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Things I Think I Think After a 1-2 Start

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The Cyclones have played 3 games. What do we know, so far?

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

During Iowa State’s 68-71 loss to South Dakota State earlier this month, I tweeted the following:

I was met with a large majority of people nodding in agreement, a few who vehemently disagreed, and a sprinkle of those who feel the program needs a change in the worst way. This was a major simplification of a multitude of issues, both in and out of control of the players and staff. Was a tumultuous offseason marred by COVID part of the problem? Probably. Was an influx of new faces who have never played together outside of practice partially to blame? Certainly a possibility.

Does something still need to change within the program? Absolutely.

Here are some stats to consider:

  • Iowa State has now lost to powerhouse programs South Dakota State, Florida A&M, and UW Milwaukee in 3 out of the last 4 seasons.
  • Steve Prohm has now put 3 of “his” players (Shayok, THT, Tyrese) into the NBA since his tenure began in Ames and is generally speaking considered the greatest recruiter in Iowa State history.
  • Last year’s record: 12-20
  • 2018-2019 record: 23-12

Prohm’s legacy is as complex as it is frustrating. Seemingly he can assemble talent in bunches, but struggles with in-game adjustments and X’s and O’s, which are magnified when you cannot lean on future pros to cover up game plan issues. He’s won multiple championships, but has also struggled to amass roster continuity. On one hand, this year’s team could have Lindell Wigginton, THT, and Tyrese playing together. On the other, it’s still his job to manage the roster and understand what his player’s ambitions are so he can recruit accordingly.

CyHawk Musings

Look, this was bad, but not unexpected. The Hawks had their way with the Clones, and not many people batted an eye. TOE has a plethora of shooters (and Jordan Bohannon) sprinkled around an elite college big man in 7 footer Luka Garza. Meanwhile, Iowa State’s primary defender on Garza stood a measly 6’8” in Soloman Young. So, comparing the two teams at the moment does a disservice to both for different reasons. However, TOE can be good AND we can also be terrible. We saw some good things and we saw some terrible things from a young Iowa State team, but I do think we are closer to figuring out what this team can eventually do well.

Guard Pressure

Iowa State rolled out a starting lineup of guys who are 6’3”, 6’4”, 6’6”, 6’6”, and 6’8”. This is a team who has the personnel to hound opposing teams’ guards, apply steady on-ball pressure, and switch 1-4 when they can. We saw glimpses of some of this: Steve Prohm let Tyler Harris (coincidentally, the smallest guy on the team) loose to get under the skin of the Iowa guards. Especially when the primary focus of the Iowa offense is to dump the ball down low to Garza, this is a clinical strategy to disrupt post-entry passes. Disrupt the perimeter and force guards to make contested passes. Unfortunately, when your 7 foot big man can also step out and make 3s... Sometimes you have to tip your cap.

Going forward, I’d like to see more targeted, frantic, ball pressure. Iowa State does not have an elite rim protector to rely on, and must lean on guards and wings to disrupt opposing offenses.

George Conditt: Missing

Somewhere along the way, George Conditt has quit developing. Once a promising Freshman and a key bench piece during the 2018 Big 12 Championship run, Conditt has been streaky and at times looks lost on defense, especially. If George cannot start putting together solid stretches — which he is absolutely capable of doing — I’d like to see those minutes bounce to Xavier Foster.

Identity Issues

Through 3 games, I have no idea what this team’s identity is. Granted, they’ve only played 3 games, but I haven’t seen flashes of anything the Clones are particularly good at. Are they a hard-nosed, grind it out defensive team? LOL. Are they a team that likes to get out and run and prioritize more possessions vs. running the shot clock down? Well, they currently average the 183rd most possessions per game. Are they an elite 3 point shooting team? 156th best.

The point is, the Clones aren’t doing any one thing particularly well right now. They are a jack of all traits, master of none team without a semblance of direction. Whatever Steve Prohm has been telling his team this year and last, it needs to change. What is the primary focus and what do the Clones really want to key in on as they move forward?

Conclusion

This team does have promise, but things will likely continue to look as they are before the Clones start to figure things out. The Cyclones have a lot of new faces that will need time to gel. However, the longer it takes for these guys to put things together, the shorter Steve Prohm’s time in Ames may be.