Big 12 Team Preview #7: Iowa State CyclonesPosted by KoryCarpenter on November 6th, 2012
Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Iowa State at the #7 position is next on our list.
- 2011-12 Record: 23-11, 12-6 Big 12
- Key Contributors Gone: F Royce White, G Scott Christopherson, G Chris Allen
- Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg, 3rd season
- Projected Finish: 7th
Fred Hoiberg wasted no time after being hired at Iowa State in April 2010, quickly assembling a group of transfers who sat out the first season before making a big impact a year ago. The Cyclones saw a seven-win improvement in 2011-12 and played eventual national champion Kentucky tough — at least for a half — in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament before losing, 87-71. Now Hoiberg is looking to do it again. Last year’s top three scorers are gone, led by NBA first round pick and do-everything forward Royce White. He has two more excellent transfers eligible to play this season and a solid four-man recruiting class to blend with those transfers. Hoiberg proved he could mesh everything together for a successful season a year ago, but he had a lot of help with one of the most difficult forward match-ups in the country in the form of Royce White. The non-conference schedule plays out nicely for the Cyclones, with a few tough games — a possible game with UNLV in Las Vegas in the Global Sports Classic and BYU in Ames — but plenty of multi-directional schools will be at home to boost the win total while the newcomers learn to play together. Hoiberg said at the Big 12 Media Day that he has accomplished what he set out to do, quickly building up the program with transfers and surrounding them with good four-year guys. It was successful last season and Hoiberg’s roster moves this year proves that he thinks it will work again.
Hoiberg said that he’ll always play to the strengths of his team, no matter the style. Last year, he gave the ball to White just about anywhere on the floor and let him distribute to the shooters, and it worked. White was too big for most guards and too fast for most big men. And when he drew extra attention, Cyclone shooters were ready, knocking down 293 three-pointers on the year. Hoiberg called last year’s team unconventional because of White’s offensive game, something that won’t be the case this season. “We’ll have Korie Lucious, a pure point guard again,” Hoiberg said at Big 12 Media Day. “I’m excited about that. It gives us the opportunity to play a little faster.” Lucious, now a redshirt senior, played three seasons at Michigan State, contributing to two Final Four teams for Tom Izzo while averaging 6.5 PPG and 4.1 APG in 2010-11. He takes over for White, sort of. As Hoiberg mentioned, Lucious is a pure point guard, while White was nothing of the sort. Lucious will look to pass first and score second. He’ll push the tempo, and while he’s not a 6’8″, 260-pound mismatch, he brings his own skills to this Cyclone team. “He’s got that experience of leading a basketball team.” Hoiberg said. “And we’ve got the athletes to get out and run and play with him.”
A couple of those athletes are guards Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee, who will rely on Lucious for scoring opportunities much of the season. Babb, one of the original transfers for Hoiberg, played two seasons at Penn State before joining the Cyclones last year. He started every game last season and averaged 7.8 PPG and 4.1 RPG, and he’s also the leading long-range shooter returning with 64 three-pointers made. McGee was the first player off the bench in most games, averaging 19.9 MPG and 7.7 PPG last season.
Outside of Lucious, the most anticipated transfer eligible to play this season seems to be redshirt senior Will Clyburn, who averaged 18.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG for Utah in 2010-11, both team highs. He’s listed as a 6’7″ guard on the Cyclone roster and Hoiberg said he expects Clyburn to play similar to White at times, pushing the ball up the court when he grabs a rebound and not giving it up to a guard. That goes along with Hoiberg’s insistence on playing faster this season, as Clyburn’s length will allow the Cyclones to play small at times if Hoiberg chooses, with Clyburn possibly at the five-spot alongside Melvin Ejim, a 6’6″ junior forward. Ejim was one of the first true freshman Hoiberg brought to Ames in 2010-11, and he averaged 10.3 PPG and 6.7 RPG that year. With the emergence of Royce White last season, Ejim’s numbers saw slight declines (9.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG) but he should get more opportunities withe the extra space down low. When Hoiberg wants to play a little bigger, he can throw in true freshman Georges Niang on the block, a 6’7″, 245 pound four-star recruit. Redshirt senior forward Anthony Booker (3.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG last season) will play a bigger role this season due to his experience, and the trio of three-star freshman — Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Nazareth Long, Nkereuwem Okoro — all have chances to play this season as well, according to Hoiberg.
Why They Might Be Better Than You Think
Iowa State’s success last season proved that his method of stocking up on transfers can be successful, which should give players like Lucious and Clyburn a lot of confidence heading into this season. Both proved they can play at a relatively high level at their previous schools and either player struggling would be a surprise. The rest of the rotation all has experience in Hoiberg’s system and will have the opportunity to showcase their individual games with the departure of White. Likewise, Hoiberg was only in his second year of coaching at the college level last year. He’s undoubtedly learned things the last two seasons that should help him in his first real bout with roster turnover. If he can do what he says and successfully adapt his system to fit his player’s strengths, there’s no reason the Cyclones can’t battle for third place in the Big 12.
For all the reasons the returning players could benefit from a more wide open offense, there’s no denying how much last year’s team relied on Royce White. He led the team in all five major offensive categories. “Six, if you count turnovers,” Hoiberg joked. Everything ran through White, and it worked. There’s talent and experience to fill that void, but there isn’t one player who can be looked at with confidence to completely pick up the slack. Babb and McGee were good last year but were never trusted to do too much. Lucious was good at Michigan State and has great experience but he’s had off-court issues that, if re-hashed, could hurt team chemistry in an instant. Clyburn was impressive at Utah but Utah isn’t the Big 12. And Hoiberg has never had to deal with completely reshaping an offense during an off-season.
The Sleeper Candidate
Anthony Booker never really found a spot in the offense last season with White around. The former Southern Illinois transfer played behind White and Ejim down low and earned just 11.6 MPG. But with Clyburn potentially becoming a White-like perimeter-oriented big man and Niang lacking any collegiate experience, Booker is the only forward next to Ejim with substantial experience in the post. When Hoiberg decides to go with a bigger lineup, Booker’s size and experience will give him the chance to contribute.
The losses of their three leading scorers will be hard to replace this season. Everything that made Royce White great — his size, speed, and versatility– are the same reasons its hard to predict big things for the Cyclones this year. It’s difficult to determine how much of that success was due to White, a rare type of player who won’t be seen again in Ames for a long time. I feel comfortable with all of our Big 12 predictions on this microsite… except Iowa State. With an easy schedule, a good head coach and talent and/or experience at every position, the Cyclones could improve on last year’s 23-11 record. Of course, if it turns out that last year’s one-man show was exactly that, seventh or even eighth place isn’t out of the question.