Last season, Iowa State men’s basketball went 2-22 and 0-18 in Big 12 play — and was picked to finish last in the conference in this year’s preseason poll.
On Sunday, the 11-seed Cyclones won their 22nd game of the season — a 54-49 victory over 3-seed Wisconsin — continuing a remarkable turnaround.
ISU already made NCAA tournament history Friday as the team with the lowest winning percentage (.083) in the previous season to win a game.
First-year head coach T.J. Otzelberger makes $1.5 million — the lowest base salary in the Big 12 — and has already racked up $150,000 in March Madness-based incentives. Bill Self, the highest-paid coach in the conference, makes $10.2 million this season before incentives.
- Otzelberger made the Big Dance twice (2017, ‘18) as head coach of South Dakota State but didn’t win a game.
- He was previously an assistant for Iowa State and coached UNLV the past two seasons, going 29-30 without a tournament appearance.
- The win over the Badgers in Milwaukee was also a special homecoming — the Milwaukee native played point guard at UW-Whitewater.
Otzelberger was on staff the last time the Cyclones made the Sweet 16 (2016), but this is only their sixth time advancing past the second round — and they’ve only reached the Elite 8 or further twice (1944 and 2000).
Next up is 10-seed Miami (-2.5*) — fresh off its own upset of No. 2 Auburn — on Friday night in Chicago.