Iowa State junior guard Matt Thomas was brought into the program a few years back to be a perimeter shooting weapon. The 6-foot-4 native of Wisconsin saw his minutes decline as a sophomore last season and he’s hoping to be more of a consistent presence under new head coach Steve Prohm.
In a story from Todd Sommerfeldt of the LaCrosse Tribune, Thomas described how he’s communicating and trying to learn what Prohm wants out of him for this season. Now that former head coach Fred Hoiberg has moved on to the Chicago Bulls, Thomas has a clean slate with a new head coach.
“We had individual meetings with him,” Thomas said of Prohm in the story. “He told me what he’s all about, and what he said matched my beliefs.
“He expects a lot and holds guys accountable, and I like that.”
While Thomas might have struggled to find the floor in the second half as a sophomore, part of the reason he wasn’t seeing heavy minutes is his perimeter shot has struggled at times during his college career. Thomas is a 33 percent career 3-point shooter in his two seasons at Iowa State and I’m sure both the team and Thomas would like to see that number improve this season.
It’s hard to say why Thomas didn’t shoot the ball as well as he could have these past few seasons, but he was a starter for Iowa State on their trip to Spain this summer and he could be an important piece to this season’s roster. If he’s spacing the floor and hitting shots, it makes the Cyclones that much tougher to defend this season.
No. 13 Iowa State holds off Alabama as bench additions give them even more weapons
Iowa State knows how to score the ball. This much we know. Entering Monday night’s semifinal against Alabama in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, we knew that the No. 13 Cyclones would put up points and have a balanced effort from their offense.
But with the addition of Matt Thomas, who returned from suspension for his first game of the season on Monday, Iowa State’s offense added another dimension in its 84-74 win over Alabama. Despite the Crimson Tide doing all they could to stay in the game, even with a pro-Iowa State crowd in Kansas City, they just couldn’t do enough to slow down the Cyclone offense. Anthony Grant threw traps and different looks at the Iowa State offense, but he just couldn’t slow them down or get Cyclone point guard Monte Morris off his game despite a poor shooting night.
Georges Niang had 18 points in the first half to end up with a game-high 28 points for Iowa State as he was joined in double-figures by Dustin Hogue (17 points), Naz Long (15 points) and Thomas (13 points). The return of Thomas, a 6-foot-3 sophomore sharpshooter, made Iowa State’s offense reach another gear.
Thomas was 5-for-6 from the field and 3-for-4 from three-point range on Monday night and his ability to shoot with nearly unlimited range gives Morris even more space to operate when penetrating the defense. Morris struggled to 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting, but in true Monte Morris fashion, he had 12 assists and zero turnovers. In 112 minutes so far this season, Morris has only turned the ball over twice while he’s found teammates for 24 assists.
Between the unreal efficiency displayed by Morris and the weapons surrounding him, Iowa State might have one of the five most dangerous offenses in the country this season. They have a point guard that never turns the ball over, an inside threat in Niang, and plenty of floor-spacers and slashers to round out the rotation. Even with Niang having an off-night against Georgia State and Morris not shooting well against Alabama, Iowa State won by double-digits in both games against talented teams.
All that comes now is defense. Monday was a solid start for Iowa State in that capacity as they held Alabama to 38 percent shooting and 28 percent three-point shooting on the evening. If it weren’t for a big night from Tide guard Rodney Cooper, who finished with 27 points in a heck of an effort in a losing cause, then Iowa State wins that game with ease.
This Cyclone team is still going to need some time to fully click but the addition of transfer shot blocker Jameel McKay should especially help on the defensive side of the ball in December and this Iowa State team looks very dangerous and ready to compete for the Big 12 title this season.
Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 17 Iowa State.
– G: Monte Morris, So.
– G: Bryce Dejean-Jones, Sr.
– G: Naz Long, Jr.
– F: Dustin Hogue, Sr.
– F: Georges Niang, Jr.
– Bench: Abdel Nader, Jr.; Matt Thomas, So.; Jameel McKay, Jr.; Georgis Tsalmpouris, Fr.; Clayton Custer, Fr.
They’ll be good because … : This is precisely the kind of roster that Fred Hoiberg always has success with. They have the matchup nightmare in Georges Niang, who has lost 25 pounds and may be the single-toughest player to guard in all of college basketball this season. They have a seemingly endless supply of big guards that can knock down threes — Naz Long, Matt Thomas, Abdel Nader, Bryce Dejean-Jones. They have Dustin Hogue, an uber-athletic combo-forward that should do a decent job filling the role vacated by Melvin Ejim. And they have Monte Morris, a sophomore point guard that should have a big year handling the primary point guard duties.
Hoiberg has the athletes that will allow him to get up and down the floor and the shooters that will allow him to spread things out offensively. No coach in the country is better than Hoiberg at drawing up sets that will put his players in a position to succeed, where they can capitalize on their strengths and take advantage of mismatches. Throw in the aura of playing in Hilton Coliseum — Hilton Magic is real, ladies and gentlemen — and the Cyclones will once again be one of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch.
But they might disappoint because … : There are a couple of things that concern me about the Cyclones this season, so I’ll just go ahead and lay them out in bullet points:
Defense: The Cyclones have never been known for their defensive ability under Fred Hoiberg — they’ve yet to finish a season ranked in KenPom’s top 50 defensively — which should always be a concern.
Bryce Dejean-Jones: This is less of a concern than it is a question mark. BDJ built a reputation for being too much of a gunner during his time at UNLV and USC. I’d bet on Hoiberg getting through to him — he’s batting about 1.000 on transfers in his Iowa State tenure — but until we see it happen, it’s a red flag.
Too much Hilton Magic?: Hilton Coliseum is one of the best home courts in the country, but I always get a bit worried by teams that are dominant in their own gyms and struggle on the road. I know, the NCAA tournament is never a road game, but it’s also not a home game, either.
Outlook: With all due respect to Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo and Bill Self and all the other usual suspects when naming the best coaches in the college game, I’m not sure there is a better x’s-and-o’s coach in the country than Fred Hoiberg. There’s a reason that he’s targeted by many NBA teams every offseason, and it’s not because he had a silky jumper when he was still playing.
Simply put, the man knows how to put his players in a position to succeed, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. He also has a proven track record when it comes to getting the best out of players that are on their second, and sometimes third, chance. I had doubts about the Cyclones heading into last season and they went on to finish third in the Big 12 and reach the Sweet 16. I had doubts about Iowa State the year before that and they finish fourth in the conference and came within an Aaron Craft three of reaching the Sweet 16. I had doubts the year Royce White was on the roster, and the Cyclones won 12 Big 12 games.
I have doubts about this year’s team, more than some of the teams that I have ranked lower than No. 17. But I’ve reached the point where I’ll trust that Fred Hoiberg finds a way to make everything fit together.