Dec 28, 2019; Orlando, Florida, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell looks on against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first quarter at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
This is such a cliché column to write but sometimes, I can be a cliché kind of guy. Perhaps I should work on that in 2020…
Every year, I really do appreciate it when the calendar changes from one year to the next.
Are we different people on Dec. 31 than we are on Jan. 1?
Of course not. But there is that inevitable feeling of a fresh start, which I tend to thrive on both professionally and personally. The way I see it, we have all been blessed to see another year. So what are we doing to do with this opportunity?
What are your goals for 2020?
On my flight back from Orlando Sunday evening, I listed out about a dozen of them in my journal. But you don’t really care about those, so I also have some for Iowa State athletics in general, which is what I will present for you today.
Happy New Year!
For Iowa State football…
1) Continue to evolve on defense
Jon Heacock’s defense wasn’t bad in 2019 but it definitely took a step back from what the Cyclones presented to the opposition in 2018. Losing Brian Peavy at cornerback hurt a lot. The same can be said about Willie Harvey.
That side of the ball loses a good chunk of talent for next year too but even so, Iowa State is still in a spot where it can be very good on this side of the ball in 2020. I’m not concerned about personnel at all.
The aspect of this conversation that gets quite fascinating is when you ask if the Big 12 has caught up to the 3-3-5 scheme. I believe that to a point, it has. It was inevitable. Half of the league plays this scheme now, which means opposing offenses are practicing against it every day.
Where do you go from here?
I have no clue. But the defense isn’t broken. It just needs tweaked, which I have no doubt will happen to some degree in the offseason.
2) Win nine games in 2020
Fans are exiting 2019 with a sour taste in their mouths but the fact remains that Iowa State was a play or two away from winning nine games. Taking that type of a step forward should absolutely be the expectation in 2020, where I reiterate that personnel wise, the Cyclones will have a deeper, more experienced and versatile roster compared to 2019.
The clear goal in 2020 should be to win nine games for the first time in the Campbell era and be in the hunt to compete for a Big 12 championship.
3) Beat Iowa
My biggest pet peeve (and there are a lot of them) about the Cy-Hawk rivalry is how the fan bases often act like the enemy cares more about the rivalry than the other.
Everybody cares about this game. Why can’t we all just admit this?
Frankly, I am tired of losing to Iowa. It sucks. The Hawks have won six of seven over Iowa State and being the “Cyclone guy” on Des Moines talk radio has grown to be a tough gig in September.
It’s an important game and eventually, Matt Campbell needs to beat his rival. Everybody in the program knows this and hopefully, 2020 will be that year. It should absolutely be a goal.
For Iowa State basketball…
1) Make the NCAA Tournament
As I write this column, KenPom is projecting Iowa State to go 9-9 in the Big 12. My guess is that would just barely be enough for Iowa State to sneak into the NCAA Tournament (maybe send them to Dayton), assuming at least a few of those wins are resume builders. Getting to 10-8, which is slightly above computer projections, would all but guarantee a berth in the Big Dance.
Still, based off of what we have seen so far, I think that pushing for an NCAA Tournament is going to be tough ask in 2020.
That makes it a great goal. Attainable, yet challenging.
Tyrese Haliburton looks like he is going to be a lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. You would hate to waste a talent like that with only one NCAA Tournament game in his two years.
So go dancing, Cyclones. Just go dancing and see what happens from there.
2) Be better in Hilton
The Cyclones lost four times in Hilton Coliseum last year. So far in 2019, we all had to witness the disaster that was the Iowa game.
It’s a weird deal but winning at home is very important to Iowa State fans.
This goal probably fits with goal No. 1 because if the Cyclones aren’t better on their home floor, they won’t go to the NCAA Tournament.
For Iowa State Football and Men’s Basketball…
Put more Cyclones in the NFL and NBA.
Selfishly, it makes following those leagues exponentially more fun for a guy like me.
More importantly, it is great for branding, which in return helps recruiting. We saw this specifically in basketball recently with Xavier Foster, a prospect who grew up an Iowa fan, all but said Iowa State’s ability to put players in the NBA was a huge factor in him becoming a Cyclone.
Hailburton will likely be on an NBA roster next year. Hopefully Lindell Wigginton, Talen Horton-Tucker and Marial Shayok all find landing spots for the long term.
For football, I’ve got the following (now) former Cyclones tabbed as long shots to be drafted but sure things to make camps and hopefully eventually earn spots on rosters (the Allen Lazard, Willie Harvey route): Ray Lima, Jamahl Johnson, Marcel Spears, Josh Knipfel, Julian Good-Jones, Steve Wirtel and La’Michael Pettway.
For Iowa State Wrestling….
Finish the season in the top 10
The Cyclones enter this week’s Southern Scuffle ranked 11th nationally and I don’t get the feeling that this team has even come close to hitting its peak yet.
Finishing ranked in the top 10 would be another solid step in the right direction for this program. It’s an achievable goal and would be a nice stepping stone to starting to reach for the top five in years to come.
Here at Cyclone Fanatic…
I really want to focus on our message board community.
It’s been an odd 10 years since I have been running the show. Social media, specifically Twitter, has neutered message boards across the internet. Ours has thankfully stayed vibrant.
I want to put more resources into enhancing our message board experience.
Twitter is a necessity in our world and has some very positive features but to me, it has become exhausting. I would rather spend more time on our forum with other Cyclone fans than bickering with trolls 24/7.
If you have any ideas on how to do the above, please email me at chrismwilliams@CycloneFanatic.com. I’m open to any and all of them. I also have a few ideas that I plan to roll out in the offseason.
That’s all I have for now.
Enjoy the holiday and happy new year!