Iowa State is 0-5 to start conference play for the first time since the 2004-2005, which featured guys with the names like Blaylock, Stinson, and Clark. That team ended up in the NCAA Tournament, lost to the eventual national champs, and had guys sniff the NBA, even if only for a short while.
This year’s team will likely not make the tournament and will probably not put any guys into the NBA (too early to tell with Foster). This year’s team features a coach that can’t seem to keep guys in the program and makes head scratching adjustments, if at all. This year’s team is probably not as talented as that 2005 team. This is a team technically still defending a Big 12 Championship!
But here we are. A season on the brink. A possible job on the line, and more importantly, the battle for Iowa State fans to not become apathetic towards a program that brought so much joy just a few years ago. What’s worse at this point: Anger or Apathy? Fans need to see something to be excited about. There haven’t been many things to feel good about and there is an apparent lack of internal awareness from the coaching staff this year that feels different.
More specifically, Prohm’s comments after an absolute beatdown at the hands of Texas Tech really drove that point home: “We’ve got a lot of people out there doing a lot of really good things that played here. We have to understand that.” Yes, this is true. This program has done a very good job of putting guys in the league over the past 8 or so year. But no, this is in no way addressing the issues the current team is dealing with. We KNOW guys have left early, but that shouldn’t explain why so many other guys who are not draft picks have left this program early during the past 4 years, and it certainly feels like a blatant excuse as to why this team lost by almost 30 inside their home gym.
Before you ask, no, I am not calling for Steve Prohm’s head by any means. The guy has won two Big 12 Championships and taken multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament, including the Sweet Sixteen. What I am calling for, however, is accountability and a willingness to try something different. Whatever is happening right now very clearly needs to change, and quickly. I don’t believe enough levers have been pulled for him to be let go, but he also needs to do something different.
This team has a lot of issues to address, but let’s face it: the offense needs a serious overhaul. The Cyclones average 68.4 points per game, the lowest mark since the 2008-2009 season. The Clones also average 11.6 assists per game, good for 282nd best in the NCAA. Too often do we see this team stand around, play iso-ball, and fail to make the defense work. This Iowa State team has also done a poor job getting out in transition, which would seem to be the obvious counter to a stagnant half-court offense. However, the Clones are the 186th fastest team in terms of possessions per game this year and have struggled to run against most teams. So where does the coaching staff go from here?
My solution? Rein in the offense. Tug on the leash and call more set plays. Provide greater structure for a group of guys who haven’t even spent a year together as a team. Let them build chemistry. Let them work within the confines of an offense that doesn’t make standing around a requirement. This team lacks the individual playmaking skills that prior teams relied on so heavily. The response to that should be heavy off-ball movement to compensate for the inability of most guys to break down defenders off the dribble. Team free throw attempts are a great indicator of that inability to get to the paint and Iowa State is dead last in the Big 12 and 344th in the country.
Structure would benefit this team and even if it doesn’t, things can’t get much worse…
Now, this season hasn’t been all doom and gloom. Javan Johnson has been a bright spot this year and has been tasked with turning nothing into something way more often than he should. All too often it seems like he has bailed out a stagnant offense with a nice dribble-drive or a deep three. Xavier Foster showed very nice flashes before his injury sidelined him. Tyler Harris, while undersized, plays with great toughness on the defensive end and shoots the ball with consistency on offense. Those guys all return next year. The addition of 4-star guard Tyrese Hunter should really help, as well.
Though this year’s team has been a statistical nightmare, they do one thing well above all others: Running opponents off the 3-point line. In fact, opponents average only 5.7 made 3’s against the Clones, good for 38th best in the country AND they have the best 3-point defense in the Big 12 in terms of percentage AND number of makes per game. The Cyclones do a nice job of switching when they need to and really forcing opponents into the lane. Hopefully they can shore up the interior and protect the paint with greater consistency to really make life difficult for more teams.
The Cyclones have a massive opportunity on Saturday against a Kansas team that doesn’t look as frightening as they have in the past. Yes, losing Xavier Foster hurts. Yes, the deck is stacked against them, but please don’t give up the players. They need your support now more than ever.
- Iowa State has a very real turnover problem, averaging 16.6 per game in conference play, good for tops in the Big 12.
- Rasir Bolton has almost double the amount of total assists this year than the next closest team member with 44. Next closest? Javan Johnson with 25. However, Bolton also leads the team with 31 turnovers.
- Jalen Coleman-Lands is shooting almost 40% from 3-point land this year on 6.2 attempts per game, good for best on the team.
- During the past 4 seasons (this year’s included), Steve Prohm has a .439 conference win %. Greg McDermott in his 4 seasons? .391
- Xavier Foster and Soloman Young lead the team with offensive ratings of 124.9 and 117.1.
- Defensively, the Cyclones are led by George Conditt, who has a defensive rating of 100.5. 6’10” Conditt is tied with 6’6” Javan Johnson with 6 total blocks this year. Young leads the team with 9.