You can’t say much about the 2016-17 Iowa State Cyclones that doesn’t include Monte Morris. Without a doubt the Cyclones’ most talented player, Morris and fellow veteran Matt Thomas will likely lead this team to an exhilarating season in the always-challenging Big 12 Conference.
Let me just start by saying that I absolutely love Monte Morris. I think he has a smart basketball mind, good instincts and impeccable ball handling. A classic point guard, he knows how to effectively distribute the ball, but this season he’ll have to step up his scoring to make up for the monstrous loss of Georges Niang. Last year, Morris averaged 13.8 points per game, and led the team in assists (6.9) and steals (1.8). Expect to see greatness from the 6-foot-3 senior.
Other notable returns for the Clones include senior guards Matt Thomas and Naz Mitrou-Long. Both guards have proven themselves as leaders on and off the court, and certainly will contribute to the heart and success of this Iowa State team.
Aside from Morris, Thomas and Mitrou-Long, there’s a healthy amount of young talent in sophomore Simeon Carter and freshmen Jakolby Long and Solomon Young.
Young played lights-out in the Cyclones’ 101-57 exhibition victory over Sioux Falls last Sunday, scoring 12 points and grabbing four boards off the bench. Iowa State continued to show their three-point prowess over Sioux-Falls with nine made in the first-half alone.
No. 24 in the Associated Press preseason rankings, the Cyclones have the ability to make a run late in the season. While the team has promise, they’re also up against some of the stiffest competition in college basketball.
Kansas and Oklahoma will be dealing with the major losses of Perry Ellis and Buddy Hield, respectively, and will be responsible for learning a new style of offensive and defensive play. I’m not completely confident in the Sooners’ ability to make a run in the Big 12, but I know Bill Self and the Jayhawks will definitely be the team to beat in the conference.
Luckily, the Clones have a few months to hit their stride, first facing the Jayhawks, Jan. 16 at home. In his second season as Iowa State’s head coach, Steve Prohm looks to carry his team to the NCAA Tournament. But first, a little Hilton Magic and a lot of talent will be necessary to survive the Big 12.