The Iowa State Cyclones’ men’s basketball season is done. Here are five thoughts about the 2021-22 season and what’s ahead for the basketball program.
I freely admit — I was on board with .500 and a potential NIT bid as a ‘good season’ for 2021-22 after last year’s two-win season. Well coach T.J. Otzelberger blew that out of the water. The Cyclones started the season by winning all of their non-conference games leading into Big 12 play, including wins over ranked Xavier and Memphis to win the NIT Tip-off. After that, the Cyclones were ranked for a good portion of the season. Big 12 play exposed Iowa State’s offensive issues, but the Cyclones still managed to end up with double-digit Quad 1 wins, one of the few teams in the country that could say that. The Cyclones stumbled with two losses at the end of the regular season, plus a loss to Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament. But, in the NCAA Tournament, the Cyclones became the first team to go from two wins one season to the Sweet 16 the next year, with wins over LSU and Wisconsin. The Cyclones finished the season 22-13, with their 20-win turnaround one of the best one-season turnarounds in NCAA history.
Izaiah Brockington and George Conditt IV have both announced that they’re foregoing their last seasons of college eligibility to head to professional basketball. The Cyclones have several other seniors on the roster — Tre King, Aljaz Kunc, Carter Boothe, Gabe Kalscheur and Eric Steyer. Kunc and Kalscheur each have a COVID year to trigger. King transferred to the Cyclones during the season and will be on the team next season. Jaden Walker and Tre Jackson are reportedly headed for the transfer portal.
Who’s Coming Back?
This is Tyrese Hunter’s team now. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year, who averaged 11 points per game, will take on a bigger scoring role in 2022-23. If his performance against LSU is any indication, then he’s ready. King should have a considerable say in the team’s offense next season after averaging nearly 15 points per game at Eastern Kentucky in 2020-21. If Kalscheur and Kunc trigger their COVID seasons, that’s another combined 15 points per game. Guard Caleb Grill could slide into a starting role after averaging 6.4 points, and forward Tristan Enaruna will be back, too. In all, the Cyclones could return five of their top seven scorers from this season. That’s a good start.
Who’s Coming In?
Otzelberger’s first signing class yielded three players — guard Eli King (6-foot-3, Caledonia, Minn.), guard Tamin Lipsey (6-foot-2, Ames, Iowa) and forward Demarion Watson (6-foot-7, Maple Grove, Minn.). Keeping the local kid home is a coup, and King and Lipsey have experience playing together in AAU basketball. Otz hauled in a Top 30 class nationally. King is a four-star recruit.
What to Watch For
The status of Kunc and Kalscheur is first priority. Next, it’s time to hit the transfer portal, and the Cyclones are reportedly talking to at least one player — Temple transfer Jeremiah Williams. After that, Otz and the coaching staff hit the recruiting trail for the 2023 class and the gym to work with the returning players. The development of Hunter, among others, will be the key to making sure the Cyclones get back to being a consistent winning team.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.