Iowa State men's basketball will be going through a lot of firsts in its 2020-21 season and Tuesday's conference opener against the Kansas State Wildcats (2-4, 0-0 Big 12) will be another.
Just three games into its 2020-21 schedule, Iowa State will begin what Head Coach Steve Prohm said is a tough stretch of early Big 12 opponents, mixed in with some nonconference games.
Prohm said the Cyclones came into this season expecting challenges, with a roster full of new faces and expanded roles that will need time to fill out, so getting Big 12 games started in the middle of December is of course a challenge, but like most things during 2020, it's just the reality college basketball finds itself in.
“It’s the new reality that we’re all facing,” Prohm said.
Typically, Iowa State and most other college programs will have played at least 12 to 13 nonconference opponents before stepping into the conference schedule, but after Iowa State missed a crucial nonconference matchup with DePaul on Dec. 6, three games of preparation is all the Cyclones will be able to get.
Kansas State has had similar struggles as the Cyclones early on this season, dropping a nonconference game to Division II Fort Hays State. Even with some bad losses on their record to begin the season, Prohm said the Wildcats will present many challenges like previous seasons.
Adding to the similarities between Iowa State and Kansas State is the large number of new additions and young freshmen on the Wildcats' roster. Prohm said the roster may look younger and less experienced than they appear, but Head Coach Bruce Weber has always made sure his teams play disciplined, with high energy — qualities Prohm wants to see from his group come Tuesday night.
The adjustments will have to start on the defensive end, especially after giving up 105 points to No. 3 Iowa on Friday.
“Something coaches have been on us about is giving up 105 points you know,” freshman forward Xavier Foster said. “On the road [in Iowa City] we scored 77. That’s not a bad number at all, but if you’re giving up 105 points you’re not going to win a whole lot of games."
Foster said Iowa State was able to have brief stretches of success on defense against the Hawkeyes, but said communication has to improve if things want to really change. Obviously communication comes with playing with each other for more than three live games, but Foster and Prohm shared the same message, that's the cards Iowa State and many other programs have been dealt this season.
With the Cyclones heading into the start of Big 12 play with a 1-2 record, it's not time to panic by any means, but Prohm said at some point soon, the improvements will have to be made if Iowa State wants to start winning consistently.
“At the end of the day you can say all this stuff but I mean at some point you gotta take the next step and win a big game and obviously every game in conference is big,” Prohm said.
Iowa State (1-2, 0-0 Big 12) and Kansas State (2-4, 0-0 Big 12) will tip off at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum. The game will be televised on ESPNU.