Huge thanks to Kevin Fitzpatrick of Wide Right & Natty Light (SB Nation’s Iowa State site) for talking to us about today’s game!
Jack: The Cyclones have lost six games this season, but five of them have been close games against quality opponents. Despite the fact that they’re unranked, do you think this team has the potential to do some damage in March?
Kevin: Iowa State certainly has the potential -- if they can get there. Like you mentioned, the Cyclones have lost close games against good teams, but they have yet to pick up a "signature win" that is often required of teams looking to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
The reason I'm holding onto hope this season is because ISU is such an experienced team, with 5-6 players in the rotation being seniors. The back court especially is full of older, talented guys. Teams with good, experienced guards have had success in the postseason quite often, and Iowa State definitely has that with Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas.
Jack: Georges Niang seemed to always make big plays at opportune times during his long career at Iowa State, and Monte Morris is no slouch himself in that regard. Who fills that void once Morris graduates?
Kevin: That's a toughie, because next year's team is going to look much different from this year's squad. For the first time in a long time, the Cyclones will be on the younger end of the age spectrum. Based on what we've seen out of incoming recruits and current underclassmen, I'm actually going to go with 4-star class of 2017 point guard recruit Lindell Wigginton. Wigginton has been the best player on Oak Hill Academy this season and is currently ranked as the #47 overall player in the country according to 247Sports. He's a PG that likes to play downhill and has that "attacking" mindset that usually transitions pretty well in college.
You can check out a few highlights of Wigginton here:
Jack: On that note, Fred Hoiberg’s players are slowly starting to cycle out of the program. How has Steve Prohm done on the recruiting trail during his time, and do you think he can sustain what Hoiberg built in Ames?
Kevin: Beyond Wigginton, ISU has two other players who have signed letters of intent in 2017: 4-star SF Terrence Lewis and 3-star SG Darius McNeill. Both guys look good on film (as most do when perusing highlight tapes) and should be able to compete for playing time in their first year on campus. My expectation is that Coach Prohm will also try to add a big man to round out the class, whether it's out of the high school ranks, JUCO, or via a graduate transfer.
Hoiberg was always great at getting those high-profile transfer types (and he got a few great prep players too, as evident with Niang and Morris), but I'm not concerned at all about Prohm's ability to keep the program's talent level high. My guess is Iowa State won't get as many transfers as the Prohm era goes on, but hopefully they'll attract more good players from high school.
Jack: Oklahoma and Iowa State have played in some classic games over the past few years. After watching what Oklahoma has done over the past week, do you expect another exciting matchup?
Kevin: I always expect a good game when the Cyclones and Sooners play. I haven't had the chance to watch Oklahoma in action this year myself, but I know Lon Kruger is a heck of a coach and ISU has had some tough luck in Norman recently. Life in the Big 12 is tough, especially on the road.
Jack: How do you think the game plays out on Saturday? What’s your final score prediction?
Kevin: I think the game is going to come down to the last possession, possibly go into overtime. I think Iowa State is the better overall team, but as you mentioned, Oklahoma has played well recently having just knocked off WVU. The nice part about this game for ISU is Oklahoma is more guard-oriented, because the Cyclones have really struggled to defend the post in their last two games against TCU and Kansas.
As for a score prediction, I'll go with a one-point Sooners win, 75-74.
Jack: Do you miss the Cyclone logo with the bird, or are you content with the current logo?
Kevin: "Bird in a Blender" was a look I enjoyed. I've gotten used to the current I-State logo, but I liked that the old logo was unique. The new one is a little more generic and boxy. Give me the old logo in a redesign using our current colors (no tertiary blue) and that'd be pretty cool, I think.
Jack: Would you rather fight 1,000 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?
Kevin: 1,000 duck-sized horses. What are they going to do, run into my ankles a thousand times? Actually, now that I think about it, that'd be kinda painful... But a horse-sized duck could whack me with its wing or maybe even swallow me whole. I'll take my chances knowing that the small horses wouldn't be able to climb me.