It's the middle of July, and I'm in the middle of beating the Cyclones' potential starting football lineup into a bloody pulp by the time late August gets here, so let's take a look at who will be suiting up in the brand spanking new unis this winter. I'm going to take a look at what I imagine will be the starting lineup at the beginning of the season - it'll probably look a bit different at the end.
Projected Starting Lineup
G Diante Garrett
G Bryan Petersen
G Lucca Staiger
F Craig Brackins
F Jamie Vanderbeken
G Dominique Buckley
G Sean Haluska
G Wes Eikmeier
G Cameron Lee
G Charles Boozer
F Alex Thompson
F LA Pomlee
F Justin Hamilton
F Clinton Mann (redshirt?)
As freshman typically struggle to pick up Greg McDermott's complicated offensive sets, it doesn't make much sense to throw any of them in the starting lineup immediately. The one exception could be newcomer Jamie Vanderbeken, who should be an early favorite to start at the forward position. There is a distinct possibility, however, that Alex Thompson could start early in the year due to his familiarity with the system.
If ISU is truly moving to a dribble-drive offense as rumored, it should be set up for Diante Garrett to run the point. He displayed flashes last year, and didn't struggle the same way that Bryan Petersen did bringing the ball up in traffic. A greater focus on shooting for Petersen should aid his game, as he is one of the best spot up shooters that the Cyclones return.
Lucca Staiger, if he's everything that he's being pumped up to be, will most certainly jump into the starting lineup. He has a sweet outside shot, but, more importantly, he has a body that should be physically ready for Big 12 play. Craig Brackins is an obvious choice as the team's best returning player (as a sophomore, yay), while Vanderbeken should earn the last starting spot based on supposed talent alone.
Whoever doesn't start out of the Vanderbeken/Thompson duo will need to be heavily relied on in the post, with ISU losing most of their rebounding depth from last season. LA Pomlee will likely see time in a role similar to that of Rahshon Clark last year (granted, much small in the way of minutes) as Pomlee, an incredibly raw talent, has a knack for being around the ball. Don't count on him for points, though. Justin Hamilton reportedly ate a small Iowa town this summer, and has a body nearing 250 pounds - useful to bang in the Big 12, but can his game match his size? Clinton Mann is also a question mark after bruising his chest up in Cap City play - he could very well redshirt if the injury is serious.
The guard court will bring back some experience in the form of Sean Haluska, Cameron Lee and Charles Boozer. I was wary of Haluska early on last year. I didn't feel he was as good as people were proclaiming he'd be, but he wasn't as bad as his performance seemed to show. If he can try to start scoring a little earlier this season, he will see meaningful minutes as a guard sub. Lee was the team's defensive stopper, but, since he can't score, he's still not going to play a lot. Boozer's role this year will depend largely on what we can get out of the incoming freshmen. Dominique Buckley is a talented point guard prospect, but, much like the other freshman, will likely need some adjustment time to pick up the offense. Wes Eikmeier is supposed to be a stone cold shooter, but lacks size and may not be able to play defense at the necessary level. He's another redshirt possibility (but replaces Cory Johnson as the Clone Chronicles "Midwestern kid to root for").
This year's team is full of question marks. Much of the success (or disappointment) will hinge on the growth of Diante Garrett at the point guard position. For ISU to become a concern for other teams in the conference, guys will need to step up, and frankly, make some luck.
I still don't think that we're an NIT team, but an above average season could result in postseason possibilities.