After running past Northern Illinois, Iowa State (12-0) ends the non-conference season unscathed and find themselves in the top 15 of both college basketball polls. With so many talented teams in the Big 12, the Cyclones can’t afford to take any nights off. They did that last year at Texas Tech (8-5) and it was one of the reasons why ISU was in question to reach the NCAA Tournament until the final week of the regular season.
With the excitement of Big 12 opening day, as well as playing in the first conference game, there should be no lookahead for the Cyclones this time around.
Jan 23, 2013; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guardToddrick Gotcher
(20) drives against Iowa State Cyclones forwardMelvin Ejim
(3) in the second half at the United Spirit Arena. Texas Tech defeated Iowa State 56-51. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
(13)Iowa State Cyclones vs Texas Tech Red Raiders
United Spirit Arena | Lubbock, Texas
Tip-off: Saturday, 12:45 PM CT | TV: Big 12 Network (affiliate list)
Texas Tech’s best win of the season came against South Dakota State, a team that has an RPI ranking 161st and sits at 8-7 overall. Considering their inability to be competitive against stronger opponents (save a 71-69 loss against LSU at home), it’s not surprising to see the Cyclones having a strong advantage in nearly every category except free throws, steals and blocks per game.
To avoid upsets on the round, taking advantage of what Iowa State has the advantage in are always key. The Red Raiders are atrocious from the perimeter, ranking 309th or worse nationally in 3-point field goals made (59) and attempts (188). The Cyclones also own a +7 average margin in rebounding thanks to giving opponents significantly less second-chance opportunities on the defensive boards.
[Also see: Mental toughness key for ISU’s Big 12 success]
What to watch for
Dec 3, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats centerKaleb Tarczewski
(35) battles for the ball with Texas Tech Red Raiders forwardDejan Kravic
(11) and forwardJordan Tolbert
(32) during the first half at McKale Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Northern Illinois had the edge in boards last time out, mostly thanks to dominating on the offensive end 24-10. That could turn out to be another problem for the Cyclones if Texas Tech junior and senior forwards Jordan Tolbert and Jaye Crockett, respectively, establish themselves inside. Both lead the team in offensive rebounds with 59 combined.
Another reason for being out rebounded was due to extended playing time off the bench for four different players. Naz Long finally stood out again, finishing with 17 points and going 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
Also, DeAndre Kane was an all-around beast again. He almost hit a triple-double in the win, finishing with 16 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds.
[Also see: 3 players to watch in ISU-TTU]
Spaen: Iowa State needs to come into Lubbock with a completely different mindset compared to last season. The Red Raiders have the formula to create an upset if their star forwards have a huge game, but it will also require the rest of the team to step up. That’s where this team starts to fall off. Outside of Crockett and Tolbert, their backcourt is a huge mess with Robert Turner being the only other player to average double-digit points. He’s also the lone guard that TTU can trust.
With a lack of depth, and Iowa State finally getting their bench to be productive on the court last time out, this one should eventually be a blowout even away from Hilton Coliseum. IAST 81, TTU 61 (Odds: IAST -6)
Voss: After watching Texas Tech warm up in Hilton last year, I struggled to comprehend how Iowa State lost to the Red Raiders in Lubbock. This year Tech is slightly improved. All five losses have come at the hand of schools from major conferences. Iowa State struggled on the road at times last season, but with an improved defense, a win over Texas Tech will come easy. Iowa State
LaFratte: Iowa State has played inspired TEAM basketball all season and with the death of Johnny Orr, the father of Hilton Magic, I wouldn’t expect that to change. The Red Raiders will present a challenge from a physical stand point. In many regards they are Northern Illinois on steroids starting a underrated front court in Crockett and Tolbert. After the Cyclones were out rebounded 46-36 by Northern Illinois in their last time out, I wouldn’t be surprised if that changed in a positive manner on Saturday.
For the Cyclones to contend for a Big 12 championship, games against teams picked to finish in the lower half of the Big 12 are must wins road or home. I expect a highly a competitive game with the Cyclones out lasting the Red Raiders; Dustin Hogue hustle plays being the difference. ISU 76, TTU 68