Fred Hoiberg, 3 pointers, and optimisim for the future. That is how I am going to remember the 2011 season for Iowa State. The season was a rollercoaster ride, but in the end, it finished pretty similarly to how most of us probably expected it to. I remember after the Creighton game, the concensus was that this team would probably only win another 9-10 games or so the entire year, and they ended up winning 12 more from that point. Anybody that tries to say this season did not live up to expectations has either lived in an alternate dimension, or is an Iowa Hawkeye fan.... Which would require living in an alternate dimension to be one (for basketball at least)....
To start the year, Ken Pomeroy had Iowa State ranked 144th. We were listed as the worst BCS conference team. As the season went on, Iowa State got to 32nd or so, before coming back to reality or so, and finishing 77th-ish or so. Do you know who finished last in terms of BCS teams? Wake Forest, at 252nd. Wake owns a 8-24 record, including a hard fought victory over none other than the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Going back to Iowa State, to win one less conference game than last year's team, with what we had (or didn't have) coming back, was huge. You take away your two best scorers and two best rebounders from last year's team, and have virtually no difference in the end result, and you are starting to impress me as a coaching staff. Other than Diante Garrett, who else on Iowa State would start for a Big 12 team?
A big reason why this team was fun to watch, was the guys did not quit. In previous years, there were times when DG, Brackins, and Gilstrap gave up. We saw guys with their heads down, just going through the motions, visibly frustrated. This year, completly different. These guys had challenges, and found themselves in bad situtions, and they tried to will their way out of it. To me, that says a ton about what the coaching staff was able to do in terms of instilling confidence and getting the players to believe in what they are trying to teach them.
I also appreciate how many games this team was in this year. I know there are no moral victories in Division I basketball, but this team was only blown out 4 times this year. In 2007, there were 6 blowouts, followed by 7 in 2008, 9 in 2009, and 5 in 2010. This was the least number of blowouts in years, with arguably the least talented team compared to those seasons.
As a fan, all I can ask for, is playing hard (which they did), and never quitting (which they did not). This was a 16 win team, that could have won 19-20 games this year, and a team that delivered a winning overall season for Iowa State for the first time in 5 years.
The highlight of the season for me was the Creighton game. The atmosphere at Wells Fargo was great, and it was a game both sides wanted to win badly. Actually, I take that back. I think the highlight of the season was leaving Hilton Coliseum in a good mood many more times than I had the previous 3 seasons combined.
But now, it is over. Our players can rest. Diante Garrett can try to keep improving his game, to see what professional options are in store for him in the future.
Now that 2011 is over, the obvious question is what is in store for Iowa State in 2012?
The 2012 Team:
Departures: Diante Garrett, Jake Anderson, Jamie Vanderbeken
Additions: Royce White, Chris Allen, Chris Babb, Anthony Booker, Tyrus McGee, Anthony Odunsi, and Tavon Sledge.
If you haven't been following the team closely, you might be asking, "who are these guys". No worries, I've got your back.
Royce White (rFR): A 6-8, 250 lb Forward from Hopkins, MN. He was originally a 5-star recruit who signed on with the Gophers after receiving offers from Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, us, and others. He got into some trouble while at Minnesota, and signed with Iowa State last summer. He has stayed out of trouble while in Ames, and will have 4 years (I believe) of eligibilty, but may very well leave before that is over, as he is a first round NBA prospect. If 2012 goes well, he very well could be leaving after next year. That said, I am really looking forward to seeing him play, because I love to see Minnesota represented, and I love to see guys take advantage of second chances
Chris Allen (rSR): A 6-3, 205lb Guard from Lawrenceville, GA. He was originally a 4-star recruit out of high school who transferred to Iowa State after playing the previous 3 years at Michigan State. Similar to White, he has sat out the whole year and will be here only 1 year as well. In 2010, he averaged about 9 points/game, on nearly 40% 3 point shooting in 25.5 minutes of play. He's a solid player, who has a lot of experience, including playing in a couple of Final Fours.
Anthony Booker (rJR): A 6-8, 230lb Forward from Florissant, MO. He was originally a 4-star recruit out of high school who transferred to Iowa State after playing the previous 2 seasons at Southern Illinois. At SIU, he saw limited action (only 16 minutes/game last year), and averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds. He has size and athletic ability. Perhaps a change of scenery, and having the chance to play with the guys on this team, will lend to better results.
Chris Babb (rJR): A 6-5, 220lb Guard from Arlington, TX. He was originally a 3-star recruit out of high school and transfered to Iowa State after playing 2 years at Penn State. In 2010, he average 9 points, and 3 rebounds per game. He shot 37% from beyond the arc in 2010.
Tyrus McGee (JR): A 6-2, 190lb Guard from Stringtown, OK. He is transferring from JUCO, Cowley College, and will be able to play right away, obviously. He is averaging about 16 points/game at his JUCO, and is a good three point shooter.
Anthony Odunsi (FR): A 6-3, 200lb Guard/Forward from Ft. Bend, TX. He is a 3-star recruit, who's other known offer was from Vanderbilt. He was a fringe Top 150 guy, and should be a good addition to the team.
Tavon Sledge (FR): A 5-9, 175lb Guard from Spring Valley, NY. He is a 3-star recruit who got offers from Cincy, St. John's, Rutgers, Seton Hall, UTEP, and WVU. He is also the latest internet legend on Cyclone Fanatic, and I am sure you have heard or will hear a ton about him from fans in the coming months. You can read more about him here.
Even though it is way too early to do this, here is how a depth chart might look right now for this team.
PG: Allen, Sledge, Palo
SG: Christopherson/Babb, McGee
G/F: Ejim, Odunsi, McKnight
F: Booker, Godfrey
F: White, Railey
I would not expect Palo, Railey, or McKnight to play a lot, but I include them here because they are familiar names from last year. Godfrey is going to be the first post off the bench in my opinion, and we will probably see two of Booker, White, and Godfrey on the court, unless they go with a smaller lineup. I am expecting a 9 or 10 man rotation for next year, depending on how the freshmen come along.
With this team, there will be some flexibility throughout the course of the game. During a game, you could see 3 guards out there in Allen, Babb, Christopherson, with 2 post players in White and Booker/Godfrey, and there are many many other combinations out there.
The team is not going to have a true point guard, unless Sledge comes in as a true freshmen and sets the world on fire, but I do not know if that will be a major issue or not.
The only other questionmark about this team, is whether assistant Bobby Lutz will come back for another year. Lutz is well respected in the coaching community, was really the main Xs and Os guy this year (if you went to a game, you saw how much he was helping draw things up, and yelling at guys on the court), and like any other year, there will be vacant head coaching positions. I hope he stays another year because I think the opportunity to coach a group like this could be fun, but at the same time, when you've been the top guy for so long, the desire to become one again has to be there as well.
My expectations for 2012 team is a NCAA tournament appearance, which would mean they would be finishing in the Top 5 or 6. Really, there are better athletes stepping in, and the team doesn't miss out on overall experience as well as most of the new impact players are transfers with some playing experience at this levl.
I'm excited about the season, and after reading about who we have coming in, along with the guys who are coming back, 2011-12 could be a really fun year! Like always, we will keep you abreast of offseason news, including any potential transfers and things of that nature, but fingers are crossed for a positive offseason!