This season I (like most of you) have fallen in the trap of blaming bad results on lack of depth. That is what we hear all the time: we are losing games because we have a depth problem. From doing a bit of research, while I think the team needs more depth, it is the lack of good players that is the bigger issue.
A lot of times when we talk about the team, we say things like "imagine if we had just one more guy like a Dendy or Hamilton with this team". I think what we are really saying is "imagine if we had a player that is better than Railey or Godfrey right now that can take the bulk of the minutes, so guys like Railey and Godfrey can play the role of coming off the bench".
I did some research, looking at bench minutes as a percent of total minutes played. Iowa State comes in 336th out of 345 in bench minutes. Do you know who comes in 337th? Ohio State. You know, the team that was ranked #1, and will likely make a deep tournament run. Is lack of depth killing them? No. Why? Because they have darn good players.
Here are the BCS conference teams that rank in the Top Quartile of Bench Minutes:
Nebraska, Arkansas, Cincy, Kansas State, Missouri, Arizona, Washington, NC State, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Lousiville, and Auburn.
There are some good teams, some bad teams. Without a doubt, most of these teams are having a better season than us, but there are also some "meh" teams in there as well. About half these teams are in the NCAA tournament conversation, while the other half are not.
Here are the BCS conference teams that rank in the Bottom Quartile of Bench Minutes:
Texas, Clemson, Rutgers, Georgia, Syracuse, Miami (FL), Alabama, Marquette, Providence, Wisconsin, Cal, Northwestern, Michigan, Oklahoma, USC, Notre Dame, Baylor, Kentucky, Iowa State, Ohio State, Penn State.
Like the above list, there are some duds, but unlike the top list, there are some studs as well.
One thing that is worth noting, is the pace at which Iowa State plays. Right now, they are 32nd in the nation in adjusted tempo, meaning they play a faster game. Conventional wisdom says if you play fast, you need more bodies. Of the teams in the bottom quartile, only Providence and Cal plays a faster tempo than average. In fact, Providence plays a faster tempo than us, but knowing how Keno Davis rolls, that should be no surprise.
With that, the issue is a pace issue right? Iowa State just needs to play a little slower like the other teams they are grouped with, and they may do better right? Wrong. There is a reason why we try to push the tempo. That reason?
Lack of players.
If we have better players, we can execute a better half court game, allowing for a slower tempo. We have to push the ball, because it gives the team the best chance to get open shots. Hoiberg & Co. are not idiots. I'm sure they would love to slow it down, but they know that pushing it is their best chance to win.
I think it is easy to look at Iowa State from a high level and say "lack of depth". They are running a lot, don't have enough players, so lack of depth is the issue. No. They are running a lot because they do not have good enough players to slow it down. If they could slow it down, depth would be less of an issue. The way to get better is to get better players on the floor.