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A Totally Objective and Highly Correlative Look At Iowa State’s Season Openers And How They Projected Each Basketball Season

Somehow... Basketball has returned

NCAA Basketball: Division I Championship-Connecticut vs Iowa State Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State opens their season on Monday, November 6th against the powerhouse Green Bay Phoenix, which means that basketball is very back! As a precursor to what will probably be a mostly boring opening contest for the Clones, I decided to fire up the time machine, put my math hat on, and figure exactly what we can stand to learn from watching the Cyclones’ opener. Now, this is a totally objective and highly scientific process that you’ll see below, but the idea was born from the question I asked myself: “What did each season opener foreshadow about how each Iowa State team would ultimately end the year?” Now, there are conclusions that were drawn that may or may not have been fair, but with the element of hindsight... *shrugs*

So let’s look at a few notable home openers and statistics that I felt were poignant and see if they were predictors of what was to come for each season, and how correlated each result was to team success.

2022-23: The Offense is Better… Right?


Leading Scorer: Jaren Holmes: 23

Notable Stat: Iowa State forces 29 IUPUI Turnovers

Reaction: Iowa State’s offense looks capable and ready to compete this year. Jaren Holmes is a lock for Big 12 first team and Gabe Kalschuer’s 4-7 from 3 shows he worked on his outside shot enough during the summer to remain consistent.

Hindsight: This one is a funny result. Iowa State’s offense showed out and made fans think for maybe a fraction of a second that things had improved from the prior year. Couple that with the fact the defense held the Jaguars to under 40 points, and the hype train was off and rolling. For an added twist of irony, Iowa State began the season holding the IUPUI to the same point total that the Cyclones put up against Pitt on their way to a first round exit.

Correlation to Season Performance: Medium

2020-21: Beginning of the End of the Prohm Era

ISU 80-63 Arkansas Pine Bluff

Leading Scorer: Jalen Coleman-Lands

Notable Stat: Darlinstone Dubar minutes: 21:54

Reaction: Iowa State’s 37-34 halftime deficit is cause for concern and even though the Cyclones won by 17, this was far from a comfortable win.

Hindsight: Woof. Lot to unpack in this one. For starters, Iowa State’s halftime deficit was probably a red flag for Steve Prohm’s last season as the men’s basketball coach. The highly anticipated debut of Xavier Foster was limited due to injury concerns (4 points in 8 minutes), but Rasir Bolton’s 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists showcased his ability to dictate game pace. Plenty of red flags to choose from in this opener, so take your pick between APB outscoring ISU in the paint, APB leading at halftime, or APB outmuscling ISU for 5 more rebounds. Yikes.

Correlation to Season Performance: High

2021-22: Otz Enters

ISU 84 Kennesaw State 73

Leading Scorer: Gabe Kalscheur: 19

Notable Stat: Iowa State Turnovers: 22

Reaction: A highly anticipated debut for Coach TJ Otzelberger saw the Cyclones skip past Kennesaw State to the tune of 19 points from Minnesota transfer Gabe Kalscheur and 18 points from Penn State transfer Isaiah Brockington. The highly touted recruit Tyrese Hunter contributed 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Hunter looked in control, athletic, and showed he will be a staple on both ends of the floor for years to come! Meanwhile, Iowa State’s defense looked chaotic and intense, as the Cyclones fouled Kennesaw State 31 times and turned them over on 24 occasions.

Hindsight: Few obvious things here so let’s start with the first: Tyrese Hunter’s debut was as exciting as it was promising. His decision to transfer was as shocking as his 50% debut from 3 was out of character. Secondly, Iowa State fouled Kennesaw more times in their season opener than at any other point all year. Not totally surprising considering it’s the first game. After all, it takes time to put together an entirely new team (basically) and play with cohesion. Nothing about this opener really pointed to a Sweet Sixteen run but did allude to the Otz style of defense we’ve grown to know.

Correlation to Season Performance: Medium

2015-16: The Prohm Era Begins

Number 7 Iowa State 68 Colorado 62

Leading Scorer: Georges Niang: 17

Notable Stat: Iowa State 3’s: 2/10

Reaction: I thought we were getting a continuation of Fred’s system? I thought this new guy Prohm was supposedly running Hoiberg’s stuff during Georges’ last year? 68 points against Colorado...? Only 2/10 from three? Are we sure this guy is the right fit for this team? Don’t get me wrong, a win is a win, especially against a P5 opponent at a neutral site up in Sioux Falls but... I don’t know about this guy. However, Georges certainly picked up where he left off from last year. He should have a great year.

Hindsight: Perfect instance of jumping the gun on a season. Colorado ended the year with the 30th ranked defense and made the NCAA Tournament. The Cyclones ended the year with the 7th best offense and went to the Sweet Sixteen, so maybe this was a case of playing in a foreign environment (yes, South Dakota is foreign) against a team that is closer a normal Big 12 team than your typical pushover buy game. Prohm’s teams were always tilted to the offensive side of the floor, so barely scoring 70 for a squad that ended up averaging 81 (!!!!) per game on the year was a surprise to be sure. But even still, Georges was solid and did his thing, Monte had 12, 4 and 4, and Abdel Nader had 14. This team was fine and was always going to be fine with the talent on the roster. Consider this a fluke for a team that returned 70.9% of minutes played and 71.5% of scoring from the prior year.

Correlation to Season Performance: Low

Transfer U: 2011-12

ISU 86 Lehigh 75

Leading Scorer: Royce White: 25

Notable Stat: CJ McCollum: 16 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals

Reaction: What a start for this new group of Clones! After hearing all summer about how good this crop of, how do you pronounce it, Transfers? Trahns-Fers? Is that a thing? People are allowed to change schools??? Anyways, These new guys seem like they’re pretty good. This Royce White dude sure seems like a calming presence and in no way like he would run for office and continually tweet really strange things.

Hindsight: Not a lot to report here. Royce was good right out of the gate and the Cyclones began their quest to bring back Hilton Magic. This was the team that ultimately lost to Anthony Davis’ Kentucky team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and provided a few fun moments during the year. This team will never be mentioned as one of the best teams Iowa State has had, but they were certainly one of the most fun. After slogging through the McDermott years, this was the team that brought Iowa State into the modern era of transfer-ball and allowed Fred to diagram out a real offensive system.

As an extra piece of trivia, this was the same Lehigh team that knocked off Duke as a 15 seed later in the year and who were led by CJ McCollum, if you’ve ever heard of him.

Correlation to Season Performance: High

1999-2000: Best Team in School History

ISU 79 - Simon Frazer 54

Leading Scorer: Marcus Fizer: 24

Notable Stat: Iowa State FG%: 50%

Reaction: Well, expectations are pretty low this year considering the Cyclones were picked to finish 7th in the conference, so we’ll see about how far Marcus Fizer can carry this team. An NCAA Tournament berth would be huge and maybe this Tinsley kid can help move things along. Fizer scoring 24 against an NAIA team from Canada isn’t really a surprise, considering he made the preseason All-Big 12 First Team.

Hindsight: Far and away one of the pieces of the story of this team is the low expectations that the media had coming into the year. Picked 7th in the conference by the media and 6th by the coaches, no one had any idea the Cyclones would be as good as they turned out to be. The best team in school history (yes, they are) really began the year as a question mark and even lost at Drake the game after this one, only scoring 44 points at the Knapp Center. However, the Cyclones would go on to lost only 2 games from December - March before ultimately bowing out to Michigan State in the Elite Eight. But as far as this game went against a throwaway NAIA school that sounds more like the name of British celebrity than an actual school? Difficult to decipher. We knew Fizer would be good. Tinsley was on everyone’s radar, but playing in his first as a Cyclone, we still didn’t know THAT much. There were a few tipping points that you could maybe insinuate, but overall there were no major flags, green or red, that pointed to the rise of the best team in school history.

Correlation to Season Performance: Low