College Basketball Final Four Dark Horse Contender: Why to Believe in Iowa State

College Basketball Final Four Dark Horse Contender: Why to Believe in Iowa State article feature image

Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images. Pictured: Tamin Lipsey (Iowa State)

In the unpredictable realm of college basketball — where Cinderella stories and underdog triumphs are etched into NCAA tournament history — the Iowa State Cyclones are positioning themselves as a dark horse contender for the coveted Final Four.

As the season unfolds, this team has quietly amassed a potent combination of offensive talent, coaching prowess and a relentless defensive intensity that makes it an attractive option for your Final Four futures portfolio.

Talent and Depth

One of the primary reasons Iowa State is emerging as a dark horse contender is the exceptional talent and depth on their roster. Head coach T.J. Otzelberger has assembled a group of players who not only possess individual skills but also complement each other seamlessly on the court.

Led by an experienced senior core and fueled by the energy of promising underclassmen, the Cyclones boast a roster that can compete with the best in the nation, particularly within the gauntlet that is the Big 12.

In the backcourt, the Cyclones feature a point guard who can simply be described as a winner. Sophomore Tamin Lipsey is known for his court vision and willingness to do whatever is necessary to have his team return home a winner.

In his second year, Lipsey has already developed into a player who can orchestrate the offense.

Lipsey plays in the same mold as Otzelberger coaches. Both Otzelberger and his on-court quarterback make sound decisions under pressure and provide the Cyclones with stability during high-stakes situations.

Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images. Pictured: T.J. Otzelberger (Iowa State)

Complementing Lipsey are Iowa State's other balanced scoring options. Unlike previous rosters under Otzelberger that struggled to score in the postseason, the 2023-24 version may be set up for scoring success that can carry the Cyclones much further.

Lipsey is one of six Cyclones who are averaging 9.7 points per game or more. Iowa State has scored 80 or more points in nine of 12 games to this point in the season, often displaying an ability to stretch its leads with offensive firepower it simply hasn't showcased in the past.

Furthermore, the frontcourt is anchored by a senior in Robert Jones and an impressive freshman in Milan Momcilovic. Both are stout defensive presences in the paint with versatile skill sets that include post scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking.

The Cyclones' depth extends beyond the starting lineup, thanks to a bench that provides valuable contributions. The depth ensures that the team maintains the intensity Otzelberger demands throughout the game.

This depth is a crucial asset during the grueling nature of the NCAA tournament, where fatigue and foul trouble can be deciding factors.

Coaching Prowess

If you want to get an idea of how good of a coach Otzelberger is, look no further than the respect he has from his peers. The best coaches in the Big 12 have all commented on the challenge of playing against Otzelberger’s teams, knowing superior talent simply won’t be enough to win against Iowa State.

Bill Self, Scott Drew, Porter Moser and Jamie Dixon are all on record praising Otzelberger and admitting the most preparation they do the entire season is when Iowa State appears on the calendar.

With quick turnarounds in the NCAA tournament, Otzelberger will give the Cyclones the coaching and scouting edge in nearly every potential matchup they may have.

Yes, Otzelberger is young. Still, his proven track record of success and an ability to maximize the potential of his players appears on his coaching resume.

Otzelberger has already instilled a winning culture within the program that had left when Fred Hoiberg departed and Steve Prohm arrived. His strategic acumen, adaptability and knack for making timely adjustments during games have become trademarks of his coaching style.

Otzelberger's experience in guiding teams through the rigors of postseason play — including deep conference-tournament and second-weekend NCAA tournament runs — provides the Cyclones with a valuable asset in their quest for a Final Four berth.

His ability to instill confidence in his players, devise effective game plans and motivate the team during critical moments makes Otzelberger an invaluable leader for the Cyclones.

As the tournament progresses and the pressure intensifies, this team’s ability to draw upon the confidence of its leader adds an element of stability.

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Betting Recommendation for Iowa State

The Big 12 schedule will surely challenge the Cyclones, and they may lose more games than most contenders do simply due to the difficulty of their conference schedule.

Still, even if Iowa State finishes the Big 12 regular season in the neighborhood of a .500 record, it won’t fall far in the metrics, and the NCAA tournament committee should reward it with a respectable seed.

As they navigate the challenges of March Madness, the Cyclones will rely on their cohesive roster, the strategic brilliance of Otzelberger and their unwavering commitment to unselfish basketball that defines the program.

So long as Otzelberger is leading Iowa State, the Cyclones may transform from a dark horse Final Four contender to a perennial powerhouse.

Pick: Iowa State to Reach the Final Four (+1500)

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