KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Big 12 Media Days came to a close this afternoon. Local 5 caught up with the Iowa State men's basketball team to hear what they had to say about their upcoming season.
The Big 12 is considered one of the best basketball conferences in the country.
When asked if he agrees, Iowa State head coach TJ Otzelberger said no matter what metric you go by, you could make a strong argument that it's true.
Last year, Iowa State was 15-2 against non-conference opponents and 7-11 against Big 12 opponents. Despite having a losing conference record, the fact that they went on to reach the Sweet 16 shows just how deep the conference is, said Otzelberger.
"I don't think our season was a roller coaster. I think our season was more of a credit to what great players, coaches and programs we have within this league," Otzelberger said. "We know what that challenge is every day when playing Big 12 teams. It doesn't matter if it's home or road, and we're gonna prepare every single day to be ready for those challenges when they present themselves."
The Cyclones were picked to finish 8th in the Big 12 this season, a slight improvement from last year when they were picked to finish last.
But like their head coach, Iowa State basketball players don't find that ranking discouraging.
"I take pride in having that little underdog attitude towards us. I think a lot of the guys on the team to accept that," said senior guard Gabe Kalscheur.
They may have lost star players from last year, but they also have veteran players who have seen the process play out and know what it takes to have a successful season.
"I've always been an underdog my whole life so coming to a team that takes that kind of mentality, this is the right group I'm with. It's very exciting when you have that type of mentality. You play with nothing to lose. So I think that's very scary in our favor," said Jaren Holmes, senior guard.
Even with such a drastic turnaround last year, the Cyclones are hungry for more. Kalscheur and Jaren say they know the Big 12 is a tough conference but they're not shying away from the challenge.
Otzelberger also said that playing in such a tough conference really prepared them for their post-season run last season, adding that the physicality and level of talent they faced in each big 12 matchup gave them an edge when facing non-conference opponents.