The Cyclones have won just once in Big 12 play, a 15-point victory over Baylor, but could easily have won multiple other contests. Among Iowa State's losses include overtime defeats at Oklahoma State and at home against Oklahoma, a one-point loss at Nebraska and to Kansas State in Ames, and two-possession losses against Kansas, Texas A&M and Missouri.
So it's fairly easy to look at the Cyclones and suggest that they're a few breaks away from a much better conference mark. And Iowa State should be even better next year, when key transfers like Royce White become eligible and when younger players like sturdy freshman Melvin Ejim get another year to develop.
But by then, Iowa State will be without star point guard Diante Garrett, the Big 12's only player to rank in the top five in points and assists per game. He's scoring 17.3 points and dishing out 6.07 assists per contest, leading the conference in the latter statistic by a full assist per game. He's a big part of the reason that the Cyclones rank third in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Overall, Iowa State is a pretty fundamentally sound team under coach Fred Hoiberg, ranking 37th nationally in turnover rate while playing sound defense (65th in adjusted defensive efficiency) while not fouling (23rd in free throw attempts per field goal attempts).
Iowa State is at its best when the Cyclones play at a fast tempo and when they're hitting their threes. The Cyclones are first in the league in three-pointers made, making 8.85 per game. There are two schools of thought on a team's record. The first is that a team is exactly as good as its record says. The second is that certain teams' records can be deceiving because of the number of close games they've played.
With Iowa State, both schools work. Because of Iowa State's record, it's somewhat safe to expect that they won't beat Texas, the Big 12's leader on Tuesday. But also because of the Cyclones' record, it's reasonable to expect that the game might be closer than would otherwise be indicated.