It’s always fun to sit down and crank out a joint column with a guy I met on Twitter a long time ago, Kyle Porter, publisher of PistolsFiringBlog.com. He is a good dude and his guys do great work over there. We thought that with our teams meeting in the Big 12 Tournament’s quarterfinals on Thursday (11:30 a.m. on ESPN2), this was a good opportunity to pick each other’s brains. Enjoy.
CW: I’m down here in Kansas City prepping for tomorrow’s game and something just came to me: You guys have to totally hate Iowa State, right? The Cyclones have won nine in a row against Oklahoma State by an average of four points or less. Guys like Matt Thomas and Monte Morris have NEVER lost to the Cowboys in their careers. But it’s taken multiple buzzer beaters and nail biters to get to that point. I feel like there is some mutual respect between these two fan bases that have a lot in common. But be honest with me, Kyle. Do you hate Iowa State?
KP: I know I should hate Iowa State given the last four years and that unspeakable thing that happened in November 2011, but I do not. There is too much history, too many ties to the Big 8 and too many similarities with teams like Kansas State and Iowa State to Oklahoma State to truly loathe the school or the program (I have no idea if you guys are fond of being grouped with Kansas State). I remember the Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley days like they were yesterday. Hell, I remember The Mayor squaring off with Eric Piatkowski as Johnny Orr and Danny Nee looked on. Good times, man. I think you and I are both pretty nostalgic when it comes to Big 8 hoops.
How are you feeling about Iowa State as a program these days? They finished exactly where they were picked in the Big 12 this year (4th), but moving on from Hoiberg had to be difficult. Do you like ISU’s trajectory?
CW: I hear you when it comes to the nostalgia. I actually had the opportunity to call a women’s game at Gallagher-Iba last year and was blown away with my experience (and first trip to Stillwater). When I look at that place on TV, all that runs through my mind is nightmares of “Big Country” and the sound of Doug Gottlieb’s voice. Cool place. Really reminds me a lot of Hilton and also Allen Fieldhouse. I love the old, Big 8 arenas and that’s a special place you guys have at OSU.
You know that’s a really interesting question about the future of Iowa State. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled when Prohm was hired. There’s something about hiring a mid-major coach who has the best job in his league to Ames, Iowa, the northern post of the Big 12 that makes me nervous. The same goes with Matt Campbell in football. But Prohm has blown me away. He’s recruiting well and replacing Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State is way more of a difficult task than most people around the country can truly appreciate. Honestly, I am prepared for this phenomenal run of Iowa State basketball to take a step back next year. It has to. But the amount of faith I have in Prohm today compared to a year ago sitting here in Kansas City has greatly increased.
You know, Kyle, I am a huge fan of Brad Underwood. I know that Iowa State took a long look at him when they hired Prohm and he was a guy I would have been thrilled with landing. It’s hard to argue against Bill Self but I think after the turnaround from that 0-6 star, Underwood had a very strong case to be the Big 12’s Coach of the Year.
You have to be thrilled with what the future looks like, right?
KP: Oh for sure. Somebody asked me the other day whether I would rather have Self or Underwood long-term, and of course I said Self … but I at least thought about it which is the highest compliment I can give somebody like Underwood. He has been the shot
of tequila in the arm OSU needed.
The dirty little secret in Stillwater is that OSU has not been very good at Big 12 basketball in over a decade since Eddie Sutton left. You might not believe this — I didn’t at first — but this year’s No. 5 seed is the second-highest OSU has had in this tournament since … 2005! Holy Luke Axtell that is a long time!
We have talked a lot about what success is for OSU hoops, but before I reveal my side of that I’m curious to hear what you think about the ‘Clones. What is a successful season in Ames, Iowa, and did ISU just have one or does it depend on what happens this week and over the next fortnight?
CW: Yeah I never would have guessed that stat you just threw down about Oklahoma State’s seeding.
Yes, going 12-6 in the league and tying for second is absolutely a successful year for Iowa State. It was pretty dicey early on though. I thought that the fan base was going to implode after a mid-December loss to Iowa – game that really was never that close.
The next two weeks are what will decide how fans remember this season though. Last year’s 10-8 Big 12 record with the great Georges Niang was a massive disappointment but fans pretty much forgot about it after making a run to the Sweet 16.
What are expectations for OSU immediately under Underwood?
Also, let’s get down to it. Iowa State is 2-0 vs. the Pokes this year but I think it is critical to point out that in the last 12 games played between these two teams, the contests have been decided by an average of 4.7 points.
To play the role of Clone homer, I’ll take Iowa State by two but truly see this as 50-50 and wouldn’t be surprised to see this game go either way.
Regardless, best of luck to you all from a Clone. Evans is a beast. Underwood is elite and from an outsider, the future appears to be bright in Stillwater.
Oh, and like you didn’t already know this, but Mike Gundy’s hair is that of a legend.
KP: Print the Gundy t-shirts (which we are … soon).
Expectations for Underwood are on a three-year scale. Get the thing pointed in the right direction by Year 3, and then let’s talk. This year it, strangely, felt like he was playing with house money. I know that’s an odd thing to say about Year 1 of any administration, but his bent on trying to build a culture to last a decade instead of a couple of months is important.
Travis Ford tried to win it all every year and then hit the rest button every April. That’s no way to build a program-builder. OSU, when rolling, should finish in the top half of the Big 12 every season and play a second-round game to go to the Sweet 16 every season. That is the standard. It is also the average. Some years you’re going to do better. Some years slightly worse. But over the course of a long period of time that’s where you should be.
It seems like that’s where Underwood is headed.
I’ll say Pokes by four on Thursday. I’m with you — it’s a 50-50 game — but I’m going to go with the old adage: “You might beat a team nine times in a row including two in the same season and several that went to overtime and one that the other team’s coach failed to get his players to foul while up three before throwing them all under the bus in the postgame press conference, but you won’t do it 10 times in a row.”
Enjoy the festivities.