After a heartbreaking loss at West Virginia, Baylor (11-5, 1-3) takes on Iowa State (9-6, 0-4) at 2:00 on Saturday. The game airs on ESPN News and is in Ames.
This is a virtual must win for Baylor. Iowa State is by far the worst team in the league. Winning on the road isn’t easy, but after dropping a home game to TCU, the Bears can’t mess around losing games they should win.
As always, we’ll preview playing offense against the opponent, and then turn to defense. Finally, we’ll close with a prediction.
Iowa State’s defense is not good. They rank 133rd on KenPom. This is a transition year for a young team.
The Cyclones are young and off ball movement can affect their defense. They give up 3-point shots on 42.3% of defensive possessions, which ranks 306th nationally. Kansas opened the game with good movement, which led to a wide open three:
Dean Wade of Kansas State went wild in Ames. He’s the Wildcats 6-foot-10 power forward. On the way to an offensive rating of 182, he went 6-of-8 from deep. The Cyclones zone can sometimes forget about men:
This should be the day Terry Maston gets his shot back. He didn’t play much against West Virginia because the Bears needed a power forward who could handle the ball against the Mountaineers full-court press. The Cyclones won’t press, instead those shots Wade hit should be open for Maston. Solomon Young—a talented guy—does not move well defensively. If Iowa State tries to hard hedge, Maston should be able to spring free as Young recovers. And if they weak ball screens, then he’ll be open on pocket passes.
I’ve referenced Baylor’s high horns look they ran so effectively at the end of the game against Creighton. That play could certainly make a return against the Cyclones. Their big men aren’t super mobile and their guards are young. That Baylor set can destroy teams with slow big men, and that set requires teams to react quickly. Texas ran a version of that look that sprung Dylan Osetkowski open:
Baylor runs that play much better too:
Luckily for the Bears, Iowa State doesn’t turn opponents over. They rank 272nd in that category. Iowa State’s accepted not gaining many extra possession by not fouling often—as they rank 26th in foul rate. The Cyclones also can struggle with depth; They ran out of gas in the last five minutes at Allen Fieldhouse.
Iowa State might sit back in zone, or give the Bears some 3-point looks and gamble that Baylor’s recent struggles from deep are going to continue. If Baylor goes 1-of-12 from deep—like they did against TCU—the Bears are going to lose. That doesn’t happen often, but Iowa State is 104th on KenPom. Even at home they’re the underdog. They need to hope for some luck, and Baylor’s made their own bad luck from deep a few times this season.
Although I am strongly on team “Free the Three,” there’s a time and place to leave a movement. Baylor should take open threes, especially Maston looks out of that set I mentioned above. But the Cyclones are not a giant team. The Cyclones should be put in a tough spot: double Jo Lual-Acuil, Tristan Clark and Maston to leave others wide open, or leave them covered by smaller defenders? Jeremiah Tilmon, Missouri’s 6-foot-10 forward, had 14 points on just nine shots against Iowa State:
Lual-Acuill and Maston need to have big games:
With the loss of Monte Morris, Matt Thomas and Naz Long, Iowa State’s offense has regressed. They rank 87th in offensive efficiency.
The Cyclones do a good job not turning it over. Nick Weiler-Babb took over as point guard following their 0-2 start, and since then, Iowa State has only turned it over on more than 20% of possession on two occasions. The Bears don’t turn teams over very often, so this isn’t a night where the Bears will break out of that framework.
Iowa State isn’t dominant from the 3-point line, but they can drain shots. Donovan Jackson went 6-of-14 against Kansas and had a stretch where he made back-to-back looks. He’s quick and has a nice motion. The Bears need to focus their time in zone on him:
The Cyclones run a lot of good offensive sets. Prohm won big at Murray State and is a very good coach. Sometimes it’s just a rebuilding year. The Cyclones will mix in horns (two big men high—usually at the free throw line, but sometimes extended higher— with two shooters spaced into the corner):
They’ll also run quite a bit out of a 1-4 low set. They like to get creative with screens for Jackson and super freshman Lindell Wigginton:
The big takeaway from Iowa State’s offense is that communication and effort really matter. This team sets a lot of random screens and mixes in dribble hand-offs and some random screens. The Baylor man-to-man defense has stretches where the defense either fails to communicate or the two pick-and-roll defenders are not on the same page about who has what assignment. Even if Baylor’s the favorite in this one, they’re not enough of the favorite to give up a couple of easy baskets because one person thought they were switching all pin down screens and someone else thought they were not.
Baylor’s flirted with playing more man-to-man, but I think zone is the way to go. The Cyclones have a few good shooters, but this team isn’t phenomenal from deep. The Bears also tend to do a better job not losing guys in zone. But Jase Febres from Texas showed that sometimes somebody can go off. If someone from Iowa State does, the Bears need to be attentive in man-to-man.
Iowa State is young and rebuilding. Prohm will have them back to the top of the league soon, though this league is way too well coached to make any guarantee about success.
The Bears have a better team and big men that should be a mess for Iowa State to defend. The Cyclones could get hot, and the Bears could compound their problems by missing some assignments. This team was in the game at Allen Filedhouse at the final T.V. timeout.
Ultimately, Baylor presents a host of problems for the Cyclones. The season isn’t over if the Bears lose, but they’re going to have to steal a game if they lose this one. I’ll take Baylor 72-64.
Season Prediction Record: 15-1
Against the Spread: 7-2