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Big 12 men's basketball team previews--ISU


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Iowa State


Lost: Fred Hoiberg, Bryce DeJean-Jones, Dustin Hogue, Daniel Edozie


Gained: Steve Prohm, Hallice Cooke, Nick Weiler-Babb, Deonte Burton (mid-Dec.), Simeon Carter, Brady Ernst

Ungained: top recruit in class Nick Noskowiak, who left after picking up several criminal charges


So what does that leave?


In order of importance--


Monte Morris--all-time NCAA career A/T ratio leader. He set the single season record in 2013-14 and was on pace to beat that last year before he went 4/3 in the first round loss to UAB. Really, bierce, you put him over Niang in importance to ISU? Yes, I do, and I don’t think it’s even close. In addition to being all-divinity in traditional point guard stuff, Morris hit 39.5% bta and 54.7% ita. Niang can be thought of as a match-up nightmare, but Morris is someone who simply beats whoever is put on him and makes ISU so incredibly efficient offensively. As fast as ISU plays, Morris had only 3 games with more than 2 turnovers and 10 games with none. He’s on the Cousy watch list for good reason.


Georges Niang–he’s unexplosive, he can’t get off the floor, he’s a poor athlete, and yet he is a match-up nightmare for opposing coaches. He hit 40% bta, 48.5% ita, and 80.8% ft last year. Career numbers are 36.8%, 52.9%, and 74.8%. He’ll go outside to shoot over your shorter players or drive past your bigger players, and he’ll dish like a point guard. He’s nothing on the offensive glass, he’s allergic to blocking shots, but he does a decent job getting rebounds on the defensive end. On the Karl Malone watch list.


Jameel McKay-- long, athletic freak on a team that otherwise lacks long athletic freakishness. His arms are about 6 feet long, and he blocks and rebounds and runs down the floor very, very fast. 58.3% from the field last year. Only threat the team has on the offensive glass, but Hoiberg never really cared to attack that way, preferring to get back on defense to prevent opposing breaks. There were times last year in which he totally took over games at both ends. On the Jabbar watch list.


Then there are the guys who have talent and questions


Naz Long–career 39.5% three point sniper. Tall enough (6'4") to get his shot off against nearly any team. Coming back from hip surgery. Didn’t play this summer against teams in Spain.


Matt Thomas–high school sharpshooter who has hit just 33.3% bta in two years at ISU. Shot better in conference last year (34.7%) and was 14/30 of his last 30 on the season, so maybe he’s ready to bust out as a shooter.


Abdel Nader–enigma who tries too hard. At times he looks exceedingly competent on offense, but at other times he looks incapable of having any positive effect. He went 4/6 bta against Iowa, but was just 11/63 over the rest of the season. He did hit 53.5% from two, but his turnover rate was way too high. His offensive efficiency has been atrocious for three years running (two at No. Illinois, and one at ISU), but that hasn’t stopped him from being maybe too involved in the offense. Just how awful was NIU in 2012-13 for Nader to have a ridiculously low 80.1 offensive efficiency rating and still take 42% of the team’s shots when he was on the floor? Last year he had his most efficient year ever on offense–92.4 rating, lowest by far of any player who played more than 70 total minutes last year for ISU. Long may be questionable to start the year, and Simeon Carter and Brady Ernst are unknown at the Division I level, so Nader should have a big bump up in minutes played. He can hit ft and likes to attack the rim despite being only 6'6" or so, so there’s that he can build around.


Deonte Burton–transfer from Marquette who is very strong and explosive off the floor but short for a SF, not a very good ballhandler for a SG guard, and left Marquette after losing PT to incoming transfer Carlino, recovering from injury Duane Wilson, and sophomore Jajuan Johnson. Or maybe he and Wojo didn’t mesh.




Hallice Cooke–transfer from Oregon State who hit 45.6% bta as a freshman while playing point part of the time. Was behind the other guards in the trip to Spain, and Long didn’t make the trip.


The freshmen:


Simeon Carter–solidly built 6'8" freshman who will likely struggle to finish against longer defenders at this level but who knows how to use his body to create some space and make things difficult in the paint for opponents. Carter originally committed to SMU, and as I have been saying for years, Larry Brown isn’t dumb about who has talent. If he can go at this level right away, he will be a very important addition to a team that has only three other guys taller than 6'6", and one of them is the next freshman discussed below.




Brady Ernst–don’t know if he has the physical tools to compete at this level, but the same could have been said of Niang coming out of Tilton. And no, I’m not saying I think he’s another Niang. He doesn’t have that kind of perimeter game.




Nick Wieler-Babb has to sit out the year after transferring from Arkansas.


So there is a lot of offensive firepower to choose from and a certain lack of defensive prowess, but that is to be expected from a team that played for years under Hoiberg. Prohm is unlikely to change those tendencies. He took over an offensively challenged, defensively awesome Murray State team from Billy Kennedy and turned it into a fast playing bunch who were pretty inept defensively. They went from terrific at forcing turnovers and clamping down on shooters in Prohm’s first year to mediocre to poor at both ever since, but they played much faster on offense the longer Prohm was in Murray.

Prohm has promised (or alleged) that he uses a lot of Hoiberg’s offensive tactics, so expect another fast paced, well spaced ISU offense. Whether ISU can stop anyone from scoring will be another question altogether.


Another feature typical of ISU teams is the integration of transfers, this time Cooke and Burton. Burton can get to the rim and explode off the floor, but I noted his limitations above. Cooke is a decent ball handler and an excellent outside shooter, but he did have surgeries on both hips last year, so he might be less than he was at OSU. He did seem to play well in the Cap City Y League this summer, but he was well behind Morris and Thomas in minutes in Spain.


There is one area in which Prohm has to be a better coach than Hoiberg–FT defense. ISU’s opponents hit 72.3, 73.2, and 73.3% over the last three seasons. That’s almost absurd for one team to consistently that bad at ft defense. The only thing I can think is that ISU only fouled guards for three straight years.


I’m not surprised Big 12 coaches voted OU second instead of ISU. I’m also not surprised national voters don’t know better than to put ISU 6th in the country in preseason polls. I’m very impressed with a lot of ISU players and the things they can do, particularly Morris as a PG, Niang as a big guy who can work from the arc in, and McKay as a freak of nature who can go wild inside, but I see too many defensive deficiencies. Add a new coach who has a history of his teams getting weaker on defense over time, and I think there may be some disappointment in store for Cyclone fans.


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