Earlier this week, I answered your football portion of the latest Cyclone Fanatic Mailbag. Today, the hardwood takes center stage.
Let’s begin with a question from Triggermv.
Triggermv writes: How scared are you of facing Georgia State in our second game of the season without Thomas, Nader or McKay? If you had to rank our non-conference opponents on how tough of a matchup they are going to be when we face them, how would you rank them? Make sure you use all factors including home/away/neutral court, players available at the time, date played… etc.
CW: You’re stealing my thunder here as I had planned to write a column on the non-conference portion of the schedule next week but I’ll give you a little preview of it right here.
Georgia State, the clear-cut favorite to win the Sun Belt, went 25-9 (17-1) last season and was upset in its conference tournament, which ultimately kept the Panthers out of the NCAA Tournament.
Junior wing R.J. Hunger is the top player in the league and according to some, is a candidate to skip his senior season for the NBA after the 2014-15 campaign. Point guard Ryan Harrow is probably the second best player in that league.
Remember Kevin Ware? The former Louisville Cardinal is now at Georgia State, although he might not play against the Cyclones due to a high-ankle sprain.
To answer your question as to how scared I am of facing Georgia State in game No. 2 without Matt Thomas, Abdel Nader or Jameel McKay…
It’s a scary game, no doubt. However, this is still a deep Iowa State team and this is still Hilton Coliseum that we’re talking about. Pound for pound, an Iowa State team of this caliber should still beat the best team in the Sun Belt (although I’d argue that this Georgia State team is far better than the best team in the Sun Belt most years) on its home floor.
It will be close though.
McKay being out is something Iowa State has been preparing for. Clearly the Cyclones are better with him but Hoiberg and the staff have known he would miss the first half of the season for quite some time now.
Not having Matt Thomas will hurt the most in that game. Based off of everything I’ve heard, Thomas has been lights out so far in practice. It’s a night and day difference compared to Thomas’ performance a year ago at this time.
Nader is the biggest wildcard on this team (he could the Big 12’s Player of the Year or be on the outside looking in of Iowa State’s rotation) heading into the season so I’m not really sure how much he will be missed that early in the season.
Top five toughest non-cons:
1 – At Iowa – Rivalry game on the road against a top 25 opponent.
2 – Georgia State – For the reasons listed above. This scares me more because it is the second game of the season than the missing Cyclones. How long will it take for the Cyclones be in sync? Georgia State will be good to go right off the bat.
3 – Arkansas – Likely an NCAA Tournament team that is being picked as high as third in the SEC.
4 – Arizona State or Maryland in the CBE – Neutral court game vs. a high-major opponent in tournament play.
5 – Drake – In-state rival and the Cyclones never play their best games in that arena. This however will beJameel McKay first game in an Iowa State uniform.
Bigdaddykane writes: Who will lead the team in rebounds?
CW: I think it will be Dustin Hogue for the second year in a row.
You can’t go wrong by taking Jameel McKay here but the Marquette transfer won’t have non-conference games like UMKC, Lamar and Southern to pad his stats.
Plus, I feel like McKay’s game will shine in other areas.
In order for Hogue to be successful, he has to bring it and work harder than everybody else 100 percent of the time. I see him as Iowa State’s Dennis Rodman – an energetic, undersized tough guy who simply wants it more than anybody else.
Once again, I see Hogue as a top two or three rebounder in the Big 12.
Carvers4math writes: Are McKay, Thomas, and Nader allowed to play in the secret scrimmage?
CW: Jameel McKay will not be eligible to play in Sunday’s scrimmage vs. Minnesota. The rule is that he cannot play with Iowa State against anybody (outside of practice) until December.
The other two will be able to participate.
Wesley writes: How many Clones will have double-double averages in basketball?
CW: Well considering nobody has done this at Iowa State since Dean Uthoff in 78-79, I will confidently say zero to answer your question.
It is really hard to average double-digit rebounds in the Big 12.
Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler led the league last season at 9.3 rebounds per game.
Melvin Ejim had 10 double-doubles last year and ended with 17.8 and 8.4
CycloneErik writes: Call your shot, punk. How many regular season wins in MBB?
CW: Yo Erik – a little patience my friend? Blum and I are going to do a final season preview hoops podcast next week in which we will make predictions. You cool with that?
Londo writes: What NEEDS to happen for the Cyclones to make a Final Four this season?
CW: Iowa State has to have impeccable chemistry like it did last year. The Cyclones have to continue to improve defensively as this program has done every year since the day Hoiberg was named head coach.
However, the biggest factor when it comes to making a Final Four run is luck.
What does your bracket look like? Are you over or under-seeded? Are you playing your best basketball at the right time? Injuries and good/bad breaks when it comes to calls (Ohio State in the Round of 32 two years ago as an example) are factors.
I think you get the point.
That’s the thing about the NCAA Tournament. The best team usually doesn’t win. UConn was NOT the best team in college basketball last season but they got hot at the right time, caught some breaks along the way (Georges Niang breaking his foot being one of them).
I think that this Iowa State is talented enough to end up in the Final Four but let’s face it; having a few balls bounce your way never hurts either.