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Baylor at Iowa State: Preview and Prediction

The Bears look to start Big 12 play with seven wins

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

No. 1 Baylor (17-1, 6-0) takes on Iowa State (9-10, 2-4) at 8:00 Wednesday in Ames. The game airs on ESPNU.

Baylor won the game in Waco 68-55. The Bears were in control of the game throughout the second half, despite only shooting 13-of-22 from the free throw line in the contest.

Baylor is a seven point favorite on KenPom. He gives the Bears a 72% chance to win. The Bears are 5.5 point favorites in Vegas.

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


Baylor scored 1.03 points per possession in the first game. That mark—while not stellar for Baylor—should be good enough to win, given Baylor has allowed more than 1.03 points per possession only once (Villanova).

Iowa State limited Baylor early. The Bears couldn’t get much going in the halfcourt, but once again, Baylor should look to run. Iowa State struggles in transition:

The Bears didn’t have a great shooting day in the first game, which bodes well for thinking Baylor can play even better this time. The Bears shot just 5-of-20 from deep. Iowa State’s defense didn’t force tough shots, Baylor just missed some good looks. The Cyclones like to stunt—where a defensive player defending another player close to the ball helps off his man a few steps—and that leaves open opportunities:

Iowa State has a ton of trouble handling Baylor on the offensive glass. The Bears rebounded 41% of their missed shots, which is even higher than Baylor’s fifth ranked mark of 38%.

Defending Baylor is a daunting task for Iowa State. Mitchell and Jared Butler are two fast for any combination of their guards. Freddie Gillespie rolls well, and the Cyclones like to help to an insane degree. The Cyclones best bet is to probably just play off Baylor a bit and gamble that Baylor might have a rough shooting day if they take 30 triples.

My takeaway from the first game is that Iowa State was lucky Baylor only averaged 1.03 points per possession. Butler made one ridiculous three, but the Bears missed nine free throws and 15 shots from beyond the arc; Florida would have done anything to catch Baylor shooting like that.


Iowa State scored .83 points per possession in the Waco game. That total is worse than the nation’s worst offense averages.

Tyrese Haliburton makes Iowa State’s offense go, and Baylor did a nice job focusing on him. The likely top 10 pick in next year’s NBA Draft finished with six points on 2-of-12 shooting. He had nine assists, so there’s some worry that if Baylor botches their defense, he’ll find open men. Baylor didn’t have too many breakdowns in the first meeting, but Haliburton hit a three on one of them:

Iowa State tried playing big for a while, but they have trouble defending when they play that way. Those lineups also don’t work as well because even with some spacing from their big men, Baylor’s bigs are adept at defending the perimeter.

The Cyclones are a decent club in transition. Maybe Steve Prohm will elect to run and hope Baylor’s top five defense will miss an assignment there. But the problem with that strategy is that it leads to more possessions, and Iowa State—clearly worse than Baylor—probably wants fewer possessions and a higher chance that with fewer opportunities, Baylor scores less.

There’s not much Iowa State has to beat Baylor. Baylor’s hard for anyone to score against. They don’t have a dominant post scorer like Washington, and they’re not as talented playing five out as a team like Villanova.


Barring a wild shooting day from Iowa State, and a bad game from Baylor, the Bears should win this one. Hilton can be a tough place to play, but the 9-10 Cyclones already have three losses there.

Baylor’s probably going to lose one game to a team they shouldn’t. In an 18 game league schedule, everyone has a bad night against even the worst teams in the conference. That’s exemplified by West Virginia losing to Kansas State by 16.

The Bears should make more shots in this contest, and even if Iowa State does a better job on the glass, they won’t be able to keep up on offense. I’ll take Baylor 74-62.