ISU has a slight chance

So long, Vince.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

More stats than you can shake a stick at

Ryan over at Crosscyed posted some fascinating stats concerning the ISU basketball team. My favorite are the ones that put into numbers the basketball equivalent of slugging percentage. Points per weighted shot, effective field goal percentage, and O and D rating should become common vernacular of basketball broadcast and reporting.

The conclusion? Rashon Clark is a stud who is blossoming before our eyes, and Stinson and Blaylock need to improve their free throw shooting and overall shot selection.

I don't understand all of the methodology behind the stats, (my math and verbal ACT scores were mirror opposites) but I love the resulting analysis they provide. Give them a look.


Hook 'Em Horns!

It's good to see UT win The Big One, getting a giant monkey off of Mack Brown's shoulders- a monkey whose perch I've helped maintain with lines like "No coach has done less with more".

Sometimes all you need is One Great Player to push you over the top. Without Vince Young, Texas is still a very good team.

With him, they are Champs.

Now, Vince, go pro. ISU goes to Austin September 23rd. We will need all they help we can get.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Tipping Point?

Longtime ISU viewers can't help but wonder if the loss to TCU may come be a turning point in the McCarney administration.

The last 5 seasons have been building to the '05 season. Talent has been building. The schedule was favorable. Ticket sales were at an all-time high. But all 5 losses had common themes: second half leads that were blown, opportunities to win late, a lack of kicking game becoming an fatal liability. And those issues are nothing new.

But ISU's inability to win the tight games the last two seasons, and the games that really matter, may be rapidly burning the good will that McCarney has earned with his constant enthusiasm, wins over Iowa and Nebraska, and bowl trips to sometimes desirable destinations. Once that capital is used, it will be extremely hard to win back with the casual fan ISU needs to push the ticket average from 35K to 50K+.

Clearly, Dan and staff must evaluate how they manage close game situations. Some are tagging Dan as a choker, and we can't argue that point with the results of late. Unless football fortunes shift, and that label is shed, Cyclone Nation may drift into the same kind of program killing indifference that afflicts the basketball program in Iowa City. And that is quickly followed by pink slips.