21. Iowa State (6-1)
We don’t yet know how the Cyclones will hold up when Big 12 play begins a month from now, but there’s a lot to like about them to this point. Iowa State turned in quite the performance at the Phil Knight Invitational before falling flat against a very tough Connecticut squad. They were back home this week and got another win, but it’s worth keeping our eyes on a Cyclones team having a second straight impressive season.
Their lone test this week turned into a 63-44 win against North Dakota, getting the Cyclones back in the win column with a nice defensive effort. Caleb Grill led all scorers with 16 points in the win while Tamin Lipsey added 11 points of his own. This was the third time this season that Iowa State allowed less than 45 points in a game, though all of those outings came against weak mid-majors at home.
There still might be a sour taste after an 18-point loss to Connecticut, but wins over North Carolina and Villanova feel great no matter how those teams are playing this season. The Cyclones are in great shape and will look to ride that defense into even better shape in the coming weeks. Next week poses increased challenge, as the Cyclones get a tough St. John’s team at home before heading to Iowa City to face their rival Hawkeyes on Thursday night.
*Ranking was before St. John’s game on Sunday