Douglas: Changes need to happen for Iowa State

Sophomore forward Zion Griffin during men’s basketball game against No. 3 Kansas on Jan. 8 in Hilton Coliseum.

Zane Douglas

Watching Iowa State this season can bring up a lot of questions, but there is one thing that’s for sure — something has to change.

The Cyclones have had a rocky year, from the close loss to Oregon State due to poor play down the stretch, to a beat down handed to them by their biggest rivals on their own court, to one of the worst losses in program history, to multiple conference games where the offense has just disappeared.

All this has led to a 2-4 conference record and have taken out most hope of Iowa State seeing another NCAA Tournament.

The season is on the line and the schedule isn’t getting any easier. Iowa State needs to sit Prentiss Nixon and Michael Jacobson.

The two redshirt seniors were solid pieces on the team to start the season, but recently, their value has dropped below those around them.

In Jacobson’s case, he has become the odd man out among the post players on the team. Jacobson is a solid rebounder, but he’s worse than George Conditt and Solomon Young. He can stretch the floor a bit, but not nearly as well as Zion Griffin.

Jacobson’s defense doesn’t make up for this. With seniors, it’s easy for their ceilings to plateau and Jacobson is seeing that with all those younger than him having nice seasons or stretches.

Nixon has more of a niche than Jacobson with his defense and coach Steve Prohm’s affinity for small ball lineups. This has changed lately, with Nixon’s offensive struggles shining through and more traditional lineups seeing success, Iowa State is more ready than ever for a change to the starting lineup.

No. 1 Baylor comes to Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday and then Iowa State plays a relative dip in the schedule before getting right back to the influx of ranked teams to end the season.

The Cyclones are running out of time and if they want to turn the season on its head, they’ll need to do something big. 

To fill in for Nixon and Jacobson, the Cyclones should use two players with relatively weak cases to start the season — Griffin and Terrence Lewis.

Griffin and Lewis share a storyline of highly touted high school prospect turned into a limited bench player due to a bad fit in the system.

In Griffin’s case, this was amplified by nagging injuries in his freshman season that limited his upside. He fell into a role that limited his potential, but has found a niche this year as an athlete stretch four that can rim run and shoot at a solid clip.

Lewis has a similar story, but the top 100 prospect according to ESPN in 2017 underperformed for his first two years at Iowa State and was shelved as an afterthought to start this season.

The junior has come back into rotations for the Cyclones thanks to his cutting ability and his ability to guard multiple positions. He’s played well enough to even earn a start earlier in the season when Tyrese Haliburton was nursing an injury.

Lewis gives the Cyclones another dimension on offense with his offensive rebounding ability being on full effect in the comeback effort against Auburn on Saturday.

Griffin and Lewis could open up the offense and also give Prohm a more traditional look with size mismatches no longer being an issue.

Down low, Young and Conditt have both played solid stretches on the season, keeping their minutes staggered is probably the right decision. Allowing both to play will give Prohm the opportunity to play whoever is performing better down the stretch.

Don’t be surprised if the Cyclones switch some things up, but with Nixon and Jacobson’s places on the team coming into question, those changes could — and I think should — be the first dominoes to fall.