Rushed Reactions: #7 Connecticut 81, #3 Iowa State 76

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 28th, 2014

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Brian Otskey is RTC’s NCAA East Regional correspondent.

Three key takeaways.

Shabazz Napier had a big night, and the Huskies are heading to the Sweet Sixteen. (Credit: UConn Athletic Communications/Stephen Slade)

Shabazz Napier and the Huskies are heading to the Elite Eight 

  1. Defense and length. Connecticut set the tone for this game from the opening tip. The Huskies, who sport three players 6’9” or taller, clearly bothered the smaller Cyclones all game long. Iowa State had tremendous difficulty getting anything to fall around the rim, where it shot 7-for-23 (30.4 percent) in the first half. Kevin Ollie’s team made a concerted effort to limit DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim and it did just that. Iowa State’s usually dynamic duo combined for only 23 points on 9-for-31 shooting. Dustin Hogue had a terrific night but it was not nearly enough for Fred Hoiberg’s team to advance. Combating Connecticut’s efficient and stingy defense was a concern coming in for the Cyclones and it proved to be among the deciding factors in the outcome of the game.
  2. DeAndre Daniels was the difference maker. Nobody ever questioned Daniels’ talent, it was just a matter of his consistency (or lack there-of). On this night, Daniels decided he was going to be the game changer. The junior forward poured in 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in perhaps his best overall game of the season. Daniels and his large, wiry frame played a major role in clogging up the middle where Iowa State could not get anything going.
  3. Connecticut won the game at the three point line. For the game, the Huskies shot 47.4 percent from beyond the arc but it was the major difference in the first half and allowed them to build their lead. Connecticut shot the three ball at a scalding 58.3 percent in the first half en route to building a 10-point lead at the break. Iowa State’s three point defense (ranked No. 9 in Big 12 play) had to be a concern for Hoiberg coming into the game and it proved to be the case. Connecticut has been one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams all year long and showed it tonight in front of a relatively local crowd at Madison Square Garden.

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Four Takeaways From Iowa State’s Win Over Baylor

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 7th, 2014

If you are just now turning your attention to college basketball, you can thank the Big 12 scheduling committee for throwing you a bone. One day after both teams moved into the top ten of the AP Poll (not ours, which as you saw tonight was more accurate), Baylor met Iowa State in Ames, with the Cyclones pulling away in the second half for a resounding 87-72 win in Hilton Coliseum. If you didn’t catch it, however, we have you covered with four key takeaways:

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn't need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn’t need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

  1. Welcome to the national spotlight, DeAndre Kane: The graduate transfer from Marshall has been terrific all season, but he completely outdid himself Tuesday night scoring 30 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out nine assists. Oh, he also had five steals. Kane excelled at picking his spots to drive right to the hoop, stop on a dime and pass, or pull up from three as well as regularly beating the Bears down the floor in transition. With conference play revving up in earnest, he is going to start gathering a lot of headlines, so be sure to tune in when the Cyclones hit the floor over the next two months. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Midseason Merits and Demerits

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2014

It’s crazy to think that the season is already nearly halfway over. Over the last two months, the Big 12 had a terrific non-conference run. The league notched wins over the likes of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Memphis, Iowa, Michigan and Gonzaga; the conference proved that it has its share of individual stars beyond Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins, viewed as the toasts of the league back in November; and an argument can be made rather easily that the Big 12 is the best league in the country (or at least has had the best run to date). With league play tipping off tomorrow, it’s time for the Big 12 microsite contributors to take a look back and hand out some accolades, as well as shine a light on a some players and coaches from whom we expected a little more in the season’s first two months.

Player Of The Year

Marcus Smart headlines a long list of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Marcus Smart headlines a deep roster of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today)

  • Kory CarpenterMelvin Ejim, Iowa State: Ejim is third in the conference in scoring with 17.2 points per game and is fifth in field goal percentage, making 52.5 percent of his shots. He nearly averages a double-double as well, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game.
  • Taylor EricksonMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State – Smart has cooled off a bit recently after averaging over 31 points per game during a three-game stretch earlier in the season, but this award appears to be his to lose heading into Big 12 play. The conference slate should provide plenty of high-profile games that will undoubtedly deliver some great individual performances, allowing us to more confidently identify the league’s best player. Andrew Wiggins has been good, but for the time being, he hasn’t done enough to knock Smart from his perch.
  • Brian GoodmanMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State - Overall, Smart’s efficiency numbers have improved, and he’s still playing defense at a very high level. The Big 12 is as well-stocked with talent as any conference in the country, and Smart has produced the most for his team. That being said, the book on him is out. Whether he can score from outside when teams take away the paint could be the deciding factor for his POY candidacy.

Coach of The Year

  • BGFred Hoiberg – After the Cyclones outperformed expectations the last two years, Big 12 coaches vowed to stop sleeping on Iowa State, tabbing ISU to finish fourth in the annual preseason poll. As it turns out, even that may have been too low. Right now, the Cyclones are no worse than the third-best team in the conference, and Oklahoma State’s personnel issues could give ISU an opening to climb even higher.
  • TEFred Hoiberg – All Hoiberg has done is taken a team that lost several top scorers from a season ago and turned that into a 12-0 start to the college basketball season. Iowa State has three players averaging over 15 points per game, and it became the first school in league history to have five different players win player of the week honors.

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Big 12 M5: 12.10.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 10th, 2013

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  1. Stefan Stevenson of the Star-Telegram states a case for the Big 12 being the best conference in the country. It’s still too early to make a definitive judgment of such nature, but there’s no denying that the league is off to a great start. Five teams are in the KenPom’s top 50, the conference has already clinched the Big 12-SEC Challenge with two games still to play, and its membership has a resume that includes wins over the likes of Duke, Kentucky, Memphis, Michigan, BYU, and Dayton, with close losses to Michigan State and Villanova.
  2. In Division I college hoops, a short memory can be pivotal for both players and head coaches. Bruce Weber and Kansas State had a November to forget and are trying to make up for some early-season mishaps. There aren’t quite enough opportunities in the short term for the Wildcats to wash out the stench of the season’s first four weeks, but they can definitely make some headway when they square off against Gonzaga and George Washington later this month.
  3. When the media and blogosphere talk about the game’s injection of international talent over the last few years, more often than not, they’re referring to Canadian players. That isn’t the case in Morgantown, though, as Remi Dibo, a native of France, and Gary Browne, who calls Puerto Rico home, have played important roles for the Mountaineers early on. West Virginia is looking to make a return to the NCAA Tournament, and if they do, their foreign players will be a big reason why.
  4. TCU head coach Trent Johnson made it a point to take his team on the road early and often this season (they’ve played just two home games so far), but with a six-game homestand taking place over the next few weeks, he is hoping the toughness the Horned Frogs showed on the road lead to some wins. A tournament bid isn’t anywhere close to their radar, but it would be nice to see TCU have a more competitive go-round in its second season as members of the Big 12.
  5. When it comes to Big 12 accolades, Iowa State is sharing the love. Yesterday, forward Dustin Hogue became the third Cyclone to win conference Player Of The Week honors. Hogue averaged 19.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in Iowa State’s two wins last week. While he isn’t as pivotal to his team’s long-term success as Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, or DeAndre Kane, his productivity just makes it that much harder for opposing coaches to game plan against the Cyclones.
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Big 12 M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 4th, 2013

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  1. Kansas State has seen better Novembers. So far the Wildcats have lost their home opener to Northern Colorado, got one win in three games at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and two of their four wins came against one team: Long Beach State. The month of December gives the Wildcats a chance to turn the page starting with Thursday night’s tilt against Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss. The Rebels are a perfect 6-0 after sweeping Georgia Tech and Penn State at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn over the weekend. K-State doesn’t need this game just to say they have a “signature win” — Bruce Weber’s team simply can’t afford three losses in a month, especially with conference play lurking in the distance.
  2. Are we watching Fred Hoiberg’s best team at Iowa State? The contributions have been numerous and frequent for the Cyclones and perhaps the most surprising contribution has come from JuCo transfer Dustin Hogue. When Melvin Ejim was supposed to be out a significant amount of time with an injury, Hogue was thrown into the fire to replace the double-double machine. Since then Ejim has returned and Hogue’s play of late has earned him regular minutes; in fact, Hogue is nearly averaging a double-double himself at 12 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He is one of six Cyclones averaging double-figure scoring for a team that averages a robust 91.8 points per game (good for fourth in all of college basketball). It might be a long shot but I would love to see them put 90 burgers on Kansas or Oklahoma State in conference play.
  3. The 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis field was officially announced yesterday and it reveals yet another stacked field. The poor teams that have to make the sad trip to the sunny, tropical Bahamas are North Carolina, UCLA, UAB, Georgetown, Florida, Butler, Wisconsin and Oklahoma representing the Big 12 next November. Putting things in unnecessary but mind-blowing perspective, the eight teams in next year’s field have combined for 20 national championships and 33 national title games (!!!). Um… is it November yet?
  4. Here’s Bill Self again, continuing his Gloomy Gus routine about his Jayhawks. One quote: “I thought we would have errors of trying too hard, rather than errors of casualness. And that’s the thing that’s really frustrating to me.” Another beauty: “As a coach, you should be judged on basically three things. Do they play together — are they unselfish? Do they play extremely hard, and are they tough? And I’d say we went Oh-for-three. So that’s frustrating to me when you go oh-for-three.” Self is a master at motivating his team after a loss and whomever is next up to face KU is usually in for a heap of trouble. (To bring balance, it’s only fair that I show the contrast in personalities for Self. Here he is: doing riverdance or something.)
  5. There wasn’t a lot of good from the aftermath of Monday’s Vanderbilt-Texas game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. But it did bring us this GIF of Texas center Cameron Ridley startled by a bat roaming the Frank Erwin Center. He’s officially listed at 6’9″ and 285 pounds but to see Ridley react the way he did made me feel a lot better about my slightly shorter stature. Plus it’s a GIF, so you know it’s good.
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Fred Hoiberg’s Unique Formula Continues to Add Up To Wins

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 21st, 2013

On Wednesday night, the Iowa State Cyclones went into the Marriott Center and scored one of the better victories of this young season, beating an explosive (and previously undefeated) BYU team, 90-88. A check of the box score would reveal few surprises on the Cyclone side; Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane dropped in 21 points apiece to pace Fred Hoiberg’s squad, and fellow starters Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue and Matt Thomas all pitched in at least four field goals of their own. What that box score doesn’t reveal is that Iowa State was forced to play crunch-time possessions without Kane (ejected for a flagrant foul), Ejim (fouled out with two minutes left), and Hogue (fouled out minutes before Ejim); or that it sparingly used Daniel Edozie, who came up with the biggest play of Iowa State’s win — a blocked shot and subsequent recovery on a Tyler Haws jump shot in the final seconds. They were far from perfect down the stretch — especially at the free throw line — but the Cyclones showed off a necessary resourcefulness in claiming a statement victory in Provo. As unlikely and unusual as that game-ending lineup was for Iowa State, the challenge at hand must not have felt that foreign for their coach. Piecing together new casts has become commonplace for the Mayor; no two rosters in the Hoiberg era have born any sort of close resemblance, but the former Cyclone star has found a way to remold each and every new-look squad into a winner. Suffice it to say, after only four games, he appears to have done it again this year.

Fred Hoiberg's Roster Suffered More Turnover This Offseason, But That Hasn't Stopped The Mayor From Leading The Cyclones To An Impressive 4-0 Start

Fred Hoiberg’s Roster Suffered More Turnover This Offseason, But That Hasn’t Stopped The Mayor From Leading The Cyclones To An Impressive 4-0 Start

Hoiberg has lost at least three starters in each of his three offseasons in Ames, including last summer. The departures of seniors Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb, and Tyrus McGee meant Iowa State would be returning just two contributors from a year ago – Ejim And Niang. An exodus of that size, particularly without the arrival of a star-studded freshman class, would typically mean a rebuild is in order. Not in Ames. There’s a “transfers welcome” sign hanging from Hilton Arena these days, with the former Marshall guard Kane the latest talent to undertake Hoiberg’s relocation program. More newcomers join him in this season’s Cyclone rotation. JuCo transfers Hogue and Edozie both had a hand in last night’s win, while two promising freshmen, Thomas and Monte Morris – top 100 recruits both – round out the cast of new faces for the 4-0 Cyclones.

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Where Does Iowa State Go From Here?

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 18th, 2013

While many didn’t expect Iowa State to toss Michigan aside on Sunday, the 77-70 result was no upset. As long as Iowa State has fielded competitive teams, Hilton Coliseum has been one of the nation’s toughest road venues for visitors, especially those coming from outside the Big 12. Even before it was announced that Melvin Ejim would be available a solid two weeks before his original prognosis suggested, the Cyclones were one-point favorites, according to Ken Pomeroy. Yesterday’s win showed that while it’s still November, the Cyclones are further ahead than expected, especially on the defensive end. Dustin Hogue notched his first double-double in only his third game at the D-I level and Ejim stuffed the stat sheet with nine rebounds and three steals to go along with his 22 points. Fans are rightfully celebrating a win in the biggest game on their team’s non-league schedule, but it’s worth taking a look ahead to see what the near future portends.

Melvin Ejim and the Cyclones don't have much time to celebrate their big win over Michigan. (USATSI)

Melvin Ejim and the Cyclones don’t have much time to celebrate their big win over Michigan. (USATSI)

Things don’t get any easier for Iowa State, at least not right away. They have just two days to get ready for a date at BYU on Wednesday, and while everyone knows about the Cyclones’ perimeter power, they shot just 30 percent from behind the arc on Sunday. Even if great efforts from Ejim, Hogue and Georges Niang inspire Iowa State to go inside more often, their outside shooters will need to perform better if they want to outlast the Cougars at the raucous Marriott Center, especially if Tyler Haws is recovered from an abdominal strain suffered last week.

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Michigan Provides an Early Test for Iowa State

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 17th, 2013

Michigan and Iowa State are both off to white-hot starts this season. While neither have played competitive teams (their four combined opponents average out to a lowly KenPom rating of #320), the Wolverines and Cyclones have looked terrific in the early going, despite each team being without their best frontcourt player. Neither Melvin Ejim nor Mitch McGary have played a single minute this season, and while that would make a dent in most teams’ rotations, Fred Hoiberg and John Beilein’s teams haven’t skipped a beat. Among the squads’ four combined games so far, the slimmest margin of victory has been 27 points. That figures to change today, however, when the Wolverines and Cyclones square off at Hilton Coliseum early Sunday evening (5:00 PM ET). While McGary and Ejim’s statuses are up in the air, we should be in for a terrific game whether or not they suit up.

Michigan's Caris LeVert has come up big for Michigan so far this season.

Michigan’s Caris LeVert has come up big so far this season.

McGary may be a preseason All-American and Ejim a preseason all-conference pick, but both teams’ offenses will still be on display in Ames even if their stars spend Sunday afternoon on the sidelines. When either Iowa State or Michigan come up in conversations, the first thing that comes to mind is the dizzying level of havoc both teams can wreak from outside. Sophomore Nik Stauskas has connected on six of his first nine three-point attempts for the Wolverines, and that isn’t even good enough to make him the best shooter on his team this year. That honor goes to fellow sophomore Caris Levert, who has spread defenses by hitting seven of his first 10 attempts beyond the arc, allowing fans to breathe easy about Michigan’s backcourt following the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway. It may be early, but both Stauskas and Levert are shooting better on threes than on two-point shots, which is absolutely wild to think about (and at the same time, highly unsustainable). Throw in Glenn Robinson III and freshman Derrick Walton, who are both capable of shooting better than they have in the young season, and you have a group that can absolutely destroy teams with its firepower.

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Big 12 M5: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2013

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  1. Oklahoma State freshman Stevie Clark is adjusting quickly to the college game. Clark has put up some very efficient numbers in the early going, averaging 12 points and seven assists in just 21 minutes of action per game. If he can maintain a similar level of production behind Marcus Smart as the Cowboys’ schedule toughens up, Clark will have a great case for being the league’s best sixth man. Oklahoma State is still searching for answers down low, but between Smart, Clark, Markel Brown and Phil Forte, the Cowboys have an embarrassment of riches in their backcourt.
  2. Iowa State continues to receive outstanding contributions from its newcomers, but Tuesday night, it was junior forward Dustin Hogue who stepped up for Fred Hoiberg’s team by chipping in 13 points on just six shots to go along with eight rebounds and two steals against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Cyclones will be without Melvin Ejim against Michigan this Sunday in Ames, but encouraging performances throughout ISU’s roster this week and an amazing homecourt advantage could give them just what they need to beat the Wolverines.
  3. The Kansas Jayhawks have found production on their bench to weather early storms of foul trouble, according to Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star. Frank Mason and Brannen Greene are just two players who tend to get lost in the shuffle behind KU’s star-studded starting lineup, but they’ve provided huge minutes in supporting roles as the season has lifted off. As freshmen, they’ll only get better, so opponents shouldn’t expect a huge drop-off when Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden need to catch a few breathers.
  4. There were no surprises in Lawrence on National Signing Day Wednesday. Kelly Oubre, who committed to the Jayhawks earlier this semester, sent in his NLI, cementing his pledge to play for Kansas next season. Oubre figures to take Andrew Wiggins’ place in the KU rotation as an explosive, long-armed wing. Kansas remains in the hunt for Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, who will announce their decisions at the same time on Friday afternoon.
  5. Kansas State bounced back from an ugly early loss to Northern Colorado by taking care of Oral Roberts in a 71-63 win Wednesday night. Freshman Marcus Foster joined some esteemed company, becoming the first Wildcat freshman since Michael Beasley to score 25 points in a game. Head coach Bruce Weber has repeatedly insisted that his veterans need to lead offensively, and while that’s certainly an understandable sentiment, there are no sure things in his lineup. It would be wonderful for Kansas State if Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Thomas Gipson could be counted on for 40 combined points on a nightly basis, but in the meantime, our unsolicited advice to Bruce Weber is to take your points wherever you can get them.
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Big 12 Team Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 6th, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Iowa State.

Where We Left Off: For Iowa State fans, please excuse us, we don’t mean to re-live a bad memory. The 2012-13 season ended with Aaron Craft ripping the hearts out of Cyclone Nation with a go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds of the second (or now third?) round of the NCAA Tournament last March. Iowa State made a serious statement a year ago, proving it belongs among the league’s best teams after finishing in a tie for fourth in the conference. While Hilton Coliseum has never been an easy place to play, Fred Hoiberg‘s mesh of young players and transfers has paid dividends in making Iowa State one of the scariest teams in the league every season.

Can Fred Hoiberg's Iowa State team build upon a fourth place finish in the league last season? (Ames Tribune)

Can Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team build upon a fourth place finish in the league last season? (Ames Tribune)

Positives: Fresh off a successful run in league play a season ago, there’s so much to like about where Hoiberg has this program headed. While this Iowa State team did lose several key components to graduation, they return Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang in the frontcourt, both of whom played significant minutes last year. Ejim is a double-double machine down low and one of the best rebounders in the conference (although Ejim is expected to be out for most of November with a knee injury), while Niang has crafty skills to score the ball around the basket, and the touch to stretch a defense with his ability to knock down the outside jumper. Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane will be leaned on to fill the void from departed point guard Korie Lucious after averaging 15.1 points per game a season ago for the Thundering Herd, and freshman Matt Thomas is a sharpshooter who will fit in beautifully with Hoiberg’s three-point heavy system, helping Cyclone fans get over the loss of Tyus McGee to graduation.

Negatives: Hoiberg has transformed Iowa State into “Transfer U.” since he took over as head coach, and the strategy has worked almost flawlessly during this period. That said, there’s always a bit of a risk in relying so heavily on impact transfers and hoping the roster will gel during the year. While there is still a ton of talent on this team, the departures of Lucious and McGee, along with Chris Babb and Will Clyburn will create a big uncertainty in the backcourt. Whether Iowa State can continue to shoot the ball from deep as well as it has in the past will be a major factor in the team’s success this season.

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Knee Injury To ISU’s Ejim Thins Cyclone Frontcourt For Non-Conference Play

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) on October 31st, 2013

One of the biggest keys for Iowa State this season is whether its defense will be good enough to make the Cyclones’ high-powered offense stand up. As someone who led the Big 12 in double-doubles last season, forward Melvin Ejim was going to be a big part of that objective. The preseason all-Big 12 selection led the conference in rebounding last season, but the Cyclones’ prospects of hitting the ground running were dealt a big blow when the team announced Thursday that the senior will miss four to six weeks after hyper-extending his left knee and suffering a bone bruise in practice Wednesday.

Iowa State will be without Melvin Ejim for at least one month following a knee injury. (AP)

Iowa State will be without Melvin Ejim for at least one month following a knee injury. (AP)

The injury will likely keep Ejim out of ISU’s most important non-conference battle, which comes against national runner-up Michigan at Hilton Coliseum on November 17. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll also be sidelined for the Cyclones’ tilt against BYU in Provo three days later. The recovery window pegs his probable return as either December 7 against Northern Iowa or December 13 for another intrastate game against Big Ten sleeper Iowa, though obviously that’s subject to change based on the recovery. In the meantime, look for Fred Hoiberg to try to patch his frontcourt together with one of his patented small lineups. Forward Georges Niang could slide up to the five spot, moving probable starter and JuCo transfer Dustin Hogue to the power forward slot. If Hoiberg finds that he needs a bigger body down low, junior Percy Gibson could see a bump in playing time, though he’ll be an offensive liability if he doesn’t improve from his mediocre sophomore campaign. The trickle-down effect could also push junior Naz Long into meaningful playing time.

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