WILLIAMS: Ten takeaways on Iowa State basketball after episode one

Iowa State University Cyclones guard Tamin Lipsey (3) drives with the ball around IUPUI Jaguars guard Armon Jarrard (12) during the first half in the season opening home game at Hilton Coliseum Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune

Emptying out my thoughts following Iowa State’s 88-39 season-opening win over IUPUI.

10 — I always love the first game of any season but that might be emphasized these days in college basketball. “These days,” being the last 10 years or so. The roster make-up every season is so different, and that is especially heightened in the transfer portal and NiL era. That leads me to…

9 — As I discussed with Brent Blum on Sunday night’s podcast, we (the media and fans) need to do a good job of not constantly comparing this Iowa State basketball team to last year’s group that reached the Sweet 16. From a culture and mentality standpoint, sure, but as noted above, these teams are going to be so different from year-to-year going forward. It’s unfair to directly compare one group to another in any sense stylistically as T.J. Otzelberger has been very open about his plan to adapt to the players on his current roster, as opposed to making them adapt to him. 

8 — On that note, I was talking with Osun Osunniyi on Saturday and asked him about Iowa State’s offensive sets heading into the season. He told me that the staff put in a lot of what Jaren Holmes and him did last year at St. Bonaventure. That’s smart. You know these two guys have a ton of chemistry together, so make things as comfortable as possible for them. It’s an interesting anecdote to the above note on adjusting to your current crop of players, especially in an era where you will probably have five to seven new faces every year.

Iowa State University Cyclones center Osun Osunniyi (21) dunks the ball against IUPUI during the first quarter in the season opening home game at Hilton Coliseum Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune Ncaa Men S Basketball

7 — Basketball wise, it’s almost impossible to take too much away from Monday evening’s win due to how poor of a team IUPUI is. One thing I did notice, especially in the first half, is a point of emphasis that the program has been working on for weeks – will continue to be a focal point in the weeks ahead. That’s finishing strong around the basket. Iowa State missed a good chunk of bunnies, which I heard plagued them in a scrimmage vs. Creighton. For a team that likely won’t be anywhere near “good” from 3-point range, those types of shots will be critical this season. This is especially the case with a front court that should be much, much improved offensively compared to last year (there I go directly comparing to last season already). 

6 — Tamin Lipsey passed his first test as a true freshman point guard. I’m told he did not turn the ball over in Iowa State’s second scrimmage vs. Northwestern. Monday night’s stat line was a solid five assist, zero turnover effort in 17:21. 

“He is special for a freshman,” said Jaren Holmes regarding Lipsey. 

5 — I was not expecting senior Gabe Kalsheur to come off the bench but I also am not reading much into it. The plan has always been to heavily rotate guards based off of matchups. I am guessing this will move around a lot this season. 

“It’s important to look at your lineups and combos. Gabe is someone we have a lot of trust in,” Otzelberger said. “Gabe gives us that scoring punch. We are still trying to work on what lineups and combos give us a chance to play the best. Tonight, I was really happy.”

Kalscheur was a refreshing 4-of-7 from 3-point range and scored 16 points in 31:32.

4 — Jaren Holmes was awesome. He ended with 23 points on 16 shots and that’s after he really struggled in the first 10 minutes of the game. Again, it’s hard to tell much against IUPUI but a nice start for a guy who this team needs to lead it in scoring for it to really reach its ceiling.

3 — Osun Osyunniyi is a blast to watch. It’s great to watch big men that can dunk and play above the rim. He will do a lot of that this year. Ten points on six shots in 18:11 was his final stat line, which isn’t crazy, but we all see the potential. 

2 — Quick hits on a few other Cyclones ….

*** It has been fun to watch Caleb Grill’s confidence grow over the years. From year one under Steve Prohm, to playing point guard under Otz at UNLV to what he is now, he just looked more confident and complete to me on Monday night. It’s very veteran guy who has seen it all and without any doubt in my mind will be a solid leader for this team going forward. For the record, despite going 3-of-11 from the field, Grill played just north of 31 minutes in the opener. 

Iowa State University Cyclones guard Caleb Grill (2) takes a three-point shot during the first half in the season opening home game at Hilton Coliseum Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune Ncaa Men S Basketball

*** Every time that Robert Jones checked into the game, the public address announcer yelled “BIG ROB ENERGY.” This is a deliberate move on the part of Iowa State to play up Jones’ role, that I’m told he has greatly bought into in the offseason.

*** A quick hit on VCU transfer Hason Ward, who had six points and seven rebounds in 12:35. “He made a monster impact in that 12:35,” Otzelberger said. “He plays with such terrific energy at all times.”

*** Exactly what Aljaz Kunc is supposed to do … nine points, seven rebounds and one turnover. He is a nearly perfect analytics player. 

1 — I like to think of basketball season as a soap opera. Every game – even these non-con bouts vs. low majors – are an important episode. I think it is especially the case in the current era of the sport, where you don’t have the carry over from year-to-year like you did when most of us were growing up and watching the sport. If you’re a geek (like me), you view these games (that are often not that close) as public practices with the team getting ready for the big show. 

Monday night was a solid start to what should be another fun year of hoops inside of Hilton Coliseum. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.