There’s going to be a lot of talk about Baylor (12-1) and their size advantage they have on Iowa State (13-0, 1-0). While you can jump to that conclusion by looking at the roster, that wasn’t the case a season ago when the Cyclones found a way to overcome their disadvantages twice against the Bears.
They’ll hope to do the same again in a bigger spotlight. Hilton Coliseum will be hosting their first top ten matchup in 13 years.
(7)Baylor Bears vs (9)Iowa State Cyclones
James H. Hilton Coliseum | Ames, Iowa
Tip-off: January 7, 6:00 PM CT | TV: ESPN2
How much of an advantage does Baylor have with bigger size? Looking back at last year’s results, it didn’t turn to be that big of a deal. The Bears only outrebounded the Cyclones by two boards in Waco and lost the battle by four in Ames.
Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang manned a more guard-heavy lineup last year for Iowa State, and they did well combining Niang’s 32 points and Ejim’s 20 rebounds in both games; Ejim even went off for 20 points and hit two 3-point shots in the game at Baylor.
Considering more power is in the frontcourt with the emerging Dustin Hogue and it’s led by an all-around great athlete like DeAndre Kane, one should actually expect things to be a bit tougher for the Bears. Especially if Isaiah Austin doesn’t get things together offensively; he shot horribly from the field in both contests last season (7-of-22).
Still, most of the size is back for Baylor, and they’re also one year stronger. Some other players have emerged on the team. They’ve hung with the big boys on their schedule, defeating Kenutcky while losing by a small margin to second-ranked Syracuse (both games happening on a neutral site).
What to watch for
Obviously, Austin will likely want to improve his offensive numbers while still controlling the boards. He was still able to get a team-high 10 rebounds in the game in Ames last year, but both his offensive and rebounding numbers have suffered this season. Despite his size, expect better rebounding numbers with Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers, who have combined for 209 of the team’s total rebounds.
Jefferson will also have a chip on his shoulder. He’s clearly become the leader of this team, and he’ll like to build on his success that he had against Iowa State. If there’s any player that the Cyclones can get outmatched by on the Bears, it’s Jefferson with his slightly bigger size grabbing the boards and more importantly: efficient shooting. It may not be a bad idea at times to send the 63 percent free-throw shooter to the line.
Another player to watch is Baylor sophomore forward Taurean Prince, who hit the double-digit mark in points against their last two opponents.
[Also see: BAY-ISU 3 players to watch]
Just because Baylor has an advantage in size doesn’t really matter to Iowa State. They found ways to overcome it twice last season and finished higher than Baylor in many rebounding statistics. The fall-off of Austin and the emergence of players like Hogue and Kane with Niang and Ejim should be enough to overcome it again, but it’s not going to be easy.
Baylor is still incredibly efficient on offense (9th nationally), they hold a 50.4 overall field goal percentage, they create many second-chance possessions with their high offensive rebounding percentage (43.7 is second nationally), and they’re a monster inside with 40.1 total rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game.
The key difference will be assists. Baylor allows 13.5 assists per game, and Iowa State will want to continue to play unselfish ball. The closer the margin between field goals made and assists are, the better chance the Cyclones will have at winning the game. Considering how the rebounding margin has been won by their opponent two straight times, it could happen another time especially if players like Jefferson and Gathers go off.
As long as the Cyclones stick to their style of play, along with a fired-up crowd at Hilton, they should be able to get another huge win on their resume.
IAST 77, BAY 70 (Odds: IAST -6.5, O145.5)