Fennelly hopes tough road game at UNI is perfect preparation for Big 12 slate

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Getting a sufficient number of wins in the non-conference basketball season is important for schools with NCAA Tournament aspirations. But, there are other goals, too,

Iowa State’s Bill Fennelly uses the non-conference campaign to get his team prepared to face the rigors of playing in the toughest women’s basketball conference in the nation.

This week the Cyclones defeated UNI at Cedar Falls and the benefits of that battle, Fennelly hopes, will pay dividends down the road.

“We tried to impress on them, this is what it’s like to go on the road in the Big 12 and play a good team in a tough environment,” Fennelly said. “This environment is like a Big 12 environment. You’re going to play a highly motivated team.”

The Panthers were scrappy all night and forced ISU to keep battling.

“There were probably five times in the second half where I was on the verge of calling a timeout,” Fennelly said. “Every time they were within range of making it real interesting, we did something.”

Facing those challenges and handling them reasonably well is a confidence booster. The Big 12 slate – which features six schools currently ranked in the nation’s Top 25 – will offer many similar obstacles in the coming weeks.

Piling up wins is only one of the goals of the pre-season. Getting truly prepared through tough challenges, however, is likely more important for the journey ahead.

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

Cyclones’ fall performance on the field outpaced its league budget ranking

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The Iowa State Athletics Department crossed a threshold last year when its annual budget surpassed $50 million for the first time. The current athletics budget is double what it was the year before Jamie Pollard was hired.

Although that growth has been hard-earned and critical to investment in Cyclone Athletics, the total of $55 million is the smallest in the Big 12.

Though conference re-alignment has shuffled the Big 12 membership, Iowa State’s place in the pecking order of athletics budgets stayed the same. That’s ok, though, because our staff is committed to using its resources wisely to compete in one of the nation’s best conferences.

Athletics budgets for the Big 12 schools – per the 2011-12 EADA Reports – were as follows:  Texas ($163.3 million), Oklahoma ($106.5 million), Oklahoma State ($84.1 million), West Virginia ($80 million), Kansas ($79.2 million), TCU ($68.1 million), Baylor ($67.8 million), Kansas State ($63.6 million), Texas Tech ($60 million) and Iowa State ($55.2 million).

Through the 2012 fall season, it should also be noted that ISU is sixth in the conference for on-field performance. The all-sports ranking at present is as follows:  the Longhorns, Cowboys, Sooners, Wildcats, Mountaineers, Cyclones, Bears, Jayhawks, Red Raiders and Horned Frogs.

The three schools performing better athletically than their budget ranking are Iowa State (four slots higher), Kansas State (+4) and Oklahoma State (+1).

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Cyclones make bowl with 11th-toughest schedule; only eight of Top 15 schools with hardest slates did same

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Phil Steele is a college football analyst, whose reputation for number crunching is legendary. He rates everything.

This week, Steele ranked every Division 1A school’s football schedules by difficulty. Iowa State came in 11th-hardest. The 25 toughest schedules included eight from the Big 12 and SEC and seven from the Pac-12.

Of the schools with Top 15 toughest schedules, only eight (barely half) made bowl games. Besides the Cyclones, Baylor, Florida, Stanford, Mississippi, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Arizona received bowl invitations.

Of the schools with Top 15 easiest schedules, 11 (nearly three-quarters) got bowl bids. Those schools included La.-Monroe, Boise State, Kent State, Utah State, Rice, Central Michigan, Nevada, Air Force, Bowling Green, Ohio and Northern Illinois (the Huskies earned an Orange Bowl bid with the nation’s easiest schedule).

The seven schools with Top 15 most-difficult schedules that didn’t make a bowl game – Kansas, Missouri, Cal, Kentucky, Auburn, Arkansas and Colorado – combined for a record of 19-65. Interestingly, Kansas and Missouri were the only schools on that list which didn’t make a coaching change this off-season.

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Offensive rebounds have helped erase some of the Cyclones’ miscues

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Before word processors, liquid “white out” was a favorite of mine for correct typing errors. Perhaps, offensive rebounding is the “white out” for the Cyclone men’s basketball team.

Turnovers (along with poor shot selection and a number of other things coaches worry about) slow down an offense’s efficiency. Turnovers, of course, cost possessions. If they occur in abundance, a team has to find other ways to gain opportunities.

One of the easiest ways to gain an extra possession is an offensive rebound. Extra possessions can sort of balance out turnovers and lead to extra baskets.

Iowa State had 11 turnovers in the first half against Drake Saturday. Over the same 20 minutes, the Cyclones had nine offensive rebounds. The result was a small halftime lead.

In the second half, ISU had two fewer turnovers than the Bulldogs and still maintained a plus-four margin on the offensive glass. The result was a victory.

Iowa State had 15 offensive rebounds against Drake. That’s like 15 extra tries at the basket. As the Cyclones continue to iron our things from a turnover perspective, the hard work on the glass continues to pay dividends.

If the miscues are reduced and the board work continues, there are good things ahead for ISU.

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

Iowa State scoring at a great pace when it earns the shots

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Through 10 men’s basketball games, Iowa State is scoring 82.4 points per game.

That’s the highest average for the Cyclones since Tim Floyd’s first season (’94-95) in Ames. That team, which included current coach Fred Hoiberg, averaged 89.9 points over the same timeframe.

That club had big scoring games against Florida Tech (97), West Carolina (99), North Florida (114) and Chicago State (96). The Cyclones’ scoring norm this season included match-ups with UNLV (20th in the RealTime RPI ratings), Cincinnati (40th), Florida Gulf Coast (53rd), BYU (71st) and Iowa (77th).

“We didn’t shoot the ball well and still got 93,” Hoiberg said of last Sunday’s game vs. Omaha. “It’s because we had extra opportunities to shoot the ball.”

The Cyclones had a season-low six turnovers and limited the Mavericks to one offensive rebound.

Because ISU has a plethora of shooters, maximizing the number of shots is essential.

“The two biggest keys are valuing the possession by taking care of the ball and then taking care of the glass,” Hoiberg said.

The Cyclones are learning those lessons. And, when they’ve executed in those areas they score a lot of points. The next test is Saturday in Des Moines.

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Tweak to schedule provided chance to improve for some ISU wrestlers

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Kevin Jackson rebooted the season a little bit last week by adding the UNI Open to the schedule for some of his wrestlers. It appears to have paid off.

Jackson singled out several of his competitors for good performances in Cedar Falls:

“Kyven Gadson had a great tourney and made the finals, but we pulled him when he got a little stiff in the neck/shoulder areas,” Jackson said of his prized sophomore.

“Mike Moreno beat the No. 5-ranked wrestler from Illinois and competed at a much higher level,” Jackson said. “He is starting to make some connections.”

“Logan Molina is making some strong improvements,” Jackson said. “For him, it’s a matter of being more consistent.”

Jackson and his staff huddled after last week’s dual loss at Iowa.

“We focused on the ‘must-win’ positions,” Jackson said of the technical adjustments.

But, he also challenged his troops to simply wrestle hard.

“Just compete with your heart and soul and lay it all on the line,” Jackson urged.

Some steps were taken at the UNI Open last week and that’s a positive sign.

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Johnson-Lynch had mixed feelings about ’12, but her enthusiasm for ’13 is obvious

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Christy Johnson-Lynch shared mixed feelings at her year-end media conference Monday.

“It was one of my favorite seasons and just really very enjoyable,” the architect of one of college volleyball’s greatest turn-around jobs said of the ’12 campaign. “That being said, the last two weeks were disappointing (because) we did not play well in the NCAA Tournament.”

Making the NCAA’s Sweet 16 pleased the seventh-year coach, especially after a slow start had her wondering whether a tournament bid was coming. She was proud of the team’s perseverance and ability to fashion a great season.

“We were elite at times, especially when we played Texas,” Johnson-Lynch said. “It was a very high level of volleyball that night. (And,) a lot of that good talent is coming back.”

Johnson-Lynch admitted several great seniors are graduating after taking the program to a new level.

“It was a great group, great students, great leaders and great people,” she said of the seniors. “We’re going to miss their numbers and stats, but I’m really going to miss their character.”

At the same time, Johnson-Lynch smiled at the thought of continuing to develop Tenisha Matlock (“ready for a breakout year”) and Kristen Hahn (“great leader and motivator”), who will take leadership reins in 2013.

“I’m so excited about the future and the talent we have coming back,” Johnson-Lynch summarized.

Cyclone volleyball fans are equally excited, Christy.

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Minutes are what matter to the Cyclones, not the role they occur in.

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The Iowa State men’s basketball team has gotten more than 25 points off its bench in nine of 10 games this season. More than 40% of its scoring has come from players who didn’t start. The team’s second- and third-leading scorers don’t start often.

Coach Fred Hoiberg is sharing the minutes. No player on the roster is averaging more than 30 minutes per game and nine men are logging at least 11.

In Sunday’s game vs. Omaha, Hoiberg tweaked his starting lineup. Percy Gibson and Georges Niang started in place of Anthony Booker and Melvin Ejim.

“I wanted to change things around a little bit,” Hoiberg said. “It was just switching things up after a disappointing loss. I thought the lineup change worked well and now we’ve got a week to evaluate it.”

Gibson (10 points, 6 rebounds), Niang (15, 6), Booker (11, 6) and Ejim (13 rebounds) all performed well vs. the Mavericks.

Hoiberg has substituted liberally all year. Who starts isn’t really important.

Take, for example, Tyrus McGee. He averaged 11.5 points in two starts. McGee is scoring 14.3 points per game off the bench. In McGee’s case, time is all that matters. He’s productive as a starter or bench sparkplug and Hoiberg expects that from everyone.

Hoiberg said he will evaluate his options during the week. It probably doesn’t matter a great deal who begins the game on the floor. As has been the case with his nine-man rotation all year, it’s the production that matters the most.

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Liberty Bowl promises (southern) hospitality, history and a heck of a good time

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Hospitality (southern style) and history are two of the themes that come to mind after visiting Memphis last week. Oh, and of course, one heck of a fun time!

While attending media activities for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, our travel party toured the landscape and talked with the locals about the Cyclones’ trip to Memphis.

There were hospitable folks at every turn. They are proud of their bowl game / festivities and want it to share it with visitors. The AutoZone Liberty Bowl is a community endeavor and that’s apparent.

Everywhere Executive Director Steve Ehrhart took us, we were greeted with enthusiasm, a firm handshake or a hug. It’s southern hospitality.

The historical nature of the bowl embraces you. The game has been around for 50-plus years and is the seventh-oldest bowl. Great coaches have coached in this game. Great players have played in this game.

The Liberty Bowl itself, built in 1965, looks like a smaller version of the “Big Sombrero” in Tampa. It’s clean and sight lines are great. You just feel college football inside the walls.

What about fun? You can make your own fun, but it’s guaranteed that Beale Street is on the must-do list.

The city of Memphis circles the last week of every year on its calendar. It’s their showcase.

On the day before the game, the lineup includes a parade, pep rally for both schools and “Cyclone Central” bashes up-and-down the city’s famous Beale Street.

On game-day, the bowl’s spectacular pep rally / buffet / tailgate leads into the game. After a Cyclone victory, it’s Beale Street again where you can expect 40,000 others to help you ring in the New Year.

Our party just got a sample of Memphis last week. That only whetted our appetites.

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Cyclones.tv gets a new carrier with Mediacom partnership

The Iowa State Athletics Department launched Cyclones.tv last summer to deliver live audio/video coverage of sporting events in an exciting new way via the web.

The online digital network was an “out of box” attempt to deliver more Cyclone content, more conveniently, to more viewers.

It has been a hit in most precincts. Subscribers to Cyclones.tv have enjoyed the content, especially the live events in HD quality. On occasion, there have been technical glitches but we continue to work to reduce their frequency and impact.

There’s no doubt that some people have been reluctant to jump on board because of the perceived technology requirements. That is understandable (although the requirements, in most cases, aren’t really that significant). For those viewers, there is a new alternative.

Earlier this week the department announced a partnership with Mediacom that will deliver all Cyclones.tv content to their cable TV audience, too. For those uncomfortable with an online viewing experience, this agreement creates another way for some fans to watch Cyclones.tv.

Mediacom is going to establish a channel that will carry only Cyclones.tv content. In other words, it will be a channel dedicated to Cyclone Athletics.

Many Big 12 schools have taken their third-tier TV rights and created online channels like ISU has. Some have partnered with regional cable networks to carry that content. Both in those relationships sometimes scheduling conflicts occur.

In Iowa State’s case, having a dedicated channel eliminates programming conflicts.
For Cyclones.tv – whether on the web or on Mediacom – “It’s all Cyclones, all the time!”

We hope you continue to enjoy the content. You have our promise that we’ll continue to pour resources and time into making it the best it can be.

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