This is quite possibly the best time of the year for college sports.  Football is in full swing, and teams are fighting for bowl eligiblity, conference championships, and BCS poll positions.  At the same time we are still seeing great volleyball, and wrestling matches are heating up.  So why don’t we add some more:  women’s and men’s college basketball!  If you can’t find a college sporting event to watch, then you are just plain and simple not turning on your tv.

This college basketball season is starting off with a Bang—North Carolina and Michigan St. will be playing on an aircraft carrier.  Yes, I said it…an aircraft carrier.  Lets hope the same bang can be made by our Iowa State Cycones.  To be fair to myself and every one else that gave their season preview on the Clones, there is just no way to be 100% sure what might happen this season.  We have 2 players returning that saw significant minutes last year; 2 that played at times, and the rest are transfers and newcomers.  We have been dubbed “Transfer U,” and no one really knows how all of our parts are going to come together.

Let’s start with our returning senior, Scott Christopherson, who could be the best shooter in college basketball.  He is the new leader of this team and will have to embrace this role as he will be playing some point this year.  Coach Fred Hoiberg said this is going to be a point guard by committee role, but Christopherson looks as if he will have the first crack at it.  It will definitely be strange not seeing him come off screens all day on the offensive end as he has done so well throughout his career.  Regardless of his new role, he still needs to have at least five 3s shot per game.

The other Cyclone regular is Melvin Ejim, our sophomore work horse.  He had one of the best freshman campaigns in Cyclone history.  He should be even better this year with the talent and shooters he has around him.  The guy has a motor that doesn’t stop, and it shows by the type of stats that the he put up last season.  If he can keep from making the same freshman mistakes that hurt us late in games last year, then there shouldn’t be much to get after him about this year. 

Now we get on to the transfers where we have 4 that had to sit out a year, and 1 that came from the juco ranks.  We will start with Tyrus McGee, the juco transfer, and his crazy ability to hit the three.  The kid shot an amazing percentage as a juco and knocked down 115 3-pointers last year.  He will help out with the point duties but will more importantly help stretch the court.  We then have the 4 transfers:  Royce White, Chris Allen, Chris Babb, and Anthony Booker.  All four will have a big impact, and 3 should be in the starting five.  Booker is a big body that should help our interior defense and should be able to pull down a good number of rebounds.  Chris Babb should be starting at the small forward position, and he can shoot from outside as well.  He brings a big body that will be tough for our opponents to guard as he can take it inside or shoot off the dribble.  Chris Allen could be the go to guy in clutch situations.  He has plenty of experience in big games playing for Michigan St.  Allen has a very nice shot and the quickness to match.  It would not surprise me if he Allen leads the team in scoring this year.  I’ll touch a little more on that a little later.  Last but not least is Royce White, a big strong post point guard, who can outlift some of our football team.  I never thought I would use post and point guard as postions for one player, but here I am.  Yes, we will see the ball in his hands going up the court multiple times.  The guy can pass like a point and has hands that make the basketball look like a baseball.  He’s got to look out for palming calls when he brings it up the court!  He will be our most dominate player throughout the season.

Along with our transfers we bring in some fresh talent with Percy Gibson and Tavon Sledge and have returners Bubu Palo and Jordan Railey.   Bubu will be helping with the point play and will play a big role when we step up our defensive pressure.  Railey will see action after his suspension and will be the bruiser down low.  He put on some weigh,t and he will be able to bang with the big men much better than last year.  As for Gibson and Sledge, they should both see the court at times this year and will hopefully have a positive impact.  I am very excited to see Tavon’s speed and Gibson’s touch around the basket.

So who does lead this team in scoring?  Your guess is as good as mine as I think you will see a different leading scorer every few games.  If I had to pick my top three, it would be Ejim, Allen, and White.  I think you will see Ejim come out on top only because he is so opportunistic on the court.  Allen will challenge and may only be a bit behind.  I think White’s ability to draw double teams and pass will keep him in 3rd but may lead the team in assists.  This is impressive for a 6’8″ player.

I am pretty sure you won’t see too much difference in the style of play from last year, but you will see it played better or maybe just at a different level because of the athletes we have.  We should be a running team, stretching the floor, and shooting 3s. Our team should be one of the higher scoring offenses in the conference.  We will also be able to pressure the ball alot more on defense this year because of the depth we have.  We won’t be seeing Scotty play 38 minutes a game this year (at least I hope not).  Our depth at guard will give us the ability to pressure full court at times.  It could be scary for opposing guards to have to bring the ball up against Bubu and Sledge.

If we take a look at our pre-conference season, it can’t get much easier.  We do have some really tough games, but we could enter the conference with as little as one or two losses, and it could be possible to be undefeated.  Our biggest challeges will be Northern Iowa, an improved Iowa team, and at Michigan (should be a top 25 team).  Playing a round robin schedule in the Big 12 is going to be difficult, especially with the type of talent we have, but I still believe we can get into that top 4 if some things go our way.  I think back to last year and how we lost so many games in the final minutes of regulation and overtime.  If those games go the other way, then we would have had an over-acheiving middle of the pack Big 12 team. With the talent we have now, we should win those games and then some. 

I would like to see us go 12-1 in pre-conference and 12-6 in conference for a 24-7 team prior to the Big 12 tournament.  This would be enough to get us in the NCAA tournament, and the Hoiberg era is off to a great start in only 2 seasons at the helm.  As always LET’S GO CLONES!

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