Season Preview: CF Mailbag

Brent Blum

Columnist

By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams

We're nearing the end of our content items that preview the 2011-12 Iowa State men's basketball season here at CycloneFanatic.com. Brent Blum and I plan on recording a podcast tonight where predictions will be made.

Today, it's a special edition, basketball-only edition of the CF Mailbag.

Let's start things off with a question from my main man Cyclonepride.

Cyclonepride writes: Might as well get this out of the way early - Who is the most likely to emerge as the point guard who can get the team into its offense effectively?

CW: I believe Fred Hoiberg 100 percent when he uses the term "point guard by committee."

Do I believe that Scott Christopherson is the guy for the job? Not really. But I don't really think that he can't do an adequate job of distributing the basketball either.

I think that what Iowa State does all season long will depend on matchups more than anything.

Another note on Christopherson...I hear that he's been the ultimate team player since practice began a few weeks ago. I've heard that for the betterment of the team, Christopherson has embraced this new role and has worked hard to get the job done. That's great but at the end of the day, Iowa State's best 3-point shooter (percentage) of all-time needs to attempt more than two threes in a game like he did on Sunday.

The point guard situation is a work in progress. You've got Christopherson. Chris Allen will handle the ball some. You saw Royce White with the rock in his hands a lot during the exhibition.

I've been pretty blunt over the years that I don't believe walk-ons playing in the Big 12 is a good idea at all. It's a desperation move really. But if things get bad enough, I think that a guy can make a legitimate argument for Bubu Palo to see more playing time. Just tell him to distribute the basketball, hustle and play defense. Scoring is not a priority. Be the quarterback.

I don't think things will get to that point but who knows?

Maybe freshman Tavon Sledge will step up to the plate?

I've got big time concerns about that though. If Sledge was truly in the mix right now, wouldn't he see more than five minutes in an exhibition?

CyBer writes: I know it's a exhibition game, but Melvin Ejim looks much better and more confident than last year. Do you agree?

CW: Yes. Yes. Yes! It's about time that somebody recognizes Melvin Ejim!

He was great in the exhibition and that didn't surprise me at all. In case you missed it a few weeks ago, I had a chance to sit down with Melvin down in Kansas City at the Big 12's media day.

I know for a fact that Ejim's long range shot has improved since last year, when Ejim averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game as a freshman.

The key for Ejim in my opinion is how he starts a game. We saw this a lot last year and it carried over on Sunday. If he gets a quick bucket or two in the first couple of minutes, Ejim is much more likely to have a big game. There's no doubt in my mind that he'll be one of the most consistent Cyclones during the upcoming season.

CynadoAlley writes: (Related to the point guard question) Royce White looked very good bringing the ball up the floor. The man guarding him always caused a mismatch and it seemed easy for Royce to take it up court and even down the lane. So can we expect Royce to consistently take the ball up the floor, or just on occasion when we pull down a defensive rebound?

CW: I think that you'll see both, but I'd lean towards the latter for the majority. You know the quick little rally the Iowa State had in the second half on Sunday? It all started due to Royce snagging a board and going coast-to-coast with it. There aren't many guys in America who can match up with Royce under those circumstances.

Having said that, I'd like to see Royce put as much effort into rebounding as he does being a point guard in the future. That's what Iowa State needs right now. Rebounding is going to be an issue all season long, which brings us to...

Clones21 writes: The rebounding looked kind of iffy yesterday. Are you worried about that, and do you think it's going to be a problem for us again this year?

CW: Yes. Rebounding is a major concern for me about this team. Like last year, the guards are going to have to chip in on the boards. The problem is that Jake Anderson will play for the Iowa Energy this winter, not the Iowa State Cyclones.

Iowa State and Grand Valley State were tied with 14 rebounds at halftime on Sunday.

As I wrote in my postgame column and I'll go there again. There is never, EVER, an excuse for that. EVER.

IHavNoCyCash writes: Should we panic after an exhibition game that doesn't mean anything?

CW: Absolutely not. You should maybe lower your expectations, but not panic. Arizona lost its exhibition game. Drake lost theirs. Michigan couldn't even score 50 points against a division two team. Remember the year that Wes Johnson's Syracuse team lost an exhibition? Don't go jumping off of that cliff just yet.

Gocy444 writes: What would you consider a successful season?

CW: Considering that this program hasn't played in the postseason since 2005, I'd say that an NIT berth would be a success. The only issue with that way of thinking is that Hoiberg chose to build this program in a non-traditional way. The talent level is way up compared to recent years. But still, there are some glaring holes on this team that need to be addressed before I'll be convinced that the Cyclones are a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender.

A big thing that I want to see out of the Cyclones this year is reinventing Hilton Magic. Even back during Wayne Morgan's NCAA Tournament season, winning in Ames was a tough thing to do. It wasn't the good ole days, but the Kansas' of the world still feared Hilton Coliseum.

That isn't the case anymore. So that's one big thing that I want to see out of the 2011-12 team. Protect the home court. The crowd is going to be there. The players just need to execute and knock some Big 12 foes off when they aren't supposed to.

Packthejack23 writes: Why doesn't Fred put Royce down on the block more?

CW: Give it time. There was a lot of experimenting going on Sunday. I'm sure that Royce will be all over the place this season.

Pyrocyz writes: How many guys will sub in during actual games? Basically how deep will the bench go?

CW: I think that it will all depend on matchups and what type of game the team is in, but probably eight or nine in my opinion. There are the five starters. Tyrus McGee and Anthony Booker are guarantees to see time. With Iowa State's shortcomings at point guard, I imagine that we'll see plenty of Bubu Palo. I think that Jordan Railey, Percy Gibson and Tavon Sledge will all sort of be in the same category when it comes to playing time. But as we saw last year, Railey can be used in special situations and in reality, if this team struggles on the boards like I believe they will, Railey might be effective off of the bench.

I love Tyrus McGee coming off of the bench. He's an energy guy who can be that spark plug.

Jay moe writes: How long will it take for all the transfers to mesh together with the existing players and be ready for the Big 12?

CW: That's a great question that I don't even think Fred Hoiberg can answer right now. Stay tuned. The good news is that Iowa State's non-conference schedule is as soft as a feather pillow. The team will have a good two months to gel before the big dogs come to town.

Bawbie writes: Aaron Law didn't play yesterday. Is he taking the Bubu path of a walk-on redshirt?

CW: I imagine that is the case. As we've seen in the past, walk-ons can be valuable members of a basketball program. But if you're relying on them to win in the Big 12, that is a problem.

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