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Iowa State Offense: So Hot Right Now

The wheels are falling off of the Iowa State basketball machine after four losses in the last six games according to the common opinion. But are they really? We take a look at the end of the court the Cyclones are setting on fire at a record pace.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

What if I told you that Iowa State is scoring more in Big 12 play than any season under Fred Hoiberg? And what if I followed that by telling you they're not shooting that badly from the free throw line, and their 3-point defense is actually pretty good? Crazy talk, right?

No, really.


If Fred Hoiberg's tenure was famous for one word, one that makes still makes many Cyclone fans' eyes light up in excitement, it's "Hoiball". Hoiball is some combination of running, sharing, dunking and sniping from long range in whatever way is the most beautiful basketball to behold. At times it was mesmerizing, and we yearned to watch more of it, we dreamt about it, we loved it.


In stepped Steve Prohm this season, and as predicted the offense has been slowed a little bit to allow for a better focus on defense, something Prohm was obviously focusing on in practice. Only ... that hasn't happened. Not at all.

The offense is firing on all cylinders, in fact, we're shooting at an unprecedented rate. Consider this: as of today, four of the top 10 shooters in the conference are Cyclones:

  • Morris: 53.1% (3rd )
  • Niang: 52.5% (4th)
  • Nader: 49.2% (8th)
  • Thomas: 44.4% (10th)

And the combo of McKay (52.1%) and Burton (51.1%) shoot just as well, but average just under the minimum amount of field goals made to be ranked in the conference standings.

Season Comparison:

Collectively, the Cyclones are shooting a scorching, conference-leading 50.2%. That's more than 3% higher than 2nd place Kansas, as well as 3% higher than THE BEST SEASON OF HOIBALL. Shocking, I know. In fact, in conference play, the offense in general is rolling:

stats and more

The 2011-12 season is included a bit unfairly. The tempo and style of play with Royce White was much different, but it's included because the resulting record was similar to the last four seasons.

Prohm's version of offense is playing faster, and scoring more efficiently than ever before. His "improving defense"? It isn't showing dividends thus far.

Some of the tempo can be attributed to the shot clock shortening, but when even Hoiberg's slowest teams were shooting with almost half of the shot clock remaining, so a change from 35-30 seconds, doesn't really affect much more than a possession or two a game.

This year's 3FG% defense is surprisingly good, ranking 3rd in conference allowing only 34%, the best opponent rate in three seasons. So no, conference opponents are not hitting threes against us at unreasonable rates, though sometimes it feels that way.

Iowa State's FT% is also the 2nd highest in the last five seasons. Wait! Aren't the Cyclones missing an unreasonable amount of free throws?!?! Apparently not. I'm personally still in a little shock about that one.

This team is a Hoiball wetdream, right down to opposition scoring excessively easily in the paint, only it seems we've finally found the tipping point of outscoring our defense. If the offense misfires at all, the defense is allowing so many points that we'll almost certainly struggle. Thankfully, there are not a lot of reasons to expect a dropoff due to the variety of ways this team scores from every position on the floor.

So for those pining for the good old days of Hoiball, you're watching it!  And enjoy this, because shooting this well doesn't happen very often, 50.2% is the highest team FG% in Big 12 since Kansas shot an astounding 51.1% in conference play in 2010-11, six seasons ago. That Jayhawk team won 30+ games, won the Big 12 tournament and reached the Elite Eight before being upended by Cinderella 11-seed VCU.

Notable Individual Achievements:

  • Abdel Nader has come up huge from behind the arc in conference play. After shooting a dismal 27% in the non-conference, he's come alive, hitting at a 41% rate from 3-point range against Big 12 opponents.
  • Monte Morris has also seen a large uptick in 3-point shooting (as I previously predicted). He's 2nd in the Big 12, shooting a fiery 47.6% from deep.
  • Matt Thomas has been Mr Consistency, hitting at 41% in the noncon, and 42% in Big 12 play. That's great news for a guy who was often scolded for being inconsistent during his freshman and sophomore seasons.