Six out, six in.
The Iowa State Cyclones must replace six key players from last season’s 23-12 team, including its top four scorers. There are six newcomers – freshmen Tre Jackson, Caleb Grill, Marcedus Leech and Luke Anderson along with transfers Rasir Bolton and Javan Johnson. Combined with two returning starters and other holdovers, it all means that this season’s team will be a mystery and could finish either in the bottom half or top half of the Big 12 standings.
While this season’s roster might not have the overall talent of recent teams, its makeup provides some interesting lineup choices. The Cyclones can go with a traditional three guards, two bigs or four guards with one big.
“We’ve got to find the right fit as we go,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm told the Ames Tribune. “Whether that’s big, whether that’s small, whether that’s traditional big, we’ll see as we go. We’re trying a couple different ideas.”
Top 3 story lines
Get the point. From Monte’ Morris for four seasons to Nick Weiler-Babb for the last two, Iowa State could count on consistent point guard play. That could well be the case this season, but right now it’s a game of guess who. Sophomore Tyrese Halliburton was solid as a rookie and has caught the eye of NBA scouts. Senior Prentiss Nixon, who sat out last season as a transfer, and sophomore Rasir Bolton, who is immediately eligible after transferring from Penn State, are versatile and could play the point or elsewhere on the perimeter.
Zion Griffin. A four-star recruit ranked as one of the nation’s top 100 high school players, Griffin’s freshman season in Ames was a bust. Injuries limited his playing time. But at 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, he can be a dynamic power forward. How he performs as a sophomore could determine Iowa State’s success.
A man in the middle. One of the departures from last season was unexpected when Cameron Lard left the team. When locked in, he was one of the Big 12’s best rebounders and shot blockers. This season, the Cyclones need 6-8 junior Solomon Young and 6-10 sophomore George Conditt to help fill those voids. Young was injured and redshirted last season. Conditt averaged eight minutes in his 26 games last season and if he continues to progress could be an X-factor.
Number to know
Iowa State lost 76.8 percent of its scoring from last season’s team that won the Big 12 tournament for the fourth time in the last six seasons. The Cyclones return the second-lowest scoring and rebounding averages among Big 12 teams.
Reasons to hope
It appears that this season the Big 12 will feature teams playing a variety of styles/lineups. Iowa State could be well equipped to adjust in game and game-to-game depending on the opponent.
Reasons to doubt
Last season’s team had scorers who could create off the dribble and beat the defense. Halliburton has that potential but there doesn’t appear to be anyone else with that sort of talent. If the team chemistry doesn’t develop, Iowa State could struggle to score.
KenPom.com preseason rank: 47.
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