It's a quick turnaround for the Kansas Jayhawks as they travel to Ames, IA to take on the
HawkeyesCyclones. To help us prepare for the annual trip to Boo-town, I reached out the Kevin Fitzpatrick over at Wide Right & Natty Lite, the SB Nation site devoted to covering the Iowa State Cyclones. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: I'm certain that the loss of a trio of seniors from last season's squad affected this team greatly. How has the loss of Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader and Georges Jiang affected the expectations coming into Steve Prohm’s a second year?
WRNL: It’s affected the expectations on offense more than anything. Niang was the kind of player who could cover up a lot of flaws just by being as superb as he was on that end of the floor. Nader and McKay had secondary roles during their time at ISU, but as we’re seeing now, they’re playing well post-college (Nader has been playing well for the Maine Red Claws in the D-league and McKay is putting up good numbers in Australia).
I think we all expected Iowa State to take a step back on offense this season, even with Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long, Matt Thomas and Deonte Burton returning. The Cyclones have been a bit better on defense this year to make up for it, but any time you lose a Karl Malone Award winner, you’re gonna have an adjustment period getting used to scoring without him.
RCT: Who are the main contributors for this team?
WRNL: Monte Morris is back for his senior season and he is the straw that stirs the drink of this year’s team. When he plays well, Iowa State is really tough to beat. Last I knew he was the only player in the country averaging over 15 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game. Plus, he still avoids turnovers like the plague.
Beyond Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long is back for his super senior season after getting a medical redshirt due to a hip issue last year. He’s the player leading the team in points so far at 15.7 a game. Beyond those two guys, the other returning seniors Deonte Burton and Matt Thomas are the biggest contributors. Burton is an athletic freak, but can fall into lackadaisical play far too often. Thomas, I’m sure you know, can stroke it from outside, but he’s been dealing with a bone spur issue in his left foot and has been playing through pain the last few games.
RCT: The results in the conference have been anything but predictable this year. How do you see the conference race shaking out?
WRNL: Kansas wins. ZzZzZzZzZ.
I’d probably guess Baylor 2nd, WVU 3rd, and a jumbled mess thereafter.
RCT: Iowa State is one of the few teams to have been able to consistently challenge the Jayhawks, especially at home. They've won the last two there. What has to happen for them to pull off the win tonight?
WRNL: Iowa State needs good games out of Morris and Burton. That can either mean scoring-wise or knowing when to drive and kick to the open man. If those two struggle like they did against TCU, well, we could see another result like the TCU game.
Another thing I’ll be looking for tonight is ISU’s ability to keep Frank Mason III out of the paint. When the Cyclones gave up dribble penetration against the Horned Frogs on Saturday, the defense had trouble rotating. If Mason has his way on offense, he or a guy like Landen Lucas has the potential to have a big game.
RCT: What is the key matchup for this game?
WRNL: Normally I might say Morris/Mason, but I expect both of those two to get theirs. Instead I’ll say Landen Lucas versus whoever is guarding him. I know Lucas hasn’t exactly been a force on offense, but ISU’s post defense was atrocious against TCU. It needs to improve to win tonight.
RCT: Prediction Time! Who wins this game? Who are the high scorers on each team?
WRNL: I think Kansas will win by 5-6 points. I’ll go with a guy I haven’t mentioned yet to lead Kansas in scoring -- Josh Jackson. He’s a huge talent and his length on the perimeter is going to be tough for the Cyclones to guard. For Iowa State, I’ll predict Naz Mitrou-Long has a hot shooting night and leads the way.
RCT: BONUS - Help us settle a big debate. Is a hot dog a sandwich? Defend your position.
WRNL: A hot dog is a sandwich. It has a meat (or at least something that’s supposed to be meat) stuffed between two sides of bread. Sounds like a sandwich to me. Don’t @ me.
A big thanks to Kevin for helping us out today. Unfortunately we weren’t able to set up a return set of questions, but feel free to check out all the coverage they have on the game over at WRNL.