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On the glory of Fred Hoiberg

I normally don’t pay attention to college basketball until after the Super Bowl — and I went to a basketball school — but I thought I’d dip a toe in the water here and talk for a second about Fred Hoiberg, who played a decade in the NBA (Pacers, Bulls, and Timberwolves) while never averaging double-digit points per game. (He did score 28 in a Bucks-Bulls game in March 2001, though.) Now he’s the head coach of Iowa State basketball — that’s where he went too — and they’re 11-0 and ranked No. 14 in America. He’s been tearing it up on the recruiting side, especially with transfers and junior college guys like DeAndre Kane (15 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.5 APG) and Dustin Hogue (13.5 PPG, 10.3 RPG). They’ve beaten Michigan (then No. 7) and in-state rival Iowa (then No. 23). Between now and February 3rd, they have Baylor, Kansas twice, and Oklahoma State — that represents four games against top 16 opponents. We’ll probably know a bit more about them as that post-Super Bowl period gets rolling.

ISU has been to the last two NCAA Tournaments, but they haven’t made it out of the first weekend either time. Two years ago, they ran into a Kentucky juggernaut and while it was close for a bit, they ultimately lost by almost 20. Last year, they played Ohio State off the 2-line and kept it close, ultimately losing by only three. It was part of that whole “Aaron Craft keeps making ridiculous shots” storyline of last year’s Tournament.

The goal this year, then, is to make it to the second weekend (i.e. the Sweet 16 and beyond). This could be Hoiberg’s best team in Ames, so that certainly seems like a realistic goal. He’s already been part of restoring the glory to the ISU-Iowa rivalry, so the next step is that elusive Sweet 16 berth. The last time they got that far was back in 2000, when they lost to MSU in the Elite Eight.

Some have described Hoiberg’s strategy in Ames as akin to “Ellis Island.” Essentially, he welcomes all transfers and JUCOs and then attempts to blend the parts together. So far this year, it seems to be working — they average 89.6 PPG, which is second in D-1 behind Oregon. Somewhat reflecting how Hoiberg was as a pro, they like to jack it up long-distance too — they make about 9.3 three-pointers a game.

No matter; Ames loves him.

Even the media loves him:

And then, of course, there’s the elephant in the room — despite being an ISU guy, is the Ames pond too small for him?

His buyout is much smaller if he goes to the NBA then if he goes to another D-1 school. He was apparently in the hopper for the Sixers job last summer, and if he has a deep run this year and Rick Adelman doesn’t make the playoffs with the Timberwolves (with Kevin Love’s contract coming up), you have to think he might get some consideration there (Pacers and Bulls are set at coach for the short to intermediate term). Larry Drew’s only been in Milwaukee (with the Bucks) this season, but if they don’t become something in 1-2 years, you have to think the good looks, charm and Midwestern ethos of Hoiberg could be a selling point there. He has a deal in place at ISU, yes, and it seems he’ll stay for a while, but … you never know with that smaller NBA buyout.

In the meantime, enjoy his run as the Mayor of Ames — and may it extend into the Elite Eight or so this season. (I don’t know if it will, but I’d definitely like to see the team off the 3-line win a couple of games at least.)

Ted Bauer

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