AMES — The similarities between Steve Prohm’s Murray State teams and those of Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State are clear on the offensive side of the basketball floor.
Like Hoiberg, Prohm wants his teams to get up and down. He wants them to score fast. The Cyclones have proven that they can do that. But what about keeping the other team from scoring?
Prohm made one thing clear about his defensive philosophy during his introductory press conference on Tuesday. The Cyclones need to get tougher.
"We want to play half-court, tough-nosed, man-to-man," Prohm said. "We want to be really tough-minded in the half-court."
Iowa State has the tools to be a very good, maybe even great, defensive team. They showed flashes of how good they can be during their run to the Big 12 tournament championship last season.
If the Cyclones want to live up to the expectations of the fan base and compete for championships, those flashes need to more than just, well, flashes.
"All championship teams are good on the defensive end," senior forward and reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jameel McKay said. "We can already score with the best of them, so if we can continue to get better on the defensive end, the sky’s the limit for this team."
Prohm’s last three teams at Murray State all were ranked below 170th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom.com. None of them made the NCAA Tournament. His first team (2011-12), the one that finished 31-2 and lost to Marquette in the Round of 32, was 15th.
There is no questioning that Prohm’s teams can score. But for them to play at a championship level, the great offense is set up by a great defense.
"The best way to run, is to defend and rebound," Prohm said. "The more we can get stops, the faster we can go."
Steve Prohm’s Iowa State is going to keep playing fast. They are going to put up points. But will they stop the other team from putting points on the board, too?
"Talking to them last night they know, ‘hey if we want to continue to take another step, let’s get better defensively," Prohm said.
A little added toughness can go a long way towards taking that next step.