Saturday, February 19, 2005

Look Out for Iowa State

At the beginning of this week, my bubble breakdown didn't include Iowa State. Their RPI was in the 70's, and they were still only 13-8 and .500 in the Big 12, with a road game at Kansas coming up on Saturday. They had, however, won five in a row in the conference after starting out 0-5. After this week, though, the Cyclones are IN the NCAA Tournament if it were chosen tomorrow night. They are not hovering on the bubble any longer. They skipped over that phase and are comfortably in the tourney. There is no way you can even consider not including a team that has won 7 in a row, is fifth in a solid Big 12 at 7-5, and owns road wins at Texas and Kansas, as well as home wins against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Yes, their RPI may be a little low for an at-large team, but that is bound to rise with the win in Lawrence Saturday afternoon. Moreover, they have a very favorable schedule down the stretch, with four games that they probably should win, given the way they are perfoming lately. At Texas A&M on Tuesday and at Colorado to finish the season could be difficult, but if they continue to play the way they are in the past 7 games, they can beat anyone. Home contests against Missouri and Nebraska should be fairly easy victories. If they win out, the Cyclones will stand at 11-5 in the Big 12, and winners of 11 in a row heading into the Big 12 Tournament. I can see them going as high as a Top 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In addition, my apologies go out to anyone that read my article on the 20 backcourts to watch. Like my bubble watch, it left out Iowa State. My reasoning for that is I did not think they would make the Big Dance. As I mentioned earlier, Iowa State is in, so now I look like I completely forgot one of the top backcourts in the country. Curtis Stinson can carry a team on his shoulders, and he showed that in the overtime today against the Jawhawks. The only knock on him is that he turns the ball over too much (3.4 per game). Stinson is the best rebounding guard in the Big 12, and also averages almost 5 assists per contest. Will Blalock is fourth in the league in assists, and is a great third option for the Cyclones. Tasheed Carr and Rashon Clark are two other guys that are very useful on the perimeter in what amounts to basically a four-guard attack for Iowa State. Inside, Jared Homan has developed into one of the best big men in the conference, although he is sometimes inconsistent. Take, for example, his last four games. At Nebraska, he had 2 points in 36 minutes, but came back against Texas Tech with 23 points. He followed that with another 2 point effort against Kansas State, but responded with a big-time 14 point, 11 rebound effort at Kansas. Damion Staple provides another big man off the bench. If Homan becomes more consistent on the interior, and the perimeter keeps up their hot play as they have of late, the Cyclones are going to be a team to be reckoned with come tourney time.


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