Cyclone fans need to tread lightly

Jeremiah Davis

Raise your hand if you thought before this season that the ISU men’s basketball team would be 13-3 at the start of the Big 12 season.

No one?

That’s what I thought.

Fred Hoiberg’s rookie season as coach of his alma mater has been nothing short of fantastic. Sure, they haven’t played the toughest schedule, but that doesn’t matter.

Hoiberg and his staff had their work cut out for them before the semester ended last spring. A mass exodus from the roster meant a ton of new faces and a group that hadn’t really played together.

New transfers also meant a ton of talent on the scout team that just has to wait until next year.

The majority of Cyclone fans were looking forward to this season only because they could see their beloved Mayor on the sidelines again. Expectations of 10 and 12 wins came from many of the students I talked to.

“Just wait ’til next year, when Chris Allen and Chris Babb could play,” they said.

Then the non-conference season happened.

Before the loss to Nebraska on Saturday, the Cyclones were 13-2, with their only losses coming in close games to Cal and Northern Iowa — games coaches and players believe they could have, and should have, won.

“I dwell on the losses,” Hoiberg said. “I think we had a chance to go 15-0 [in non-conference play], but we didn’t. We learned from it and we got better, and we continue to improve. And that’s the great thing about this team.”

They won the games they were supposed to win. Hoiberg had them prepared, and the players have bought into what the staff is trying to teach them.

As for the squad’s chemistry, it appears to be just fine. With just seven players available recently, conditioning, not chemistry is usually a bigger issue.

The players think everything is coming together.

“I’ve got faith in my team,” said senior guard Diante Garrett. “Because we have talent, and [we’ve] been working hard. If we just keep working hard I think it’ll pay off for us.”

Going forward, Cyclone fans need to approach this success with caution. Yes, it’s a nice surprise that this team has overachieved so far. But while they have a tremendous drive and give great effort every game, that might, and probably won’t, be enough in the heart of the Big 12 season.

Every minuscule detail will matter when playing the likes of Kansas, Kansas State and Texas. Staying out of foul trouble, rebounding, etc. This team has it’s work cut out for it all over again, and fans shouldn’t expect a 13-2 conference record.

I don’t believe this fan base is that naive, but sometimes people become prisoner of the moment. Remember, last season Greg McDermott’s squad was 11-4 entering Big 12 play and it ended up 15-17. 

This group has a really good chance to surprise some teams, and I believe it will. When Kansas and Kansas State come to Hilton Coliseum, I think Diante Garrett and Co. will be a really tough out. 

So tread lightly, Cyclone fans, when you give Hawkeye fans a hard time or when setting expectations. But if it gets rough, just remember, Hoiberg has this program going places. If he has anything to say about it, Hilton Magic will be back in full force soon.