This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Iowa State.
Strengths: Georges Niang is getting most of the attention coming into this season, and he certainly should. He’s the best returning player in the Big 12 outside of Juwan Staten and his much-publicized physical transformation should help him stay on the court for as long as Fred Hoiberg needs him. Still, there’s a lot more to this team than just him. Dustin Hogue had a great junior season and played at least 35 minutes in seven of the team’s final nine games. Abdel Nader and Daniel Edozie bring depth to the frontcourt, as will Jameel McKay when he becomes eligible in December. Throw in long-range bombers like Naz Long, Matt Thomas and a skilled ball-handler in Monte Morris, then top it off with the promise of 7’1″ Greek import Georgios Tsalmpouris, and you can see the Cyclones throwing any of a number of looks at opposing teams. Iowa State been an offensive juggernaut under Hoiberg, finishing in the top 12 nationally in offensive efficiency each of the last three seasons, and his team has a great chance to pull off such a feat again. Even with Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane now gone, the team still has a deep arsenal of offensive weapons, so look for Iowa State to put up points in a hurry — same as it ever was.
Weaknesses: While Hoiberg has always fielded strong offensive teams, did you know that he’s never had a top-5o defense in five seasons in Ames? His M.O. has always been to sacrifice blocks and steals to speed up the transition game, but while it usually works, it hasn’t made his defense any less vulnerable and there are similar questions this year. Kane’s replacement, newcomer Bryce Dejean-Jones, doesn’t have much of a defensive reputation. Tsalmpouris and Edozie could provide shot-blocking help, but with Edozie having played just sparingly and Tsalmpouris getting settled in, it’s hard to say how much either will contribute. The next biggest concern could be the speed at which Dejean-Jones gets acclimated on the offensive end, but given Hoiberg’s proven success with transfers, he should be just fine. The team’s biggest weakness is again its lack of size down low, which significantly reduces the Cyclones’ margin of error on down shooting nights (ISU went just 1-5 when it shot 40 percent or worse from the floor last season).