Inexcusable, that's the only way to describe losing to Baylor anywhere.
I don't want to give any credit to the opponent, because they're horrible. I don't want to hear how tough it was to go without the injured Jared Homan, because Iowa State made its climactic 17-2 run against Iowa after he badly sprained his ankle and left the game. And I don't want to hear about how tough it is to win with freshmen guards on the road in the Big 12, because we all know that Scott Drew would trade rosters with Wayne Morgan in a heart-beat.
Oh, and save your "we miss Larry Eustachy's toughness" posts on our message board, too. My personal feelings aside on the way he conducted his business and ran his program, Eustachy was a great basketball coach, and may be so again someday. But don't forget that he was 0-for-17 on the road without Jamaal Tinsley at point guard his final two years in Ames.
As far as intimidating atmospheres are concerned, the Ferrell Center in Waco ranks slightly above a tollbooth. Their roster, in the wake of the murder of former player Patrick Dennehy last summer and the revelation of possible NCAA violations, features just seven scholarship players and six – count ‘em six – walk-ons. They were winless in the Big 12 until Santa Cyclone arrived bearing a heaping bag of gifts for their hosts.
Inside Santa Cyclone's bag were 19 turnovers, a minus-9 rebounding margin, shoddy free throw shooting, shoddy three point shooting, and a plodding first half reminiscent of peach-baskets and crew-cut Caucasians with bad set shots.
Saturday night's disheartening performance begs this question: if this team isn't prepared to capitalize on the momentum from their biggest win of the season thus far and beat the league's worst team on the road, can they win a league road game anywhere this season?
I think the answer to that question is yes, if only because the idea of ending this season with a 25-game conference road-losing streak ongoing is not only unconscionable but almost against all odds. Heck, as Wesley Snipes put it in White Man Can't Jump, "the sun even shines on a dog's (expletive deleted) every now and then."
However, on paper I have a hard time finding a win on the road. The best shot would appear to be February 11th at Kansas State, but that's right smack dab in the middle of a grueling stretch for ISU, so I wouldn't take anything for granted at that point.
Also, I don't know that I buy into the argument that the Cyclones are "soft" either. They deserve credit for overcoming an 11-point deficit in the second half and an eight-point advantage in the final 3 minutes and 19 seconds as well. That showed some resolve.
Instead, I actually think the answer could be immaturity.
Let's face it, other than Jake Sullivan there isn't a member of this program, including the current coaches, that has ever experienced even a modicum of success wearing the dark jerseys in the Big 12. And Sullivan was just a freshman role player back in the day when ran with Tinsley, Horton and the boys. (By the way, doesn't that seem like an eternity ago?)
Which elder Cyclone is going to take Will Blalock aside and mentor him on how to value the basketball on the road and make good decisions? Which elder Cyclone is going to take Reggie George and Damion Staple aside and impart to them the value of playing strong with the ball inside?
ISU had a deer caught in the headlight look for most of the game against Baylor. They battled, but just didn't play intelligent basketball. And they also didn't play with confidence for long stretches. They played like…well…like a team that doesn't believe it can win on the road in the league because it hasn't done so for almost three years.
At some point – maybe, hopefully, prayerfully – perhaps something good will happen to this program on the road and they'll win one they shouldn't in somebody else's gym. I'll just have to trust that I'll actually still be alive to see it.
Until that happens, the NCAA Tournament drought will continue.
ISU is Sorry
In Saturday's edition of The Des Moines Register, University of Iowa basketball coach Steve Alford is quoted as saying he received an apology from ISU athletic director Bruce Van De Velde as well as Coach Morgan for the behavior of Cyclone fans behind the team bench on Wednesday night.
Some of you don't like the idea of apologizing to the Hawkeyes about anything short of committing a capital crime, but this was a class gesture on the part of Van De Velde and Morgan. And based on what I've heard transpired over there, it was necessary.
However, the apologies shouldn't stop there.
Granted, given the behavior of some of their fans in recent years at football games, the Hawkeye Nation has no room for haughtiness when it comes to decorum and tact. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone here.
Nonetheless, to me the real culprits are the adults who know better but spinelessly do nothing to stop punks from acting like punks. Back in the day, adults and parents would introduce youngsters to the woodshed for such pitiful behavior. Nowadays, we're either so gutless as a culture, afraid of a lawsuit, or both that it takes Bobby Hansen taking the headset and confronting lewdness before those with common sense will finally act.
I just turned 30 years old. It wasn't too long ago that I was a college student myself. But in my day – please tell me I didn't just use that expression! – I would've never gotten into Spartan Stadium with a shirt that read "F*** insert the opponent of your choice here" shirt like I have seen at Kinnick and Jack Trice Stadiums in recent years. And if I had sneaked one in and put it on after the game, I'll guarantee you some adult would've ripped it off my chest. They also wouldn't have stood for us personally attacking the opposing coach's faith while dropping multiple F-bombs from behind the bench, either.
Speaking of the multiple F-bombs, regardless of your fan loyalty where were the other parents at while this was happening? Have we so regressed as a culture that we don't even blink or blush at that kind of talk being dispensed cavalierly around our kids anymore?
Please listen to me closely on this. This is not an Iowa State problem. Heck, it's not even a problem of the Jihadic wing of the Hawkeye Nation. It's a cultural issue. Nature abhors a vacuum. If some of you are either afraid or unwilling to mentor those younger than you or hold them accountable, then don't be shocked when their speech and behavior begins to resemble a Quentin Tarantino script.
Recruiting Party 2004 is coming!
We here at CN are pleased to announce that our second annual football recruiting party is coming up on Thursday, February 12th at The Nest Bar & Grill in Johnston starting at 7:30 p.m.
The Nest Bar & Grill has long been of the most loyal pro-ISU pubs in Central Iowa, and has helped sponsor CN's efforts to promote ISU sports from Day One. Just like last year's inaugural gathering, this year's version will be free of charge at the door. You only have to pay for your food and drink. CN makes absolutely no money from this event, it's just a way we like to pay back those of you who support us throughout the year.
Our featured guest will again be ISU director of football operations Don Knock, who is hoping to bring with him some other members of the coaching staff just as he did last year. We'll have a question-and-answer session between the crowd and the coaches, as well as air the highlight video of the 2004 recruiting class on The Nest's two big screens.
I would advise getting there early if you want a table, since the place was jam-packed for this event last year. The Nest is located at 5800 Merle Hay Road in Johnston.
Competition Run Amok
The final item this week is a tricky one, but one I feel needs to be addressed.
Let me start with this premise: obviously we strive here at CN to be the online leader in breaking Iowa State sports and recruiting news. Obviously, we are not the only online source striving towards the same goal.
TheInsiders and Rivals are competing networks. That competition naturally filters down to the individual sites on the respective networks as well. Personally, I don't really care about what happens elsewhere on TheInsiders network. That's not to say that I don't want the network to do well, because I do. It's just that our focus is serving Iowa State and its fans, not being a pawn in a personal grudge match between those who run each entity.
In fact, in the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I have been a subscriber to The Wolverine, which is the Michigan fan site on the Rivals network, for several years now, and that subscription dates back a couple of years before I joined TheInsiders. I have subscribed to The Wolverine newspaper since 1993 as well.
The Wolverine is the only site I subscribe too. Neither Bill nor I subscribe or have access to the premium articles or premium message boards at the Iowa State site for Rivals.
Mentioning the competition is always a risky affair in any business enterprise. A lot of time it's a sign of weakness. However, I won't insult your collective intelligence to the point that I won't admit there is another site or that a lot of you don't know that either. Almost every premium item we print or post on our site ends up over there minutes later anyway, so I'm sure we have many dual customers.
Over the past year or so, I have made a concerted effort to keep this competition above board, with cooperation from those that run the Rivals site. Thankfully, my overtures have been returned, and as far as I'm aware we have a cordial relationship with the folks that work for the other site and an understanding that business is business, nothing more nothing less.
Nevertheless, I am disappointed at two recent items that have been forwarded to me via e-mail by concerned mutual subscribers to both sites, if the content is indeed true. First of all, I was informed that those administering the other site were casting doubt on the accuracy of Bill Seals' recruiting sources. Secondly, I am informed the competition hinted that we were in such a rush to make a profit out of breaking recruiting news that we reported commitments that could've hurt ISU's chances with other recruits.
I have not contacted the administrators at Rivals directly about the voracity of these assertions, mainly because I think that would be a waste of time. If they really did say those things, it's not like an apology or clarification would be forthcoming under any circumstance anyway. To be brutally honest, I care very little about what those competing with our business, or those who don't patronize it, think of it anyway.
I'm more concerned with those of you that may have read those assertions by our competition and support both sites for various reasons. There are positives and negatives about both sites, and reasons to support both. Thus, let me just state unequivocally that those assertions are false. If we are reporting inaccurate information, or hurting ISU in any way, we obviously wouldn't get the access to the information we get.
Our sources also care about ISU, so if they trust us you should too. If you're not sure that we do is good for ISU, why don't you ask any member of the football and men's and women's basketball coaching staffs what they think about what we do for ISU sports? I'm confident they'll give us a ringing endorsement. Between CN and my radio work for Clear Channel (also a corporate partner of ISU's), we have made arrangements to be a part of this community for the long-term. Therefore, CN cannot afford to damage key relationships within the ISU athletic department by being reckless and petty with this site.
I sincerely hope this minor competitive discourse isn't a hint of things to come. More than likely, if true, it's just an attempt by our competition to build support at a key time in the subscription cycle. We'll refrain from that kind of stuff here, because I don't want the focus on me or us, we want the focus on Iowa State sports and recruiting where it belongs.
Nonetheless, in the future I will address any demagoguery about our credibility and earnestness head on with no hesitation. And I won't just do it on our premium board. I'll do it in this space for free for all to read and confront it head-on. It's my experience that these kind of desperate ploys stop working once sufficient light has been cast upon them.
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio each weekday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)