Mar 23, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Baylor Bears guard/forward Ish Wainright (24) high fives center Isaiah Austin (21) in the second half of a men

Iowa State men's basketball: Will the Cyclones be the favorites in Big 12 next season?

The Big 12 is losing a lot of superstars from this season. Iowa State have said goodbye to their seniors, Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, Kansas has already seen Andrew Wiggins announce his decision to go to the NBA Draft while Joel Embiid continues to ponder it, and Oklahoma State knew that this was Marcus Smart‘s final season with the Cowboys.

Mar 28, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg during the first half against the Connecticut Huskies in the semifinals of the east regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Even though “Transfer U” missed out on Temple’s Anthony Lee, there’s still more talented prospects that either are heading, or still looking at the Cyclones. Every season will continue to see a rotation of new potential stars under Fred Hoiberg. Which gives us the question, will Iowa State be the Big 12 favorites in men’s basketball next season?

Most pundits, including Clones Confidential, had Iowa State as the fourth-best team in the Big 12 coming into this season. Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Baylor were arranged in the top three.

The Jayhawks and Cowboys have the most potentially damning exits. Embiid is the anchor for Kansas. Without him? Wiggins could score all he wanted to, but the defense suffered mightily. Embiid’s injury paved the way for Iowa State to crush them inside during the Big 12 semifinal game and allowed Stanford to advance to the Sweet 16 even after missing all 10 3-point attempts.

Oklahoma State will lose Smart and Markel Brown, but they could also lose Le’Bryan Nash. Nash is on the fringe of being drafted in many NBA mock drafts, and he still hasn’t gone public with his decision on whether he’ll be staying for another year. If Nash does leave, Phil Forte and Brian Williams aren’t bad players to lean toward, but it’s a significant downgrade in talent.

Baylor might be the biggest threat in Iowa State’s way of claiming the top spot for next season. Brady Heslip and Cory Jefferson will be gone, but the tandem of Isaiah Austin, Royce O’Neale, and Kenny Chery saw signficant improvement down the stretch. Plus the team is loaded with depth, and with how well they finished after a horrendous start to Big 12 play, people will be remembering that when they create their preseason lists.

Obviously, once we figure out who’s all leaving and coming, it’s hard to analyze if Iowa State will be the best team in the Big 12 heading into next season. But Monte Morris had a Georges Niang-like impact from last season, becoming the surprise freshman that every fan loved. Plus, the likes of Niang, Dustin Hogue, and Hogue’s incoming teammate from Indian Hills CC, Jameel McKay, that will bring in a post presence that Iowa State sorely needed this season.

There’s a very solid argument that the Cyclones will be next season’s Big 12 favorites. But for now, fans just can’t wait until basketball season starts up again this November.

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Tags: Basketball Iowa State Cyclones Joel Embiid Le'bryan Nash

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