6. Iowa State (13-4, 2-2)
Fortunes have certainly turned around these last three seasons when T. J. Otzelberger rejoined the program. Now the Cyclones head coach, he’s done a fantastic work not just bringing talent to Iowa State but coaching that talent up, making the Sweet Sixteen in his first season before earning a 6-seed in last year’s Big Dance. Could this year’s team measure up those first two successes?
Things looked good early on, with Iowa State surviving a pretty easy nonconference slate which includes losses to Texas A&M and Virginia Tech and very few notable wins. Notoriety came just over a week ago as the Cyclones welcomed Houston and ended the Cougars’ unbeaten start to their season. That feisty defense was on display in allowing just 42 points to Oklahoma State, though BYU scored more than double that on the road earlier this week.
The combined efforts of guards Keshon Gilbert and Tamin Lipsey have been important to the Cyclones’ performance, but Otzelberger is getting contributions from numerous pieces on this roster. This team actually has been terrible from outside the arc in recent weeks but still sits in decent position against the Big 12. If the defense can continue their elite play, then they can absolutely make a splash against the rest of the league.