One only has to do a Google search to understand that no coach in his first-year at a unviersity is under more pressure than Steve Prohm. He has a top-10 team at Iowa State, with three of the best players in the country in Georges Niang, Monte Morris and Jameel McKay. Plus, he’s replacing a legend at Iowa State in Fred Hoiberg.
How did he and his team perform in its first game this season, an ugly 68-62 win over Colorado in Sioux Falls, South Dakota? Neither team looked to be at its best — after all, it’s the first game of the year — but here are a few takeaways from that performance.
1. Prohm has focused a lot on defense this preseason. So far, so good for the Cyclones on that end.
If there was one complaint about the Cyclones under Hoiberg, it was that the defense could sometimes suffer as they looked to break out in transition. His defenses never finished in the top-50 nationally according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating, and only once finished in the top-70.
After taking over in June, Prohm prioritized fixing the defense and the rebounding of this team. And the verdict after Game One should probably be a positive one. The No. 17 Cyclones held Colorado to 36.5 percent shooting from the field and forced 18 turnovers. They also held a tough, physical Colorado team to only six offensive rebounds, which is a solid result against a team that looks to muddy games up.
Some of that was a bit unlucky for the Buffs, as big man Josh Scott particularly missed some close to the basket that he typically makes. But ultimately, Prohm will likely be pleased with this result.
2. The Cyclones took fewer 3s in this game than in any single game under Hoiberg.
This is an aesthetic observation, but if Hoiberg’s teams were known for anything, it was the idea of an NBA-style system that emphasized 3s, layups, and pushing the ball in transition. One only has to look at the shot chart for Cyclones from 2013-14 to see that.
Things were a bit different in this one, and it’s worth noting to see if it holds up in the future. The Cyclones only took 10 3s against Colorado, which is fewer than they took in any single game during Hoiberg’s reign (the lowest? 11, against TCU each of the last two years, and against Kansas State in 2012). The floor-spacers are still there on the roster — especially in Naz Mitrou-Long — but it’ll be interesting to see if this is an anomaly or more of a sign of things to come with less emphasis on the 3-pointer. Not conclusive, but a thing worth watching for.
3. Depth could be a concern if officials continue to emphasize contact fouls.
This Iowa State group might be the most shallow of any top-10 team in the nation. In this one, they only played seven players, and neither of the backups they put in — Matt Thomas and Hallice Cooke — could be described as forwards.
The question of depth came to rear its ugly head in the first half, as both Niang and McKay were saddled with two fouls. This forced Prohm into a 2-3 zone for a bit of an extended period of time, which is something that Iowa State had only utilized on about two percent of its defensive possessions over the last two years according to Synergy. During this time, he let McKay and Niang play with two fouls, and it worked as neither picked up their third until the second half.
This observation isn’t about the Cyclones playing man vs. zone though. What this one is in reference to is whether or not the Cyclones can find a backup forward to potentially hold down the fort if they have a game where McKay or Niang foul out or get into trouble earlier than the 12-minute mark. All three of Niang, McKay and Abdel Nader (who they shifted down to the 4 with one of Niang/McKay out) ended up with four fouls, so I think we’ll find out the answer to that question sooner rather than later.
It’s only one game, so more than anything this game raises questions more than addresses concerns or leads to conclusions. Having said that, it’s a game that Prohm will be happy to win in order to get his first at Iowa State.