T.J. Otzelberger is ready for a lot of challenges when it comes to the Big 12, not the least of which is the future, when its new members join the conference.
In September, the Big 12 invited BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF in the conference in an effort to bolster the league in the wake of the anticipated departures of Oklahoma and Texas for the Southeastern Conference.
Otzelberber, in his first season as head coach at Iowa State, seems eager for what the future brings.
“The Big 12, over time, has established itself as the best league in the country with quality coaches and programs,” Otzelberger said at Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday. “As we move forward I know there’s a lot of uncertainty with adding team and how that may go. I know the administrators and the decision makers are doing the best they can to make sure this league stays at the top nationally and I’m eager to embrace that challenge.”
He believes all four programs are good fits for the league, but was asked directly about BYU, which will join the league in 2023-24.
BYU is a program with a rich hoops history and tradition,” Otzelberger said. “They’ve had some really good seasons and they have a passionate fan base. This league has that history and that tradition, too. It will be exciting to see what they bring to the table.”
The Cyclones are coming off their worst season in generations, as they went just 2-20 in 2020-21 and lost in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. That season cost Steve Prohm his job, and athletic director Jamie Pollard took less than a week to hire T.J. Otzelberger to replace him. Otzelberger was a former ISU assistant under Greg McDermott, Fred Hoiberg and Prohm, and was most recently the head coach at UNLV. He had previously been the head coach at South Dakota State, where he led the Jackrabbits to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Cyclones have just 12 players on their roster at the moment, the result of masisve turnover that included guards Rasir Bolton (Gonzaga) and Jalen Coleman-Lands (Kansas) transferring. The Cyclones took in a large group of transfers, including former Penn State guard Izaiah Brockington, and protected the one top recruit Prohm signed for the 2021 class — guard Tyrese Hunter.
The Cyclones open the season at home on Nov. 9 against Kennesaw State.
Heartland College Sports Big 12 Basketball Preview
Top 25 Returning Players: No. 25 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua| No. 24 Christian Braun | No. 23 Rondel Walker | No. 22 Umoja Gibson | No. 21 Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe | No. 20 Nijel Pack | No. 19: Marcus Santos-Silva | No. 18 Mike McGuirl| No. 17 Jalen Bridges | No. 16 Kalib Boone | No. 15 Kevin McCullar | No. 14 Isaac Likekele | No. 13 Adam Flagler | No. 12 Jalen Coleman-Lands | No. 11 Sean McNeil | No. 10 Taz Sherman
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