Commentary

Don't sleep on the Cyclones

Fred Hoiberg has the talent to contend for a Final Four berth at Iowa State

Updated: July 24, 2014, 11:33 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Fred HoibergAP Photo/Charlie NeibergallFred Hoiberg has transformed Iowa State into a contender in the Big 12.

When you think of the Big 12, the first name that comes to mind is Kansas. Bill Self's program has dominated the conference, with 10 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles.

Let me tell you, another Big 12 school has put together an impressive run. Look at what has happened down in Ames, Iowa. Fred Hoiberg was known as "The Mayor" when he played at Iowa State. As coach of the Cyclones, he should be called "The Governor" for what he has accomplished.

Iowa State has been consistent over the last three seasons. The Cyclones have won at least 23 games in each of those seasons, including 28 last season, when the team reached the Sweet 16. Iowa State has won at least 11 conference games and an NCAA tournament game in each of those three years. Hoiberg has built a winner.

He is so popular since taking over the coaching duties at his alma mater. Hoiberg was the perfect choice because he is so passionate, and he does a super job conveying his concepts and thoughts to his players.

Hoiberg has gone through his own challenge -- he's doing well after recently having a pacemaker replaced. Hoiberg first had a pacemaker installed when he had a rare complication during surgery for an aortic root aneurysm.

After a successful NBA career as a player, Hoiberg has had opportunities to return to the sidelines in the pros. The Cyclones' success and the recent trend of college coaches made him one of the hot names for NBA openings. But he's said that he's happy at Iowa State.

He also had opportunities to be a star college quarterback out of high school. But the Ames, Iowa, native preferred to stay at home and play hoops, and he was happy to come back to coach his alma mater. He was a big star who loved the area. He met his wife there.

I really enjoyed my first journey to Hilton Coliseum during the 2013-14 season. I could feel the Hilton Magic; the Cyclones beat Michigan, Iowa and BYU there en route to a 15-1 home record, with the lone loss against Kansas. Hoiberg's team was a legitimate Final Four contender, but a tough break hampered those chances when Georges Niang suffered a broken foot against NC Central in the Cyclones' NCAA tournament opener. The Cyclones lost to eventual champion Connecticut at Madison Square Garden in the Sweet 16.

Niang will be back this season as the Cyclones look ready to extend their 20-win streak to four seasons. Hoiberg lost a lot of talent as Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim and guard DeAndre Kane are gone. But Hoiberg does have veteran talent returning in forward Dustin Hogue and guards Monte Morris and Naz Long.

Once again, help will come in the form of a transfer with immediate eligibility. Last season, it was Kane who arrived from Marshall and made a difference. This season, Bryce Dejean-Jones arrives from UNLV and can play right away, as he's graduated with eligibility remaining. The Cyclones have another transfer waiting in the wings: Guard Hallice Cooke, a transfer from Oregon State, will sit out this season and be eligible in 2015-16.

Hoiberg has this program going in a positive direction and the future is bright. Expect more Hilton magic this upcoming season.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.

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