Inside Iowa State
Iowa State comes in having won three games in a row: home wins versus Georgia and Marquette, and sandwiched in between an impressive victory at Tallahassee against Florida State. The Cyclones are ecstatic to be coming to New York to play in front of a nationally televised audience. "It's going to be a great experience for guys like John Neal," said Wayne Morgan, Iowa State's Head Coach, after their quarterfinal victory against Marquette. John Neal was one of two walk-ons that joined the Cyclones in 2002-03. He is one of the feel-good stories having worked his way into the rotation and having started 5 games on the year - though he sees limited action he can and likely will be used as a selective deep threat from downtown, where Neal shoots 38% on the season. Though Iowa State plays predominantly a 6- or 7-man rotation they can go a bit deeper into their bench if needed. The team features a very balanced scoring attack led by two rising stars in Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock - two prolific players that will be nationally recognized by the time their Cyclone careers come to an end.
Wayne Morgan was designated as Iowa State University's 17th men's basketball coach May 14, 2003, in the wake of Larry Eustachy's disgraceful resignation from the university more than 10 months ago. Morgan was an assistant at Iowa State last season. He has led Iowa State to a 20-12 (7-9 Big 12 Conference) record (improving on the 5-11 conference mark of one year ago), including several key wins over prominent programs (Kansas, Texas, and Xavier).
This will be a homecoming of sorts for Curtis Stinson, a Freshman Guard from the Bronx, NY, who led Iowa State in scoring this season, averaging 15.7 points per game. He also added and impressive 6.1 rebounds per game. Numerous services had Curtis ranked as a Top 100 player nationally: he was rated the 91st-best player in the nation according to ESPN.com and No. 94 by Prepstars.com. Curtis leads the team in minutes played at 35 per game. He is a fantastic ball handler that will find a way to the rim. The one aspect of his game that needs to be improved in the off-season will be his shooting. He has struggled at the charity stripe this year (63%) and he is prone prone to turning the ball over with a slightly better than 1-1 assist to turnover ratio. Though not an easy task, Rutgers will need to clog the lanes against Stinson and force the freshman guard to the perimeter.
Jake Sullivan, a Senior Guard from Oakdale Minnesota, is a pure spot-up 3 point shooter. He leads the team in attempted and made threes while converting at a 39% clip from downtown. He is also one of the top free throw shooters in the nation having missed only 6 of 87 free throws on the season. At 93% Jake is as automatic as they come. Rutgers will have to be wary of where Jake is on the court at all times, and while tough, physical defense will be a must, the Scarlet Knights must limit silly fouls and limit his free throw opportunities.
Will Blalock was one of the top prep Point Guards last season while being heavily recruited by the Big East (including Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Miami). He was a Top 100 player nationally by several publications, including ESPN.com, Prepstars.com, and an honorable mention All-American pick by Street & Smith's. He is selective in his shots from beyond three, though he converts at a team-leading 42% clip - he also leads the team with better than 1.5 steals per game. Though in his freshman season only, Will has emerged as one of the stars on this team.
John Neal, a lanky 6'4" 190-pound two-guard, was one of two walk-ons joining Iowa State in 2002-03. He is one of the feel-good stories on the Cyclones having worked his way into the rotation - though he sees limited action he has started 5 games this year and averages slightly better than 10 minutes per game. He can be a threat from beyond the arc, where he shoots 38% on the season. Marcus Jefferson, a redshirt Senior swingman, transferred from Providence in 2000 where he averaged 3.5 points and just a shade over 17 minutes per game. He has started 8 games this year and is Iowa State's first off the bench. Very athletic jump shooter averaging 6 points and 3.7 rebounds on the season.
Jackson Vroman, a 6'10" C/F has returned for his senior season and has played like one the better post players in the Big 12 Conference. He can shoot with either hand, making it very difficult for opposing defenses to guard and is a workhorse on the glass. He leads the team in shooting at 56% and averages a near double-double at 13.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Rutgers best option may be to use their fouls and put Vroman on the charity line where he has struggled this year, shooting at a 51% clip.
Jared Homan, a Junior, plays the Center spot at 6'9" and 245-pounds. He provides Iowa State with toughness and energy. He is a fierce competitor who battles underneath and blocks shots at a steady pace. He is one of the best shot-blockers in Cyclone history and is averaging slightly better than 2.3 blocks per game on the season.
Coming off the bench to back up the C/F spots will be, Damion Staple. A Junior College transfer, Damion earned second-team junior college All-America honors. Damion shoots 50% from the floor and brings quality minutes off the bench.
Reggie George, a 6'9" Freshman from Notre Dame Prep. in Chicago will back up the Center spot. Reggie has seen limited action this year but will be called upon in case of foul trouble.
Notes: Rutgers and Iowa State have one common opponent this year: each team has played and defeated Northern Colorado. Iowa State won 89-63 and Rutgers defeated the Bears 102-52. Like Rutgers, Iowa State is vastly superior at home, having posted a 17-1 record at Ames and a less than stellar 2-10 record away.
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