The X-factor in tonight's game may be Iowa State's energy guy Dustin Hogue — his words — and whether the junior can shake off a bad cold that rocked him a few days ago.
Baylor has a height advantage down low but Hogue can offset that by crashing into the paint from the perimeter. Few rebound like Hogue does — 9.6 per game and a defensive rebounding percentage of 24.8 that's No. 49 nationally, a list littered with much taller players — and his innate ability to stake position and track the ball gives the Cyclones an advantage Tuesday night, especially as Baylor's 7-foot-1 Isaiah Austin has lapses on the glass.
"I'm definitely gonna have to up my game. I've been kind of slow on the rebounds lately but I'm gonna have to up it," Hogue said Monday. "With Melvin boxing out a 6-foot-9 guy (Cory Jefferson) and Georges boxing out a 7-foot-guy (Isaiah Austin), that's gonna leave me to come in and rebound with a guard. I'll have to come out big for us to have an advantage in this game."
Hogue hasn't reached double figures in rebounding since Dec. 13 against Iowa, although he's been close, twice grabbing nine rebounds. Hogue snatched 16 rebounds against the Hawkeyes, preceded by a 16-rebound and a 14-rebound performance in the two contests prior.
The 6-foot-6 JUCO transfer was limited to eight second half minutes Saturday against Texas Tech because of the cold, yet he still finished with seven rebounds. Hogue went to the doctor early Monday morning even after his car wouldn't start and was prescribed a cocktail of cold medicine.
There's no quarantine for Hogue, but each Cyclone does have their own water bottle.
Freshman point guard Monte Morris took a hard fall Saturday against Texas Tech, landing squarely on his behind.
On Monday, Morris said he'd be available to run his usual 15-25 minutes against Baylor.
"It's still a little tight right now but if I had to play today I feel like I'd be ready to play," Morris said. "I've just been icing all day, that's what I've been doing. Trying to get the pain out. There's still a lot of pain but I'll be alright."
Iowa State's overall lack of depth puts the onus on Morris to contribute if he's able.
"Right now, me being the backup, if I wasn't able to go it'd be tougher," he said. "I'm gonna try to go even if I couldn't [be at 100 percent] with the depth we have."
Morris scored 11 points against Texas Tech and hasn't committed a turnover in four games.
Just like Iowa State, Baylor has two native Canadians on its roster: senior sniper Brady Heslip and starting point guard Kenny Cherry, by way of State Fair (MO) Communicy College.
Cyclones senior forward Melvin Ejim knows Heslip well from Canada's Senior Men's National Team and looks forward to going against him.
"I think it's big-time," Ejim said. "Anytime you have notable Canadians playing against each other, it's always a great story for Canada. …It's gonna be fun to go out and play against a friend."
Heslip is one of the most accomplished shooters in recent memory and is hitting his three-point shots at a 47.9 percent clip this season, a number which better matches his 2011-12 marks at Baylor (45.5 percent) after a bad-for-his-standards 2012-13 (38.6 percent). He was 4-for-11 from distance in two games against the Cyclones last season.
It's little surprise Heslip is near the top of the country in kenpom's offensive rating stat — a complicated yet accurate measure of efficiency — with a 151.6 mark, second in the country. That's because Heslip led the nation two seasons ago in ORtg with a 138.6 mark.
Also no surprise: A phenomenal turnover rate (turnovers/possessions). Heslip finished first and fourth in the last two seasons, respectively, and is second currently with a clip of 2.8.
We say this every season, but a north-o'the-border flavor is taking college basketball by storm, and that's especially true in the Big 12, which has the country's most famous Canadian, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.
"I think it'll only continue to get better as more Canadians come down and better talent out," Ejim said.
McKay makes his mark
When Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg was discussing the prolific shot-blocking of Baylor's Isaiah Austin yesterday, he slipped in a mention of new transfer Jameel McKay from Indian Hills.
"Those guys don't grow on trees," Hoiberg said. "We're gonna have one next year that I think the fans will love watching."
The lanky McKay averaged two blocks a game at Indian Hills, and it was easy to see why watching him mess around with teammates before practice Monday. McKay won a one-on-one low-post competition — first to five, with points awarded for scoring a point or stopping your opponent — and has long, active arms and huge hands.
McKay finished the contest with a big two-handed dunk. I took a video of his post moves and you can watch that below. It's short and you won't see the end result, but he scored the first time (against Abdel Nader) and had his shot rim out against Naz Long.
SDW lights it up
Sherron Dorsey-Walker was the first one at Hilton Coliseum on Monday, working on his shot with a few staffers.
The redshirt freshman guard would attempt five shots from five three-point spots on the floor, working back and forth.
Dorsey-Walker said afterward he wasn't counting makes or attempts, but he got up close to 200 shots and, from this spectator's perspective, must have been hitting around 40 percent of his tries.
While that has yet to translate to a game, where Dorsey-Walker is 3-for-14 from distance, it's proof that the Cyclones have some microwave-capable scoring off the bench even after the transfer of K.J. Bluford.
National attention is "really cool"
The No. 9 Cyclones have set a litany of school records the first third of the season, winning the first 13 games to set a mark for best start in program history. If Iowa State wins tonight it'd give the team the most consecutive wins at any point in school history, too.
The Cyclones are ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 2000-01 and are third in RPI (and 14th in kenpom's ratings).
"That's cool, really cool," sophomore forward Georges Niang said. "But we still have some unfinished business. A lot of people doubted us before the season. We want to finish No. 1. We still have a lot to prove."
Said coach Fred Hoiberg: "I think we're one of six undefeated teams in the country right now. We've obviously got some work to do and we're going to continue to try and get better. I ask the guys every day if they're satisfied and they all say, 'No.' So there's still room for growth and improvement in hits team and we're gonna try and get better."
Kane honored again
The Cyclones have a monopoly on the Big 12's weekly honor. On Monday senior point guard DeAndre Kane was named Big 12 Player of the Week, the sixth time a Cyclone has picked up the award this year (in nine weeks).
Niang just got these cardinal-and-gold customized size-14 KDs.