There's now denying it now, the Iowa St. Cyclones may very well be the surprise team of the Big 12 Conference. Currently sitting at 14-0 and coming off a big win, I'd think expectations are growing. Cylentbutdeadly of Wide Right & Natty Lite, the SBNation Blog for all things Cyclones, took the time to answer a few questions for us about this squad.
CCM - Let me start of by saying what an incredible start to the season the Cyclones have had. With three wins over top 25 programs (Michigan, Iowa, and Baylor), is this the start many fans expected from this squad under the direction of Fred Hoiberg?
I think most expected Iowa State to be the 4th best team in the league and make a third straight NCAA tournament, but the 14-0 start has been a surprise for everyone. I had Iowa State losing 2-3 games in the non conference coming into the year and with a rotation that returned only two guys (Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang) that saw serious minutes last year returning, I thought it was going to take time for this team to come together. The galvanizing force has been DeAndre Kane, who's playing like an all-American, but Dustin Hogue has been a pleasant surprise in his own right and addition of Doc Sadler to the coaching staff can't be overlooked either. Of course, Fred Hoiberg is the glue that holds it all together.
CCM - Coach Hoiberg takes an untraditional approach in finding success. While Bill Self was out looking for elite freshman, ISU took in transfers and now sports a 14-0 record. What has made Ames an attractive place for past transfers like Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, and Chris Babb?
The perception of Hoiberg is that he relies solely on transfers and cast-offs to infuse talent into the Cyclone program. While this isn't incorrect, it also doesn't tell the whole story. What many fail to realize is that Hoiberg has done fairly well integrating prep talent with the transfers. Ejim was committed to Greg McDermott, but he's only played for Hoiberg and has truly blossomed into a star over the course of his career. Hoiberg also has brought into three top 100 prospects that are fixtures in the Cyclone rotation in Niang and current freshman Monte Morris and Matt Thomas. Another 4-star prospect will be joining fray next in Clayton Custer. Hoiberg is also utilizing Naz Long and to a lesser degree, Sherron Dorsey-Walker, who weren't highly touted coming out if high school, but are making an impact nonetheless.
Back to the original question, though. The transfers have elevated the ISU program, there's no doubt about that. They've made the transition back to prominence a quick one and it's been a two-way street when it comes to benefitting both the athletes and the program. Hoiberg isn't bring in just any old transfers. He's identified guys that have legit talent and have pro prospects. Hoiberg has been able to sell playing time for and foremost, but also a chance to learn and development under his tutelage. Hoiberg was a 10-year vet in the NBA and worked in the T-Wolves front office for several years and has contacts all over the league. He can sell that type of connection to both transfers and preps as a means to realizing a potential dream for these athletes.
CCM - How has DeAndre Kane, a transfer from Marshall, impacted this Iowa St. team thus far? Does he have a shot at taking home the Wooden Player of the Year Award?
How has DeAndre Kane not impacted this team? He does everything. Kane toughness and leadership might be the single biggest reason for Iowa State's success and at this point, he absolutely deserves some Wooden consideration.- How has DeAndre Kane, a transfer from Marshall, impacted this Iowa St. team thus far? Does he have a shot at taking home the Wooden Player of the Year Award?
CCM - Of the remaining undefeated teams, the Cyclones are getting the least respect regardless of the top BPI ranking. Is this team just a pretender or big time contender?
I don't think anyone in the ISU fan base is too concerned with the ranking at this point. We all know those are predicated on pre season expectations and ISU just didn't have the type of buzz coming into the year that other programs had. We'll find out just how good this team is to open conference play as their next 7 games feature two against Oklahoma and Kansas, plus contests against Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
CCM - Give us a score prediction for the game.
For a look at how cylentbutdeadly predicts this game going, be sure to check out the story, "Let's Talk Oklahoma."