The Iowa State Cyclones enter the Ferrell Center to end a two-game road trip. After losing to South Carolina by four, beating Oklahoma State by two, and leaving Morgantown with a narrow victory, the Cyclones seem to be playing with fire in the strongest basketball conference in the nation.
That said, Iowa State, one of the most complete teams in the conference, rightly sits atop the Big 12, tied with Kansas. Fred Hoiberg has one of the deeper squads in the nation, with his three main reserves, McKay, Nader, and Thomas, good enough to start for multiple teams across the country.
For the Bears offensively, the aforementioned Jameel McKay (6’9’’) is a factor for the Cyclones’ defense. In only a little over 20 minutes, McKay is averaging 2.4 blocks per game, including five in the win against West Virginia. With an offense that struggles to get going at times, the Bears have to finish strong at the rim. As Tim Watkins pointed out, Rico Gather is finishing only 51.7% of his shots at the rim, with the team only converting 54.8% of all close-range shots. That said, the Bears are one of the leading second chance points teams in the country and the Cyclones have allowed 12 offensive rebounds in their first two conference games.
Surprisingly, the Cyclones’ offense has hit its lowest three-point percentage in at least four seasons. However, that number is still sitting at a respectable 34.5% on the season and ranks as one of the better conference shooting teams. It will be interesting watch how our zone rotations match up to Iowa State’s quick passes and excellent ball movement, something that our defense has been able to counter nicely this season. The Cyclones rank 32 in the country in total assists, showing that the Bears must be on point with their hard closeouts on Hoiberg’s deep shooting squad and must also body Cyclones’ big man Georges Niang, one of the top players in the Big 12 who goes to work in the post, but can also step out and shoot the three.
A win tonight would even the Bears’ conference record, but, more importantly, it would show the Selection Committee that Coach Drew and his team can defend its homecourt, a factor that may very well play into which Big 12 teams do and do not make the Tournament come March.
Final Prediction: Iowa State – 66 Baylor - 72