Even when the Iowa State Cyclones seem to be down and out, Hilton Coliseum seems to bring out the best in the home team especially when the opponent has the name Kansas on their chest. This year Fred Hoiberg has Iowa State on the mend with a crew of talented transfers and at 4-3 the Cyclones currently sit tie with Kansas State in the top half of the Big 12 Conference. As the Jayhawk prepare to head out for Ames, the landscape of the conference has set this game up as a potentially big stepping stone for Kansas.
To date the Big 12 conference has been one of the surprises in the country. A league that was supposed to be down featured three teams in the top 6 of college basketball this week. In terms of conference RPI the league ranks second trailing only the Big 10. All that makes the current 7-0 record and 1st place positioning all the more impressive for Kansas.
Sitting on top of the league with a two game lead after the Missouri Tigers unexpected loss to Oklahoma State, Kansas has a very real opportunity to cement their position if they can get the job done in Ames. Kansas sits two games away from their first of two Border War showdowns and if Kansas can get the job done on the road in Hilton, they will sit one home game against Oklahoma away from a perfect 9-0 start to the first half of league play.
What does that mean for the Jayhawks? Simply put, Kansas is in the drivers seat for an eight straight Big 12 title. At 9-0 Kansas could lose their road games against fellow contenders Missouri and Baylor and still be well positioned to claim the title. In the Big 12's first true round robin format, the Big 12 title would be another nice addition to the trophy case in Allen Fieldhouse and once again prove that Bill Self's team's might change year to year but the product does not.
All that brings us back to Iowa State. Royce White and the Cyclones gave Kansas one of their best tests in Allen Fieldhouse to date. If you ask some of the Cylone players they feel like they let it slip away and there really isn't a doubt in their mind that they can take down the Jayhawks. Saturday will be another example of a Big 12 team playing with a little something extra for Kansas and Iowa State always seems to be one of those teams that does it well, especially at home.
If Kansas can pass that test then they head home for a game against Oklahoma with an opportunity to really put themselves in the drivers seat. A loss to the Cyclones certainly doesn't change the fact that the league title runs through Lawrence, but without a doubt it brings Missouri and Baylor right back to the thick of the conversation.