Tuesday, December 15, 2015


After reading a couple things on the Naz injury, obviously it hurts for this year.  Thomas is a good player and has shown increased confidence and better shooting so far, but there's a reason Naz passed him a couple years ago.  Naz was always the one to get in people's faces and be the vocal leader on the floor and that definitely hurts.  His ability and willingness to get to the rack so far this year has been undersold.  

That said, assuming, and I don't think it's a definite, he gets to come back next year, he'll be the bridge between past successful Cyclone teams and the future.  Thomas and maybe Monte would be the only other guys that've actually played more than a year for ISU on next year's team.  While the fan base (and that ESPN douche) don't give ISU much of a chance next year, Naz won't let the team slack.  Next year's team could really use an old voice on the court and sidelines. 

Most great teams have carryover from year to year to year and teams like Kentucky have built in expectations.  Without Naz and Monte next year, ISU would have neither.  Actually, next year the classes are pretty balanced so any success should be carried into future seasons.  I'm excited about the front court depth with Malou, Carter, Ernst and Young.  (Ernst and Young is one of the "big 4" accounting firms, look for it on future Cyclone bingo cards)  

So while the loss of Naz is a big blow to this year's team, it could possibly be just the thing needed to sustain ISU's success into the future.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ten Stats That Will Leave You Optimistic About 2015 Iowa State Football

With college football season right around the corner I figured it was time to re-establish myself on the blog. After some research I've found myself more optimistic than most when it comes to the upcoming ISU football season.  Here are ten statistics that will leave you feeling the same. 

1) The last coach to go 5-19 over a two year span in Ames (Gene Chizik) won a national championship just two years later. Paul Rhoads is 5-19 in his last two seasons. 

2) The incoming freshman class has never lost a Big 12 game. NEVER. 

3) Top 10 good?  Maybe. ISU finished in the top ten in the Big 12 in EVERY statistical category last season. 

4) Playoff?! We're talking about playoffs?!  If they get there it's important to note that a likely opponent (Alabama) hasn't beat Iowa State since the 2001 Independence Bowl.  

5) Iowa State's only winning season in the last decade was preceded by a winless Big 12 slate the year before. Last season? 0-9 in the Big 12. 

6) The Cyclones have now had three 2-10 seasons in their history. In the previous two they responded with seven win seasons including a CHAMPIONSHIP in each of those seasons (2004 Independence Bowl, 2009 Insight Bowl). 

7) Lucky #7. Paul Rhoads is entering his 7th season as head coach. The last coach to make it to their seventh season won seven games (Dan McCarney 7-5 in 2001).

8) Las Vegas has Iowa State's odds of winning the Big 12 at 100-1. There are only eight teams with better odds. 

9) Last season ISU had a money line of +100000 to win the National Championship. This year? +40000.  Remember folks, in this case the lower the number, the better the odds. 

10) With the completion of the "South Endzone Project" Jack Trice will now have the third largest capacity in the Big 12 behind Texas and Oklahoma. This new "Big Three" trio of OU, UT and ISU has combined to win 10 out of the last 15 Big 12 championships. As Meatloaf says, "two out of three ain't bad"!

Cyclone fans let me caution you, #AStormIsComing

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Baylor's Hidden Advantage

Art Briles said something interesting at the Big 12 media days, this from an ESPN article:
Briles on playing in central Texas: "Get your map. Throw a dart. Try to hit the middle. It's gon' be right around Waco."
Briles on recruiting in Texas: "If I was coaching at Ouachita Baptist in Arkansas or at San Jose State, that would be my priority also. Which it is, for everyone, every university in the nation. Texas is the most heavily recruited state. That's what makes it so invigorating as a recruiter and football program to keep kids here." 
Briles on winning over the target demographic: "We're a young brand. You ask somebody [age] 10 to 30 who's the best football team in the Southwest part of the United States -- you know, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, the bordering states around here. They're going to say Baylor. Now 30 to 60, you might get a different answer. And 60 to 90 may be different. But those young kids, they associate with Baylor. That's something that's working for us." 
Both Baylor's football and basketball programs have risen to national relevancy over the past five or so years.  Baylor is a small private school, with no national following and not much local support to speak of.  So how did this happen?  Briles' statements will lead us to some interesting answers.

Art was close with his Texas geography.  Technically, Waco is about 100 miles east of the geographic center of Texas, but this puts it right in the middle of the "Texas Triangle" - Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin and San Antonio.  Waco is only 50 miles from the population center of Texas.  A good place to be if you're trying to keep Texas kids in Texas.

How many people are we talking about?  We always hear about kids wanting to stay close enough for their families to see them play, which I assumed was within a three-hour drive, or about 200 miles.  This also allowed Baylor to be within reach of Houston, D-FW and San Antonio, areas all well-represented on their current roster.  This very cool site (http://mcdc.missouri.edu/websas/caps10c.html) allows you to search for population within a radius of any location.

More than 20.3 million people live within 200 miles of Waco.  That's a lot of potential recruits.  That number is higher than the University of Texas or either of the other Texas schools and roughly two to four times that of the former Big 8 schools.  Only West Virginia has a greater population within 200 miles.

Also worth noting is Baylor has the highest surrounding population growth of any of the Big 12 schools.  Their recruiting base is growing at a faster rate.  There really are millions of kids and young adults growing up in and moving to the region for whom Texas' and Oklahoma's dominance is a fading memory.  Baylor has more recently won a Big 12 championship (2), had a top 10 finish and Heisman winner than either UT or OU.  For kids in high school today, it isn't "Baylor is Baylor is Baylor" anymore.  Basketball is even more wide open in the state of Texas than football.  

Baylor capitalized on the opportunity in a big way.  The two head coaches seem to be perfect fits for the school, and are committed to signing Texas talent.  The school secured donations based on the recent success to build a brand new football stadium, which will undoubtedly attract more fans, players and money.  

Coda:  27 million people?!? I thought West Virginia was in the sticks?

We forget how much closer metropolitan areas are on the east coast than the rest of the nation.  Morgantown is no metropolis, indeed the whole population of West Virginia is only 1.8 million.  However, included within a 200 mile radius are Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, Richmond Virginia, Washington D.C, and Baltimore.  This is undoubtedly what attracted the Big 12 to WVU when it came to TV revenues.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

All Big 12 teams updated through 3/6

Baylor and Tech have already played their final regular season games.  Everybody else is up today, which means the All Big 12 teams will be announced tomorrow.  95% of the stats have been accumulated, the biggest question mark is final team standings, where 2nd place is up for grabs.  This will likely be my last update before the official teams come out.

Buddy Hield is still at the top, but Monte has closed the gap.  A surprising addition to the first team is Taurean Prince, who closed the season out very strong, scoring in double figures in his last 15 conference games.  I had Mason and Anderson tied, but I'd give the nod to Mason.  Two KU players on the first team is appropriate this year.

Jameel McKay made a huge leap in the rankings, benefiting from the increased minutes that come along with starting.  He's now 17th in scoring, 3rd in rebounding and still 2nd in blocks.  I feel very good about the other players on the second team, including Georges.

No big surprises on the 3rd team and honorable mention.

For the first time, I'll try to predict the other honors as well.

Buddy Hield

Jameel McKay

Jameel McKay

Miles Turner

Taurean Prince 

Bill Self

Big 12 All-Defensive Team
Jameel McKay
Ryan Spangler
TaShawn Thomas
Miles Turner
Rico Gathers
Buddy Hield
Big 12 All-Newcomer Team
Jameel McKay
TaShawn Thomas
Miles Turner
Kelly Oubre
Anthony Hickey

Most of the awards were straight forward, except for coach of the year, which is hard to quantify and all-defensive POY and team.  Looking at last year's team, the picks were pretty subjective.  For this first try, I used rebounds (probably should have just looked at defensive rebounds), steals, blocks and team rank.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

McKay vs Ejim Update

With a larger sample size I figured I would compare McKay's numbers to those of Ejim's Big 12 POY year last year.  Here are the raw numbers:


Obviously Ejim's raw numbers are far and away better than McKay's in everything except for blocks.  When you factor in the minutes played it tells a little different story.  McKay hasn't played as many minutes as Ejim for a number of reasons this year.  One would figure that McKay's minutes will continue to rise as the year goes on.  I calculated their stats per 40 minutes to even out the minutes.  Here are the results:

Per 40 MinPointsReboundsAssistsStealsBlocks
Those are a lot closer than people might think.  Ejim scored a touch more but obviously had the benefit of being able to shoot the three pointer.  He also added over an assist more a game but didn't come close to matching McKay's 4.0 blocks per 40 minutes.  Ejim's season was great.  Earning Big 12 Player of the Year is nothing to bat an eye at.  None of this is meant to take anything away from him or his season.  It is simply to point out just how productive McKay has been.  If you take away Ejim's 48 point performance against TCU (or at least knock it down to his season average) it would take away a point per game.  That probably isn't fair to do because he did accomplish it but its worth noting.  Devil's advocate would say Ejim being able to log that many minutes added to his value and so comparing 40 min per stats isn't fair.  My response would be a) McKay's minutes will continue to rise and b) its not like ISU is playing 4 on 5 when he isn't on the floor.  There is production coming from that spot on the floor whether it is as good as McKay's or not.  For example when McKay isn't on the floor it probably means Niang is getting more touches which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Just because I was curious, on top of the 40 minute stats I wanted to compare at this point based on McKay's minutes and based on Ejim's minutes so here they are:

McKay's MinPointsReboundsAssistsStealsBlocks
Ejim's MinPointsReboundsAssistsStealsBlocks


What can we draw from all of this?  McKay is really playing at an all-conference level and he is just starting to hit his groove.  His numbers, in my opinion, should go up more before they plateau.  One might argue that McKay has the ability to be a little more valuable given his defensive value.  It is very possible Iowa State could have three contenders for Big 12 Player of the Year in 2015-16.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

All Big-12 Teams Update

We're about three quarters through the season, so it's time for another All Big 12 team update.

Monte has slipped behind Buddy Hield for POY, but he's well ahead of everyone else.  If Monte doesn't finish on the first team, it'll be a real shame.

Jameel McKay makes his first appearance on the list.  TaShawn Thomas is still the frontrunner for newcomer of the year but Jameel could make it interesting in the last couple of weeks. 

Georges made some progress since the last update, but the stats are being concentrated as everyone's rotations are tightening up. 

It's a little surprising that ISU is in second place in the conference and only has three people on my list.  I think it speaks to the depth of the team.  There are seven players who could lead the team in any stat on any night.  It also highlights the impact McKay has had in only two months.  Moving into the starting lineup gives him more opportunity, obviously, but I think it helps Hogue moving to the small forward spot.  And BDJ looks to have free reign off the bench.  Nader's brought a scoring punch in limited minutes too.  ISU's starting to peak at the right time.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Take a Deep Breath

There is a quote out there that goes "It's never as good or as bad as it seems."  It would be hard to reach that conclusion on your local message board.  In fact you might conclude the opposite is true.  To me, I think the quote is pretty spot on and applicable when it comes to this ISU basketball team.  As we enter the final straight away of Big XII play the words tossed around about this team are concerned, mentally weak, lazy, selfish.  You would think we are talking about a bubble team that is on the verge of pissing their postseason hopes away.  This is where the "not as bad as it seems" part of the quote comes in really handy.

If I asked someone to put together a mock resume for a team with this proclaimed characteristics at this point in the season it wouldn't be favorable.  14 wins?  A 6-6 conference record? Would you consider an injury free team with a potential for a 3 seed to be causing fans much anxiety?  I wouldn't, but it has.  As we sit today Iowa State is solid 17-6 and 7-4 in conference with several big wins on the resume.  So what is the problem?  I really don't know but I'll try to explain.

Message board fans don't (at least I hope) represent the entire fan base but I'm starting to think more and more it is a pretty strong barometer of where most of the fan base sits.  I go to work the day after a game (win or lose) and the negative opinions from the message boards find their way there too.  Negativity truly does breed more negativity.  I used to get a lot more upset about losses than I do now.  In fact, I'd turn all 50 shades of red and usually just go mute for hours afterward.  The close losses still sting, as do the bad losses but somewhere between becoming a teacher and a father I realized that the season is one big process.  It is a long tumultuous season that will have ups and downs.  It is what makes watching sports great.  Big wins wouldn't mean as much without tough losses.  There will be losses and poor performances along the way.  Please, accept that.  It is a process.

There is another saying out there that goes something like "what have you done for me lately."  As we waited for this basketball season to start we were left with the memories of a great season just a year ago.  A Big 12 championship, a Sweet 16 appearance and national writers telling us we were a Final Four team pre-Niang injury.  That is what winning six of their seven will do.  We don't remember the three game losing streak, or the fact that the team would have been riding another three game losing streak heading into postseason play had Phil Forte not missed a late free throw at home.  Last season was fun, it really was, but this season hasn't been all that different.

What I'm trying to say is that almost everything last years team accomplished is still on the table for this years team.  In fact, there are a couple things that this years team could accomplish that last years couldn't.  As we sit here on February 12th this team is only a game behind last years "pace" overall and a little ahead of their conference "pace".  This team still hasn't lost at home and still hasn't lost two games in a row.  When you look at Bracketology this team has already earned credibility as a high seed that last years team didn't earn until their Big 12 tournament run.  More importantly, this years team still has the ability to make a deep run in the tournament.

I ask that you do me a favor as you watch this team the rest of the year.  Enjoy.  For four hours a week in the midst of some of the longest months Cyclone basketball gives us an escape.  Sure, they are frustrating at times to watch, but it makes the moments that "click" that much more enjoyable.  This years team is pretty damn good.  There are still big games ahead.  They will win some, they will lose some.  The fun part is still ahead of us.  This team has the tools to do some things in the postseason ISU hasn't done in quite some time (and maybe ever).  Take a deep, deep breath.  You just might be holding it until April.

Monday, February 2, 2015

One Big Key for ISU vs KU

If there has been on constant in Bill Self's preparation for Iowa State it has been to let Niang let it fly from deep.  In seven career games against Kansas Niang has hoisted up 40 three point attempts.  That is almost six a game!  In his career he has averaged 2.8, 4.3 and 3.4 three-point field goal attempts per game in each of his three seasons.  His lowest number of attempts (4) against Kansas came in the Big 12 tournament win last season.  This happened to be the first game Niang played against KU in which they did not have a shot blocker on the floor in Whithey or Embiid.  What did he do?  He proceeded to go 10-18 on two-point field goals in route to a 25 point effort.

Kansas doesn't have that 7 footer they have had in the past although they do have some athletic big guys that could block a shot.  Playing the Niang 3 point lottery could result in a win for the Cyclones but it more than likely favors Kansas.  Self wants to make Niang one dimensional and although he can shoot it from deep he is much better around the rim.  If Niang finds himself wide open on the perimeter it may not be as much about ISU moving the ball well, but rather Kansas letting Niang chuck it up from deep.

Is there some risk involved for Kansas?  Yes, especially with the way Niang has been shooting lately, but there is also the possibility of him going 0-9 like he did on Big Monday last year.  I think ISU really needs Niang to try to establish himself inside first.  If we see Niang taking 9 three point field goals tonight, it may not be good for the Cyclones.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Monte Morris Big 12 POY?

With the strength and depth of the Big 12 this year, it's no surprise there are a lot of individually talented players vying for the end of the year conference awards.  The stats are spread a little more evenly, which means a little less strength at the top but much more competition for the third and honorable mention teams.  There will be some very good players show up lower on the list than might have been expected.

ISU does have a player in the hunt for the Big 12 POY, but it's not who you think.  Monte Morris, who was on my first team in my previous update, has now pulled essentially even with Buddy Hield.  Monte has held strong as the leader in the conference for assists, and near the top in steals.  But over the last three games, he's averaged over 16 points a game, pushing him to 12th among all scorers. 

Could Monte really be considered for the award this year?  I think so.  Every broadcast, the announcers mention him as one of, if not the best, point guard in the country.  If he's the best in the country, he's certainly the best in the conference, and that deserves some kind of recognition.  Monte has been a little more assertive with his scoring.  After his drives to the basket lately someone comes up and does the Kane flex thing which makes me think something was said.  He's been efficient so it would help the team if his usage went up a bit.

I'd switch Anderson and Perry Ellis, but otherwise feel pretty good about the first two teams.  There's virtually no separation between the players on the third team and honorable mention.  A bunch of solid names through the end of the list. 

TaShawn Thomas looks like the front runner for newcomer of the year (unless I'm missing someone).  Bryce has some ground to make up, but I think it's possible.  His rebounding numbers are still good and Fred seems to have taken the reigns off his offensive game.  A couple more points per game and he'll be right there with Thomas.

Georges can't get much higher on points alone, so I still think he needs to move up in rebounds and assists.  He'd need to average about 7 rpg and 4 assists for the rest of the season to get on my first team.  Georges is currently averaging 5.1 and 2.9.  He's been pretty consistent in both categories so a couple big games would help. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

ISU Basketball State of the Team

In honor (?) of the State of the Union address, I'll weigh in with a couple thoughts about the bad loss to Texas Tech and the overall picture of the team.

Yesterday's loss was a bad one, but it was one we could all see coming.  ISU has had a history of playing to the level of its competition and this year is no different.  I don't think the team overlooked Tech, I believe the coaching staff did all it could to keep the team focused on the game ahead of them.  My feeling had been that ISU played poorly on the road because so many other schools have underwhelming crowds.  This team, like most, relish the villain role as much as being hometown favorite.  But that wasn't the case in Lubbock.  The crowd, while not huge, came alive with the team early in the first half and kept the noise and intensity throughout.  Everyone was jacked up for the matchup with a top ten team.  So what happened?

Iowa State gave up a run, like they've been prone to do.  They aren't going to turn any games around with their defense so when they're offense sputters, the game can really get out of hand.  I thought they had good looks and took good shots, but when the threes aren't falling, they need to do something different, and do it earlier.  In the second half, when the Cyclones fed the ball into the paint good things happened.  Easy baskets, foul shots, offensive rebounds.  All things that manufacture points when the offense isn't working. 

This looks to be missing a guy like a Dwayne Wade circa 2006 or current James Harden who can get force the issue and get to the line.  Everyone points to DeAndre Kane from last year, and he fit the role pretty well for a college player, of course we forget that we hated everything he did at the end of halves and complained about him being too selfish.  I think we've got a couple players on this team that can serve the same purpose.  Both Hogue and McKay have done a better job of playing through the contact and making the basket when they're fouled.  This reduces their liability on the free throw line, while getting ISU closer to the bonus and making foul trouble an issue for the opposing bigs.  Neither of those guys are threats to pass out of the low post, so it probably wouldn't work for long stretches, but it would be a different look for the offense.

I do believe that Iowa State is struggling with the pressure of being ranked in the top 10.  Going back to my first thoughts, when they're ranked this high, opposing teams are going to keep pushing.  When previously a funk might have resulted in three unanswered baskets, is now turning into 20-1 runs.  The other team won't lose its intensity and focus, the Cyclones can't afford to not match it.  They didn't play with a sense of urgency until the second half. 

Obviously, Fred saw something from Bryce that he didn't like, since BDJ sat most of the second half.  I hope he hasn't given up on him.  Everyone sucked yesterday and I didn't see Bryce sucking any more than anyone else.  His length definitely helps the defense, and makes him one of the only players on the team that can get their shot off anywhere.  He's best or second best on the team in offensive and defensive rebound rate, steal rate, fouls against and free throw rate.  Basically everything this team has been struggling with in conference play.  Matt Thomas certainly hasn't shown me anything to justify eating into BDJ's minutes.

Why should fans be optimistic going forward?  This team has more athleticism than the previous four years combined.  McKay, Bryce and Nader have all made plays this year that are pretty foreign to ISU fans.  Overall their effort has been pretty good too.  This current rotation has only really played 7 games together (I'm not counting Drake or MVST), so I think they'll get a better feel for each other and play better basketball as the season goes on, as all of Fred's teams do.  Monte showed he can step up.  I thought we'd see a little more of that earlier in the season, but maybe he'll become more assertive now.  Hogue continues to do Hogue things.  Maybe he picked up a few tricks from South Carolina, West Virgina and Kansas State, I don't know, but he's going hard after every rebound and loose ball and daring the refs to call fouls.  He was a big reason they fought back into the Tech game. 

Finally, they do play to the level of competition and to the moment.  It's why they won the Big 12 tournament last year, it's why they've won four games in the last three NCAA tournaments.  I just don't believe playing at Texas Tech in January is anything like playing in the tournament.  UCONN lost at Houston last year, and they did OK.  When you play in as many close games as ISU has this year, you're going to lose some.  No team is lucky enough to win every game by a couple of points.  Maybe this isn't the year that the Cyclones dethrone the Jayhawks for the Big 12 title, but that's no prerequisite for NCAA tournament success. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

All Big 12 through 1/21/15

A little over a quarter of the Big 12 season is done, so it's time for an update to my All Big 12 rankings.

A few quick thoughts.  Kansas always represents better on my list in the conference season than in the non-conference.  They won't get three people on the first team.  Kelly Oubre is finally getting the minutes he should, and he's been playing well.  But Frank Mason is their top scorer.  It'll be a tight race between those two for the second KU player on the first team.

Monte might be a surprise, but he's leading the conference in assists, fourth in steals and leading the conference in minutes for a first place team.  If he'd been on any all Big 12 team last year, I'd feel better about it.

The pre-season all Big 12 player Juwan Staten isn't found on my lists.  He wasn't my preseason pick for underwhelmer of the year (Le'Bryan Nash was) but he'll have to step up his game to get in the post-season award conversation.

The freshmen have finally made an impact.  Oubre is on my first team and Turner is on my second team.  Neither of these guys made preseason teams.  Both will make the first or second team at the end of the year.

My guess for underrated player is Rico Gathers.  That kid is a beast.  He'll continue to tear up teams.

Bryce Dejean-Jones is contributing in rebounds and steals.  If he plays enough minutes, he should be able to contribute in points and assists, getting him at least to the second team.  Right now, he's well behind TaShawn Thomas (an article for another day) for the newcomer of the year award.

Finally, Georges.  At this point in the season, I've actually got him slightly better than he was at the end of last season, unfortunately, there are a lot of people bunched up between the second and third teams.  Georges has picked up his scoring, as he needed to, and he's in the top 20 for rebounds.  His assists have slipped, and that would get him close to the second team.  In this league, you really need to make an impact in four, if not five, of the statistical categories of points, rebounds, steals, blocks and minutes, to get into the first team.  Georges is currently only in the top of three.  This conference, like all college basketball, is really built for guards to dominate.  If he can step up his rebounding or assists, I see him as a second team all-Big 12 player.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Non-conference All-Big 12 2015

The last couple years, I've shared my all-Big 12 non conference teams.  Historically, I've got 80% right for 1st team, 1st and 2nd team, 1st, 2nd and 3rd team, etc.  This has all the non-conference games included, but some conference games too.

A couple things, in my previous projections, I had both Bryce and Georges in my first team.  Per my projections, this is a much tighter run than last years All-Big 12.  Perhaps that means a tighter team race for the Big 12 championship as well.

I'll go hard and stand by my 80% streak.  I think Staten, Forte and Nash have the best chances of being on the first team at the end.  Someone from KU will make it, so I'll stick with Mason.  My boy Kyan will slip to second team.  I don't like having two players from a team that should be bottom half of the league, but I don't think either of those player will slip.  

As for the Cyclones, it's not surprising they've fallen with the teams they have played.  They've played garbage in the non-con and the minutes and production have suffered.  That said, they played 6 out of the 12 teams against decent competition.  Any positives had the chance to shine brightly.  A tune-up game against South Carolina didn't show anything from the top 3 candidates, if anything, exposed their weaknesses.

Of the three, Bryce has the best chance of cracking the 1st team.  His production in points is down a bit but he still rebounds and assists at a high level.  Next is really between Monte and Georges.  There are about 18 players within striking distance of the second team and I think it'll be a skirmish. Monte doesn't add points, blocks or rebounds at a high enough level to make it,.  Georges needs to up his assists, and also his rebounding to be a factor.

Naz needs to make a statement in something other than scoring.  

I think ISU will finish top half of the league, which will mean at least one player on the first team.  At this point, I think it will be BDJ.  

I'll keep up as the conference season goes on.  As I've said before, this is non-conference stats and the real ones may vary wildly.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What's McKay Add?

So the general consensus is in, and it is: Mckay is great, everyone else has been bad lately.  I can't dispute that McKay has been playing great basketball since he's been eligible, but there's a couple things to look at.

McKay didn't play as many minutes as I thought against Drake and MVSU, but you could tell he was playing his game and was the focal point when he was in there.  McKay had only 2 fewer FG attempts in those two games than Niang (25-12 Niang in the two since).  So Niang and others were facilitating, while McKay was playing his game, warming up after 1.5 years of not playing competitively.  That gives him an advantage.  Everyone else looked like they'd been off for three weeks against South Carolina while McKay looked ready.  I think this has much to do with it.

McKay has improved the defensive efficiency.  It's gone from 84th after the Drake game to 56th after the Oklahoma State game.  He's meant something on that side of the ball.  He is a shot blocker (7 through 3 games) and a shot changer.

That said, I think ISU was gambling too much against South Carolina.  Everyone has bought into McKay being a rim protector and the team maybe too much.  Where the team had excelled before - shading players' strong hand, staying in front, guarding the baseline - all seemed to break down in that game.  The fans are excited, the players are excited about a defensive changer, but I think the benefit will show most when the Cyclones play their style of defense on the perimeter and let McKay erase some of the mistakes (which aren't hard to find).  Let him be a defensive backstop instead of putting everything on him.

As an offensive player, he's been as good as advertised or even better.  He's had 38 points in 84 minutes, or 13.5 points per 30 minutes, as has been pointed out before.  He's had those alley-oops, he's had those dunk put-backs.  He's had those dunk and fouls. Sure his FT% has been poor (42.1%) but he's been making a lot of the shots on which he's been fouled.  McKay's running of the floor will have other teams compensating.  And his rebounding has been helpful.

Here's where I think McKay hurts a little bit, on the offensive side.  The previous two years, Georges had been the tallest (and heaviest) man on the court for the Cyclones.  So the other teams tallest, and heaviest man, usually guarded him.  Because Ejim and Hogue and others were outside threats, they could take their men out to the three point line and let Niang work one-on-one against the other team's center in the paint.  Georges can get his shot off against one person bigger than him and have success.  Through two games, it looks like the increased quickness of the other teams' 4 and the size of the other teams' 5 have been tougher to overcome.  He's struggled some down low, since McKay has been in the lineup.

Here's how to fix that.  When Georges is going to be isolated down low, which is often, McKay should start working his way out of the paint.  He'll give up the offensive board opportunity but hopefully the other team's big man will follow.  If the other team's center stays low, McKay isn't a threat to shoot from outside (I don't think), but Georges is a good enough passer to get it to him.  Hopefully this triggers a reaction for the defense, and McKay can swing the ball around to shooters.  I think McKay is a good enough handle to make this work.  It might even help, if McKay moves outside and toward another ISU player.  Niang gets the ball to McKay, someone help defends on McKay, he gets the ball to someone else, and there might be an opportunity to get the ball back to Niang in the post where he can do work.

Fred's half-court set, his transition offense is all built on spacing.  I think spacing makes Georges work. Even in the pros an iso can't work if defenses are sagging.  If McKay can show any ability to either make a 15 ft jumper on the baseline, or be able to work the ball around, it will open up Georges so he can work more efficiently down low.

All that said, McKay has added an unique element to this team that hasn't been there before.  His ability to rebound, run the break, block and affect shots, is really something this team hasn't had before.  I think it's just a matter of spacing on the offensive side of the floor and Fred is the right man to make it right.