Oklahoma would like things to get easier, but that’s just not possible in the Big 12. In addition to losing its last two Games, including one that broke a 14-Game home winning streak, the Sooners are on the road for three of their next Four. Iowa State may sit in the basement of the conference, but playing in Ames is never easy.
The Cyclones have been mostly competitive at home this season beating the likes of West Virginia and Texas Tech, while falling early to Kansas State and Texas. They’ve been extremely hit-or-miss as of late and that will probably show up in this Game one way or the other. As for the Sooners, they haven’t been good on the road losing their last five trips with only one road win in Big 12 play and that was in overtime at TCU.
That being the case, Oklahoma is almost always in a close Game with its last three being decided by five points or less and the last six by seven points or less. Win or lose, the Games go down to the wire and are decided in the final few minutes, almost opposite of what Iowa State has been lately.
The question for the Cyclones is what they can do against freshman Trae Young as this is the first time these teams have met. Young has a major turnover issue and lacked consistency over the last month, which is a main reason the team has struggled. Still, he’s a guy that can get 30 points almost too easily every night and that was seen in the loss against West Virginia on Monday. He may turn the ball over five-plus times, but he’s going to get his buckets.
The good news for Young is that ISU ranks last in the Conference in terms of steals as well as defensive efficiency. The Cyclones are bottom of the standings for a reason and it’s one part ineffective defense and the other is inconsistent offense. With starting point guard Nick Weiler-Babb expected to miss another Game, the Cyclones lose some height in the backcOurt and will have to go almost exclusively with Lindell Wigginton and Donovan Jackson. That’s going to make things extremely difficult for both of them if they play more than 35 minutes having to deal with Young. That said, it’s likely they’ll run a ton of zone and try and keep the guards extended on the perimeter.
If they limit the threes, the next goal is to stop what Young can do when he drives, whether making easy baskets or getting to the foul line. The Cyclones are a decent blocking team with Cameron LArd and Solomon Young down low so that could help thwarting what Young does. But lately, a lot of Oklahoma’s success has also depended on the rest of the team making shots between Christian James, Brady Manek and the rest. On the road, they haven’t been great.
As for Iowa State’s offense, this is a Game that it could have success in as Oklahoma is slightly below average in the Conference on the defensive side. With Wigginton playing more point guard, the offense has struggled to get much going outside of him and Jackson. To win this Game, LArd and Young have to do something inside the arc against Khadeem LAttin.
Given how Iowa State is playing, Oklahoma should win this Game on the road as long as Young doesn’t force the ball too much. On the other end of that, the Sooners have been hard to trust on the road for most of the season and Ames isn’t an easy place to play.
Our Pick – Iowa St +5.5