Coming off yet another heartbreaking loss on the road, I'm a little concerned about the team psyche of Iowa State right now. I talked about the "February Grind" prior to Wednesday's double-OT loss at Texas and Saturday's game against last place TCU will be just that, a grind. Now, the Horned Frogs have no business beating Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum and I'd be willing to bet my house that the final score won't even be remotely close, but losing can do funny things to a team.
Even the most tight-knit locker rooms can splinter after a series of tough losses. Mental toughness gets questioned, guys tense up and the emotional side of the game starts to overtake the physical side. It's easy to look at athletes as emotionless robots that are able to shake off a loss and just bounce back, but in truth, these are young men and no matter how frustrating it's been as fans to watch this team lose in excruciating fashion on the road this year, nobody is taking these losses harder than the guys in Fred Hoiberg's locker room.
There are 8 guaranteed games left on the schedule including at least one game in the Big 12 tournament. This Cyclone team is going to prove something over that span. Either they'll prove that they belong in the field of 68, or they'll prove that for one reason or another, this team just didn't have "it".
Record: 10-14, 1-10
Statistical Leaders - Scoring Kyan Anderson, 11.3; Rebounds Adrick McKinney, 6.6; Assists Kyan Anderson, 3.0;
First Meeting - Iowa State 63-50
The first meeting between these two wasn't exactly pretty, but as we all said at the time, it was tough to be too upset about an ugly effort on the road that resulted in a 13-point win. Turns out there might have been a little foreshadowing there, but nonetheless, it was a workmanlike effort and the Cyclones got it done. Most concerning from that game was that Iowa State allowed TCU to grab 18 offensive rebounds while also turning the ball over 16 times and only shooting 5-18 from outside. Those numbers would have been a little more troubling if TCU was any good, but luckily they're not.
Don't let TCU's shocking win over Kansas fool you. That was the fluke of all flukes and the Frogs have followed up that upset with a 13-point loss at home to West Virginia and a 27-point drubbing at Oklahoma.
As I mentioned, I am a little worried or perhaps more curious about where this Cyclone team is at mentally. If they were playing a team from the top half of the conference tomorrow, I'd be downright fearful about how ISU was going to respond to consecutive losses, but luckily TCU will be getting off that bus at Hilton Coliseum and the Horned Frogs will become another footnote of Iowa State's current 20-game home court winning streak.
I realize that's an awfully brash and arrogant way to look at this game, but even if Iowa State is a little mentally fatigued right now, TCU has been atrocious on the road in Big 12 play. The Frogs have lost their five conference road contests by an average of 18.8 points. On the flip side, Iowa State has dispatched its five conference opponents at home by an average of 11 points.
TCU will try and duplicate their game plan from earlier in the year, working the shot clock and minimizing turnovers to reduce the number of scoring opportunities the Cyclones have. It might work for a little while, but this one will be all but sealed up by half time.
Iowa State 77 - TCU 55
Tip: 12:30 PM CT - Ames, IA - Hilton Coliseum
TV: Big 12 Network
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
TCU SBN Site: www.frogsowar.com
Big 12 Weekend Predictions
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State - 12:30 PM, Big 12 Network
Intriguing in-state match up here. The Sooners dealt the Pokes a tough loss earlier in the conference season and the Gallagher-Iba air will be thick with the smell of revenge on Saturday. Oklahoma State triumphs and stays in the league title conversation.
Oklahoma State 73 - Oklahoma 64
Texas Tech at West Virginia - 3 PM, Big 12 Network
Don't look now, but the Mountaineers are scraping and crawling their way back into respectability. They still don't have a statement win and their remaining schedule gets much tougher, but they win here and keep their NIT aspirations alive.
West Virginia 65 - Texas Tech 52
Baylor at Kansas State - 6 PM, ESPNU
Baylor needs a strong close to the year to get on the safe side of the bubble. A win in Manhattan would be a nice way to cement their bid. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening. Kansas State is playing excellent basketball at home and with a conference title in their sights, I don't see a slip up here.
Kansas State 74 - Baylor 67
Texas at Kansas - 8 PM ESPN
With Myck Kabongo back in the fold and Jonathan Holmes back from injury, the Longhorns could start to resemble the team many thought they would be going into the year. Expecting a win in Lawrence might be a bit too much, though. Texas will make it tough, but Kansas will not lose another home game this year.
Kansas 73 - Texas 61
One Man's Power Rankings
1. Kansas - 8-3
2. Oklahoma State - 8-3
3. Kansas State - 8-3
4. Oklahoma - 7-4
5. Iowa State - 6-5
6. Baylor - 7-4
7. Texas - 3-8
8. West Virginia - 5-6
9. Texas Tech - 2-9
10. TCU - 1-10
Kansas reclaims the top spot after their blowout win over Kansas State. I bumped Oklahoma State up to #2 because at this point, I believe the Cowboys are better than K-State if they played on a neutral court. Oklahoma holds at #4. I put Iowa State ahead of Baylor, because these teams are basically the same, but Iowa State holds the head-to-head match up. Texas moves up from #8 for the first time in a while.
As always, share your thoughts, comments and predictions below.