Kansas Jayhawks: Is Iowa St. KU’s Newest Rival


Jan 17, 2015; Ames, IA, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) and Iowa State Cyclones forward Dustin Hogue (22) smile during their game at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s clear it up right away: Iowa St. is not the new Missouri.

However, right now, the Cyclones are the closest thing the Kansas Jayhawks have to the now defunct rivalry.

With Kansas (18-3, 7-1) and Iowa St. (16-4, 6-2) set to tip at 8 p.m. CST tonight on ESPN’s, “Big Monday” promotional night, there is no denying this game will most likely live up to the name — and then some.

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While it seems the Jayhawks have had the Cyclones’ number (like everyone else in the Big 12 Conference), with a 19-4 record against them since the 2004-05 season, that’s not the case recently.

Iowa St. has won the past two in the series — including a Big 12 Tournament semi-final win last year, and KU’s only conference loss this year.

If they win tonight in Lawrence, you can officially call it a streak.

While it will be a long time before any school has sustained success against the Jayhawks, according to the numbers the past four seasons, Iowa St. is getting closer.

Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Kansas is 50-10 against Big 12 teams not named Iowa St., including Big 12 Tournament play.

The Jayhawks are just 6-3 against the Cyclones during that stretch, including the aforementioned two straight losses.

However, before anyone thinks about picking Iowa St. tonight, remember this: Bill Self has more consecutive Big 12 Championships (10), than home losses (9).

As ridiculous as that is, the Cyclones nearly gave him loss number 10 two years ago, until Ben McLemore called (or didn’t) “bank.”

So, while Iowa St. could certainly pull the upset, remember they recently lost on the road to conference bottom-feeder Texas Tech.

While it’s dangerous to play the “they beat this team but lost to this team” game, there is no doubt Iowa St. is a different team on the road.

Whether they win tonight or not, there is, albeit slow and steady, a rivalry building between these two teams.

When Elijah Johnson went for 39 points in a 108-96, come-from-behind victory Feb. 25, 2013 in Ames, including a dunk at the buzzer for good measure, the ‘Clones’ faithful weren’t too happy.

It actually led to a fan charging after Bill Self when the game ended, and even a fairly popular faux Twitter account called @MelRWeatherwax.

The account was suspended in January 2014, most likely because it depicted the true fan in a bad light.

The fans at Hilton Coliseum circle the Kansas match-up as their Super Bowl, and finally didn’t go home devastated after another crushing defeat at the hand of the Jayhawks, when they sent KU home with an 86-81 loss Jan. 17.

You can be sure the Jayhawk crowd won’t forget that game, and may even step it up a notch tonight, which means Iowa St. better be playing A++ ball to avoid a long bus ride home.

A Cyclone win, and they will inch one step closer to becoming KU’s biggest rival.

Let’s take a look at three key factors that could decide tonight’s game:

(1) Iowa St.’s Offense vs. KU’s Defense

The Cyclone’s are one of three Big 12 teams to average more points per game than the Jayhawks, and lead the conference at 80.1.

They have scored 70-plus points the past seven games, while the ‘Hawks have failed to reach the mark in four of their past eight.

On the defensive side however, KU is only giving up 61.5 PPG at home in Big 12 play.

The main focus for Bill Self’s squad should be to improve on the boards.

Just two games ago, they allowed TCU to grab an offensive rebound on 52 percent of its missed shots — and almost lost the game because of it.

(2) Can KU stop Georges Niang?

The junior is averaging 14.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 2.9 APG in his career.

However, in his last three against the Jayhawks, he has upped his production.

In that stretch where Iowa St. has won two of three, he is averaging 21.3 PPG, 5.7 APG, and 3.7 RPG.

They key will be stopping him from getting to the rim.

Self will most likely go deep in to his front court rotation. Look for Cliff Alexander to get more minutes than the past two games, and Landen Lucas should see himself playing more than his usual 11.2 minutes per game.

Niang can also step out and hit 3-pointers, connecting on nearly 39 percent of his attempts from behind the arc this season. Which is markedly higher than the 32.4 percent 3-point defense KU has played this season.

(3) The Allen Fieldhouse Crowd

This is always a factor, but it’s worth mentioning.

The crowd never lets the Jayhawks down, and tonight could be the loudest since Thomas Robinson sent the Missouri Tigers home in 2012 with a ferocious block that nearly caused a tremor in Lawrence.