After the hottest start in program history, Iowa State is now reeling a bit.
The Cyclones dropped a game at Texas Saturday afternoon, falling 86-76. ISU is now 14-3 overall. And things are not getting easier in the near future. The next four games for Fred Hoiberg's team: vs. Kansas State; at Kansas; vs. Oklahoma; at Oklahoma State.
Eight days ago, this was an undefeated team with an All-American First Team candidate in DeAndre Kane. Now it's got to figure winning the Big 12 is out of the question, and going 2-2 over the next four will be vital to keep the chase for second in the league -- and to get a solid seed come March. Many believed it was on the cusp of being a top-five team.
I'll absolutely be giving some credit to Texas here, of course. Rick Barnes has a team that's played its way to a 14-4 mark (3-2 in the Big 12). Jonathan Holmes went for a team-high 23 points Saturday, 11 higher than his average. Javan Felix is a gem of a player who can be dangerous if his shot selection improves just a little bit. The 'Horns have a defense that should allow them to remain a factor in the Big 12 for the entire season. NCAA tournament team? Probably, but Texas remains more of a question mark than Iowa State right now. Let's give UT another couple of weeks to show who they are and where they fall in the pecking order of the league.
Iowa State: we know this team has one of the strongest starting fives ... and one of the thinnest benches. Georges Niang led ISU against Texas, scoring 18. The rotation of guys who can step up is an affordability with Hoiberg's team that most don't have. But does depth matter in college basketball? You can line up hordes on each side of that debate. I think in March depth isn't such an issue, but to get through league play at the pace you'd expect, it can matter. Iowa State has seven guys averaging 21 minutes or more, and then the averages dip well below 10.
That could have some unintended effects in this year's Big 12, which you could argue is the best league -- and certainly second-best -- in the country.
It's not panic time, but something of a wakeup call for the Cyclones, who are discovering that being a targeted team has its drawbacks in the thick of league play; you can't surprise anyone there.