Hunt: ISU basketball needs stronger nonconference games

Isaac Hunt

As many people know, tickets for Cyclone Alley at men’s basketball games were oversold this season.

Students don’t have much room to complain about the new system though — it was democracy at work. Not enough students who bought tickets actually went to games and the athletic department made a choice.

They made the right choice, modeling the system off of Kansas and Kansas State. Now it’s time to take it another step further.

Nonconference scheduling must get better for this new system to work. Many students still don’t want to go to games ending in 58-point blowouts.

Iowa State should take something else out of the Kansas schools’ playbooks: Nonconference home games.

In the past two years, Kansas and Kansas State have played/scheduled nonconference home games against worthy opponents including Kentucky, Georgetown, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan State and Colorado just to name a few.

And that list could be much longer.

Now let’s look at the top home, nonconference games Iowa State has this year and last: Iowa, Northern Iowa, Lehigh, Rice, BYU and Yale.

It looks like the Cyclones are headed down that path though. Coach Fred Hoiberg has transformed this team and the fan base’s mindset. Hopefully the schedule follows suit.

Jeff Rutter, ISU director of basketball operations, who works alongside Hoiberg to schedule games, has some good news.

“Our strength of scheduling is just as important as our recruiting,” Rutter said.

That is wonderful considering Iowa State is looking at a top-25 recruiting class.

Rutter mentioned a lesson taught by Alabama a few years back in which it did not make the tournament due to poor scheduling.

Nonconference games are made up of “guarantee” games and home-and-home games.

“Guarantee” games are one-year deals where teams are paid to come in and play. 

Home-and-home games are just as they sound — each team gets a home game in two different seasons.

Another factor is multi-team events such as tournaments.

“Each year a team can play in a tournament, play up to four teams and only have it count as one game on your schedule,” Rutter said. “So basically you can get up to three extra games.”

Now the bright side.

Virginia bought out of a home-and-home contract that would have brought it to Ames this year, but that game was replaced with BYU. 

And fans may recall the Cyclones going to Michigan last season — that, too, was a home-and-home, so look forward to seeing the Wolverines in Ames next year.

The Big 12 Conference can also help the Cyclones. Rutter said there is a rumor of another power conference joining the Big 12 to create a challenge similar to the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Change could be coming, but it’s coming too slowly. 

The ISU men’s basketball program is taking steps in the right direction when it should be taking leaps.

Hilton Coliseum will still fill up for games like Florida Gulf Coast, but for how long?

“Our fans turn out regardless of who we play,” Rutter said. “But there’s a big difference between 10,000 and 14,000.”

Isaac Hunt is a sophomore in pre-business and pre-journalism from Wayland, Iowa.