Monday Musings

In his final weekly word of 2002, CN's Steve Deace assesses where the men's basketball program is at heading into finals week. Plus, a holiday bonus for readers.

Editor's Note: This will be Steve Deace's final Monday Musings column of 2002. Beginning December 21st, he will be on Christmas vacation until the Humanitarian Bowl.

This was a very big week for Iowa State's men's basketball program. Many lessons were learned that could pay dividends from now all the way until March Madness. The Cyclones learned a lot about themselves and each other. They also learned their coaches know what they're talking about.

Three months from now, when ISU's name is called into the Field of 64 by CBS for the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday, we'll look back at this mid-December week as the catalyst.

On Tuesday, the Cyclones learned a lesson about poise and defense against a solid Boston College team that is a good bet to make it three straight NCAA Tournament appearances come March. ISU was clearly unprepared for the steep step up in competition and the flaws they were able to mask with their superior athleticism against scrub foes were revealed.

Against experienced teams like Boston College, you simply have to play with more discipline and poise. Larry Eustachy knew this all along, and perhaps that's why he was so disappointed afterwards. LE sounded almost like a parent of a wayward child, exasperated and frustrated that his progeny failed to heed his warnings. LE normally goes out of his way to congratulate the opposition after a loss, but this time was different. He all but said that Boston College is good, but not that good. If the Cyclones had played Larry-Ball, they would've won the game.

In the first half against Iowa on Friday night, it looked as if the Cyclones were doomed to repeat history because they hadn't learned from it. An Iowa team that had been struggling to score points torched ISU for 40 first half points and a nine-point lead. The Cyclones were also being beaten on the boards. Naturally, that didn't sit well with Eustachy and his staff, who preach defense and rebounding as staples of the Iowa State program.

But a funny thing happened to Doctor Doom on the way into his halftime rave. Jake Sullivan beat him to the punch.

Sullivan's impassioned halftime speech helped spur on the Cyclones, who finally played 20 solid minutes of Larry-Ball for the first time this season. The held Iowa to 36 percent shooting and forced 13 turnovers. They beat the Hawkeyes down the floor for easy baskets in transition. And they made all of the big plays down the stretch.

Final score: Iowa State 72, Iowa 69. It was Eustachy's first win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the Cyclones first road victory in the series since 1996. It was also the second time this year that a furious second half rally by Iowa State sent the Hawkeye Nation streaking for the exits early.

And for those that think LE doesn't pay too much attention to the rivalry, or Steve Alford's prior assertions of his record against the former National Coach of the Year, please see his late-game jig on the sidelines and reference to it in the post-game press conference for evidence to the contrary.

However, there wasn't much time for celebration by the Cyclones with just a 48-hour turnaround before hosting sacrificial lamb Savannah State. ISU looked ragged again, but that's somewhat to be expected following such a gut-wrenching victory.

Now, Iowa State sits at 7-1 with a week off for finals. While the ISU professors are evaluating the scholastic progress of the men's basketball team, it's time for us to do a preliminary evaluation of what we've seen on the court thus far. That's exactly what the coaches will be doing for the next five days.

  • Jake Sullivan: The preseason hype is warranted because Jake is a new man. His defense has improved, he's seeing the court better, and his ability to penetrate and score makes him the Cyclones' most dangerous offensive player. Sullivan's offensive repertoire reveals more craftiness than quickness, but it's effective nonetheless.
  • Tim Barnes: Perhaps the quickest player in the Floyd-Eustachy era of ISU basketball, and his presence as a floor general is the biggest difference from last season's grind because the Cyclones are getting more easy looks at the basket. However, he must become more of an offensive threat himself. Barnes was known as a quality shooter in junior college, but he's hitting just 43 percent of his field goals and 37 percent of his three-point attempts so far this season. Once conference play arrives he'll need to be over 50 percent shooting while converting 40-45 percent of his threes.
  • Jackson Vroman: At times Friday night against Iowa he was the Hawkeyes best player. Vroman was frankly lost for 30 minutes on both ends of the Carver-Hawkeye floor, and the Cyclones actually played better once he left the game with his fourth foul. But a few minutes to watch and learn paid dividends for Vroman and ISU. He was a man possessed down the stretch, and played with the reckless abandon Eustachy covets. Look for Vroman to play a pivotal role for ISU in the guard-oriented Big 12.
  • Jared Homan: Has been a major factor in two of the last three games. Could develop into a consistent 8-12-point scorer with 8-10 rebounds per game. There isn't a true low-post threat in the program, so more of that baby hook shot he showed against Savannah State would be an added bonus.
  • Adam Haluska: Is he already Iowa State's best overall player? Perhaps, and it's tough not to predict he won't be one of the best players in school history when it's all said and done. Who said the Cyclones would miss Shane Power? I apologize to all you Cyclone fans I previously described as Kool-Aid drinkers that believed last summer Power wouldn't start for this team. Surely he's not better than Haluska, who could be to ISU what Ricky Paulding was to Missouri last season.
  • Marcus Jefferson: Still struggling to find his niche in this program. Is he versatile or just a man without a position? Can he provide 8-10 points a night off the bench? Jefferson is perhaps the smoothest athlete in the program, but something seems to be lacking. Here's hoping the coaches can find it before conference play begins. There's going to at least be one night this winter when Jefferson will be asked to win a game for ISU because of the diminished depth. At some point he'll need to take over because of injury or foul-trouble. Right now he isn't up to the task.
  • Omar Bynum: When did he become a three-point specialist? Bynum came into the season in the doghouse for his use of recreational drugs while driving incident, but he has emerged to create a nice role for himself. He can spell Vroman or Homan without too much of a drop-off on the defensive end. Quality senior reserve.
  • Clint Varley: A poor-man's Stevie Johnson? Varley was the ignition switch against Iowa and is built like he's playing the wrong sport. Look for him to be called upon in similar circumstances throughout the season. He'll never play more than 10 minutes in any game, but with Varley it's about quality and not quantity.

Overall, the Cyclones still look to be on pace for our official prediction of 18-9 overall and 9-7 in the Big 12. That will be good enough for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth.

Iowa-ISU Post-Game Notes

The preseason introduction of Iowa Coach Steve Alford during the starting lineup announcement received a lukewarm response by the Carver-Hawkeye faithful…speaking of lukewarm, that's how I would describe the reception Pierre Pierce was getting in the arena tunnel afterwards. I never saw any of his teammates or coaches speaking to him and he was by himself almost the entire time. Mark my words: he will never play for Iowa again and as soon as his 200 hours of community service ends so will his career as a Hawkeye…Alford was ill with the flu and his voice was quite hoarse afterwards…the biggest roar of the evening was reserved for football coach Kirk Ferentz, who was entertaining a member of the Orange Bowl committee and several recruits at courtside. What made the reception particularly interesting is the crowd responded without Ferentz's name never actually being called. He was in the spotlight when the PA acknowledged the presence of the Orange Bowl's Larry Gautier…CN's very own Bill Seals made an interesting observation. For years, Hawkeye fans have left their seats in the final minutes, regardless of the score, to watch the game from the above concourse. That way, they're among the first to leave and beat the rush to the exits. Seals said he spotted one elderly lady who was leaving early with a bag containing a ball of yarn. She was knitting during the game…Was the media speculation about a lack of excitement for the game accurate? I can't speak for the fans, but the media certainly lacked enthusiasm. There were several empty seats in the media section.

Holiday Bonus: 10 Biggest Stories of 2002 That Didn't Happen but Should Have

We can't leave you for the rest of 2002 without some sort of obligatory list. Therefore, here are my top 10 stories that didn't happen this year but should have if I were intergalactic ruler for a day. Please note that this is satire, so if you're offended please learn how to take a joke. :)

10. Mark Prior to spend entire season with I-Cubs

Dateline: March 31, 2002

(Chicago, Ill.) – The Chicago Cubs today stunned their devoted faithful nation-wide by announcing that highly-touted prospect and former top pick Mark Prior, a talented pitcher out of USC, will spend the entire season down at triple-A Iowa. Prior had been expected to make a pit stop in Des Moines before making his way to the big leagues to be groomed as the next stud pitcher to be traded away by the Cubs in the prime of his career.

"We felt we were going to suck this year and every year hereafter anyway, so why waste his time and ours," said team president Andy McPhail. "Everyone knows what's going to happen eventually. As soon as he becomes a 20-game winner and leads us to the playoffs once, he'll end up with the Atlanta Braves and we'll end up with a bunch of Dominicans."

Prior's presence should help the Iowa Cubs set an all-time attendance record at Sec Taylor Stadium this season and perhaps give the organization the resources necessary to save its fledgling all-sports radio station.

9. Larry Eustachy inks exclusive radio partnership with Steve Deace

Dateline: April 1, 2002

(Ames, Ia.) – Breaking radio silence, the normally publicity shy Larry Eustachy sent shockwaves throughout the central Iowa radio industry on this day by signing a 10-year contract to become irreverent talk show host Steve Deace's cohort on his despised, yet highly-rated, afternoon drive program.

Eustachy, a two time Big 12 Coach of the Year and former National Coach of the Year at Iowa State, will continue to coach the Cyclones.

"This was the only way I get this lard-butt to stop calling me for interviews," Eustachy said. "Deace is annoying and stutters while talking too fast, but he has some beautiful blue eyes I just couldn't say no to. I look forward to our relationship, and testing the radio station's seven-second delay."

Eustachy said he was not worried about being paired with Deace and potentially being put into a position of having to be critical of his contemporaries.

"I don't like Steve Alford either," he said. "Besides, I know Deace will have my back since he's a mouthpiece for the athletic department here at Iowa State."

8. Luke Recker and Reggie Evans: "We won't shoot anymore"

Dateline: Feb. 14, 2002

(Iowa City, Ia.) – Deciding that team success was more important than individual stardom or improving their stock in the NBA draft, University of Iowa men's basketball players Luke Recker and Reggie Evans have decided not to take a single shot the rest of the regular season.

Recker and Evans had previously been known as "ball-hogs" by their teammates, but now say that making the NCAA Tournament is the focal-point throughout the rest of their senior campaigns.

"After three months of being booed and ripped on message boards, I've finally figured out I should stop trying to dribble left-handed through three defenders all the time," said Recker, who leads the Hawkeyes in scoring and turnovers. "The reason I kept doing that is because I didn't think any of my other teammates were any good. But heck, I figured since we're losing anyway, I might as well not be the only person who gets blamed. Therefore, it's time to let my teammates start turning it over and not play defense too."

Evans was a little more blunt in his reasoning.

"I can't shoot," he said.

Iowa men's basketball Coach Steve Alford could not be reached for comment.

7. Hawkeye Fans: "We're Better than ISU"

Dateline: June 1, 2002

(Des Moines, Ia.) – The bitter in-state rivalry between fans of Iowa and Iowa State reached a new low with yesterday's release of a report by the Iowa Board of Regents about sexual activity on in-state college campuses.

The report noted that recorded cases of sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, had climbed a whopping 36 percent at the University of Iowa since 1998. The increase was not quite as dramatic at Iowa State, with a rise of 31 percent.

The report's controversial results touched off a firestorm of phone calls into the popular Jan Mickelson radio program.

"The bottom line here Clowns is that we have more sluts and young men of low moral fiber than you do," a caller by the name of "George from Iowa City" said. "So you've got a little bit of a taste of Babylon over there in Ames, why don't you come back and talk smack when the sequel to the film Caligula has been shot on your campus."

Not to be outdone, a caller by the name of "Cyclone Dirk" noted that the "women are more chaste in the Big 12."

"They're not as loose as they are in the Little 11 Squawks," he said.

6. Pierre Pierce decides to prove his innocence

Dateline: November 1, 2002

(Iowa City, Ia.) – In a bold move, University of Iowa men's basketball player Pierre Pierce has ordered his attorneys not to accept or even begin negotiations for a plea bargain with the Johnson County prosecutor's office.

Pierce, who was charged with sexually assaulting a female student-athlete at the university back in September, said he believes so strongly in his innocence that he "will fight this all they way to clear my name."

"My lawyers think we could get a pretty favorable plea bargain looking at the evidence and her lack of wanting publicity through this case, but I'm after something higher here," said Pierce, flanked by his Coach Steve Alford and members of his family at a press conference. "I engaged in immoral activity that embarrassed my family and this basketball program, but I did nothing illegal and I'm determined to prove that in a court of law in order to clear my name."

Pierce also publicly apologized to the alleged victim in this case for "any pain or shame she may be experiencing now" but re-asserted his innocence by promising to testify at his trial.

5. Kirk Ferentz & Dan McCarney vow to stay in Iowa

Dateline: December 5, 2002

(Iowa City & Ames, Ia.) – Drawing praise across the board state-wide, football coaches Dan McCarney of Iowa State and Kirk Ferentz of Iowa each released simultaneous statements through their respective sports information departments vowing to finish their coaching careers at their respective institutions.

"This state is home to the both of us," each statement read. "We feel as if there isn't any other place we would rather be. We're both good friends, products of Hayden Fry's legacy, and we want to be here for as long as you fans and each of our administrations want us."

McCarney is undefeated against Ferentz and will lead ISU to a third straight bowl appearance for the first time in school history. Ferentz was just named AP National Coach of the Year after guiding Iowa to its first 8-0 Big Ten record and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

The two coaches next meet in Ames on Sept. 13, 2003.

4. Angie Lee breaks gender barrier at The Masters

Dateline: October 1, 2002

(Augusta, Ga.) – Bowing to months of political pressure from various feminist groups, venerable Augusta National Golf Course finally relented and admitted former University of Iowa womyn's basketball coach Angie Lee as its first female member.

"Hell has officially frozen over," said Hootie Johnson, the outspoken director of Augusta National. "But every cloud has a silver lining. At least with Angie, she'll fit right in among the men here at the club. In fact, we won't even have to invest in separate clubhouse facilities."

Lee, who held a joint press conference with Patricia Ireland and Martha Burke to announce the breaking of the gender-barrier at the golf club that hosts The Masters each April, said she was "proud to be the Rosa Parks of the feminist movement."

"I plan to smoke cigars and wear flannel on chilly days just like the guys do," Lee said. "But if anybody around here tries to fit me with one of those green jackets I'll club him with a night-stick."

3. Carol Maloney finally catches up with Kenny Pratt

Dateline: July 28, 2002

(Des Moines, Ia.) – One of the world's great cat-and-mouse games has finally come to an end.

Intrepid reporter Carol Maloney, who formerly worked for WHO-TV in central Iowa, has finally caught up with ex-Iowa State basketball star Kenny Pratt, whom she first chased out of the West Des Moines Dowling High School gym over four years ago.

After a thorough search that sent her to every corner of the globe, Maloney finally tracked her elusive prey all the way back to a bridge underneath Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines. Pratt was using a run-down Variety Club as shelter.

"It amazed me how many flea-bag, minor-league basketball leagues there are all over the world and this guy has played in every one of them," said the diminutive Maloney, who last year won the "Son of Sam Award" for Excellence in Stalking. "I just followed the fast food wrappers he left behind. This guy's like the Yasser Arafat of junk food, he eats at a different Hardee's every night."

Pratt claimed that "too much Nyquil" was the reason Maloney finally nabbed him and said he wants to "just keep it real now yo."

2. Ruth Crowe joins vast right-wing conspiracy

Dateline: June 10, 2002

(Ames, Ia.) – Saying she has "walked the road to Damascus and seen the light," Iowa State softball coach Ruth Crowe surprised not just her feminist colleagues, but also her old political opponents by officially joining the vast, right-wing conspiracy today.

Crowe credits watching reruns of the 1950s television western "The Rifleman" as being one of the reasons for her ideological turnabout.

"The lessons of faith, family, and values espoused in that program really touched me," said Crowe, who created an uproar in April with her decision to protest a collegiate softball game at Baylor because the private Baptist school held a prayer beforehand. "Hopefully I can use the late Chuck Connor as a role model, because he was someone who could balance values and popular culture along with athletics as well."

Connor was the series' main star as well as a prominent basketball player in his day.

Not everyone applauded Crowe's transformation.

"Betrayed might be the word I would choose in response," said former Iowa State associate athletic director Elaine Hieber. "Ruth only got where she was because of others that came before her that fought our struggle for mainstream acceptance and tolerance. To now turn your backs on those pioneers at this crucial juncture with bigoted Christian zealots now running the country is heresy, in my opinion."

Fearful that some of her new conservative allies might question her sincerity, Crowe posed for the cameras with her right-wing conspiracy membership card that she had personally autographed by former Ames Tribune columnist Todd Stevens.

1. "Tommy from Des Moines" Elected Governor

Dateline: November 6, 2002

(Des Moines, Ia.) – The ballots are in and it's clear voters sent both political parties a message on Election Day.

Tired of months of negative campaigning and personal attacks, Iowa's voters turned their backs on both Tom Vilsack and Doug Gross and instead used a stealth write-in campaign to elect "Tommy from Des Moines" the state's next governor.

Tommy from Des Moines, who is best know as the little man who calls every talk radio show in the state with "a comment and a question," will move into Terrace Hill after his swearing in next January.

Many of the state's political scientists had been hinting that voter disgust was at an all-time high this fall, but nobody saw the write-in campaign coming. There had been rumors of a "Tommy for Gov!" whispering campaign at a website known as hawkeyenation.com, but that had just been considered Internet innuendo by more respected media outlets.

Governor Vilsack's campaign promised to contest the results in court because "that's what we Democrats do best." Meanwhile, the Gross campaign called Tommy's election "another sad chapter in the history of the welfare state."

For his part, Tommy was taking his newly discovered prominence and stature in stride.

"I'm still calling Steve Alford on Hawk Talk this week," he said.

Tommy plans to make the theme for his first governor's ball "Ladies Night" on Feb. 14th.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Cyclone Nation™

On behalf of all of us here at Cyclone Nation™, allow me to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Please take some time out this holiday season from the shopping and hectic schedules to remember the reason for the season. And thank you to all of you who have supported CN and made it the most successful startup on TheInsiders network of collegiate sport sites.

(Steve Deace can be heard each Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460 KXNO, the flagship for the Cyclone Radio Network)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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