I put the call out to all of the smart kids that follow me on Twitter and asked if there were any parts in particular about Iowa State basketball that they’d like me to address through three games this season.
This early in the season, I’m most interested in keeping the picture small and focused on Iowa State in an effort of “self-analysis” while college basketball schedules played are so varied and sample sizes are so small. Looking at any data on a team or individual basis wouldn’t really lead you to any grand and founded conclusions.
I actually received more response than I would’ve guessed with the main focus being if Dustin Hogue can “replace” Melvin Ejim, the rotation going forward, and defense. The defensive stuff I have some thoughts on but I want to wait a week or two for things to settle in before addressing. But, I will hopefully scratch the itch that some of you had on Hogue and the lineups we may see going forward. Along with those I’m going to blast my quick scouting overview on all of the ISU guys this year.
Georges Niang: So far this year, Georges has been, well, Georges. Offensively he was great against Oakland but struggled against Georgia State. In the latter game, his looks were different than usual because of the unorthodox zone that the Panthers used. He wasn’t typically getting the ball into his normal spots and in rhythm, and many times he seemed rushed.
In both games a decent number of his close range shots rimmed in and out which is discouraging, but so much of his scoring down low is predicated on touch from four to six feet out that it is bound to happen. He doesn’t usually get shots off going to the rim aggressively, sometimes but not usually.
So far he has been able to bang down low even with the loss of mass over the summer. Granted, he may be stronger but the fact is he lost weight and thus gave up some advantage with pushing others around in the paint. All in all, I think he should be fine in this area though. I think the biggest advantage we’ve seen with the “new Georges” is with his rebounding. Not because he’s jumping higher but because he is releasing off of his box outs a little bit quicker with his new found agility. Anyone can seal a guy off the glass but exploding to the ball is an underrated task in terms of difficulty, we’ll have to see how that continues going forward.
Bryce Dejean-Jones: I’m sold. Big time. He isn’t the same guy as DeAndre Kane and I’m not expecting him to stuff the stat sheet like Kane did but in terms of meshing with the team and fitting in with the scheme he seems so much further ahead than Kane was at this time last year. He had one spurt in the first half against Oakland where he settled for some shots but since then he has done really well. He’s only attempted five threes so far so the jury is still out on his ability there, but his stroke looks fluid.
His two blocks on R.J. Hunter of Georgia State played a huge role in really stifling the Panther offense and creating a couple of mini-runs for Iowa State to expand the lead. He struggled a bit to chase him through all of the screens and was hung up from time to time, but he was able to make up for that with his explosiveness. If he continues on this path Iowa State will be very tough to handle. His one area of concern for me is that he gets a bit loose with the ball when he’s dribbling up the court or during his indecisive moments, but that’s correctable and he’s off to a great start in Ames.
Monte Morris: I said I wouldn’t really be using stats, but, 37.5 minutes per game, 16.5 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game, 6.5 assists per game, one turnover per game, while shooting 64.7 percent from the floor and 66.7 percent from distance. That is basically a dream stat line for a point guard – even if the scoring dips as it likely will going forward. He’s been handling the ball, creating, and taking care of it while scoring extremely efficiently. Defensively he did very well against Harrow of Georgia State as well by keeping him out of the paint. Last season Morris was great chasing shooters around screens. If he can defensively clamp down with his on ball defense….oh, man.
My only minor gripe with Monte so far has been in the half court on offense he’s held the ball in some spots a bit too long or got lost in himself dribbling a few times. Especially against the zone of Georgia State he needs to move the ball and get the zone shifting so the offense can find gaps to exploit.
Naz Long: He’s 7-for-18 from the 3-point line in two games and the epitome of the theory of my high school basketball coach, “When you’re hot; keep shooting. When you’re cold; shoot until you’re hot.” Sounds easy enough, but it takes stones to keep firing them up there after missing two, three, or four in a row. He’s been what I’ve expected, only slightly better than I would’ve hoped.
He competed very well against Hunter chasing him off of screens and surprised me with his ability on the ball. I’m not sure he can fill the “stopper” role, but he is looking more and more like a viable option against the opposition’s best perimeter players.
Dustin Hogue: I can’t pin it on a single strength of his, but I just love him so much. He isn’t the most skilled player on the roster this year but he knows how to get the job done. It was a bit nip and tuck early last season with his shot selection and settling for long jumpers but he has curtailed that to the point where I would say his shot selection is very good. It’s okay for him to take an open 3-pointer on occasion but he also realizes that it typically isn’t the best option for the team.
He has learned to pick his spots really, really well. Rarely do you see him try to get to the rim from the perimeter but when he has the ball 12-15 feet out he is lethal with his first step and strong enough to get all the way to the rim. My only minor complaint is that he tries to avoid contact a lot around the rim to make a shot when every once in a while he just has to go hard at the rim and get fouled. On occasion it may end in a blocked shot but acrobatically avoiding contact and missing isn’t any better. It’s dicey either way and definitely a picking of a nit.
He’s an athletic freak when you overlay his leaping ability with his quickness and strength. And on top of all of that, the aspect we love about our players more than anyone is the fact that he’s always flying around and getting dirty. Last year a West Virginia player took a Nike to the chest when he corralled a rebound, against Georgia State a player got a flailing elbow to the back of the head. One of these days he may accidentally kill a guy just trying to get a rebound.
All told, I don’t think he’ll “replace” Ejim, but he is certainly capable of filling a lot of the same voids that Ejim did. The biggest difference in their games other than Melvin being a bit more skilled on offense is that Hogue isn’t as strong of a post defender. Some of that boils down to size and strength, but a lot of it is positioning and beating guys to spots. So far he hasn’t been in this situation much this year but he will be at some point, especially before the arrival of Jameel McKay in late December.
As for the rotation? For as much as we think we know right now, that is likely to change with the additions of Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader. Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Clayton Custer, and Daniel Edozie have been solid so far in the chances they’ve had but they’ll still need to earn some trust in games against bigger opponents. As the season continues they’ll each likely be needed in a spot here and there due to fouls or injuries. The nice thing about them is one is a point guard, one is a wing, and one is a post that can bang so they cover all of the bases.
Their minutes will be spotty but prior to McKay I think we’ll still see them with the rotation primarily being seven guys…and eight once McKay is involved.
Monte, Dejean-Jones, and Niang are going to play a whole lot and we’ve seen that so far while Hogue won’t be far behind. I think Matt Thomas and Naz Long will be somewhat interchangeable where Hoiberg will go with the hot hand, but Long probably has the advantage as of right now on which will play more minutes. The biggest question for me is how will Nader integrate and what does his scouting report look like?
We’re still so early in the season that we don’t know much at all. But similar to a PGA golf event where you can’t win a tournament on Thursday but you certainly lose it, this Cyclone season hasn’t lost any of the hype that it had all summer and fall. There’s still work to be done and questions to be answered but I think we all have faith in Fred Hoiberg.