Monday, December 20, 2010

T.E.A.M. Effort Sparks Royal Boys To Win Over Nevada


It wasn't a perfect performance, but there were times during tonight's game against Nevada when you saw just how great this Royals team can be. Especially when players like Nathan Thompson, Bryan Angell, Anthony Lawson and Brandyn Niemeyer play as well as they did during key stretches of the ball game. All four players made important plays and baskets to help the Royals to a 10-point win at home against their Highway 30 rivals. Three of those four players came off the Colo-Nesco bench. Angell, Lawson and Niemeyer combined for 5 three-pointers; an aspect of the Royals' offense that has been sorely missing. The Royals improved to 8-1, with another game in Colo scheduled for Tuesday evening. It will be a special night for Brandon Eley, who will be honored for scoring his 1,000th career point. It's also Brandon's birthday, and he will be signing his letter to play college basketball at 3 pm.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Royal Boys Win In Double Overtime!

The two hour drive to Tripoli Friday evening was worth every second.

Each possession in the boys basketball game was also worth every second as
the Colo-Nesco boys won in double overtime, 65-56.

You'll have to read complete coverage in next Thursday's Nevada Journal
article, but to sum it up, there we're 19 lead changes in the fourth
quarter and overtimes and 4 Royals scored in double figures after a
lack-luster start offensively. And, there was a miracle three-pointer by Tripoli at the buzzer in the first OT to tie it (and miracle is no exaggeration) and send it to a 2nd OT.

The Royals finally pulled away in the second OT to win it. Brandon Eley
led the way with 21 points, but I'd have to say the most valuable players
in this one were Garrett Eley and Austin Larsen. Filling in for injured
Weston Neuendorf, Garrett had 10 points; many of those at critical moments
in the game. Larsen had 15 points, making big plays and big free throws
when needed most. Ethan Jamison's 10 points in the second half and
overtimes were equally critical. And Brandon Niemeyer's three-pointer off
the bench late in the fourth quarter gave Colo-Nesco its first lead of the
second half. That was a huge play. Brian Angell rounded out the scoring
with 6 points.

Both boys and girls teams play today, Saturday, in Colo against Collins

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Like Father, Like Son

As I was reading/critiquing this weeks Nevada Journal article I wrote, entitled “Royals roll to 4-0,” I had a major déjà vu moment.

When I was looking at the stats Brandon Eley put up in the game against Meskwaki last week, I remembered writing about his dad, Dwight, in my Royal Reign book, and seeing similar stats in a game in his senior season.

Just how similar is almost eerie. In case you missed it, Brandon scored 31 points on 15-19 shooting last Tuesday against Meskwaki. He also nearly had a triple-double with 18 rebounds and 9 assists. The Royals put up 76 points against Meskwaki. Nearly 26 years ago to the date, his dad Dwight scored 31 points on 13-17 shooting in a 74-52 victory over Radcliffe. Oddly enough, Dwight’s teammate, Ed Vaske DID put up a triple double in that very same game with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. That 1985 team started the season 12-0. Their first loss came at the hands of Northeast Hamilton, 63-52. Northeast Hamilton is currently rated in this year’s top ten in class 1a.

Weird stuff, huh?
Kinda makes me want to go see Fred Fredregill for some Mama’s Pizza and follow it up with a doughnut for dessert at the old Reece’s gas station for old times sake!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Showdown Week! Royal Boys and Girls Set To Face Top-Rated Teams

After a great start to the season, the Colo-Nesco boys and girls are set for big match ups the week of December 12th.

On Tuesday, the Colo-Nesco boys--ranked #5 in the latest Iowa Sports Connection poll, take on #2 Don Bosco in Colo. Colo-Nesco is off to a 5-0 start after three straight blowout victories this week. The Royals won games against East Marshall, Meskwaki Settlement and GMG, Garwin by an average of 37 points. Don Bosco is 3-0 after victories over GMG, Garwin (65-25), Waterloo Christian (39-24) and Meskwaki Settlement (55-37). Don Bosco was 23-2 last season and returned 4 of their top 6 scorers, led by Nate Springer’s 13 points per game. The Dons like the three-point shot: Eric Nie made 57 three-pointers last season, and Nick Rosauer made 37.

On Friday, the Colo-Nesco girls face #1 ranked Tripoli on the road. Colo-Nesco evened its record to 3-3 after a 44-37 victory over GMG, at Garwin Friday night. With the win, the Royal girls have won back-to-back games for the first time since February 2009. Tripoli finished 18-5 last season and lost only one starter from that squad. Megan Gilbert and Erica Ollendieck are the leading returnees; both averaged over 11 points and 6 rebounds in 2009-2010.

Highlights from this past week’s games include Brandon Eley’s near triple double for the boys and Jessica Johnson’s double-double for the girls. Eley had 31 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists in a win over Meskwaki Settlement. Johnson had 13 points and 11 rebounds in the girls’ win over Meskwaki.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Barnburner!! Royal Boys Win Last Second Thriller

The Royals were on the road to play North Tama, state football champions last month, so they knew it could be a physical game. As expected, the game's intensity was as hot as a burning barn, with two of the Royals best players getting into foul trouble, but the Royal boys came out on top in the end, 49-48. The lead changed hands 6 times in the fourth quarter and was tied once. I have to save play-by-play and in-depth coverage for the Nevada Journal article, but essentially, it was a Brandon Eley lay-in with 7 seconds left that gave the Royals the 1-point victory. North Tama had 2 chances at the buzzer, but couldn't make them fall, and the large crowd that made the long road trip to Traer went bananas!

Several players really stepped up for the Royals. I thought Ethan Jamison's play inside was huge, especially with Neuendorf in foul trouble and with the size and athleticism of North Tama. Jamison took several charges and had 15 rebounds (unofficially). Also, some less experienced players came off the bench and gave really valuable minutes--Garrett Eley and Nathan Thompson, specifically--who gave the Royals some real timely defense and rebounds. Their physical play off the bench may have been the difference in this game.

In the girls game, the Colo-Nesco girls played a great first half, leading 23-19 at the break against a good North Tama squad, but couldn't stop the inside play of the Redhawks in the second half, losing 44-32.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Royal Boys and Girls Open New Conference Victoriously

Although they were accomplished in two distinctively different ways, both the Colo-Nesco boys’ and girls’ basketball teams came away with victories Tuesday night vs. Waterloo Christian. The girls had a record-breaking defensive performance—both as a school and in Coach Cafferty’s 25-year career, holding the Waterloo Christian team to just one basket the entire night. The other 4 Regents points came off of free throws. The final score was 68-6. The boys’ game was much tighter than expected, thanks in part to some shooting that was as cold as the single digit wind-chills in Colo that evening. Despite the difficult shooting effort, the boys held on for a 41-36 victory. You can view complete coverage on both games in next Thursday’s edition of the Nevada Journal. The boys and girls look to keep up their winning ways this Friday at North Tama. The North Tama girls are 2-0; the boys are 1-0.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lights, Camera, High School Hoops ACTION!!

The high school basketball season kicks into full gear next week with the Royals boys’ and girls’ teams set to play a pair of games. Both squads get their first taste of the Iowa Star Conference, which the school joined this season after a long run in the Heart of Iowa Conference. The girls are 0-1 after a 48-34 loss to West Marshall last Friday; the boys are 0-0. Here’s a quick look at the competition they will be facing this week:

Tuesday, November 30—Home vs. Waterloo Christian
Girls—This should be an excellent chance for the Colo-Nesco girls to get their first victory; Waterloo Christian was 0-20 last season, shooting just 15% as a team. Their leading returning scorer is Emily Wynthein, who averaged 2.7 points per game as a freshman.

Boys—The Regents boys’ team was 9-13 last year and return three starters and five letter winners. A solid junior class is led by 5’8” Lucas Segerstrom (9.2 PPG), 5’8” Chris Doering (6.6 PPG), 5’7” Peter Bernstrom (5.5 PPG) and 6’2” Ryan Wynthein (4.1 PPG). Segerstrom canned 47 three-pointers last season.

Friday, December 3—Away vs. North Tama
Girls—The Redhawks girls’ team is 1-0 after a 45-37 victory over Belle Plaine to start their season. They finished 10-13 last year. The Royals will have to contend with a solid inside game led by 6’2” junior Kailey Kladivo. Kladivo scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the game vs. Belle Plaine. She averaged 11.5 points and 9.2 rebounds as a sophomore last season. 5’10” senior Amanda Howard is another returning starter in the frontcourt and 5’9” junior Nicole Schlichting had 10 rebounds in the Redhawks first game. The guards are led by sophomore Allison Zobel, who had 15 points, 6 assists and 4 steals in the win over Belle Plaine.

Boys—Several key players on this years North Tama basketball squad are fresh off a state football championship. North Tama defeated Madrid 43-34 in the Class A state championship game earlier this month. 4 of their star basketball players were just named 1st Team and 2nd Team All-State in Class A football, so the Royals are sure to get a good test from a solid squad of athletes on Friday night. Four starters return from last year’s team that finished 13-10. Brendon Boerm, the Iowa Sports Connection’s Class A Player of the Year in football, averaged 15.5 points last season and returns as the teams leading scorer. Lucas Hefty, a first team All-State selection at wide receiver, returns as the team’s second leading scorer from last year, averaging 14.8 points. At 6’4”, he and 6’4” Mitchell Boerm, and 6’3” Tyler Cizek will be a load to handle for the Royals. Hefty and Cizek led the team in rebounds last season. Cade Isenhower, a first team All-State linebacker, was the team’s third leading scorer last year at 9.1 points per game. He was also the teams leading three-point shooter, making 34 treys.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Christmas tunes and warnings of a potential winter storm rang over the radio airwaves on my 15-minute commute to Hilton Coliseum. The frigid walk across the endless span of parking lot was filled with excitement and anticipation in the wake of a new season. And Fred Hoiberg once again graced the hardwood floors as an Iowa State Cyclone. It was the perfect night for basketball.

Even without a huge amount of pomp and circumstance, I've never seen so many photos taken of a coach before a game as there were with Hoiberg. You would have thought the late, great John Wooden had come back to life and was standing courtside. Nearly every poster, t-shirt, and promotion in the area is plastered with Hoiberg’s name or picture. Yes, it was the dawn of a new era for ISU men’s basketball, and despite the alarmingly early date for hoops, I wasn't about to miss it.

It was evident from the very start that Hoiberg is going to let them run and gun. The game started with two straight three-point baskets by senior Jamie Vanderbeken, and the first four shot attempts for the Cyclones were all three-pointers. In fact, 7 of the first 9 made baskets were treys as ISU jumped to an early 25-10 lead. The first half was a two-man show, with Diante Garrett and Vanderbeken accounting for all 35 points. Garrett had 15 at the break and Vanderbeken had 20 as the Cyclones took a 35-20 lead into the locker room. The team was 8-16 from beyond the arc in the first half.

Northern Arizona’s defensive focus on Vanderbeken and Garrett in the second half allowed some other Cyclones to shine. The half began with a 5-0 run with a quick bucket from freshman Melvin Ejim (who’s going to be really good), and another three-pointer by Scott Christopherson. Ejim and Jake Anderson (a transfer from Northern Illinois) both had a big second half as the Cyclones ran away from Northern Arizona, 78-64. Anderson was a three-year starter at Northern Illinois, and should have a big impact for Iowa State in his only season of eligibility. He ranks 18th in career scoring for the Huskies.

Four players finished in double digit scoring for the Cyclones—Vanderbeken (23), Garrett (19), Anderson (15) and Ejim (10). Iowa State made 11 three-point baskets in 23 attempts for the night.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

20 Teams to Watch in Boys Basketball Class 1A

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again. Christmas decorations are popping up in towns across central Iowa. Fred Hoiberg begins his career as the Cyclones new Head Coach this Friday night with ISU’s first game of the season. The state football playoffs are winding down, and basketball practices are beginning. Here is a look at who I feel will be the top 20 teams in boys’ Class 1A this season.

Ranked In Order By Wins From Last Season

Lynnville Sully (25-3)-- The Hawks return 2 starters and 3 of their top 5 scorers from a state tournament team that finished 25-3 last season. Chase Cullen is the top returning scorer. He led the team with 13.3 points per game last year as a sophomore, while making 42 of 100 three point tries. Logan Vos returns as the teams leading rebounder from 09-10. The 6’5” senior averaged nearly 10 rebounds per game and 7 points per game. The Hawks ranked in the top 10 in three pointers, rebounds, assists, and blocks in class 1a last season.

Don Bosco (23-2)—A fellow member of the Iowa Star Conference (the conference Colo-Nesco is a new member of), the Dons will prove a good test for the Royals. Don Bosco returns 3 starters from a team that finished 23-2 last year. Nate Springer is their leading returning scorer at 13 points per game. Senior Eric Nie connected on 57 three pointers, placing him in the top 10 in Class 1a in that category.

Calamus Wheatland (22-6)—The Warriors lost All-State forward and leading scorer Ryan Powers to graduation, but two starters return from last years State Runner-Up squad, led by senior Drew Jacobi at 10.5 points per game. Brian Kruse, now a senior, was the team’s third leading scorer a year ago. 6’5” Sophomore Jake Jannsen looks to see an increased role and is a player to watch. He averaged nearly 4 points per game as a freshman reserve last season.

Iowa Mennonite (22-3)—My preseason #1, Iowa Mennonite finished 22-3 last season. The school returns 4 starters, led by sophomore Chance Miller at 11.5 points per game. The other three starters each averaged between 7 and 10 points per game on a team that shares the ball as well as any in the state. Three players return that had at least 80 assists each and Iowa Mennonite rated #2 in the state in total assists. Iowa Mennonite was the third best three-point shooting team in class 1a last year. Three players return that made at least 30 three pointers.

North East Hamilton(22-2)—Another member of the Iowa Star Conference, the Trojans finished 22-2 last year. They return 3 starters, led by Clay Herreld (a junior) at 15.3 points per game. Fellow junior Marcus Mechaelsen averaged over 13 points a game last season, giving the Trojans one of the most potent one-two punches in Class 1a.

St. Mary’s Storm Lake (22-1)—The Panthers will probably be rated in the top 5 when the preseason rankings are released. They finished 22-1 last season and return 3 starters and 4 of their top 5 scorers. Senior Connor Richardson and juniors Nathan Lenhart and Andy Drey lead a balanced attack at around 10 points per game, each.

Colo-Nesco (20-3)—The Royals return 4 of their top 6 players from last year, led by one of the premier players in Class 1a--Brandon Eley. Eley, the reigning Ames Tribune’s Mid Iowa Boys Player of the Year, averaged 19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals a game last season for the 20-3 Royals. He’s joined by backcourt mate Austin Larsen (106 assists), and a frontcourt anchored by Weston Neuendorf (7.2 points per game), and Ethan Jamison (91 rebounds). The Royals will have to find someone to fill the role of three-point specialist Travis Guy, who graduated as the teams leading three-point shooter.

Prince of Peace (20-3)—The Irish, a prep school from Clinton, return 2 starters from a 20-3 team. Derek Witt is the leading returning scorer and rebounder. He averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds as a junior. 6’6” Center Seth Hinrichs and point guard Eric Sikkema are both seniors that averaged around 5 points per game last season.

Treynor (19-4)—The Cardinals return three of their top four scorers from a 19-4 team. Cole Rath (a senior), and Chris Zimmerman (a junior) averaged over 10 points per game. Seniors Jordan Lammert and Tyler Woods both averaged 6 per game and should provide a balanced scoring attack for the veteran team. The Cardinals are a great rebounding team and return their top four rebounders from last year, with three of them grabbing over 100 each for the season.

Holy Trinity Catholic (19-5)—Holy Trinity finished 19-5 last season and returns 2 starters—Ben Rector and Zach Bartlett. Josh Fullenkamp also played a significant role, averaging 5 points and grabbing 101 rebounds on the season.

Bishop-Garrigan (18-8)—A state tournament qualifier a year ago (18-8), the Golden Bears have to replace three starters. Austin Vaske is the star player. He averaged 11.7 points and made 38 three-pointers as a sophomore starter last season.

St. Albert Council Bluffs (18-5)—The Falcons return 4 of their top 6 players from last years state tournament team that finished 18-5. They are led by Steve O’Neill at 15.3 points per game. He made 56 three-pointers last season as a junior.

Iowa Christian (17-5)—The Trail Blazers return 9 of their top 10 players from last year’s 17-5 squad. They will have to replace leading scorer Keaton Schut who averaged 17.5 points per game. This is a very experienced team—all 9 of those top 10 returning are seniors, and 7 of them saw considerable playing time last season.

Coon Rapids-Bayard (16-10)—A state tournament qualifier last year, the Crusaders return 3 starters from a 16-10 team. Jacob Esdohr returns as the leading scorer from that team. He averaged nearly 15 points per game. Gage Reis is the teams best outside shooter. He made 40 three pointers a year ago as a sophomore. The Crusaders are small—the tallest returning player is 6’ tall.

Mt. Ayr (16-8)—The Raiders lost leading scorer Malcom Mercer, but return every other player from last year’s team that won 16 games. 6 returnees each averaged between 4 and nearly 10 points per game, led by Matt Sobotka’s 9.4 points.

Murray (16-7)—The Mustangs may be one of the most exciting teams in Class 1a this season. Last seasons sensational freshmen pair of Austin Halls and Cody Scroggie return as maybe the most dynamic duo of all the small schools. Halls averaged an amazing 26.5 points (1st in the state in 1a) per game as a freshman, while canning 63 three pointers (5th in the state in 1a), dishing out 153 assists(3rd in the state in 1a), and making 106 steals (3rd in the state in 1a). He also hit 75 percent of his free throw tries. Scroggie averaged 12.7 points as a freshman and connected on 42 three pointers. Watch out for the Mustangs!

Woodbury Central (16-6)—The Wildcats return 4 starters, led by star James Wright (17 pts and 9 rebounds per game), and Grady Gallagher (12 points, 53 three pointers). They finished 16-6 last season.

Newman Catholic, Mason City (15-9)—The Knights return 2 starters from a team that finished 15-9 last season. Senior Drew Verstegen returns as the teams leading scorer at 17.6 points per game. He chipped in 32 three pointers as part of that average last year. Oh yeah, and add 10.8 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, and 3.2 steals per game to go with that, leading the team in every category but assists.

Boyer Valley—The Bulldogs (15-7) return three starters, led by Kyle Brosamle who led the team in scoring (16 ppg) and rebounding (117 rebounds). He and fellow senior Adam Hadden combined for 78 three pointers last season and both shoot over 75 % from the charity stripe.

Remsen-Union (13-9)—The Rockets return all five starters and their key reserve player from last year’s 13-9 squad. They graduated only one player from last year, and he only averaged 2 points per game. Three players average over 13 points per game in a balanced scoring attack, led by Kraig Alesch (13.8 ppg). 4 players made at least 10 three-pointers last season. They’re big too—Alesch is 6’4”; and starting center Alex Hansen is 6’6”.

Ok—now that you’ve seen them, I’m sure you’re dying to know my top ten. I’m a little hesitant to do this, but I am interested to see how it compares with other top ten lists that will come out after mine. And this is the first time I’ve ever done this with high school. Here it is:

1. Iowa Mennonite
2. Lynnville-Sully
3. St. Albert, Council Bluffs
4. St. Mary’s Storm Lake
5. Calamus-Wheatland
6. Colo-Nesco
7. Coon Rapids-Bayard
8. Iowa Christian
9. Murray
10. Remsen-Union

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sports Casserole

Brett Favre: Will somebody put this guy out of his misery, please? I can’t take him anymore. Watching him hobble around on Sunday night, throwing interception after interception, and ruining his team’s chance to win was downright painful. It has always been about Brett, and it’s more glaring than ever this year. The media’s perception that the Vikings wouldn’t be as good a team without him is ludicrous. Right now, he’s a detriment to his team and he needs to go. Problem is, until someone decapitates him, he’s not going. For Brett, its not about the good of the team, it’s all about Brett and his consecutive games started streak, and feeding an ego the size of all 10,000 Minnesota lakes combined.

Adrian Clayborn: “Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” Those, of course, are the famous words of Tom Hanks in the movie about women playing baseball in A League of Their Own. And—pay attention now Adrian--if there’s no crying in baseball, there should certainly be no crying in football, which is exactly what happened during the post-game locker room interviews with the star defensive end for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Maybe that Hawkeye defense isn’t quite as “tough” as everyone thinks it is.

Kansas City Royals:Can you believe it? Can you believe the Kansas City Royals once won a World Series title? That World Series title just happens to be 25 years old this year. The Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games, and finished 91-71 in the regular season. All 5 starters won at least 10 games. Bret Saberhagen won the Cy Young Award with a 20-6 record and a 2.87 ERA. How many players can you name from that team? Here’s a look at their 1985 starting lineup just to take you back:
C-Jim Sundberg
1b-Steve Balboni
2b-Frank White
3b-George Brett
SS-Onix Concepcion
OF-Willie Wilson
OF-Lonnie Smith
OF-Darryl Motley
DH-Hal McCrae
SP-Bret Saberhagen
SP-Bud Black
SP-Charlie Leibrandt
SP-Mark Gubicza
SP-Danny Jackson
Closer-Dan Quisenberry

NBA Season Opener:Watching the Miami Heat’s season opener go up in smoke tonight was almost as much fun as watching the Yankees nearly get swept in this years ALCS. At one point in the first half, the Boston Celtics were up by 19 points. Miami had just 30 points at half time. The Heat’s offensive total of 80 points was 5 fewer than the LEAST amount of points the Cavs scored in last years playoffs to the Celtics! On the flip side, Boston’s high profile free agent, Shaquille O’Neal, looks like he’s been eating cheeseburgers all summer—for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! And, the OVER-RATED! chants by Celtics fans at the end of the game were awesome!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Role Reversal

Forgive me if I’m giddy. It’s not a normal Saturday in the state of Iowa. In fact, it’s a complete role reversal, for one day anyway. Iowa, playing on its home turf found just about every way possible to lose a game. Iowa State, playing at perennial power Texas, did the unthinkable—they won against the Longhorns for the first time ever, this after back-to-back rear-end kicking’s against Oklahoma and Utah. Seriously, who saw this coming? If you had told 100 people on Friday that one team in the state would win and one would lose on Saturday, 99 would have picked Iowa as the winner.

For the Cyclones, this is the second straight season a Paul Rhoads led squad has won on the road against a top 25 team. I don’t know if that has ever happened in back-to-back seasons in ISU history, and for Rhoads to do it the way he has in both of those victories is down right amazing. Last year, it was with a backup quarterback and a backup running back on the road in Lincoln. This year, it was at the end of a merciless three-game stretch, a game most people chalked up as a loss well before the season even started. Texas was rated in the top 5 in many preseason polls.

Hawkeye fans, we’re familiar with your pain. A missed extra point, a blocked field goal, a fake-punt, and a mismanaged clock in the final 65 seconds—all can be pointed to as the difference in a 31-30 loss. Heartbreaking isn’t it? Been there, done that as a Cyclone fan about 5 million times in the last 10 years. But for one night, the Iowa State Cyclones are the talk of the college football world. And for one night, I’m really going to enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

1st Quarter Sanity Check

Apparently, the Iowa State football team spent too much time in Hilton Coliseum last winter. An offense that was promised to be vastly improved, more resembles that of Coach McDermott’s recent basketball squad (an outfit led by NBA pick Craig Brackins that was supposed to score loads of points)…and we all know how that turned out.

We’ve already hit the quarter pole of the college football season, and it’s clear (based on my preseason predictions), that my sanity was not all there. Shocking, I know. But seriously, I didn’t think I’d be that far off the mark! With that said, here’s a more “educated” analysis of those predictions based on the first 4 games:

1. Iowa State will finish in the top 10 in the nation in total offense—Honestly, this is the one that frustrates (and surprises) me the most. I really thought that year two would begin to produce results similar to what Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman accomplished at Rice. But it just hasn’t. The offensive line was supposed to be better than this—much better, but it hasn’t. Austin Arnaud was supposed to be much better than he has—but he hasn’t been either. My prediction was so far off on this that Iowa State is currently in danger of finishing in the bottom 10 in the nation. They rank 106th of 120 FBS teams through 4 games. Ouch.
2. Austin Arnaud or Alexander Robinson will be a Heisman candidate late into the season—Well, you can bet your life savings this prediction is not coming true. Iowa State’s best player so far this year has not been an offensive player. Surprisingly, it’s been sophomore linebacker A.J. Klein, who ranks 22nd nationally with 41 total tackles. He also has 2 interception returns for touchdowns. Last I checked, not too many defensive players have won the Heisman. Who would have guessed?
3. Iowa State will beat Iowa—To quote a line from Naked Gun 2 ½: "Truth hurts. Maybe not as much as jumping on a bicycle with a seat missing, but it hurts."
4. Iowa State will finish with more wins than Iowa—See Quote from #3.
5. Paul Rhoades will be a leading candidate for the Penn State job in the off-season—I still think Rhoades is a great coach, but the Penn State job is certainly far-fetched at this point. It would take a miraculous finish with wins over Nebraska and either Oklahoma or Texas to make that kind of an argument.

Well, there’s still plenty of football left to be played, and plenty of great possibilities for the Hawkeyes and Cyclones. But so far, it looks like my predictions were merely pipe dreams, something we Cyclone fans have become all too familiar with.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Post-Game Thoughts On ISU vs. Iowa

Now that the anger has subsided and the smoke has cleared from the debacle in Iowa City on Saturday, I think I can give some rational thoughts to the massacre also known as “The Iowa/Iowa State Game.” I ended up getting some free tickets for the event and made the trek into enemy territory with much trepidation—partially out of fear I may get beat up wearing Cyclones gear, and partially because I know how miserable it is to be around 7 Hawkeye fans, not to mention 70,000. So, here we go.

1. Are the Hawkeyes that good? I think the answer is “yes.” I was very close to the Hawkeye sideline, right behind their bench, and I have to say—I’ve never seen a team that BIG. I just could not believe the size of their offensive and defensive line. I’ve also never seen a team dominate both lines of scrimmage as much as Iowa did. They are experienced and talented at EVERY position. They are a senior-laden, confident team, and they know how to win. I told my brother after the game that I think Iowa can beat anybody, and I really believe that.
2. Is Iowa State really that bad? I think the answer is “no.” The Hawkeyes size, the crowd, and the first two Hawkeye possessions of the game set the tone. ISU was clearly intimidated, clearly not on the same talent level as Iowa—but as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I don’t think many teams in the country are on the same level as Iowa this year.
3. Why didn’t ISU try something different? To just go man-on-man, with no trick defensive schemes or blitz packages against that Iowa offense was flat out ludicrous. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over with the same result. I think our Defensive Coordinator lost his mind on Saturday. And I think the Iowa defense probably made our Offensive Coordinator lose his too.
4. I wish I didn’t hate the Hawkeyes so much. It should be such an easy team to love. It’s my home state. I respect and admire Coach Ferentz—I think he’s the best coach in the country and he runs a clean program. The stadium is spectacular. The crowd is electric. The team is good. It really is a great game-day experience…but I just can’t do it. Even with my memories of rooting for them when I was a kid, back in the Chuck Long and Ronnie Harmon days, there’s simply too many years of bitterness built up after all the chidings of arrogant Hawkeye fans to ever root for them. Maybe I just take this rivalry too seriously. After all, many Hawkeye fans think the rivalry with Nebraska next year will overtake the rivalry with Iowa State. If that’s the case, all I have to say is: Go Nebraska!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

5 Cyclone Predictions That Will Prove I’ve Officially Lost My Mind

OK, so I don’t completely believe these will all happen, but I do believe they are a possibility. So, before you reserve me a room at the state mental institution, just know that I’m only half insane. Iowa State’s season begins 2 weeks from tonight under the lights at Jack Trice. Enjoy…and pass me some more red Kool-Aid, please.

1. Iowa State will finish in the top 10 in the nation in total offense—This would be a quantum leap considering they finished 73rd last season. But last season was the first year under Paul Rhoades and Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman. Look for vast improvements from senior QB Austin Arnaud, a talented and experienced offensive line, and a deep and gifted set of running backs and receivers. Herman’s offense at Rice finished #8 nationally in his last season as their coordinator in 2008, so he’s proven he can get a team there.

2. Austin Arnaud or Alexander Robinson will be a Heisman candidate late into the season—Can Arnaud throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000? It’s a possibility. He ran for nearly 700 last season and threw for nearly 3,000 the year before. Coaches say he’s the most improved player on the team by far. He had to learn three different systems his first three seasons, so given the opportunity to finally feel confident and comfortable in an offense, who says he can’t put up those numbers? Could Alexander Robinson rush for 1,500 and receive for 1,000? A-Rob rushed for 1,200 yards last season and wasn’t even healthy for much of the year. He also had nearly 300 receiving yards. Give him a healthy, full season and those numbers are not out of the realm of possibility.

3. Iowa State will beat Iowa—They’ll have plenty of motivation after a tumultuous summer has left many wondering just how many Cy-Hawk series are left with all the conference re-alignment. You know Paul Rhodes is itching for his first victory against the Hawks. Oh, and there’s also those Adrian Clayborne comments that have surely been posted on the Cyclone bulletin boards for the last few months saying that the Hawkeyes are the only team in the state that is relevant.

4. Iowa State will finish with more wins than Iowa—Yeah, yeah. This is the prediction that will really get me thrown into the loony bin. Iowa is a Top 10 team in the pre-season polls. But remember just how close the Hawks were to losing against UNI, Indiana, Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State. Even the game against Minnesota was close most of the way. That’s 6 wins that could have been losses. I’m predicting ISU wins against Northern Illinois, Iowa, Kansas State, UNI, Texas Tech, Utah, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri with losses against Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. That puts ISU at 9-3. Iowa will lose against Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa State, and one other road team to finish 8-4.

5. Paul Rhoades will be a leading candidate for the Penn State job in the off-season—A 9-3 record would make Rhodes a leading candidate for nearly every job. Joe Paterno is clearly in his last days as Coach of the Nittany Lions. Rhoades’ former role at Pittsburgh and related recruiting ties to that area would make him a perfect candidate.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sports Caffeine/Royal Reign/Pennant Publishing Update

To the four or five people that are possibly tuning in to my blog still, I’ve missed you lately. Ok, maybe it’s down to 1 or 2 now. It’s been a busy summer, chaotic actually, and I sorely miss writing a regular blog. But the fall sports season is upon us and I couldn’t be happier about that. Not only is there a lot more to write about during the football and basketball season, but also the really exciting news is I am ankle-deep into research for my next big project. I can’t say too much about it yet as some of the details are still being worked out, but I plan to have it completed by next fall, with a publish date of January 2012. It will either be a book of its own, or part of a bigger collection in conjunction with another organization. That’s the part I’m unsure about yet. Regardless, the next 12 months are going to be crazy busy to say the least, with lots of time at the library and in front of my computer. I can’t wait to tell you more, but until then—enjoy the rest of your summer…and bring on college football!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Will the 2010 Hawkeyes Be Better than the 1985 Hawks?

2010 marks the 25-year anniversary of one of the greatest teams in Iowa Hawkeye football history. While several Iowa teams have finished higher in the final AP polls than the ’85 squad (they finished #10; 10-2), none were ever ranked as highly as Iowa was during a 5-week glory run during the 1985 season. From September 5, 1985 through November 2nd, Hawkeye fans lived the dream as the nations #1 team. That stretch included the legendary match up with #2 Michigan, a game the Hawkeyes won on a last second field goal that sent Iowa fans into delirium. The dream ended on November 2nd with a 22-13 loss to #8 rated Ohio State. Iowa finished the regular season with a 10-1 record and a spot in the Rose Bowl where they were surprisingly thrashed by UCLA.

The days of “New Coke” and “Farm Aid” are long behind us, but Hawkeye fans are hoping for a trip down memory lane to recapture those feelings as the nations #1 team. Can it be done? Iowa is coming off one of its best seasons ever after an 11-2 finish, an Orange Bowl victory, and a #7 finish in the final polls. The Hawkeyes return a majority of their starters on both offense and defense and play a schedule conducive to another glory-run. But is this team as good as their anniversary counterparts? Here’s a breakdown position by position of the starters from the 1985 team and the projected starters from the 2010 team and my final analysis to answer that question:

Position: 1985 vs. 2010
QB: Chuck Long vs. Ricki Stanzi
RB: Ronnie Harmon vs. A. Robinson, Wegher, Hampton
FB: David Hudson vs. Brett Morse
WR: Bill Happel, Scott Helverson, Robert Smith vs. DJK, Marvin McNutt, Keenan Davis
TE: Mike Flagg vs. Alan Reisner
OL: Mike Haight, Tom Humphrey, Mark Sindlinger, Bob Kratch, Dave Croston
Vs. James Vandervelde, Adam Gettis, Marcus Zusevics, Riley Reiff, Josh Koeppel
DL: Richard Pryor, Hap Peterson, Jon Vrieze, George Millett, Jeff Drost
Vs. Christian Ballard, Adrian Clayborne, Broderick Binns, Karl Klug
LB: Larry Station, George Davis vs. Tyler Nielsen, Jeremiah Hunter, Jeff Tarpinian
DB: Ken Sims, Nate Creer, Devon Mitchell, Jay Norvell
Vs. Shaun Prater, Micah Hyde, Tyler Sash, Brett Greenwood

QB: Advantage 1985—Chuck Long; Heisman Runner-Up
RB: Advantage 1985—Ronnie Harmon; 1100 yards rushing/ 700 yards receiving!!
WR: Advantage 2010—Think what Long could have done with the 2010 group!
TE: Advantage 1985—Mike Flagg—3 time All Big 10 Pick
OL: Advantage 1985—Mike Haight was the Big 10 Lineman of the Year; Croston and Kratch were All Big 10 the following year.
DL: Advantage 2010—Ballard, Clayborne, Binns and Klug may be the best line in school history
LB: Advantage 1985—Larry Station—All time leading tackler in Iowa history; 2-time First Team All America. Enough said.
DB: Advantage Tie—Devon Mitchell and Jay Norvell were both Honorable Mention All-America selections in 1985. The depth of Prater, Sash and Greenwood evens the field.

Final Tally-- The 1985 team wins the category battle 5-2 with one tie. There’s a reason this team was rated #1 for 5 straight weeks. If this years Hawks want to stake their claim as the greatest team in Iowa history, they’ll have to climb to the top of the polls at some point—a proposition that many Hawkeye fans think is entirely realistic. There’s only one way to find out, and it all begins on Saturday, September 4th at 12:05 pm.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Loveable Losers

Well…Losers for sure.
It’s been over 100 years now since the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series title. The way the organization is going right now, it may be 100 more. The North Siders have now lost 10 of their last 14 games and are 11 ½ games out of first place. Their overall record is 34-46. To make matters worse, they have the third highest payroll in all of baseball, trailing only the Yankees and Red Sox. Chicago’s payroll is 146 million. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ is 35 million. Pittsburgh is 9-3 against the Cubs this year, just to rub a little salt in the wounds of those that bleed Cubby Blue. When you take a closer look at the salaries that make up the bulk of that 146 million, it’s enough to make Cubs fans get sick to their stomach. Take a look at these numbers:

1. Alfonso Soriano—19 million
2. Carlos Zambrano—18.8 million
3. Aramis Ramirez—17 million
4. Kosuke Fukudome—14 million
5. Derek Lee—13 million

Soriano’s contract may be the worst in all of Major League Baseball. Carlos Zambrano isn’t even active right now due to his anger-management issues. Aramis Ramirez is batting .180. Derek Lee is hitting .231. Fukudome just .265. The average age of those five players is 33 years old. After the meltdowns of Milton Bradley last year and Carlos Zambrano this year, it’s evident the clubhouse is a wreck. It’s a tradition whenever the Cubs win that a white flag with a “W” on it is flown over Wrigley Field. These days, the only white flags flying over Wrigley are the ones the fans are waving in surrender.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In Midst of Conference Chaos, Hoiberg Quietly Having a Very Successful Summer

It’s safe to say ISU Basketball Coach Fred Hoiberg hasn’t been too distracted by all the conference realignment garbage. Hoiberg has quietly put together a very impressive nucleus to the beginnings of a successful long-term basketball program in his first few months at the helm. The Mayor has landed two very highly regarded transfer players in Chris Babb and Anthony Booker, a solid junior-recruit from the state of Texas named Anthony Odunsi, and polished it all off with a phenomenal coaching hire in Charlotte’s Bobby Lutz. Here’s a closer look at each:

--Chris Babb: Babb is a 6’5” shooting guard who started 23 games as a sophomore last season for Penn State. He averaged 9 points per game, was third on the team in assists, and made 69 three-point baskets.

--Anthony Booker: Booker is a 6’8” power forward who’s transferring from Southern Illinois. Booker averaged 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds as a sophomore. He was a Rivals Top 50 player in high school and was recruited by Kansas.

--Anthony Odunsi: Odunsi will be a high school senior at Fort Bend, Texas in 2010-11. He is a 6’3” point guard who averaged 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists a game as a junior. Odunsi had offers from Vanderbilt, Stanford, and Arkansas.

--Assistant Coach Bobby Lutz: One of the biggest criticisms of the Hoiberg coaching hire was his lack of head coaching experience. Critics claimed he would need to hire a veteran, experienced coach to be his assistant. Mission accomplished! Bobby Lutz comes from the Charlotte 49ers of the Atlantic 10 Conference where he won a school-record 218 games and guided the school to 5 NCAA Tournament appearances and 3 NIT’s in 10 years. Not only did Hoiberg find an experienced coach, he found an experienced HEAD COACH who had a ton of success in a very good Division 1 basketball conference with the likes of Xavier, Temple and Richmond. Lutz should also help with recruiting from the east coast. This was an absolute gem of a hire by Iowa State; a real diamond in the rough.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Worshipping Bevo: Longhorns Save The Big 12


In India, cows are so sacred that even their dung is considered “an efficacious disinfectant” ( Politicians strengthen their political campaigns by endorsing cow protection laws. Cattle are considered religiously divine because of their ability to provide milk that keeps infants alive. As of Monday, June 14, 2010, football and basketball fans of schools like Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri may also think cows are holy. Well, Longhorns anyway.

Facing the very real prospect of being left homeless from an athletic conference standpoint, The University of Texas Longhorns saved the day for the members of the teetering Big 12 Conference by turning down an offer from the Pac 10. And for that, this Iowa State Cyclone fan is eternally grateful. So what if our wagons are hitched to Texas? So what if the Longhorns are calling all the shots--they have been ever since the Big 12 started. They’re the “cash cow.” That’s how it works in business and that’s life. Besides, for schools like Iowa State, hitching the wagons to Texas just resulted in a financial windfall. According to the new proposed television contract, Iowa State will receive a guaranteed $17 million in TV revenue. In 2007, ISU made just over $7 million. Keeping the Big 12 in tact means keeping teams like Iowa State relevant nationally, which means easier recruiting, easier ticket sales, easier promotion. In fact, Texas may not have only saved the Big 12; they may have saved the entire infrastructure of college athletics. Had Texas joined the Pac-10, the formation of 4 “Super Conferences” would have been well under way, completely changing the landscape of college football and basketball as we know it.

The same article about Hinduism referenced earlier noted, “In India, the cow is believed to be a symbol of the earth - because it gives so much yet asks nothing in return.” It’s safe to say that Texas isn’t exactly “asking nothing in return.” In fact some might say they are as greedy an institution as there is in college athletics, that the Longhorns are the reason this whole mess started. The University of Texas can’t help it that its athletic programs are so dominant. Just like an elite athlete like LeBron James and Alex Rodriguez can demand a lot of money because they’ve earned the right to, the Longhorns have similarly played their hand. Many sports fans across the nation might consider Texas a closer rival to Satan than divinity, but to the smaller members of the Big 12, like it or not, we bow down.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Worst Call In Officiating History?

Call him the new poster child for Southwest Airlines’ “Wanna Get Away?” Ad campaign. Major League Baseball Umpire Jim Joyce will probably “wanna get away” permanently after perhaps the worst call in sports history during the Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians game Wednesday night. Detroit’s Armando Galarraga had a perfect game (no hits, no walks) going into the 9th inning. Just how rare is a perfect game in Major League Baseball? Since 1880, it’s only happened 20 times. Amazingly, two of those have come this season, one last week by Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay. It was about to happen for the second time in less than a week when Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson mad a miraculous, over-the-shoulder catch, sending Detroit fans into a frenzy with one out in the 9th. Galarraga then induced an easy ground out for out number two. Then, with fans on their feet, Cleveland’s Jason Donald hit a ground ball that forced Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera to range toward his right, and make a quick throw to first where Tigers pitcher Galarraga clearly had the runner beat by a full step. Only problem was, first base umpire Jim Joyce didn’t see it that way, calling the runner safe, destroying what should have been a history-making night.

I found an old article on that listed the top ten worst calls in officiating history according to their writers. Here’s the list:

1. Denkinger calls Royals' Orta safe at first
2. Colorado's fifth down
3. Soviets get extra time in 1972 Olympic hoops
4. Jeffrey Maier assists Jeter home run
5. Brett Hull's skate in the crease
6. Maradona's "Hand of God"
7. Thanksgiving Day coin flip flap
8. Mike Renfro ruled out of bounds
9. Eric Gregg's wide strike zone
10. Charles White's TD and fumble in 1979 Rose Bowl

Based on this list, and what I know about sports history, I think one could easily make the case that Joyce’s blown call with two outs in the ninth inning of a perfect game may top that list. Something that’s only happened 20 times in 130 years shouldn’t have been denied on a play like that. Granted, it was close, but you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the man on the verge of history in that case. It’s a call Joyce (and Galarraga) will have to live with the rest of their lives, much like the Bill Buckner between-the-legs error and umpire Tim McClelland and George Brett’s pine tar incident. If I’m Joyce, I’m grabbing the first flight out of town and taking a month-long hiatus, cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride for a while!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Basketball Dominates Royals Sports Highlights of 2009-2010

Another school year has come and gone. Thoughts of cool, autumn nights with the football lights shining down and the sight of combines in the background seem like they were just yesterday. The tremendous basketball season was such a fun ride but, like all fun rides, ended too soon. Spring and graduation came and went as quick as the dandelions popped up in my yard. Before we know it, it will be mid-August and we’ll be doing it all over again.

Although I wasn’t involved in much of the Royals athletic scene this year besides basketball, I did some research and formulated what I think are the top 10 sports highlights of the school year. Forgive me if I missed something obvious, and have fun reminiscing.

#10—Homecoming Victory over Lynville-Sully
“[Travis] Guy rushed for 95 yards and three scores and he also completed 5 of 10 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. Ethan Jamison scored on an 80-yard run, Bryan Angell hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass, Eley totaled 42 yards rushing and receiving and Tyler Erickson rushed for 44 yards for the Royals.”—Ames Tribune

#9—Young Talent on Girls Basketball Team Provides Plenty of Optimism for Future
Despite their 4-19 record, the girls showed marked progress toward the end of the year. The top two performers were a sophomore and freshman in Jessica Johnson (All Conference Honorable Mention) and Madison Eley (2nd Team All Conference). Johnson averaged 7 points per game and Eley averaged 10 points per game. Four others who saw significant playing time will be back next year—Makayla Klonglan, Alyssa Speake, Michelle Van Loon and Erica Babinat.

#8—Double OT Victory over North Polk Boys Basketball On Brandon Eley’s Birthday
“There is no better birthday present Colo-Nesco’s Brandon Eley could have received than the one he gave himself when the Royal boys’ basketball team took on North Polk Dec. 21 in Alleman.

Eley struggled for most of the night in a defensive battle between two of the top Heart of Iowa Conference Small School Division teams. But the birthday boy came through in a big way during crunch time, hitting three clutch shots, including the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in the second overtime, to give his team a huge 57-56 victory.”—Ames Tribune

#7—Football All District Team: Weston Neuendorf: 1st Team OL; Adam Good: 1st Team LB; Travis Guy: 1st Team DB

#6—Cross Country State Qualifiers: Shelby Dailey and Sean Dulaney

#5—State Track Qualifiers: Sarah Hansen—long jump (broke school record); Shelby Dailey—3000 meter; Brandon Eley—110 high hurdles

#4—Brandon Eley named Ames Tribune Mid Iowa Boys Basketball Player of the Year for 2nd Straight Year

#3—Brandon Eley named to 1st Team All-State Boys Basketball

#2—Hall of Fame Night vs. Roland Story Basketball
“Our biggest highlight of the year had to be the night they inducted the 1990 championship team into the Hall of Pride,” Wynja said. “Our kids played their hearts out to make everyone there proud to be a Royal. It was a special night, and one I won’t ever forget.”—Ames Tribune

#1—Boys Basketball Team Finishes 20-3; HOIC Small-Conference Champs; Break School Record for Most Victories in Regular Season

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wizards Get #1 Pick. Does It Even Matter?

The NBA held its annual “lottery” for the upcoming draft Tuesday night, with Washington grabbing the #1 pick. Some are questioning whether the NBA’s current system of assigning a certain number of ping-pong balls to teams based on their record, and using a lottery style selection is the best way to see who gets the top pick. In the NFL, the worst team automatically gets the #1 spot. Ditto for Major League Baseball. But if the last 25 years are any indication, getting the #1 pick rarely guarantees championships in the NBA. Since 1985, only 4 players that were drafted number one eventually captured titles (David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Glenn Robinson, Tim Duncan), and only two of those four were with their original team—Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Not only does having the top pick not guarantee success for your team, it doesn’t even mean that player will attain elite status. Of the past 5 NBA drafts, only one player (Derrick Rose) has made an NBA All-Star Game. In the past 25 years, 15 of those top picks have played in 2 All Star Games or less. Of course, not all #1 picks have been busts; here’s a list of my top 10 number one picks in the last 25 years:

1. Shaquille O’Neal (1992)—Orlando Magic—4 NBA Titles; 15 Time All Star; 1 MVP
2. Tim Duncan (1997)—San Antonio Spurs—4 NBA Titles; 12 Time All Star; 2 MVP’s
3. David Robinson (1987)—San Antonio Spurs—2 NBA Titles; 10 Time All Star; 1 MVP
4. LeBron James (2003)—Cleveland Cavaliers—6 Time All Star; 2 MVP’s
5. Allen Iverson (1996)—Philadelphia 76ers—11 Time All Star; 1 MVP
6. Dwight Howard (2004)—Orlando Magic—4 Time All Star
7. Patrick Ewing (1985)—New York Knicks—11 Time All Star
8. Yao Ming (2002)—Houston Rockets—7 Time All Star
9. Derrick Rose (2008)—Chicago Bulls—1 Time All Star
10. Chris Webber (1993)—Golden State—5 Time All Star

And my top five #1 busts in the last 25 years:

1. Michael Olowokandi (1998)—Los Angeles Clippers
2. Kwame Brown (2001)—Washington Wizards
3. Greg Oden (2007)—Portland Trail Blazers
4. Pervis Ellison (1989)—Sacramento Kings
5. Andrew Bogut (2006)—Milwaukee Bucks

Here’s the rest of the list by year that don’t fall into either category:

1. Brad Daugherty (1986)—Cleveland Cavaliers—5 Time All Star
2. Danny Manning (1988)—Los Angeles Clippers—2 Time All Star
3. Derrick Coleman (1990)—New Jersey Nets—1 Time All Star
4. Larry Johnson (1991)—Charlotte Hornets—2 Time All Star
5. Glenn Robinson (1994)—Milwaukee Bucks—1 NBA Title; 2 Time All Star
6. Joe Smith (1995)—Golden State
7. Elton Brand (1999)—Chicago Bulls—2 Time All Star
8. Kenyon Martin (2000)—New Jersey Nets—1 Time All Star
9. Andrea Bargnani (2006)—Toronto Raptors
10. Blake Griffin (2009)—Los Angeles Clippers

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Sports Tribute To Moms

“My mother is my root, my foundation. She planted the seed that I base my life on, and that is the belief that the ability to achieve starts in your mind.”
-- Michael Jordan

My parents are my backbone. Still are. They're the only group that will support you if you score zero or you score 40.
--Kobe Bryant

Our Mother’s Day schedule is a replica of the life of a mom: crazy. We will begin our day by rising early for breakfast, getting kids and ourselves ready for the 8:30 a.m. church service, and finish our morning worship activities by teaching the College and Career Sunday School class at 9:30. As part of our ministry to our church’s college students (a class of 25-30 wonderful young people), we provide a weekly breakfast item along with juice and coffee, most of which my wife usually prepares. From there, we will have lunch with her parents at a restaurant in Ankeny, with (hopefully) just enough time to spare to arrive for our oldest sons soccer game in Greenfield, a mere 83 miles from home. I know this doesn’t sound like much of a relaxing day for my wife, but such is the life of a mom, especially one who has children in sports. It’s a life of sacrifice and selflessness. And seriously, without moms, would there even be sports? Could Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, or LeBron James have turned into the best basketball players in the world without their moms? Who would have taken them to countless basketball practices, camps and games? Who would have washed their jerseys and sweaty socks and underwear 4 or 5 times a week? Who would have organized their schedules, making sure they were where they were supposed to be 24/7? Who would have scheduled their doctor’s appointments and prepared them nutritious meals and made sure they put their hats and gloves on when it was cold? Who would have consoled them after tough losses, cheered them on at nearly every game, and encouraged them not to give up? Who would’ve provided snacks and drinks, participated in fund-raisers, and encouraged their children to work hard, maintain a positive attitude, and have good sportsmanship? In most cases, it’s Mom. Recently, a study was done to find the monetary value of the job of a mother. It was found that all the things moms do was worth about $145,000 a year. But we all know you cannot place a monetary value on the role of a mother. A mother is priceless. I wish to say a big thank you to my wife, my mom, and every mom out there-- sports mom or non-sports mom. Thanks for all you do. You really are priceless. Happy Mothers Day!

Andrew Gogerty

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hoiberg!!! Hoiberg???

Fred Hoiberg is Ames, Iowa’s All-American boy, its beloved hero who’s never done wrong. He’s a former “Mr. Basketball” winner and State Champion at Ames High who decided to be loyal to his hometown and play his college ball at ISU. He’s the kind of good-looking, hard working, high character, Midwestern kid that most parents dream their boys will be one day. Everyone, it seems, loves Fred Hoiberg…until now.

Just one day after Coach Greg McDermott announced his resignation to accept the Creighton job, ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard made his move. And it’s a move that, surprisingly, is drawing the ire of many Cyclone fans. After all, this is “THE MAYOR” we’re talking about, right? The one every Cyclone fan loves? One look at the message boards on tells a different story. It’s a mixed reaction, seemingly split right down the middle, 50/50. Some think Pollard moved too quickly. Some are disappointed he didn’t hire former Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie, a guy with a great track record on the court, but some serious character flaws off it. Some can’t believe Iowa State would hire a guy with no coaching experience. Others are elated that one of the Cyclones’ beloved is coming home to lead the program. It’s a move that has some people saying, “Hoiberg!!!” and others saying “Hoiberg???”

I stand somewhere in the middle. When I found out yesterday that Coach McDermott was leaving, I was ecstatic. It could not have been a more perfect scenario. A good guy lands on his feet at a good place, and we get rid of a coach that was clearly not working out for our program. And it was really the only possible way a change could be made based on the financial situation at Iowa State. There was finally a reason to be excited about Iowa State basketball again. The slate was being wiped clean. The Hoiberg announcement kind of hit me out of left field. At first, I was really excited to hear that we have such a great guy coming back to Ames to lead our beloved Cyclones. He’s got a great reputation across the country and some NBA ties that should help on the recruiting trail. But at the same time, his critics are right—he doesn’t have any coaching experience at the collegiate level. Outside of being an All Big 8 player at Iowa State, he doesn’t have any collegiate experience period. So there are certainly some question marks about this hasty hire by Jamie Pollard--question marks that will be answered pretty quickly by the players he retains and recruits, and the results on the court next season.

This isn’t a slam-dunk hire by Pollard. I think it’s a decision he felt would be much more warmly received. And, I must say, I’m a little surprised myself at the reactions on the message boards to Ames’ All-American boy. All in all, if you look at the state of the basketball program today vs. one week ago, I think there is plenty of reason for Cyclone fans to be optimistic. Let’s face it; there was no hope with Coach McDermott. At least Hoiberg restores some flair and optimism for the future of Hilton Magic and ISU basketball. But starting soon, Fred Hoiberg is no longer “The Mayor.” Soon, he becomes Coach Hoiberg, Coach of the Iowa State Cyclones. And that’s a whole new ballgame.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Grayer Brings Some Magic Back To ISU Basketball Program

It was a day I’ll never forget. I was in the sixth grade and all the other kids were in school while I went with my mom to get my braces tightened. For those of you who have ever had braces, you know that getting them tightened is no picnic. But missing out on class to do so helped alleviate the pain a little bit. That, and knowing whenever I had to get this done, Mom would always take me to the old Donutland on Lincolnway in Ames afterwards. And it was on one of those occasions that it happened: My hero at the time, Jeff Grayer, walked in the door while we were sitting, eating donuts. I had a quick conversation with Mom, and knowing I didn’t have much time, grabbed a pen and the first piece of paper we could find in her purse and ran to the counter where he was ordering and asked him for his autograph. I was the happiest kid in Ames, Iowa that day and I still have the memento—one of my strongest reminders of what Hilton Magic used to be like.

There haven’t been many happy days in Cyclone basketball country lately, but the hiring of Jeff Grayer as an Assistant to Coach McDermott offers a ray of sunshine in the middle of the storm clouds that have been hovering over Hilton Coliseum the last few months. Grayer is ISU’s all-time scoring leader and is one of my two favorite Cyclone players ever along with the late Barry Stevens. Grayer brings some recruiting connections and credibility, but perhaps most important, he brings back good memories of Iowa State basketball to a fan base that is in desperate need of them. Now, if only he could still suit up!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thoughts on ISU Spring Game

After a tumultuous basketball season, a gorgeous spring day and football were exactly what the doctor ordered for weary Cyclone fans. A good crowd was on hand in Ames Saturday as the Cyclones scrimmaged in front of roughly 10,000 people, including my 8-year-old son and myself. Other than the football-like September weather, and not visiting campus to be tortured by the men’s basketball team, here were the things I liked best about the spring game:

1. I loved the pace—This was the pace we were all expecting to see from the offense last year. It looks like the extra bowl practices last year and year #2 of this new offense is really starting to click. Arnaud is finally getting it, and so are the receivers. This offense has the ability to be dynamic and exciting. Last year, we saw a lot of growing pains. I think this year will be much different.
2. Jerome Tiller—Mark my words: There will be a QB controversy some time this year. Tiller looked sensational, running and throwing. He’s got more zip on his throws than Arnaud does, is more mobile, and I thought he moved the offense much more fluidly than Arnaud did in the scrimmage.
3. The backup running backs—There appears to be some good depth behind Alexander Robinson this year. Freshman Jeff Woody of SE Polk is a change-of-pace back who can get some tough yards. Red shirt freshman James White was very impressive, showing a little Daren Sproles-like ability. White is listed at 5’8”, but he looks like he’s closer to 4 feet tall out on the field. White showed some elusiveness and broke a nice 50-yard run.
4. The crowd—The entire lower section on the east side of the stadium was full. You could sense that ISU fans were clamoring for something positive to think about amid all the troubles with the basketball program. Undoubtedly, the demise of the basketball team should help football even more as people shift some of their support away from hoops over to the gridiron.
5. David Sims—The senior had some HUGE hits and should be set up for a spectacular senior campaign. Sims was the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year last Year in the Big 12.
6. Kelechi Osemele—The junior offensive lineman LOOKS like a future NFL player. My son and I were sitting in the front row, and he certainly passes the eye test—all 6’5, 327 lbs. He was a 2nd team All Big 12 performer last year as a sophomore.
7. WR depth—There are 5 legitimate receivers on this team. Sedrick Johnson was one of the highest rated recruits ever at Iowa State. He’s a junior now—look for him to finally put it all together. Darius Darks set the ISU freshman receiving record. He’s also a junior now. Darius Reynolds was off to a great start before a season ending injury in the fourth game last year. He’s also a junior. Jake Williams had 400 yards and 5 scores last year. He’s a senior. And the receiver I was most impressed with in the spring game was freshman Donnie Jennert, a 6’6 red shirt from Florida. He’s a big target and caught nearly everything that was thrown to him.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The End of the 2009-2010 Basketball Season Leaves Plenty of Promise for The Next

Hard to believe the high school basketball season ended nearly a month ago with Ames High hoisting the 4A trophy for the second straight year. If you love high school hoops as much as I do, the start of the 2010-11 season is less than 8 months away. Let the countdown begin.

As a resident of the Ballard school district and a graduate of Colo-Nesco, I am fortunate to be able to root directly for two of the areas premier basketball players and teams. One player happens to be the reigning Ames Tribune Mid Iowa Girls Player of the Year: Taylor Greenfield of Ballard. The other happens to be the reigning Ames Tribune Mid Iowa Boys Player of the Year: Brandon Eley of Colo-Nesco. So I get the best of both worlds. Greenfield was selected to the 2010 team as part of the Ames Tribune special that was published on April 9, 2010. The following is an excerpt from that article:

{Greenfield averaged 19.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals this season to be named The Tribune’s Mid-Iowa girls basketball player of the year. She also ranked second on the team with 2.7 assists per game.

“There’s not anything on the basketball floor that she can’t do,” Ballard coach Merle Olberding said. “Anywhere we put her, it’s a tough matchup for our opponent.”
That versatility has led to Greenfield being recruited by some of the biggest names in women’s basketball.

Greenfield said she is most interested in Iowa State, Stanford and Duke, and she wants to schedule visits to Texas, Tennessee and Connecticut, the two-time defending national champion.}

Eley was selected for the second consecutive year as part of the Ames Tribune special that was published on Sunday, April 11, 2010. The following is an excerpt from that article:

{ “He lives for the game; he loves it, and that’s probably what makes him a good player,” Colo-Nesco coach Pat Wynja said.

Eley averaged 19 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, leading the conference in each category. His 4.4 steals were second-best in the conference, and his 1.64 blocks per game were just behind teammate Michael Warren.}

The Royal boys finished 20-3, losing a stunner to Grandview Park Baptist in the second round of tourney action. The Ballard girls finished 23-2, losing in the State Tournament semi-finals to eventual champion Sioux City Bishop Heelan. Colo-Nesco returns 5 of their top 7 players next season, including 4 starters. Ballard returns all but 2 players next year, and 7 of their 8 leading scorers from 09-10.

With all of the issues surrounding the basketball programs at Iowa and Iowa State (can it get any worse?), it would be easy for a central Iowan to be discouraged about the prospects of the 2010-2011 hoops season. But as a fan of two great high school programs with plenty of promise, I can’t wait.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Allure of The Underdog

I'm a lifelong Duke fan. Well, almost. I started rooting for Duke back in the Johnny Dawkins days of the mid 1980's, becoming a die-hard Dukie when they knocked off the presumably unbeatable Runnin Rebels of UNLV to win their first title in 1991. My home in Zearing where I grew up may still bear the marks in the ceiling where I nearly jumped through it after Christian Laettner's miracle shot against Kentucky in 1992.

But tonight? Tonight, I was a Butler fan. There's nothing I love more than a great underdog story. Hoosiers, The Rookie, The Blind Side--all some of my favorite all-time movies. And Butler definitely fit the mold. It really was David against Goliath. Duke, with all its tradition and Final 4 appearances and titles. Butler, having never even been there before. The game itself had all the makings of a storybook ending. A remarkable game, back and forth, with the underdog having the chance to win on a miracle shot at the buzzer. That shot was supposed to go in. Can you imagine if it would have? It may have been the most remarkable moment in college basketball history. I wanted that shot to go in, I truly did--Duke fan and all. It just goes to show: We all love an underdog. Congrats to Butler on an AMAZING season.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"The Hug": Cool? Or Creepy?

In case you missed it Saturday night, The Final 4 produced one of the most unforgettable and uncomfortable moments in sports I’ve ever seen. It happened late in the Duke/West Virginia game, with Duke leading by double digits and West Virginia trying to mount a comeback. Mountaineers star Da’Sean Butler drove to the basket and had his knee buckle (turns out it was an ACL tear) on a questionable no-foul call against Duke. The minutes that followed were some of the most agonizing since Lawrence Taylor snapped Joe Theismann’s leg in two twenty-five years ago on Monday Night Football.

It’s never pleasant to watch someone in pain, and you knew the way Butler was acting, he was enduring a lot of it. Knowing he was a senior and that we were witnessing his final collegiate moments made it all the worse. And then, Coach Bob Huggins, “Huggy Bear” as he’s nicknamed, came to his side in a scene that will never be forgotten. It was a scene that will become as big a part of Huggins’ legacy as his 600-plus career coaching victories. It was a scene that has been dubbed by most people as “touching.” I can certainly understand that view, but watching it live, I actually felt it was a little creepy. Huggins was a little too close for comfort, a little too motherly—like a mom caressing a child. This is a 22-year old man who is set to make millions of dollars playing in the NBA next year. I just wanted to shout through the TV screen to leave the man alone and let the team doctors get him off the court. At one point, I thought Huggins was actually going to kiss Butler on the lips! One has to wonder if Butler wanted him that close or if he wanted to just be left alone and escorted off the court as quickly as possible.

One can’t deny that it was a touching gesture from coach to player—as long as it was genuine and not for show. Clark Kellogg, CBS Analyst, described it as a “powerful” scene. Re-watching the clip, I can certainly see how some people thought it was a really cool thing Huggins did. So…cool? Or creepy? I’ll let you be the judge.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cyclone Fans Rooting Hard For UNI Against Spartans

The similarities are eerie. On Friday, the UNI Panthers face the Michigan State Spartans in their biggest game in school history. Nearly 10 years ago to the day, the Iowa State Cyclones also faced Michigan State in its biggest game in school history. The Panthers are trying to advance to the Elite 8. The Cyclones were playing in the 2000 Elite 8 with a spot in the Final 4 at stake. The Cyclones had only 4 losses entering its game against the Spartans. The Panthers also have just 4 losses entering its contest. Iowa State was the Big 12 regular season AND tournament champions in 2000. UNI won both its regular season and conference championships this year. Iowa State’s #2 seed was its highest seed ever in the NCAA Tournament. UNI’s #9 seed is its highest seed ever. ISU’s Marcus Fizer was the Big 12 Player of The Year. UNI has this years Missouri Valley Conference Player of The Year in Adam Koch. When the Cyclones faced Michigan State in 2000, the Spartans were led by an All-American point guard by the name of Mateen Cleaves. When the Panthers take the court on Friday night, the Spartans will…not be led by an All-American point guard. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State’s preseason All-American candidate, is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

The question is, will that injury prove to be the difference for or against the Panthers? UNI is, suddenly, expected by many to win that game—a position no one would have ever dreamt the Panthers would be in during the Sweet 16 round of the tourney. A week ago, the nation had no idea who Ali Forokhmanesh was. Now, he’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And everyone knows about the curse of SI. Last week, UNI was flying under the radar against a more talented Kansas team, but also a school that has a knack for losing to underdogs in the tournament. This week, UNI is on everyone’s radar as they again face a more talented team in Michigan State…and potentially the best college basketball coach in America, who’s had nearly a week to prepare. Undoubtedly, the Spartans have taken notice of the overnight national love affair with the Panthers. You can bet that Coach Izzo reminds them of it daily. You can also bet that Coach Izzo reminds them that no one thinks they can win without their star point guard—all the more reason the Spartans will give the Panthers everything they’ve got.

Ten years have passed since Michigan State dashed the dreams of Iowa State fans the night of March 25, 2000. The Cyclones led by 9 points with 5 minutes to go, before Cleaves and Mo Peterson took the Spartans on a 25-5 run to end the game. They went on to win the National Championship. On Friday, the UNI Panthers can avenge that loss for the state of Iowa, advance to their own Elite 8, potentially the Final 4, and—just like Michigan State in 2000--the National Ch….ok, let’s not get too carried away.

The Panthers beat the Cyclones early this season on ISU's home court, but you better believe that Friday night, Cyclone fans (and Hawkeye and Bulldog fans for that matter) will all be rooting for the purple and gold.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Biggest Win in Iowa Collegiate History

Confession time. Before tonight, how many casual basketball fans in the state of Iowa knew the name Ali Forokhmanesh? Well, after UNI’s improbable, shock-the-world win against #1 Kansas, that will change forever. Yes, Ali Forokhmanesh is a name that will live among sports legends in the state of Iowa...and the state of Kansas, I’m guessing. Kind of like Bucky Dent in Red Sox Nation. Kansas wasn’t just a #1 seed, they were THE #1 seed, and the top rated team in the country! I know my sports history in the state of Iowa pretty well, and I can’t think of another win in Iowa collegiate history that even comes close to this one. The Iowa Hawkeyes win over Michigan which featured the #1 and #2 college football teams in America in 1985 was pretty big, but it was #1 against #2--it was supposed to be close. And this is the NCAA Tournament—one of the biggest stages in all of collegiate sports. The University of Iowa basketball team had a pretty big win of its own too back in 1980 when Steve Waite had a three point play against Georgetown that catapulted the Hawks into the Final 4. But I still think this one is bigger. Kansas was favored to win the National Championship; UNI was not even on the national radar screen. They sure are now. Here are some final thoughts about UNI’s monster upset over Kansas:

1.How much did Jordan Eglseder improve his NBA draft stock tonight? He was phenomenal.
2.How far can UNI go? They just knocked off #1, so anything’s possible now, right? I think they match up better against Maryland than Michigan State, so hope for a Terps win over Sparty. An Elite 8 match up would most likely be against Ohio State. My prediction is UNI to the Elite 8, then bowing out in a close game against the Buckeyes.
3.The Panthers get to play their next round(s) in St. Louis—the same place they played, and won, the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. This could prove to be a huge advantage for UNI—they’re familiar with the area, they’ve been successful there, and they should draw a good pro-Panther crowd.
4.How much pressure will this win put on Gary Barta at the University of Iowa to hire Panthers Coach Ben Jacobson? A Lot!! There’s no doubt Jacobson’s a good coach, but is he too similar in style to Lickliter and McDermott? The feeling here is "yes," but that win over the nation’s #1 team puts Barta in a precarious situation—definitely one to watch in the next week or two.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Eley Named Des Moines Register 3rd Team All State

19 Points Per Game
7.5 Rebounds Per Game
5.1 Assists Per Game
4.4 Steals Per Game
1.7 Blocks Per Game


NCAA Tourney Breakdown

I’ll say it right up front--I think the committee did a horrible job with these brackets. On Saturday, I wrote down my Final 4 teams, not knowing who was going to be set up where. They were Kansas, Ohio State, Georgetown and Kentucky. Now, three of those teams are all in the same bracket (the Midwest). Temple and Wisconsin were two of my dark horses. They’re set up to play each other in the second round. St. Mary ‘s and Richmond were two of my Cinderella possibilities. They meet in the first round. Meanwhile, two of the brackets—West and South—are really weak, especially the West.

Final 4 candidates by region:
--Midwest: Kansas, Georgetown, Ohio State
--West: Syracuse. Kansas State is the #2 seed—they’re not Final 4 material. Neither is the #3 seed Pitt.
--South: Duke, Baylor, Notre Dame (This may be the region a surprise Final 4 team comes from. I’m not sold on #2 seed Villanova.
--East: Kentucky, Wisconsin, West Virginia

My upset specials:
First Round: UNI over UNLV; Murray St. over Vanderbilt; Louisville over Cal; St. Mary’s over Richmond; Missouri over Clemson

Who plays the role of Cinderella?
Murray State—I pick them to advance to the Sweet 16.
St. Mary’s—I pick them to advance to the Sweet 16 also.
Baylor—I pick them to advance to the Elite 8.

Bracket Busters:
The hardest region to pick is the South. I think it’s wide open with Baylor, Notre Dame, Richmond, St. Mary’s, and Villanova all as Elite 8 candidates.
This is one of those regions that will separate the contenders from the pretenders in office pools. I think the winner of Baylor and Notre Dame meets Duke
in the Elite 8. The Richmond/St. Mary’s contest is the hardest game of the entire first round for me to pick. I think the winner upsets Villanova in the Second round.

Who’s my Final 4?
If you want to win your pool, you have to take some risks. Logic would tell me to pick Kansas over Kentucky, with Syracuse and Duke rounding out the Final 4. But picking all the #1 seeds is just flat-out boring. I LOVE this Ohio State team—and I’m not a Big 10 fan. They remind me so much of the Kansas team led by Danny Manning back in 1988. They have that “it” factor and the nations best player in Evan Turner. I choose the Buckeyes to cut down the nets in a Championship match up against Duke. Duke has great guard play, and plenty of size and depth in the frontcourt. My other Final 4 picks are Syracuse in the West and West Virginia in the East.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Office Pool Prep 101; Part 4

We start to separate the men from the boys here in these last two segments. Seeds 4,5 and 6 break us into the top 25 teams.

6 seeds—UNI, Wake Forest, Texas A&M, Tennessee
--The big question everyone around here wants to know is, “How far can the Panthers go?” They have the lofty record (28-4) and are Missouri Valley Conference regular and tournament season champs, have good inside-outside play and the #2 rated scoring defense nationally. But their biggest wins are against Old Dominion, Iowa State, and some of the other Missouri Valley elite—which isn’t saying much. I think UNI can make a Sweet 16 run, and with some luck, MAYBE an Elite 8. Wake Forest has lost four of its last 5 (wrong time of year to do that), but has wins against Gonzaga, Xavier and Maryland. See how they do in the ACC Tourney, then gauge them from there. They are 4-0 in Overtime games. Texas A&M is 22-8. All losses are to tourney teams except one. They have good senior leadership and good guard play. Tennessee is 23-7 with wins over Memphis, Kansas and Kentucky. They also have 4 losses by ten or more points, so be careful with the Volunteers. They’re a prime candidate to be upset in the first round.

5 seeds—Temple, Butler, Texas, Wisconsin
--Temple, Butler and Wisconsin all fit well together here. They are all slow tempo teams that play solid defense and are hard to prepare for. Wisconsin and Temple both rank in the top 10 in scoring defense nationally. Temple has wins against Virginia Tech, Villanova and Xavier, and finished 14-2 in a very good Atlantic 10 conference. Watch out for them. Wisconsin defeated Maryland and Duke in back-to-back games this year, and also defeated Marquette, Ohio State and Purdue. I really like this Badgers team—they could be a Final 4 surprise. I’m not sold on Butler (maybe it’s the Lickliter thing?)—their best wins are against an Evan Turner-less Ohio State team and Xavier. Texas is a mess (6-8 since January 18th).

4 seeds—Michigan State, Pitt, BYU, Gonzaga
--Before the season began, the Spartans were one of my Final 4 favorites. Then they hit a rough patch when Kalin Lucas got hurt. They’ve got the pieces to make a title run if they start hitting on all cylinders. See how they do in the Big 10 tourney, then make the call. Pitt is tough to figure. They play in the nations best conference and have wins over Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova. On the flip side, they lost to Indiana and have four losses by 10 points or more. I don’t trust them. BYU is 28-4, they have good guards led by Jimmer Fredette (20 ppg), and go 9 players deep. Two of their four losses are to Steve Alford’s New Mexico team. Their best wins are against UNLV and UTEP, and haven’t played a great schedule. This may be the most difficult team to gauge in the field of 65. I’d play it safe and not pencil them in past the Sweet 16. Gonzaga defeated Wisconsin and Memphis this year, but also lost to San Francisco and Loyola Marymount. Not enough quality wins here to impress me too much. I think they’re another candidate for an early exit.

As we start to separate the men from the boys with these seeds, I like UNI, Wisconsin, and Michigan State, with a possible deep run by Temple. Be careful with Tennessee, Pitt and Texas.

Seeds 1 through 3 are the cream of the crop. The National Champion comes from this group most of the time.

Kansas—The most talented team in the tournament. They have it all—a great floor leader in Sherron Collins, good inside play with Cole Aldrich and Marcus Morris, and great depth. The Jayhawks rank fourth nationally in scoring; eleventh in rebounding margin; and second in margin of victory.

Purdue—The loss of Robbie Hummel is crushing. Don’t bet on the Boilermakers beyond the Sweet 16.

Kentucky—As talented as Kansas, but not as experienced. Watch out though, we’ve seen teams full of diaper dandies go deep in recent tournaments—see Memphis, Syracuse, etc…

Syracuse—The match up zone they play is deadly come tournament time. Teams don’t have enough time to prepare for that different style of play. Throw in five guys that average double digits, size and depth, and Player of The Year Candidate Wesley Johnson, and you have a legit title contender.

Villanova—Great guard play, led by Scottie Reynolds, and a top ten ranking for most of the year in the Big East. But, Nova has been shaky lately, losing 5 of their last 7. Careful with the Cats. They are 3-5 against the top 25.

West Virginia—This team is scary good in a scary good conference. Three of their six losses were by a total of 6 points. Da’Sean Butler is one of the best players in college basketball. They played the #1 toughest schedule in America this year according to the Sagarin poll.

Duke—Duke has three solid scorers—Scheyer, Singler, and Nolan Smith all average over 17 points per game. They also have good depth with their big men—something they have lacked in recent seasons. Duke is #18 in scoring offense nationally, #18 in rebounding margin, and #3 in margin of victory.

Kansas State—2 of the Wildcats 6 losses are in overtime. 2 others are by less than 6 points. Pullen and Clemente are as good a guard combo as any.

Vanderbilt—They won’t be a top 3 seed and could be a one-and-done. Not impressed with the Commodores, although they did beat Tennessee twice and played Kentucky to within two points.

New Mexico—They’re coached by Steve Alford. Enough said.

Georgetown—I like this team a lot, but like Ohio State, they’re not very deep. And they’re 4-4 in their last 8 games. The Hoyas played the #2 toughest schedule according to the Sagarin Poll.

Ohio State—Since January 12th, OSU has lost just two games by a total of 9 points. Both of those losses were to top ten teams. If they can keep all 5 guys on the floor and out of foul trouble, OSU may be a Final 4 team, maybe a dark-horse National Title contender with National Player of The Year favorite Evan Turner.

Stay tuned for all my selections after Selection Sunday. It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Office Pool Prep 101; Part 3

This segment focuses on the always-hard-to-pick 7,8,9 seeds. Flip a coin. And don’t bank on them winning more than one game.

9 seeds—UTEP, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Oklahoma State
--I don't like any of these teams in the tournament. UTEP is 24-5, but has no marquee wins, and most of their out-of-conference games against anyone of significance were a loss. They are 0-2 against top 50 teams. Virginia Tech is 23-7, and their biggest wins are against Clemson and Wake Forest. Louisville is 20-11, but has only won 3 straight games once since January 1. They did manage to somehow hand Syracuse two of their three losses. Go figure. Oklahoma State is 21-9 with wins against Kansas State, Texas A and M, Baylor and Kansas. But they too have not been able to put a winning streak of more than three games together since January 1. They also have 6 losses by double digits. They have one and done written all over them.

8 seeds—UNLV, Baylor, Clemson, Florida State
--UNLV is 23-7 with some nice wins against Pitt, Louisville, Arizona and BYU. They go 9 deep, but are very young—no seniors of significance. Baylor is a team to watch out for. They are 24-6 and none of their losses were by more than 7 points. They’re my “All Name Team.” Baylor’s top 3 scorers are named LaceDarius, Tweety, and Ekpe. Clemson is 21-8 with wins over Butler, Maryland and Florida State. They don’t have any losses to “bad” teams. Clemson has just one go-to guy though—Trevor Booker. Florida State is 22-8 with wins over Marquette, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. They suffered big losses at Florida, at Ohio State, and at Duke, and are 0-6 against the top 25. They are dominated by underclassmen. Watch out for FSU in the next couple years.

7 seeds—Xavier, Maryland, Missouri, Richmond
--All seven of Xavier’s losses came to opponents that will make the NCAA Tournament, although they are 2-6 against the top 25. They beat Florida, Richmond and Dayton. They have great guard play, led by Jordan Crawford. Maryland has won 7 straight and 9 of last 10. They are peaking at just the right time. The Terps are led by a solid group of seniors, that includes leading scorer Greivis Vasquez. They have one of the best freshmen in the nation in forward Jordan Williams. Missouri is 22-8. 4 of their losses are by 5 points or less. Their best wins are against Old Dominion, Kansas State and Texas. Richmond is 23-7 with wins over Mississippi State, Missouri, Old Dominion, Florida, Temple and Dayton.

In summary, I really don’t like many of these 7,8,9 teams. The best of the bunch are Baylor and Maryland. Maryland is the team I would choose to do some damage.