It's that time of year again (rejoice!), and we've nearly tripled our contingent of prognosticators from last season. So saddle up and enjoy your Wide Right & Natty Lite staff predictions for the 2015-16 basketball season, in a two-part series (to spare you the unnecessary longform).
And don't forget to include yours in the comments!
Just remember, we're only picking the games we know are happening (i.e. choose your adventure with Illinois or UAB in the Emerald Coast Classic).
10-2. The road game at Cincinnati reminds me so much of the game against South Carolina last year at the Barclays Center — extremely well-structured and physical defensively and the exact style of play that's given the Cyclones fits in recent years. It certainly wouldn't be a bad loss if Iowa State were to lose, but a win would be a big time road accomplishment for the Clones. I'm also going to give them one other non-conference loss due to chemistry issues with some new players entering the fold, and obviously the new staff.
11-1. I see three games on the schedule that could trip up the Cyclones: UNI, Cincinnati and Texas A&M. Of those three, I'm going to pick UNI as the lone loss. I can see it turning into one of those games where Iowa State shoots an uncharacteristically low percentage, as Ben Jacobson's squad gets the best of ISU in Wells Fargo Arena. If ISU loses that, however, they should be more focused three days later when they play Cincinnati. By the time the Texas A&M game rolls around at the end of January, I think Iowa State will be gelling and should be able to handle the Aggies.
11-1. I don't see Iowa State getting past Cincinnati at Fifth Third Arena. This will be the best team of Mick Cronin's tenure with the Bearcats, who make their living slowing the tempo and shutting you down defensively. That kind of matchup has never fared well for the Cyclones. They better not look past Northern Iowa either, nor the oddly placed trip to Texas A&M in late January.
12-0. Call it a bold prediction if you'd like, but there shouldn't be anyone on the non-con schedule who should worry us too much. My colleagues are giving Cincy plenty of respect, as they should, but our squad should be too experienced by now to fall to the Bearcats.
10-2. There will be a few bumps in the road as Iowa State works in its new coach. I see these two losses being games that many fans mark as wins: a game in the Emerald Coast Classic and a loss to Northern Iowa. But they catch fire and destroy Cincy to finish the non-con season.
10-2. Iowa State fails to get up for a sleepy Friday afternoon opener against Colorado in Sioux Falls and loses in OT by a score of 77-75. Cyclone Fanatic spends the weekend eating their own, as half the posters take this as a sign of the second coming of Fred while the other half loses their minds and instantly turn on Prohm, which will be a continued theme throughout the season.
The Cyclones then rattle off six straight (including a win over Illinois in the ECC final) and the fan base settles down... until a cocky, overconfident Niang gives Iowa so much bulletin board material that the Hawks come into Ames and win for the first time since the 2003 NIT debacle. The fan base melts down and the first "Fire Prohm" hot takes start to surface (ISU wins the rest, including road games at Cincy and A&M).
11-1. Under Fred Hoiberg, the Cyclones usually did surprisingly well with their non-conference slate. I don't see too many games on here that the Cyclones should lose: UNI and Iowa teams down their best players from last year... a Colorado program racked by injuries (and using medicinal marijuana to recuperate, no doubt), a few decent match-ups in the ECC (I think the 'Clones got better opponents in Hawaii last year) and a résumé builder in Cincinnati that should have the Cyclones all sorts of fired up to go and get. The one loss? Who knows. There's always some mind-blowing loss in the non-conference, and it could be any team mentioned above. Yes, I realize that I'm shotgunning that loss. And no, I really don't care what you think about it.
11-1. Iowa State stays undefeated until the start of conference play, but Billy Kennedy and the Aggies are able to sneak past the Cyclones in a late-January letdown in College Station.
11-1. Iowa State comes out red hot in the afternoon opener vs. Colorado in Sioux Falls. Nervous and over-excited energy leads to a flurry of mistakes as the Cyclones enter the half down by 10+. They manage to right the ship in the second half and squeak out a win in a very close game. The arm chair coaches come out in full force expressing their hesitancy with the Prohm hire. This is before the Cyclones rattle off a string of dominant victories, including vengeance for UAB (win by 25+) and a blowout of the Hawkeyes in Hilton that leaves good ol' Fran tossing chairs and doing his best impression of an angry pepper. What is shaping up to be a flawless preseason is tripped up by a gritty UNI squad in Des Moines with a buzzer beater loss.
11-1. Just keep that in mind that up until three minutes of me submitting these predictions, I had this slot filled with an undefeated mark. I just can't pull the trigger and get ahead of myself. On paper, every game seems like a tilt towards the Cyclones, but in some surprise that I have no way of seeing now (maybe Cincinnati?), ISU comes out lacking energy and lays an egg somewhere other than Hilton.
10-2. Even in Fred's best seasons we struggled during the non-con and regardless of strength projections. I think this is one of the tougher non-con schedules in recent years. This will likely be amplified under new coach Steve Prohm. We'll drop a couple and probably struggle in a couple others to eke out late game wins. As long as we spank Iowa right before they win their football national championship it's all good.
9-3. This team always stubs its toe on the road, and this year it will be at Cincinnati, Texas A&M and Illinois (in Florida). The first two are horrible matchups for this team, a la South Carolina and Maryland last year. I also see it taking a while for the guys to get the wheels turning. The senior leadership will win the games they are supposed to, but it will come down to coaching to win the close ones.
11-1. Iowa State will only lose one game in non-conference play, but there will be several close games with Steve Prohm working his way into the season with a new squad. The team's talent will win out in almost all of those matchups, but a date with Cincinnati on the road on Dec. 22 will give the Cyclones their first loss.
14-4. Give me season splits with KU and OU, sweep one and split two with Texas, West Virginia and Baylor. I don't think we lose at home, but I also don't think we have a bad road loss either.
15-3. I'm just going to throw it out there that I'm a huge believer in Steve Prohm's coaching abilities, and if the current group of players buys into his system/philosophies, I think they're going to be extremely tough to beat this year. Put me on record for predicting losses at Allen Fieldhouse, against Oklahoma in Norman and against Texas in Austin.
12-6. It's not so much the record that's difficult to predict every year, it's who they wind up losing to. I'll say the Cyclones run the table at home (avenging the late choke job against Baylor that spoiled it last season) and then muddle through some brutal road woes everywhere except Manhattan, Fort Worth and Lubbock. A 3-3 stretch to end the season drops them to third behind Kansas and Oklahoma.
16-2. We'll protect home court, as is our forte, and avoid the road upsets that have plagued us the last couple seasons. Kansas and Oklahoma should be those two losses, but there's always potential for surprise somewhere. I'm not saying that it'll be a comfortable margin of victory over the rest of the conference, but we gut out the wins when we need them.
13-5. Visiting Oklahoma and Texas at their places the first two weeks will wake the giant, as Iowa State starts the conference schedule 2-2. However, they finish strong with an 11-3 record, with losses at Kansas, at West Virginia and a loss in Hilton against... Kansas.
14-4. Losses come at Kansas, at Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State and at home against Texas. KU also finishes 14-4, but a confused Big 12 front office, led by Walt Anderson, inexplicably counts the Colorado loss and the A&M win as conference games, and Iowa State is again denied a share of their first regular season conference title since the Godfather roamed the sidelines.
15-3. Compared to previous years, Iowa State's conference schedule is extremely advantageous. Of the dreaded "winter break" games, one is on the road at Oklahoma (which will probably be a loss), but the other two are at home (Texas Tech and Baylor on the Saturday before classes resume). The Baylor game being on that Saturday is important, as many students will be back for what should be a revenge game after last year's debacle vs the Bears. After that, the Cyclones have Kansas at home later in the season than past years, which is always a bonus. The 'Clones also don't have a stretch with back-to-back road games against the top third of the Big 12, and every tough road game is preceded or followed by home games against the bottom half of the conference. In my opinion, this is the recipe the Cyclones need to end KU's streak of winning the regular season crown. Best of all, it could all come down to the last game of the season when the Cyclones visit (and win at!) Allen Fieldhouse. Three losses: at OU, at Texas, and at someone we, once again, shouldn't lose to.
13-5. The Cyclones start off 2-2 in the Big 12. An eight-game winning streak among conference foes helps Iowa State keep pace with the Jayhawks all the way until March 5th in Lawrence, when Kansas claims another regular season crown.
15-3. We stumble at Texas early on and at TCU, dropping a game we really, really shouldn't. This leads to a victory over Kansas in Hilton to pull ahead in the conference standings. We come into the final game of the regular season tied with and staring down a rabid Kansas team with College Gameday in the house. We end up losing because shenaningans. Besides, it's the Big 12 and Kansas really needs a 12-year Big 12 title reign of terror... according to the Big 12 Refs, because "12 is a nice, round number."
15-3. Road losses to Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas end up being the only blemishes on Iowa State's path to dethroning the Jayhawks for the first time since woolly mammoths roamed central Iowa (or at least Larry Eustachy). Why 15-3? Because, in my personal opinion and in no way condemning Big 12 officiating (okay maybe a little), the ‘Clones are going to have to clinch the regular season Big 12 championship before the final road test at Phog Allen. As much as I would love to see Iowa State clinch it in Lawrence, it just won't happen. This is the Big 12 after all.
14-4. Road losses to Oklahoma, Texas, OSU and West Virginia against a perfect home record. In the final minute of the last conference game against KU, Iowa State benefits from a blown call to complete the season sweep and win the regular season championship. In the aftermath, KU fans, angry with Big 12 refs, riot in the streets and accidentally set fire to the Phog, which quickly becomes engulfed due to the fast burning banners hanging everywhere. Later, RockChalkTalk suggests racism as a likely cause of the blown calls.
16-2. Here is where Prohm gets paid the big bucks. In previous years, Prohm's programs have progressively gotten better as the season goes along, and ISU will start the conference slate off slow, with road losses at Texas and Oklahoma, and then go on a run that we haven't seen since the Eustachy days. I see the Clones winning their last 14 conference games, shooting red hot from the field and stealing the last one in Lawrence for the Big 12 crown.
15-3. By the time conference play begins, this Cyclone team will be accustomed to Prohm and ready to roll. I think they split their matchups with Kansas and Oklahoma and then drop only one other game (likely to Texas).
Final Big 12 Standings
1) Kansas 2) ISU 3) Oklahoma 4) Baylor 5) Texas 6) WVU 7) OSU 8) TCU 9) KSU 10) TTU
1) Kansas 2) ISU 3) Texas 4) Oklahoma 5) Baylor 6) WVU 7) OSU 8) TCU 9) KSU 10) TTU
1) Kansas 2) Oklahoma 3) ISU 4) Baylor 5) WVU 6) Texas 7) OSU 8) KSU 9) TCU 10) TTU
1) ISU 2) Kansas 3) Oklahoma 4) Baylor 5) Texas 6) WVU 7) OSU 8) TCU 9) TTU 10) KSU
1) Kansas 2) ISU 3) Baylor 4) Texas 5) Oklahoma 6) WVU 7) OSU 8) TCU 9) TTU 10) KSU
1) Kansas 2) ISU 3) Texas 4) Oklahoma 5) Baylor 6) OSU 7) TTU 8) WVU 9) TCU 10) KSU
1) ISU 2) Kansas 3) Texas 4) Oklahoma 5) Baylor 6) WVU 7) OSU 8) TCU 9) KSU 10) TTU
1) Kansas 2) ISU 3) Oklahoma 4) Baylor 5) WVU 6) Texas 7) OSU 8) KSU 9) TCU 10) TTU
1) Kansas 2) ISU 3) Oklahoma 4) Baylor 5) Texas 6) OSU 7) WVU 8) TCU 9) KSU 10) TTU
1) ISU 2) Kansas 3) Oklahoma 4) Texas 5) Baylor 6) WVU 7) OSU 8) TCU 9) KSU 10) TTU
1) ISU 2) Kansas 3) Oklahoma 4) WVU 5) Baylor 6) Texas 7) TCU 8) OSU 9) KSU 10) TTU
1) ISU 2) Kansas 3) Oklahoma 4) Texas 5) WVU 6) Baylor 7) OSU 8) TCU 9) KSU 10) TTU
1) Kansas 2) ISU 3) Oklahoma 4) Texas 5) Baylor 6) WVU 7) OSU 8) KSU 9) TCU 10) TTU
Three Random Big 12 Predictions
1) Bruce Weber doesn't make it to the 2016-17 season.
2) Big 12 ends up with five ranked in the Top 25 and six in the dance.
3) Oklahoma leads the conference in scoring with Buddy Hield leading individual scoring for the second consecutive year.
1) At least two Big 12 basketball coaches are sent packing during or following the season.
2) Kansas beats Kentucky in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
3) The Big 12 gets seven teams in the big dance.
1) This will be it for Tubby Smith. Not in a morbid, deathy kind of way. He'll just be done coaching. Probably mid-season.
2) Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor will each sit atop the conference standings at one point or another in the month of January before settling into the order just mentioned.
3) It won't be nearly as bad as you think for Kansas State. It won't be nearly as good as you think for Texas.
1) The Artist Formerly Known As K-State fires Bruce Weber midway through the season. Do they even have five guys on their team anymore?
2) At some point this season, eight Big 12 teams will be ranked at the same time.
3) The conference sends two teams to the Final Four.
1) Buddy Hield has a bad year and regrets not going to the NBA last season.
2) Bruce Weber is fired. Tubby Smith is fired. And the shocker... Travis Ford is fired after multiple disappointing seasons and reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament just once in his seven-year career. It's been a long time coming.
3) Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma end up in the Elite Eight.
1) Huggins is suspended on academic, ethics or moonshine-related shenanigans.
2) Bruce Weber is fired mid-season. Bill Snyder is brought in to coach and somehow upsets KU at Bramlage.
3) KU gets their first apology letter from the conference after a blown call leads to the aforementioned upset by KSU.
1) Buddy Hield has a dreadful year. I'm not the only one who believes Hield should have entered the draft after his success this past season. Looking at OU's roster, I don't see him getting much help. If anything, it seems that Spangler has regressed, and with Taylor gone there isn't much interior depth to work with. In fact, I think Oklahoma has a disappointing season in general and finishes fourth at the end of the season.
2) Kansas struggles and the streak comes to an end. In my opinion, though the talent in Lawrence is as high as ever, Billy boy Self can't put the pieces together this season. As we witnessed with Cliff Alexander, big-time talent at the forward position can take time to develop. With Diallo's future uncertain (which I'm incredibly happy about), and not much else behind Perry Ellis, I just don't think this team has what it takes. Sure Wayne Selden can play well (sometimes), and Frank Mason has improved (still not the second coming of Chris Paul like some people think). I'm just not buying what that used-car salesman Bill Self is selling over in Lawrence.
3) Major coaching shake-ups at the end of the season. This season is critical for head coaches in the bottom tier of the Big 12: Trent Johnson, Tubby Smith, Bruce Weber and Travis Ford. While I think all of these coaches are on the hot seat, I can almost guarantee which two won't be coaching this time next year: Travis Ford and Bruce Weber.
1) Despite a mediocre regular season, Texas storms through Kansas City and wins the Big 12 Tournament.
2) Kansas beats Kentucky in the Big 12/SEC challenge.
3) Kansas State fans once again get a little out of hand after an entirely unlikely victory over the Jayhawks at the Octagon of Doom. As a result, Commissioner Bowlsby mandates that the building be changed into a heptagon, and any semblance of "doom" is forever removed from Bramlage.
1) Kansas loses in their first round of the Big 12 Tournament on a buzzer beater from either Kansas State, Texas Tech or TCU. The rest of the conference drinks gallons of #JayhawkTears all weekend in Power and Light District, enjoying the harmonious but raucous environment devoid of KU-loyalists.
2) The top three finishers in the Big 12 are separated by less than one game when all is said and done. Oklahoma puts together a great season and solid postseason showing, despite a performance from Buddy Hield that can only be described as less-than-stellar. The consensus is that he should have declared for the NBA Draft after last season, did we mention that yet?
3) Perry Ellis is joined on Senior
CitizensNight by his lovely wife Agnes, their children Phineas and Ferb and their grandchildren Bill, Self, Rockchalk, and Gramps.
1) Bruce Weber successfully campaigns for a 25-point handicap against in-state rival Kansas and still manages to lose. Weber is promptly fired.
2) The Big 12 ends up with two teams in the Final Four and four in the Elite Eight.
3) Bill Self is tarred and feathered in the streets of Lawrence after failing to win a Big 12 regular season championship.
1) Bruce Weber loses three more players to transfers. Several other players forget to come to the games.
2) Rico Gathers flexes.
3) Bob Huggins says something sarcastic.
1) Oklahoma State's Travis Ford is told to pack his bags, as the Cowboys have a dreadful year.
2) Bruce Weber will field a team with four players in a game... and then get fired.
3) Bobby Huggins gets in a fist fight with Lon Kruger, and both get invited for a WWE Monday Night Raw match.
1) Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma will make the Elite Eight.
2) The Jayhawks will lose only one conference game.
3) Baylor will lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.