Stuve: Breaking down the Iowa State men’s basketball team’s 2020-21 nonconference schedule

Sophomore guard Rasir Bolton brings the ball up the court during Iowa State’s 70-52 victory over Northern Illinois on Nov. 12 at Hilton Coliseum.

Sam Stuve

The Iowa State men’s basketball team has eight home games, one road game, two neutral site games and two games with opponents yet to be determined in the nonconference portion of their 2020-21 schedule.

Four of its known eight home games take place from Nov. 10 to Nov. 22. Iowa State begins the regular season with four home games in a row.

Three out of four of those home games should be very winnable games as they face Kennesaw State (Nov. 10), Alabama A&M (Nov. 17) and Louisiana Monroe (Nov. 22). All three teams finished in the bottom third in the KenPom rankings.

KenPom is a tool developed by Ken Pomeroy that uses offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, the team’s strength of schedule, their opponents efficiency ratings and factors in a little bit of a luck factor.

Usually, if a team is ranked in the top 50 or 60 (depending on the year) in KenPom rankings, they will make the NCAA tournament.

Iowa State (12-20 record in the 2019-2020 season) finished 89th out of the 353 teams in the NCAA.

Kennesaw State (1-28 record in the 2019-2020 season) finished ranked 352nd, Alabama A&M (8-22 record in the 2019-20 season) finished ranked 343rd and Louisiana Monroe (9-20 record in the 2019-20 season) ranked 252nd in the final KenPom rankings last season.

The Cyclones’ second home game of the season comes on Nov. 13 versus the Oregon State Beavers, who finished 87th in KenPom and beat Iowa State in Corvallis, Oregon, last season.

Iowa State then travels to Niceville, Florida, for the Emerald Coast Classic, where they’ll play two games.

The bracket for the Emerald Coast Classic has not yet been released, but Iowa State knows it’ll face Florida (who finished 19-12 last season and 32nd in KenPom rankings), Illinois (who finished 21-10 last season and 30th in KenPom rankings) or Oregon (who finished 24-7 last season and finished 17th in KenPom rankings).

While Iowa State may very well be an improved team next season, winning a game here may be a tall task.

The Cyclones then come back to Ames for a home matchup with South Dakota State (who went 22-10 last season and finished 119th in KenPom rankings) on Dec. 2 and are reported to host DePaul (16-16 record last season and finished 94th in KenPom rankings) on Dec. 6 in the Big 12/Big East challenge. However, this hasn’t officially been announced.

Iowa State’s only road game of the season comes on Dec. 10 against an Iowa team that went 20-11 last season and finished 23rd in KenPom rankings.

Rounding out the nonconference schedule (for now), are three home games.

Against Jackson State (15-17 record last season and finished 281st in KenPom rankings) on Dec. 13, North Carolina A&T (17-15 record last season and finished 287th in KenPom rankings) on Dec. 20 and against Chicago State (4-25 last season and finished 353rd in KenPom rankings) on Dec. 22.

The Cyclones will play in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Jan. 23, but their opponent hasn’t been announced.

Because the Cyclones have played on the road in the last three out of four Big 12/SEC challenges, they will likely play their Big 12/SEC challenge game at home this season.

Looking at this schedule of the known nonconference matchups, I see Iowa State going 8-4 or 9-3 (losing to Iowa, two teams in the Emerald Coast Classic, and maybe Oregon State or DePaul) in those games, even with the losses of five players from last season (maybe six if Tyrese Haliburton stays on the NBA Draft list).

Iowa State went 7-5 in the nonconference last season (excluding the Big 12/SEC Challenge) and with a bit of an easier nonconference slate this season, they should be able to improve upon last season’s nonconference record.