This preview and more on Iowa State and the Big 12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
Iowa State Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-12 (11-7 Big 12)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (62-39 at Iowa State)
Big 12 projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
With three junior college transfers and a pair of high school signees all vying for playing time, Fred Hoiberg says it may be a while before he has a good feel for his Iowa State basketball team.
“Right now there are a lot of unknowns,” Hoiberg says.
The scenario isn’t all that new for the Cyclones, who continue to win at a high level despite a roster that features so many new faces each year that people jokingly refer to Iowa State as “Transfer U”. While transfers — many of whom arrive with baggage — often flounder at other schools, Hoiberg has proven to be as good as any coach in America at incorporating new parts and getting them to blend with those already in place.
It worked with transfers such as Royce White, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson, who led the Cyclones to 23 wins, a top-four finish in the Big 12 and the third round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons. Cyclones fans are hoping former Marshall standout DeAndre Kane and the other new arrivals can help continue the trend in 2013-14.
While most of Iowa State’s rotation will be dotted with new faces, the Cyclones couldn’t feel better about what they have returning in the post, where starters Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang return after starting every conference game last season. “When they’re on the floor,” Hoiberg says, “I like our chances against anyone.”
Ejim, who will be a fourth-year starter, is a bit undersized at 6-6. But that didn’t stop him from averaging 11.3 points and a league-best 9.3 boards a year ago. The highly skilled Niang is fresh off one of the best freshman seasons in Iowa State history. The 6-7, 245-pounder averaged 12.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and shot a team-high 51.5 percent from the field. Niang has the versatility to score from anywhere on the court, including 3-point range.
The Cyclones are counting on junior Percy Gibson to step up after a disappointing sophomore campaign. Hoiberg describes junior college transfer Daniel Edozie as “a big, physical kid who will get in there and battle. He’s a good rebounder.”
As comfortable as Iowa State feels about its frontcourt, the Cyclones are in a state of flux on the perimeter, where Babb, Lucious, Clyburn and Tyrus McGee all graduated. That foursome combined to average 47.2 points last season. “It’s going to be a completely different look,” Hoiberg says. “There’s going to be a battle for minutes. I’m excited to see who emerges.”
The Cyclones received a huge boost in May when Kane announced he was leaving Marshall and transferring to Iowa State, where he will be eligible to play immediately. A combo guard, Kane is one of two active Division I players to average 15 or more points in each of his first three college seasons. He averaged 15.1 points and seven assists in 2012-13.
Senior Bubu Palo is a candidate to join Kane in the backcourt. Off-court issues limited Palo to 17 games last season, but the former walk-on is still one of the squad’s most experienced players and its top perimeter defender.
A pair of junior college transfers, K.J. Bluford and Dustin Hogue, could also factor prominently into the mix. Hoiberg likes the 6-6 Hogue because of his ability to play multiple positions. And he says Bluford is a “Tyrus McGee type” because of his ability to connect from long range.
Matt Thomas, who is considered one of the top shooters in the Class of 2013, could be a factor, too, along with freshman Monte Morris and redshirt freshman Sherron Dorsey-Walker.
Don’t be surprised if Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, a combo guard, leads the team in scoring. Matt Thomas and Monte Morris are both top-100 prospects who could make significant impacts as freshmen. K.J. Bluford led the junior college ranks in 3-pointers per game last season. Dustin Houge in another juco who could play a big role on the perimeter.
Factoid: 9.9. The Cyclones led the nation by averaging 9.9 made 3-point field goals per game in 2012-13. Iowa State ranked third nationally in scoring (79.4 ppg).
Iowa State has the talent to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth for the third straight year, but only if the newcomers jell in a hurry. Hoiberg has dealt with a plethora of fresh faces before, but in most of those scenarios, the players were transfers who had spent a year on campus practicing with the team before becoming eligible. “With the other guys, we knew what we were getting and who they were going to be,” Hoiberg says. “These guys are going to have to bond right from the start.”