Breaking down key portions of Iowa State’s men’s basketball schedule


Jacob Rice

T.J. Otzelberger calls out directions to the Cyclones during their 53-36 loss to Oklahoma State on March 2.

College basketball season is closer than many think, as the Cyclones tipoff Nov. 7.

This means that it’s time to break down Iowa State men’s basketball schedule and find the portions that will make the difference in the season.

Massive non-conference opportunity

The Phil Knight Invitational, from Nov. 24 to 27, is by far the most tricky portion of the non-conference schedule for the Cyclones. Iowa State is opening the tournament with a matchup against a Villanova team that is seemingly always an NCAA Tournament contender.

While none of the other matchups in the tournament will be solidified until the first round is over, elite teams such as North Carolina and Michigan State will be there, as well as Alabama, UConn, Oregon and Portland.

The Cyclones will play two other major conference teams in non-conference play, St. Johns and Iowa. In the middle of Big 12 play, the Cyclones will also take on Missouri of the SEC.

It sounds crazy to think that a tournament bid could be decided in November, but if the Cyclones run through the Phil Knight Invitational, their resume will be boosted so much that it would take a collapse in conference play to leave them out.

I understand that the Cyclones won the NIT Season Tip-Off with wins over Memphis and Xavier last year and still were on the bubble, but this tournament is even an upgrade from that.

On the flip side, a rough showing at the tournament will leave the Cyclones with a massive hill to climb in Big 12 play.

Excused absence

Two of the biggest threats to win the Big 12, Baylor and Texas Tech, will both be coming to Ames during Iowa State’s winter break. It’s no secret that the student section plays a major factor in college basketball games, and without it, there may not be an opportunity for the Cyclones to upset one or both of these teams.

The Cyclones are also set to square off against Big 12 contender Texas on Jan. 17. This is the day that students return to classes, so it may not be the full house that it otherwise would have been. With many Cyclone fans not being fond of Tyrese Hunter’s transfer, there will still likely be a solid atmosphere for this one.

Must-win stretch

With how difficult winning games in the Big 12 can be, there is a stretch late in conference play that will determine how successful the season will be for Iowa State.

From Feb. 8-18, the Cyclones will take on West Virginia, Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State. These are four of the weaker teams in the conference, so it will be crucial for Iowa State to take advantage of the stretch. The team will not need to take all four most likely, but three out of four could make a big difference come Selection Sunday.