Rhoads notes that great teams have great lines and that’s a spring focus

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As people rate the prospects for the 2012 Iowa State team, much of the focus will be on the quarterback competition. That’s natural.

Coach Paul Rhoads, however, wants to see significant development on both lines.

“If you’ve going to have a great football team, it will consist of good line play on both sides,” Rhoads said the first week of camp.

The Cyclones are trying to replace Kelechi Osemele and Hayworth Hicks on the offensive side and Jake Lattimer, Patrick Neal and Stephen Ruempolhamer from the defensive trenches.

“We’ll be as deep as we’ve ever been on the offensive line,” Rhoads said. “And, I really like the look of the defensive line.”

Bill Bleil tutors the blockers and he is excited about team depth.

“We have seven guys with a lot of reps and they feel comfortable in what we’re doing,” Bleil said. “We’ll get the five best on the field and the competition at all spots is good.”

Curtis Bray is one of the assistants who works with the defensive line and he is also optimistic.

“We’re better on the inside and not as experienced on the edge,” Bray said. “But we’ve got several great athletes with much better speed on the outside.”

Somebody will win the quarterback duel in time.

But, Rhoads and company are equally focused on protecting that QB and getting pressure on the opponent’s signal-caller. Games are won, after all, in the trenches.

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Here’s how the Cyclones’ football slate compares with its peers.

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Seven of Iowa State’s Big 12 Conference peers ended last season ranked or receiving votes in the Associated Press poll.

Since the league plays a round-robin schedule, that’s a lot of head-to-head combat in the Big 12.

The non-conference part of the schedule is where there is separation between league members.

·         Only one school (Texas) does not play a program from the FCS (formerly Div. I-AA).

·         K-State and West Virginia don’t play any road games in their pre-league schedules.

·         Seven schools play one team from the AQ (big six) conferences. The schools, which don’t do so, are Baylor, Texas Tech and Kansas.

·         Five schools — Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas — face at least one bowl team. The Cyclones (Tulsa and Iowa) and TCU (Virginia and SMU) play two bowl squads. K-State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech don’t face a bowl team in pre-Big 12 play.

Here is the full non-conference schedule for each school:

Baylor – SMU, Sam Houston State, at La.-Monroe

Iowa State – Tulsa, at Iowa, Western Illinois

Kansas – South Dakota State, Rice, at Northern Illinois

Kansas State – Missouri State, Miami, Fla., North Texas

Oklahoma – at UTEP, Florida A&M, Notre Dame

Oklahoma State – Savannah State, at Arizona, La.-Lafayette

TCU – Grambling, Virginia, at SMU

Texas – Wyoming, New Mexico, at Mississippi

Texas Tech – Northwestern State, at Texas State, New Mexico

West Virginia – Marshall, James Madison, Maryland


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White and Iowa State were a perfect marriage on multiple fronts

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Looking back on Royce White’s two seasons as a member of the Iowa State basketball team, it’s plausible to state there wasn’t a better place in the nation which was a better fit.

A ballyhooed prep star, White arrived on campus with a strong body, great basketball mind and a proven ability to score and rebound.

The team he joined, however, didn’t have a point guard. When no one grabbed the facilitator duties early on, White stepped up.

He led the team in assists and became the focal point for the offense. The lack of a true lead guard allowed White to showcase his playmaking abilities. It was the perfect situation from a basketball standpoint to display his array of talents.

Additionally, the Ames community and Iowa State University helped White mature as a person.

“My life was not in a great place when I arrived two years ago,” White said. “Ames has given me my life back. I have been supported in a way that allowed me to find myself and improve as a man.”

White thanked Hoiberg for giving him a second chance in basketball, but he had equally kind words for those outside the program.

“ISU is a special place and there will always be a special place in my heart for this university,” White said. “This community has allowed me to reflect and become a better man.”

On behalf of Cyclone fans, Royce, we’d like to say “thanks” to you for helping bring back Hilton Magic.

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“If you done it, it ain’t bragging!”

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Seventy Division 1A football programs played in a bowl game last season. Iowa State was one of them. Tennessee (1998 national champion) was among the schools that didn’t play in a bowl last season.

Twenty-seven schools played in a bowl game and earned a trip to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Iowa State was one of them. UCLA, Maryland, Arizona and Pitt are among the schools that didn’t make the NCAA men’s field this year.

Sixteen schools played in a bowl game and earned invites to play in the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships. Iowa State was one of them. North Carolina didn’t make the NCAA women’s field this year.

Eleven schools played in a bowl game, earned invites to play in the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships and the NCAA Volleyball Championships. Iowa State was one of them. Pacific (two-time national champ) didn’t make the NCAA volleyball field last season.

You get the idea. The Cyclones are in select company.

The other schools that reached post-season play in all four sports were Big 12 members Baylor, Kansas State and Texas along with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, California, Louisville and Florida.

As poet Walt Whitman once said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging!”

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Camp opens & scouts evaluate; a beginning for some and an end for others.

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For some Iowa State football players, today is the start. For others, it’s the finish.

Paul Rhoads will blow the whistle this afternoon as roughly 100 players begin spring workouts with an eye towards the fall. Spring training – which includes 15 practices – begins in the Bergstrom Athletic Center.

Many eyes will be on the quarterback race where Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett are on the top line of the depth chart. First-year offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham begins his tutoring of that competition. Additionally, coaches Todd Sturdy (wide receivers) and Troy Douglas (secondary) have their first practices with the Cyclones.

At the other end of the career timeline are the players auditioning for NFL scouts. The prospects will run, jump, lift, perform agility tests and much more under the heavy scrutiny of pro teams.

Some players will solidify their chances to get drafted or invited to a pro camp. Others will realize they aren’t fast enough, quick enough, agile enough or strong enough for the next level.

For both the returning and former Cyclones, there will be a lot of eyes on the action. It’s time to perform.

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Pride in Cyclone quarters has been fully restored

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Football Coach Paul Rhoads got a lot of mileage out of his locker room message two years ago. His “I am so proud to be your coach” comment has been viewed nearly 400,000 times on YouTube.

Fred Hoiberg also talked about pride Saturday in comments to his basketball team after top-ranked Kentucky defeated the Cyclones.

“You guys made Cyclone basketball exciting again,” Hoiberg said.

That was a welcome sight to Hoiberg, who has watched Iowa State hoops since he was five years old before a star-studded collegiate career as a Cyclone.

“I can’t thank you enough,” Hoiberg said. “You brought Hilton Magic back and I can’t even begin to tell you how proud and impressed I am.”

The legendary Hilton Magic atmosphere had been missing in recent years. Hoiberg has been dreaming of that home court advantage and a return to prominence for his program.

More importantly than the pride Rhoads and Hoiberg referred to is the pride being felt in the fan base. Iowa State averaged more than 13,000 fans per home basketball game this winter for the first time since 1992. The football team smashed its per game average last fall by 1,741 per game.

It has taken some time, but pride inside Cyclone Nation has been fully restored.

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Cyclones reject UConn’s boast to “do their thing” in first-round encounter

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Royce White drove and dunked on Iowa State’s first possession of the UConn game.

“I was trying to get us into our first play but he (Royce) was a freight train going down the floor and he just hammered it,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said on his post-game radio show. “That got our guys excited and really set the tone.”

UConn’s normal playing rotation included four players at 6-8 or taller. The Cyclones counter with three guards, a 6-6 power forward and a 6-7 center.

In a pre-game news conference, one Husky suggested they’d “do their thing” (vs. ISU’s shorter lineup).

After getting whipped on the boards 41-24 and outscored in the paint by a 34-20 margin, it’s pretty apparent the Cyclones took the UConn challenge to heart.

UConn, in fact, became the 10th consecutive ISU opponents beaten on the boards.

Beating the defending champs was a great accomplishment. The tournament’s top seed (Kentucky) is next and they rank 10th nationally in rebound margin.

Another major test for ISU is upcoming and there will be few expectations from the so-called experts. I think this club likes it that way.

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Cyclone men’s hoops in select company with KU, O-State, ‘Cuse, Spartans & Cal

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Six major college men’s basketball teams have offensive and defensive scoring averages ranked among their league’s top four.

Iowa State was fourth in both scoring offense (71.4) and defense (66.3) in the Big 12 this season.

Top-ranked Kentucky was the only school to lead its league in both categories. Kansas, Ohio State, Michigan State, California and Syracuse were the only other schools to rank in their respective league’s top four for offense and defense.

The Wildcats, Spartans and Orange are #1 seeds in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The Buckeyes and Jayhawks are seeded second. It’s pretty obvious that the nation’s elite teams play well at both ends of the court.

In Fred Hoiberg’s first season as coach, the Cyclones were a surprising third in league scoring (72.2) but last in defense (80.8).

Iowa State shaved 14.5 points off its per-game defensive average this year. That is second-best defensive improvement in conference history (Texas dropped 23.3 points off its defensive average in the second year of the Big 12).

Hoiberg’s team has good balance. That is a strong foundation as tourney play opens today.

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Big 12 puts significantly higher percentage of teams in “Big Dance” than anyone else

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When the pundits talk about college basketball supremacy, tales from Tobacco Road always seem to dominate. Dickie V.’s world revolves around the Dukies and Heels.

Other analysts mix in a few kind things about the ‘Cuse and UConn or Wildcat Nation and the Izzone. How about the Big 12?

After consecutive days of bracket unveiling for NCAA Championship play, the Big 12 stands tallest among the major conferences and by a wide margin.

A higher percentage of Big 12 teams accepted invites to the “Big Dance” than any other league. With seven schools in the women’s field and six teams in the men’s field, 65% of the Big 12 squads will play in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

The Big Ten (54.2% – seven women’s teams, six men’s teams), Big East (50% – eight women, eight men), SEC (50% – eight women, four men), ACC (37.5% – four women, five men) and Pac-12 (16.7% – two women, two men) trail the Big 12’s pace.

To be fair, Allen Field House and KU get some mention from the talking heads. But, it’s probably time to recognize the successes of some others in this league as well.

The Cyclones, Bears, Jayhawks, Wildcats and Longhorns qualified both its men’s and women’s teams to the NCAA Tournament. That’s half the league. No other conference even comes close.

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Team chemistry for Hoiberg’s crew touted as a strength

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Most of the NCAA Tournament summary capsules on the Iowa State men’s basketball team refer to the unusual skill set of Royce White and/or the team’s propensity to launch and make a lot of three pointers.

I like the assessment of Texas Coach Rick Barnes better.

“They are like Mizzou in that their greatest strength is their chemistry,” the Longhorns’ head coach said.

That statement might be considered surprising. No one was touting Iowa State’s camaraderie and togetherness in the pre-season. In fact, people questioned how the parts would fit together.

Seven first-year players (Chris Babb, Royce White, Chris Allen, Anthony Booker, Tyrus McGee, Percy Gibson and Tavon Sledge) were eligible to participate.

“I wanted to get things turned around quickly and get as much talent as I could to give us a chance,” Hoiberg said in describing his plan to add five transfers to his roster.

There is probably some risk in bringing in so many new players, but Hoiberg credits them for gelling quickly.

“Our guys have done a great job of coming together, bonding and building team chemistry,” Hoiberg said.

Barnes has been around the game a long time and is very familiar with the Big 12. His assessment, though, is spot on.

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