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WRNL Roundtable: How Do We Fix This Year’s Basketball Team?

We attempt to split the atom in this Roundtable question

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

*Note: This roundtable happened before the Tennessee debacle

This question came up in the WRNL group chat sometime last week: Can you fix this year’s basketball team and if so how?

Needless to say, a few of us had some thoughts:

smddee: I’m gonna go out on a limb and say first and foremost that talent is definitely an issue this year. Not to say we don’t have good players, but the lack of shooting this year is a pretty big concern. That leads to spacing issues and ultimately stagnant offense. A quick fix for the short term would be to make a concerted effort to get out in transition as much as possible to make up for those deficiencies.

Levi Stevenson: I don’t think the amount of talent is an issue, but the fact that the talent is so raw. As Prohm has mentioned a bunch of times, Wigginton and Lard are pretty much playing on raw talent right now. NWB is older, but still relatively new to running an offense. Piggybacking Sean’s point, transition will be this team’s best chance at a high level offense, and that starts on the defensive end.

CYHusker: The issue is not having a Georges-type player to facilitate and not having the shooting required to compensate for that fact. Horton-Tucker should fill that role nicely next season, but it is really lacking right now. One of the fixes he could have done was to sign a wing who can slash (lets be honest, instead of Jeff Beverly). Zoran Talley getting hurt certainly didn’t help things. Honestly, I’d like to see him start. I know he really can’t shoot from deep, but he can drive and has a nice array of moves in the paint/around the rim. That change of pace would be exactly what the offense needs, as Lindell struggles with turnovers and Donny Jax is too miniature to get to the rim effectively.

Matthias Schwartzkopf: Put the ball in the hoop more than the other team. Simple.

CYHusker: Thanks, John Madden

Matthias Schwartzkopf: Anything to help

CloneTeach: Apply to switch conferences, just not to the Horizon League. Milwaukee kicked our ass.

Ian Rewoldt: There are quite a number of holes with this year’s team. This first that jumps out is defensively. The Cyclones are giving up 102.6 points per 100 possessions according to KenPom. This is good for only 142nd in the country. Last year’s team, which wasn’t known for stellar defense, was at 96.3 points per 100 possession. In Big 12 games that are often decided by a couple possessions, that gap is gargantuan. Young teams often have problems on defense and the Cyclones have struggled this in similar ways as 2015-16 when there was no depth and the entire team gave up layups in order to not foul. Keeping guards in front has been a serious issue, there have been a ton of drives directly around the primary defender and straight to the rim. The help defense that is often not there has been killer for ISU and even if the help does come, rotations have been quite atrocious.

Again, a huge problem is having a young team playing a bunch of guys who have never played together before. But there needs to be serious improvement in this area. Lindell, Babb and Jackson need to do a better job of keeping people in front of them and scrambling back to position after ball screens. Rotations will come with time, but defense is mostly about effort and with the athletic ability our guards have, that effort should allow them to be successful.

A couple things Prohm can do would be to have the guards go under ball screens against offensive players who aren’t a threat to bomb threes off the dribble. Against Texas the other night, all our guards were chasing over ball screens and putting themselves at a disadvantage when literally no one on UT is a good enough three point shooter to snipe off the dribble. Going under the screen prevents all the juicy advantages Texas was getting on ball screens. Additionally, Prohm needs to ensure his guys know the scouting report. Too many times this year, I’ve seen Cyclone players sprinting to close out non shooters at the three point line, either leaving a good shooter open or getting beat cleanly off the dribble for a score.

Offensively, there are definitely holes as well. Per KenPom our offense is around 109 points per 100 and last year our amazing offense was at 119 points per 100. Although my colleagues and pundits claim that the Cyclones need to be strictly a transition offense, that is so much easier to say then do. First off all, it’s almost impossible to play in transition when you’re not getting stops and clearly Iowa State isn’t getting enough. Second, live ball turnovers are preludes to transition bucket, but Iowa State is not turning over their opponent that much. Any opportunities come mostly from those two scenarios and if the Cyclones tried to run on other defensive outcomes, those are easily preventable by the defense. Forcing transition shots to say “we play in transition” is outrageous. It is definitely true that the Cyclones are much better in transition, but the way their defense is playing does not allow for enough of those chances.

Other than that, the Cyclones are averaging 13.68 turnovers per game and are taking a lot of poor shots, which are both significantly hurting efficiency. Babb is faced with defenders ducking under ball screens all the time since he has lost confidence in pulling from three, so he has resorted to a lot of hard dribbles into deep midrange and pulling up. These shots are incredibly difficult to make consistently and gains 1 less point than three. Jackson has been quite poor from anywhere inside of three to the point where I start cringing whenever he starts a drive. Making these players aware of these issues could help correct them. These are only a couple of issues, but obviously the lack of spacing is a huge problem as well. Teams are rightly treating Solomon, Beverly, Talley and even Brase and Lewis or anyone else who plays besides our four best players as nonshooters. They are almost completely ignoring them and no one has stepped up and proven they can hit shots. I personally think Jakolby Long should get more of a chance, but that’s beside the point.

One of the things that Prohm should keep doing more is getting Lindell the ball as often as possible. He isn’t quite an all around creator yet, but is incredibly good in the half court or transition with clear opportunities to score. He has shot very well from three and can create his own shot on anyone in the conference. He is still so young and raw, but is still the best playmaker and is only exploring how dominant he can be offensively.

Getting the ball to Lard in the post! I will fully admit that I didn’t think he was capable at the beginning of the year, but this kid is destroying people one on one on the block. Shooting at an extremely high clip, even in situations where he has to create his own shot. In Prohm’s first two years, the Cyclones almost never entered the ball into the post unless it was for Niang and for good reason. Almost all of the guards were incredible players who are now in the NBA. But Lard has been a revelation and although he does turn it over quite a bit, he is still very unpolished and learning. He can be an absolute force on the block and teams will start sending doubles, which he will have to learn how to read. At this point though, getting him the ball down low creates instant opportunities either to score or pass, it just depends on how well Lard can take advantage of them. I am definitely advocating more of this going forward.

jakebrend32: The biggest key is to be sharper on defense because it hasn’t always been laser focused. That means just having simple box outs, closing out, getting on the floor and being “gritty.”

These guys aren’t the most talented on the floor yet, they are young and inexperienced. But being young and inexperienced is no excuse to not be tough and make the energy plays. These energy plays lead to transition offense which is the best type of offense for this team.