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Mid-Week Hoops Notes and Thoughts

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Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Being that it's finals week on campus and thus, there will be no action on the court until Saturday, I wanted to take an opportunity to talk a little about some recent news surrounding the Iowa State basketball team, reflect on the season to date and look at the schedule moving forward.

Fare Thee Well, Sherron

Late Tuesday afternoon, news broke that Sherron Dorsey-Walker would transfer out of the Cyclone program, opting to leave at semester so that he'll have a season and a half to finish out his college career elsewhere. Austin touched on the news yesterday, but now that we've all had time to digest the news, there are more wrinkles here that need to be discussed.

First things first, to echo what Austin said, we all wish Sherron the best and while it's sad to see him leave, he just wasn't able to crack the rotation and with Hallice Cooke stepping in next year, it didn't appear that things would change going forward. Dorsey-Walker is a talented player that can be a real asset for a lot of teams nationally, but this transfer is more of a statement about the talent Fred Hoiberg has assembled for this program than an indictment on Dorsey-Walker's talent and ability.

With the open scholarship, however, speculation immediately turned to two of the higher profile transfers who hit the market recently in Semi Ojeleye (Duke) and Deonte Burton (Marquette). Both will be hot commodities on the free agent transfer market and Iowa State will assuredly send out feelers on both. A Kansas native, Ojeleye will likely draw interest from his home-state schools and according to this article from The Kansas City Star, Ojeleye's phone has been ringing off the hook.

Burton might end up being a more viable target for Fred Hoiberg. The Mayor recruited the 6'5" small forward out of high school and according to this Tweet, many feel that the Cyclones could end up being a favorite for his services.

Both Burton and Ojeleye will have to sit out the first semester of the 2015-2016 season and each will have a season and a half to play. The 6'7" Ojeleye is a versatile face-up forward that can play inside and out and Burton is more of an undersized forward type in the mold of Dustin Hogue. Each would fill a need in Iowa State's program going forward as Hogue is a senior this year and Georges Niang and Abdel Nader will be seniors next season.

Then again, Hoiberg now has three scholarships to play with and with the loss of Dorsey-Walker, finding a guard to fill his spot long term has to be a priority as well.

Ease Back On the McKay Hype, Mmmkay

I've been trying my best to pump the brakes on the Jameel McKay hype train for a while now. I wrote this piece back on October 29th prior to the season starting and I pulled this excerpt from that piece:

Now, before anyone anoints him as the next Kelvin Cato, let's remember that this guy will be entering the fray mid-season, breaking his way into a rotation that will already be fairly well set after nine games. Furthermore, he doesn't exactly get to ease into things as Drake is a quality mid-major program that has given Iowa State trouble in the past. From there, it will be a tune-up against Mississippi Valley State before heading to Brooklyn to take on an improving South Carolina program and then, it's conference play.

In case you couldn't tell, I expect some growing pains. As much as I'd love to see McKay seamlessly hit the ground running and start throwing up double-doubles from the get-go, I think that might be asking a bit much from him. It's going to take time and I think a reasonable best-case scenario for the 6'9" freak is to start hitting his stride in February.

Okay, so I might have been a little off about Drake being "a quality mid-major program..." as the Bulldogs are just 2-8 on the year, but I still firmly believe the rest of what I wrote.

McKay is an athletic freak. We all know this and I was just as blown away by his explosiveness this summer in Capitol City League action as everyone else. Simply put, Fred Hoiberg has not had a player like McKay since he's been in Ames and to be completely honest, it's debatable as to whether or not Iowa State has had anyone with McKay's combination of size and athleticism since Cato.

I get that and if the Big 12 were holding a combine, McKay would likely be the most impressive athlete at the event. That being said, there's a difference between being a great athlete and a great basketball player. A rare few are able to be both and at this point, having never played a division-1 game, it's anyone's guess as to whether or not McKay has the requisite skill to go along with his stand out measurables.

Let's also not forget that there's going to be a learning curve. It took until his sixth game for Abdel Nader to have a break out game. McKay gets Drake and Mississippi Valley State and then it's South Carolina, Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, at Baylor, Kansas and then Kansas State. That's six straight quality foes that McKay is going to take his lumps against.

Now, as for how the minutes shake out, McKay won't simply steal minutes from Daniel Edozie or Niang inside, but instead, the entire roster will be affected. McKay's presence simply gives Hoiberg another lineup option to throw out there and everyone will adjust. The good news is that early on, I don't see McKay playing more than 10-15 minutes a night. I fully expect Hoiberg to ease him into the rotation and let McKay's play and the game situation dictate how much time he sees early on.

Team and Schedule Notes

  • Now that teams across the Big 12 have all played enough games to build up a decent sample size, it should be noted that Iowa State leads the conference scoring (84.8 PPG), free throw shooting percentage (77.5%), field goal percentage (50.2%), assists (18.78 per game), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.72:1) and 3-pointers made per game (8.33). The Cyclones are also third in turnover margin (+2.78).
  • Defensively, Iowa State is about where they were a year ago. According to kenpom.com, the Cyclones rank 83rd in adjusted defense efficiency. A year ago, Iowa State finished 72nd in those same rankings. The high mark for the Hoiberg era came in 2011-2012 when Iowa State finished 54th. While I expect McKay to make an impact, I'm not sure that Iowa State will be able to crack the top 50 this year, which has been a staple for many Final Fours teams in recent memory.
  • To date, Georges Niang would be the runaway player of the year in the Big 12 (and yes, I realize no Big 12 games have been played). Niang sits at 2nd in the conference in scoring, 15th in rebounding, 2nd in field goal percentage (minimum 5 made per game), 4th in assists and 2nd in free throw percentage, Niang is also approaching Larry Bird/Dirk Nowitzki/Doug McDermott territory as he's shooting 50.5% from the floor, 40% from outside and 89.4% from the stripe. the 50/40/90 club is a very small and very exclusive group, both on the college and pro level.
  • With a 6.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, it's no surprise that Monte Morris is again leading the country in that category. Did you know though, that Morris has a team-high 8 blocks?
  • While Drake sits at #297 in the KenPom rankings and Pomeroy's ratings call for a comfortable 20-point victory and 96% win probability, Iowa State has played four sub-200 opponents thus far and three of those contests have been a little closer than expected. Iowa State beat Oakland 93-82 in the opener, struggled through portions of a 73-56 win over UMKC, and let Southern hang around in an uninspired 88-78 frustration fest on Sunday night. Is this something to worry about going into Saturday? Probably not, but it's interesting nonetheless.
  • It's going to be awfully tough to win on the road in conference play. Big 12 teams have combined to go 50-1 at home thus far with the only loss coming as a result of West Virginia dropping a contest to LSU in Morgantown.
  • Let's not get too carried away with TCU's 10-0 start. The Horned Frogs are most certainly improved, they have played just two top 100 teams (Mississippi and Mississippi State...oddly enough and unrelated, TCU has also beaten Mississippi Valley State, which begs the question, what did the state of Mississippi do to wrong the Frogs?).

That's it for now. We'll preview Iowa State's game against Drake as part of the Big 4 Classic later on in the week.