MONDAY MUSINGS: Williams/Blum back and forth on hoops expectations

Cyclone Fanatic’s Chris Williams and Brent Blum had an “email conversation” on Sunday regarding next year’s Iowa State basketball team. What should realistic expectations be? The two discuss today on Monday Musings. 
CW: Over the weekend, Jared Stansbury and I discussed Iowa State’s current roster and what expectations should be for next year’s basketball season. I concluded that as of now, I think Iowa State is an NIT team – hopefully. There are just too many unknowns for me to be on board for a seventh-straight NCAA Tournament run.
Lots of variables, Blum. Lindell Wigginton is going to be great – I truly believe that – but he is a freshman. How good is Cameron Lard? Will Solomon Young be able to take a major step forward as a scorer? Nick Weiler-Babb progressing into more of a “guy” is something that could happen, but we do not know that it will.
Get what I’m saying? So many questions without enough answers.
I have taken quite a bit of heat for my take, Blum. Where are you at?

BB: This is an unfamiliar feeling. Iowa State enters the summer with the most unknowns since Hoiberg’s first year. There is no “sure” thing on the roster like a Niang, Morris, Naz or Matt and that’s weird.

Adding to the uncertainty is the style of play questions. Other than Donovan Jackson, Iowa State does not have a known 3-point shooter on the roster. We think Wigginton is capable and Terrence Lewis as well, but we don’t know.
Undoubtedly, Iowa State is going to have to play a different style. Wigginton is going to be a stud, but his game is different than Monte’s. He is going to drive and go to the free throw line a bunch. This team will have to rely more on defense, rebounding and toughness rather than the free-wheeling teams of the past few years. It’s going to be a fascinating group and I believe there is a ton of upside. But by all means, an NCAA Tournament would be a surprise at this point in time until we know more. And keep in mind, the Big 12 is no joke. Where is Iowa State picked in the conference as of right now?

CW: Man, that’s a really hard question to answer as it is May 8 and I’m not really an expert on every other roster out there at this point in time. Kansas and West Virginia will be at the top, right? Oklahoma will be a lot better. Texas should be too. I would slot Baylor and TCU ahead of the Cyclones pretty comfortably right now. So that leaves Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State battling for the last four spots. Honestly, if the league’s coaches voted today, I bet they would put Iowa State eighth or ninth just because of all the unknowns.

Do you agree?

BB: Pretty much where I’m at as well, CW. Let’s simplify this. Historically, to make the NCAA Tournament, Iowa State essentially has to finish with an 8-10 record in the Big 12 and have a quality win or two in the non-conference. That’s the barometer and it won’t be easy. Just look at Oklahoma last year. They come off the Final Four with a bunch of young talent and stumbled to a 5-13 record in conference and a sub .500 record overall. Texas had two McDonald’s All-Americans coming in and went 4-14. Point being, it is tough to win with young dudes in a grown man’s conference.

I think Iowa State needs a bunch of guys to surprise. No. 1 on my list is Solomon Young. If he can develop into a 12-14 point, 8 rebound guy, that helps substantially and I believe he has that in him eventually. But I think the Cameron Lard expectations are a bit out of control. Truthfully, I think it may be in Iowa State’s best long term interests to play the young guys a as much as possible and deal with the inevitable hiccups and short-term pain. Is that crazy of me?

CW: No it isn’t at all. In fact, as much as some might hate this, after missing out on Shakur Juiston and a few grad transfers, I think it is best to start thinking of next season a lot like Iowa did entering last year’s season. “Let’s sit back and watch the kids grow.” I just hope that the fan base can handle that and not persecute Steve Prohm in the process.

This is where I really want to go with this piece though: Let’s talk about style of play. We have already established that it will have to change next year. ‘HoiBall’ will be no more and as a fan base, we have to be ok with that. So looking at this roster on paper, in your opinion, what is Prohm’s best option to somehow sneak into that eight or nine win Big 12 mark, should it happen?

BB: This is what excites me about this group. Having seen Jackson come on the second part of last season and watching Wigginton compete against elite talent in the high school/prep school ranks, those two are going to have the ball a lot. This team is going to shoot significantly more free throws. Jackson and Wigginton are going to go down-hill looking for contact at all times. Wigginton is also a very good rebounder for his position, so expect an uptick on the boards as well. As odd as it sounds, Iowa State’s best chance is to become more of a throwback Floyd/Eustachy type team. Grind out teams on defense and shoot a bunch of free throws. Even Babb and Young can get to the line if they are determined to do so.

This can work and it may not be as pretty as the past few years, but I have a feeling we will appreciate this team in a different way. Don’t get me wrong, Iowa State is not going to turn into a slow down team Wisconsin, but it will be different. It has to be. I’m getting more optimistic by the word, take my kool-aid, Williams!

CW: That’s it. I’m in.

NCAA Tournament or bust.
The good thing here is that Steve Prohm still has two more scholarships at his disposal for next year. This kid from Princeton could really help (if he’s healthy) and who knows what else might come open in the next three weeks.
Thanks Blum. Your words were very therapeutic.
BB: I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes and a picture, “Success is not linear.”

We all want this team to continue it’s historical run, but a drop-off in some capacity is inevitable. That doesn’t lessen the coaching talents or program building ability of Steve Prohm. The years with the most unknowns are often most enjoyable. Can’t wait to find out.