I hope I got my facts straight and represent the Cyclones in respectable fashion, because getting called out by a Cyclone is no fun. Follow the jump to take a 2-yr look back at the
"Big 5" "Big 4" sports at Iowa State.
Football: As the cliché goes, it’s always darkest before dawn. Well with the departure of Gene Chizik came the dawning of the Paul Rhoads era at Iowa State. After his barnstorming first season came the hardest season of all, the sophomore season in 2010.
Coach Rhoads finished the year short on wins at 5-7, but not short on heart by any means. Continuing his "one incredible underdog performance" a year shtick he established in year one, you could debate whether the Cyclones first win against the longhorns in 8 tries. It also marked the first time in over two decades the ‘Clones beat a ranked opponent on the road. However, take that with a grain of salt, as most of the Big 12 rocked a cattle prod in their back pocket, and took their turns branding the score on Bevo’s hide for the majority of 2010 as Mack Brown met smackdown Saturday after Saturday. Folks, I’m not trying to discredit what the ole Paul did in Austin, but from a pure outsider’s perspective I’d rather suggest that the true grit performance of the year came attempting to send Pelini and Pearlman packing on their swan song tour of the conference. If it wasn’t for that danged Iowa wind and a punter under throwing his man on an extra point in OT, the cardinal twisters would have enjoyed 2-0 success against that arrogaNt fanbase.
Too late to re-write history now, so instead 2010 will be looked upon as the year of some extra "Rhoad construction" in the state of Iowa. What rebuilding took place turned into an additional win and Pinstripe Bowl appearance in 2011. Plagued by qb injuries all season, 2011 will always be remembered by that Freaky Friday in November that consequently etched the rematch of the century FG fest in stone. Yes, only Tuscaloosa and Ames Iowa rejoiced in what occurred that night, but only Ames celebrated around the oasis of Michelob Golden and Natty Lite. The Pinstripe Bowl proved to be another bummer for the Big 12, as the Cyclones fell to the hands of the Scarlet Knights (wearing black) 27-13. The loss put Rhoads behind the level mark for the two year window finishing out 12-13 between 2010 and 2011 seasons.
The ‘Clones look to ride a little bit more of the defense that carried them in 2011 and hope to throw less INTs in 2012, behind All-American LB candidates Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. If those two things happen, there’s no reason to suspect Rhoady’s bell curve won’t continue upward as 7 regular season wins appear to be achievable and I’ll just say it: ISU welcomes WVU at the end of the season to the Big 12 keeping the streak alive of a huge upset per season. Sure it gets cold in WVU, but welcome to Iowa-cold with no mountains to block the wind!
Men's Basketball: Former player turned alma mater head coach, always works out until alma mater head coach turns turncoat ala Lon Kruger. But alas, the honeymoon period is still alive and well between Iowa State and pretty boy Hoi.
In 2010-11 Fred took over the typical depleted roster as McDermott & Son headed west down I-80. What became easy to see at the very least after an above par non-conference run at 14-2, was that much like Paul Rhoads, Coach Hoiberg could get 7 or 8 guys to run their rears off and even through a brick wall a time or two. So when you began to wonder about the three AQ conference level D1 transfers waiting their turn all of 2010-11, you easily look forward to next year. As the conference season unfolded, the Cardinal and Gold faithful began to have even more reason to look forward to the next year as the wheels fell off of the short bench ending the year with a 3-13 conference mark, concluded by a first round loss in the Big 12 tournament. Of those 17 conference games played however, were 6 losses by 6 points or less, 2 of which were in OT. So looking back one could wonder, would the transfers be the difference of 9 wins? Regardless, 2011 ended at 17-14 overall.
Equipped with a full roster of legitimate D1 talent in 2011-12, Fred nearly mimicked his rookie season record by going 11-3 in the non-conference. Some media pundits saw the same heart that I noticed in 2010-11 and had them as a sexy 3-5 finisher in the Big 12. However the coaches didn't feel the same, as the 'Clones were picked to finish 8th out of 10 teams in the new round-robin. Oh yea, and there were some guys with a Collie that were supposed to finish first too...The start of the conference schedule was a bit of an on-again-off-again affair as they notched 2 wins, 2 losses, 2 wins, 1 loss before rattling off 8 wins out of the next 11, kick started by a 72-64 Home win over the eventual conference champion Kansas Jayhawks. With the help of Royce White, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson (quiver), the season finish netted a #3 seed in KC, and 1-1 record in the Big Dance equaling a 23-11 overall record.
The act of replacing those last three names will by no stretch of the imagination difficult. However the roster for 2012-13 is stocked full of 6 seniors. So while the name pedigree might not be what it was, there will be no reason not to factor in the luxury of having that many upperclassmen with experience in Fred's system. All things being equal I think it's fair to expect a similar record to 2011-12, right around 23 wins barring no injuries. To summarize, the 2-year window accumulated 40 wins to 25 losses.
Women's Basketball: For as stacked as the men's league looks in basketball, the Big 12 women's basketball league is the bee's knees and despite different configurations has been true since 2010-2012.
So for a team to be ranked in the 20s all year despite a conference record of 9-7, is a testament to the league as well as the team. After some soul searching following a 40-62 L at the hands of arch rival Iowa early in the 2010-11 season, the LadyCy bounced back by thrashing Columbia 73-27. The girls topped off the tank on the year at 24-11 after bouncing out of the NCAAs in the first round.
Looking to take on the gauntlet of the Big 12 schedule again with 2 extra conference games, the ladies fell victim to the two extra battles as the netted the same amount of conference wins at 9, yet losing the same amount. Again the conference likely bailed out the Cyclones as 18-10 was able to get them into the tournament and be a host site for the first round of the NCAAs. As fate would have it, the team paired up similarities with 2010-11 once again by bouncing out in the first round to finish 18-11.
It's hard to gauge where this league will be next year with WVU and TCU coming in place of A&M and MU. I would say MU and TCU are likely on the same page, but it will be hard for any team to replace what the A&M women's team brought to this league. So perhaps there's room for the Cyclones to tilt the two year combined record of 42-22 moving forward, but there appears to be some sort of downward trend right now.
Volleyball: Similar to the strength of the league in women's basketball, is the Volleyball gamete. Of course the affect of Nebraska not being a regular on the schedule shows the difference that team made to this league from 2010 to 2011.
Iowa state notched a 20-9 overall, 9-7 in league record and was able to sustain a #9-16 ranking all year. Weird to think the #9 team in the country played in Ames HS gym most of the year thanks to Mother Nature getting her way. They left the NCAAs in the first round much like the Women's basketball team that year. In 2011, the Cyclones were ranked #12-19 consistently, but were able to turn out more fortune across the schedule going 25-6 overall and 13-3 conference. The prosperity didn't stop there, as they found themselves ending their season in the elite 8 of the NCAA tournament. So while the 2010 squad got up as far as 9th, the 2011 team finished at least 8th best in the land. Without looking at a roster as to how many starters return in 2012, it would appear after going 45-15 in the last two years, without Nebraska now, Iowa State could be forcing the conference to deal with a surging power. Keep an eye on this squad in 2012, and perhaps we might have a new Big 12 power on our hands.