Once considered one of the biggest dark horses in the nation, the Iowa State Cyclones have now looked quite beatable as of late. That’s why some believe they no longer have a shot at making noise in the NCAA tourney.
Coach T.J. Otzelberger’s team has struggled to find consistency and according to Iowa basketball bets by ClutchBet they are still nowhere near the favorites.
They haven’t been able to close games out, and Caleb Grill’s injury is a huge reason for concern going forward, him being their best scorer.
Caleb Grill’s Health Will Be Key
The 6’3’’ guard from Maize, Kansas, has now missed two games, and coach Otz was non-committal when discussing his availability for the foreseeable future. Needless to say, they don’t want to rush him and risk further injury:
“It really is day to day – how is it feeling, what’s he able to do in practice,” T.J. Otzelberger said. “It just hasn’t been feeling good for him. It’s been tightening up. We’ve got to trust him in terms of what he can give us.”
Otzelberger also praised Grill for staying positive through the process and being supportive of his teammates while he’s not able to contribute on the floor, reaffirming his leadership status within the locker room.
“He’s certainly done a great job giving to the team and being out there when he can and giving us on a lot of nights enough to be successful, and today that wasn’t where it was at. We’ll continue to re-evaluate, see where things are going in our game on Tuesday.”
Their Offense Is Suffering
Nonetheless, coach Otz also admits that not having their best scorer on the floor is a major issue for them offensively. Their role players no longer have the same wide-open shots they used to have with Grill on the court:
“It throws our balance, our equilibrium off a little bit that we’ve built over the course of the season,” Otzelberger said. “When our team is playing our best, you usually look at the box score and it’s (balanced scoring) and now it’s a little more challenged that way. Other guys stepping up is going to be important.”
The rest of the team has to step up and take shots they wouldn’t usually take. Needless to say, that doesn’t always translate into winning basketball, and their offense can turn rather stagnant and predictable:
“They’re taking some challenge shots, and more than anything we’ve got to finish the plays at the rim,” Otzelberger said. “Those are guys that have led us in scoring all year, and those are the guys we’re encouraging to take those opportunities. I believe over time it will work itself out for us and for the most part it has. We’re going to continue to put the ball and shots in those guys’ hands and put our trust in them.”
They Need To Close Games Out
The Cyclones have now dropped double-digit games three times this season, blowing leads as big as sixteen points. Of course, that also takes a toll on their confidence when their shots aren’t falling:
“It’s frustrating because of the first half we put together,” senior forward Jaz Kunc said after their loss to Kansas State, “but basketball is two halves, 40 minutes, and we’ve got to make sure when we come out of the locker room for the second half we bring the same energy we do for the start of the game.”
So, there’s some time to straighten the ship and salvage their once-promising season, but they need to do it now and not lose focus in the second half. They have more than enough talent to shock the world in March.