When I left Ames nearly two weeks ago for the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, I didn't think I would be there Saturday night for the championship game.
Then Iowa State surprised me, and most of the college basketball world, when the team won its fourth Big 12 Tournament in the last six years.
Last week, I thought I would be in Tulsa, Oklahoma, later than just Saturday afternoon. But after Iowa State's 62-59 loss at the hands of 11 seed Ohio State ended its season, plans changed again.
That's the kind of year it was for coach Steve Prohm's team. The highs were high, the lows were low and for whatever reason, the Cyclones were unable to maintain any consistency.
Now, with a longer-than-expected offseason ahead of the team, there are plenty of questions.
Changes to the roster
Just like every year, Iowa State will probably lose a player or two to transfer or the NBA Draft. Prohm said earlier this season he's still looking at the 2019 class as incomplete, even though the Cyclones have signed three recruits to replace the three graduates (Marial Shayok, Nick Weiler-Babb and Zoran Talley Jr.).
Several Cyclones have seen their names floating around NBA circles. Sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton tested the waters last year before returning for year two. Some of his numbers dropped this season after he was relegated to a bench role following a foot injury in November, but he kept his 3-point percentage high (39 percent) and got to the free throw line more frequently while improving his percentage (67 percent as a freshman to 72 percent this year).
Wigginton's stock is up in the air, but the NBA frequently drafts based on potential rather than strictly on college production.
The other name that has swirled in mock drafts is freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker.
At 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds, NBA teams will likely be salivating at his measurables. His 7-foot wingspan and his youth (he won't turn 19 until November of this year) will only amplify that.
The smart thing for both of these guys would be to declare for the draft, work out for teams and see if anyone likes them in the first round. If they get the sense there's a team that wants them within those first 30 picks, it would be crazy not to go pro.
Wigginton is probably a little closer to his draft ceiling than Horton-Tucker, given his age and two years of collegiate experience. His 3-point percentage can't realistically get much better than it already is and he's shown the ability to fit in for a winning team.
Horton-Tucker could stand to raise his draft stock, but by coming back he would forfeit the age advantage he has.
Taking steps forward
Iowa State loses two of its main contributors in Weiler-Babb and Shayok, but overall the returning roster is intriguing.
Redshirt junior forward Michael Jacobson (11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game) should be back, along with key freshmen Tyrese Haliburton (6.9 points and 3.6 assists per game) and George Conditt IV (26 blocks).
If one or both of Horton-Tucker and Wigginton return for the 2019-20 season, Iowa State will have a go-to perimeter scorer along with a solid returning supporting cast.
The biggest key for the Cyclones next year? Redshirt senior-to-be guard Prentiss Nixon, a Colorado State transfer.
Nixon averaged 16.1 points per game as a junior for the Rams. He also hit 66 3-pointers at a 33 percent clip and took advantage of his ability to get to the charity stripe (4.5 attempts per game, 84.3 percent shooting).
Nixon should provide an immediate scoring burst for the Cyclones next year, regardless of what Horton-Tucker and Wigginton decide to do.
The next challenge will be finding a bench.
Iowa State's bench will be inexperienced. Assuming there are no transfers — a bold assumption, but transfer speculation doesn't do anyone any good — Iowa State's primary bench players would likely be Conditt IV, redshirt junior-to-be Cameron Lard, and wings Terrence Lewis and Zion Griffin. If redshirt junior forward Solomon Young can get rid of the injury bug, he could have a big role as well.
Conditt IV and Lard played meaningful minutes this season, but Lewis played 202 minutes this year. The last time he played 10 or more minutes in a game was Dec. 21, 2018, when he registered seven points and three rebounds in a win over Eastern Illinois. Lewis finished with three games of 15-plus points in the non-conference portion of the season, but never had a clear role and it's unclear where he fits into next year's roster.
Griffin was riddled with injuries as a freshman and didn't get a chance to show his talents. He saw action in 17 games, mostly when injuries and suspensions were rampant.
Griffin had five points and four rebounds in 15 minutes against Missouri, and finished with nine points (3-of-5 shooting) against Southern.
Griffin, Lewis and Conditt IV are all candidates to take big steps forward for the Cyclones in 2019-20 if the roster stays the way it is.
Iowa State's 2019-20 outlook is largely dependent on the decisions of Horton-Tucker and Wigginton, but Iowa State has enough pieces in place to keep its identity intact next season.