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Iowa State Daily

Men’s basketball season recap

Tyler Coe
Tre King holds the Big 12 Championship trophy Keshon Gilbert with his MOP belt cuts down the nets after Iowa State defeated Houston in the Big 12 Championship 69-41 at the men’s basketball Big 12 Championship game against Houston, T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, March 16, 2024.

With Iowa State’s season over, it is time to take a trip down memory lane and look at the big storylines of the season.

With Iowa State having the most successful season of T.J. Otzelberger’s tenure, there was a lot of good to look at. Whether it was the top defense, the offensive firepower or the championship run, Iowa State was electric all season long.

Offense of the ages

It was no surprise that Iowa State’s defense was the star of the season. Given how Otzelberger has built the program’s success on the defensive end of the court, Iowa State finishing the season as the top-ranked defense in the nation was almost written in the stars.

The big surprise came in the overwhelming offense that was on display throughout the season. In years past, it was tough to see Iowa State struggle to consistently put over 50 points on the board. This season was vastly different, as the Cyclones had the potential to score in the 90s if things were clicking.

The addition of Keshon Gilbert and his offensive prowess, Milan Momcilovic’s natural scoring ability, Curtis Jones’ 3-point shot and Tamin Lipsey’s major improvements fed into Iowa State’s best offense in years.

The Cyclones had a knack for finding buckets in every game. That was clear in the postseason when the Cyclones hit their stride.

Iowa State consistently put up more and more shots, as games under 60 points were a rarity. That could not be said in past seasons.

The ability to knock down shots, especially from deep, was something that was the most notable difference in this team versus other Otzelberger teams.

Big 12 Champions

Before the season, it may have been surprising to know that Iowa State was bound to win a Big 12 title, but as the season rolled on, it was almost expected. Throughout the season, it was Iowa State and Houston battling for the top, with the series tied going into the Big 12 Tournament, but Houston having the edge in the record.

Going into the tournament, Iowa State and Houston were expected to battle it out in the final. However, the way Iowa State brought home the title was unexpected.

The Cyclones were coming off a rough road loss to Kansas State, which ended up setting up a rematch in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament. The Wildcats made quick work of Texas to get a shot at Iowa State again.

When the two teams met in the tournament, it was clear that Iowa State had a fire in its eyes and wanted revenge. Although it was not Iowa State’s best offensive performance, Kansas State’s defense could not repeat the miracle at the end of the regular season. The Cyclones rolled through Kansas State, which might have been the momentum they needed to take on the rest of the postseason.

The Cyclones rediscovered their offensive intensity against Baylor in the second round. Threes were falling at a high rate as the Cyclones once again rolled past their opponents. Momcilovic even found his shot again after weeks of struggles.

The last round was all Iowa State, as Hilton South showed out again to push the Cyclones over Houston. I think everyone expected the game to be close, but after halftime, Iowa State destroyed the Cougars.

Beating Houston by nearly 30 points was a good way for the Cyclones to cap off their Big 12 season.

Bright future

With the season done and dusted, it is time to look ahead to the future. With all the players returning and new players coming in, a top-five finish for the Cyclones may not be the peak.

The ceiling has never been higher, as a Sweet 16 is almost an expectation for Otzelberger going forward.

The biggest news is that so far, all the guards are returning. The brunt of Iowa State’s offensive outburst will be back.

Momcilovic, Lipsey and Gilbert were all starters and should be even better in a year. Jones will also be back, which boosts Iowa State’s defense.

With all the big men leaving, there is a worry that the paint presence will not be the same. The addition of Dishon Jackson from Charlotte and JT Rock being off his redshirt season adds much-needed size.

The centers will average a height of 7-feet tall. That is taller than this season and both players could bring a variety of talents to the position.

Given the continued addition of guards and forwards, Iowa State’s future is bright.

The newcomers looked like veterans, and Otzelberger has proven his ability to help players adapt instantly to the Big 12 style of play. That said, Iowa State could take a step up and might even take a big step up next season.

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