#13 Iowa State wasn't able to hang on for the win against Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday night, but starting Wednesday evening, the Cyclones return home for a navigable stretch over their next four games. Fresh off their 8-point win over Texas and winners of 10-straight, Texas Tech brings a much different team to Ames than years past.
In his third year in Lubbock, Tubby Smith appears to finally have the pieces to compete in the Big 12 and he's got a talented team that looks to make a post season tournament for the first time since the '10-'11 season.
Sizing Up Texas Tech
This isn't your father's "Tubby Ball". In fact, it's nothing like the plodding style that got Smith run out of Lexington and Minneapolis. While the Red Raiders aren't exactly what anyone would call explosive on the offensive end of the floor, they can score in bunches and are as efficient as they've been in years.
Interestingly, Texas Tech generates 25.2% of their points from the free throw line (12th nationally), which should create a fascinating dynamic as Iowa State allows their opponents the fewest free throw attempts in the country.
Tech is paced by the senior backcourt duo of Devaugntah Williams and Toddrick Gotcher. You may remember that the pair combined for 39 points on 8-15 3-point shooting in the stunning upset of Iowa State a season ago. Williams has developed into a high-level scorer, leading the team with 15.2 points per game. Gotcher isn't far behind, scoring 11.8 a night while connecting on 45% of his outside looks. They combined for 41 points in the win over Texas on Saturday.
Electing to go with a 3-guard line up, Smith has sophomore Keenan Evans run the show. Evans isn't much of a scoring threat (8.7 PPG) and serves as more of a true facilitator. Devon Thomas will spell Evans off the bench.
Smith has done a good job of assembling a versatile front line, led by Zach Smith and Norense Odiase. Smith is another sophomore that is coming into his own, scoring 10.3 points and grabbing 6.6 rebounds a night. Odiase, a 6'9" sophomore, is a space-eater inside at 260 pounds and is a very capable offensive rebounder.
Aaron Ross is another big body off the bench and typically relieves Odiase. Justin Gray (another sophomore) rounds out the rotation.
The Red Raiders sport the 31st-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. Their bigs do a decent job of protecting the rim and rank among the top 50 in the country in block rate. Tech also is above average when it comes to forcing turnovers (81st nationally).
So Who Wins?
Iowa State and Texas Tech share a mutual opponent in Arkansas Pine Bluff. The Cyclones played a dispirited game and crapped out a 14-point win against one of the worst teams in the country. The Red Raiders on the other hand, beat APB by 40 points, which obviously means Iowa State is screwed.
If you can believe it, this will be Tech's first true road game, having played their last 8 at home. As we all know, few home environments are less forgiving than a raucous Hilton Coliseum, so it will be interesting to see how Tech reacts to the road atmosphere.
Truthfully, even if Tech comes to play, it may not matter if Georges Niang continues to play as well as he has of late. Niang nearly notched his third 30-point game of the year on Saturday, finishing with 29 points in the loss to Oklahoma. In Niang's last four games, he's averaging 24.5 points and is shooting 61.9% from the floor. He's also averaging 7.7 rebounds during that time. He's truly playing the best basketball of his career as a senior and has the look of a first-team all-American.
Iowa State has won four straight against Tech at home, including one of the more impressive beatdowns of the Hoiberg era a season ago as the Cyclones won 75-38.
Even with the loss in Norman, Iowa State has played inspired basketball since losing to UNI and it would appear that this team has turned a corner mentally...or so we hope. Honestly, we saw this act from this team a year ago. There would be a head-scratching loss (South Carolina, Texas Tech, Kansas State) and we'd hear buzz phrases like "wake up call" and "playing down to their competition". In the end, it bit that team in the ass in a major way and Wednesday night offers an opportunity to set a different standard.
Coming off such a tough loss against Oklahoma, you have to be worried about a hang over effect and if Iowa State doesn't establish their style of play from the opening tip, they could be playing from a deep hole as this Tech team is every bit capable of stealing a win on the road.
These are the games Iowa State has to grind out and win if they want to compete for the Big 12 title. There simply can't be let downs at home and especially against Texas Tech, improved as they are. Look for Monte Morris and a motivated Abdel Nader to play big games to compliment Niang as the Cyclones put away a plucky Tech team late.
Iowa State 84 - Texas Tech 73
Tip: 8 p.m. CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here
Texas Tech SB Nation Site: Viva the Matadors