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NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Central Florida

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MBB Scouting Report: Iowa State

Momentum Building Opportunity

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Matchup: Iowa State Cyclones (16-4 / 5-2) @ Baylor Bears (15-5 / 4-3)

Time: Saturday, February 3, 2024, @ 7:00 PM CT

Place: Foster Pavillion, Waco, Texas

Where to Watch: ESPN2

Big Picture

Iowa State comes in with plenty of rest and time to prepare, having not played since their upset win over Kansas last Saturday. The Cyclones have won 5 of their last 6 including 3-in-a-row. Their win streak is the 2nd longest active streak in the Big 12 and has kept them within striking distance of the top spot in the league standings.

Syndication: The Ames Tribune
Iowa State fans storm the court after beating Kansas (Jan. 27, 2024)
Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

Baylor comes in off a desperately needed come-from-behind road win against UCF which snapped the Bears’ 3-game-losing streak. This is a tremendous opportunity for Baylor to build momentum and claw their way back into the top portion of the conference standings.

Baylor leads the all-time series 24-23. Before last season’s horrific 3-game sweep at the hands of the Cyclones (by a combined 36 points), Baylor had won 9 of the prior 10 meetings. The Bears are 14-2 against the Cyclones in Waco since 2001.

Season Recap

Iowa State’s best wins this season have been against Houston, Kansas, and TCU. Their losses have come at the hands of Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and BYU.

The Cyclones skyrocketed up the AP rankings this week (going from 23 to 12) after their upset of Kansas last week. KenPom has Iowa State as the 13th-best team in the nation while Evan Miya’s metric ranks them 19th nationally (Baylor currently ranks 16th and 20th respectively by those sites).

Cyclones’ Style

Defensively, Iowa State plays mostly man-to-man, although they have been known to mix things up with an occasional zone if they need to cool down a hot opposing offense.

Offensively, the Cyclones like to drive with their guards, looking to either finish at the rim or kick to an open shooter. They also rely heavily on offensive rebounding to improve their scoring efficiency.

This team doesn’t take many three-pointers and is middle-of-the-pack in the Big 12 in terms of tempo.

cbbanalytics.com

Cyclones’ Strengths

  • Iowa State is as tenacious and disruptive as it gets defensively. They lead the nation in Steal Rate and points-off-turnovers per game.
  • The Cyclones are an incredibly selfless team and in the 96th percentile nationally in both assists per game and Assist-to-Turnover Ratio.
  • Iowa State is extremely effective scoring at-the-rim (97th percentile nationally in at-the-rim FG%).

Cyclones’ Weaknesses

  • Iowa State has struggled recently both at the FT line (63% as a team over the last 4 games) and from behind the arc (31% as a team over the last 7 games).
  • The Cyclones are a subpar rim-protecting team (they rank 12th among Big 12 teams in blocked shots).
  • Iowa State commits more offensive fouls per game than any other Big 12 team. This is due in large part to their size, physicality, and downhill driving offense. They also set an inordinate amount of illegal screens.

Players to Watch

Tamin Lipsey (Guard, No. 3, Sophomore, 6’1” 200 lbs.): 13.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.7 APG, and 3.1 SPG on 44/37/67 splits. Lipsey is the team’s point guard and best player. He is making a strong case for First Team All-Conference if not Conference Player of the Year. He is 4th among Big 12 players in assists per game and is 3rd among D-1 players in steals per game. While not an elite scorer, he is an elite facilitator on the offensive end and is arguably the best perimeter defender in the Big 12. He is in the 97th percentile nationally in fouls drawn per game so I would expect that it will be a combination of Baylor guards tasked with guarding him throughout the contest.

Keshon Gilbert (Guard, No. 10, Junior, 6’4” 200 lbs.): 13.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, and 1.8 SPG on 47/26/72 splits. The UNLV transfer is an excellent secondary ball handler and, like Lipsey, an aggressive defender. Although Gilbert doesn’t have great range, he is a crafty guard who is particularly adept at drawing contact and getting to the FT line. Just like Lipsey, Gilbert is in the 97th percentile nationally in fouls drawn per game. Unlike his starting backcourt companion, Keshon has struggled with turnovers (he has surrendered the 5th most turnovers among Big 12 players this season).

Milan Momcilovic (Forward, No. 22, Freshman, 6’8” 220 lbs.): 13.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.1 APG on 47/41/85 splits. The true freshman wing is the team’s best 3P shooter. Momcilovic has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki for his baseline, mid-range fadeaway which he hits with regularity. One of the most impressive things about Momcilovic is that he doesn’t make many “freshman mistakes”, at least on the offensive end. Defensively, he doesn’t have the impact you might expect from a guy with his size, but he’s not out there to get stops. He’s out there to make the ball go through the hoop. I’d expect the combo of Bridges and Lohner would have primary responsibility for containing this guy.

Tre King (Forward, No. 0, Super Senior, 6’7” 230 lbs.): 9.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.2 SPG on 54/30/80 splits. The former Eastern Kentucky transfer leads the team in rebounding. King does most of his scoring damage at the rim (over 51% of his FG attempts are at the rim), although he does have the range to shoot it from deep if left open. He is a versatile defender. I would expect Ja’Kobe to be the primary defender on King.

Robert Jones (Center, No. 12, Super Senior, 6’10” 250 lbs.): 8.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.9 SPG, and 1.0 BPG on 67/NA/52 splits. The former Denver transfer leads the team in FG% and blocked shots. Offensively, he has no range (nearly 90% of his FG attempts this season are either at the rim or in the paint). Jones is in the 96th percentile or better nationally in both eFG% and FT Attempt Rate over his last 5 games. Watch for him to set a ton of screens and to be a target as a hard roller in PNR sets. Ojianwuna might be better suited to defend Jones’s low-post game than Missi.

Curtis Jones (Guard, No. 5, Senior, 6’4” 190 lbs.): 9.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, and 2.0 SPG on 39/34/76 splits. The Buffalo transfer is the team’s leading bench scorer and 2nd leading 3P shooter. Overall, Jones is a better defender than a scorer (he is in the 98th percentile nationally in Steal Rate).

Hason Ward (Forward, No. 24, Super Senior, 6’9” 230 lbs.): 7.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 0.9 BPG on 62/NA/53 splits. The former VCU transfer is the team leader in Offensive Rebound Rate. He is an athletic forward who can guard multiple positions. Ward is aggressive defensively and loves to jump passing lanes.

Predictions

Key(s) to the Game

  • Be patient offensively (this defense is long, strong, and fundamentally sound; figuring them out will not be easy; don’t force contested shots).
  • Ball security (careless and lazy passes won’t cut it against this team; keeping ISU out of transition is critical to competing with them).

Player of the Game: Ja’Kobe Walter (Baylor): Over his last 10 games, Walter is averaging over 15 PPG and 5 RPG on 40/35/82 splits. Walter is a guy who has, like many true freshmen, played so much better at home than on the road. In games played in Waco this season, Walter is averaging 15.8 PPG. This feels like a game where he could get hot and knock down a lot of shots. Additionally, his defensive effort and versatility will be a huge factor in this game.

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Central Florida Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Final Score: Baylor wins 71-67 (that’s right, another game likely to come down to the final few possessions; the Bears’ balanced attack finds a way before the Foster faithful; Sic Em!)

Stats courtesy of cbbanalytics.com, sportsreference.com, kenpom.com, evanmiya.com, hoop-explorer.com, big12sports.com, ncaa.com.

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