Basketball comes at the perfect time every year, doesn’t it? Just when Cyclone Nation needs a boost after an emotionally draining first season under Matt Campbell, the hardcourt Clones are set to tip off tomorrow evening. While yes, this is technically just an exhibition contest, there is plenty to watch for as Coach Prohm unveils the first Cyclones squad of the post-Niang era.
The narrative when Steve Prohm was hired was that he was going to focus more on defense, despite his reputation as more of an offensive-minded coach. While the 2015-16 version of the Cyclones did show improvement at times, the fact still remained that we had an offensive-minded coach with a group of players that hadn’t spent much time working on their defense in prior years.
Well the offseason narrative didn’t change much this year, but the faces on the court have quite a bit. While I wouldn’t project seeing a fundamental defensive change, it’s not unlikely to see a more aggressive, pressing and physical defense at times. There is more depth on this roster to put up with a bit of foul trouble. There’s a deeper rotation at the guard spot to help relieve players expending more effort defensively. Prohm can have a shorter leash if the effort isn’t there and not lose much of a step offensively. This team has substantial senior leadership that has now heard about their defensive shortcomings for a few years, and they seem poised to take that next step.
Look for signs early in the game that the team is willing to force some turnovers and press the issue defensively. Look for a willingness to crash the boards. See if the team keeps their foot on the gas early on to put the Cougars away early. How are rotations handled? Will we continue to help the posts with a guard double team, or do we trust our graduate transfer bigs to hold their own?
Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long, Matt Thomas, Donovan Jackson, Nick Weiler-Babb, and Jakolby Long. That’s quite the stable of guards, and it’ll be interesting to see the minute distribution in the opening stanza. We’ve heard about Morris playing less and we won’t likely know the truth of that rumor until competitive non-conference games and Big 12 play. But do we see Morris and Jackson co-exist? How many minutes can 3sus’ hips handle? Will we see Jakolby Long or will he redshirt? These are all questions that may not be answered right away, but we’ll get our first taste of the plan for this season.
Another question fans will be looking to answer is how often Prohm goes ultra-small with Deonte Burton playing the five. This would seem like a good spot to see how that lineup functions both offensively and defensively, and giving them solid time to develop that small ball chemistry.
A lot of the small ball talk is predicated on how serviceable the two new graduate transfers can be. There’s also the unknown quantities of Simeon Carter and Solomon Young. At least two of these four parts are going to have to exceed expectations offensively for this team to really take the next step, but all can and should offer defense and rebounding benefits.
Solomon Young looks physically ready to compete and the two graduate transfers obviously have the experience of playing at the collegiate level. This will likely be our first glimpse into the off-season development of Simeon Carter. While I would bet that we’ll only see three of these players in the standard rotation as the season wears on and the lineup shrinks, it’s important to get them all experience early to see what we have. Finding the best combination of these pieces going forward will be key in determining the potential of this team.
We’ve seen Monte for three years now. The only question will be how the offense evolves now that he is “the man.” Georges Niang is gone and this team will need a go-to scorer when the game is on the line. How does Monte look creating his own shot? How does he look off the ball when Jackson or Mitrou-Long take the wheel at point? Everyone is expecting big things from the Cyclones’ Preseason All-American this season, and it’ll be interesting to see how Prohm taps into his scoring point guard experience to round out Monte’s offensive game.
Tip: 6:00pm CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network