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After beating No. 7 Baylor, just how good is No. 9 Iowa State?

Jan 7, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT


I listed Deandre Kane No. 3 in my Player of the Year Power Rankings earlier today, which turned out to be really convenient timing as Kane put on a show on Tuesday night.

The Iowa State point guard went for 30 points, nine assists, eight boards and five steals while shooting 11-for-18 from the floor as the No. 9 Cyclones put a whipping on No. 7 Baylor in Ames, winning 87-72. It took a while for Fred Hoiberg’s boys to find a rhythm offensively, but once they did, Baylor didn’t stand a chance.

Iowa State finished the night shooting 54.8% from the floor and 10-for-25 from three. They aren’t going to lose many games when they do that, let alone games in Hilton Coliseum.

The win pushed Iowa State to 14-0 on the season and 2-0 in Big 12 play and will likely make them seem all-the-more likely to push Kansas and Oklahoma State in the Big 12 race.

So just how good are the Cyclones?

Honestly, I don’t think we know yet.

Look, this is one of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch. They love to get up and down the floor. They jack up threes like few teams in the country are capable of. They are actually defending this season, instead of merely looking at the defensive end of the floor as an inconvenience. Kane is an all-american at this point in the season, and Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue are all all-Big 12 caliber talents.

They’re also a nightmare to try and matchup with. Kane is a physical, 6-foot-5 presence at the point guard spot. He can post up and overpower smaller defenders. The three big men on this team — Ejim, Niang, and Hogue — are all atypical forwards. Ejim and Hogue are terrific athletes that can run the floor. Niang is slow and looks like an overweight gym teacher but he is one of the most skilled offensive players in the Big 12. Every player on the Iowa State roster can hit threes.

They spread you out, they let Kane create off the bounce and they trust that they’ll find the mismatch or the open three on the perimeter. The beauty of it is its simplicity.

So yeah, I think Iowa State is a good basketball team. I have them ranked in my top 20.

But I’m still not completely convinced that this is really a top ten team for a couple of reasons. ISU shot up in the polls because of wins over Michigan, BYU and Iowa. Well, neither that Michigan win or that BYU win looks nearly as impressive now as it did when it happened, and if we’re being completely honest, the Cyclones beat Iowa because the Hawkeyes gave that game away down the stretch.

Smacking around Baylor is a statement, and trust me when I tell you that point is not lost on me. But it’s a win that came at Hilton Coliseum, which is one of the best home environments in the country. I’m not sure there are ten tougher places to pick up a win in the country when Iowa State is good, and they’re good this year.

Prove it with wins on the road this year, wins that have some more umph that at BYU or at Texas Tech or over Boise State in Hawaii.

ISU’s next seven games look like this: at Oklahoma, Kansas, at Texas, Kansas State, at Kansas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State.

Let’s see how they fare during that stretch. If they’re still sitting in the top ten, I’ll gladly eat these words.

  1. dcfrch - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    Ohhhhh Rob, why are you such a Iowa Stater Hater (just being honest). They are 14 and 0, but they didn’t win those games, the other team lost them. They haven’t played any good teams, but they have a RPI of 6 before beating #7 Baylor by 15. You have 17 teams you think are better than the Cyclones. Why?

  2. cyraider - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    We don’t have a wiggins or another “freshman phenom” and we’re not boring as hell like a Wisconsin or Ohio state, so we get no love. No other team in the country plays like us and no other team grinds like us. We get no love from Robbie, but it doesn’t matter. We’ll keep winning and u can keep hatin’. #HiltonMagic

  3. jaketoggle - Jan 7, 2014 at 11:22 PM

    Ha, what more does Iowa State have to do to be top 10? The schedule rankings and RPI/BPI prove what kind of schedule they’ve played, and…they haven’t lost. Clearly a guy hasn’t really watched them play with the comment about chucking up 3’s and Niang being fat and slow. Why do you suppose coaches dread having to guard Niang on the perimeter? He scores, a lot, against everyone. He scores against athletic teams. He scores against quick teams. He’s not just one of the better skill players in the Big 12, he’s probably the most “skilled” forward in college basketball. Iowa State’s front court has dominated everyone all year, defends at a high level, and the team overall doesn’t turn the ball over. And they haven’t lost. With an All American candidate at PG, boy that sure sounds like a sure fire top 10 team. And the game against Iowa (a team that should have lost to lowly Xavier)? Anyone who’s watched Iowa State this year would agree that was as poor of a performance you’ll see from the Cyclones in Hilton, and they still made all the plays down the stretch to win.

    If I was B12 coach, I wouldn’t want to play ISU. They look…and have proven to look…top 10 good, already. But I watch college basketball, so I think I’m qualified to say that.

  4. casekw - Jan 7, 2014 at 11:36 PM

    So, all they have to do is win out the entire year and they’ll have your blessing as a top 10 team? I think I’d settle for the AP’s opinion.

  5. shockertalk - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:56 AM

    The coaches poll looks might prophetic, having Iowa State and Baylor in the CORRECT positions (with ISU on top).

    But the AP writers can make up for their mistake next Monday, by putting ISU up on top AND putting Ohio State below all of the five remaining undefeated teams.

    Providing ISU takes care of business at Oklahoma this weekend, the Cyclones should be ranked at least No. 6 on Monday.

  6. reebekili - Jan 8, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    I don’t blame him for his thoughts one bit, first of all Saturday at Oklahoma is a huge trap game, we just came off a big win and so far our biggest away win on the opposing teams home floor is against BYU by two points. Not to mention we needed OT to beat UNI on a neutral floor. We all know the chances of losing a home game this year are slim to none and if you are aware of any history with ISU it would be our record away from home doesn’t support that of a top 10 team and that we generally drop a game we shouldn’t. That being said I already think we are a different team than what BYU saw and even different than what Iowa saw. We are improving and we need to continue to do so. A win Saturday will go a long way to turning more skeptics into believers and following up with a win at home against Kansas should seal the deal. Go State!!

  7. jpfreeman6272 - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    “…and if we’re being completely honest, the Cyclones beat Iowa because the Hawkeyes gave that game away down the stretch.” Actually it was a very close game and Iowa State just played a little better than Iowa. If you say Iowa gave that game away down the stretch I say the Cyclones gave that game away in the first 38 and a half minutes. Up until that point the Cyclones had made 17 of 30 free throws. In the last 1 minute and 30 seconds the Cyclones shoot 6 for 6 from the line to bring their game averages up to .639. So they finished the game at less than their current season average of .706, but they finished strong and regressed toward the mean at the end of the game. Iowa was able to take advantage of Iowa State’s poor free throw shooting for the first 38 and a half minutes of the game. And then at the end not only did Iowa State finish strong to pull closer to their season average on free throws, but the Hawkeyes missed a couple of crucial free throws. But all in all even if Iowa and Iowa State both shoot their season averages on free throws it would mean the Hawkeyes get one more point and the Cyclones get 2 more points. So while it is true that the Hawkeyes could have won it if they made their free throws down the stretch it is also true that the Hawkeyes would not have been in that position had Iowa State not “gave that game away” at the free throw line the first 38 and a half minutes. It is a common misconception that started with Hawkeye fans who didn’t like the fact that the Hawkeye players missed a couple of crucial free throws at the end of the game. I am guessing that they just don’t understand statistical analysis, but I hope that sports writers would understand it.

  8. 49erfevah - Jan 8, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    @jpfreeman6272: Right on! That is the best way I’ve seen that game explained so far. This is what I have been thinking, but not great with math and statistics. Thank you! I guess it will take beating a 4 loss KU for SOME people to take this team serious? Smh

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