I should preface this article by saying I turn 30 this year. Those around my age have had the fortune of seeing teams dating back to the Orr era, and let’s just say, Cyclone fans have seen an extreme variance in types of ball over the last 30 years. Hoiball, bully ball, fast paced, slow paced, good, bad, and everything in between.
For the majority of the last decade, Hoiball has reigned supreme and for lack of a better term, has spoiled the Iowa State fan base. Iowa State was good because they were outscoring teams, played fast and smart, and were much better at home than they were on the road. No surprise that the leader of that revolution was Fred Hoiberg, whose teams were built and played very similarly to many of Orr’s teams.
However, it wasn’t the only way Iowa State has won. Floyd and Eustachy played a very different style. Solid, physical defense paved the way for some of Iowa State’s most successful teams in school history. It’s a far cry from what we’ve seen in recent seasons, and while it was appreciated at the time, it’s hard to believe that Iowa State fans would appreciate it as much now given the offensive prowess that’s been on display in Ames since 2010. For proof, one has to look no further than the 2016-17 version of the Iowa State Cyclones.
Iowa State currently possesses the 18th ranked adjusted defense per Kenpom - it’s second best of the Kenpom era (2002 to present) only to Wayne Morgan’s 2005 Cyclones. In the game against Texas Tech, Iowa State held the Red Raiders to 44.4% shooting from 2 and 28.6% shooting from 3. They average 56.8% and 38.8% respectively. If ISU allows them to shoot their averages, Tech scores somewhere between 70-72 points, and there’s no way ISU was putting that up given the current state of the offense. They allowed just 0.92 points per possession even after giving up 15 offensive rebounds. That’s...solid.
Offensively, this team has its issues. There’s no doubt about that. That being said, here’s the top six offensive teams in the Kenpom era.
- 2015-16 Steve Prohm (120.1 adjusted offense - 7th)
- 2013-14 Fred Hoiberg (118.3 adjusted offense - 10th)
- 2014-15 Fred Hoiberg (116.9 adjusted offense - 12th)
- 2012-13 Fred Hoiberg (115.7 adjusted offense - 8th)
- 2011-12 Fred Hoiberg (111.1 adjusted offense - 24th)
- 2016-17 Steve Prohm (109.8 adjusted offense - 57th)
So yes, this team is a steep drop off from recent seasons, but it’s still better than any team from 2002 to 2010. I don’t want to turn this into a stat heavy column, and I really don’t want to try and blow smoke up your butts by saying this team is one of the best we’ve seen - it’s not. But maybe it’s time for fans to start looking at the team for what it is.
This team is average on the offensive end. It looks ugly at times, and it’s frustrating for fans that are used to quality offensive play. It’s also above average on the defensive end. It’s not flashy, it doesn’t get Hilton rocking, and it’s not what we’ve become accustomed to, but it is what it is.
Iowa State Twitter is becoming littered with “other teams are more fun to watch” and “this sucks, and it’s not even the losing” takes, which is understandable, but what’s more important - being fun, or winning games? It seems to me Prohm is trying to maximize wins with the roster he has by focusing more on defensive principles because he sees limitations on the roster offensively. When a hobbled Naz Mitrou-Long is your best creator on offense, you’re going to struggle to score at times. When the team frequently shoots less than 30% from long range, what are you going to do?
There have been more bad shots taken than possessions with great ball movement. That’s unacceptable from such a senior heavy team, and that needs to be corrected. During the thrilling comeback against a good Texas Tech team, we saw the potential of this team. Iowa State scored 1.27 ppp in the second half of that game and gave up 0.77 ppp. Based on what we’ve seen thus far this season, one of those numbers is more sustainable, and it isn’t the offense.
People expected Monte Morris to take a leap to score first and playmaking point guard, and he hasn’t done so. That’s not to say Morris hasn’t been great - he has, but in the same way he’s been great in prior seasons. Burton has not turned into the second coming of Niang. The offense is littered with shooters, but can’t consistently shoot. There aren’t a lot of great passers or playmakers on the roster. Shot selection has left a lot to be desired - as has low post scoring.
Some of these things are correctable (shot selection, screening, etc), some appear to not be. The offense should get better as lineups and minutes get solidified and as the team gels, but it won’t be drastic. Player limitations are what they are. For this team to win, they have to be good defensively and have to try to push the tempo and take GOOD shots whenever they can. No more of these mid-range fadeaways with 20 seconds left on the shot clock.
For the sake of Iowa State fans, I would say it’s time to limit offensive expectations. This team may not win games by pushing 100, but may maximize their win total by holding teams below 70. Are you prepared to handle that change?