The Texas Longhorns are back out on the road again this weekend, traveling to Ames to take on the 17-6 Iowa State Cylones. Head coach Steve Prohm's team has played well since losing to Texas in overtime a month ago, going 5-3 since that loss.
For Texas, this game represents a chance for Shaka Smart and company to pick up another valuable Big 12 road win. The Longhorns have already won in the arenas of West Virginia and Baylor, but the Hilton Coliseum is a different sort of environment.
The toughest road venue in the Big 12 is of course Phog Allen Fieldhouse, where the Kansas Jayhawks play. But the second toughest place is almost certainly Hilton. My view on the Iowa State crowd is pretty straightforward -- it is ridiculous.
While each fan base is diverse, there are certain characteristics that make the Iowa State fan base a little different. Easily the most amusing is their tendency to boo the strangest stuff.
A foul call goes against the Cyclones that, let's be honest, isn't really close? Booooo.
Georges Niang picks up his pivot foot before dribbling and gets whistled? Booooo.
An opposing player slips on a wet spot and the officials call out a ball boy to wipe it up? BOOOOOOO!!!!!!
Iowa State fans do this all the time, but don't let it bother you; it is just their thing. You should let them have their fun. The Hilton crowd is wild and largely disconnected from reality. But it works for them.
Mass delusion is a hell of a drug, and the good people of Ames hit that nonsense hard.
But I like Iowa; it is better there than you think.
The last time these teams played
You might remember the first meeting of these teams. The Longhorns built a double-digit lead that peaked at 13 points with with about 14 minutes left in the game, and then watched as it slowly slipped away. Shaka Smart's team ultimately won by three points, but needed an overtime to do it.
During that game, we got to see some of the noteworthy characteristics of Iowa State basketball. The Cyclones are exceptional on offense, flooding the floor with players who can put the ball in the hole. And they are kind of shaky on defense. The combination makes Iowa State games fun to watch, but oh so stressful when you have a vested interest in the outcome.
Jameel McKay's suspension
The Cyclones are led by the dynamic duo of Georges Niang and Monte Morris. But rather than running through their roster, I will just link the preview I wrote the last time these teams played. The scouting report is not meaningfully different this time around.
One thing that is a little different this time is that Steve Prohm's center Jameel McKay has been suspended for the last two games. This is some sort of internal discipline issue initiated by Prohm -- McKay is not reported to be in any sort of scholastic or legal trouble -- and as of this writing it seems likely, but not certain, that he will return and play against Texas.
With or without McKay, the Cyclones are still a scoring machine. While he is a perfectly good offensive player, Prohm has so many guys who can score that Iowa State should do fine on that end either way. McKay mostly makes the team a bit better defensively.
All road wins are hard, but the fact that Texas took Oklahoma to within one possession of victory on the road Monday night should give the Longhorns hope that no game is truly unwinnable. Iowa State is good, but OU is better.
The Cyclone offense is so good that going into Hilton expecting to shut it down is not realistic. Texas is going to need to score the ball better than it did in Norman. Working in the Longhorns favor is that it won't be trying to run offense against the OU D.
Beating the Cyclones on the road will require shot making. Texas will need to get to the basket and finish there, and will need to hit some threes (the Longhorns nailed 13 shots from beyond the arc the first time these teams met). These are two things that the Longhorns didn't do very well against the Sooners.
This game has a chance of being very tight late in the game again. The Longhorns will once again need to stay poised on the road in another crazy environment, and should they do it a win is possible.