No. 10 Iowa State men’s basketball expects another physical test at Cincinnati

No. 10 Iowa State men’s basketball expects another physical test at Cincinnati

Cyclones hit the road Tuesday for a Big 12 game against Bearcats

Iowa State men’s basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger directs a play against Baylor on Feb. 3 in Waco, Texas. Iowa State, and the Big 12, like to get physical. (Associated Press/Rod Aydelotte)

AMES — “There Will Be Blood.”

That’s not just the name of a critically acclaimed 2007 film that won two Academy Awards.

Those ominous words form the unofficial motto for Iowa State’s surging 10th-ranked men’s basketball team — and that starts in practice, where bumps and bruises serve as the price of admission.

“We treat every practice like it’s a game,” said senior forward Tre King, who hopes to help the Cyclones (18-5, 7-3 Big 12) subdue Cincinnati (15-8, 4-6) at 6 p.m. Tuesday on the road. “One thing we always talk about is winning the game before we play it, and I think our whole approach to that just helps us set the tone.

“(Practice) is very competitive. It’s very physical. There have been multiple practices where guys are bleeding. We’ve had a few almost-fights break out. We’ve had a couple break out after practice, but it’s all in love and competition.”

Until it’s game time, of course. And the Big 12 features five of the top 20 teams in the country in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Houston ranks No. 1, ISU clocks in at No. 3, and Kansas (14th), Oklahoma (18th) and the Bearcats (20th) follow.

So expect Tuesday’s game in the Queen City to get the blood flowing — and potentially boiling — as usual in a league where harsh contact is common and the team that hits the most free throws typically wins.

“(Cincinnati’s) shown defensively to be a team, again, that (has) a lot of size and length up front, and a very physical guard court,” said ISU head coach T.J. Otzelberger, whose team has won five of its past six games. “They have an experienced team and we know it’s gonna be another fight.”

It always is within the best conference in the country according to every metric. Five Big 12 teams are among the top 13 in the NET rankings and 10 reside among the top 41.

Texas guard Chendall Weaver (2) is fouled by Iowa State forward Tre King (0) on a drive to the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas guard Chendall Weaver (2) is fouled by Iowa State forward Tre King (0) on a drive to the basket during a game Feb. 6 in Austin, Texas. (Associated Press/Eric Gay)

That’s one reason ESPN’s longtime bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has 10 Big 12 teams on track to securing an NCAA tournament berth. The SEC (nine teams) and the Big Ten (six) are the only other leagues with more than five teams in the field, per Lunardi’s projections.

The Bearcats, by the way, are Lunardi’s “last team in,” so they’ll be desperate to notch another resume-boosting win over the Cyclones, who already have notched conference road wins at TCU and Texas.

“(We have) tremendous respect for (head) coach (Wes) Miller and what they’ve already accomplished this season,” Otzelberger said. “We know we’re gonna have to be at our very best on Tuesday and that’s how we’ll prepare to be.”

Which brings us back to practice, where players drive through a gauntlet of football-style pads aimed to knock them off kilter. Add in the requisite hip checks and swinging elbows and it stands to reason that tempers occasionally flare.

All in “love,” of course, as King said. That’s because eventually, the Cyclones reset their sights on flustering their foes instead of pounding each other.

“T.J.’s taught us to set the tone with our physicality, and always throwing that first punch,” King said. “So definitely in the games, over time, you definitely notice when it’s starting to take a toll on guys.

“It really gives us energy and gives us that extra push to keep going and really just put them away.”


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