It's less complicated than you might think.
1) Iowa State rarely fields a bad basketball team.
2) Iowa State rarely fields a basketball team good enough to win consistently on the road. Thus, they're usually a little underrated in the general consciousness.
3) Iowa State draws a tremendous crowd when Kansas visits. If the Cyclones keep the game fairly close, the crowd becomes a factor.
(Digression: Is a vocal crowd more of a benefit for the home team when it's not the norm? Are players at Kansas or Oklahoma State slightly inured to playing in front of a vocal, supportive crowd thus drawing less of a benefit than the Iowa State players get from the handful of games they generate similarly vocal support?)
Kansas again offered brief glimpses of excellent play interspersed with JR Giddens throwing the ball to Iowa State two possessions in a row, Michael Lee dribbling the ball off his leg, or Nick Bahe retiring the Kirk Hinrich Memorial Bad Lob Pass Award. I'm just glad none of the older Iowa State fans in one of those comfy, cushioned Hilton seats was injured by the projectile's launch.
If the Jayhawks ever start grabbing defensive rebounds they'll look as good as Illinois if not North Carolina. At this point of the season, I'm not holding my breath.
Player comments and ratings (1-low, 5-average, 10-high):
Aaron Miles, 6.5: Another solid game from Miles. The team does a horrible job of getting him open against full court pressure. The problem seems to be systemic. It appears the plan is for Miles to receive the second pass and attack the pressure downhill. It's not working.
JR Giddens, 4.5: Nice shooting performance early, marred only by his attempts at dribble penetration. The pull-up jumper he made featured a violent, unplanned confrontation between ball and backboard; the one he missed fell to earth a foot-and-a-half beyond the goal. He panicked when double-teamed and spent the last eight minutes of the game on the bench. It's not a good sign when your coach feels more comfortable with Michael Lee handling the ball down the stretch. To JR's credit it appears he's made an adjustment to minimize his principal defensive shortcoming: poor footwork. He's playing a half-step off his man and using his long arms to close the gap. It's similar to what Ryan Robertson did to minimize the quickness disadvantage he suffered against other point guards.
Wayne Simien, 7: Welcome back, Wayne. If you'd brought your free throw stroke to Ames I would have had an easier time digesting my dinner. The half-court offense looks much better with him on the floor. (Cracker-jack analysis, no?)
CJ Giles, 5: Only four fouls. I believe congratulations are in order. CJ played better position defense and didn't get pushed around too badly by Homan (though Homan did get five assists against no turnovers which suggests that Iowa State's poor field goal percentage had more to do with Curtis Stinson's poor shot selection than consistently brilliant team defense). Giles will still be more active than effective at his current weight but looks ready to share backup post minutes with Galindo for the remainder of the season.
Keith Langford, 8.5: I've criticized Langford's defense in the past, but not today. Stinson's line: 6-20 FG with i assist and 5 turnovers. Langford's line: 7-11 FG with 5 assists and 2 turnovers. That should help him come all-conference voting. (Langford, Miles, and Stinson can all make a claim for the fifth spot on the first team. I believe Simien, Lucas, Joey Graham, and Taj Gray would easily earn the other four spots at this point.) Langford also managed a nice dunk in transition which made me smile.
Michael Lee, 3: One-of-four from the floor, two rebounds, one assist, three turnovers, and a couple of botched defensive assignments (minus eight points). But, man, can he dive for a loose ball (plus one-half point), and, honestly, I think he was the best option available to Coach Self down the stretch (plus one-half point). I'm probably feeling a little generous after the Texas A&M and Kentucky games. I really don't like eviscerating his play two out of every three games, he seems like a nice kid.
Alex Galindo, 4: If he would grow a mustache, he'd be my favorite player. With the exception of the three-point attempt with one minute left in the game (and 26 seconds on the shot clock) he didn't take any bad shots. But he only made on them and grabbed only one rebound. He did however make three of four free throws down the stretch.
Russell Robinson, 3.5: I don't know if his play or his scratched cornea limited his minutes. He hasn't been as much of a factor as I expected as the schedule has gotten tougher but I'm confident he'll figure out how to balance effort and execution far more quickly than Jerod Haase did.
Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, Nick Bahe, Moulaye Niang, and Jeff Hawkins, incomplete: Jackson always looks intriguingly active though it's clear he has no real idea of what he's doing yet. Sasha looked a little fired up after his Kentucky performance (as he should be), but attempted an ill-advised (and slow-developing) post move and didn't return. Bahe I covered in the intro. I can't say I remember Moulaye entering the game but the box score credits him with two minutes played and a foul. Jeff Hawkins ended the game by stealing the ball from Curtis Stinson. That made me smile. Stinson's a good player, but he's mouthier than Homan (and JR Giddens for that matter).