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The WRNL Round Table: ISU Basketball Expectations and a McKay Resurgence?

What should fans expect out of the Cyclones for the rest of the season?

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

It's been awhile since we did a round table, but yesterday the staff got together and discussed the Texas Tech loss, re-thinking expectations and the Jameel McKay situation. Hope you enjoy!

Fitzy: What stood out to you the most about the game against Texas Tech? Was it the non-goaltend? The fluke banked-in 3-pointer? Prohm's subbing decisions? Something else?

graphikdeCYner: For me, the no-call on the goaltend is what changed the tide of the game. Biggest highlight by far was the half court pass to Monte followed with the dish to Burton for the dunk. That was a Kane-to-Ejim esque play.

Fitzy: Yeah that play was awesome. Burton seems to float when he jumps... It's super impressive for a guy his size.

graphikdeCYner: Agreed. He also moves way faster than he looks like he should be capable of. Kind of like watching a freight train at a railroad crossing.

austinnarber: I think I'm most disappointed in how wide open Iowa State left the door down the stretch. They had every opportunity to put the game away, and Tech being aided by 22 fouls certainly helped that. I thought the officiating was ticky-tack, Nader fouled out, and then throw in the missed goaltend call... It's impossible to win games like that.

RevDizz: I'm with Narber here. For as efficient as the offense was all night, only scoring one bucket (I think) in the last three minutes or so was disappointing. Also, I think the play that changed the game was Nader's flagrant foul. Absolutely unintelligent play from a senior down the stretch. Not only giving them two shots and the ball, but taking himself out of the game.

graphikdeCYner: Flagrant foul was atrocious. Stupid, stupid decision. You gain absolutely nothing in that situation. I think the announcers said TTU went on a 13-2 scoring run to close out the game. Or something like that. Or maybe 9-2? Something stupid and horrible.

austinnarber: Matt Thomas couldn't get open, and we know now that ISU only goes as far as he does. They're now 1-7 when he scores less than 11 points (as a starter), 9-0 when he scores 12 or more. Get him involved or suffer the consequences.

RevDizz: Much points. Many Matt.

Fitzy: So basically just give Matty Ice isos every play to begin the game until he gets to 12 points. Got it.

austinnarber: Don't knock it 'til you try it, Fitz.

RevDizz: I mean even if you do that and start the game down 26-12. Don't you trust this team to overcome a 14 point deficit more than holding a 14 point lead?

austinnarber: Also, five points in 44 minutes is unacceptable. Credit where credit is due - I think it was Williams or Gotcher who defended Thomas most of the night - so maybe this is on Prohm for not getting him more looks. I don't know.

Fitzy: Yeah I'd be interested in going back and watching the game again to see how they defended Thomas for most of the game. Was it good defense, or was ISU just bad at getting him the ball where he could score?

RevDizz: I mean it's hard to criticize anything offensively when you score +1.2 PPP (Points Per Possession). The ball was moving and guys were getting good looks, so if they defended Matty well we beat them other ways. But giving up 1.25 PPP to Texas Tech is bad.

Vegas CyClown: Not to jump on the substitution bandwagon, but I think it's impossible to ignore the fatigue factor that seems to affect the end of each of our games. I'm not going to blame Prohm on his decisions, but it seems evident that guys are too gassed to close the game. Has nothing to do with toughness in my opinion.

austinnarber: This might be childish, but I just refuse to believe the least penalized team in the country committed 22 fouls.

Fitzy: That's a good point. It seems like Tech made a lot of jump shots last night.

austinnarber: I think there were some serious referee heat checks going on.

Fitzy: Some of those fouls were definitely ticky-tack. Maybe we should have done a better job driving to the lane and drawing our own fouls down the stretch... They shot 13 more free throws than us. Of course, there was that Georges Niang missed front end too. That hurt.

RevDizz: ISU in a 1 and 1 situation may as well be a turnover this season.

austinnarber: At the end of the day, you won't win road games in the Big 12 with your starting center on the bench, another guy fouled out, and an already-thin bench. This team needs to be all hands on deck and out of foul trouble (like they have been all year) if they want to do anything in March. No one looking at that box score should be surprised that TTU won that game. Attrition in any way from here on out is going to KILL them.

Fitzy: I miss 3sus.

austinnarber: Yep.

RevDizz: I think Iowa State fans in general underestimated how much his injury would hurt this team. Even with Matty trying his best to fill those statistics, it's just not the same.

austinnarber: In a vacuum, I'm still convinced THIS TEAM can win a national title. I really am.

Fitzy: I agree on underestimating the loss of Naz. I expected Hallice Cooke to be better than he's been, but he's kinda in the Matt Thomas bench role from the last couple years where he hasn't had any significant playing time to get into a rhythm on offense.

RevDizz: On court leadership, composure down the stretch, timely shot making. These are things Naz did well that we've struggled with this season.

BJSwanny: There's nowhere even close to a dominant team this year. There's at least 20 teams that could win it.

Fitzy: That's the encouraging thing. There's not really a team I look at in the nation and think that ISU has no chance against them. When we play well, we can beat anyone. When we don't, we can lose to some crappy teams.

austinnarber: I always laugh when I hear things like "this is not a Final Four team." Iowa State basketball is ALL about matchups. Has been for years. If they play the right teams, there's enough senior leadership and talent on this team to carry them.

RevDizz: Monte's postgame comments were interesting. Effectively saying they can still do great things in March and the fans forget about losses like the Tech game.

austinnarber: It's true!

Fitzy: Absolutely true. Just get in the NCAA Tournament and it's a brand new season.

RevDizz: But if you're putting all your eggs in that basket, you can't lose to UAB again. And they're still perfectly capable of losing that type of game too.

Fitzy: Still capable, but I think that UAB loss last year will throw some massive logs into the "time to lock in" fire of the players when they finally do get to the tourney.

austinnarber: You can't gauge postseason success on losing an overtime game in Lubbock. I think we're all in consensus that 2014 was the best team this program has had in over a decade. Exactly two years ago on February 10 was the Morgantown Massacre. Literally everyone forgot about that when we were in a dogfight with UConn trying to make the Elite Eight without our best player.

RevDizz: Agreed they're still capable, but we all though Lubbock and losing to Baylor at home last year would help lock them into chasing a regular season title this season.

graphikdeCYner: It almost feels like the mentality this whole season has been the exact opposite of Prohm's "win the day" mantra and has been one long look ahead to redemption in the tourney. An attitude of "we just have to do enough to get back to the tourney."

RevDizz: Agreed graphik!

Fitzy: To an extent, I'm fine with that too, graphik. If the "win the day" starts in their first game of the tourney, then I'll be happy.

graphikdeCYner: So we talk about trap games and all that, but what if the whole season is a trap game!? /tinfoil

austinnarber: The NCAA Tournament is literally a "new season." I can't stress that enough. These guys do not give a shit about what happened in February when they're playing for a National Championship. Mentally, players completely transform in March. Which is what makes that loss to UAB last year so fucking weird.

Fitzy: People have mentioned this elsewhere, but I'd almost like to see ISU lose a game in the Big 12 Tournament this year. More time to rest and gives them some hunger to make up for a loss. More hunger on top of the UAB game from last year.

graphikdeCYner: I don't think we three-peat.

austinnarber: Yeah you're not going to find me heartbroken if they don't win a third consecutive Big 12 Tournament.

graphikdeCYner: There are too many good teams in the Big 12 this year. Even a bottom of the pack guy like OSU could come out of nowhere and take down someone they shouldn't in the Big 12 tourney.

RevDizz: Agreed. I think a lot of fans are frustrated because the talk has always been about March, and some fans were more focused on winning the conference, which the Cyclones would be in a great position to do if they won the games they should. We even asked the question on a podcast "which meant more to you as a fan" and a lot of people said dethroning Kansas over the NCAA Tournament, but I think the team always had March on the mind.

Fitzy: Yep. March > everything else to this team.

graphikdeCYner: When all of the preseason hype was centered around this being The Team and The Year, it's hard not to feel a sense of loss when those expectations are falling short or being completely overlooked.

austinnarber: Get to the tournament and don't be trending down when you get there. Short of that, not a whole lot else matters.

RevDizz: I think most rational fans would agree with that now Narber, but a month ago that wasn't the case.

graphikdeCYner: We were supposed to be a monster powerhouse this year that ate every other team for breakfast without mercy. I'm hoping that's the team that shows up after Selection Sunday.

Fitzy: That line of thinking goes back to having a healthy Naz too, graphik. And that's what many people forget.

austinnarber: Well, you live and you learn.

RevDizz: Just took some expectation adjustment.

graphikdeCYner: Yeah, Naz was a huge loss. I even forget that he isn't just a grad assistant on the bench in all of these anecdotal conversations.

Vegas CyClown: My question is do you think Prohm was ready for everything taking this job has entailed so far? From a pressure and personnel standpoint. I believe he will do great things in the future for us, but this year has to be tough to come in with the expectations and the deepest conference in the country.

austinnarber: Ready? Hell no. Confident in his (and his loaded roster's) abilities? Absolutely.

RevDizz: I think he knew the expectations, but there's no way he could have known about some of the issues with the team.

Fitzy: I think he knew what he was getting himself into, but not ready for Naz to go down or the current Jameel McKay issues.

Vegas CyClown: I think he thought he knew, but potentially wasn't ready (i.e. deleting Twitter). I'm not saying he isn't handling it, just that it has to be harder than he expected it to be.

austinnarber: I have a bold prediction for the rest of the season.

RevDizz: Hold onto your butts...


austinnarber: I think Jameel McKay is going to go completely gangbusters. I think he's gonna be awesome.

Fitzy: I hope so. If he gets back to his form from last season, look out.

austinnarber: When you sit your butt down on the bench for two weeks during your senior season, on a team you KNOW has the potential to win it all... You do some soul searching. I think he's gonna tear it up. And that's going to be the difference maker.

Vegas CyClown: That's one way it could go.

RevDizz: Don't say it.

Fitzy: Crash and burn? Cancer?

RevDizz: Dammit. I hope you're right Narber. I have no doubt they win that game last night with even an average McKay.

austinnarber: I'm buying the whole "it's between him and me" thing with Prohm. McKay suits back up when Prohm thinks he's ready. To me, that means he has a reason to believe those demons have been exorcised. And a Jameel McKay that's not completely mental for 40 minutes is scary as fuck.

Vegas CyClown: The flip side of that is he continues to act like a child who doesn't get his way and plays half assed the rest of the season and packs up and moves out of Ames in early March. Which, I'm not saying will happen, I like Narber's approach, just the alternative to having this worked out.

RevDizz: Either way, I think it's a safe bet we don't see the same McKay that we did before the suspension.

Fitzy: If McKay comes out on fire and is a beast for the rest of the season, he could become an awesome redemption story. I hope he realizes that. He could become an instant Cyclone legend if he sacks up and leads us on a deep postseason run.

austinnarber: I'm saying he gets out of his own head and carries this team down the stretch.

Vegas CyClown: It is the preferred outcome.

RevDizz: JaFeel will take this to either of those extremes.

Fitzy: At this point, the story will either be "hey, remember that season that Jameel McKay crashed and burned?" or "hey, remember that season where Jameel McKay got suspended, then came back as a beast?" There's a very small chance it's anything in between.

Vegas CyClown: Agree

RevDizz: That's a scary thought. The season's outcome hangs in the balance of the emotionally unstable McKay.

Fitzy: It'll go a long way if he comes out and busts his ass on the court without complaining (to the refs and/or Coach Prohm). Even if his stats don't come around, I can live with him trying his best and having a better attitude.

RevDizz: Reminds me of the Remember the Titans clip "Attitude reflects leadership."