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Thursday, December 08, 2005
Another Game, Another Blogger Interview
In anticipation of the tomorrow's big showdown with Iowa State, I tracked down another basketball blogger and asked for his opinions on a few important topics. Today's featured guest is Alex, an Iowa State student who dabbles in all things Cyclone at his blog, CrossCyed.

Iowa State has already played close to and lost to some unheralded teams this year. Is this another slow start, like last year, or is this year's team just not as good?

Well, I personally think it’s a combination of both. ISU certainly has a history of playing down to the level of teams in all sports. I also think the team is having a really hard time replacing the scoring of Jared Homan and the rebounding of both Homan and Damion Staple. However, the post is beginning to show signs of improvement. Even with Hilton being a tough place to play, it seems like the team typically is a bit down when the students are gone, as was the case with the Iona game. However, Iona is no pushover, led by a strong senior class. It’s tough to say much about the quality of the team. Stinson and Blalock are as solid as ever, Rahshon Clark has been “wow”, and we have a bench. However, post play continues to be an issue.

What do you consider to be Iowa State's biggest strength? Biggest weakness?

The biggest strength is obvious, with the guard play of Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock. They are frequently regarded as a top backcourt in the country. The two certainly present matchup problems. The super-emergence of Rahshon Clark, who is shooting a blistering 62% this year, while leading the team in rebounds, blocks and boyish exuberance, is helping take the pressure off the guards with his 15 ppg, while at the same time playing a solid 4, despite being 6-6. He’s as much fun as anyone you may see play all year. The biggest weakness is, as mentioned before, post play. The Cyclones have been playing a smaller lineup, with Rahshon at the 4, so that only one of the new big guys is in at once. Against Fresno State, the three main bigs, Shawn Taggart, Jiri Hubalek (pronounced Yuri Who-Ball-ick – impress your friends with your knowledge), and Ross Marsden collected four boards. Curtis Stinson had seven. Each player has their issues. Taggart can shoot, but isn’t much in the posting-up department. Also can’t play a lick of defense, despite being in a 2-3. Taggart also likes to foul. Marsden may be the smartest post, noted for being coachable. However, I was also called “most coachable” on my high school team, and I averaged less than a point a game. However, the coaches feel he is adjusting, and I believe with each game, he’s getting a little better. He has potential to be a Paul Shirley-type in time. My favorite out of the bunch is Hubalek. He came out of Marshalltown Community College shooting 61%. He’s probably the best option down low, but still seems a little unsure. If he’s tentative, ISU is in trouble. If he flys around like he did against Fresno State in the first half, Drake and Mountain State, you can probably expect 10 and 6 out of him, which would be a minor victory.

What's the undercurrent on campus regarding Adam Haluska's return to Ames? Can the crowd possibly treat him worse than they did with Pierre Pierce in 2003?

Depends. I do think he will draw more ire, as there is the perception that he lied to the Cyclone fanbase and is basically a turncoat. I don’t know if the chants will be near as vulgar as they were for Pierce, but then again, he didn’t commit a crime. If anyone remembers when Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collision on Kirk Hinrich played against ISU, the treatment should be the same but louder. Remember, Hinrich had committed to ISU then switched to Kansas. ISU fans were pissed at what could have been, as the Elite Eight team would also have had Hinrich to go along with Fizer and Tinsley. That team would have caused havoc. There hasn’t been a great hate of him being expressed on campus, but it’s a college. Your star recruit transferred, after saying he wouldn’t, to your archrival. Most Cyclone fans realize this will be his only appearance at Hilton.

What one thing must Iowa State do to win this game?

This is actually kind of tough. I want to say rebound, but we can win while being outrebounded. I’d say we need to keep Iowa off the line, while also preventing big runs. (That’s two, oh well). Iowa State has had a serious foul problem this year, sending the other team to the line way too often. Of course, these teams don’t seem to miss, either. As far as the runs go, Iowa State was in control of Fresno until giving up a 15-0 run. Fresno hit 7-10 three pointers in the half, and ISU couldn’t climb any closer. It’s some pretty basic basketball stuff, but it really is what Iowa State needs.

Anthony Davis missed most of last year with a shoulder injury. What role does he fill now that he's back?

Depends on the night. He’s a physical 3 who isn’t afraid to post up. He also can hit the three on any given night, but is also just as capable of an 0-fer. He’ll most likely start, but is usually quiet on the court. He’s saved ISU once this season, but he still doesn’t seem to be a big part of the system, despite being a senior. Wayne Morgan loves him, however, following him over from Long Beach State, so he’ll get his minutes.

Which of the new post players will have the biggest impact? What specific skills do they provide? What do they need to improve?

Shawn Taggart, either positive or negative, will most likely have the biggest impact. He’s capable of 20 points on any night. He’s also capable of giving up big points.. He has a sweet shooting touch and can hit a turnaround down low. He’s impressive with his back to the basket. His rebounding is nonexistent, however. He is ready offensively, but is nowhere near ready to be a top-tier post until he can rebound or play D. My favorite is Jiri Hubalek. He’s got potential to be the next Martin Rancik. He will most likely get the start. He’s getting to the point where he’s somewhat used to the system. He is the most aggressive post player, which still leaves some to be desired. Will run the court and play active D, but is also prone to the foul.

Is Curtis Stinson really among the best basketball players in the country?

He can be. I know you think he is overrated. I do think he has improved this season. He seems to be a big game player, which does seem to hurt in games against teams like Iona. He has an ability to create shots and body up like few guards that there are out there. His three point shooting has improved this year and is still the player that any Cyclone fan wants with the ball to take the shot. The “teardrop” has somewhat disappeared, but is still accurate when he shoots it. A lot of other fans around the nation don’t realize that he played hurt much of last year, and has still had hand problems this year. Just ask Bill Self about Stinson’s effect on opposing teams.

Will this year's Cyclone squad have any consistent three-point threat?

So far, yes. Will Blalock is shooting 48% from behind the arc, while Rahshon Clark is hitting at a 42% clip. Shooting has definitely improved over last year, as ISU has been hitting just under half it’s shots as a team this year. Blalock may be the best shooter on the team, but he tends to get streaky. Clark has just gone bonkers this year. He will be the one to watch. Stinson is always a threat to hit a three, especially in clutch situations. Davis either is on fire or is icy. Tasheed Carr has been having a horrible sophomore slump. He’s capable of carrying a team on a good night (see ISU’s win @ Texas last year), but this season has been murder on him. He’s still hurt, and may not play. John Neal hasn’t hit much of anything since the last Iowa @ ISU game, but he finally hit two against Drake. The feel from Coach Morgan is that he will get more minutes if Carr cannot go. Hubalek and Taggart are also capable of hitting deep.

As a fan, is a win against Iowa more gratifying than any other team?

It’s the biggest nonconference game this year. Ohio State is close, however. The conference season means quite a bit to ISU. If Kansas was not so down this year, that’d be the game to watch. The big game is against Texas at Hilton. Beating Iowa is gratifying for Iowa State fans in just about any sport, but I also think that there is less emphasis in men’s basketball with Iowa State playing teams tough in the Big 12 in recent years. Iowa State – Kansas may not be considered a rivalry on the Jayhawk side, but ISU fans probably enjoy beating Kansas as much as they do the Hawks. Of course, with Iowa being a top 15 team, the game is not only a rivalry game, but a chance to pull an “upset”, so there will be extra hype in that regard. If it came down to beating Texas or beating Iowa this year, I’d pick Texas, if they are actually a top 5 team. Then again, I also think they are overrated.

Is there a better way to spend $3.00 than on a Clone Cone?

I don’t eat often at sporting events. I usually feel like crying after realizing the money that’s gone after I buy food at ISU games. Of course, the environment is worth it. I’ve been to both Carver and Hilton, and Hilton is the premier place for basketball in Iowa. Iowa fans who have never been to Hilton will appreciate the comfort of the arena, while also witnessing Hilton Magic. Crazy stuff can happen to opposing teams in Ames.

Whoa, no Clone Cones? You're missing out on one the key ingredients to the Hilton experience! For the uninitiated, the Clone Cone is a divine swirl of strawberry and banana flavored ice cream. It's so good, chocolate and vanilla aren't even offered at the arena (at least I looked hard enough to find any).

Anyway, thanks for the time, Alex.

I also answered a few questions about the game over at Alex's blog - they should be up sometime tonight, so go check it out. I should have a few stats and notes ready sometime tomorrow morning, then it's off to Ames to see the game. I can't wait.
Wow, I really am the master of short, choppy sentences. :)
no clone cone eating? that gives him no credibility.
If anyone knows a better way to keep my girlyish figure, you tell me. :)
Swany invented the Clone Cone for breakfast, Clone Cone for lunch, and a large Home Team pizza for dinner diet for just that reason.
Well, Ryan and I indulged in Hickory Park before the game. There wasn't much room for anything else.
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