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Iowa State Men's Basketball: The Pre-Scrimmage Preview!

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Warning:  this is a long post. It includes almost all of my thoughts about the Men's Basketball team as we head into the scrimmage on Monday. I tried to break it up into sections so you can read what you're interested in. With the football dominating the end of the week and the weekend, I figured I would post the entire thing instead of doing it in pieces.

So here we go:

Everyone Else’s Expectations Of The Team and the Big 12:

This is what the "experts" and coaches think: Anywhere from 8th to 10th in the conference, and possibly getting an NIT bid. I don’t see it as a slap in the face, as ISU has not been relevant in basketball for several years now, and most are just going on recent history.

The Big 12 is looking much tougher than it did last year. The Preseason Coaches’ Poll was released. Three Big 12 teams made the Top 25 (KU #1, Texas #3, and Oklahoma #16), while four got votes (Oklahoma State #31, Missouri #32, Kansas State #39, Texas A&M #47).  If one were to rank all of the teams, I would expect to see ISU in the 70-80 range, as no one outside of ISU is saying we’re an NCAA team.

But at the same time, we are going to be better as well. Last year we finished 9th in the conference. With the additions we have this year, staying the same, or moving up only one spot relative to the rest of the conference is going to be disappointing.

My Expectations, And More After The Jump!

My Expectations:

I expect this team to finish in the top half of the Big 12 and go to the NCAA tournament.

This is Greg McDermott’s time to show what he’s got coaching-wise. If Paul Rhoads can get a 2-10 football team into bowl contention in his first year, there’s absolutely no reason that Greg McDermott can’t put a NCAA team on the floor in year four of his tenure. I know they are different sports, but generally it takes longer to build a football program than a basketball program. Also, seeing a program fans had low expectations for do really well thus far, is only going to turn up the pressure on those same fans when they’re looking at the basketball team. I am the exact same way.

I don’t want to hear about all of his bad luck. That was then, this is now. The facts are that he’s got an All-American Forward in Brackins who passed up the NBA to come back. He’s got another Forward who has the potential to be an NBA player as well in Gilstrap. His point guard is one of the best in the conference in Assist/Turnover Ratio. He’s got a shooting guard who is going to be a professional player in Europe when it’s all said and done.

I honestly could see all of Garrett, Staiger, Gilstrap, Brackins, and Dendy playing professional ball at some level in the future. If you can’t take this team to the NCAA tournament, then you probably aren’t going to do it in the near future. 2010 is a rebuilding year, as the prospect of landing Harrison Barnes is pretty low. I have never heard of a D1 coach that has gone o-fer in NCAA bids after 4 years, and ended up doing a good job at that school.

If this were year 2 or 3, then I’d be fine with an NIT bid. It’s been too long in my opinion since we’ve made the dance, however. As Jamie Pollard said when he fired Wayne Morgan, "the basketball program should be the marquee of the athletic department".

I know I sound harsh at times, but it isn’t me setting the standard; I’m just trying to hold my expectations to the standard the athletic department has. If the AD says that basketball should be our strongest program, then damn-it, make it happen!

I’d love to see McDermott get the job done. He seems like a smart guy, he wants what’s best for his players, cares a lot about Iowa State, and is trying to do things the right way. I like all of that, but you have to win games also. If they fail to do so, many fans will have a tough time supporting the team financially.  If he does get us to the tournament, and we have a great year, then my confidence in him will be restored greatly, knowing full well that it may be another year or two before we’re back in the mix again.

Projected Starters:

Below are the guys that I think would start, based on what I know and have heard. Obviously this can change, and we will have a better idea after the two scrimmages. Usually during the first scrimmage, everybody plays, as the rotation is scripted. It gives the coaches another look at different player groupings. I will be at that and watching all of the guys on the floor closely. Often times the second scrimmage is played more like a game situation. The rotation gets deeper as the game goes on because you’re typically scrimmaging a team you’re going to blow out.  Based on these, my thoughts on the roster may change, and I'll do another update prior to the first game that counts.

G: Diante Garrett – Hasn’t realized his full potential, but has made some strides and looks like he’s ready to make another breakthrough. He takes care of the ball well, and him starting really isn’t in doubt.
G: Lucca Staiger – I worry about Lucca’s knee. Realize that he played about 50 organized basketball games this past summer and fall. If he’s healthy, I think he will do a better job at shooting and moving when he doesn’t have the ball. If he struggles, I’d look for both Scott Christopherson and Chris Colvin to cut into some playing time.
F: Marquis Gilstrap – Pretty obvious. He’s a JUCO stud that can score from anywhere on the floor, and can hopefully help with rebounding as well.
F: Craig Brackins – Obvious as well. Looking forward to see how he plays with all of the attention he will now garner, along with having a better supporting cast around him
F: LaRon Dendy or Justin Hamilton  - Whomever starts depends on the matchup I would think. Dendy is built similar to Brackins, but may be a little more athletic. He can block shots, and move up and down the court. If we’re trying to run and get points, I think we go with Dendy. With Hamilton, he’s the only true Center that ISU has, and would be someone you put out there if you’re going at a slower tempo. He works hard, but I don't know if he's there yet. I feel like he got a lot of PT, mostly because of how thin we were in the frontcourt last year. With basketball, I always prefer the more athletic guy, especially if you don’t have to rely on him as a top scorer. Most teams do not have a true center anyways, and that’s OK.

I think a lot of people previewing this Iowa State team, think a lineup has to have 2 guards, 2 forwards, and 1 center. In reality, it’s way more flexible as you play to your strengths in college basketball. You can have lineups of 3 guards, 2 forwards; 2 guards, 3 forwards; 1 guard, 3 forwards, 1 center; etc. Heck, Oklahoma State basically played 5 guards at times last year, and they did pretty well!

The Reserves:

G: Scott Christopherson   could see him as our first scorer off the bench. If the team needs a spark, he’s the guy to go to here. After redshirting for a year, he should have a good handle on the system and know what to do.

F: Jamie Vanderbeken – He’s injured at the moment, so he’ll be slow starting. He’ll go in for any of Gilstrap, Brackins, Dendy/Hamilton. He’s a legit 3 point shooter, and I think he would do better playing more from the outside offensively. Defensively, he’s shown he can rebound and block shots I’d expect it all to depend on matchups and game situation, but he’ll get some PT when healthy.

G: Chris Colvin – I would think we’d see more of him at the 2 to start the year. From all accounts McDermott’s system is the hardest to learn for a point guard. Colvin is a scorer, and could probably benefit more with moving without the ball.

G: Dominique Buckley – I would expect him to relieve Garrett when needed to start the season. I look at him more as a point guard, and with a year under his belt, I’d expect to see him more comfortable out there.

G/F: Charles Boozer – He plays hard. How much he gets to play depends on how much he’s improved offensively. He is definitely a hustle guy, and a jack of all trades guy. He’s the guy you out there when the team needs a lift, intensity-wise. His style of play is contagious, even if he himself is somewhat limited. Last year, I thought he played well down the stretch, and for some reason McDermott scratched him, which I thought was a horrible call. If he can shoot better, I can’t see how he wouldn’t play more, even if this team is deeper.

F: L.A. Pomlee – Coming off a redshirt, he has a lot of upside. But with the team focused on winning now, I don’t see how he’ll get a lot of clock outside of garbage time.

F: Alex Dorr – He’s gotta be the 13th guy off the bench right now. I don’t know a lot about him, but he’s a walk-on. I think he’ll probably do a good job helping the team in practice, but I’m guessing we’ll see him as much as Clinton Mann and/or Cam Lee last year.

G: Antwon Oliver – He’s 2 inches taller than DG, but 15 lbs lighter. That screams redshirt to me. Needs to put on some size, if he’s going to play in the Big 12.

G: Bubu Palo – Like Alex Dorr, another walkon, and ditto the similar comments about practice. If the coaches think he could develop into a player down the road, or if they like the way he prepares the team during practice, you may see a redshirt on him. Otherwise, I wouldn’t think there is a need to use it.

Noteable Non-Conference Opponents:

The non-conference is improved over what I thought was almost a joke last year. Below is a listing of the teams we’re facing in the non-conference that you may be wondering about, or should keep a watch out for:

@ Drake: Only because we’ve lost 3 straight. The Missouri Valley coaches, have put them at 8th in the conference, so I’m hoping we finally beat this team!

Notre Dame: We will either play Notre Dame or Northwestern in Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend. I have a feeling we will play Notre Dame as they should be the better team. They are lead by Two-time All-American and Preseason Big East POY in Luke Harangody.  They’re projected by the coaches to finish 8th in the Big East. In a lot of ways they are similar to ISU, in that they have some talented players but feel like they’re being underrated a little.

UNI: They got some votes in the Preseason Top 25, and are expected to win the Valley this year. They will likely be improved from last year and are a likely NCAA team, yet again.

@ California: Cal is currently ranked #10 in the Preseason Top 25 and the favorite to win the Pac 10. It’s going to be a tough, tough game.

Iowa: Shouldn’t be too concerned here. They are expected to finish last in the Big 10, and it’s being played at our place.

Houston: Expected to compete for the C-USA title and could find themselves in the NCAA tournament as well.

Duke: Enough said

North Dakota State: An NCAA team last year, but lost some guys and isn’t expected to be as good.

Overall, I don’t think it’s too tough of a schedule, as I wouldn’t expect more than 2-3 losses, but I like that we’re playing some tougher teams like Cal and Duke, as it should prepare the team for the tough conference schedule. If we could beat one of those two teams, it would do wonders for our RPI if we indeed did become a bubble team.

Other Basketball News:

  • Brackins is on the preseason Naismith Watch List.
  • It sounds like Coach McDermott has been happy with the way his team has been practicing, as he tweeted a couple of days ago.
  • The team has new uniforms. I think these have changed every year the past few years.
  • Be on the lookout for my writeup on the scrimmage on November 3rd. If any news about the team breaks, I’ll post it in the meantime.

I’m really excited to see what this team does, and can’t wait to set foot in Hilton for the first scrimmage of the year, which is on Monday, November 2nd at 7pm against Black Hills State!

What are your thoughts and expecatations as we tip off the 2009-2010 season?