To state the obvious, Iowa State's 87-82 win over Baylor in Waco on Wednesday night was sorely needed to boost the Cyclone's NCAA tournament profile. The collective team, staff and fan base all breathed a sigh of relief as ISU notched its first significant road win of the 2012-2013 campaign. It wasn't a win that was going to put ISU in "lock" status, but it definitely puts this Cyclone team on the right side of the bubble and it's looking like Fred Hoiberg might lead Iowa State to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since '99-'00 and '00-'01.
With all the good vibes flowing around the interwebs and an enormous Big Monday home match up with Kansas looming, it's going to be very easy to overlook Texas Tech. Ironically, when ISU traveled to Lubbock earlier this year, a huge home game against Kansas State sat on the horizon and now, the circumstances aren't much different (aside from the location of the game). In a game that will haunt this team for years to come, Iowa State shockingly dropped that contest against the Red Raiders in a stunning upset that's keeping the Cyclones out of contention for the conference title race to this very day. Let's hope Iowa State doesn't make the mistake of overlooking a bad Texas Tech team again.
Record: 9-15, 2-11
Statistical Leaders: Scoring - Jaye Crockett, 12.3; Rebounding - Jaye Crockett, 7.0; Assists - Josh Gray, 3.3;
First Game: Texas Tech 56 - Iowa State 51
For my own sanity, I'd rather not dwell too much on that ugly loss in Lubbock in January. I do want to touch on a few items, however. Above all else, the rebounding from that game stood out more than anything. Sure, Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim got into early foul trouble and Iowa State shot an ice-cold 35.3% from the floor, but Texas Tech made a concerted effort to control the boards and they did an admirable job at doing so. Iowa State was held to a season-low 3 offensive rebounds and when the final whistle blew, ISU was -6 in rebounding margin. The entire Red Raider team rebounded well and completely eliminated second-chance opportunities and ultimately, that made the biggest difference in the game.
Since that game on January 23rd, Texas Tech has dropped 7 in a row by an average margin of 15.5 points with only two of those losses coming by single digits. With a losing streak like that, it's hard to find any type of silver lining, but freshman point guard Josh Gray has been playing well of late as has sophomore forward, Jordan Tolbert. The young duo doesn't have enough around them at this point to pose a consistent threat, but it at least has to be encouraging for the Tech fan base to see that there is young talent on the roster.
That's all well and good, but Texas Tech doesn't stand a chance in Ames on Saturday, especially considering that no team has won in Hilton Coliseum since January of 2012. Iowa State's Big 12-best home winning streak has reached 21 games and Texas Tech poses little to no threat at halting the streak there. Could ISU overlook Texas Tech, making for a sluggish affair? I suppose it could happen for a few minutes, but I don't expect it to last. This should be another comfortable home win and a worry-free 40 minutes.
Iowa State 83 - Texas Tech 64
Tip: 12:45 PM CT - Ames, Iowa - Hilton Coliseum
TV: Big 12 Network
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Texas Tech SBN Site: www.vivathematadors.com
Big 12 Weekend Predictions
Oklahoma State at West Virginia - 1 PM ESPN2
Tricky spot for Oklahoma State. Coming off a heart-breaking double overtime loss to Kansas and with a banged up Marcus Smart, will the Cowboys be able to pull off a road win against a plucky Mountaineer squad? I'm taking the Pokes, but I wouldn't be shocked to see an upset here.
Oklahoma State 64 - West Virginia 62
TCU at Kansas - 3 PM Big 12 Network
Kansas will be out for blood. Here's a question; will Kansas' margin of victory be more than the total points scored by TCU? I think it'll be close.
Kansas 91 - TCU 53
Baylor at Oklahoma - 4 PM ESPNU
Baylor's tournament hopes are on life support at this point. If they're going to dance, this a game that they have to steal. Oklahoma pulled off a 3-point win in Waco and will be going for the season sweep. I don't know why, but I'm going with Baylor here.
Baylor 68 - Oklahoma 64
Kansas State at Texas - 7 PM Longhorn Network
Hmm, game on LHN against an improved Texas team. Another tricky road game for one of the league's upper half. Myck Kabongo has made Texas better, but I think Kansas State is playing too well to drop this one. Again, I wouldn't be surprised to see an upset though.
Kansas State 72 - Texas 66
One Man's Power Rankings
1. Kansas 10-3
2. Oklahoma State 9-4
3. Kansas State 10-3
4. Iowa State 8-5
5. Oklahoma 8-5
6. Baylor 7-6
7. Texas 4-9
8. West Virginia 6-7
9. Texas Tech 2-11
10. TCU 1-12
Not a lot of movement. I still think that Oklahoma State's best is better than Kansas State's best. Iowa State moves up to #4 after the win at Baylor. The rest looks pretty much the same.
As always, leave your thoughts, comments and predictions below.