Guards – Johnson & Dejean-Jones – impacting Cyclone board numbers

dejean-jones

Rebounding is as fundamental to winning basketball games as about anything.

Good rebounding teams – just like those which don’t turn it over – get more opportunities to score. And, more shots normally means more wins.

Neither of Iowa State’s basketball teams is particularly big, but they’ve been competitive on the boards.

Bill Fennelly’s team starts a 6-foot-5 freshman center surrounded by a legion of guards most games.

Jameel McKay recently joined Fred Hoiberg’s starting lineup as its center, but his 215-pound frame is one of the league’s leanest among front-line players.

How then, do the Cyclone men and women hold their own on the glass?

For the women, Seanna Johnson leads the entire Big 12 in rebounding at 9.3 per game. The 5-10 sophomore is a guard per the Cyclone roster.

On the men’s team, it’s not surprising to see McKay (6.4 rebounds per game), Georges Niang (5.4) and Dustin Hogue (4.8) with solid rebounding number. But, it’s a guard – 6-6 senior Bryce Dejean-Jones and his 5.6-rebound average – who is often the difference maker. Dejean-Jones is 15th in league rebounding and the only guard among the Top 15.

When you think about the playing styles and roster make-up of both the men’s and women’s teams at ISU, rebounding isn’t what comes to mind.

But, in reality, both squads do compete quite well on the glass – thanks to some good rebounding guards – and it’s one of reasons for their success.

Retire the storyline; ISU gets second road win over ranked foe

okie state

You can retire the storyline that the 2014-15 Iowa State basketball team doesn’t win on the road.

A hard-fought, five-point victory at 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State Wednesday was the latest Cyclone win in an enemy gym.

As ISU has built a 14-0 record at home this season, a narrative about the team’s road woes was getting more play.

After last night’s win, Iowa State has played seven road games and won three of them. More importantly, five of those road encounters came vs. nationally ranked teams and one – a 15-point win at Iowa – came vs. a school that has spent time in the polls.

A surprising loss at Texas Tech in January became a symbol for the Cyclones’ road woes. Funny that fifth-ranked Wisconsin’s loss at Rutgers hasn’t had the same impact on the Badgers’ road reputation.

However you slice and dice it, the win at Okie State was the Cyclones’ second road win against a nationally ranked team this winter. Among current Top 25 teams, only Virginia and Duke (three each) have more road wins vs. rated opponents.

The Cyclones join Villanova, Kansas, Butler and Oklahoma State with two road victories against schools in the Top 25. Three teams currently ranked ahead of the Cyclones in the A.P. poll – Wisconsin, Arizona and UNI – haven’t even played a road game vs. a rated opponent let alone defeat one.

It’s time to give some credit to Fred Hoiberg’s club. For some perspective, Iowa State’s all-time mark vs. nationally rated schools on the road is 11-120. Two of the wins have come in league play this year.

The win at OSU last night was big on many fronts. One of the benefits, hopefully, is the retirement of a storyline that has been somewhat exaggerated.

@ESPNLunardi numbers clearly spell out Big 12 is best in class

Big12_Conference

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and his group of stat heads compile daily Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) numbers.

As of Wednesday morning, 60% of the Big 12 membership is rated in the Top 30 per Lunardi’s RPI.

Kansas (1), Baylor (12), Iowa State (14), Oklahoma (16), West Virignia (25) and Oklahoma State (27) all reside in the top 30. Only two teams are below No. 100 in Lunardi’s rankings.

Some people feel the ACC – top heavy with Virginia (3), Duke (5), North Carolina (11) and Louisville (15) – is due consideration for top billing as a league. The Big 12’s top four are similarly rated. The differentiator is that one-third of the ACC has RPI marks below 100.

There are three times as many top 30 schools as those below 100 in the Big 12. The Big East is the only other league that has more top 30 (four) than below No. 100 (three) programs.

By conference, here are the average RPIs (per Lunardi) as of today:

  • Big 12 (10 schools with six in top 30 and two below 100) – 51
  • Big East (10 schools with four in top 30 and three below 100) – 62
  • Big Ten (14 schools with three in top 30 and three below 100) – 66
  • ACC (15 schools with five in top 30 and five below 100) – 72
  • Pac-12 (12 schools with two in top 30 and three below 100) – 79
  • SEC (14 schools with two in top 30 and four below 100) – 79

Iowa State’s next three games come against schools rated 27th, 32nd and 12th. There are certainly plentiful opportunities for good wins as tourney resumes are being written.

@jppalmCBS column applies to football playoff, too

Jerry Palm studies the merits of college basketball teams for NCAA Tournament consideration. At this time of the year, his thoughts get lots of attention.

Palm, whose title on CBSsports.com is Bracketology / Bowls Expert, wrote a column this week that claimed conference standings play no part in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Committee’s selection process.

The subject of Palm’s column was Purdue, his alma mater. The Boilermakers are tied for second in the Big Ten after winning six of seven games.

“Conference records are so irrelevant that they don’t even appear on the NCAA team sheets the selection committee uses,” Palm wrote. “Conference standings are irrelevant.”

To digress, the College Football Playoff should adopt the same mentality. The CFP lists conference championship (in other words, conference standing) as a criteria. That is a mistake.

Just imagine if, last season, Missouri had beaten Alabama in the SEC Championship game or if Georgia Tech had defeated Florida State in the ACC finals or if Arizona had defeated Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. It’s hard to imagine the Tigers or Yellow Jackets or Wildcats would have made the four-team football playoff.

Think about an undefeated regular-season team losing its league title game on a last-second field goal. Do you believe that one-loss team is overlooked for the playoff? Doubtful.

In other words, conference champion (or standings) should not matter as Palm wrote this week. The football playoff should drop conference champion as one of its stated criteria.

Since Palm studies basketball as well as football post-season play, I hope he repeats this column with an eye on the College Football Playoff sometime in the future.

ISU makes good use of prep and gets the chance to do it again

Hoiberg, Morris_Arkansas_2014-15_1

There can’t be a more satisfying result for a coach than when his/her team’s preparation leads to performance. Fred Hoiberg seemed to be quite please Saturday after his Cyclones defeated No. 21 West Virginia by 20 points.

They used their four days of preparation very effectively.

“The thing I liked best,” Hoiberg said on the radio post-game show, “is that we took what we worked on all week and applied it today, and did it for 40 minutes.”

Hoiberg then listed a string of stats – rebounding, points in the paint, points off turnovers – which West Virginia normally dominates. ISU had a slight advantage in each category.

“Our approach all week was very good,” Hoiberg said.

Iowa State now hits the road for two games this week, playing at Oklahoma State (Wednesday) and at Texas (Saturday).

“I’m looking forward to this week (and having the chance) to erase some bad feelings that we’ve had playing on the road.”

The Cyclones’ last two road losses were after one-day preparations for Big Monday games at Kansas and at Oklahoma. ISU will have three days to practice for the Cowboys and two days to get ready for Texas.

If they can effectively use those extra days of work like they did against the Mountaineers, they’ll have a shot to pick up a win away from Hilton this week.

And, in the congested Big 12 race, there is no better tonic than a road win.

Scoring, winning & entertaining is all connected

Hoiberg, Fred_UMKC_2014-15_3

There’s been some debate this winter about the popularity of college basketball in an era when scores continue to plummet. Many final scores have left people scratching their heads.

Iowa State, under the direction of Fred Hoiberg, continues to buck that trend. The Cyclones are scoring 77.5 points in Big 12 play and are one of four league schools averaging at least 70 per game. That quartet – ISU, Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia – has posted a 31-14 league record.

Scoring at least 70 points per game in league play is a good indicator of winning play. Here is some data from the other Power 5 Conferences:

  • ACC – five schools – with scoring norms above 70 in league action – have a 35-24 record
  • SEC – four schools have a 33-11 record
  • Pac-12 – four schools have a 32-11 record
  • Big Ten – three schools have a 25-10 record

Several times recently, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla has talked about coaches being creative on the offensive end. He believes creativity can lead to more scoring, which most fans enjoy. Each time Fraschilla has discussed the topic, he ends up citing Hoiberg and the Cyclones as a shining example of entertaining offense.The same thought that scoring is entertaining and successful plays in the National Basketball Association.

In the NBA, there are just 10 teams – Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Golden State, Houston, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix, Portland and Toronto – scoring more than 102 points per game. Those teams have won 67.2% of their games.

Scoring and winning and entertainment go hand-in-hand.

As people continue to debate the future of college hoops and how its rules impact scoring, I hope there is strong consideration to encouraging good offense.

Last night, there were 12 Division 1 teams that failed to score 20 points in the first half. In the Big Ten, Thursday’s halftime scores included 22-20, 26-19 and 23-19.

So far, there haven’t been many opinion shapers taking up the promotion of those games.

Perspective on a road loss to a ranked team with one day of prep

The Cyclone men’s basketball team has played three “Big Monday” games on ESPN since league play started. ISU, Oklahoma and Texas (with three each) have the most appearances among Big 12 schools, while Kansas has two.

The Sooners are 2-1 in those marquee contests (two on the road), while the Cyclones and Longhorns are 1-2 (again, two on the road). The Jayhawks won both of their “Big Monday” games and each game was in Lawrence.

There’s no question that the turnaround from a Saturday game to a Monday contest is hard. It’s especially tough to add in travel.

Iowa State’s two “Big Monday” losses – at Kansas and at Oklahoma – came in the gyms of the Big 12’s first- and second-place teams.

Surprisingly, four Big 12 schools have hit the road for a “Big Monday” game and won.

Texas won at TCU (Jan. 19), West Virginia won at Texas Tech (Jan. 5), Oklahoma won at Texas (Jan. 5) and Oklahoma State won at Baylor (Feb. 9). The home teams, which lost those Monday games, have a cumulative 13-29 Big 12 record.

Coach Fred Hoiberg said on his radio show that winning in Norman would be a challenge no matter when it was played.

Hoiberg noted that his team has had a Monday game with one day of prep two weeks in a row and that “it will be nice to get back into a routine.”

Losses are tough at this time of year.

Just don’t overreact to one game against a formidable foe, on the road with a short prep time. Data would show that not many schools have won “Big Monday” games against the quality of competition the Cyclones faced.

You’ll never guess the last time a league foe scored fewer than 38 points vs. ISU (hint: Wilt)

MBB Don Medsker vs. Kansas 1957

Iowa State got a payback victory over Texas Tech Saturday and it came as a result of the effort on the defensive end of the court.

“They (Texas Tech) weren’t as comfortable,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We had one small stretch when (Toddrick) Gotcher hit three of them, but after that, we got back to doing exactly what we wanted. That was running them off the three-point line and sending them into guys like Jameel (McKay) and Dustin (Hogue).”

Texas Tech scored 38 points. The only team to score fewer points vs. Iowa State this season was Mississippi Valley State (33). ISU held league peer Oklahoma State to the same total in 1967.

The last time a conference foe had a lower point total was a red-letter day in the program’s history. The Cyclones upset top-ranked Kansas – featuring Wilt Chamberlain – 39-37 in January of 1957. That game was 21,209 days ago. Let that one sink in for a spell.

Texas Tech Coach Tubby Smith compared his team’s loss in Ames to its win at Lubbock.

“We couldn’t seem to buy a basket (today),” Smith said. “We didn’t make the shots that we made at our place.”

When the schools tipped off at Tech earlier this season, the Red Raiders made 11 three-point field goals. That tied their season high and Hoiberg felt a lack of defending the perimeter was the reason.

“We didn’t close out with any urgency so that has been a big emphasis in practice,” Hoiberg said.

Whether it was ISU’s commitment to defending better or Tech just not making shots is irrelevant. It was a historic defensive performance.

“We took a step today and now we have to be more consistent (the rest of the season),” Hoiberg said.

Rhoads on soapbox regarding campus visit rules

Big 12 Football Media Day

Section 13 of the current NCAA Manual is titled “Recruiting” and it takes up about a quarter of the pages in the book of rules and regulations for college athletics. There aren’t many topics in college sports that get debated more than recruiting.

As the ink dries on the National Letters of Intent (NLIs) signed Wednesday, some people are continuing their discussions about potential rule changes for recruiting. The NLI program is administered by a group called the Conference Commissioner’s Association, a 32-member panel of league administrators.

Among the proposals that group is studying are: an early signing period (for football), unlimited text messaging to recruits, an additional contact with a prospect the in the spring and a new definition for the “bump” rule (when a coach “bumps” into a prospect outside of a visit).

There is another proposal that Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads wants addressed, and quickly. Football programs cannot currently pay for parents or guardians to come on campus visits with their sons.

“There aren’t many people in this room – that when they were 18 – would make a big decision like this (where to attend college) by themselves,” Rhoads said at his signing day news conference.

Rhoads and his staff recruit the entire nation and showcasing the campus, university and football team to parents as well as prospects is how the Cyclones like to market their product.

“I continue to push hard – you gave me the opportunity to get on a soapbox (with your question) – that the rule has got to change so it allows program to bring in parents and/or guardians on these visits,” Rhoads said Monday. “When it comes time to make a decision (and the athlete asks) ‘what do think mom and dad…’”

The answer shouldn’t be that the parents never saw campus or met the coaches.

Rhoads wants families involved with every step of the recruiting process. There isn’t much of an argument against that logic, especially when some sports are already doing so.

How the hype translates or doesn’t translate

It is an interesting transition – over the span of three days – moving from the Super Bowl to National Signing Day for college football.

During the two weeks of hype for the game between Seattle and New England, there wasn’t even scant mention of Malcolm Butler, Julian Edelman or Chris Matthews.

Butler, of course, made the game-clinching goal line interception. Edelman keyed the Patriots’ short passing game all day with nine catches. Matthews set up the Seahawks’ first score and tied the game with a TD right before Katy Perry performed.

The “star” power of that trio was pretty dim prior to shining in the spotlight on Super Bowl Sunday.

Butler wasn’t even rated as a college prospect after just two seasons of high school football in Virginia. The undrafted rookie from Division II West Alabama wasn’t part of the Pat’s original gameplan, but he was inserted into the game to match up with Matthews.

Edelman was a two-star prospect out of high school, who made his way to Kent State as a QB after one year at a JC. He accounted for 236 yards of total offense and threw three TD passes for Kent State in a 2008 game against the Cyclones.

Although a three-star prospect by one service as a prep, Matthews was not drafted by the NFL. He did, however, spend the 2012 season with the Iowa Barnstormers. Prior to the Super Bowl, he had played just 28 snaps all year for Seattle and had as many catches as you did.

The point is that today’s recruiting day hype is just that. There will be hits and misses.

One of the best Tweets circulating during the Super Bowl was this one: 44 starters in the Super Bowl: 5-Star Recruits – 0; 4-Star Recruits- 4; 3-Star Recruits and below- 40

Keep that in mind today.