Remember that time Rick Ross wrote a song for a Quentin Tarantino movie? If it’s been blocked out of your collective memory, that’s fine, I understand. It happened to me until recently as well. Only by random circumstance was I reminded of the scene in Django that featured the song Ross wrote. It’s about halfway through the movie, and when it starts playing it’s SUPER out of place. It’s a song called “100 Black Coffins” and it’s featured in a movie about a slave and a dentist on a revenge mission. Needless to say, the song was not period appropriate for the setting.
But as I listened to the song for the first time in what felt like no less than four years, I had a thought about it, “where would this song have actually worked?” The song itself by no means was the issue, it’s kind of catchy and honestly it more than likely could have worked in a few different films that were also released in 2012 (Contraband, Safe House or even, ironically, in 21 Jump Street) and it would have been much more fitting. But what’s that have to do with Craig Brackins?
See, Brackins is kind of like that song in a way. Brackins was a 6-10 forward with a career average of sixteen points a game (he averaged 20 ppg, 9.5 rbds, 1.5 asts in his best season), a smooth jumper and a dominant down low game. He could go inside and outside on any given possession, and also once dropped 42 on Kansas. With the way basketball is played now, for all intent and purpose, he would have been the perfect small ball five for a space and pace style offense. Brackins was like that song; it’s not so much he’s forgotten about when talking about great players, he just wasn’t on the right team.
See, unfortunately for Craig, he played during a less than stellar era in Iowa State basketball. His freshman year, the team only won 14 games, and his sophomore and junior campaigns both capped out at 15 wins. By no fault of his own, Craig, much like the song I brought up, was a product of the wrong place and wrong time syndrome. Thankfully, I set off to try and find what team would have actually been able to use him in the correct manner.
As for deciding which team would have benefited most from adding Craig to their roster, I had to set some boundaries of how I was going to decide that. I strictly stuck to teams in the modern era (2000 or later), and also tried to base my belief on teams I had seen play. I didn’t think it would be fair of me to weigh in on teams that could have made a Final Four run when I was ten. It also needs to be made clear that the team is only getting ONE year of Brackins, not the three that he played at Iowa State. (It would have been a far deeper discussion had that been the case.) So with those rules set in place I was able to come up with two possible teams: 2013-2014 or 2016-2017.
Let’s start with the loser here and get it out of the way — 2016-2017.
In all honesty, this was a pretty close race between the two teams and I’ll get to why the other option edges out this one in a bit, but let’s start with some a positive note here with this team. In Prohm’s first year under the helm he notched 24 wins while playing a traditional style big man (Young) at the five spot. Nothing against Solomon or his style of play, but at 6’8 and having a traditional style of play akin to that of a big man from the 90’s, he was a little undersized for the call to action.
Now imagine this line up for a second — Monte. Naz. Matt Thomas. Burton. Brackins. Whoah. This was what advanced metrics was invented for showcasing. A point guard whose mainstay is to create and distribute surrounded by four shooters opening the floor. This team would have more than likely set the record for most threes attempted in a season. (They also would have had the likes of Donovan Jackson and Nick Weiler-Babb coming off the bench to help with the second unit.) With that starting five handling staggered minutes, even a slimmed down bench wouldn’t have been a problem. Young gets moved in to an 8th man role and develops a little more on his post game as a freshman, but still fits the system by just rebounding and playing a power forward rather than the center/five spot.
Truly this would have been a team that would have been an absolute blast to watch but sadly, I don’t think it would have benefited the most from Craig. No, unfortunately for this wonderfully rag tag, run and gun group, for that answer we have to go back a little further and to one of the biggest “what ifs” in school history.
The 2013-2014 team will forever hold a special place in my heart. Kane fandom aside, it honestly is probably the single best basketball team I ever have witnessed come together to play in Ames. This was team that started off 14-0 before eventually falling to Oklahoma. A team that took down future first round draft pick Marcus Smart twice in O.T. thrillers. It was a team that at a given time could go a strong eight guys deep and hardly miss a step. This was a team that ranked fifth in the nation in points per game and barring an injury prior to a sweet sixteen game in the Bronx, this was a team that could have (probably) made a Final Four.
If Craig were slotted into this line up, giving a starting five of Kane, Morris, Ejim, Niang, Brackins, with a four man rotation of Hogue, Long, Thomas and Dorsey-Walker. Aside from bolstering the starting line up and effectively making the bench that much stronger, could anyone imagine what would have happened post the Niang injury? The implications of that change the destiny of this team. Hogue doesn’t have to have a Hercuelian effort against UCONN to keep us alive (and honestly almost win it), but this team with his spacing and size probably (most definitely) goes on to win a National Title. With no doubt in my mind, tossing Craig’s super silky jumper and dominant down-low quickiness on to this roster absolutely brings Iowa State their first title in school history.
Unfortunately for all of us however, Craig was the subject of being great but just was a little ahead of when he would have succeed most. Just like that Rick Ross song.