Young Cyclones open season with high expectations

Iowa State men’s basketball players huddle during the final seconds of their 75-65 win over Baylor on Jan. 13, 2018.

Aaron Marner

It didn’t take long into the preseason for Iowa State coach Steve Prohm to address last season.

The losing record. The missed NCAA Tournament. The bitter taste in everyone’s mouth from March through today.

“In the standpoint of what we have in, and where we’re at, I think we’re further ahead [than last year],” Prohm said. “I actually watched the Missouri game [last year’s season opener] just to kind of see where we were last year at this time … I do think we’re a lot further ahead, but we do have a lot more to do as well.”

Perhaps the good news for Prohm is how new most of this year’s team is to Iowa State.

Six of Iowa State’s 12 eligible scholarship players for the 2018-19 season have not played a game in a Cyclone uniform. When Iowa State hosts Alabama State in the season opener 7 p.m. Tuesday, all six of those newcomers could be on the floor at various times.

The Cyclones will be without junior forward Solomon Young, who is working back from a groin injury.

Redshirt sophomore Cameron Lard’s status is up in the air. Prohm has not said definitively whether Lard will be available Tuesday, and refrained from using the term “suspended,” but Lard did not play in either of Iowa State’s two scrimmages.

In their absence, redshirt junior Nebraska transfer Michael Jacobson and freshman George Conditt are the two remaining true post players.

“I figured I’d have a pretty good opportunity here,” Jacobson said. “I think there’s probably just more minutes. We have a lot of depth there … but [Young and Lard] has kind of just opened up more minutes, I guess.”

The good news for the Cyclones is that Alabama State shouldn’t pose too much of an upset threat. The Hornets finished 8-23 a season ago, losing all 12 non-conference games. Alabama State finished 339th nationally in KenPom out of 351 total teams.

The opener should be a good chance for the young talent to get acclimated to Division I basketball before playing Missouri on Friday.

“It’s just an opportunity,” said freshman Talen Horton-Tucker. “If I start, I have to make the best of the opportunity that I have, and just be ready to come in and do whatever they need me to do.”

Prohm has not announced a surefire starting lineup, but Lindell Wigginton — the Big 12’s returning leading scorer at 16.7 points per game — figures to play alongside Marial Shayok and Nick Weiler-Babb in the backcourt.

The other two spots are open for interpretation. The likely candidates are Jacobson — especially in the absence of Young and supposed absence of Lard — and Horton-Tucker.

That would leave Iowa State with a short bench. Of the remaining players on scholarship, three are hurt or not playing (Lard, Young and redshirt senior Zoran Talley Jr.), three are freshmen (Conditt, Zion Griffin and Tyrese Haliburton) and the last is sophomore guard Terrence Lewis, who averaged 3.4 points per game last year while playing 11 minutes per game.

“I feel this is a good group,” Wigginton said. “We’ve got a lot of good guys, very talented, and we’ve got good chemistry. We’re definitely on the right path going into the opener.”