AMES, Iowa — Iowa State lost four of its top six scorers from last season and was still picked to finish fourth in the Big 12.
It looks like the rest of the league is through doubting Fred Hoiberg and the Cyclones.
Despite yet another major overhaul of its roster, Iowa State is expected to compete for its third straight NCAA tournament berth in 2013-14.
The Cyclones bring back senior forward Melvin Ejim, a preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection, and emerging sophomore Georges Niang. Transfer DeAndre Kane will take over at point guard after averaging 15 points a game last season at Marshall, and guards Monte Morris and Matt Thomas should contribute immediately as freshmen.
Though being slotted fourth in the preseason Big 12 poll doesn’t sound terribly lofty, it’s actually the highest Iowa State has been picked in 13 years.
“I think our guys feel a little bit of respect with being picked in the top half of our league. Will we live up to that? I don’t know yet. Hopefully, we’ll continue to evolve and come together,” Hoiberg said.
The Cyclones do have plenty of questions to answer, though — and very little time to do so.
They’ll be counting on unproven junior college transfer Daniel Edozie for depth behind center Percy Gibson and fellow juco transfer K.J. Bluford for scoring off the bench. It’s also unclear what the Cyclones have in sophomore guards Naz Long and Sherron Dorsey-Walker.
“I’m still trying to figure out what exactly we are as a group. What will our identity be? Just because we have so many new people on this roster, so many new faces. But I like what I’ve seen,” Hoiberg said.
Iowa State’s non-conference schedule is its toughest in recent memory. The Cyclones host national runner-up Michigan on Nov. 17 and face BYU, Auburn, Northern Iowa, Iowa and George Mason before Christmas.