A day before No. 6 Kansas welcomes No. 16 Iowa State to Allen Fieldhouse, a couple of the Jayhawks, as well as coach Bill Self, fielded questions from the media Tuesday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
First up from Kansas (15-4 overall, 6-0 Big 12) was redshirt freshman big man Landen Lucas. The 6-foot-10 forward is typically the fifth man in KU's deep front-court rotation, but he played a season (and career) high 13 minutes in KU's Saturday victory at TCU, due to senior center Tarik Black sitting out the game with an ankle injury.
Lucas scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds at TCU, and he spoke with the media Tuesday about the ending to last year's Iowa State game at the fieldhouse, rebounding and eventually becoming a starter at KU, among other topics.
Naadir Tharpe, who actually didn't take a shot in KU's last game, followed Lucas. The junior guard talked about his 0-for-0, four-assist, no-turnover night at TCU, as well as realizing he had to take a stand with this young team and become the leader KU needed.
As you'll see at the end of the clip, Tharpe didn't have much time to talk, because he didn't want to be late for a session with strength coach Andrea Hudy.
Finally, Self went into great detail about the Cyclones (15-3, 3-3), their key players and what ISU coach Fred Hoiberg does to make it all work.
Self also hit on how the Jayhawks' bigs need to handle double-teams in the post, KU's 24 turnovers in a 77-70 win at Iowa State a couple weeks back and the Cyclones' ability to hit from three-point range.
The 11th-year Kansas coach said he's hopeful Black will be able to play against ISU, but the big man remained questionable as of Tuesday afternoon. The only good thing about that, Self added, is Kansas can plug in Lucas and not skip a beat.
Fourth-year Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg doesn't have much to complain about these days.
His Cyclones have shot up through the rankings this season as they won 14 straight games, beating the likes of Michigan, BYU, Iowa, Boise State and Baylor along the way.
ISU, which many figured would enter tonight's Big Monday showdown with Kansas unbeaten, suffered its first setback of the season Saturday at Oklahoma, 87-82.
For a program with legitimate Big 12 title aspirations, a conference loss always stings, but potentially worse for No. 8 ISU (14-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) heading into its home game against No. 15 Kansas (11-4, 2-0) is how the game at OU ended. The Cyclones' breakout star, senior guard DeAndre Kane, injured his left ankle with 22 seconds left.
Hoiberg said Monday morning Kane will be re-evaluated before tonight's game to see whether he will be able to play. However, it seems more likely that he will play.
For what it's worth, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who will be part of the Big Monday broadcast, offered his prediction on the situation via Twitter:
I fully expect DeAndre Kane tonight. Be stunned otherwise.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) January 13, 2014
(Update:1:30 p.m.) -- Still no official word, but Kane seems to like his odds of playing tonight, too.
Ankle feeling good pic.twitter.com/j00wNS86WW— Deandre kane (@King_Kane50) January 13, 2014
Here's another indication that Kane will play against KU, courtesy of CBS's Doug Gottlieb:
Been told from a spy that DeAndre Kane is ok, will play tonight, was jogging (Or Yogging if you like Anchorman) yesterday) #KUvs#ISU— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) January 13, 2014
The Cyclones, who have four players averaging double-digit scoring, are far more lethal with Kane. If he can't go against the Jayhawks or isn't at full strength, it could allow Kansas to build an early cushion in the Big 12 standings.
Of course, ISU is far from a one-man show. Here are the guys who hope to harness some "Hilton magic" and give KU its first conference loss of the season tonight.
Melvin Ejim, No. 3
6-6, 220, sr. forward
Even if Kane doesn't play, Ejim leads Iowa State in scoring and is third in the Big 12 with an 18.0 average. The small forward has a nice all-around offensive game and has posted double figures in 17 straight games, dating back to last season. He put up 20-plus in six of those games.
He's shooting 52.1 percent from the field this year and has made 19 of his 55 three-pointers.
The Big 12's active leader with 26 career double-doubles, Ejim averages 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists, as well, despite being just 6-foot-6.
DeAndre Kane, No. 50
6-4, 200, sr. guard
The 24-year-old, a transfer from Marshall, arrived at Ames, Iowa, and quickly became one of the nation's stars, as detailed in a feature by Eric Prisbell of USA Today.
The versatile veteran, in his first season at ISU, has posted back-to-back 20-plus point efforts, and averages 16.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists.
As Bryce Miler of The Des Moines Register puts it, Kane is a "matchup disaster" for opposing guards.
Kane, a 34.5-percent three-point shooter, had 23 points and nine rebounds Saturday at Oklahoma, but the Big 12's assists leader left after injuring his ankle with 22 seconds remaining.
One could try to make a case that another player in the Big 12 has had a better all-around season, but it would be a waste of breath. That's why the injury Kane suffered Saturday could be such a blow to the Cyclones if it lessens his ability or keeps him out of tonight's Big Monday clash.
Georges Niang, No. 31
6-7, 240, so. forward
Every player in Iowa State's starting lineup can knock down three-pointers and the big guy from Methuen, Mass., is no exception. Though Niang has started the season cold (30.2 percent) from deep, his 53 attempts are fourth among ISU players and Hoiberg trusts in the sophomore wherever he touches the ball.
Niang averages 15.3 points, 4.1 rebonds and 3.5 assists (quite a number for a big) and averaged 15.7 points in three meeting with Kansas last season.
He has proven to be confident in clutch situations, too, going 11-for-15 from the floor in last five minutes of games this season.
Dustin Hogue, No. 22
6-6, 215, jr. forward
Just this morning, Bill Self called him "a guy that's as good a rebounder from his spot as any kid in the country."
Another mid-sized ISU forward with huge game on the glass, Hogue leads the Big 12 in rebounding at 9.3 boards a game, while contributing 12.3 points as a 58-percent shooter.
Like every member of the Cyclones' seven-man rotation, Hogue will take three-pointers when he is open. The junior has hit 11 of 32 from three-point land so far.
Matt Thomas, No. 21
6-3, 200, fr. guard
His 65 three-point attempts are second on the team, but Thomas has made just 22 this season (33.8 percent).
He averages 6.8 points and 2.7 rebounds, but Hoiberg has him on the floor for his decision-making. Thomas has 13 assists and no turnovers since Iowa State's win at BYU on Nov. 20.
Naz Long, No. 15
6-4, 205, so. guard
Hoiberg said Long could have the ball in his hands a lot tonight if Kane is out. And Long's shot is the long shot, so if he is behind the three-point arc, expect to see him jack and drain some treys, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Long averages 8.4 points and is a 49.4-percent shooter. His 32 three-point makes and 70 attempts (45.7 percent) lead Iowa State.
Monté Morris, No. 11
6-2, 170, fr. guard
Morris hasn't started once this season, but if Kane doesn't play against Kansas Hoiberg said the freshman will take over a lot of the ball-handling responsibilities.
A guy who figures to be a major part of the ISU program for four years, Morris averages 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists. His most impressive stat, though: just three turnovers in his last 245 minutes of play.