Iowa State ends rebuilding season with loss to Texas
By LUKE MEREDITH
Mar. 08, 2018
The Iowa State Cyclones may be able to put their miserable season behind them quickly next season — if a few things break their way.
Iowa State finished 2017-18 with a 68-64 loss to Texas in the conference tournament on Wednesday. The Cyclones finished just 13-18 and saw their streak of NCAA Tournament appearances snapped at six.
That wasn't a surprise for a program that lost seven starters who earned all-Big 12 recognition in just two years. But it still stung for a team coming off its third league tournament title in four seasons.
"We need to get back in (to the postseason) next year for sure because this is a rough feeling here," third-year coach Steve Prohm said.
Teams in a rebuilding year often judge their progress by how well their young players developed.
The Cyclones had two of the better freshmen in the country in point guard Lindell Wigginton and forward Cam Lard. Wigginton was moved off the ball in an effort to free him up to score, and he did so to the tune of 16.7 points a game. That was an Iowa State record for a freshman and second only to Trae Young of Oklahoma among league rookies.
The 6-foot-9 Lard averaged 14.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in Big 12 regular-season games, and he and Wigginton had 34 of Iowa State's 64 points against the Longhorns.
Junior Nick Weiler-Babb also had a breakout season as the team's new point guard, averaging seven rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. But he and sophomore center Solomon Young's seasons ended in late February because of knee injuries.
Graduate transfer Hans Brase also fought through knee issues all winter, and senior Donovan Jackson had to deal with the death of his father at the tail end of Big 12 play.
Assuming Weiler-Babb and Young return to full health — and the expectation is that they will — the Cyclones should have the depth it sorely lacked in 2017-18.
Virginia transfer Marial Shayok averaged 8.9 points a game for the Cavaliers in 2016-17 and should push for a starting job next season, and fellow wing player Zoran Talley proved to be a valuable rotation piece in conference play.
Nebraska transfer Michael Jacobson started 31 games for the Huskers two seasons ago and should, at the very least, fill the role that Brase often couldn't.
There's also a promising four-man incoming recruiting class: The Cyclones will add a pair of four-star perimeter players in Talen Horton-Tucker and Zion Griffin, who will compete for playing time in a rotation that loses only Jackson (15.3 points a game), Brase and Jeff Beverly (4.7 points per game).
Iowa State is hoping that Wigginton and Lard improve in the offseason, Shayok thrives in the Cyclones' free-flowing offense, Jacobson provides needed post depth and either Horton-Tucker or Griffin can give them an immediate boost.
If all that happens, Iowa State will be back on the national radar in 2018-19.