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Non-Conference Preview: Iowa State

The Tigers face off against an old Big Eight foe for the 3rd time since leaving for the SEC.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve done it! We’ve successfully written mostly nonsense about all 13 Non-Conference games from the impending 2022-23 basketball season. It’s always a bit of an arduous process for me since the schedule is usually released about the same time as the SEC Previews begin ramping up.

But I feel like these are more fun to write because there’s less formality. We’ll learn a little, poke fun a little, and try and have fun.

The rest of the Non-Con (complete with links to the post):

Our final Non-Conference matchup is the Cyclones of Iowa State. What do we have in store when they come to visit in late January? Let's find out!

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Baylor Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach | T.J. Otzelberger | 2nd Season 22-13

There aren’t many coaches in the recent history of College Basketball who can claim a sub-.500 record at a Mid-Major school for two seasons before being hired at a Power Conference gig, but that’s exactly what T.J. Otzelberger did when Iowa State made him the 21st head coach in program history.

The 45-year-old Wisconsin native was more than familiar with Ames, having been an assistant coach there under both Greg McDermott and Fred Hoiberg. After leaving to work at University of Washington for a few years, he even came back to help out Steve Prohm in his first season. From there, Otzelberger took the South Dakota State job. Scott Nagy had built up that program through its transition into Division 1 basketball before taking the job at Wright State, and Otzelberger came in and kept the engine humming with back-to-back NCAA appearances and a league championship in his 3rd year before being upset in the Conference Tournament.

In 2019, Otzelberger was hired by then-UNLV Director of Athletics, and current Mizzou AD Desiree Reed-Francois, to coach the Running Rebels. While he didn’t restore UNLV to their former glory, he did enough to make Iowa State think he could fix Steve Prohm’s mess in Ames. And he did.

Or at least last year was solid. The Cyclones rode a 12-0 start behind the 5th ranked defense to an NCAA Tournament bid despite going just 7-11 in Big 12 Conference play. Can Otzelberger hold on in what some might argue is the best basketball conference in the country?

Series History | Mizzou leads 92-58

NCAA Men’s Basketball - Iowa State vs Missouri - January 25, 2006
Ah the good ol’ days.
Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

Mizzou has played the Cyclones more than anyone else in the country not named Kansas State. For the Tigers, they’re 4th on the Cyclones list. But 150 games between the two teams have been played, with Missouri winning 92 of them for a .613 win percentage.

But just three of those contests have occurred since the Tigers left for the SEC. Mizzou won in 2017, with a rocking Mizzou Arena behind them in Cuonzo Martin’s first game and the debut of Michael Porter, Jr. All of that went very well.

But in the next season, the return trip to Ames was a bumpy one. Mizzou turned the ball over a LOT, got down late in the 1st half and was never able to seriously threaten the Cyclones. The two teams played again last year in the Big 12-SEC Challenge (real creative scheduling there, everyone) and if you remember that game, I’m sorry. It was a brutal offensive game for long stretches, and even though Mizzou led by 5 with just under a minute left in the first half, the bottom fell out and they got lost in a 21-3 run to eventually lose 67-50.

The last two trips to Ames aside, this game is in Columbia! Mizzou has not lost to Iowa State at home since 2007 when an 11-2 Tigers team in year 1 under Mike Anderson dropped a one point game to McDermott in his first season. Marshall Brown had 19 points, Stefhon Hannah collected 17, and Matt Lawrence had 10 points, but no other Tiger really helped out as Dodie Dunson came off the bench for the Cyclones to hit 4 of 7 three-point shots to score 19 points. (I looked this all up, this is not recall, so I will forgive you if you do not remember Dodie Dunson). The Tigers would return the favor and win by 22 in Ames just a month later. Which sparked a 10-1 series finish before the Tigers made their exit after 2012.

What about the team now?

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Few people remember the regular season these days, and for Iowa State that might not be a bad thing. They squeaked into the NCAA Tournament as an 11 seed, upset a disinterested LSU team playing without their coach, and took down a wildly overrated Wisconsin team before falling in the Sweet 16 to a weirdly hot Miami team. As good Missouri fans, you probably watched in horror knowing that Kansas’ bracket was going to break that way for the Jayhawks.

The Cyclones were a terrific defensive team and found ways to scrap together enough offense to make up the difference on a lot of nights. One driver of that offense was Izaiah Brockington, a Penn State transfer who averaged almost 17 points per game. Only 4-star freshman point guard Tyrese Hunter would join Brockington in averaging double-digit scoring. Brockington graduated and Hunter transferred, meaning the defense should again be good, but the question is— who will do the scoring?

Otzelberger tried to get a little help in the transfer portal, but the results were mixed. He landed Jaren Holmes from St. Bonaventure, who played the 4th most %min in the country at 94.7% and averaged 13.5 points per contest. Also from the Bonnies is senior center Osun Osunniyi, one of the top shot blockers in the country. He was also consistent offensively, good for double-digit points and 7.5 rebounds or more throughout his career. They also picked up former Temple guard Jeremiah Williams, who led the team in assists and scored 9.5 points per game. Hason Ward comes over from VCU after averaging just 6.5 points per game, but in keeping with the theme, he was a great defender and rebounder and led the team in blocked shots, and 2nd in rebounds.

In a move you don’t see too often, Conrad Hawley transferred in from Kansas... Football. That’s right, Hawley was a quarterback for the Jayhawks as a freshman, but left the team and transferred in to play at Iowa State... for Basketball.

Back in the fold are mid-season transfer Tre King, a hybrid post player from Eastern Kentucky, and role players Aljaz Kunc, Caleb Grill, and Robert Jones. Gabe Kalscheur is back as well and can provide a little pop of scoring, but all four are excellent defensive players.

There’s also a trio of freshmen who seem to fit the bill for what Otzelberger has been seeking— three 3-stars all ranked between 146 and 189. At 146 is Minnesota wing Demarion Watson, at 147 is Eli King, a combo guard also from Minnesota. And at 189 is hometown point guard Tamin Lipsey.

Iowa State should be good again, but probably like top 50 or 60 good, and probably not like top 25 good. They’ll probably be top 10 in defense again, but the big question will be how they generate offense.