Iowa State basketball: Should Jameel McKay start?


Since Jameel McKay has been eligible to play with Iowa State basketball, team chemistry has taken a hit. The offense hasn’t been as high-flying, but it also comes at a time when competition has gotten tougher. It’s not McKay’s fault though. In fact, it may be time for the team to just face the inevitable and shake up the team with a Jameel McKay start.

After trouncing a terrible Drake team, the Cyclones have stuttered offensively with more turnovers and less points. They would have scored well over 100 against Mississippi Valley State if it wasn’t for all the turnovers in the second half. They averaged just 61.5 points against South Carolina and Oklahoma State, which in one way is good considering both opponents give up 58.9 points per game combined, but falls well below Iowa State’s 80.9-point average.

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Scoring 60 points won’t cut it. The Cyclones are not built to slow things down and play defensive slugfests. They need to score 70-80 points a game. Iowa State defensive numbers will be average at best when the season ends, and that’s fine if the offense can play up to their potential.

That’s why Fred Hoiberg should go with the inevitable and put McKay in the starting lineup. We’ve seen him dazzle with making all five field goals against MVSU and scoring a season-high 15 points against USC (with help from the free throw line believe it or not) after a tremendous first half. He’s gotten five or more rebounds in all four games, and is averaging more minutes in that time period than starter Bryce Dejean-Jones.

Iowa State is about to face a daunting three-game stretch: at West Virginia, at Baylor, and Kansas at home. Might as well throw in McKay as a starter now before getting too far into Big 12 play because there aren’t many days off.

The question is who will be sitting on the bench. Naturally, you would assume Naz Long would receive the demotion. Nothing against him, and I’m sure Long would take it in stride, but he could take a Tyrus McGee-esque position on the team and come in to spark the team with his 3-point shooting. Then, you would have Monte Morris as the obvious point guard, BDJ still as the other guard, Georges Niang taking the 3-spot since he can do a bit of everything, Dustin Hogue being the power forward, and McKay being your “center.”

Jan 6, 2015; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Bryce Dejean-Jones (13) grabs for a rebound against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

However, there’s an argument to drop somebody else after some questionable play as of late — Dejean-Jones. Since we’ve learned that BDJ is a terrible roommate and McKay received playing time, the guard that amazed us at the beginning of the season has taken the most hit in points.

Clearly, BDJ has struggled the most in team chemistry. My argument to keep him in is because he’s still been productive in other categories such as taking a distributive role at times and he’s been great on the glass. He’s an emotional player that also may not take to kindly to hitting the bench. I’d give him the chance to shake off the funk, but if he struggles during their two-game venture outside of Ames, Hoiberg would have to consider it.

Another nugget to keep an eye on is Matt Thomas. He finally had a great game against Oklahoma State. If he keeps things going, he could even see a start over BDJ.

When Iowa State reaches West Virginia, the starting lineup should change with McKay in and Long out. It may not be that big of a deal considering players will get the playing time they deserve, but it’s something to tweak to try getting this Cyclone offense back on the right track.

Next: Iowa St edges Okie St, wins Big 12 opener