Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Iowa State.
Where We Left Off: For Iowa State fans, please excuse us, we don’t mean to re-live a bad memory. The 2012-13 season ended with Aaron Craft ripping the hearts out of Cyclone Nation with a go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds of the second (or now third?) round of the NCAA Tournament last March. Iowa State made a serious statement a year ago, proving it belongs among the league’s best teams after finishing in a tie for fourth in the conference. While Hilton Coliseum has never been an easy place to play, Fred Hoiberg‘s mesh of young players and transfers has paid dividends in making Iowa State one of the scariest teams in the league every season.
Positives: Fresh off a successful run in league play a season ago, there’s so much to like about where Hoiberg has this program headed. While this Iowa State team did lose several key components to graduation, they return Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang in the frontcourt, both of whom played significant minutes last year. Ejim is a double-double machine down low and one of the best rebounders in the conference (although Ejim is expected to be out for most of November with a knee injury), while Niang has crafty skills to score the ball around the basket, and the touch to stretch a defense with his ability to knock down the outside jumper. Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane will be leaned on to fill the void from departed point guard Korie Lucious after averaging 15.1 points per game a season ago for the Thundering Herd, and freshman Matt Thomas is a sharpshooter who will fit in beautifully with Hoiberg’s three-point heavy system, helping Cyclone fans get over the loss of Tyus McGee to graduation.
Negatives: Hoiberg has transformed Iowa State into “Transfer U.” since he took over as head coach, and the strategy has worked almost flawlessly during this period. That said, there’s always a bit of a risk in relying so heavily on impact transfers and hoping the roster will gel during the year. While there is still a ton of talent on this team, the departures of Lucious and McGee, along with Chris Babb and Will Clyburn will create a big uncertainty in the backcourt. Whether Iowa State can continue to shoot the ball from deep as well as it has in the past will be a major factor in the team’s success this season.