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Basketball

MAILBAG: Concern vs. panic

Lots of hoops today. Let’s start with a question from jsb. 

Jsb writes: When is that baby going to arrive? With your crazy schedule, I feel like I’ll be listening to your radio show or podcast and you will suddenly run out all sitcom-style to have a kid! :). Seriously though, good luck! I bet your wife (and you) is ready!

What’s the proper balance of panic vs. calmness to have about this team? My general personality tends to panic, but then I read some posts on here and I think I am calm. Did we maybe have too high expectations for this year since we lost Mel and DeAndre? 

CW: First of all, thank you for asking about Baby (Georges) Williams. Any day now and let me tell you, I cannot wait to be a father! I wish that the little rascal would just come out already but hey, we’ve got to be patient! You are correct though. I could get a call/text at any moment so stay tuned!

As far as this Iowa State basketball team goes, I’d say to sit tight on the panic vs. calmness debate.

I do think that this year’s team lacks some of the chemistry that last year’s group had but having said that, the talent to do something special is certainly there.

Don’t overreact to losing to Oklahoma on the road. That Oklahoma team is better than its record indicates. Iowa State’s last two losses were road games against what I think are top 15 teams playing on one day’s rest in the toughest conference in America. 

Relax.  

It’s the way Iowa State lost on Monday night that worries me. It seems like when things go wrong with this group, it just loses its mind. I want to see a team that thrives when adversity hits. We haven’t seen the Cyclones consistently do that this season. 

Having said that, last year’s team survived a ton of close games by hitting clutch shots in the final minute. This team hasn’t really put itself in the position (on the road) to make those plays.

Believe it or not, it is still early. If a Final Four was your expectation, I’d be concerned. But it’s far too early to hit the panic button too.

GoClones123 writes: Do you think this team will "figure it out" or "click" in late February or early March?? If so…Will it be due to a rotation change or players figuring it out on the court?

CW: I’ll say yes, this team will figure it out, only because of Fred Hoiberg’s track record and not because of what I’ve seen on the court. Under Hoiberg’s tutelage, the Cyclones have always figured it out by the time March rolls around. I don’t see a rotation change or anything like that being the key here. I see Hoiberg’s behind-the-scenes work with this group having more to do with it than anything. 

LSUClone writes: Have we heard anything on how Deonte Burton looks during practice?

CW: So far, really good. That’s usually what we (media) hear about scout team transfers though so don’t read too much into that. I did hear a story about how Burton absolutely dominated his first practice at Iowa State though, which was encouraging.  

MNclone writes: Big Monday games, are they a good thing or a bad thing?

CW: Iowa State being on Big Monday is a very good thing. I get that the turnaround is a pain in the rear, but you don’t hear Bill Self and Kansas complaining about it.

Remember back in the day when Iowa State was never in the spotlight? If you don’t, then just trust me. This is much better.

Gogagig writes: Is UNI better than ISU at this point in the season as the polls suggest?

CW: Oh man…

No. I don’t think so. Iowa State clearly has more raw talent but as I tweeted yesterday when the AP Top 25 was released (with UNI at 13 and Iowa State at 14), the Panthers would be an awful matchup for the Cyclones in my opinion, just like they always are.

On a neutral floor, I think it would be a really good game. 

Jbhtexas writes: Why do you think it is, in situations like last night, when ISU is getting absolutely mauled on defense in the paint (14 offensive rebounds given up, 44 points in the paint given up, 20 second chance points given up), that Hoiberg won’t at least try a more physical player like Edozie for 5-10 minutes? Edozie has shown he can be at least serviceable in the Big 12. Especially in the second half last night, where it was just going from bad to worse in the defensive paint midway through the second half and the OU lead was growing?

CW: It’s funny because this is a conversation that I have with my podcast partner and CF Sales Director Adam Gray all of the time. He’s just like you and wants more Edozie for the exact reasons you spelled out. 

I think Fred’s problem with playing Edozie in that situation is the amount of offense he would lose along with the belief that the guys out there are perfectly capable of defending better if they want to. Fred likes to have five guys who can handle and shoot the basketball on the floor at all times. That’s what makes Hoiball, “Hoiball.” Edozie can’t really do either one of those things.

But if Iowa State keeps losing the same way over and over again, I guess I wouldn’t be shocked if we see more of the big man more. Having said that though, my guess is that we probably won’t.

Cycloneworld writes: Why does Bryce Dejean-Jones seem to get so much criticism? His stats aren’t far off from Niang’s and better in many categories.

CW: There are two things that are working against Bryce in my opinion.

The first is his past. Fair or not, it’s going to follow him around and the second he stepped on campus, people had it in the back of their minds.

Secondly, I don’t think that Bryce’s body language when he’s not in the game does him a whole lot of good. There isn’t a lot of cheering for teammates going on. Perhaps that isn’t fair. Some guys are more vocal than others.

Georges Niang on the other hand is probably the most charismatic player I’ve ever covered at Iowa State and he’s really good, which explains why he’s such a fan favorite.

Thomasrickj writes: To me, it seems like this team lacks a true leader and that killer instinct. In year 2 it was Royce White. In year 3, it was Chris Babb. Last year, it was Kane and Ejim. We all thought it would be Niang and/or Naz this year but it hasn’t been yet. Who, if anybody, steps up for this team? If not, I feel we are in a ton of trouble.

CW: It has to be Georges and Naz and a little bit of Monte Morris as well. It’s on those guys. Nothing has changed since the start of the season when it comes to who the leaders are of this group. 

Erikbj writes: Is Fred opposed to throwing a zone defense in the mix, especially when McKay is on the court? Obviously the man-to-man defense has been ineffective. Kruger went hard at Georges last night and he got abused, plus he was wore out on offense, which resulted in turnovers and not scoring.

CW: I think the turnovers were more a result of Iowa State kind of just losing its mind than it was fatigue but I could be wrong. The careless play on offense and allowing so many second-chance opportunities is even a larger deal than Iowa State’s defense, in my opinion. Sure those two things up and a lot of improvement will be seen.

Having said that, I feel it is appropriate to reference a tweet that my good friend Brent Blum sent out earlier today. 

"Of the past 44 Final 4 teams, only one has not been in the top 50 of defensive efficiency (VCU in 2011). Iowa State is currently 119th."

Kentkel writes: Since I know you are a big-time country music fan, which country song would best describe Iowa State’s recent road woes? 

CW: Not about road woes, but about how sweet Hilton is. Take it from here, Justin Moore.

Bigman38 writes: I was surprised at the reaction of the board after losing to a really good team on the road. Think it’s rooted in the loss at Tech and the feeling that ISU needs to steal one to make up for it?

CW: First of all, no reaction from the Fanatics surprises me anymore.That’s why you guys are Fanatics! 

Secondly, yeah, you’re probably somewhat right. I think a lot of people thought that if Iowa State could win last night, it would semi-erase the nightmare in Lubbock.

Iowa State wasn’t supposed to win last night, so losing wasn’t the big gripe. I think how they lost bothered more people than anything. 

CyFan61 writes: What’s your take on Matt Thomas? He is 1-10 from behind the arc over the last five games, including an airball of a pretty open shot last night and he seems to be a defensive liability (although you could say that about the team as a whole).

Fred went with a seven-man rotation last year and had success. Is there a chance he goes to more of a seven-man thing again and cuts Thomas out? 

CW: Yes, there is absolutely a chance that Thomas is the odd man out going forward and writing that pained me. There’s nothing I’d like to see more than this young man reach his potential but mentally, Matt just isn’t there right now. It’s clear as day to see. He has no confidence at all and it’s unfortunate because Matt is the type of player that Iowa State could use right now. But yeah, I think that down the stretch, the rotation will shrink and unless he starts producing (and Fred has given him ample opportunities to do so), Thomas could be seeing fewer and fewer minutes down the stretch.  

Cpech56 writes: If you were stranded on an island and could only watch one more of Iowa State’s remaining 7 Big 12 games, which one would you choose and why?

CW: Monday, March 2 when Oklahoma comes to town. Why? Did you watch last night’s game? So entertaining. 

CoKane writes: What is one match you hope gets added to the Wrestlemania card this year other than Reigns vs. Lesnar?

CW: We have to see HHH vs. Sting, right? 

Forget Reigns…Get Daniel Bryan in that match vs. Lesnar. 

Still dreaming – just dreaming – about a CM Punk return. 

DandyCyclone writes: What is your very early projection on the number of wins the football team can get in 2015?

CW: 12-0. 

Okay, seriously…Anywhere from 3-6 wins. I like the early schedule but there’s a lot that has to happen before Iowa State can get back in a bowl game. 

Stay tuned. 

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