STANZ: Ranking the games on Iowa State’s non-conference hoops schedule

Mar 21, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Seton Hall Pirates guard Myles Powell (13) saves the ball from going out of bounds against the Wofford Terriers during the second half in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

We are less than a week out from being back in Hilton Coliseum for the start of another Iowa State basketball season. This fact seems crazy considering hardly anyone is thinking about basketball and the headliner of next week’s Iowa State athletic events will be a gridiron road trip to Norman, Okla.

If I were to somehow acquire a time machine and travel back to 2015 to tell myself this fact, I imagine 2015-me would call future (or present, not really sure the best way to word that) me crazy for even suggesting Iowa State had a chance to win a football game in Norman.

Iowa State’s basketball season starting next Tuesday when Mississippi Valley State visits Hilton Coliseum for a 7 p.m. tip televised on Speaking of the Cyclones’ regular-season opener, that is where we will begin my ranking of the non-conference games on the program’s 2019-20 schedule.

I am sure you are wondering what sort of criteria I used in order to rank these games. To put it simply, if I got excited about watching a game and thought it would be a generally positive experience regardless of the outcome, I ranked it higher on the list. If I thought the game had the potential to be very boring or the opponent appears to not be very good, I ranked it lower on the list, thus how we end up with the game against the Delta Devils coming in at…

No. 11 – Mississippi Valley State, Nov. 5

Let me lead with this: If this game ends up anything like the 2011 matchup between these two programs, we might be in for a long winter. I am sure a lot of people were saying the same thing when the Royce White led Cyclones only won by two-points on New Year’s Eve 2011 and that year ended up working out fine.

With that said, Mississippi Valley State literally enters the season as basically the consensus worst team in college basketball. That’s right, of the 353 teams in NCAA Division I men’s basketball, the Delta Devils are No. 353 according to KenPom, CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander and basically any metric you can find that ranks every college basketball team before the season starts.

They were also picked 10th in the SWAC preseason poll released this month, which certainly looks better than No. 353 in all of college hoops. The only problem with that statement, there are only 10 teams in the SWAC.

No. 10 – Florida A&M, Dec. 31

The Rattlers do not figure to be much better than Mississippi Valley State this season, coming in at No. 342 in the initial KenPom standings and No. 336 in Norlander’s ranking. Picked eighth out of 10 teams in the MEAC, Florida A&M will probably be one of the worst offensive teams in college basketball.

They do return sophomore guard MJ Randolph, who was named to the preseason All-MEAC third-team.

No. 9 – Southern Mississippi, Nov. 19

You know your program probably is not in the best shape when your head coach leaves to be an assistant at a school that fired him previously. That is the spot the Golden Eagles find themselves in following the departure of old friend Doc Sadler, who left Hattiesburg to be the right-hand man to an incredibly dreamy head coach who we don’t talk about anymore and definitely is not from Lincoln, Neb., no matter how much Nebraska fans try to speak it into existence. (And believe me, I know it happens a lot because I grew up a Nebraska fan.)

Fred Hoibe– er… – the head coach we don’t talk about anymore – is from Ames, Iowa. Plain and simple. That is a fact and it can never be…

Right, Southern Miss… Jay Ladner’s squad will feature 11 newcomers this season and was picked to finish last in Conference USA. LaDavius Draine is one of the few returners and was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year last season after breaking the school record for 3-point percentage knocking down 46.4 percent of his shots from deep.

No. 8 – Kansas City, Dec. 4

The Roos enter the season breaking in their third head coach since I was in high school, which is a kind of wild thing to think about considering I graduated only seven years ago. Billy Donlon takes over in Kansas City after a couple of successful stops as an assistant at Northwestern and Michigan.

Before that, he led Wright State to a 109-94 record in six seasons at the helm, nearly reaching the NCAA Tournament three different times. Like USM, UMKC will be breaking in a number of newcomers with 11 new faces on a roster picked to finish eighth out of nine teams in the WAC. The only team picked lower was Chicago State, which as a quick sidebar, is the same institution that grossly mishandled its most recent coaching search by refusing to hire former Ohio State walk-on turned author turned blogger/podcaster for Grantland, The Ringer, etc., Mark Titus.

The Roos also have a player on their roster named Zion Williams, which is, obviously, really close to the name of last season’s college basketball megastar Zion Williamson. That is the end of this bit of information.

This will be UMKC’s last season in the WAC before they head to the Summit League, which just so happens to be where we are headed next as well.

No. 7 – Purdue Fort Wayne, Dec. 22

Honestly, I don’t really have very much to say about this game. I have already eclipsed 1,000 words writing about the four worst games on Iowa State’s non-conference schedule and Chris is probably already so tired of editing this, so I’m going to leave you with three tidbits on the PFW Mastodons.

Tidbit No. 1 – The Mastodons are picked to finish sixth in the Summit League.

Tidbit No. 2 – Senior guard Matt Holba was named to the league’s preseason All-Summit League second-team and is tied for the most 3-pointers made by an active Summit League player with 81.

Tidbit No. 3 – The PFW athletic department ends its press releases with ~ Feel the Rumble ~ which has led me to think every athletic department in the country should be required to think of a slogan that marks the end of their press releases. Mike Green, if you’re reading this, I expect to see ~ A Storm Is Brewing ~ at the end of every Iowa State press release from this moment forward.

No. 6 – Northern Illinois, Nov. 12

Thank goodness, we have finally reached the end of the mid-major portion of this exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I love mid-majors as much as the next guy, but I am ready to write about some Power 5 teams, especially because the Cyclones’ slate of mid-major teams isn’t very good this year.

To best exemplify this, in my notes about Northern Illinois, I literally just wrote Eugene German. That’s it.

It makes more sense though when you consider the fact German averaged 20.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Huskies last season. His 1,569 career points are the 12th-most among active players in college basketball.

No. 5 – @ Oregon State, Nov. 9

Finally, we made it!

And by made it, I mean we made it to the Cyclones’ first game against a Power 5 opponent in the 2019-20 season, which still will not be the biggest Iowa State sporting event of the day because, as we discussed earlier, you know, that game in Norman.

Regardless, the Beavers will pose a solid early-season test for the Cyclones and I think it is good Iowa State will have one game under its belt before heading to Corvallis, unlike they did in 2017 when it walked into the buzzsaw that was Columbia, Mo. for the season-opener.

Tres Tinkle, the son of head coach Wayne Tinkle, was a first-team All-Pac 12 honoree last season and leads this year’s squad that was slated to finish seventh by the league’s coaches.

The Beavers are hardly ever the college sports headliner in the Pacific Northwest, but they will give Iowa State a solid measuring stick in the regular season’s first week.

No. 4 – Iowa, Dec. 12

There is not much explanation to do for this one because it is, after all, the Cy-Hawk rivalry.

This game could have made a case one of the top-two spots on the list if it weren’t for the Hawkeyes losing Tyler Cook to the NBA and Isaiah Moss to the transfer portal. Add in Jordan Bohanon’s offseason hip surgery and you have an Iowa team with all sorts of questions going into the season.

Of course, Joe Wieskamp, Luka Garza and a few others from last year’s rotation are back, but there are some massive holes to fill. Additionally, we should all be prepared for Bohanon to make his triumphant season-debut against the Cyclones, hit 37 3-pointers in the game and then announce his intention to seek a medical redshirt in the postgame press conference.

No. 3 – Michigan, Nov. 27

I, for one, welcome any opportunity we get to remember this day.

The Cyclones and Wolverines will hit the hardwood in the Bahamas for the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Michigan has advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three seasons, but if they make it four it will be with a new man at the helm, albeit an old face.

Former Wolverine superstar and member of the illustrious Fab Five, Juwan Howard, has returned to Ann Arbor to take over John Beilein, who left to become the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Howard comes into the job with the task of replacing three starters from last year’s team that started the season 17-0.

He does get Zavier Simpson, a senior point guard considered one of the best defensive guards in the country, back as well as junior center Jon Teske and sophomore forward, a former four-star recruit, Isaiah Livers.

No. 2 – @ Auburn, Jan. 25

Imagine if we could have matched these two teams up last season. Between the Cyclones’ offensive firepower (we’re going to assume everyone liked each other on this particular day) and the Tigers’ guard-driven attack that shot more 3-pointers than any team in SEC history, it would have been appointment television.

Alas, the majority of Iowa State’s contributors from last season are gone and the same can be said for Bruce Pearl’s program, which came one controversial foul call on a 3-point attempt away from playing for the national title.

The Tigers are facing the tall task of replacing Bryce Brown, who finished with 382 career 3-pointers, the second-most in SEC history. They also have to replace point guard Jared Harper and first-round NBA Draft pick Chuma Okeke.

They do return Samir Doughty, who knocked down 45 3-pointers last season, as well as a former top-40 recruit entering his junior season in Austin Wiley. If history is any indication, Pearl will have this team playing well and that is why they were ranked No. 23 in the preseason AP Poll plus still picked to finish fourth in the SEC despite losing some of the best players in program history.

This is a situation in which I wish the Cyclones were catching the Tigers in November or December rather than late-January, but maybe Tigers fans could be saying the same thing if this year’s Iowa State team gels.

No. 1 – Seton Hall, Dec. 8

We have finally arrived at the best game on Iowa State’s 2019-20 non-conference slate! It had to be the Pirates, right?

I mean, Seton Hall enters the year as the No. 12 team in the AP Poll, they are picked to win the Big East, one point ahead of blue-blood perennial power Villanova and senior guard Myles Powell has been pegged as the league’s preseason player of the year.

The Pirates will start the season without head coach Kevin Willard, who was suspended two games because of tampering with a transfer, which sounds like something that could probably happen to almost every coach in the country at some point but let’s face it, this is college basketball after all. Truthfully, Willard probably only got that suspension because of Jim Boeheim complaining about the circumstances surrounding the transfer for former Syracuse guard Taurean Thompson.

Regardless, the Pirates return four starters from last year’s team, including the All-American Powell. This is probably the most highly-anticipated Seton Hall basketball season since P.J. Carlesimo was roaming the sidelines.

And, they’re coming to Hilton Coliseum for a nationally televised game that tips at HOLY CRAP 8 P.M. ON A SUNDAY. We will be a full 30-plus minutes post-Cris Collinsworth slide on Sunday Night Football when this game starts.

Man… You know, maybe, I am alright with thinking about football for a few more weeks, too.

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.