When the final buzzer went off at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Classic championship game and the Iowa State Cyclones were 70-66 victors over the Boise State Broncos, there were likely many people back in Iowa who felt extremely upbeat. After all, the win brought Iowa State to 11-0 on the 2013-14 college basketball season, and most will feel that a championship victory of any kind can only be a positive moving forward.
But underneath a championship victory, perfect record and No. 14 ranking nationally, there is legitimate reason to be concerned about Iowa State’s prospects moving forward. Chief amongst the reasons that one should be concerned is that Iowa State was barely able to scoot by a Boise State team that is at best an average team on the national landscape, and holds little chance of even advancing to the NCAA tournament’s first round.
Further reason for concern was that during the game the Cyclones only won the rebounding battle by a count of 36-31, which while still a victory, is not very encouraging considering that the Broncos ranked 214th in the nation at rebounding prior to tip-off. Although Iowa State ultimately won, it was made blatantly clear that the team’s lack of a clear cut center will not only come to bite them against top level teams, but even against those who are merely average.
Possibly even more discouraging than the board battle was the extreme reliance that head coach Fred Hoiberg showed on his starting five. During the game Iowa State’s bench did not pick up a single point and only had three rebounds, while barely seeing a sniff of the floor as a group. Surely things like this will not be exposed against the small guys, but given the fact that Hoiberg has largely relied on a group of only seven this year, it exposes a real problem moving forward. Beating teams such as Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State will be crucial to any hopes of winning the Big 12, and furthermore of gaining entrance into the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season.
Moving forward, Iowa State certainly has some reason to be excited, as their starting five of Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, DeAndre Kane and Matt Thomas are all extremely athletic and exciting to watch on a basketball court. Each of these guys are genuine athletes that can go off for a portion of a game and turn in a wow-factor moment, which will leave fans on the edge of their seats with consistency.
But what they will also do is get out rebounded against any team that has any sort of a big man, as each of the starters are listed under 6-foot-7, and will never be regarded as a true center. This will leave Iowa State reeling on the board moving forward, and force the team to bring in more guys off the bench in order to force games into a track meet instead of a close cut half court battle.
Not doing so will allow teams to expose Iowa State’s flaws at will, and effectively ruin any national ambitions that they may hold for the 2013-14 season. To that extent the victory on Christmas will serve as either a learning lesson for the Cyclones, or for all the other teams they face the rest of the way.