116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Sports / Iowa State Cyclones / Iowa State Basketball
Iowa State men’s basketball notes: T.J. Otzelberger no stranger to coaching in Sweet 16 in Chicago
First-year Cyclones head coach was assistant coach on 2015-16 team
CHICAGO — Georges Niang. Monte Morris. Matt Thomas.
Those gifted NBA players, among others, served as the centerpiece for Iowa State’s 2016 NCAA tournament run to a Sweet 16 matchup with Virginia at the United Center.
The Cyclones’ first-year head coach T.J. Otzelberger was an assistant then — and the irony of being back in a program-leading role, albeit with a very different team, isn’t lost on him.
“We had a group of guys who were very offensively inclined, many of which are still playing in the NBA,” said Otzelberger, whose Cyclones (22-12) face Miami (Fla.) in Friday’s 8:45 p.m. Sweet 16 matchup at the United Center. “With this group, this year, an entirely different starting point.”
That would be from rock bottom looking up. And while Niang and company dazzled on the offensive end of the floor, the 2021-22 Cyclones pin hopes on draining defensive pressure, both on the ball and off of it. That’s how No. 11-seed ISU beat sixth-seed LSU, 59-54, in the first round, then outlasted third-seeded Wisconsin, 54-49, in the second.
“(It’s) a team that nobody expected to be here that’s adopted and embraced the underdog mentality and doing the extra work,” Otzelberger said. “So what I’ll say in both cases is it’s fortunate that with each team to be successful, you have to have guys embrace their role, do their job, care about the team’s success and work really hard. And in each instance, fortunate to have those teams both times. Yet entirely different where we started (and) how we got where we are.”
Tyrese Hunter: ‘The General’
Iowa State freshman point guard Tyrese Hunter didn’t wait for someone to give him a nickname. He’d already chosen one for himself.
“I feel ‘the General’ is self-explanatory,” said Hunter, who set freshman school records for assists (165) and steals (68). “Then it got deeper into just being a leader, making sure I demand stuff; as a point guard you’ve got to command the game, control the game.”
Hunter’s certainly done that — and he won’t turn 19 until August. So his elder teammates were on board with the nickname, despite being skeptical at first.
“I didn’t think it was going to stick,” said 22-year-old senior teammate Izaiah Brockington. “When he first came on, I was like, ‘Who is this kid giving himself a nickname?’ I ain’t ever heard of that.”
Hunter won Brockington and his other older and well-traveled teammates over quickly.
“He’s the general,” 22-year-old senior Gabe Kalscheur said. “He’s the general on the floor, like his name (says).”
A favorite in 10-seed vs. 11-seed matchup?
Miami Coach James Larrañaga was asked what it might feel like to possibly be favored in Friday’s game. After all, the Hurricanes are the No. 10 seed and the Cyclones are seeded 11th. He laughed at the thought.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re seeded,” said Larrañaga, who has guided Miami to three Sweet 16 appearances. “It’s not reflective of who you are. It’s just a number put by your name to start the tournament. … So we have tremendous respect for Iowa State. They play in the Big 12. And if I’m correct, isn’t the Big 12 ranked the No. 1 league in the country? They’ve got a lot of great teams. There’s three of them in the Sweet 16. No, we don’t take anything for granted.”