Minneapolis is a familiar venue for volleyball team

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Iowa State’s volleyball team has been selected to participate in the 2010 NCAA Championship and its opening round venue in Minneapolis is a familiar one. Two years ago, the Cyclones defeated UNI and Minnesota in that facility on the way to the Elite Eight.

Cyclone Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said Monday she enjoys playing at the University of Minnesota because it’s “a great (volleyball) gym and it’s an educated crowd.”

Friday’s opponent – Creighton, a close neighbor geographically – is a bit of an unknown in terms of scouting.

Although Johnson-Lynch “isn’t very familiar” with Creighton, the Jays appear “to be very balanced”. Should the Cyclones advance, they would face either North Dakota State or Minnesota and “we have competed against both of those teams,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Iowa State entered the 2010 season with high expectations, but it’s been a season of challenge. The summer flooding in Ames forced volleyball out of Hilton Coliseum for much of the year as the club took up residence (locker room wise) with the women’s basketball team at the Sukup Basketball Complex. The Cyclones also suffered a major personnel loss with a season-ending knee injury to captain Rachel Hockaday in the season’s first weekend.

“I’ll always look at this season as one of facing adversity,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I’m so proud of how the team has responded and didn’t get distracted nor acted negatively.”

The keys to advance according to the coach will be mental toughness, handling critical points and staying aggressive. One would think the battles this group has endured all season might be the perfect preparation for what’s ahead.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

Team bonding may be the long-term gain

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The Iowa State women’s basketball team spent Thanksgiving break in the Virgin Islands.

Three games and two wins later, the Cyclones return to the Midwest as runner-up in the Island Division of the Paradise Jam.

But, Coach Bill Fennelly felt before departure that the chance to bond as a team could be the biggest gain from spending seven days together. Fennelly said his club needed to become a better team and “and I don’t mean passing, catching and rebounding.”

Fennelly’s idea of a team is a group of people who care about one another and trust each other. His club, which features 10 players in their first or second year at ISU, is in the process of developing the proper chemistry.

Taking a long trip and spending so much time together should have an impact on creating team unity. Fennelly felt that there will be a greater appreciation for each other after spending a week away from home together.

The steady flow of Twitter feeds from the islands suggested the Cyclones had a good mix of practice, games and fun.

The Cyclones definitely made some progress on the court splitting games against nationally ranked TCU and West Virginia. However, the long-term impact on the “team” might be greater than a couple of wins by season’s end.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

Football squad rejects pre-season predictions

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When two-a-day training camp started in August for the Iowa State football team, opinions about the Cyclones were pretty consistent. Despite coming off a bowl win in Coach Paul Rhoads’ first season, most of the prognosticators had low expectations for Iowa State’s 2010 club.

Among the more recognized preseason publications, five of them (Athlon’s, Blue Ribbon, Game Plan, Phil Steele and Sports Illustrated) picked the Cyclones last in their division. At the Big 12 Media Day, league media members slotted Iowa State for sixth in the north division, too.

As the season played out, half of the 12 teams on the schedule spent time in the Associated Press Top 10 this fall. Against that backdrop, it’s pretty impressive what the Cyclones accomplished in Rhoads’ second season.

* The Cyclones swept the state of Texas (beating Texas Tech and Texas) in a season for the first time since joining the Big 12;

* A 28-21 win in Austin was the school’s first-ever victory there and eliminated Texas as the one conference foe never previously defeated;

* The triumph over the Longhorns was Iowa State’s first road win over a ranked team in 7,308 days (vs. #18 Oklahoma in 1990);

* A season-opening win over Northern Illinois may prove to be the first in school history over a team with 10 regular-season wins (the Huskies are 9-2 with its final game against 2-9 Eastern Michigan Friday). ISU has never defeated a team with 10 wins.

That is two years in a row that Rhoads and his Cyclones have proved folks wrong. Although the loss to 15th-ranked Missouri likely ended bowl hopes, it was another encouraging chapter in the story that Rhoads and his team are writing.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

The 10k at Wells Fargo saw a great one

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On the marquee, the Sunday men’s basketball game between Iowa State and Creighton was probably billed as coach vs. former team. Greg McDermott was coaching against guys “I recruited, had a part in recruiting or coached”.

Although that was the pre-game hype, the action was really more NCAA Tournament-like.

The game was on a neutral court at Wells Fargo Arena and both schools were well represented in the stands. Both teams brought their pep bands and spirit squads. The intensity was at a fever pitch.

The back-and-forth tussle at break-neck speed was as entertaining as they come. It was high scoring (the 179 points were the most in a Cyclone game since a 101-82 win over a NAIA squad named Mountain State in 2005). Both teams shot well as Iowa State hit half of its 26 three-point attempts and CU made 14-27. It was a low turnover game (ISU had 10 miscues and Creighton eight).

Certainly, there is no doubt the game-winning shot by Jamie VanderBeken will be applauded for years by Cyclones as good fortune and heckled by Creighton followers as an error.

Among the star performers were:

* Freshman Melvin Ejim, whose career-best 22 points came off the bench.
* Diante Garrett, who averaged 7.5 shots per game for McDermott, but has been told to “keep shooting” by his current coach, Fred Hoiberg. Garrett responded with a career-best 28 points.
* Jake Anderson, the irrepressible 6-2 wing, collected 15 rebounds. He added 19 points and nearly became the fifth different Cyclone to score more than 20 points in a game this season

There were certainly undertones and emotions connected to the game. But, for basketball observers those elements took a back seat to one of the most entertaining college basketball game in these parts for quite some time.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

Ejim shows consistency amidst upperclassmen highlights

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Conventional wisdom suggests that consistency comes with experience. You probably remember Coach Al McGuire’s old line that the best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores.

Certainly, the Cyclone men’s basketball team has already enjoyed some star performances, and they have come from the upperclassmen:

* Senior Jamie VanderBeken exploded for 20 first-half points (a career-best 23 in total) in the season opener against Northern Arizona.

* Senior Diante Garrett’s 13-point, four-rebound, five-assist, four-steal game vs. Alabama State and “double double” (14 points, 10 assists) vs. Drake were stat stuffers.

* Senior Jake Anderson’s shut down defense and 15-point, eight-rebound, five-assist debut vs. NAU caught people’s attention.

* Junior Scott Christopherson made all 11 of his shots (5-5 from three-point range) and registered a career-high 29 points (19 in the first half) in the victory over Drake.

Quietly operating behind the veterans with a cool efficiency has been first-year freshman Melvin Ejim. With three straight double figure scoring games (10, 15 and 14), Ejim has been the model of consistency. Ejim has connected on 15-22 shots (.681) and 9-10 (.900) free throws.

Do you know the last Cyclone true freshmen to score in double figures his first three games? Answer: Curtis Stinson in 2003-04. Before you ask, the “Mayor” had six in a row in 1991-92 and Adam Haluska scored in double figures his first nine games of 2002-03.

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Senior Day and “Toys for Tots” promo on tap

Here are a few items that Cyclone fans should note:

… 18 seniors will be playing their final game in Jack Trice Stadium this week. We hope you give these Cyclones – Brad Adams, Alex Alvarez, Sam Anker, Austen Arnaud, Collin Franklin, Bailey Johnson, Preston Kaufman, Dan Kuehl, Ben Lamaak, Taylor Mansfield, Drew Mitchell, Mike O’Connell, Rashawn Parker, Alexander Robinson, Zac Sandvig, David Sims, Sean Smith and Jake Williams – the proper sendoff.

… Cyclone football fans are being asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy or a cash contribution to Saturday’s football game vs. Missouri as part of the “Toys for Tots” program. The athletics department and KCCI are partnering on the event. Drop boxes will be located at the north end of Jack Trice Stadium along S. Fourth Street and at Gate 3 on the south end.

… The Iowa State Athletics Department is sponsoring a bus trip to Iowa City for the women’s basketball game on Dec. 9. The $30 package includes a game ticket, bus transportation and a meal from Subway. Call the marketing office at 515-294-3558 or visit cyclones.com by the Nov. 19th deadline.

… if you haven’t purchased tickets for the Senior Day game against Missouri yet, bring the family. Iowa State Athletics is selling a package of four hillside tickets, four hot dogs and four regular sodas for $40. Limited supplies are available, so get them in advance at cyclones.com.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

Fennelly’s “belief” a foundation of 500-win career

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Bill Fennelly won his 500th game as a head women’s basketball coach Monday night. The only thing more certain than the inevitable accomplishment was that he would deflect the magnitude of the achievement to his players, coaches, fans and anyone else who has “allowed me to do what I want to do.” For Bill, impacting young people in his role as coach is likely “doing what I want to do”.

The relationships he forms with people are the foundation of his success. That was obvious from the comments in the video tribute that was played after the game. Person after person thanked him for being the way he is.

Bill has a strong personal belief system; one that centers on teaching others to believe in themselves. Early in his career, it was someone very close to him who provided the push to believe in himself.

In the video recap of his career to date, his wife Deb reminisced about a job offer he received to become the head coach at Toledo in 1988.

In conversation between husband and wife, Deb said Bill wondered “Do I have what it takes?” to be a head coach. Deb’s answer: “you do,” and the start of a head coaching career soon followed.

In the video, there was also a locker room exchange between coach and players. Fennelly shared that sometimes life presents challenges. He was teaching a lesson about dealing with adversity. His message: “you’ve got to believe you can do it!”

Bill Fennelly has proven over and over again that he could indeed do it (as Deb suggested) as have countless numbers of his players (as he urged).

Through decades of coaching, he has taught many lessons and – much to the delight of fans in Toledo and Ames – won 500 basketball games. Thanks, coach. We’re ready to start counting down the next several hundred wins. And, Cyclone supporters believe you can do it.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

The script changed, but Arnaud’s class endures

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In Austen Arnaud’s personal game plan, the walk onto the Jack Trice Stadium turf Saturday night would be the beginning of a celebration. For the former Ames High School star, it would his final chance to acknowledge the home crowd.

The game against Missouri, with a second consecutive bowl bid at stake, was Senior Day. I’m sure the script had been written in his mind for several weeks.

Arnaud’s story, however, has taken a turn after a knee injury last week at Colorado. His college playing career has ended prematurely and that is cruel.

Arnaud has been a warrior. He has been bruised and battered many times only to rise again and represent his beloved Cyclones.

Mark Coberley, who has been with the Iowa State football team for 17 years on the medical team, says Arnaud’s ability to handle adversity is his strongest trait.

“He has had more than his share of injuries,” Coberley said, “and yet refused to let any of them affect him. He is one of the top student-athletes we have had here in terms of handling adversity. That’s what will make him successful in whatever he does in the future.”

Although he likely won’t be meeting the media to explain the game’s results Saturday night, Arnaud has done that with poise and dignity many times the last three seasons.

“Austen is one of the most charismatic players we’ve had at Iowa State,” said 25-year publicist Tom Kroeschell. “He always faced the media, win or lose, and did so with class.”

Many people will cite Arnaud’s multiple school records as cherished memories. Those are temporary accolades that may be surpassed in future years.

But, his positive impact on the Cyclone program – confirmed by comments like the ones above from long-time ISU observers such as Coberley and Kroeschell– will last much, much longer. His legacy is one to remember and cherish.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

Rhoads could join very select company

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Twenty-two FBS college football programs named new coaches in 2009. Iowa State, which chose Paul Rhoads, was one of them. 

Only two of these coaches (note: Lane Kiffin – who has already moved on to a second school – and Dabo Swinney – who was an interim coach for seven games in ‘08 – were among the 2009 hires but they are not included in the research above) have led their teams to bowl eligibility both seasons since their hiring. Two others are on the verge of that accomplishment.

If you haven’t guessed the pair that is two-for-two in producing bowl eligible teams, the answer is Chip Kelly (Oregon) and Gene Chizik (Auburn). Kelly and Chizik are leading the nation’s #1 and #2 ranked teams, respectively. Kelly’s Ducks played in the Rose Bowl a year ago and is 10-0 this year. Chizik’s squad played in the Outback Bowl last year and is 11-0 this season.

Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads will bring his club to Jack Trice Stadium Saturday to face Missouri with 2010 bowl eligibility on the line. If the Cyclones win, Rhoads would join Chizik and Kelly in pretty select company. Rhoads’ first team, of course, won the Insight Bowl.

Boston College’s Frank Spaziani can also join the group. His Eagles played in the Emerald Bowl in ’09 and are 5-5 (needing to split its remaining games vs. Virginia and at Syracuse for bowl eligibility) this fall.

When comparing these coaches, it’s important to note the success of the programs they inherited. In the three years prior to these men taking over their current programs, Iowa State was 9-27, Auburn was 25-13, Oregon was 26-13 and Boston College was 30-11.

You can draw your own conclusions from this data, but it’s pretty tough to debate the success that Rhoads has authored in Ames.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

Cyclones third in recent Big 12 power poll

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The Sporting News distributes a daily email to subscribers and part of its weekly college football coverage is a breakdown of the BCS conferences by writers Matt Hayes and Dave Curtis.

The packages feature 3-4 notes and up-to-date power rankings for each league. The ratings are a quick, real-time league analysis which changes week-to-week according to recent results

While consuming Curtis’ Wednesday report, I saw that Iowa State was listed No. 3 in the Big 12 conference call. Leading the list was Nebraska and Oklahoma State. After ISU, came Texas A&M, Missouri, Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Texas, Kansas and Colorado.

That got me to research which BCS schools have most “overachieved” to this point in the season, based upon what TSN projected in the preseason.

Iowa State was listed 11th in the TSN’s Big 12 projections, so its current third-place position is a gain of eight slots. No other BCS school surpasses that differential between prediction and today’s reality. Here are the BCS league overachievers to this point.

Big 12: Iowa State was picked 11th and is third in the league’s current power poll (+8).
SEC: Mississippi State was picked 11th and is fifth in the league’s current power poll (+6).
Pac-10: Stanford was picked 7th and is second in the league’s current power poll (+5).
ACC: North Carolina State was picked 7th and is second in the league’s current power poll (+5).
Big East: Syracuse, South Florida and Louisville are all tied(+4).
Big Ten: Michigan State was picked 7th and is fourth in the league’s current power poll (+3).

Iowa State was listed #82 nationally in TSN’s preseason Top 100. With a couple of games left, it will be fun to see if Iowa State can be the school that most exceeds the predictions of the experts at TSN.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow