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College Basketball
Phil Taylor
December 21, 1992
A STORMY START
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December 21, 1992

College Basketball

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A STORMY START

This was supposed to be a breakthrough season for Iowa State, but it may turn into a breakdown season instead. The Cyclones have all five starters and a solid bench from their 1991-92 team, which won 21 games and gave Kentucky a scare in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The AP ranked them 19th in the preseason, and we put them 10th. Trouble is, Iowa State still hasn't figured out how to beat a good team—or a bad one, for that matter—on the road.

Last Saturday the Cyclones visited eighth-ranked Iowa, and the Hawkeyes, who unveiled gold uniforms for the occasion, were the only ones who played as if the game was an intense intrastate rivalry. Iowa won 78-51. Earlier this season Florida State routed the Cyclones 109-86 in Tallahassee. Beating the Hawkeyes and the Seminoles on their home courts is a tall order for any team, but such decisive whippings are a bad sign for Iowa State, whose glaring weakness has long been playing poorly on the road.

The Cyclones lost all seven of their Big Eight road games last season, and they are 4-21 in the conference away from Hilton Coliseum over the past three seasons. Against the Hawkeyes, Iowa State didn't look anything like the team that thumped Iowa 98-84 last year in Ames. "I don't know what the problem is on the road," says Cyclone point guard Ron Bayless, a senior. "But I think it's the rankings that are killing us. It might have been better if we hadn't been ranked at the start of the year. Our heads got a little too big, and now we're not playing up to our ability."

The Cyclones rely on their jump-shooting, and when they shoot as poorly as they did against the Hawkeyes (40.4%), their weakness on the boards is magnified. Iowa center Acie Earl, a senior, and junior forward Chris Street led the Hawkeyes to a 42-20 rebounding advantage. "It was terrible," said Iowa State forward Julius Michalik, a sophomore. "I don't have words."

It could get worse before it gets better. The Cyclones' next road game is on Saturday against Michigan.

NOTCH'S NICHE

A number of big-name transfers are playing well this season, including Louisville center Clifford Rozier (page 36), formerly of North Carolina, and Vanderbilt guard Billy McCaffrey, formerly at Duke, but no one has made a more successful switch than New Mexico's 6'9" forward Canonchet Neves, a transfer from Detroit Mercy. An American Indian who's a member of the Narragansett tribe, Neves decided during his sophomore year at Detroit Mercy that he wanted to be closer to home—Dolores, Colo., a town of 802 residents. "It was the hardest decision of my life," says Neves, who's known as Notch to his teammates. "I felt a strong sense of loyalty to Detroit and to coach [Ricky] Byrdsong. But there's a point in your life where you have to do what's best for you."

Byrdsong didn't think transferring was the best thing for Neves. He refused to release Neves from his scholarship, partly because he thought the New Mexico coaching staff had put too much pressure on Neves to transfer and partly because several other players had already left the Titan program. Byrdsong's decision meant that Neves had to pay his own way to New Mexico while he sat out last season. The Neves case illustrates why a coach should not be allowed to prevent a player from accepting a scholarship from another school. Unless a coach can present the NCAA with a compelling reason to prohibit it, any player should be permitted to transfer.

An excellent shooter, Neves has gone from scoring 8.5 points a game at Detroit Mercy in 1990-91 to 16.3 points for the Lobos. He had 12 points on four three-pointers in a 69-62 upset of New Mexico State last Saturday.

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