The NCAA released a curious statement over the weekend regarding a proposed rule change that would radically alter the game of basketball as we know it. According to the statement, the NCAA announced that there would be no current changes to the make up of the basket itself, including "removal of the backboard".
The statement raised eyebrows around the country and caused many to question why the NCAA would even entertain the thought of removing the backboard from the the basket, but in Ames, Iowa, one man could go without seeing another bank shot ever again.
On January 9th, the Iowa State men's basketball team traveled to Kansas and nearly pulled off an historic upset at the Jayhawk's famed Allen Fieldhouse. The Cyclones led throughout the second half and in the closing minutes, a win appeared to be within their grasp, until Kansas' Ben McLemore banked in a 3-point shot, sending the game to overtime where the Jayhawks eventually won.
That bank shot has haunted Hoiberg ever since, causing the coach to lose sleep while the image of the shot replays in his head.
"From where I was standing, it looked off coming out of his hand," Hoiberg told reporters at the time. "But credit to him. He's a great shooter and he got the bounce."
The image was so troubling that it led Hoiberg to submit an official rule change to the NCAA's competition committee. In the letter, Hoiberg notes that Dr. James Naismith, who is credited with inventing the game of basketball, originally created the game with simply a peach basket nailed to a suspending object. The back board itself was not introduced to the game until years later.
"I say we honor the spirit of the game that Dr. Naismith invented so many years ago. Get rid of the back board and get rid of those BS bank shots at the buzzer," Hoiberg said.
Hoiberg even provided an example of a player on his own team who benefited from playing without a back board growing up.
"I mean, do we really need the back board," asked Hoiberg. "Tyrus McGee grew up playing with a milk crate nailed to a telephone pole and look how good he turned out."
The Cyclone coach admitted that his rule change suggestion was probably a long shot, but that he'll continue to press the rules committee about looking into the change, but may change his mind if his Cyclone team benefits from a lucky bank shot down the road.
"If we're going to keep the back board, you should at least have to call 'bank'," said Hoiberg. "I asked around and nobody heard McLemore say a word when he shot the ball. At least Scott Christopherson called 'bank' when he nailed that buzzer beater against Oklahoma State last year."
Iowa State and Coach Hoiberg will have a chance to avenge their loss to Kansas as the Cyclones host the Jayhawks on Monday night in Hilton Coliseum in Ames. Iowa State currently owns a 22-game home court winning streak, which included an upset of then #5 Kansas last season.
Record: 23.-4, 11-3
First Meeting: Kansas 97 - Iowa State 89 (OT)
Well, we had it. That's all there really is to say about the first meeting between these two teams. Iowa State looked like the better team for most of the game and well...we know the rest. Fred Hoiberg inserted Georges Niang into the starting line up, going with a small-ball look in an attempt to neutralize the effect of Kansas center, Jeff Withey. The move worked brilliantly, pulling Withey out of the lane and Iowa State was able to get better looks inside the paint throughout much of the contest.
It will be interesting to see how Kansas coach Bill Self counters that move from the initial match up. One thought is that Kansas will consistently go inside to Withey on the offensive end of the floor, utilizing his significant height advantage. Could Self go with a smaller, more athletic line up though? Freshmen Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor have been inconsistent at best and would Self really trust two freshmen to play big minutes in what will be the most hostile road environment the Jayhawks have seen this year? I highly doubt it. Instead, I think Self will go mostly with Withey, but may pull F Kevin Young for stretches and opt to surround Withey with a 4 guard line up, consisting of Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Ben McLemore and Naadir Tharpe.
Self is unquestionably one of the top coaching strategists in the game and the chess match between him and Hoiberg will make for a captivating game.
Sellout. Gold Rules game. 22-game home court winning streak on the line. ESPN Big Monday. #9 Kansas Jayhawks in town. It doesn't get any bigger. Since their 3-game losing streak, Kansas has returned to championship form and again looks like a team that could cut down the nets in April. Iowa State has been playing better of late as well, notching 3 straight wins, including a crucial road win at Baylor last week.
I am concerned about the recent trend we've seen from Cyclone forwards Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim when it comes to foul trouble. The duo, while undersized, has been a dynamic force for ISU in conference play and Hoiberg absolutely needs both on the floor for 25+ minutes tonight if the Cyclones are going to pull out the victory. Matching up against the 7-foot Withey will pose a major challenge, however, as both Niang and Ejim are giving up 5-6 inches against the Jayhawk senior. Post defense hasn't been a strong suit for ISU this season and this may be the biggest test yet.
On the perimeter, limiting the open looks for Ben McLemore is priority number one. Chris Babb will draw the assignment of stopping the outstanding freshman who had a shooting night for the ages in the first go around. McLemore shot 10-12 from the floor, including a ridiculous 6-6 from three and also chipped in a 7-7 effort from the stripe en route to a 33-point coming out party for the future lottery pick. McLemore has to be identified in transition and ISU needs Babb to play to his reputation as a shut-down defender.
Offensively, we know ISU is going to hoist up 20+ 3's, but the Cyclones still need to attack the basket and go at Withey. KU plays an aggressive, perimeter defense which means back door cuts and driving opportunities will be there.
This truly has the makings of a heavyweight slugfest and these two teams will likely go blow-for-blow for 40 minutes. Ultimately, I think the home crowd and the current wave of Hilton Magic will prove to be too much for Kansas and Iowa State will pull off a home upset against the Jayhawks for a second consecutive year.
Iowa State 73 - Kansas 67
Tip: 8 PM CT - Hilton Coliseum - Ames, IA
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Kansas SBN Site: www.rockchalktalk.com