When it comes to perceived success and how content fans are with a season, expectations are pretty much everything. But still, the definition of success can be wildly variant from person to person.
What matters most? Spending the season in the rankings? Conference placing? Winning the league tournament? Or, a run in the NCAA Tournament?
Most probably already have successful seasons calibrated in their own heads but I wanted to pull some ISU season resumes of the past for the sake of a comparison to this year. I went back 30 years and cherry picked 10 of the more successful Cyclone seasons. I put together the standard things like overall winning percentage and conference winning percentage but I also included records versus ranked teams, games versus ranked teams and Iowa State’s own time spent in the rankings. Then on the far right, I put their finishing place in the standings, how far they advanced in the conference tournament and how far they advanced in the NCAA Tournament.
Being ranked for the majority or entirety of a season is certainly an indicator of some success as is being able to crack into the top 10. Beating ranked teams to earn impressive victories is another measure for a strong year.
Larry Eustachy called regular season conference championships the crown jewel of achievement in college basketball. Sustained success against your peers over a grueling nine week stretch to come out on the top of the standings.
Winning the conference tournament is really the only consideration for that three to four day stretch being impactful on the entire season, but it is a way to put a punctuation mark on the rest of the season.
Or is making a run in the NCAA Tournament the best way to build a lasting legacy in Cyclone lore?
There are a lot of variables but I think the two most obvious resume builders are the regular season conference title and success in the NCAA Tournament. The 1999-00 season is clearly at the head of the class in ISU history. But behind that, what is next?
If you ask me, it is the three Sweet 16 teams going back to 1986. The 2000-01 team won the league but with the way they flamed out, it put a pretty sour taste in our mouths at the end of the season. It was so deflating that it is hard to even celebrate the rest of that season.
My point being that I believe team’s cement their place in Iowa State history in March, in the NCAA Tournament. That is when it counts even if the variability is high and the sample size for wins and losses is low. But those are the teams that I remember most fondly.
After a disappointing performance in Norman, I can’t help but think some fans have incorrectly juxtaposed the definitions of expectations and goals. The goal for this season has been a dethroning of Kansas and a conference title. But was it the expectation? The hope of a conference championship was mostly removed in Lubbock and with any loss that mounts since then that nail gets pounded further into the coffin.
But, that doesn’t put an end to the season. There are still games to win and plenty of time to put a stamp on the season.
My question though, is what is success to you and what resume builders are the most important? Would you prefer a regular season conference title if the season ends in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament?
Game by game efficiencies
I’ve been tracking Iowa State’s offensive and defensive scoring efficiencies by game all season and putting them on this chart. For this I’ve only included the major non-conference opponents and all league games. Defensive rate is on the vertical axis and offensive is on the horizontal axis. Up and to the right is the best possible outcome.
These aren’t adjusted for the competition played but it does give a quick recap of the best and worst performances. The games that were losses have their text in red.