On New Year’s Day, the #1 ranked Baylor Men’s Basketball team (12-0) opens up conference play with a top-ten matchup in Ames against the #8 ranked Iowa State Cyclones (12-0). We may look back at this game as the deciding factor in who wins the Big 12 conference...or Iowa State basketball may follow the lead of their football team and lose half of their conference games!
Whether you’re watching from home, at a bar, or listening to the radio broadcast with Kendall Kaut en route to the Big Easy, here are three statistics to keep an eye (or ear) on.
Both teams are elite on defense — KenPom rates Baylor as the fourth best defensive team in the country and Iowa State as the seventh best. Extending possessions on offense (and keeping them short on defense) should be a significant determinant of the outcome of this game.
Baylor is a great offensive rebounding team and Iowa State is a great defensive rebounding team. The Bears recover 37% of their missed shot attempts (11th in the country), but the Cyclones hold opponents to a 7 percentage point worse offensive rebounding percentage than they average in other games (30th in the country). Slight edge — Baylor.
Iowa State is an above average offensive rebounding team and Baylor is (at best) an average defensive rebounding team. The Cyclones have an offensive rebounding percentage of 31% (101st in the country), and the Bears hold opponents to a two percentage point worse offensive rebounding percentage (182nd in the country). Edge — Iowa State.
In the same way that extending and ending possessions with rebounding will be important, generating and preventing turnovers will also be a big factor in this game. But unlike the rebounding battle where Iowa State might have the overall advantage, Baylor should come out ahead on turnovers.
Baylor is decent in preventing turnovers, giving up the ball on only 16% of possessions (63rd in the country). Iowa State is excellent in creating turnovers, forcing opponents to turn the ball over 7 percentage points more than they do in other games (14th in the country).
This advantage for Iowa State is dwarfed by Baylor’s advantage when Iowa State has the ball. The Cyclones are really bad at holding on to the ball — they turn it over on 18% of their possessions (216th in the country) — and Baylor is as good as Iowa State at generating turnovers (+7 percentage points, 10th in the country).
Two Point Offense
It doesn’t matter how many rebounds and turnovers Baylor has if they can’t score the ball, and their best odds of doing so will be from inside the arc.
The Bears make 57% of their two point shot attempts (27th in the country) and only 35% of their three point attempts (108th in the country). Iowa State is good on two point defense (-6 percentage points relative to season average, 45th in the country) and elite on three point defense (-10 percentage points relative to season average, 2nd in the country).
With offensive rebounds by the rim and fast break opportunities off of turnovers, Baylor should have plenty of opportunities to score inside. If they can convert these shots, I like the Bear’s chances tomorrow.
KenPom prediction: Baylor 69, Iowa State 62