Fred Hoiberg’s 4-0 Iowa State men’s basketball team has a bit of a chore to take care of this evening when UMKC comes to town for a 7 o’clock tip.
No, the Kangaroos aren’t exactly a formidable crew. First-year head coach Kareem Richardson’s group enters tonight’s contest with a 1-3 record. That single victory occurred last Wednesday over the mighty Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks. The three losses were compiled against Emporia State (D-2), Creighton and Nebraska-Omaha.
The quality of the opponent is not what makes this game tricky. Iowa State is clearly a much better basketball team than UMKC. It is getting up and being mentally prepared for the Kangaroos after last week’s two marquee non-conference victories (Michigan and at BYU) on a Monday night where students will not be in attendance (Thanksgiving break) that makes this game thorny.
"There’s probably not going to be a lot of fans there with Thanksgiving break and students are going home,” DeAndre Kane said. “We just have to be focused and mentally prepared for this team. They are a good team, they push the pace and we can’t overlook anybody. I will let the guys know that for sure we have to stay focused. Being 4-0 is great but guys are out to beat us now, we are No. 21 in the country and guys are hunting for us."
When the new college basketball polls are released later this morning (we will keep you updated), Iowa State should be ranked higher than that. In fact, a spot in the top 15 is realistic.
Here is where tonight is a test for Hoiberg’s bunch. While Iowa State teams the last two seasons might have struggled (not lose, but struggle) in a game like this, there is reason to believe that this group of Cyclones is more drought proof than that of years past.
Kane is a big reason for that. The fifth-year senior is averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game so far this season. When the opposition has matched another guard up on him, Kane has been nearly unstoppable on the block. The Cyclones have been less reliant on the 3-point shot this season because of that, offense has been easier to come by.
As Iowa State has shown in its last two games through significant comeback victories, this Cyclone group is extra gritty too.
"I would say having more poise and not letting plays effect us,” Georges Niang said. “I feel like last year’s team if we went down 14 it would’ve been tough to come back, even with all the talent that we had. Sometimes we weren’t always there mentally I think this team is always locked in and ready to go."
All indications point to Hoiberg’s team simply showing up for another day at the office tonight at 7 p.m. (on Cyclones.tv). If that does indeed happen, the Cyclones will start 5-0 for the fourth time in the last 10 years and the second time under Hoiberg’s leadership.