It's time again for BOTC's "Big 12 Days of Christmas," a.k.a. my KNOW THY ENEMY series of conference opponent previews.
I'll do one of these per day, in reverse order of how the teams were picked before the season by the Big 12 coaches.
First up are the Iowa State Cyclones.
Picked 12th in the preseason poll, the Cyclones already are the surprise of the league.
Despite losing their coach, and 10 players to transfers and early NBA draft entries, the Clones appear to be more of a middle-of-the-pack team that could qualify for the NIT.
Follow the jump for a thorough look at all the new faces in Ames. For more comprehensive coverage, visit Clone Chronicles.
The Story So Far
Now for the caveats: Iowa State's 11-2 record is mildly deceptive.
The Cyclones haven't left the state yet this year, their two losses are to the only teams they've played with an RPI better than 50 (Northern Iowa and Cal) and they only have one quality win — the home opener against Northern Arizona.
Their other wins are against three teams with RPIs between 100 and 200 (Creighton and former Cyclones coach Greg McDermott, at Iowa, and Texas Southern), five in the 200s (Alabama State, Drake, Montana State, Dartmouth and Chicago State), and two sub-200 teams (Kennesaw State and Southeast Missouri State).
So, nothing too impressive. But still better than what Oklahoma and Texas Tech have done, and much better than what Iowa State was expected to be capable of by the other 11 conference coaches. (The Cyclones were a unanimous pick for dead last.)
Current Iowa State RPI: 111
Current Iowa State SOS: 286
Note: All stats for current players are updated through the most recent game this season, unless otherwise noted.
Craig Brackins (35.1 minutes per game | 16.5 points per game | 8.5 rebounds per game)
- Marquis Gilstrap (32.2 minutes per game | 14.9 points per game | 9.3 rebounds per game)
- Justin Hamilton (21.4 minutes per game | 6.4 points per game | 5.4 rebounds per game)
- Charles Boozer (9.7 minutes per game | 3.5 points per game | 1.5 rebounds per game)
- Dominique Buckley (7.4 minutes per game | 1.4 points per game | 0.7 rebound per game)
- Chris Colvin (15.5 minutes per game | 3.0 points per game | 1.1 rebounds per game)
- LaRon Dendy (16.3 minutes per game | 7.3 points per game | 3.6 rebounds per game)
- Alex Dorr (2.4 minutes per game | 0.6 point per game | 0.5 rebound per game)
- L.A. Pomlee (4.0 minutes per game | 0.9 point per game | 1.1 rebounds per game)
- Lucca Staiger (26.5 minutes per game | 9.4 points per game | 1.8 rebounds per game)
#11 Scott Christopherson
33.0 minutes per game | 15.2 points per game | 3.2 rebounds per game
FANTASY OWNER: TB
#10 Diante Garrett
33.6 minutes per game | 17.2 points per game | 3.7 rebounds per game
FANTASY OWNER: Panjandrum
#1 Bubu Palo
12.6 minutes per game | 4.2 points per game | 1.8 rebounds per game
#23 Jamie Vanderbeken
25.3 minutes per game | 9.8 points per game | 5.2 rebounds per game
#4 Chris Allen
25.5* minutes per game | 8.2* points per game | 2.8* rebounds per game
*at Michigan State in 2009-10
#5 Jake Anderson
32.2 minutes per game | 11.8 points per game | 8.5 rebounds per game
#2 Chris Babb
29.7* minutes per game | 9.3* points per game | 3.2* rebounds per game
*at Penn State in 2009-10
#22 Anthony Booker
16.9* minutes per game | 6.4* points per game | 4.1* rebounds per game
*at Southern Illinois in 2009-10
#3 Melvin Ejim
28.5 minutes per game | 13.1 points per game | 6.8 rebounds per game
FANTASY OWNER: Panjandrum
#15 Calvin Godfrey
17.5 minutes per game | 3.7 points per game | 4.7 rebounds per game
#25 John Lamb
4.8* points per game | 1.1* rebounds per game
*at Morehead State in 2007-08
#13 Eric McKnight
4.1 minutes per game | 1.1 points per game | 0.5 rebound per game
#24 DeMarcus Phillips
9.6 minutes per game | 2.5 points per game | 2.4 rebounds per game
#0 Jordan Railey
9.6 minutes per game | 2.3 points per game | 2.1 rebounds per game
#30 Royce White
16.4* points per game | 6.0* rebounds per game
*at Hopkins High School in 2008-09; did not play at Minnesota
My thanks to the Iowa State sports information department for the photos.
"Extreme Makeover: Big 12 Edition," starring Fred Hoiberg, will be filmed in Ames, Iowa, this winter. Literally.
From the starting roster at this point last year, only Diante Garrett remains.
Now, to be fair, Scott Christopherson started all the Big 12 games last season because Lucca Staiger flaked out, as Germans are wont to do, and returned home at Christmas to be a professional or some such nonsense. So let's say two returning starters.
But not just two returning starters. The only two players who played any substantive minutes last season.
It all started when Craig Brackins surprised precisely no one by declaring for the NBA draft. Meanwhile, senior starter Marquis Gilstrap ran out of eligibility.
And as for starter Justin Hamilton, and reserves Charles Boozer, Dominique Buckley, Chris Colvin, LaRon Dendy, Alex Dorr and L.A. Pomlee?
Well, let's just say they decided to take their talents elsewhere, and not to South Beach, either.
To declare that the rats deserted the sinking ship last summer would be an understatement of epic proportions.
Around the time the sixth transfer out was putting the finishing touches on his papers, former head coach Greg McDermott realized it might be a good time to get out of Dodge and head back to the Valley.
Enter Hoiberg, the favorite son of Ames and loyal alumnus tasked with holding together a floundering program.
He lucked out with Garrett and Christopherson, as the former is a senior, while the latter already had transferred in from Marquette and had no redshirt year remaining, thus discouraging further transfers at the Division I level.
Unsurprisingly, they are Iowa State's two best players.
Garrett is the more versatile of the pair. His combination of shooting skill, ability to drive into the paint and knack for finishing at the rim makes him one of the best point guards in the Big 12. That takes pressure off Christopherson, a dead-eye shooter who's been putting up ridiculous numbers this season.
The third member of Iowa State's star trio is Jamie Vanderbeken, a veteran post player who also can knock down the 3. He redshirted last season due to injury and has stepped in to fill the void left by Hamilton's departure.
The final two starters are newcomers. Darion "Jake" Anderson is a senior transfer from Northern Illinois, where he started 28 games his junior season, then took advantage of the graduate transfer rule to come to Ames and help replace Gilstrap.
Melvin Ejim, on the other hand, is a talented freshmen who's been asked to fill the rather large shoes of Brackins.
Although he lacks the fauxhawk, Ejim has demonstrated similar scoring skills as an undersized power forward, which already has made him one of the Cyclones' most valuable players 13 games into his young career.
Those five starters are going to have to log an inordinately large amount of minutes, however. There only are five active players on the bench, and they're all redshirt or true freshmen.
Bubu Palo sat out last year, but the walk-on from Ames represents a dropoff at backup point guard from the talented Colvin.
DeMarcus Phillips and Marcus McKnight have played in eight games apiece, logging minor statistics as reserve wing players. And Calvin Godfrey and Jordan Railey are promising forwards who bring some size off the bench.
Iowa State's future, meanwhile, sits on the bench every game: Michigan State transfer Chris Allen, Penn State transfer Chris Babb, Southern Illinois transfer Anthony Booker, Morehead State transfer Jake Lamb and Minnesota transfer Royce White.
Each was a promising player at his respective former institution, but several left due to some kind of trouble.
Tom Izzo had numerous issues with Allen and all but kicked him off the team, while White ran into legal trouble in Minneapolis and never played a single minute. Babb, however, transferred mostly for playing time.
The word out of Ames is that the redshirting transfers beat the starters pretty solidly in a scrimmage recently, so it seems that Iowa State's future is markedly brighter than its present.
Projected Big 12 Starting Lineup
|Diante Garrett||Scott Christopherson||Jake Anderson||Melvin Ejim||Jamie Vanderbeken|
Projected Top Big 12 Reserves
|Bubu Palo||DeMarcus Phillips||Eric McKnight||Calvin Godfrey||Jordan Railey|
The Final Verdict
Unfortunately for Hoiberg, he did a great job bringing in the various Big Ten transfers, but the fruits of his labor won't be tasted until next season. That's too bad, because Iowa State really could use the depth, not to mention the assistance of veteran players such as Allen and Babb.
Instead, the Cyclones will have to make do with a paper-thin 10-man rotation and pray they don't suffer any injuries.
Anderson, Christopherson, Ejim, Garrett and Vanderbeken can hold their own for a while against most Big 12 teams. The problem will be when fatigue and fouls start to set in. There just isn't much effective relief off the bench right now, and that's going to be ISU's Achilles' heel all season, I suspect.
Iowa State has shown enough spunk in its non-conference games to prove it will be a handful for most conference opponents. But the difference between staying close for 30 minutes and winning is quality depth, and the Cyclones just don't have it.
They'll mop up on the Colorados and the Nebraskas of the world, hold serve against Oklahoma and Texas Tech no matter where the game is played, and maybe spring an upset or two in Hilton Coliseum, but don't expect anything more than that. This just isn't a roster capable of finishing in the top half of the conference.
But there's always next year...
Big 12 preseason prediction: 12th
My predicted finish: 9th
Best-case scenario: 7th
Against K-State?: Loss in Manhattan, loss in Ames
Previously on KNOW THY ENEMY...