Iowa State released it's 2015-16 non-conference men's basketball schedule late this morning and, though lacking the prominent "Michigan 2013" type matchup for a second consecutive season, should be aptly tested in Steve Prohm's first year at the helm.
The season tips off Nov. 13 from the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls against Colorado, then it's back home to Ames for two consecutive Monday night showdowns against Chicago State and Chattanooga.
The Emerald Coast Classic gets underway Thanksgiving Weekend in Niceville, FL, where the Cyclones will draw Virginia Tech and either Illinois or (hold onto your butts) our old pals from Alabama-Birmingham.
The following two Tuesdays will feature the large animal portion of the non-conference slate, as the North Dakota State Bison and Buffalo Bulls pay a visit to Hilton Coliseum. Buffalo and first-year coach Nate Oats (who took over for now-Arizona State head man Bobby Hurley) should be an interesting matchup. The Bulls led both Kentucky and Wisconsin at halftime on the road last year, and they also gave West Virginia a run late in their first round NCAA Tournament matchup before losing 68-62. It will be a new-look squad under Oats, but a few key pieces should return.
Next up is Iowa, who receive their annual clock cleaning Friday, Dec. 11, in Ames.
The early season docket is then capped off with a visit from Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 13, the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic in Des Moines on the 19th (Northern Iowa), a true road test at Cincinnati on the 22nd and a final home game against Coppin State on the 30th.
In an interesting twist, this year's Big 12/SEC Challenge games have been moved to Jan. 30. Both conferences will create the common "open date" during conference play to showcase the Challenge, and Iowa State will square off against another former Big 12 foe, Texas A&M, in College Station. Aggies head coach Billy Kennedy and Steve Prohm were on staff together at Southeastern Louisiana and Centenary from 1998-2005.
In a January interview, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby stated, "Our teams have shown a commitment to scheduling tough non-conference opponents and should be commended for setting a new standard by placing a key non-league matchup in the middle of the conference season." It appears the oddly-placed matchup may be here to stay.
Iowa State boasted a 40-2 non-conference home record under Fred Hoiberg and should probably expect the same kind of success in Ames again this season, with the most difficult tests coming either on the road or neutral sites.
For those keeping track at home, the fun tips off 144 days from today.