By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher
Who is ready for conference tournament week? Raise your hands Fanatics. I don’t want to hear any of that apathy talk today. Be a fan. Be excited. This is going to be an awfully fun week.
I’ll be heading down to Kansas City tomorrow morning to bring you all complete coverage of the 2010 men’s and women’s Big 12 basketball Tournaments. Before Saturday, I was a little bit concerned about the Iowa State men and how much work I’d actually have to do. Now, I am getting a feel from the Fanatic Nation that you all are at least tad bit excited about this team again. Am I wrong?
I will be honest with you here this morning. I don’t want to deflate the hot air balloon after the Kansas State win but I hate Iowa State’s draw in the tournament. A first round game with Texas will winnable, yet extremely tough. Sure, Texas is “down” but they still have the likes of Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Avery Bradley to worry about. Iowa State’s possible second round matchup would be against a Baylor team that has already beaten the Cyclones by 21 this year.
Still, the Cyclones will have more confidence than ever heading into Wednesday night’s 8:30 game with the Longhorns, after what went down on Saturday night in Manhattan.
That one came out of absolutely nowhere for me personally. It was a lot like the Nebraska football game from last season. Thanks to Trevor in Harlan for pointing that out on Saturday night’s KXNO Cyclone Soundoff program. Think about it though. In the football game against Nebraska, Iowa State played without Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson. The basketball team has lost close game after close game this season and finally, when Craig Brackins fouled out and the rest of the team was in serious foul trouble as well, the Clones finally pulled one off on the road against number five.
Weird isn’t it?
Nonetheless, it makes this week much more interesting on the men’s basketball front, which is a very positive thing.
Next year’s frontcourt
It is pretty common knowledge that Marquis Gilstrap and Craig Brackins will not be returning to Iowa State next season. That’s not a fact yet but it is definitely a popular assumption. While the Cyclones certainly won’t have an intimidating front line in 2011, LaRon Dendy’s recent play makes me think that the unit will be at the very least, respectable.
It seems like it was only yesterday that Dendy had made himself a nice, comfy little home in Greg McDermott’s doghouse. Now, the junior has come into his own as a division one player and was a huge part of the Cyclones upset over Kansas State. Dendy went 5-for-5 in that contest while scoring 10 points and grabbing three rebounds. In the last three games, Dendy has gone 11-for-17, scored 29 points and recorded 15 rebounds. Dominating? No. Efficient? Absolutely.
We can’t forget to give sophomore Justin Hamilton some love either. The massive Utah native is in my opinion, Iowa State’s most improved player this year and he’s put together a pretty decent little season, despite the team’s struggles as a whole.
Hamilton ended the regular season averaging 6.4 points per game with 5.5 rebounds. Like Dendy, his numbers certainly aren’t eye-popping but Hamilton has shown some real potential in Big 12 play. Hamilton’s numbers are up from 4.2 and 2.9 that he averaged as a freshman.
The perfect Senior Day, minus the illness of course
If you didn’t have the opportunity to watch Iowa State’s 59-41 Senior Day win over Colorado, here’s what went down.
All five seniors started for Bill Fennelly. Alison Lacey played for like three seconds and then came out. The other four (Anna Florzak, Shellie Mosman, Genesis Lightbourne and Denae Stuckey), three of which rarely play, held their own and did a nice job. Then, those three seniors sat down. Without their best player, Iowa State’s regulars dominated the Buffs and those three seniors all got to finish the game.
Subtract Lacey’s respiratory illness from the equation and you have one perfect Senior Day.
Now, the Cyclones are looking ahead to the Big 12 Tournament where they’ve secured the 2-seed and will play the winner of the 7-10 matchup, between Oklahoma State and Kansas. That will more than likely be Oklahoma State, who just beat the Cyclones last Wednesday by a 78-70 final. Still, that was without Lacey, who Bill Fennelly refers to as Iowa State’s “Peyton Manning.”
That’s what I am interested in with today’s upcoming Fennelly press conference. What is Lacey’s condition heading into tournament week? On Saturday, she told reporters that her health was improving.
Will she be at full strength when the Cyclones tip at 5 p.m. on Friday?
That could dictate the entire week for Cyclone fans. We shall see. I’ll bring you reports on that and more later on today here at CycloneFanatic.com.