STANZ: Iowa State looking to fight “soft” narrative heading down March stretch

Mar 2, 2019; Austin, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm gathers his team for a timeout against Texas Longhorns in the second half at Frank Erwin Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

Following Iowa State’s 86-69 loss to Texas on Saturday, ESPN’s Chris Spatola had some harsh analysis of this year’s Cyclones.

“They’re soft,” Spatola, who starred for Army in the early-2000s, said. “They’re really soft.”

Now, you can take Spatola’s words for what they are worth. He has not exactly garnered rave reviews during his performances calling Iowa State games this season. But, he is far from the first person to criticize Steve Prohm‘s team in this fashion.

Following the team’s loss to Baylor almost two weeks ago, I made a similar criticism in less harsh words. Many folks inside the fan base have not shied away from saying the same thing and it is something Prohm has taken notice of.

“Yeah, I mean, that’s the perception out there on us right now and it’s been out there for the last couple weeks,” Prohm told me on Monday. “We’ve just got to figure out ways to fight that.”

Figuring out a way to fight that narrative will be an uphill battle for an Iowa State team with only two games remaining on its regular season schedule. It is sure to follow them into the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments later this month.

It is hard to argue with when you consider how much it looks like Iowa State’s performance suffers depending on how it is performing on the offensive end. When the Cyclones are knocking down shots and moving the ball, they can compete with any team that will line up across from them.

When those things are not happening, well… You end up with what happened in Austin on Saturday, leading to comments such as Spatola gave.

“It’s a mindset. We’ve just got to continue to fight through it. That’s the bottom line,” Prohm said. “Our offensive numbers, they’re going to work itself out to where we score in spurts. Just the way we play, you’re going to score in spurts, you’re going to score in bunches to where you can get 16 in seven minutes and then you may only get five or six in a long stretch. It’s usually when spacing’s bad, ball movement’s bad. If you watch us play, when we’re spaced, our ball movement (is good), guys are cutting, we’re a tough cover. That’s just the reality of it. That’s why our numbers are good. We have to do it consistently. Then when we’re not making shots, we have to play at the same pace. We’ve still got to be locked in defensively and focused on the details from the scouting report.”

The Cyclones were not locked into those things on Saturday in Austin and I think Jase Febres being able to find open shot after open shot despite being arguably the best shooter on the floor best personifies that. For whatever reason, this Iowa State team faces an uphill battle on some level when it comes to fighting the public perception.

Chris Spatola was not the first person to think Iowa State’s 2018-19 team is soft, but he was the first person to blatantly say it on national television.

“It starts with me and it starts in practice,” Prohm said. “Then, collectively, we’ve got to get that narrative changed.”

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.