“What was” versus “What is.” Both leave you smiling.

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After a spectacular March run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, I find myself contemplating “what was” and “what is.”

The wonderful part is that both bring a huge smile to my face.

The “was” includes observing a team gel, win big (to the tune of 28 games), show a resiliency that bordered on the unbelievable, bring home a championship trophy and play the most exciting brand of basketball in the college game today.

The season was a showcase for Hilton Magic complete with a celebration of the Johnny Orr era. Fred Hoiberg made sure of that. It also included a school-record 14-game win streak to open the season and 9 wins vs. ranked schools.

Melvin Ejim amazed all season. He leaves ISU as one of the best student-athletes in program history. Ejim brought special significance to the number 48, as in a Big 12 record for points in a game.

DeAndre Kane made a “16-7-8″ line seem routine and blasé. That doesn’t seem possible. The 1-year Cyclone was that good.

The “was” was great. The “is” is an indicator of what’s ahead and it may be better.

Georges Niang made it cool to wear a band-aid and a foot boot, too. But, it will be awesome when he tosses both to the sidelines and returns to shooting, passing, spinning to the bucket, converting and celebrating.

Dustin Hogue had a showcase performance in his home state (34 points in the Garden) after contributing a season’s worth of grit, toughness and all of the things that lead to winning.

Monte Morris set an NCAA record as a freshman, but I can’t get his sticky defense against UConn’s All-American out of my mind. He was terrific Friday night.

Naz Long etched himself into the personal memory banks for ISU fans on multiple occasions this winter. And, there are others.

“What was” or “what is”?

It doesn’t matter. The past was great and the future may be better.

It was that kind of year for Cyclone men’s basketball.

Sifting through the class of ’11 and Hoiberg is at the top

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Forty-six schools in Division 1A hired men’s basketball coaches prior to the 2011 season.

Here are their backgrounds.

Twelve of those men had never served as a head coach previously. Fred Hoiberg was among them.

Two of the coaches took the reins at their alma maters: Hoiberg and Penn’s Jerome Allen.

Four of the coaches hired that season had NBA playing experience. Hoiberg, as well as, Allen (Penn), Jeff Lebo (East Carolina), Jason Capel (Appalachian State) and Corliss Williamson (Central Arkansas).

Here are their successes.

Eleven coaches in the hiring class of ‘11 have taken programs to the NCAA Tournament. Hoiberg is one.

Five of them have won at least one NCAA Tournament game. Hoiberg is on that list. So, too, are Dana Altman (Oregon), Greg McDermott (Creighton), Brad Brownell (Clemson) and Tad Boyle (Colorado).

Three coaches have won multiple NCAA Tournament games. Hoiberg has. So, too, have Altman and McDermott have as well.

Only 1 coach has four victories in the NCAA Tournament since his hiring. You guessed it… Hoiberg.

As the 2014 NCAA Tournament moves into its second weekend, Hoiberg is the only coach among the 46 hired 4 years ago who has the chance to add to his NCAA Tournament win total in the coming weeks.

Here is the complete list of coaches hired in 2011 and their NCAA Tournament record at the school:
Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State: 4-2
Dana Altman, Oregon: 3-2
Greg McDermott, Creighton: 3-3
Brad Brownell, Clemson: 1-1
Tad Boyle, Colorado: 1-3
B.J. Hill, Northern Colorado: 0-1
Steve Lavin, St. John’s: 0-1
Fran McCaffery, Iowa: 0-1
Bob Marlin, La.-Lafayette: 0-1
Leon Rice, Boise State: 0-1
Tim Cluess, Iona: 0-2
Jerome Allen, Penn: 0-0
Gib Arnold, Hawaii: 0-0
*Tony Barbee, Auburn: 0-0
Glenn Braico, St. Francis: 0-0
Milan Brown, Holy Cross: 0-0
*Mitch Buonaguro, Siena: 0-0
*Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest: 0-0
*Jason Capel, Appalachian State: 0-0
Ed Conroy, Tulane: 0-0
Paul Cormier, Dartmouth: 0-0
Bill Courtney, Cornell: 0-0
*James Dickey, Houston: 0-0
*Steve Donahue, Boston College: 0-0
Billy Donlon, Wright State: 0-0
Chuck Driesell, Citadel: 0-0
Tim Floyd, UTEP: 0-0
John Gallagher, Hartford: 0-0
*Tom Herrion, Marshall: 0-0
*Chris Holtmann, Gardner Webb: 0-0
Jason Hooten, Sam Houston: 0-0
*Dan Hurley, Wagner: 0-0
Donnie Jones, UCF: 0-0
Tod Kowalczk, Toledo: 0-0
Jeff Lebo, East Carolina: 0-0
Alan Major, Charlotte: 0-0
Kevin Nickelberry, Howard: 0-0
Tom Pecora, Fordham: 0-0
*Buzz Peterson, UNC-Wilmington: 0-0
Oliver Purnell, DePaul: 0-0
Keith Richard, La.-Monroe: 0-0
Russell Turner, UC-Irvine: 0-0
Brian Wardle, Green Bay: 0-0
*Tim Welsh, Hofstra: 0-0
Kevin Willard, Seton Hall: 0-0
*Corliss Williamson, Central Arkansas: 0-0

*No longer at the school

 

Any idea why Nov. 9, 1995, was a big day for Hoiberg?

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When Fred Hoiberg walks onto the floor at Madison Square Garden Friday night, it will be his 10th appearance on the sidelines of the world’s most famous basketball arena.

Hoiberg played 9 professional games against the Knicks in MSG and logged 155 minutes. His best performance in the facility was a 13-point outing in 1997.

But, his real personal history was made on Nov. 9, 1995.

The Pacers were visiting Madison Square Garden to play the Knicks. According to NBA.com, It was Hoiberg’s second game as a 23-year-old NBA professional and his first outing on the road.

He played 6 minutes in front of 19,763 fans.

Most memorable is that the 6-4 guard made his first-ever professional basket. Hoiberg added 3 free throws in a 103-95 loss to a Knicks’ team that included Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley.

Hopefully, Hoiberg can add some new MSG memories this week in the NCAA Tournament’s East Regional. And, if he does, I suspect they will be even more precious than his first NBA bucket.

Hoiberg re-works his play card and the results earn a trip to NYC

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It’s not like Iowa State hadn’t faced 1-day preparations previously.

The Cyclones, in fact, were 7-2 this year in games with only 1 day (or less) of practice.

“We played three Big Monday games after Saturdays,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Additionally, two contests in the Diamond Head Classic and a couple outings in the Big 12 Tournament came with short prep time.

But, Sunday’s match-up with North Carolina was different, much different. There was a lot more at stake – advancement in the NCAA Tournament – and Hoiberg was dealing with the loss of Georges Niang to an injury.

It was especially challenging because of the role Niang has as one of the team’s primary facilitators. He frequently runs the offense and accounts for more than 25 points per game as a scorer and passer.

“I’ve got a card with the actions I pull from our pool (of plays) that I think will be successful in each game,” Hoiberg said. “Usually, I’ve got 1 side of my card with plays for DeAndre (Kane) and the other side of the card with plays for Georges. That whole back side of my play sheet, obviously, was thrown out the window.”

Hoiberg reshuffled his deck, re-worked his card and re-focused his game plan.

“Our guys really pick up new actions pretty quickly,” Hoiberg said.

The UNC game certainly wasn’t the typical 1-day prep. Then again, Hoiberg isn’t the typical college head coach.

His adaptability and creativeness was on full display in San Antonio. Now, he’ll have a few extra days to get set for an appearance in Madison Square Garden against UConn.

It will be fun to see what he comes up with next.

Nudge from the competition spurred Hillman to NCAA title

Christina Hillman cheers for her competition. Seriously.

“I love it when others do well,” Hillman, the recently crowned NCAA champion shot putter from Iowa State said. “I cheer for them. (If they are successful), it helps me. It pushes me.”

Hillman’s first attempt at last week’s national championship was good for a temporary spot atop the standings.

“I was content with the throw, but I knew it wouldn’t win,” Hillman told Cyclone.tv’s Tom Kroeschell. Auburn’s Valentina Muzaric took over first place subsequently and that was all the Cyclone junior from Dover, Del. needed.

One attempt later, Hillman bettered her personal record by 18 inches and cruised to the NCAA Championship (59-6.75).

In winning the title, Hillman became the first-ever Cyclone female to win a field event at the indoor national championship. A relay team in 1981 was ISU’s first women’s indoor champions and it was followed by Edith Nakiyingi (800 in 1989 and 1991), Karen Glerum (mile in 1991), Lisa Koll (5,000 in 2010) and Betsy Saina (5,000 in 2012) as NCAA indoor titlists.

Hillman entered the national meet last week in Albuquerque undefeated as a collegian this year and ranked 18th in the world.

“She (Hillman) showed speed and a level I hadn’t see before,” assistant coach Fletcher Brooks said.

Hillman’s performance was equal parts talent / execution and a nudge from her competition. The result was a school-record performance and a NCAA championship.

Slam dunk for the Big 12

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Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby must be smiling.

His league stands above all others for percentage of its schools in the 2014 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Basketball Championships and the competition wasn’t close.

Seven Big 12 men’s programs – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas – made the 2014 field. That total was the nation’s most. The Big 12 was the only league with more than half of its membership qualifying for the men’s tournament. The Pac-12 and Big Ten had exactly 50% of their teams make the field.

Six Big 12 women’s programs – Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia – received invites to the NCAA tournament. The six bids were third-most nationally (the SEC and ACC had eight), but the Big 12 had the highest percentage (60%) of its women’s teams earn trips.

Combining men’s and women’s basketball programs, here is how the conferences (for those that received more than their one guaranteed bid) ranked in terms of 2014 NCAA Tournament bids:

 Big 12:  65%

ACC:  47%

Pac-12:  46%

Big Ten:  46%

SEC:  39%

Atlantic 10:  35%

American:  30%

Big East:  30%

West Coast:  20%

Mountain West:  14%

It’s also worth noting that the Big 12 Conference set a college football record in 2012 when 90% of its schools earned bowl invites.

Hoiberg is a +3. How does that measure up?

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Forty-six Division 1A men’s basketball programs had a coaching change after the 2010 season. Iowa State was one of them.

Twelve of the coaches hired that season have since led their teams to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship at least once.

Only five of them (Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State; Dana Altman, Oregon; Tad Boyle, Colorado; Tim Cluess, Iona; and Greg McDermott, Creighton) have taken more than one team to the NCAA Tournament.

Hoiberg, Boyle and McDermott have done it 3 times while Cluess and Altman did it twice each. The coaches hired that year who have done it once include Brad Brownell (Clemson), B.J. Hill (Northern Colorado), Jason Hooten (Sam Houston), Steve Lavin (St. John’s), Fran McCaffery (Iowa), Bob Marlin (La.-Lafayette) and Leon Rice (Boise State).

But, that doesn’t tell the whole story. The situations inherited by the new coaches were all different. Some coaches took over winning programs and others were in rebuilding mode.

In the four years prior to Hoiberg’s hire, the Cyclones did not make the NCAA Tournament. The same goes for Boyle with the Buffaloes. Hoiberg and Boyle have three more NCAA appearances than their predecessors did over the same time period.

Beyond Hoiberg and Boyle – both former Big 12 players – the other coaches with more NCAA berths than their predecessors (over that 4-year timeframe) are: McDermott (+2), Cluess (+2), Hill (+1), Lavin (+1), McCaffery (+1) and Marlin (+1).

“FAN”-tastic

As players and staff were cutting down the nets after winning the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, Athletics Director Jamie Pollard walked to where I was soaking in the celebration.

“When we came here 9 years ago, could we even dream about something like this?” he asked while we did a 360-degree crowd scan. “What an amazing sight.”

A couple hours earlier, Pollard shared a panoramic photo from his iPhone of the pep rally at KC Live! An indescribable scene, we agreed.

“The crowd had a tremendous impact on the game (vs. Baylor) and it was so special to share the moment with our fans,” Coach Fred Hoiberg gushed afterwards. “We don’t have NFL, we don’t have NBA, we don’t have major league baseball (in our state) so there’s so much passion for college athletics, especially for Iowa State.”

After the win, Hoiberg did a victory lap around the court complete with fist pumps.

“The fist pump was in honor of Coach (Orr) and also to thank the fans,” Hoiberg said. “I wanted to show how much we appreciated everything they (the fan base) brought to Kansas City.”

Several minutes after colorful streamers came pouring out of the ceiling at the Sprint Center as part of the celebration, ISU play-by-play man John Walters stopped and said, “I’ve got your lede for the blog. Baylor still hasn’t beaten Iowa State at home.”

Yes, John, the Cyclones have yet to drop a home game to the Bears since the Big 12 formed. Yes, John, this should count as “home” game, albeit at ISU’s secondary residence in KC.

Walters’ line may not have made the lede to this blog, but it was the perfect way to summarize the “fan”-tastic following that this school is fast becoming known for.

2,000-700-600: These numbers speak for themselves

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DeAndre Kane enters the Big 12 Tournament as a one-of-a-kind player, at least statistically. He recently surpassed 2,000 career points, 700 career rebounds and 600 career assists.

Big deal, you suggest.

Well, no one has ever reached each of those career figures (at least back through the 1997-98 season) as a Division 1 men’s basketball player.

The toughest category to reach is 600 career assists (only about a hundred players have done that dating back to ’97-98). More than 500 players all time, however, have scored at least 2,000 points.

Among the players with at least 600 career assists (dating back 15 years), these are the players who were the closest to the 2,000-700-600 club:

  • D.J. Cooper of Ohio (2010-13) – 80 rebounds short
  • Nate Wolters of South Dakota State (2010-13) – 99 rebounds short
  • Greivis Vasquez of Maryland (2007-10) – 53 rebounds short

Among active players (in addition to Kane), Chaz Williams, who played at Hofstra before transferring to UMass, has 1,936 points, 524 rebounds and 825 assists. Williams still needs nearly 180 rebounds, and at 5-foot-9, that is an unlikely target for the senior.

A couple of current NBA players – Jameer Nelson (St. Joe’s) and Kirk Hinrich (Kansas) – were somewhat close to the 2,000-700-600 trifecta.

Nelson, the 2004 Wooden Award winner, finished 119 boards shy. Hinrich is probably the closest among former Big 12 players, but he needed another 247 points and 168 rebounds.

Kane has an unique ability to contribute in whatever way his team needs on a particular evening. He has been his team’s top scorer 10 times, top rebounder 6 times and top assister 17 times this season.

Judging by his career totals to date, he’s been contributing across-the-board since he began playing college hoops. What we’re watching is pretty significant historically and the Cyclones, for 1 year, have been the major beneficiary.

Ten victories (so far) vs. 20-win teams is additional resume-building data for Cyclones

The Iowa State men’s basketball team has defeated 10 schools that have won at least 20 games (so far) this season.

Michigan, BYU, Iowa, Akron, Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State (twice) and Texas comprise the list. Boise State has 19 wins and plays San Jose State (7-23 overall) in the Mountain West Tournament Wednesday. The Broncos would be added to the total if they beat SJSU.

ISU defeated 11 teams (2 in post-season action) that reached the 20-win plateau a year ago and 8 the year before that.

So, Coach Fred Hoiberg’s last 3 teams combined to defeat 29 teams that had at least 20 victories. ISU beat 26 teams that won 20 games in the entire decade prior to that.

Iowa State’s most 20-win victims in a season prior to Hoiberg’s tenure were 10 (in 1999-00). Five of those triumphs came in the post-season, including the school’s march to the Elite Eight.

Post-season play for the 2013-14 Cyclones begins Thursday in Kansas City and there will be an opportunity to defeat more 20-win programs, adding to its season total of 10.