It’s finally here. Fred Hoiberg enters his fourth season as the Iowa State men’s basketball head coach with expectations never being higher. With new recruits making a big impact early and a huge transfer that’s expected to be a star, the Cyclones aren’t expected to miss a beat even with the mass exodus of talented players.
Fans are just hoping that a few more calls and couple less games that end in heartbreak are in store for the team.
2012-13 quick recap
Iowa State finished 23-12 overall and made it into the NCAA tournament, crushing Notre Dame and losing to Ohio State on a last-second shot by Aaron Craft. The team was a thrill to watch all season. Korie Lucious and Will Clyburn improved in the backcourt as the season progressed, Melvin Ejim was a force inside rebounding the ball, Chris Babb was one of the best defenders on the team, and Tyrus McGee came off the bench and drained 3′s from the logo in the middle of the court.
Unfortunately, Iowa State will have none of those players when they open up play on Sunday afternoon. Ejim is one of the key returnees but is out until at least the game against BYU. Georges Niang is also back, making an impact immediately as a freshman last year and becoming a starter almost immediately.
Until Ejim gets back, the starting lineup is projected to be Niang, Dustin Hogue, Naz Long, Matt Thomas, and DeAndre Kane; Hogue has the size and rebounding ability to move into the power forward position for the time being.
The highest-touted recruit is Kane, a transfer from Marshall. He’ll play at the point and already brings in so much talent when it comes to running the offense, and his only downfall is when it comes to the free throw line.
Another returner is Percy Gibson, the biggest player on the team and an established junior center that will hopefully continue to build on his game and provide more of an impact off the bench this season.
There’s plenty of other transfers and a couple more freshman that have talent to win some time on the team. One person that took advantage of his time was Monte Morris, a freshman that impressed along with Thomas in the exhibition game last Sunday.
It’s not a lackluster non-conference schedule that Iowa State has been used to for the last couple seasons. Michigan, BYU, Northern Iowa, Iowa, and the Diamond Head Classic tournament in Hawaii that features George Mason and St. Mary’s highlight the non-conference slate. All the teams are recognizable, but there should be some layups at home such as UMKC, Auburn, and Northern Illinois.
The Big 12 slate opens up with a bang with Baylor and Kansas coming into Hilton in the first two weeks. Both games against the Jayhawks will be over with by the end of January, and there’s a road trip to Stillwater against Oklahoma State in early February. Things get a little bit nicer throughout the month of February with two games against TCU and West Virginia, along with a home game against Texas Tech. The season ends with a gauntlet of Kansas State and Baylor on the road, and finishing up with Oklahoma State at home before the Big 12 Championship.
In most preseason polls, Iowa State is expected to be the team that will be right behind Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Baylor. Last season’s team was better than the record indicated; they would have won so many more games if some breaks went their way. This season’s team could be even better as they continue to work together.
We’re talking a potential top 25 team that could thrust themselves into taking a top four seed in the NCAA tournament. That’s pretty high for all these new faces on the Cyclones, but Hoiberg as the magic to bring a number of diverse personalities together and play like a team that respects each other.