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Basketball

MONDAY MUSINGS: Defense takes some getting used to

Jan 7, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm reacts to his team during the first half against the Texas Longhorns at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

My 32-year old metabolism is nonexistent. I drink way too much beer. I am obsessed with Doritos. Add it all up and guys, I got kind of fat in 2016. So of course like thousands of other motivated Americans (for a few weeks at least), I began my Monday morning in the gym.

My coach at North Ankeny CrossFit, a very fit Cyclone fan and Iowa State grad named Shawn, asked me about Iowa State’s 79-70 win over Texas on Saturday night.

“I didn’t think we played very well,” he said.

I’ve heard this quite a bit since the win. In fact, I stayed up until about 3 a.m. on Sunday arguing with a couple of guys on Twitter about it.

Perhaps I am wrong (as I often am), but I left Hilton feeling very content with Iowa State’s performance. We saw the return of (good) Deonte Burton, the ball movement continued to improve and that four-guard identity continued to progress. Texas was also a lot better than I thought they would be.

Defensivley, I chalked up the Longhorns keeping it close to the young and brash talent wearing burnt orange hitting tough shot after tough shot. For what it’s worth, I re-watched the tape on Sunday and came to the same conclusion.

After pondering it for a few days, I think I might have this team and fan base’s expectations figured out.

Iowa Staters, especially young ones, aren’t used to defense. After all, it’s been a while since the intense Larry Eustachy roamed the sidelines of Hilton Coliseum. Yet here it is Jan. 9 and the Cyclones are STILL ranked in KenPom.com’s top-20 when it comes to defensive efficiency.

Check out Iowa State’s defensive efficiency ratings in each of the last five years:

2016: 91
2015: 59
2014: 55
2013: 126
2012: 66

A few more notable defensive stats…

Iowa State leads the Big 12 in conference-only defensive 3-point percentage at 31.5.

Iowa State ranks second in defensive turnover percentage (behind Kansas State).

Being ranked 18th in defensive efficiency is the Big 12’s third best mark (behind Baylor, 5 and West Virginia, 8).

After the Texas game, I asked Coach Prohm about where his team is at currently when it comes to defense and found his response interesting and it also made me chuckle.

“I know that it makes people nervous, being good defensively.” Prohm said. “But that’s where we’ve got to be to win big games on the road and to put yourself in a position to sustain it night in and night out. You’ve got to be able to play well defensively. We are getting there. If you would have saw the scrimmage vs. Nebraska and the hedged ball screens against Nebraska and then watched us play Baylor and the second half against Texas Tech and tonight, you would see how far these guys have come. I think they understand now. They are playing hard and defending.”

It isn’t easy replacing the beloved Fred Hoiberg, who I will go on the record and and call an offensive genius. Hoiberg’s four NCAA Tournament teams at Iowa State finished 12, 10, 8 and 24th respectively in adjusted offense.

The Cyclones, who under Prohm finished 7th a year ago, are currently ranked 52nd.

Combine Fred’s consistent top 15 offenses and the departure of perhaps the greatest offensive threat this program has ever seen in Georges Niang, I understand why fans have come to EXPECT 80 points every time out.

We got awfully used to it.

But this team is going to have to win a little bit differently. I have finally come to peace with that and I hope that you will too.

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