College Basketball Pick
It doesn’t seem right to say it, but Texas and Iowa State are two middle-of-the-pack Big 12 teams. That’s what happens when West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas are all ranked in the Top 10. These two teams can’t be ignored though and also come into this Game ranked.
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After a rough non-Conference slate, the Longhorns may be the most impressive team in the Big 12 at the moment, even coming off a loss. They have won seven of their last nine Games with those only two losses coming at Kansas and Oklahoma. They had the Sooners on the ropes Monday night and only fell because of a late Buddy Hield three-pointer. During that stretch, Texas has road wins at West Virginia and Baylor, so they can’t be ignored.
Things haven’t been going as well for Iowa State who is expected to welcome back Jameel McKay to the squad after he was suspended for the last two for conduct detrimental to the team. The return of McKay is huge for the Cyclones because they’ll need someone to deal with Texas’ size. Iowa State has some nice home wins this year against Oklahoma and Kansas, but also lost its most recent one to West Virginia. If they don’t show up in this Game, Texas has the tools for another road upset.
The Longhorns defense has probably been the biggest difference since these teams last met. It was only a month ago when Texas won 94-91 in an overtime Game in Austin. It was Georges Niang against Isaiah Taylor, as they went for 27 and 28 points, respectively. But since that Game, the Longhorns have allowed more than 70 points just once (at Kansas), which is incredible in this conference. They held West Virginia to 49 on the road and most recently the high-flying Sooners to 63 in Norman. Finding a way through this defense will be ISU’s main priority.
But it’ll likely be the same issue for the Texas defense in this Game: stopping Georges Niang. He’s a matchup nightmare for pretty much everyone and is averaging 19 points and 6.3 boards on the year. His ability from deep combined with what kind he can do around the rim is unstoppable at his size. Connor LAmmert had issues with that in the first meeting and that’ll probably be the case again.
Big man Price Ibeh has been one of the main driving factors for Texas’ recent success. He owns the paint with his size and he’ll come up big in limiting McKay’s offensive rebounds. The backcOurt matchup will likely decide this Game, though.
Isaiah Taylor had 28 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in the first meeting, but Monte Morris wasn’t far behind with 17 points, 5 boards and 7 assists. The maturation of Taylor has bad huge for the Longhorns as he has decreased his turnover rate by almost a full number since last year.
Texas will need to find a way to limit Matt Thomas’ looks, as he’s hitting three threes per Game over the last month. Abdel Nader presents another matchup problem and he came through with 16 rebounds in the first Game.
Shaka Smart has the Longhorns rolling right now and to win this Game, will need that defense to come through as it has. However, the Cyclones have scored at least 76 points in all of their Big 12 home Games this year, including 80-plus against Oklahoma and Kansas. They seem to show up against the best, but can they show up against the second-tier teams? Iowa State has been ranked all year, but with six losses already, can ill-afford to lose another home Game.