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Iowa State Men's Basketball - Totally in First Place

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Yes, yes, your Iowa State Cyclones are in first place in the Big 12. In men's basketball. Want proof?

Big Twelve Conference Standings

(updated 11.19.2008 at 2:58 AM CST)

That's us. On top. You say we're only 3 games in? Who cares! We're on top of a conference with only one loss (to Montana State...).

But in all seriousness, the Cyclones have already run the gamut from nail-biting (against UC Davis), mediocre (Loyola Marymount), and somewhat kind of decent (Milwaukee). But does this team have what it takes to keep up the Ws for any length of time?

Let's take a look at our top performers so far.

Team Leaders

Stat Player AVG
Scoring Craig Brackins 17.0
Rebounds Jamie Vanderbeken 6.7
Assists Diante Garrett 6.7
FG% Cameron Lee 100.0
FT% Sean Haluska 100.0
3PT% Cameron Lee 100.0
Blocks Jamie Vanderbeken 2.0
Steals Diante Garrett 1.0

Right at the top of the list is Craig Brackins, and with good reason. He's scoring at the rate that we'll need him to (nearly 29 points per 40 minutes). Moreover, he's becoming the inside scoring presence that we need him to become. Averaging just 3.7 rebounds per game - I don't know if he'll ever become the banger down low that we need him to be, but his scoring might be a much bigger deal to a team that's been downright offensive when trying to score the last couple of years.

And, speaking of rebounders down low, Jamie Vanderbeken has been a pleasant surprise. For a guy that likes to float out to the three point line, he's been grabbing boards at a decent rate (including a double-double already), and his shooting (again, a need) has been pretty good, both from outside and his limited attempts inside. 

And the nice looking statistical parade continues with Diante Garrett. A 3.3 A/TO ratio is spectacular in any three games. He's done a nice job of finding guys this year (although it doesn't hurt that the shots are going in more often.) He's still kind of an ugly shooter to watch, but....if he shows something a bit closer to that three-point barrage he had against his hometown school, his progression will already be ahead of schedule.

Of course, missing from the leaders display has been the play of true freshman Wes Eikmeier. In a performance eerily similar to the days of Mike Taylor, we have a guy that isn't afraid to stop and pop. And, when those threes are going in over half of the time (53.5%, to be exact), he'll be useful as both a zone buster and as an emergency offensive stimulus.

To say I was disappointed with our season opener with UC Davis was an understatement. And although they beat Loyola Marymount and very nearly beat Milwaukee, that game was still way too close. But, as the weekend went on, and this group of guys has begun playing with familiarity, they've started settling in. A date in Hawai'i this week provides a golden opportunity to get an elusive road win and to continue momentum.

But, does McDermott continue starting his safe lineup of Thompson, Brackins, Haluska, Petersen and Garrett? Now might be the time to give that nod to Vanderbeken over Thompson, but when do guys like Eikmeier and Staiger start getting the minutes belonging to some of our senior leaders? Or do they at all?

One last note - as one of Greg McDermott's louder critics, I've been pleased with what I've seen in terms of progress. I know mpls has discussed how the Milwaukee game is probably more of an aberration than anything, but it would seem we now have some of the shooters we desperately need - and maybe just the improvement in 3 point percentage will help us win some games we didn't last year. I mean, I don't have to like our head coach to be a I?