College Basketball Pick
Now that Baylor is all but out of the Big 12’s regular season title race, what’s left to play for? Well, for starters, the Bears still have a shot at a 1-seed come Tournament time. Getting there won’t be easy, especially with a trip to Ames this weekend. The Cyclones have quietly clawed up the Conference standings and suddenly were tied with Baylor at the beginning of the week with 9-5 records.
When these teams met in the beginning of January, it was a back-and-forth battle in Waco with Iowa State giving away a six-point lead with five minutes to go. After that lead, Baylor closed the Game on a 10-2 run, but the path to victory was there for the ‘Clones. Maybe the most positive thing from that Game for ISU heading into this one was that Monte Morris and Deonte Burton combined to go just 9-of-31 from the field. For the Cyclones to stick around even though their two best scorers struggled to hit their shot was extremely impressive. But all that was made possible because Baylor turned the ball over 13 times, something it has been prone to do for most of the season. The Bears only had three players reach double figures and dominated in the paint.
The problem for Iowa State is that Baylor will likely dominate down low again. Johnathan Motley and Jo LUal-Acuil combined for 30 points and 20 boards and fellow big man Nuni Omot didn’t even play. The Bears will likely pound the ball down low between those three and Terry Maston and there may not be much Iowa State can do. Darrell Bowie played a lot in that first Game, but he’s been slightly weeded out of the lineup since then with Solomon Young taking up a bigger role. Both those guys will see tons of time in this Game with Burton also trying to do what he can against Motley and company. But because of those turnovers and playing on the road, Baylor is far from an easy team to trust.
The Bears haven’t had an easy road win in the past month, from losing at Texas Tech to struggling at OK State and Ole Miss. This one will be more of the same, even with the height advantage. The Cyclones may be playing their best basketball of the season and that may partly be due to Solomon Young’s improvement. He kind of came out of nowhere to play 32 minutes in the win at Kansas and he’s been a fixture in the lineup ever since, as long as he’s not in foul trouble. If he can stay on the floor, that would be huge for ISU against this Baylor team.
But on the offensive end, the Cyclones have to be much better than last time against Baylor. The Bears lead the Conference in defensive efficiency and field goal percentage allowed so it’s not like Morris and Burton will automatically have better Games this time around. Baylor is still on the edge of a 1-seed, while Iowa State is just trying to get better than an 8- or 9-seed. The Cyclones haven’t been as untouchable playing in Ames this season, but with recent improvement, could get another important victory against the Big 12’s elite.
Our pick – Iowa State by 1