Welcome to Playboy.com’s 2014 Bracket Challenge

The Iowa State Cyclones are Crashing the Big 12 party, upending Oklahoma State and Kansas, looking for a 2014 March Madness bid

Team Preview: 2014 Iowa State Cyclones

By: Dan Ilika

Coach: Fred Hoiberg

2012-13 record: 23-12, 11-7 in the Big 12

Like it or not, Iowa State University is Canada when it comes to Division I men’s basketball. For starters, its home doesn’t scream “hoops.” The team has never won a championship. And its best finish in the modern era—an Elite Eight appearance in 2000—came the same year Canada’s national squad made a surprising splash in the Olympics, where it finished seventh overall. Yet somehow, someway, the Cyclones keep on keepin’ on. And, much like Canada, Iowa State has shown some promise in recent years.

Much of the credit is owed to coach Fred Hoiberg, who has figured out a way to get the most out of his roster on a nightly basis. How far that “most” will go probably doesn’t make it the near 800 miles from Central Iowa to North Texas, but the Cyclones are sure to turn some heads in March.

Strongside: Iowa State’s biggest hope for tournament glory is the continued success of its head coach. Now in his fourth year with the Cyclones, Hoiberg has provided a real booster shot to the program since taking the helm ahead of the 2010-11 season and has found a way to make Ames, Iowa a desirable destination for D-I and junior college transfers alike.

That story continues in 2013-14, where DeAndre Kane and a trio of JuCo transfers will look to make an impact from the get-go for Iowa State as it aims to put up a fight in a tough Big 12. A three-year starter at Marshall, Kane is entering his senior year as a leader with the Cyclones despite 2013-14 being his first season in Ames. Six-foot-four guard Kane can do it all and averaged 15.1 points, seven assists and 4.4 rebounds to go with a respectable 1.8 steals in his junior year with the Thundering Herd.

JuCo transfers Daniel Edozie and Dustin Hogue bring experience to an Iowa State team that lost four of its top six scorers from last season.

Toronto native Melvin Ejim enters his senior season as one the Cyclones’ most athletic wings with a nice shooting stroke and a much improved touch from deep, and junior Georges Niang has proven himself a reliable weapon for Iowa State.

Weakside: Looking up and down the Iowa State roster, there is one glaring weakness that’s hard to shake: a lack of size. Despite the fine balance between youth and experience, there isn’t a whole lot of height on the Cyclones this year, something that could hurt the team against bigger opponents like conference rivals Kansas.

While Coach Hoiberg’s ability to attract transfers has paid big dividends in the past, there’s always the fear that new faces means a lack of identity. The addition of experienced transfers looks good on paper, but building a hierarchy on the fly can be difficult—and damaging. Whether Kane defers to Ejim and Niang or looks to get his will be an interesting story line for Iowa State this season, and one that could make or break its tournament hopes.

All Told: If a potential on-court power struggle is Iowa State’s biggest worry this season then things are looking pretty good for Coach Hoiberg and his squad. Iowa State may not be the best team in the country, but the former NBA journeyman has found a way to make his hometown alma mater a competitive team that could surprise a few foes and fans alike. After back-to-back tournament appearances—the team’s first since 2000-01—the dress rehearsal is over for Iowa State. And with the promise the team has shown in recent years, the Cyclones will look to turn a few heads again in March.


Dan Ilika is a Toronto-based journalist who writes about business. He once had a beer with Jerry Rice. Follow him on Twitter at @ParkdaleDan if you want.

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