Head to Head: Does Iowa State football or men’s basketball need a better 2020 season?

Sports Editor Zane Douglas and Assistant Sports Editor Matt Belinson discuss what Iowa State football’s biggest concern is as the season winds down.

Matt Belinson and Zane Douglas

The 2020 season is going to prove to be a turning point for Iowa State’s two premier sports, football and men’s basketball, but sports editors Zane Douglas and Matt Belinson decided to go “Head to Head” to debate which program needs to have a more successful season in 2020.

And while the future for fall and winter sports’ schedules is still uncertain, both the football and men’s basketball programs are faced with unique challenges and expectations that will make the 2020 season an important moment in the direction of both programs.

Belinson: Iowa State football needs to have a better 2020 season

I feel like this is the obvious answer between these two sports. 

The 7-6 record that marks the 2019 season should leave a bad taste in the mouth of Iowa State faithful as well as Matt Campbell and his team. In the face of the biggest expectations the program had ever faced coming into a given season, Iowa State football not only failed to reach remotely close to those marks, but stumbled on every big stage it got.

The season may have ended with a matchup against one of the most famous college football programs in the country in Notre Dame during the Camping World Bowl, but we all know what happened there. It was a beatdown and the Cyclones ended their season in fitting fashion, filled with regret.

The Cyclones were their own worst enemy in the 2019 season, tripping over themselves when they needed to come out on top, whether it was the Cy-Hawk punt return fiasco, the three dropped interceptions against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, Oklahoma, or the two early mistakes in the first two drives against Notre Dame, Iowa State couldn’t perform when it mattered most. And after every big loss, Campbell and his team would point the finger at themselves, citing poor decision making and a continued lack of execution despite countless reminders throughout the season.

Make no mistake, Iowa State football needs to have a bounce-back season in 2020 and it’s pretty clear to understand why.

For one, Iowa State is probably about to lose Brock Purdy, JaQuan Bailey, Charlie Kolar, Mike Rose, Greg Eisworth and others to the 2021 NFL Draft, making the 2020 season the last shot for Iowa State to make a run at the Big 12 Championship with its best quarterback in program history heading off to the professional ranks. With that much talent in limbo to return, the 2020 season is the last shot for Campbell and the Cyclones to actually have a chance at finishing the process that has been building since Campbell arrived in 2015. 

Another major reason for the 2020 season being so important for Iowa State to capitalize on is the fact that the Big 12 is weaker than the last three years. Oklahoma lost a ton of talent to the NFL — nothing new for the Sooners to handle — and Baylor lost its head coach and program changer in Matt Rhule to the Carolina Panthers. So really, besides the Sooners, what is standing in Iowa State’s way of being the clear cut No. 2 team in the conference?

Oklahoma State is going to be good next season and Baylor will still be in the mix, but Iowa State is more talented at most positions than both teams and with more discipline, will win the games it needs to in order to take the next step into a legitimate force in the Big 12.

Since this is a “Head to Head” column, I suppose I should explain why I think men’s basketball doesn’t need a better 2020 season than Iowa State football.

Iowa State men’s basketball was very bad last season and there is no denying they need a comeback season to get the fanbase on board, but what do people honestly think next season will be? What would having a “successful” 2020 season even have to be for a team that depleted?

The best news men’s basketball has going for it is an 18-year-old (Xavier Foster) who hasn’t even touched the floor yet for the Cyclones, and outside of his development, success will come sparingly for next year’s group.

One could argue that if Iowa State men’s basketball returned to even a respectable level in the Big 12 and made the NCAA Tournament, that would be more important to the culture Iowa State basketball has had over the last decade of NCAA Tournament teams and NBA talent, but that is why I think Iowa State football needs to have a successful 2020 season. Football has never had that history to fall back on.

The expectations and talent level for Iowa State football may never happen again, especially when you look at the history of both programs.

The time is now to take advantage of what is on the roster and where the conference stands to actually build a standard, not just raise it.

Douglas: Iowa State basketball needs to have a better 2020 season

Iowa State’s football team played against Notre Dame in a bowl game and the men’s basketball team will likely have a lottery pick go in the draft and yet both teams had somewhat disappointing 2019-20 campaigns.

For football, the bottom fell out in close games and the Cyclones spent a lot of the season so close to getting over the hump and contending in the Big 12. It ended with a blowout loss to Notre Dame in Orlando, Florida, at the Camping World Bowl.

While the football team had a tough season, the men’s basketball team was hit with one of the worst seasons in recent memory for the Cyclones.

A 12-20 record was made worse as the Cyclones couldn’t find any wins on the road save from a victory over Alabama on a neutral court and injuries and transfers kept the Cyclones from ever standing a chance.

2020 is an important year for both teams, but more so for the men’s basketball team.

Let’s start with who is there already.

The Cyclones won’t be losing much after next season, which is an area football will be hit hard in, but Iowa State will lose Solomon Young after the season is over.

Rasir Bolton and Tre Jackson headline the returning players that will — barring transfers — stick around for at least another year.

The biggest reason for the importance of the season lies with the recruits. Iowa State picked up one of the better recruiting classes in the conference over the offseason, which was capped off by four-star center prospect Xavier Foster.

Foster is one of the top recruits in the nation and is joined by wing recruit Dudley Blackwell on ESPN’s Top 100 recruits in the 2020 class.

Iowa State also added wing Darlinstone Dubar and guard Jaden Walker.

The additions will have to play a lot of minutes instead of being eased into the lineup because the Cyclones are already shorthanded. It’ll take a lot from some freshmen to move the Cyclones along but it might just be a necessary thing.

Iowa State had built a solid foundation over the years, even in Head Coach Steve Prohm’s tenure, but the foundation is gone and left in its wake is a bunch of raw talent.

This all wouldn’t be too bad as the Cyclones can afford a bad year or two, but Prohm has been on the hot seat for a couple years and if the team is bad, he might be gone.

With him gone, it would become a battle for the Cyclones to keep everyone from that recruiting class even if they did perform well. The transfer portal could see a flurry of Cyclones enter and the new coach would be hit with a low amount of talent on his new roster.

Unless Iowa State men’s basketball wants to blow it up, it’s imperative that the Cyclones have a solid season.

Football won’t have to deal with this problem.

The football team has a coach with one of the longest leashes in the game who is being paid a large sum and has gotten NFL looks for three straight years.

Campbell has plateaued a bit around the seven win mark, but what’s riding on this season is only the departure of some key players — players in positions that Campbell has shown he has no problem plugging up.

The football team is building a process and the process is certainly going to maintain past the 2020 season, but the basketball team is on the verge of blowing everything up. Cyclone fans don’t want to see that and the team absolutely doesn’t either.

If it’s down to the two, Iowa State men’s basketball is in more desperate need of a good season.