Thursday, January 13, 2005

Iowa State's NCAA Tournament Hopes Are Fading Fast

Iowa State is a basketball team in trouble.

Its NCAA tournament hopes are folding right in front of us.

Before the season began, the Cyclones indicated it would be a big-time disappointment if there was no NCAA tournament at the end of what they assumed would be a 2004-2005 rainbow.

It’s not going to happen.

Not unless coach Wayne Morgan and his players make a dramatic turnaround.

Not unless they can win on the road as well as protect their home court.

Not unless Curtis Stinson, who some thought was ready for the NBA, suddenly gets ready for the Big 12.

Not unless Morgan can find some replacements on the bench after the departures of Reggie George [kicked off the team] and Robert Faulkner [academic problems].

While looking for something good to happen, something bad – very bad – awaits the Cyclones later this week.

Following last night’s 71-66 loss to No. 2-rated Kansas, they take records of 8-5 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12 Conference into a game Saturday at Oklahoma State.

Don’t look for this to be a pretty picture on ABC-TV for Iowa State.

Sixth-ranked Oklahoma State will be trying to get coach Eddie Sutton his 768th career victory, which would put him past the legendary Henry Iba, his mentor in Stillwater.

As lousy as Iowa State plays on the road – 26 consecutive Big 12 losses – this could get ugly in a hurry.

ABC will be sending the game to 23 percent of the nation’s households.

How long the network stays with the Clones’ game instead of switching to North Carolina-Wake Forest [which gets 60 percent of the coverage] or Arizona-UCLA [17 percent] is anybody’s guess.

I took a quick look at what Iowa State has done so far and what’s still ahead on the schedule. I’ve got the Cyclones projected to finish the regular season at 16-12.

Unless Morgan pulls some magic wand out of his pocket or unless Tim Floyd is hired to draw up the game plan at the Big 12 tournament, Iowa State is headed to the dreaded NIT again.

Iowa State vs. Creighton in the first round at Omaha. That really gets your blood moving, doesn’t it?


Where’s Johnny Orr when Iowa State needs him?

The attendance at Hilton Coliseum for the Iowa State-Kansas game was announced as 13,009—more than 1,000 below capacity.

That’s very difficult to believe.

When Orr was coaching at Iowa State and sending teams against Kansas’ Larry Brown, there would have been more than 1,000 people bringing crowbars to Hilton, trying to get into a sold-out building.


Iowa State, of course, isn’t the only basketball team that’s headed in the wrong direction.

I have a friend who has something in common with Steve Alford’s team. They both go south in January.

“It looks like the Hawkeye women have gone south, too,” he writes.

HALUSKA NEEDS 5 STITCHES OVER HIS RIGHT EYE reports that it’s already been a tough season for Iowa’s Adam Haluska.

The sophomore had groin and stomach injuries that kept him out of practice for nearly three weeks in November. Haluska has since had to overcome upper back spasms that took him out of last week’s 81-69 loss at Ohio State.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Haluska needed five stitches over his right eye after being nailed in yesterday’s practice by forward Doug Thomas. The injury isn’t expected to bother Haluska in Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game against Minnesota [12-3 overall, 2-0 in the Big Ten and on a 10-game winning streak] at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Of his 12-3 team, which has lost its first two Big Ten games, Alford said at today’s press conference:

“Our theme this week is that this is going to be our opener [and we need to] get that enthusiasm and that fire in our eye. We’re really looking at playing a 14-game schedule now, and this is our home opener.

“We’re going to attack this like a home opener, and then we have to move on to our next set of games.”

[NOTE: After reading an early version of this column, an eastern Iowa reader e-mailed me with a message that said: "I find it hard to believe that Alford expects his college-age Hawkeyes to play 'Let's Pretend.' How many openers can a team have?" As you can see, my readers are very intelligent people.]

The team has emphasized fundaments in practice this week.

“I think we’ve tried to practice for other teams so much instead of playing the way we’re supposed to play,” guard Jeff Horner said. “In [the Maui Invitational], we trapped ball screens all the time, and we’ve kind of gotten away from that.


Honored at Saturday’s Lettermen’s Day game will be the 1980 Hawkeye team that played in the NCAA Final Four.

Although that team had only a 10-8 record and finished fourth in the Big Ten standings, it beat Virginia Commonwealth, North Carolina State, Syracuse and Georgetown in the East Region before losing to Louisville and Purdue [when there was still a third-place game] in the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Steve Waite, Vince Brookins, Ronnie Lester, Steve Krafcisin, Kevin Boyle, Kenny Arnold, Bobby Hansen and Mark Gannon were among those on that team.

The famous Lute Olson, God’s gift to coaching, was in his sixth season with the Hawkeyes when they had a 23-10 overall record.

Olson is not expected back for the game because his Arizona team plays Saturday against UCLA. As magical as the man is, it’s difficult for him to be in two time zones on the same afternoon.

Vol. 4, No. 298
Jan. 13, 2005