It’s been 200 days since we last saw Iowa State basketball. That is way too long. But the wait is almost over and excitement is starting to build. Georges Niang, Abdel Nader, and Jameel McKay have all moved on to the professional ranks, but Iowa State returns a team that provides plenty of reasons for excitement. Here are five things I can’t wait to see this season.
Monte Morris The Scorer
Monte Morris is very good at what he does. Perhaps the best at what he does, at least in the Big 12, where he was named Preseason Player of the Year. But Morris will have a much different role this year. We know he can run an offense and set his guys up as good as anyone in the country, but this year we’ll get to see his true offensive abilities.
He’s been a lot of fun to watch the past few years in a pass-first role, and the team found plenty of success along the way. But the Cyclones lost 43 points per game from last season due to Georges Niang, Jameel McKay, and Abdel Nader’s graduation. Those three, plus Morris, were the team’s top four scorers. Obviously plenty of players will have increased roles to make up those 43 points per game, but it’s no secret that Morris is expected to lead the way this season.
He averaged 13.8 points per game last season on 11 shots per game. As often as Morris defers, he still took the second most shots on the team last year. Niang led the team by far with nearly 15 shots per game. It’ll be interesting to see just how many shots Morris is taking, but he’s one of the funnest players in the country when he’s in the zone. I still see Niang’s spin-move baby-hook in my dreams most nights, but the Monte’s pulling-up after a pick-in-role is about as pretty as it gets.
Deonte Burton Dunking On The World
I'm getting excited about basketball season because there's a legitimate chance Deonte Burton accidentally murders someone dunking the ball.— Alex Gookin (@_AlexGookin) October 10, 2016
Unlike Mr. Gookin, I am not excited to see Deonte Burton potentially end someone’s life. I am, however, excited to see him potentially cause severe bodily harm. I think that’s something we can all get behind. Personally, I’m excited to see a lot from Burton. I want to see how he progresses with what should be a much bigger role and his versatility provides a lot of intrigue with how he will ultimately be used.
But there is nothing I am more excited for than the first time Burton absolutely posterizes somebody. Just picture Burton finding a lane and a 6-foot guard sliding in to take a charge.
The Return Of 3sus
How many times did you find yourself thinking how different things could be if only Naz Mitrou-Long was on the court? I’ll set the over/under at 391. Now he’s back and he’s healthy and it’s going to be fun to watch. I almost forgot how much it is to watch Naz play when he’s hot.
Iowa State basketball has caused me to lose my mind plenty of times, but I have never been as completely insane as I was when Naz hit that three at the buzzer to send the Cyclones to overtime against Oklahoma State. If you find the right angle of the video, you can almost see me taking people out and knocking down chairs in a celebratory rage.
I want more of that. I think we all want to see 3sus raining threes again.
The Iceman Cometh
This is kind of a strange feeling. The past two preseasons we have been talking about how Matt Thomas hasn’t quite reached his potential yet. Now, after breaking through last season, we have bigger expectations than ever for Thomas.
He shot 10 percent better from 3-point range last season than he did in his first two seasons and he doubled his scoring average. And remember when everyone was concerned about his ability to defend at the power-5 level when he was a freshman? Well, he proved to be the top perimeter defender on the team last season.
He’s developed into the All-Big 12 caliber player we all hoped he would be when the Cyclones signed him. Thomas and Naz spreading the court, playing with confidence, and knocking down threes is about as fun as it gets.
How Role Players Fit In
Iowa State has some solid stars in place, but how are the role players going to shake out? It sounds boring, but it’s kind of fascinating as a basketball junkie to look at all the pieces and think about how they will come together. We’ve heard about some of these players for a long time, so it’s exciting to finally get to see them in action and see how they will impact the cardinal and gold.
I’m curious how guys like Donovan Jackson, Nick Weiler-Babb, and Simeon Carter will fit in this year. What about the freshman class with Jakolby Long and Solomon Young? The senior transfers Darrell Bowie and Merrill Holden?
Some of those guys are the Cyclones of the future. Others are only stopping in for a year. How will all those roles work out? I have no idea. But I can’t wait to watch Steve Prohm figure it all out.
Oh, and Stuuuuu. I forgot to mention him. He’s going to hit a three in a game at Hilton this year. Move that up to No. 1 on this list. There is (almost) nothing I want to see more than that.