If you frequent Bill Simmons' Grantland web site you'll know that occasionally they'll have an e-mail exchange among the writers about a current topic at hand. It frequently changes direction over the course of the discussion, and makes for engaging reading.
Last weekend when the WRNL staff got together the idea was floated we do the same. So here we are. The first of what is hopefully many weekly columns discussing whatever is top of mind at the time. As always, be sure to chime in on your thoughts below.
Now on to the thoughts of our staff. Mostly unedited.
A player's only meeting was held after the loss to Tech. Is the team finally buying in to Hoiberg telling them to play focused, and if they are, is it too late to rebound and make a serious run at the Big XII championship?
I'm not going to believe that this team is buying into it until I see it. We've now heard the same comments from the players after all four losses this year... Basically along the lines of "we thought we could just show up and win, but we won't let that happen again." Well, guess what guys, you let it happen again THREE TIMES.
Also, while I'm pleased that our defense has improved this year... I still feel like we're lacking a bunch of effort that could make us so much better on that end of the floor. Little things like being in a good stance when you're on the back/help side position. Stuff like that can mean a split second's difference in making it to an outside shooter on a close out (where teams have been destroying us lately, by the way).
CanAzn's Guide To Fixing Iowa State:
1) Get Fat Niang back. The NCAA didn't allow unlimited meals to athletes this year for us not to get dominant post player Niang back instead of this poor man's Antawn Jamison we've been seeing. Muscle/fat/whatever.. he needs to bulk back up and return to the paint.
2) Just change every single opponent on the schedule in the Sukup building to Kansas so everyone starts taking every game seriously.
3) Everybody repents whatever sins they committed last week that caused 3sus to forsake us on Saturday.
As far as the Championship goal is concerned; KU lost to an otherwise winless TCU squad a couple years back and still managed to win (share?) the title that year, so we're just trying to model their approach is my take on yesterday's (Saturday's) loss.
I was never a player, so obviously everything is pure speculation. I like to think most closed door player only meetings consist of the guys getting real with each other, and using the lack of coaches or media around as a chance to call each other out, curse, scream, get mad and develop a us against the world mentality. That meeting concludes with them telling each other they're still brothers, and they need to stand by each other, then proceed to Welch Ave. to get drunk and strengthen said new found bound.
As for the conference championship being gone, I think it's still too early to tell, especially being that we're only a third of the way through an incredibly tough conference schedule. To say that other teams won't suffer a similar fate on the road against a team they should beat is ridiculous. A week ago, we were on top of the Big 12 in having knocked of KU, and suddenly after 2 games that changes? We still beat KU, and still have another shot to do so on their home court. A tall task, yes, but not impossible. To suddenly think that in a week KU went from being a beatable team, to a team that's going to rip off 12 straight conference wins seems like a stretch, and a knee jerk reaction.
Everyone seems too focused on what KU is doing, and not what ISU is doing. ISU still has wins against every team that is in front of us in the conference standings, and while it may not look good after yesterday, there's still a lot of basketball to be played, including a second game against all of those teams. I'm not one who thinks the sky is falling quite yet. I'm a big believer in you learn more from a team after a loss than you do a win, so this week will be telling on who/what this team is with Texas, TCU, and KU our next three slated games.
The ability of this team has never been in question- when they're on, engaged, and take games seriously, they can take on anyone in the country. We've been saying that about Iowa State for the past few years, but this is the first year there isn't a "Fiesty Underdog With A Chip On Their Shoulder" label attached to them, and without that feeling there to consistently motivate players, I think Fred is still trying to figure out how to get everyone going. Now, with another loss, maybe they get a little of that mentality back.
As far as making a run at the Big 12, I believe that's still well within our power, but we're going to need help to get there. Kansas beating Texas on the road makes our job that much tougher, and there are still lots of games left to be played. Best case scenario: win out at home; drop only at Texas and Kansas the rest of conference play; Niang stops playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders; and we get help from the rest of the Big 12 by stealing a game or two in Lawrence.
The reason this team is 4-4 on the road, and just lost to an awful 0-6 team in Big 12 play, is because they have "No Stones". I could tell last year in the first few games, especially Michigan and BYU, that that team was something special. They had that grit and toughness to win at all costs. This team doesn't have a leader to rally behind. It was supposed to be Niang this year, but he hasn't lived up to the hype that he was so graciously given. Last year Deandre Mother F*n Kane would put the team on his back and there was nobody that was going to stop him. This team is soft and very finesse (other than Hulk Hoguemania).
They have to learn to win the games when the shots aren't falling. We saw a gritty team in Morgantown a few weeks ago eek out a hard fought victory, and if this team wants to be a Legitimate Top 10 team than they need to rally behind a leader and stop looking and waiting for someone else to step up.
I also think the loss of Doc Sadler was more vital to this team than people think. Bringing in a green and unpolished assistant was a bad choice for Fred. Especially when the time to win is NOW.
ISU has a shot to win the conference still. They should win out at home, but that loss hit them hard. Hoiberg needs to instill some toughness and make his boys into Junkyard dogs.
This team is not buying into playing focused, unless it's a team they consider a threat. But if Iowa State is playing a team they think they will roll on the road, they lose their collective minds. This team seems to think their shit don't stink. But we all know that their shit has smelled like Ryan Spangler after sex about four times now. Some people say this team just has "SWAG". I call it "SWASS".
Is it too late to win the Big XII? Mathematically? Yes. Practically? No, unless this "Player's Only Meeting" helped this team realize a few things. They can certainly turn it on when they feel like it. Let's hope they feel like winning the Big XII.
So as a collective whole it sounds like everyone expected us to go undefeated in conference play this season? Are we being maybe slightly unrealistic here? 4-2 after playing 3 ranked teams and 3 of those games being on the road is still pretty good, all things considered. Is TTU a bad loss, absolutely, does it completely derail our season, NO! We haven't even played every Big 12 opponent yet and everyone is writing this season off already.
One thing about Hoiberg's teams over the years is that they really start clicking on all cylinders around this time of year, and get better as the year goes on. Why can't we have that same thought as this years team? Everything I'm seeing and hearing echoes previous years teams when we dropped 2 or 3 games when we shouldn't have, and it ultimately didn't mess up our season too much. Ended up as a blip on the radar. I think Cyclone Nation needs to R-E-L-A-X.
I don't think the expectation was to go undefeated, but after the West Virginia win in Morgantown especially, expectations DID go up... Fans realized that if we could hold down the fort at home and pick up a few unexpected road wins like the one over the Mountaineers, we could legitimately have a shot at capturing the conference title. However, that plan also required us to win on the road against the teams we were supposed to beat handily (Tech, TCU). The loss on Saturday brought a lot of people crashing back down to earth. It's basically like the WVU win never happened now.
Now that we have Texas out of the way how does that change expectations? For me I don't think it does a damn thing except confirm my thoughts that this team continues to play with fire and will be burnt by it at the absolute worst time. That might be next Monday, it might be late in February, or it might be earlier in March than we like, but if this team doesn't improve its free throw shooting and focus down the stretch they'll leave a black eye somewhere on this season.
After watching (the first 30 minutes of) Texas game, I'm far more inclined to answer this "yes and no," respectfully. First off, I don't think this team was ever unfocused. This is kind of a cop out, but I'm not sure Fred really ever allows those kinds of lapses to happen; at least not any more than your average group of college kids. You're going to get caught looking ahead. It's the nature of an 18-game double round-robin schedule. It's hard to take things "one game at a time" for two and a half months.
Monte Morris said it best Monday night: "We went into that game over-confident just because it said 'Tech' on their jerseys." Teams that truly lose focus usually aren't that honest with themselves. At the end of the day, the Texas Tech loss actually did nothing to Iowa State's standing in the Big 12. And they came out Monday night and throttled a pretty staunch Texas defense for most of the game. You take your lumps and you move on. Apples and oranges, I know, but we had this same conversation after the Morgantown Massacre a year ago.
The way I see it, it's January, we're a game out in the loss column, and this may be Bill Self's least impressive Kansas team in a decade. If the crown really is still the Jayhawks' to lose, then it's certainly not too late to make a run at it.
Expect more in the future, and if you have any topics you would like us to discuss please be sure to post below!