Sunday, December 18, 2016

Maddeningly Entertaining

I suspect the basketball season is going to be maddeningly entertaining. Every game will be a cliffhanger regardless of the quality of opponent. There will be as many thrilling upsets as head scratching clunkers (Exhibit A: Iowa City).

BYO Tums.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Sometimes you win (SJS, KU, Tech)

Sometimes you lose (UNI, Baylor, Okie State, KSU)

Sometime you just get beat (SUI, TCU, OU, WVU)

Get better winning the close ones and the Cyclones will be on to something.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

That works

Trucking a team by 56 in record fashion, a team that beat you by 30+ the year before?

Maybe there is something to The Process people keep talking about.

Corner turned?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Big Finish

Quite the turnaround after a lousy first half. The key was the response once KU went up 24-16:

ISU: 10/80 TD
KU: 5/10 Punt
ISU: 5/70 TD
KU: 10/42 Downs
ISU: 13/42 FG
KU: 2/2 INT
ISU: 3/-14 End of game

That's how you finish. A needed change from the endings earlier in the season.


Saturday, November 05, 2016

Punching Above Their Weight

Our Cyclones are becoming The-Team-You-Don't-Want-To-Play, but their mistakes are keeping them from grabbing the wins they are close to earning.

ISU: 4 dropped passes, all would have been first downs
OU: 0 drops

ISU: At least 4 wild overthrows of open receivers, each would have been a first down or TD
OU: 0 overthrows

ISU: 3 3-and-outs
OU: 1 3-and-out

Those little differences were what won it for OU. Better talent, fewer mistakes.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Horse Latitudes

Cyclone Football finds itself stuck in windless territory. Enough talent and skill to compete, not enough talent and skill and mental capacity to win. Danny Mac spent a decade in this space, with only a few wins to show for it. CPR had dozens of close calls, but never broke through for an extended period.

Now it's Campbell's turn to try and round the corner and get to more interesting territory.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Be decent at football before the next big conference realignment happens. Hoops doesn't carry the broadcast rights mail.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


The Process is trending positive faster than expected. Now comes the hard part.

Iowa State took a 14 point lead five times. Going up 21 would have won the game. Gaining a few first downs in the fourth might have won the game.

Campbell and staff now have to exercise the "find a way to lose" demons from the football team pshyche, and it won't give up easily. Pulling that off will be their toughest coaching job.

The good news is that the team and fans now know they have a punchers chance in every game. Wins must follow.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My Uniform Complaint

I am a bit of a uniform geek, but within reason. Want to mix up your look? Great! Want to add colors that are not part of your normal palette? Bzzzzzz! Thanks for playing.

I ranted about this years ago, so here is my definition of the uniform sandbox the team can play in at home:

Red/Red/Gold: Classic home look. Wear this most of the time.
Red/Red/Red: Good alternate for home.
Red/Gold/Red: Garish, but given the alternatives for alternatives, it sure beats grey/grey.
Red/Gold/Gold: A nice throwback to what ISU wore in the 20's.
Gold/Gold/Gold: I would love a gold helmet, especially with the Criner-era logo.
Gold/Red/Gold: Another great look.

Lots of options there. Now on the road:

Red/White/Red: My preferred road kit.
Red/White/Gold: Another classic look.
White/White/Red: If the players want a white helmet, pair it with red pants.
Gold/White/Gold: Another good look that goes back to the awesome Bruce teams of the 70's.

Two pairings to avoid: The all-white look does nothing for me, and I don't want to see white pants and helmets at home. As long as the jerseys have gold numbers, white pants or helmets don't work.

My $.02.

Iowa State Knows The Way (To Beat) San Jose

That was the Register headline from a win over SJS back in the 80's. I salute anyone who can quote Bacharach in their writing.

Everyone agrees there is visible improvement out there. Fewer penalties, fewer mistakes that result in big plays (or big plays erased), less thinking and more doing. With 60 (!) Freshmen and Redshirt Freshmen on the roster, there is a lot of player development going on in front of us. It's going to be uneven, so every positive needs to be acknowledged.

But the grey uniforms- oof. Those are hideous.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Grind

This is where the season gets hard mentally. A winnable game is followed by several that probably are not, yet the team needs to improve as individuals and as a group.

Keep grinding. It's the only road out.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Hopefully the All-White uniform combo is now so tainted it will never be worn again. It was 11 White Flags of Surrender running around last night.

I am optimistic that Campbell will have a better start than 4-19, like another now worshiped coach began his tenure back in the last century.

We now have some solid baseline performance data. Get back to work.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Less Of The Same

We will see big improvement from the offensive line tonight, maybe even a competent running game, so the game won't be the wipeout many expect. There may even be moments of hope.

But there will be enough stupid mistakes at critical times to keep ISU on the losing end. Iowa by 10.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Feedback Loops

During my time in business school, there was a lot of discussion about feedback loops, both positive and negative, and how they can effect your organization. A manager must be willing to examine every part of his organization and operation to maximize the areas of strength and fix the areas that need repair.

Good managers do this well and it is part of their success. Bad managers ignore weaknesses they are uncomfortable changing, or strike too close to home, and those weaknesses are a drag on the company.

Which brings me to Bill Fennely. I attended dozens of women's basketball games at Iowa State before his tenure, and his program is light years ahead of his predecessors. I assume a program with continued success closely examines everything it does and changes any part that isn't working: an in-bounds play that fails to work, a bad defense against an opposing star, poor match-ups between players, how well an assistant breaks down tape or recruits, and on and on and on. Fix the problems or find a new gig, sometimes out of basketball.

Fennely's public reaction to a racial discrimination suit by a former player gives me pause, however. The "I've done nothing wrong" stance may be a smart legal strategy, and will play well to supporters, but I hope it is not the official line behind closed doors.

Fennely has an opportunity to improve as a coach, as the people around him will be most open at this exact moment. He needs to reach out to as many former players and staff as possible and ask "How can I not cause this level of rancor with a player in the future?". The solution isn't to abandon his coaching style completely and try to be a "player's coach", but I suspect it is in dialing back what he does with individual players a few degrees. Deliver criticism succinctly, and then move on. Demand what you have always demanded, but with a bit more restraint in the delivery.

If an assistant coach was being sued, that assistant would be expected to change or would be dismissed. For a program to be healthy and succeed, the same must be asked of the head coach too.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Long View

Basketball has been over nearly a month, and I'm still undecided on how to view the season.

Naz's bum hips, obviously cost the team a few games, maybe a shot at the conference title, a better seed in the NCAA's, and a run at the big banner. So it goes. You need a lot of luck with your health to win the big prizes.

Prohm was wise to let the team fail a bit doing things the old way before laying down the lay that his way was the only way. It's unfortunate that he couldn't make the old-way-failure occur sooner.

 For all of Fred's weaknesses as a coach, mostly defensively, he is clearly a master psychologist. We now have numerous examples of players who managed well under his supervision, but were head cases outside of it.

Hopefully sacrifices that were made in the interest of long term health of the program will pay off.

In a league that is this consistently good, to be a program in the top half of the league each year is to be celebrated. The Niang years may also be viewed as a period of just missing out, not getting the break they needed.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Grey Beard Blog

I just noticed that I've been publishing this sucky blog off and on for 11 years. To my 17 readers, thank you.

A few things have changed. In 2004, Van De Velde was AD. Dan McCarney was finding ways not to win the Big 12 North. Wayne Morgan was in his first year, picking up after the Larry meltdown. Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri were all conference foes.

ISU finished 123rd in the Director's cup standings. They were 45th in 2015.

When you take the long view, things have improved tremendously, and Athletics as a whole punch above their weight. But work needs to be done.

This blog can improve, too.

Data Points

Cyclone basketball has enough data points to confirm that a certain degree of defense is required to win ball games.

Push-shove-grab style that West Virginia plays, but it can't be Saturday-at-the-YMCA either.

I suspect the coaching staff has the advanced stats to show the offense is most efficient after a defensive stop. You have to try on both ends.

The Cyclones have shown they can beat anyone on the schedule. Playing enough defense in the last ten B12 games and things could get interesting.