KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Iowa State men’s basketball team spent the summer picking up plaudits and praise after its Big 12 tournament championship and Sweet 16 season. Most nationally publications bestowed them with a top-15 national ranking.
The coaches that will see the Cyclones most often this winter, though, weren’t as sold, picking them fifth in the league’s preseason poll.
“Coming into this season, people thought we were going to get a little more recognition,” ISU senior Dustin Hogue said Wednesday at the Big 12 media day, “but seeing the coaches put us as low as we were in the polls, makes everybody angry, honestly, on my team.
“I feel as if … being looked at as (a team) who doesn’t have the ability or doesn’t have the team to have a good impact on the Big 12 is a slap in the face. So we kind of take that personal. That’s going to make us play even harder.”
There was little question which team would be the favorite in the Big 12 with Kansas claiming at least a piece of the last 10 Big 12 regular season titles. That run is a testament to the excellence the Jayhawks have achieved under coach Bill Self, but also one that lingers over the rest of the league.
“I was at a camp this summer and someone was talking to us and they were like it’s crazy nobody in the Big 12 can stop one team for 10 years in a row,” preseason all-league selection Georges Niang said, “and that was like me having an open wound and someone pouring alcohol down it. You just don’t know what to say when people say that because facts speak for themselves.
“We’re all competitors and we’re all gunning to knock the top team off.”
The Jayhawks lost lottery picks Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid from last year’s title team, but return Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden while restocking with McDonald’s All-Americans Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander.
“This year I’ve seen a lot of the preseason publications, and a lot of them have five (Big 12) teams that are preseason top 25 teams,” Self said, “but to me, that really doesn’t mean anything either. A lot depends on how we do non-conference. Let’s just face it, we need to play well nonconference because that sets your RPI up for the entire year.
“But there’s multiple teams that would have a legitimate shot at winning our league this year.”
— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneMBB) October 15, 2014
The Cyclones are also reloading after losing All-Americans Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane.
“I don’t know if you can aruge with (being picked fifth) with what we lost,” ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You obviously can see where it came from. Our guys, if you ask them, there is a little motivation but this isn’t a group that needs motivation. They’re going to go out and play whether they’re picked first or whether they’re picked last. It’s just an innate quality in them that they’re going to go out and compete every single time they take the floor, whether that’s two of them in the gym in a shooting contest or if you’re lining up to play on a Big Monday.”
Texas is largely considered the top threat to Kansas with the entireity of last year’s upstart team coming back along with top recruit Myles Turner.
“We’re a year older,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said, “and I would expect some of the experience that we gained a year ago that we’ll hopefully benefit from this year.”
The league’s coaches also tabbed Kansas State and Oklahoma in front of ISU.
“They know how tough it is to win conference games,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “They know how tough it is to win postseason games. They want to do that.”
Hoiberg and his players typically will lead with NCAA tournament success when asked about their goals in a season, but becoming the team that stops Kansas from reaching its 11th-consewcutive title rates high for them as well.
“That’s No. 1,” Niang said, “right up there with national championship.”