Some of you lucky ducklings get the privilege of attending Hilton Coliseum to watch the fourth-ranked Cyclones in person. As someone who was a student through the downfall of Wayne Morgan and the entirety of Greg McDermott, I actually want to punch all of you students in the face that get to see every home game for just a couple hundred dollars of your parents' hard earned paycheck. But I digress...
Many of us less fortunate souls are resigned to watching the Cyclones on TV, like many of our favorite shows. Binge watching old seasons of Hoiball on Cyclones dot TV has sufficed in getting me through the off season, but after three episodes of Prohman Empire, we have just enough content to put together a quick review. So here are 10 thoughts on the first 10 percent:
1. Nice mix of retreaded Hoiball stories and new narratives.
Episode 1 – "See you Nader": I'm glad they chose the "Nader playing big in a game away from Hilton" plot line to retread and reconnect us with Hoiball. It was always such a sneaky good plot line that I felt was never utilized enough.
Episode 2 – "Jameel's Dunk Reel": Clearly, this episode is foreshadowing a larger role for McKay's character than he had in the final season of Hoiball, and man did he ever shine. If Jameel is going to be this good, it's only going to help build on the success of this show's predecessor.
Episode 3 – "Make it Nazty": Just when we thought the three-point narrative might have disappeared from the major story line, Naz goes 6-9 (nice) and reeled the long ball lovers back in. It was just in time too. After suffering for a week without a new episode, Prohman Empire put out its strongest effort in a triumphant return.
2. Georges Niang is quietly having a really good start to the season.
You could make a very good case that Iowa State's lead man has yet to be the star of any episode of the show, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Georges' offensive rating is a career best and his effective and true FG% numbers are better than any since his initial appearance in season three of Hoiball. His assist rate is as good as ever and his turnover rate is at an all-time low, which makes him one of the best supporting actors out there while positioning him for his breakout moment where he jumps back in to a leading role.
3. The new Director's revamp of the defense is beneficial to the overall product.
Some thought that focusing a bit more on the defensive side of things would slow the team down and affect the overall beauty of the product that made Hoiball so endearing to Cyclone fans. Turns out that new director, Steve Prohm, has actually added a beneficial plot twist. While the offensive efficiency has dropped a bit from 11th to 26th, the jump from 71st to 20th in defensive efficiency has more than made up for the minor drop in flash. If that plot line sticks around, there may be higher highs in Prohman Empire than what Cyclone Nation experienced in Hoiball.
4. Matt Thomas seems to be finding his groove in a more structured role.
With so many mouths to feed on this show, it always takes a certain player to handle some grit and keep things flowing when a star has to rest for whatever reason — a "glue guy," if you will. Matty Ice stands second on the team in rebound percentage to McKay and his assist rate is behind only Monte Morris and Georges Niang at nearly double his previous career high. While his pure scoring numbers are relatively unchanged from years past, Thomas seems to have relished his sixth man role and is letting the offense come to him.
5. Adjustment to new regulations hasn't disrupted the chemistry of the show.
New rules preventing certain displays of public affection like hand checking and freedom of movement disruption have forced many directors to change their tactics and adjust accordingly with their shows. However, Director Prohm has managed to maintain Iowa State as the third best team nationally in defensive free throw rate and has actually lowered that rate by more than 30%; all of this while increasing defensive efficiency substantially. For a show that has incredible star power but lacks quality depth, this is an important factor to watch as the season progresses.
6. Monte Morris' stock continues to rise.
At the end of this season he may prove to be more than this show can afford. What we're seeing in Monte's development is an emphasis on playmaking. He's taking more chances and making more plays. While we've seen a minor spike in turnovers, his A/T ratio is still over 3.5 and he's averaging more than two assists per game over his previous campaign. The spike in scoring is a nice bonus, too. His numbers should continue to improve as he embraces this new mindset.
7. Jameel McKay has star power.
This is no secret to Cyclone fans, but he appears to be a focal point early in the season. His usage rate is up almost 3%, he's averaging a double-double and we've already seen what he can do against smaller teams when he put up 25 and 11 against Chicago State and followed that up with 17 rebounds against Chattanooga. If he can improve on his 11% free throw percentage, we could see an award winning season from the Cyclone big man.
8. Plot lines are thickening as the season progresses.
Director Prohm was outwardly vocal that the offense was nothing close to a finished product in the first few episodes. He's still learning how to adjust and best utilize the talent on the roster. However, fans can be optimistic in the progress that has been made week to week. Iowa State's points per possession (PPP) jumped from 0.87 to 1.20 after the first episode, largely due to quality of opponent. However the Cyclones held steady at 1.15 PPP against a quality Chattanooga squad. In addition, we saw the installation of some inbounds plays leading directly to buckets that paid homage to some of Hoiball's best.
9. Production from the shooting guard role is cool and hip.
Naz Mitrou-Long and Hallice Cooke have been stellar in the early season. Naz has emerged as an emotional leader and leads the Cyclones in scoring. Meanwhile, Hallice has provided a defensive spark on the perimeter coming in second on the team in steals and leading Iowa State in offensive efficiency, albeit in limited playing time. The brothers bonded by the ball and socket joint have answered a big question that lingered upon the termination of Hoiball.
10. Deonte Burton's emergence will be key to this season's overall success.
Like any good show, a defining character arises that was relatively unknown at the season's start. Deonte Burton doesn't need to be an immediate A-lister, but it's clear that the Cyclones lack frontcourt depth. While that weakness has yet to be fully exposed, we've seen the Cyclone trio of big men experience some level of foul trouble in each of the first three episodes. While Simeon Carter and Brady Ernst develop, it's integral that Burton and his length spell the leading men in Iowa State's frontcourt.
All in all, this has been a very Prohmising start for Iowa State in Season One of Prohman Empire. Undoubtedly, numerous story lines will develop and our cast of characters will experience adversity and loss. Here's to hoping the good guys continue to grow and persevere to provide Cyclone Nation the happiest of endings.