In what will prove to be the toughest road challenge KU faces this season, the Jayhawks travel to Ames, Iowa to take on 8th ranked Iowa State Cyclones in the first Big Monday of the year. This game has huge league implications. A win and KU would move to 3-0 in the league and first place outright while Iowa State would fall to 2-2 in the league. There is a chance that one of the Cyclones’ best players, Kane, will miss the game after spraining an ankle in Norman on Saturday. That would be a huge loss for them, but certainly doesn’t guarantee KU anything. Iowa State is a legitimate team with 3 other guys averaging double figures scoring. They are undefeated playing the 25th ranked schedule in America. They are a well coached team playing at home in what is the second best home court advantage in the Big 12. This is a game KU can win, but it will be their toughest win to date by far if they pull it off. Here are some things to watch for Monday:
1. Toughness. Iowa State is every bit KU’s equal on offense. They have higher marks across the board in points per game, points per possession, efficiency, effective FG%, assists, assist to turnover ratio, and steal percentage. KU doesn’t want to get into a scoring contest, Iowa State will win that game. Rather, KU will need to out-tough this team. They will need to lock them down defensively, crash the boards harder, get the 50/50 balls more and make Iowa State uncomfortable to have a chance to win.
2. Turnover Percentage. Iowa State turns the ball over less than 10 times per game. KU over 13 times. Those extra 3 possessions could mean the difference in the game. KU will need to at least match Iowa States TO% in this one.
3. Does KU’s trial by fire pay off? This is a game, if there ever was one, where KU’s grit will be tested. This is a young team that is about to go into a very unfriendly environment. Iowa State has rowdy fans that feel cheated from a year ago and are ready to make KU pay. This will also be one of the last times that KU will come into a Big 12 game as the underdog. The good news is that these guys have been through a lot as a team already. It is finally time to see if that brutal schedule is going to pay dividends with a crucial league road win.