It’s the difference between an 0-3 Big 12 record and maybe being 2-1.
Randy Peterson / The Register
AMES, Ia. — I’m not saying this is the year someone ends Kansas’ regular-season domination of Big 12 Conference basketball. The Jayhawks are vulnerable — coach Bill Self has said this isn’t one of his most physical teams.
But vulnerable enough for someone to end their 13-season championship streak?
Not going there yet.
Iowa State’s 12th-ranked opponent during Tuesday’s 8 p.m. game at the museum also known as Allen Fieldhouse entered this week tied for third in the Big 12. The Jayhawks lost to Texas Tech. They’ve already lost two home games — where they still rarely lose.
Proceed with caution in preparing The Streak Is Over headline, but if you feel the urge, slap put an embargo on it until Self’s team faces a few more teams like West Virginia, and like Texas Tech and like TCU.
It’s still the Big 12, where anything can — and has happened. It’s the Big 12, where road teams won eight of the conference weekend’s first nine games.
And it’s the Big 12 — currently the best college basketball conference in the country.
“Coaches have to get their kids to put blinders on and worry only about next game, and not worry about what’s coming down the road,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla told me Monday morning while he waited for a flight to Kansas City. “It’s not good for your mental health to look at the schedule too far down the road.
“Just focus on who’s next, where’s the game being played, and how do we win.”
It’s not like the old days, when bottom-level conference teams were pushovers. It’s not like pre-West Virginia and TCU days.
“You could look at stats from four or five years ago — maybe six years ago — where you could win 98-52 — that’s not happening now,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said Monday. “Everybody’s too good. The league is too balanced.”
West Virginia is No. 2 on the coaches’ most recent rankings. Texas Tech is eighth, Oklahoma is ninth, Kansas is 12th and TCU is 16th.
“When it really hits home is when (West Virginia’s) Bobby Huggins says, ‘I’ve been to all those leagues and this is the best league,’ and, ‘The best coaches are in this league,’” Prohm said. “That’s when you really sit back and say, ‘Dang.’
“There is no bottom. We’re 0-3 right now, but we’re going to become a good basketball team.”
Prohm’s team just as well could be sporting a 2-1 conference record right now if it executed the positive stuff it needed to win in late-game situations — on both ends of the floor.
The Cyclones led Texas by two points with 58 seconds remaining in regulation. The Longhorns scored in the paint 14 seconds later and the game went into an overtime session during which Iowa State made just four baskets in the home loss.
A few days later, the Cyclones led Oklahoma State by two points with 13 seconds remaining in regulation. The Cowboys scored in the paint to send the game into an extra session — during which the Cyclones were outscored 17-8.
Notice the common threads? Opponent points in the paint, followed by a lack of offense.
“We’re up two with less than a minute to go in both games — and we give up a 2-footer and a 3-footer at the front of the rim,” Prohm said. “Right there, in the heart of the paint — to tie the game.”
It’s part of the tough learning process his team is trying to undertake in a conference that’s as good as it’s been in a while. It’s late-game defense. It’s late-game offense.
“We could easily be 2-1,” Prohm said. “K-State — we no-showed. Why? I don’t know. The other two we competed the right way.”
To win consecutive games at Kansas for the first time since 2000 and 2001, Prohm’s team will have to defend at its best for 40 minutes — at least.
His guys not only must run like a track team, but Nick Weiler-Babb, Donovan Jackson and Lindell Wigginton must score in transition — preferably on three-pointers.
Freshman star says the Cyclones must play with better pace.
Randy Peterson / The Register
And speaking of Wigginton…
“I’ve heard all about it,” the freshman said about the horrors that go along with playing at Kansas. “We’re probably not going to hear our plays. We’re probably going to have hand signals.”
Tuesday is his first visit to the historic arena. He’s seen the Jayhawks play on television. Experiencing it first hand is something you can’t even imagine.
“Big 12 teams have to scratch and claw this year,” Fraschilla said. “It’s going to be like this all season.”
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register
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