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Baylor-Iowa State: Preview and Prediction

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Baylor Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a big win against Kansas, Iowa State (12-2, 2-0) takes on Baylor (8-5, 0-1) at 6:00 on Tuesday at the Ferrell Center. The game airs on ESPN.

Baylor is a slight underdog. Iowa State is No. 14 on KenPom and Torvik. Both sites give the Bears about a 13 chance to win.

As always, we’ll look at playing offense against the opponent, then turn to defense. Finally, we’ll close with a prediction.


Steve Prohm has Iowa State playing their best defense since 2005. They rank 21st in defensive efficiency and are good across the board.

Iowa State continues to excel at defending without fouling. They rank 5th in foul rate. With athletic players at every spot, the Cyclones drop back in pick-and-roll coverage and block shots:

If there’s one problem with Iowa State’s defense, they give up quite a few threes. The cyclones rank 305th in percentage of shots from the perimeter. But that’s not great for the Bears. Baylor is 328th in 3-point percentage. The Bears, absent a strong performance against New Orleans, have been abysmal from deep. A weaker Iowa team could go 9-of-18 from three and beat Iowa State. Baylor would need an out of soul day to shoot that well. The Bears’ offense just doesn’t create and make shots like this:

Iowa State’s defense demands quick action. With Makai Mason’s ankle injury, the Bears aren’t the best at beating drop pick-and-roll coverage. Jared Butler needs to attack and try to beat the Cyclones:

The Cyclones move well enough and will double that Tristan Clark—much as he has all season—is going to have trouble getting into a good position to score. With Solomon Young still barely playing because of injuries (he played one minute against Kansas), there’s hope that Baylor can get some Clark opportunities.


Iowa State ranks 17th on offense, and that number is a little deflated. Lindell Wigginton, a likely first round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, has missed 10 games. He gets downhill well, and has helped find Tyrese Haliburton—a man shooting 48% from deep. The Bears struggled to contain Alex Robinson’s dribble penetration. Wigginton is better driving and Haliburton is better at shooting than anyone the Horned Frogs had. This is going to be tough:

Marial Shayok has been a monster for Iowa State. He ranks third in KenPom’s Big 12 Player of the Year rankings. The former Virginia Cavalier is an insane isolation scorer and can hit form anywhere. There is no shot he won’t take, and he’ll make about anything. He’s also an adept cutter:

The main weakness for Iowa State is that they don’t get to the line, ranking 219th in free throw rate. Baylor ranks 213th in sending teams to the line, so we have a meeting of a stoppable force and movable object.

Baylor probably can’t stop Iowa State’s guards one-on-one, so the best bet is to play zone and hope the Cyclones go cold. Baylor is not as good as Iowa State this season. The Bears need to maximize low probability but high variance events. The Cyclones went 4-of-24 from deep in their loss to Arizona. The Bears need another performance like that. Maybe Iowa State goes 14-of-24 and wins by 30. That’s okay. The goal is to win, not lose close. Better to give yourself a chance and get crushed than pick up a moral victory.


David and I said on the podcast that we thought Baylor would lose to TCU, Iowa State would beat Kansas, and that Baylor would then come back and pull off the upset.

You find God and reality on Sundays though. Iowa State just seems too good to lose to a Baylor team that is a year away. Maybe Matt Mayer plays like he did Saturday, and King McClure or someone else nails a few more threes. Maybe the Cyclones miss a lot of shots too.

Iowa State seems to be just too good to lose on Tuesday. I hope to be wrong, but I always try to predict what I actually think will happen. May the Bears prove me wrong. But I have Iowa State winning 72-64.