After two successful seasons since T.J Otzelberger took over, the Iowa State Cyclones look to take the next step and win the Big 12.
As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.
Over the past two seasons, Iowa State has been severely underrated by the media due to its lack of “star power”. However, both seasons they’ve cracked the top 15 in the AP Poll and won 19 games. Now, they have a deadly combo of solid returning players as well as a solid freshman class.
Tamin Lipsey leads the way for the returners, being the only top-five scorer on last year’s team that returned. They also bring back Robert Jones, a 6-10 big man who does a nice job providing a physical presence and doing the little things for Iowa State.
The big story for this team is the commitment from five-star forward Omaha Biliew. Omaha is the highest-rated recruit in program history and will provide an immediate boost for this team. They also landed a commitment from Milan Momcilovic, the third-highest recruit in program history. If that doesn’t tell you which way this program is going, I don’t know what will.
Iowa State put up one of the worst shooting performances in tournament history last year, but that’s all in the past, and this new team has the potential to make a name for itself.
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Head coach: T.J Otzelberger (8th season, 3rd at Iowa State)
2022-23 record: 19-14 (9-9)
2023 postseason finish: Lost to Pittsburgh in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64
Notable departures: Jaren Homes (Graduated), Gabe Kalscheur (Graduated), Osun Osunniyi (Graduated), Caleb Grill (Transferred to Missouri), Alijaz Kunc (Graduated)
Notable non-conference games: ESPN Events Invitational (November 23rd), @Depaul (December 1st), Iowa (December 7th)
PG: Tamin Lipsey (6-1, 200, So.)
2022-2023 stats: 7.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 48.2 FG%
SG: Jackson Paveletzke (6-2, 175, So.)
2022-2023 stats: 15.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, 49.3 FG% (Wofford)
SF: Keshon Gilbert (6-4, 190, Jr.)
2022-2023 stats: 11.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 46.4 FG% (UNLV)
PF: Omaha Biliew (6-8, 215, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 13 recruit
C: Robert Jones (6-10, 250, Sr.)
2022-2023 stats: 5.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 47.1 FG%
6: Milan Momcilovic (6-8, 210, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 37 recruit
7: Tre King (6-7, 230, Sr.)
2022-2023 stats: 6.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, 50.0 FG%
8: Curtis Jones (6-4, 175, Sr.)
2022-2023 stats: 15.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 78.1 FT% (Buffalo)
9: Hason Ward (6-9, 225, Sr.)
2022-2023 stats: 2.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, 67.4 FG%
10: Demarion Watson (6-7, 215, So.)
2022-2023 stats: 1.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Iowa State Cyclones MVP: Tamin Lipsey
Many people might think that Omaha Biliew will be the MVP, and he very well may be, but Lipsey’s defense pushes him over the top as the Team’s MVP. As a freshman, Lipsey was the 60th ranked player in the country in defensive efficiency according to EvanMiya. Expect that ranking to go even higher with a full season of experience under his belt.
His 2.2 steals per game was 23rd best in the country and his 73 steals was 16th best in the country. Remember, this is just a freshman. Iowa State has always been a grit and grind team that wins low scoring defensive battles, and with Lipsey on the team and running the show, they’ll win those battles.
He can score, rebound and pass as well. Lipsey eclipsed double digit rebounds twice in the final three games of the season and had 8 or more assists four times. He’s not going to give you 20 points a game, but he’ll still contribute and drive inside. Iowa State fans feel like they’ve got hidden treasure with Lipsey, and he’ll show his value on the national stage with the increased responsibility.
Iowa State Cyclones make-or-break player: Omaha Biliew
As mentioned earlier, Biliew is the highest ranked recruit in Cyclones history, leaving the expectation sky high for the freshman. We’ve seen what he’s able to do at the high school level, and if he can translate that to the college level then Iowa State can be a special team this year. He’s got great length, which benefits him on both ends of the floor, and will be a great lob threat for the talented Iowa State guards.
Obviuosly, the jump from high school to college is big, and Iowa State doesn’t really have too much established depth behind Omaha. Momcilovic is also a freshman, Tre King provides a bit of experience but not starter quality. Ward and Watson can step in, but the expectation is for them to be nothing more than role players. So, they need Biliew to be that guy. If he can be that, then Iowa State can really skyrocket to the top half of the Big 12. If not, they might fall in bubble territory, a spot no one wants to be in on Selection Sunday.
Key analytic: Defensive Efficiency
As mentioned earlier, Iowa State is one of the faces of defense wins championships. In the two years Otzelberger has been coach, Iowa State has finished 5th and 8th in AdjD on KenPom. Even with the roster turnaround year over year, the defense never rests.
This year, it won’t be any different. Lipsey is one of the best defenders in the country and Gilbert averaged 1.7 SPG. Curtis Jones also averaged over 1 steal per game last year. Then in the frontcourt, you have Biliew, who could be a defensive monster with his size and athleticism. If Iowa State doesn’t finish top 10 in defensive efficiency again, it’ll be a shock. That’s been the key to back to back tournament appearances and countless upsets, so don’t be surprised if their name is called once again for this reason.
Projected conference finish: 8th in the Big 12
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16