116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Sports / Iowa State Cyclones / Iowa State Basketball
Iowa State men’s basketball is 11-seed, opens NCAA Tournament against LSU
Cyclones proved early doubters wrong in reaching the dance
AMES — Five months ago, first-year Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger shared one of his favorite maxims.
“How you do anything is how you do everything,” the former assistant under Greg McDermott and Fred Hoiberg said on media day.
Otzelberger’s habit-based approach helped the Cyclones complete the biggest one-year turnaround in program history, but now they set their sights on a fresh start in their head coach’s hometown.
ISU (20-12) is “dancing” for the first time in three years.
The Cyclones, a No. 11 seed, will open tournament play at 6:20 p.m. Friday (CT) against sixth-seeded LSU in Milwaukee (TBS).
“(ISU’s players) embraced our work habits,” Otzelberger said. “Certainly, I don’t think anybody would have expected us to be in the tournament this year, so that was great.”
ISU went 2-22 last season and entered this season having lost 24 consecutive games against Big 12 foes. First-team All-Big 12 guard Izaiah Brockington said “outsiders” brought in to observe early practices didn’t mince words when offering appraisals of his new team’s prospects.
“(They’d) tell us that we were gonna stink,” said Brockington, a Penn State graduate transfer who played a total of 14 minutes in two games of the 2018 NCAA Tournament for St. Bonaventure. “Multiple people that were like, ‘Yeah, you guys play hard, so good luck.’”
Brockington is one of three Cyclones with NCAA Tournament experience. Program holdover George Conditt IV played four minutes in ISU’s 62-59 first-round loss to Ohio State in the 2019 tournament. Minnesota grad transfer Gabe Kalscheur averaged 33 minutes in two 2019 tournament games and scored 24 points in a first-round upset win over Louisville.
“Having the season we’ve had so far and just having the ability to do that with this team — I think we’re in the right place at the right time,” Kalscheur said.
The Cyclones revived the program with an array of transfers such as Brockington, who leads ISU in scoring (17.2 points per game) and rebounding (7.1). They returned to national prominence with the help of Big 12 freshman of the year Tyrese Hunter — the only freshman to rank among the top 10 in the league in assists.
“It’s a new season,” Conditt said. “It’s March. It’s the NCAA Tournament. Anything can happen.”
The Cyclones will face a Tigers team in turmoil. LSU (22-11) fired head coach Will Wade Saturday after a spate of NCAA violations were revealed. Assistant Kevin Nickleberry was named interim head coach for a team that started the season 12-0 — just like ISU did.
“That’s a unique variable,” Otzelberger said. “Don’t know what that means or doesn’t mean. What I know is they’re a good defensive team.”
Just like the Cyclones, who went through anything and everything to produce a season that truly means something — despite what the “outsiders” said.
“We all took that as motivation,” Brockington said. “We all just believed in each other and believed in what we had, and the direction we were headed. It was really early on that we felt like we could do something.”