Iowa State Cyclones
Overall Rank: #138
Conference Rank: #11 Big 12
2006-07: 15-16, 6-10, 7th (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
On paper it may not look like it, but Iowa State is headed in the right direction under Coach Greg McDermott. There is something to be said about addition by subtraction, but that will not catapult the Cyclones up to the level of the conference elite overnight. The newcomers are good and will be asked to do a lot this year, but they just cannot compete with the likes of Kansas and Texas quite yet.
The big, or at least more relevant, losses are not graduating seniors. Dodie Dunson, Corey McIntosh and Ross Marsden have all left Ames early. Dunson averaged 5.2 points per game and McIntosh added 4.4 per contest and started 29 games. Marsden was a decent big man spending most of the year coming off the bench. Forward Jessan Gray, another roleplayer, has run out of eligibility. Little used Chris Caeser, Jeff Bergstrom and Dustin Streff have wrapped up their careers at Iowa State.
In the frontcourt, Alex Thompson and Craig Brackins are expected to make an immediate impact. Thompson, an unfair delayed trade for Adam Haluska from Iowa, has the potential to crack the starting lineup. At 6-10, 230 pounds Thompson will at least play the same role as he did at Iowa, a big body who can eat up a few fouls and grab some rebounds. He does have the ability to step out and hit the three-ball, which will spread out the opposition. Brackins is already a Big 12 caliber shot blocker. For being 6-10 and 220 pounds, he has some surprising quickness and if the offensive game improves enough, Brackins will be too good to keep on the bench. Center Clayton Vette won Iowa’s Mr. Basketball, but may find it difficult to see too many minutes as freshman. The help is really needed in the backcourt. Diante Garrett may end up to be the most important player on the team. The 6-4 Wisconsin product can play both guard positions, but ISU desperately, really desperately, needs a consistent point guard. Garrett is a creative and smart playmaker and will need to quickly adjust to life in the Big 12 if the Cyclones want a shot at the postseason. Lucca Staiger highlights a long list of incoming guards that includes Charles Boozer, Marcus Brister, Cameron Lee, Bryan Petersen and Sean Haluska, who scored 19 points fewer than his brother Adam during his senior year of high school. The younger Haluska spent two years at Indian Hills Community College, thus a transfer to Iowa is unlikely.
Who to Watch:
Most of the returning talent is in the frontcourt. Sophomore Wesley Johnson was one of the few bright spots during the 2006-2007 campaign. The 6-7 forward averaged 12.3 points and a team high 7.9 rebounds and will be a superstar in the conference if the rest of his team can begin to compete at a higher level. By the numbers, center Jiri Hubalek is not far behind Johnson, averaging 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds. The 6-11 Czech Republic native earned second team All-Big 12 accolades and is looking for even bigger things for his senior campaign. Rahshon Clark will not put up the offensive numbers of Johnson, but the 6-6 forward will do a little bit of everything. He is a decent shotblocker, can use his long arms to pick up some steals and is aggressive on the glass.
The frontcourt is good…it is the backcourt that has had some issues. Mike Taylor was forced into a point guard role and responded by committing 5.4 turnovers per game. Taylor, whose status is still uncertain following an offseason incident, is a good scorer and averaged 16.0 points per game, but the Cyclones need a new ballhandler. If freshman Garrett can run the show, Taylor will be able to be more effective moving over to the off-guard position. If not, there is no reason to believe this version of Iowa State will be better than the last.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Diante Garrett, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
MikeTaylor, Senior, Guard, 16.0 points per game
Wesley Johnson, Sophomore, Forward, 12.3 points per game
Rahshon Clark, Senior, Forward, 6.4 points per game
Jiri Hubalek, Senior, Center, 11.2 points per game