College Basketball Nation: Dionte Garrett

This summer, Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor made a sudden and seemingly rash choice: He decided to shave his mustache.

There was no real reason, other than preference, for Taylor's shedding; he had been thinking about shaving it for a while, he said, and decided to finally pull the trigger.

This week, we'll lose another of college hoops' truly great pieces of facial hair. On Tuesday, Temple announced in a brief release that coach Fran Dunphy was also planning to shave his trademark mustache. According to the school, the shaving "will mark the first time in 40 years (1971) that the Owls’ coach will have a clean upper lip." That's a long and storied mustache history. So why is he shaving it now?

The answer is simple enough: Dunphy is shaving it to honor former player Dionte Christmas's graduation. Christmas will be present for the, ahem, ceremony, which will take place Thursday morning in a media event on Temple's campus.

It's always sad to see a veteran mustache go by the wayside, but at least Dunphy has a reason for his move. The mustache deserves that much.
Last night, news broke that former Minnesota forward -- and noted ne'er-do-well in his Gophers career -- Royce White was denied a waiver by the NCAA that would allow him to play at Iowa State this season. The basis of the waiver appeal was White's lack of on-court time at Minnesota. That basis was awfully funny, given that White's off-court transgressions and oddball YouTube behavior were the very reasons such a key member of Tubby Smith's 2009 recruiting class wasn't on the floor grabbing rebounds (and was eventually dismissed from the team). It's not like White got a raw deal.

Anyway, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg says the Cyclones will "exhaust every option" in an attempt to get White eligible this year. That includes an appeal process that would ask the NCAA to overturn its initial decision, and that doesn't seem too likely.

The good news? It doesn't matter anyway.

Oh, sure, White would be a nice addition for the Cyclones this season. Before his flame-out in Minneapolis, White was a top-40 recruit known for his polished low-post skills, athleticism, and versatility. He would be an immediate help at Iowa State.

Then again, so would anyone. And that's sort of the point: Royce White or no, this is a rebuilding year in Ames. The Cyclones lost their three best players from a team that won 15 games last season, and only senior guard Dionte Garrett returns with any measure of Big 12 experience. The entrance of White might win Iowa State an extra game or two -- and that even feels generous -- but it's not going to change the trajectory of the program in the short term.

Next season, when ISU adds three transfers (Michigan State guard Chris Allen, Penn State sharpshooter Chris Babb, and Southern Illinois forward Anthony Booker), is the year the program should look to for its first leap forward under Hoiberg. White will be eligible by then, and if he can stay in the good graces of his authority figures, the Cyclones could have a starting five just this side of "pretty good."

That's not the case this year. The denied waiver is a bummer for Iowa State, but Hoiberg shouldn't take it too hard. Royce White isn't changing the Cyclones' 2010-11 prospects whether he's on the floor or not.

Duke leads pesky ISU at half

January, 6, 2010
With just a few seconds remaining on the clock, Iowa State forward Marquis Gilstrap dribbled to his left, picked up the ball, jumped from 30 feet away, and launched a nothing-but-net desperation 3 as the buzzer sounded and the crowd went wild.

After the smoke had cleared and the women and children had been safely ushered ashore, one blogger gazed up at the scoreboard and confirmed the undeniable truth: Iowa State was still down 41-33 at the half. Total buzzkill, bro.

The eight-point deficit is the largest the Cyclones have trailed at the half all season, and it required a desperation heave even to get ISU that close. That is what happens when you shoot 42 percent on your 2s and make only one 3-pointer in 20 minutes of basketball, basketball that happens to be on the same floor as the Duke Blue Devils: you lose. This is not a mystery.

All hope is not lost for Iowa State. Quite the contrary. After digging themselves a hole in the opening minutes -- Iowa State trailed 12-2 at the 15:37 mark -- the Cyclones fought back and closed in before Duke opened an 11-point lead in the final minute of the half. The Cyclones can play with Duke. Big man Craig Brackins is a nightmare for Duke's inexperienced interior; he has five blocks already. Point guard Diante Garrett can get to the rim against Jon Scheyer and company. The Cyclone defense has decided to stay in tight on Scheyer and Kyle Singler and give Mason and Miles Plumlee as many open shots as they like.

This can work. But the Cyclones have to convert interior shots more efficiently, they have to get to the line more often (they shot just six free throws in the first half) and they have to hope Duke doesn't suddenly start pouring in shots. The Devils shot a mere 37.5 percent in the first half. Given their yearly averages, a second-half surge seems likely. And then the Clones are really in trouble.

In any case, at least the fans from Iowa brought the funny in the first half. During a free throw sequence, two men behind me were talking about Brian Zoubek. A brief recreation of that conversation:

Dude 1: "So, this Zoubek guy. Seven-foot center. Wish we had that kind of height."

Dude 2: "Zoubek? Where's he from, Minsk?"

Dude 1: "No. New Jersey."

Dude 2: "Same thing."

Hi-oh! Dude 2 will be here all night, and politely reminds you to tip your waiters and waitresses. Add that golden nugget to Cyclones fans' sarcastic cheering at their first bucket at the 16:46 mark, and the (presumably unintentionally funny) chants of "East Coast bias" at the referees -- guys, this game is in Chicago -- and I've been spending almost as much time laughing as watching basketball. Almost.