Looking ahead: Iowa State Cyclones

It’s never too early to start to look ahead to next season. Over the coming weeks, we will examine what comes next for each team in the Power 5 conferences and also those outside the Power 5 who could make noise on the national stage. Today: the Iowa State Cyclones.

The biggest signing for the Iowa State Cyclones this offseason happened in Rochester, Minnesota.

That’s where five-star coach Fred Hoiberg inked his name on his discharge papers at the Mayo Clinic, rolling out of the hospital with a thumbs-up and a new aortic valve in his heart. Recovery from the planned surgery is expected to ostensibly sideline the coach for four to six weeks, but as any coach knows, the wheels of college basketball don’t stop turning for any man.

Hoiberg will simply redefine the term "home office" during his convalescence.

At least Hoiberg’s heavy lifting is slightly less taxing, though. The Cyclones return the bulk of the team that won its second Big 12 tournament title, won 25 games, and became the ultimate bracketbuster in this NCAA tournament -- not in a good way. Iowa State’s first-round loss to UAB went down as one of the most jaw-dropping stunners this March, a loss that sent a team many had pegged for the Final Four licking its wounds all the way back to Ames, Iowa.

The loss had at least one positive influence -- it inspired Georges Niang to return to school. The forward announced he would return for his senior season, in part because of how his junior year finished -- with a 4-of-15 shooting performance in the loss to the Blazers.

“I didn’t want to leave my mark like that," he said.

Niang joins point guard Monte Morris, Jameel McKay, Naz Long and Abdel Nader on the roster, giving the Cyclones five of their seven leading scorers back for next season. While Dustin Hogue and Bryce Dejean-Jones -- who were significant pieces for Iowa State -- move on, Hoiberg has plenty to work with.

So long as Kansas keeps winning (and winning and winning) the regular-season crown, the Big 12 will run through Lawrence, Kansas. But with yet another loaded team poised for 2015-16, Hoiberg continues to work his (Hilton) magic in Ames and at least offer the Jayhawks a new foil.

What the immediate future holds:

So imagine this: Hoiberg is building with transfers. The endless list of guys changing schools might seem like an epidemic to many in college basketball; it’s an opportunity for Hoiberg. He used transfers for the quick rebuild at Iowa State, but now that the program is established, he hasn’t changed his tactics. Since taking over at ISU, he continually manages to mix players coming from different places at different times of their career -- and in more than a few cases with not just a little bit of baggage -- and this season looks to be no different.

The biggest impact newcomers could be redshirt junior Deonte Burton and redshirt sophomore Hallice Cooke. Burton started his career at Marquette but left at the end of last semester. A one-time Big East all-rookie selection, he averaged 6.9 points per game as a freshman.

Cooke comes to Ames by way of Oregon State and was a Pac-12 all-rookie honorable mention himself before leaving. Another guard, he averaged 8.2 points per game, hitting an Oregon State freshman-record 41 3-pointers in his lone season there.

Together they could help fill in the gap created by Dejean-Jones' departure.

Hoiberg also is in pursuit of two graduate transfers. Max Bielfeldt, who opted to leave Michigan as soon as Caris LeVert announced he was returning, is a potential option. Bielfeldt averaged 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for the Wolverines this season as LeVert missed the last third of the season with injury. Bielfeldt is also looking at Kansas State, Stanford, Boston College, Bradley and DePaul.

Tyler Harris also has Iowa State on his list. The forward, who started his career at NC State before transferring to Providence for two years, will be immediately eligible as well. The younger brother of Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris, Tyler Harris has a lengthy list of suitors after averaging 9.9 points and 4.4 rebounds for the Friars this past season.

Hoiberg did go the traditional route for one player -- freshman Nick Noskowiak announced his commitment last week. A one-time Marquette commit who reopened his recruitment after Buzz Williams left, Noskowiak is the 12th-rated point guard in the Class of 2015 and will be a perfect understudy to Morris.

All told that’s a lot of experience and talent for a team that achieved quite a bit this past season and now has that most powerful of inspirations -- the sour taste of an early NCAA exit.