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Baylor-Iowa State Preview and Prediction

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The Bears look to win their fifth straight against the Cyclones

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor (13-0) takes on Iowa State (9-3) at 7:00 on Wednesday at the Ferrell Center. Baylor once again seems to be a major matchup problem for the Cyclones. But in the Big 12, anything can happen.

The Cyclones are a different team without Georges Niang. Iowa State’s offense is worse without the talented big man. Iowa State has made up for Niang’s loss by improving their defense, which currently ranks #19 on KenPom.

But as strong as Iowa State’s defense has become, Baylor has a huge frontcourt advantage against Iowa State. Baylor won in Ames last season behind a 27 point effort from Johnathan Motley. Terry Maston added 13 as well. The Cyclones play nobody taller than 6’8. As a result, they are 216th in block percentage on KenPom and struggle to contest near the hoop:

Iowa State has tried to counter their size disadvantage by doubling in the post. Against Gonzaga, Iowa State’s doubling led to Gonzaga finding open men for easy looks:

Beyond passing to other big men, Motley has shown he can fire a pass to the perimeter too. If Iowa State adjusts by clogging the paint, then Motley should be able to find 3-point shooters, as he did against Oklahoma:

Maston is a huge problem for Iowa State. Many defenses are designed to take away 3-point shots and shots near the rim. Those shots are normally more efficient because a 3-point shot is worth more points, which makes up for making fewer of them, and a shot near the rim is easier to make because it’s a close shot. But Maston shoots so well from mid-range that his mid-range shooting value can match the value of shots near the rim or from the perimeter.

Like many modern defenses, Iowa State’s defense is not designed to take away Maston’s mid-range shot. First, Iowa State typically defends the pick-and-roll with their big man tracking the ball handler or by hard hedging. Once that happens, Maston can slip to the side and nail open jumpers:

Iowa State doesn’t have a lot of options to deal with this. They’ve gone zone, but that ended up leaving Gonzaga that very shot. And you can’t just go under Manu Lecomte and stick with the big man, because he’ll do this:

Returning to Motley, he is currently the fifth best player in the country, according to KenPom. Iowa State—like almost everyone—has nobody who can defend him. And now that he’s making 3’s, he’s even tougher to defend:

Iowa State’s offense is still solid though. Monte Morris is the team’s senior point guard and leader. His strength navigating the offense has helped Iowa State be the 3rd best at avoiding turnovers, according to KenPom.

But Iowa State’s offense is not quite what it was the last couple of seasons. Morris and Naz Mitrou-Long aren’t making as many 3’s as expected. Matt Thomas is also down to 36%. None of those three are bad from the perimeter, but they need to be a decent clip better to make up for the loss of Niang and Abdel Nader.

Prediction

Iowa State is a good team that sometimes looks great. The Cyclones nearly beat Gonzaga, and they have a quality win against Texas Tech. Yet, Iowa State also has long stretches of mediocrity. They went 5 of 21 from 3 against Cincinnati in a loss, and they were beaten handily by an Iowa team with six losses.

Baylor seems to once again be a huge problem for Iowa State. The Cyclones could have a crazy shooting day, but barring that, I don’t think Iowa State can beat Baylor at home. I’ll take Baylor 72-60.