I have admittedly not been the strongest advocate for the Greg McDermott tenure at Iowa State. I thought it was a questionable hire at the time, and he's done little to convince me that he's anything more than what we saw - a good coach at the mid-major level. We've seen coaching skill, but little in the way of tangible results that show actual win/loss progression on the court.
So, for the life of me, I'm trying to figure out why I'm somewhat excited to see what happens on the court.
You see, we've not been setting the world on fire. Two straight 15 win seasons seem to show a program muddled in mediocrity. Constant transfers and defections do little to increase hope - especially when we've lost our two most talented players in Mike Taylor and Wesley Johnson.
But, I suppose there's reason to be interested in this team this season.
We've seen rumblings and grumblings that the Cyclones may be intending to use a dribble drive offense that's predicated on penetration and shooting. We've got a point guard with slick handles that can get into the lane, and we theoretically should be stocked with shooters.
But I think there is one fact that sticks out, staggering as it might be. We have no players with more than ONE YEAR of time on the court at Iowa State. Alex Thompson is beginning his third year at ISU, but just the second on the court. There's new blood in the program, and hopefully it leads to stability.
The style it looks like we're hoping to play seems quite a bit like that 2000 squad that came out of nowhere to finish the season ranked #3. A dominant post player (Craig Brackins/Marcus Fizer) will be the guy that we lean on, but it'll still come down to quality guard play (Diante Garrett, Lucca Staiger, Bryan Petersen/Jamaal Tinsley, Michael Nurse, Kantrail Horton) and guys who can get boards (who knows?/Stevie Johnson) to make it work. I'm not contending we can come out of nowhere, but it's interesting to note that this team is in a similar build to that squad.
It'll largely come down to Diante Garrett if this team is to show progress. He couldn't put an iron-grasp on the point guard spot, despite being one of the most talented players on the team. If he can continue to show progress, and possibly thrive in a dribble-drive offense, he's got a chance to make a huge impact.
It's tough to see how the seven new guys to hit the court will fit in. There will likely be at least one redshirt out of the group. I see Lucca Staiger in the starting lineup, but the other guys are all question marks. Dominique Buckley will more than likely see time at the point, but, as we've seen, it's asking an awful lot for a true freshman to run a team. Wes Eikmeier is supposedly as sweet of a shooter as Staiger, but it's yet to be seen how complete his game could be. LA Pomlee and Clinton Mann are both players that are known for doing the dirty work, but both have health concerns. Justin Hamilton is a complete question mark, while Jamie Vanderbeken is Canadian - always a question mark.
The fact that this next season is such a question mark, with so many new faces, should and is part of its appeal. I still think an NIT berth would be a success, but I'm not going to condemn something I haven't seen. The Big 12 is always going to be tough. There's no way around it. It's ridiculous if anyone is expecting a team with more than 15-16 wins based on past performance. The fact remains, however, that there's still a chance that men's basketball could be pretty entertaining to watch this winter.