After holding serve at home against Oklahoma State, it's time to head back on the road again. This time, Gameday has decided to crash the party, and the natives are getting a bit restless. That means it is even more important to be prepared, so I reached out the Dan Becker (aka KnowDan) over at Wide Right & Natty Lite, the SBNation site that covers the Iowa State Cyclones. He was kind enough to answer a few questions (and take a few shots) that I had for him.
RCT: Just to get the #HateWeek juices flowing, let's start by looking back at last year's game at Hilton. ISUcame in ranked #8, KU was #15, but Kansas jumped out to an early lead. ISU fought back to tie it at halftime, but Kansas took off again in the second half. It was the big breakout game for Joel Embiid, ISU was cold from 3, Andrew Wiggins went ballistic on the boards, and even a turnover-fest on the Jayhawks part couldn't push the Cyclones to a win. With expectations so high, was that the most dissappointing game you've seen at Hilton against the Jayhawks, or does another stick out even more?
WRNL: I had to go back and look at last year's schedule to even remember how that game set up since it was lost in the shuffle of everything else that was going on at that time with the 14-0 start and the first loss of the year coming the Saturday prior to the Kansas game. DeAndre Kane was playing on a sprained ankle yet seemed to be willing the Cyclones to keep within striking distance. Obviously Embiid's length created problems for the Cyclones, but since Hoiberg took over I can't really think of a more mundane set of games between the two schools than the three that were played last year. Both regular season games were paced by Kansas and Iowa State just looked to keep up, and the Big XII tournament game was marred by Embiid's absence and a Cyclone squad that found the ability to run through and around everyone at that point.
You know I'll pick the Hilton Heist game from 2013 as my biggest disappointment in Hilton, but we'll just leave it there given that neither fan base will agree on what happened in the final seconds.
RCT: Coming into the year, Iowa State was picked to finish 5th in the conference, despite finishing 3rd and returning the Big 12 player of the year. Did the team/fanbase think this was a sign of disrespect, or just business as usual in a league this strong?
WRNL: We actually lost the Big XII Player of the Year in Melvin Ejim, and lost the Newcomer as well with DeAndre Kane. 5th wasn't disrespectful but surprising given what Hoiberg has been able to do the previous four years and how widely regarded he is by coaches and media alike in the conference. If anything it's a testament to how strong the top of the conference is with Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.
(Editor's Note: I always seemed to mix up Ejim and Niang. My bad)
RCT: What happened against Baylor? While you guys were able to get back into the game both times they did it, the Bears were able to put together big runs that pushed them out to significant leads at the beginning and end of the first half. From what I saw, it looks like Iowa State has a rebounding problem. Is that all it is limited to, or is play down low in general a liability for the team this year?
WRNL: We miss Ejim's rebounding prowess and the ability of Dustin Hogue to rebound from the 3 spot. I think by the end of the season the kinks will be worked out with Jameel McKay holding down the inside, but right now the team is trying to find that balance between rebounding and running the court. To me it appears there are too many rebounding chiefs and not enough guys doing the dirty work underneath to keep the glass clean.
Speaking to Baylor specifically, I think this had a lot to do with peeking ahead to Saturday and playing their second Big XII road game in a row. This team struggles with focus at times and have played more incomplete games than complete at this point in the season. Credit Baylor for hitting shots as they were ice cold from downtown heading in to the game and the took advantage of the defensive gameplan. To me the difference was the end of the 1st half when Iowa State clawed back, but let Baylor go on another run and in to the locker room with a 12 point lead. Had they kept the margin around five at that point I think the game doesn't come down to who makes the final shot.
RCT: It's a bit of a role reversal this year, with KU being the great 3-point shooting team this year and Iowa State being middle of the pack. Who will ISU count on to counter the KU attack from the perimeter?
WRNL: I think this is where we hope for McKay to play around 30 minutes. There's going to be a mismatch problem with whomever Niang guards, but the defense from the guards is significantly better on the perimeter when they have McKay in the middle. Dribble penetration is less of a concern with a shot changer like McKay and this frees up the guards to keep a hand in the face of Kansas' shooters. When McKay is on the bench Iowa State will fall back to their typical defense of doubling in the post, forcing quick passes, and then forcing long shots and hoping for a miss and a rebound.
RCT: What's your prediction for the game? Does the "Hilton Magic" finally zap the Jayhawks, or does this "gathering" of KU plays deploy a "mana shield" and overcome the "spell" of The Mayor? (and yes, I'm a total nerd.)
WRNL: Hilton Magic plays a vital role in this one by rending some cold spells on Kansas' shooters and never letting them get hot enough from deep to keep up with the track meet that Iowa State is going to want to run. Defense travels and that's going to keep Kansas in the game, but I think the crowd and the players are going to be too dialed in to this one to give up home court. Iowa State 81, Kansas 75
RCT: Sonic the Hedgehog or Link from The Legend of Zelda? Explain using whatever criteria you want.
WRNL: Despite growing up as a staunch Nintendo guy I never played a lot of Zelda, but I'll default there out of sheer video game wars loyalty. Keep this response in your post and I'll be sure to send the WRNL Nerd Attack over to RCT to weigh in with their answers.
So that means that Link is about to clinch the title, as he is already up 4-0. Hopefully the next battle won't be so lopsided.
A special thanks to Dan for helping us out with these questions today. Don't forget to head over to WRNL and check out the answers I had for him.