Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg continues to push more and more chips out onto the table, but it's hard to blame him.
The first-year Cyclones coach has proven this season that he can squeeze every last drop out of a limited roster. His team is just 3-12 in the Big 12, but it won't finish below .500 overall, plays very hard and the players genuinely seem to enjoy being on the floor together.
The next challenge will be showing that he can take a team full of transfers in 2011-12 and generate the same cohesion and competitiveness. And, above all with the major influx of talent, win.
After taking over for the injured Kalin Lucas as the Spartans' starting point guard mid-way through last year's NCAA tournament run, Lucious was suspended indefinitely 18 games into this season for breaking an unspecified team rule.
Unlike Iowa State's three other Big Ten transfers — former Sparty teammate Chris Allen, Penn State sharp-shooter Chris Babb and Minnesota swingman Royce White — Lucious won't be eligible next season, sitting out per NCAA rules.
There's no question that Lucious, who averaged 6.5 point and 4.1 assists this season for Sparty, has the skills to help an Iowa State program that hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2005 rebuild its national profile.
It's also a major gamble for Hoiberg.
We may never know what type of rules violation was severe enough to get Lucious dismissed by Tom Izzo back in January, but it means he'll bring some baggage with him to Ames.
The same was the case for Allen, who Izzo also cut loose back in August after being a key contributor on back-to-back Final Four teams.
White, a former McDonald's All-American and Minnesota Mr. Basketball, never played for the Gophers. He pled guilty to shoplifting and assault charges stemming from an incident at the Mall of America in October 2009, then was suspected in an on-campus burglary case, staying in touch with Minnesota fans via YouTube while the judicial process played out. The 6-foot-8 forward left Tubby Smith's program on his own, said he wasn't going to play anywhere else, but then resurfaced at Iowa State.
This doesn't necessarily implicate any of them as bad kids, but they do carry some red flags.
How do all of these guys mesh? That's for Hoiberg to figure out.
Before criticizing him, though, realize that this is the most logical path to the next level for Iowa State. Recruiting top prep talent to Central Iowa isn't necessarily a cinch unless you're winning regularly. Even then, it's still tough.
The talent is now in place to get things really rolling, but as the cupboard gets more and more stocked, is the underlying risk going to be worth it?
It's clearly a bet that Hoiberg isn't shy to make.