AMES, Iowa — There wasn’t a high-major program in the country with a more potent offense than Iowa State last season.
The Cyclones plan on being even more explosive in 2014-15.
The hottest topic surrounding Iowa State in recent weeks has been coach Fred Hoiberg’s desire to “play fast.” The 14th-ranked Cyclones want to push the tempo as much as they can this season behind sophomore point guard Monte Morris and a cast of athletic scorers.
Iowa State (28-8 in 2013-14) host Oakland in its season opener on Friday night.
“I think we have a lot more weapons,” forward Georges Niang said. “A bunch of guys can really score the ball.”
Morris is the key component in Iowa State’s plan to top the 82.9 points a game it scored last season, which was tops among the power five conference schools. He set an NCAA record as a freshman with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.97-to-1, and Morris will be asked to control the offense more than ever now that DeAndre Kane has graduated.
Morris shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range and averaged nearly seven points a game last season. But he’ll be looked upon more for assists than baskets.
Morris believes that the key to a better offense is a better defense, which will allow the Cyclones to attack opponents in space before they can get back and get set.
“Communication will be big for us. We know that if we talk to each other and get stops, we can get out in transition,” Morris said. “You’ll see a lot of nice plays.”
Niang scored 16.7 points a game last season, and he should be able to run better than he ever has after dropping 25 pounds following foot surgery. But he’s far from the only option Iowa State will have on offense.
The Cyclones have at least eight guys they can count on for baskets.
Senior forward Dustin Hogue will be a larger focus in Iowa State’s game plans after scoring 34 points in an NCAA tournament loss to Connecticut.
Guard Bryce Dejean-Jones led UNLV in scoring at 13.6 points a game last season and was named the Big 12’s preseason Newcomer of the Year. Dejean-Jones is more of a traditional shooting guard than Kane, whose game was often predicated on attacking the basket, but he’s expected to have a similar impact.
Naz Long was 6 of 7 shooting from 3-point range during the final five minutes of Big 12 and NCAA tournament games last season.
Center Jameel McKay won’t be eligible until Dec. 20, and he’s expected to have more of an impact defensively. But McKay also scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons of junior college ball.
Matt Thomas struggled with his shooting as a freshman last season, but still managed to score at least 10 points in eight games. Transfer Abdel Nader led Northern Illinois in scoring in 2012-13, and his size and versatility should help the Cyclones exploit matchups.
Thomas and Nader were suspended for the first two games for separate drunken driving arrests in the offseason, so it might take some time for Hoiberg to figure out what lineups work best.
“I’m not sure the rotations have fully worked themselves out yet,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll see how the flow of the game is going and make our substitutions accordingly.”