Basketball Anyone? Breaking Down the Big 12: Iowa State

Is football over yet?  Well maybe not yet but college basketball is right around the corner.  Aside from the Big East, which is in a world of it's own, the Big 12 could make an argument for the best conference in the nation.  The ACC and the Mountain West conference are right there too but the top teams in the Big 12 are as good as any other conference's top squads.  Just like in football, the Big 12 South will carry the conference in basketball.  Only one of the preseason top teams, Kansas, is from the North side of the conference.  The North will be particularly weak and part of that side is Iowa State, who will probably challenge the Buffs for the bottom of the conference.  An extremely young team, the Cyclones will be bringing in six, count em', six new recruits to help bolster their team.  Much like CU, the future appears to be getting brighter, but they still have some work to do.

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Last Season's Results:  Greg McDermott's second year at Iowa State began so promising.  The Cyclones started out the year an impressive 12-6, including wins over Oregon State, Iowa, and Purdue who will be a top team in the nation this year.  McDermott's squad began to fall apart in their January match up against Kansas.  The Cyclones lost that game in a blowout and the wheels subsequently came off.  They would go on to lose 11 of their next 13 games.  They finished up 14-18 on the year, including a 4-12 record in the Big 12.  Iowa State was led by three players that are no longer enrolled in the university.  Jiri Hubalek led the team in scoring with 12.4 points per game.  Wesley Johnson, who also averaged 12.4 points a game as well, transferred to Syracuse after the disappointing season.  Senior Rashon Johnson was also a key senior for the Cyclones averaging eight points and six rebounds a game.  A huge bright spot for ISU was freshman big man Craig Brackins.  The youngster averaged 11 points a game and also pulled down 5 boards.  It was indeed a tale of two seasons last year for Iowa State, I'm sure McDermott won't allow them to wear out once again this year.

Fresh Faces:  Like I said before, there is no shortage of fresh blood for the Cyclones.  They have brought in six new players, including one junior college transfer.  Each player was a 3-star as ranked by Rivals and will be counted on to replace some of the scoring that graduated last year.  The Cyclones loaded up in the front court, signing three power forwards and a center.  Headlining the big fellas are Justin Hamilton and Jamie Vanderbeken.  Hamilton, a 6'11'' center did not start playing basketball until he was 15 years old but really came on strong in the AAU circuit.  He was graded an 80 by ESPN/Scouts Inc.  He was offered by many smaller west coast schools, including many WCC teams not named Gonzaga  Vanderbeken is expected to have the greatest immediate impact.  The junior college transfer out of Tyler JC averaged 14 points and nine boards a game and led Tyler to a top-10 ranking.  UConn and Ole Miss showed some recruiting interest before Iowa State got his signature.  L.A. Pomlee and Clinton Mann will also find their way onto the court this season but in lesser roles.  Guards Dominique Buckley and Wes Eikmeier round out the 2008 recruiting class for ISU.  Buckley should make some major waves in his career at Iowa State.  Before signing with the Cyclones, Buckley had some major recruiting interest including an offer from Xavier.  He averaged 14 points and 6 assists a game in his senior season and was one of the top players in the state of Michigan.  The future appears to be bright for Iowa State as they attempt to shake off some miscues from the past.

see more Iowa State basketball breakdown after the jump...

2008-09 Impact Players:  Iowa State will go as far as Craig Brackins will take them.  He had an outstanding freshman campaign in which he chalked up five 20 point scoring games.  As a freshman, he started all 32 games he played in for Iowa State and finished the year with a very impressive stat line including 11 points and five rebounds.  The guard play for the Cyclones should be interesting to watch this season.  They planned on having Lucca Staiger available this season but a recent knee injury may sideline him for quite some time.  Staiger, who was one of the top players in Germany, was declared ineligible last season because he played on a professional team in Germany but was reinstated this season.  The injury will put more pressure on Diante Garrett.  Garrett averaged six points and three assists a game last season and Coach McDermott needs that stat line to increase greatly.  He will undoubtedly be the leader of a very inexperienced back court.  The injury to Staiger will force Dominique Buckley to play early and often as well.  Overall, the team is so young that any player could be the best player but what Iowa State can not afford is for the team to sink into mediocrity which is why the play of Craig Brackins will be so important.

Projected Starting Lineup:  Staiger was expected to start this season but with his status up in the air, Coach McDermott will have to shake things up.  I'd expect Diante Garrett and Bryan Petersen to start in the back court for sure for the Cyclones.  Brackins and Vanderbeken will get the nod in the front court but there still remains one starting spot with the loss of Staiger.  If I was McDermott, I would throw Dominique Buckley in the starting lineup.  Just let the kid get his feet wet in the Big 12 so you can groom the future.  Another guy who may become a starter is Alex Thompson who only averaged 12 minutes a game last season.  As you can see, there are many question marks for Iowa State this season.  Can someone call Marcus Fizer and get him back in a Cyclone jersey?

Projected Season Results:  The Cyclones really have no tough match ups in their non-conference schedule.  The portion that will be the most difficult will be from December 6-December 12.  In that time they will face Oregon State, Drake, and Iowa...see it's really quite an easy schedule!  I'd be stunned if Iowa State was over .500 by seasons end.  They will likely be in the bottom two in the conference along with CU but in college basketball you just never know.

I'll be breaking down the rest of the Big 12 to get you all ready for what will surely be another great year of College basketball.  I was told that I was allowed a shameless plug so if any of you are Gonzaga basketball fans, I would encourage you to check out The Kennel Report which is a Gonzaga athletics blog that I co-write.

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