By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher
The Iowa State men’s basketball season has come to a close.
Things didn’t quite go as the Cyclone Nation had planned in 2010. No spinning can be done here Fanatics. It was an extremely disappointing season for everybody involved. For me, everything really sunk in today when when I looked at the NIT brackets and saw other Big 12 teams like Texas Tech listed.
Still, at the end of the day, no matter how bad things get, we have an obligation here at CycloneFanatic.com to now take a look back at the season that was.
So today Fanatics, I offer you up my 2010 end of the season Cyclone men’s basketball awards.
Biggest Story: Greg McDermott is coming back
From the Northwestern loss on, this debate continued on for the majority of the season.
Would and should Greg McDermott be Iowa State’s basketball coach in 2011? That was the hot question. Over the course of his first four seasons in Ames, McDermott has never won more than 15 games.
On Monday, March 8, Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard answered the critics by saying that McDermott would in fact be coming back for season number five. On that Monday morning, Pollard sent out an e-mail to donors and followed it up with a press conference.
Honorable Mention: The only other story that I even gave a sniff to in this category was Lucca Staiger’s departure from the team after the Nebraska game on Jan. 16. Despite what many want to believe, Staiger leaving for Europe left one giant hole in this team for the rest of the season. In fact, last week in Kansas City, one beat writer of an opposing Big 12 school told me that if Staiger had stayed at Iowa State, he believed that the Cyclones would be playing in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Is that a little farfetched? Maybe, but it certainly is an interesting conversation topic.
I think that saying this team would be playing this Thursday or Friday is a bit of a stretch but you’re crazy if you think that the German wouldn’t have made somewhat of a difference.
Including Iowa State’s Big 12 Tournament loss to Texas, the Cyclones lost nine conference games this season by less than 10 points. In a handful of those outings, the Cyclones were terrible from 3-point range. When Staiger left Ames, he was averaging 9.4 points per game and was 48-for-113 from 3-point range at the time. That’s a 43 percent 3-point shooter leaving in the middle of conference play. He was Iowa State’s marksman. Here’s another stat that will make you realize just how important Staiger was to this team. Staiger participated in only 17 Iowa State games this season and hit 48 3-pointers. Scott Christopherson played in 32 games this season. He only hit 45 threes. So that means that Staiger led the team in 3-pointers made and he only participated in 17 games. That is a big hole in an offense.
Some people want to say that losing Staiger didn’t make much of a difference? If you believe that, you are wrong.
Staiger might not have put Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament this year, but I’m convinced that he would have at the very least launched the Cyclones into the NIT.
Mr. Cyclone: Craig Brackins
Craig Brackins really didn’t have to do anything on the actual floor to win this award. I had already penciled him in last April when he chose to return to Iowa State for his junior season. Brackins’ career has now come to a close in Ames.
Brackins’ stats did see a bit of a drop off during his junior season as the big man averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. That was down from 20.2 and 9.5 as a sophomore.
In this case though to me, numbers don’t matter. Brackins passed up the chance to make millions to come back to Iowa State because he thought that this team could do something. He wanted to play in an NCAA Tournament while representing Iowa State University.
The guy could have averaged 10 and five this year and he still would have received my “Mr.Cyclone” award.
The coolest thing about Brackins isn’t even his basketball game. It is his personality. Craig Brackins is one of the good guys, a true Cyclone if you will.
He’ll be missed by many next year. The good news is that we’ll be able to watch him in the NBA next season. Good luck Craig.
Iron Man Award: Scott Christopherson
The dude played with mono this season. Fortunatley for me, I’ve never had the illness before but people have told me that this mono thing is no picnic.
Google Health describes mono like this.
Mono may begin slowly with fatigue, a general ill feeling, headache, and sore throat. The sore throat slowly gets worse. Your tonsils become swollen and develop a whitish-yellow covering. The lymph nodes in the neck are frequently swollen and painful.
Yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun (enter sarcastic tone). Christopherson is as tough as they come. Props to him on receiving our “Iron Man” award.
Most Improved Player: Justin Hamilton
This one hurts. Justin Hamilton saved his best basketball of the season for Big 12 Conference play when he was finally turning into a quality center for Greg McDermott. Hamilton ended the season by averaging 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. Last Friday, Iowa State announced that Hamilton is transferring away from Ames because he wants to be closer to home. Attempting to replace Hamilton with a JUCO in the spring is next to impossible. The coaching staff has quite the chore on their hands at this point in time.
Best Win: @ Kansas State on March 6, 2010
The Cyclones came out of nowhere to defeat fifth-ranked Kansas State on the road in their final game of the regular season on March 6. It turned out to be too little too late for this underachieving Cyclone team but still, it gave Iowa State fans a rare reason to smile at the end of the season.
Worst Loss: Northern Iowa, Dec. 2
This is where the tone changed on the season.
Iowa State blew an eight-point lead to Northwestern on Nov. 28 to lose their first game of the year. But the Cyclones shot 28 percent from the field in the second half during that one. At the time, I thought it was just a bad night.
It was on Dec. 2 against Northern Iowa when fans noticed what happened to become a trend. That was blowing leads in the second half in games that the team should have won. Northern Iowa outscored Iowa State 18-8 in the final 10 minutes in that particular contest to knock off the Cyclones.
It was after that game when I visibly saw the Iowa State fan base start to separate. The negativity took off at that point in time and I have to believe that had Iowa State found a way to in that game, the entire season could have gone differently. Maybe…maybe not. It is all hypothetical but to me, there is no doubt that blowing that lead against UNI at home was the most damaging loss of the season.
Worst play: Diante to Dendy vs. UNI
Hold on to the ball Diante! Do you remember the pass from Diante Garrett to LaRon Dendy in the closing minutes of this game that was followed up by the ugly air ball heard around the state? Yeah…no question here. That was by far the worst play of Iowa State’s 2010 season.
Best Play: Gilstrap posterizing Aldrich
Click on the video up above to see my 2010 Iowa State men’s basketball play of the year. There were actually a couple of times that Marquis Gilstrap absolutely posterized Kansas’ Cole Aldrich. Iowa State didn’t win the game but Gilstrap’s dunk was seen around the world as a top play on ESPN.
Honorable mention: More Marquis…CLICK HERE to see his sick jam vs. Chicago State.
Best Cyclone hoops coverage: CycloneFanatic.com
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Diante Garrett’s assist to turnover ration: Garrett turned the basketball over 15 less times as a junior compared to his sophomore campaign. Garrett dished out 164 assists this year compared to 82 turnovers. His numbers were 161 and 97 as a sophomore. This isn’t an alarming stat but it is definitely an improvement.
LaRon Dendy: Dendy went 69-for-115 from the field this year, shooting 60 percent and averaging 7.3 points per game. Again, not alarming but towards the end of the season, Dendy was very efficient with the basketball, which ultimately is encouraging for next year.
Scott Christopherson at the stripe: Christopherson went 33-for-39 from the charity stripe this season at 85 percent. If only he could get there more often.
Chris Colvin’s shooting: While pretty much everyone can agree that Colvin’s future as a point guard is bright, his shooting was anything but that during year number one of his career. Colvin went 29-of-105 from the field, shooting 28 percent as a freshman. Colvin was also 5-of-26 from 3-point range and 25-of-48 from the free throw line.
LaRon Dendy’s free throws: Dendy shot 42 percent from the free throw line for Iowa State this year by going 36-of-85 from the field. Ouch.
Team free throw percentage: LaRon wasn’t the only guy who struggled from the line. As a team, Iowa State ranked 11th in the Big 12 in free throw shooting at 66 percent on the season.
Turnover margin: Iowa State was 11th in the Big 12 in turnover margin this season at -1:25.
Feel free to add to and create your own post-season awards here at CycloneFanatic.com on our men’s basketball forum.