T.J. Otzelberger has the Iowa State Cyclones off to a 10-0 start and he’s the ‘clear favorite’ for National Coach of the Year, according to one Sports Illustrated writer.
Kevin Sweeney’s piece highlighted five first-year coaches that have exceeded expectations in Year 1 at their program. Sweeney’s list featured Arizona coach — and former Mark Few protégé — Tommy Lloyd, Minnesota coach Ben Johnson, DePaul coach Tony Stubblefield and Marquette coach Shaka Smart, who led Texas to the Big 12 Tournament title last March.
Sweeney wrote about the offensive contributions of Izaiah Brockington and Tyrese Hunter but saved his biggest praise for what Otzelberger has done with the Cyclones’ defense, which just shut down Iowa in a 20-point win last week.
But what has really allowed the Cyclones to surprise under Otzelberger has been the team’s remarkable defensive turnaround. Hunter has been a ballhawk on the defensive end, while forwards Tristan Enaruna and George Conditt IV make life difficult on drives to the rim. The result? In five games against high-major teams, opponents are scoring just 0.83 points per possession.
Iowa State was picked last in the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll, but signaled they were on the upswing after wins over ranked teams at the NIT Season Tip-off on Thanksgiving week, defeating Xavier and Memphis in New York City.
The Cyclones have two games remaining before they open Big 12 play against Baylor on Jan. 1. The Cyclones host Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 19 and Chicago State on Dec. 21.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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