Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Hilton Coliseum
KenPom Prediction: 84-60, Iowa State
1 – Wigginton and Young Return
Iowa State will play Friday night’s game with its entire roster for the first time this season. The Cyclones have been missing at least one player in every game this season, including the Big 12’s leading returner score in Lindell Wigginton.
In theory, a Cyclone roster that has surprised people by its strong start is about to get even better. But, the process of improvement will require transitioning Wigginton and long-time frontcourt starter Solomon Young back into the fray.
“I think its kind of on the players. We’re not going to change anything really. We might add some actions and different things,” Steve Prohm said on Monday. “It’s not great having Lindell out, but the positive to take from it is he’s been able to sit back and watch the game a little bit different. We’ve asked at times, ‘What have you seen? What have you learned?’ I think he’s learned a lot from sitting out. I think he’s used it to his benefit. He’s a great athlete so his stamina will come back quick, his game stamina. He just hasn’t played in a while so he’s got to get the rust off. We’ll let him play through some mistakes out there so he stays confident. I think he’s seen pace of play. I think he’s seen the focus on the defensive end at times. I think this will at the end of the day make him a lot better player.”
Bringing a player of Wigginton’s caliber back into the mix could make Iowa State a much better team, but it is going to be interesting to see how the star sophomore and the team’s incumbent grit guy slide into the formula that has worked for this team so far this season.
If it goes smoothly, the Cyclones could drastically improve rather quickly. If not, well, we will cross that bridge if we get there.
“You’ve got to ease them in. I don’t think it is going to put a lightning rod to what we’ve been doing right now,” Prohm said. “I would love to get them up and down the floor and get them reps.”
2 – Closing Strong Before the Holiday Break
The Cyclones will have more than a week after Friday night before they play their Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State (more on that in a second). This is a game every coach across the country hates with a long layover and a trip home looming.
This Iowa State team has not gotten off to many slow starts, but it would not be overly surprising to see one against Eastern Illinois.
“After Friday, hopefully, we’ll play well, get out of here victorious. The guys will go home and we’ll meet up on the night of the 26th for more of conditioning, weight workout, get their legs back under them and get to work. The 27th, we’ll have practice probably about 11 o’clock on the 27th, a full team practice,” Prohm said. “On the 27th, 28th, 29th, get into where, not necessarily two-a-days, but you’re practicing in the mornings then coming back to get shots in the afternoon or walking through things. The last couple days, start prepping for Oklahoma State and getting ready for them.”
This break might be coming at the absolute perfect time for Iowa State. Obviously, it would have been nice to get Wigginton and Young back into the mix earlier in the month, but they’ll have one chance to get their feet wet and then several full practices before the team’s next game of substantial value.
Prohm and his staff will have a lot of time to try and make tweaks with this team in order to continue making strides.
“During that time, probably work on some extended pressure, work on our zone a little bit and just continue to clean up our offense,” Prohm said. “Really focus on transition defense, underneath out of bounds defense, ball-screen defense and finishing plays.”
3 – Big 12 Play Looming
Oklahoma State has been a hard team to peg so far this season. The Cyclones are currently projected for a 75-71 win in Stillwater by KenPom, but I think we all know how things go when Iowa State visits Gallagher-Iba.
The Cowboys have a solid win over LSU this season, but they also have losses to Charlotte and Tulsa on the schedule. They have two games to play before the Cyclones roll into town after getting destroyed by Nebraska in Sioux Falls last weekend.
We will worry more about the Cowboys later though. The Cyclones have one more game to win on Friday then we’ll all enjoy an Alamo Bowl appearance before we think seriously about Big 12 hoops.