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Basketball Preview: We’re Talking Baylor Pt. 1

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Iowa State hits the road to take on the undefeated Bears.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State heads to the house of horrors known as Waco for it’s Big 12 road opener this evening. Iowa State is just 2-10 in Waco and has lost five straight regular season matchups against Baylor. The Bears boast the nation’s 7th most efficient offense and defense, an undefeated record and a skilled and athletic front line headed by Johnathan Motley - who is currently 5th in Kenpom’s player of the year race.

Known for their unique zone defense and pension for slowing the game down, the Bears excel in areas where the Cyclones are weak. The Cyclones have struggled against the zone this year at just 0.86 points per possession and are struggling from deep at just 36.1%. The Bears play at the 15th slowest tempo and feature a starting front line that runs 6’10” (Motley) and 7’0” Jo Lual-Acuil. For Iowa State to come out with a stunning victory, they’ll have to take and make good shots. It also wouldn’t hurt to get Naz rolling again.

Last Time Out

The Cyclones started slowly out of the blocks, but finished in a big way in the final ten minutes, taking down the Red Raiders, 63-56. Meanwhile, Baylor absolutely pantsed Oklahoma, in Norman, by 26 points.

About Baylor

Baylor is one of college basketball’s best stories this year. The Bears took down VCU, Michigan State, and Louisville on their way to winning the Battle for Atlantis. They also dominated Xavier and Oregon at home on their way to rounding out a perfect non-conference portion of their schedule.

As stated earlier, they began conference play with a beatdown of Boomer, and jumped Kansas up to #2 in the AP rankings in the process. The Bears are 7th in both offensive and defensive efficiency, have the 9th best effective FG% allowed, and 4th best block percentage. On offense they have the 14th best assist percentage, 28th best offensive rebounding percentage and shoot almost 56% inside the three point line.

Quite frankly, there’s not a lot of holes in Baylor as a team. This will be Iowa State’s toughest test by far, and with the defensive prowess of Baylor, it might be a very frustrating watch for Iowa State fans.

Players to Watch

When you’re talking about Baylor, the conversation must revolve around Johnathan Motley. The 6’10” forward is having a career season, averaging career highs in points (16.3), rebounds (9.1), and assists (2.2). From what we’ve seen thus far this season, there’s little reason to believe Iowa State has the personnel to match up with a guy like Motley. Solomon Young has shown the most ability to do so, but he is just a freshman. Holden and Bowie will both spend time on Motley, along with Young, and Iowa State will likely be doubling from the perimeter.

Even if Iowa State does an impeccable job of containing Motley, he’s still going to get his, so who else should Iowa State fans prepare for on the Bears? Manu Lecomte and Al Freeman are the best long range shooters on the Bears, but guys like Ishmail Wainwright and King McClure have shown the ability to knock down shots at times. Defensively, Jo Lual-Acuil sports a 15.8% block percentage, good for 2nd nationally. Iowa State will have a hard time scoring with him at the rim, but Iowa State must get the ball in the middle of the zone and the paint to at least get the defense to collapse and move.

What to Expect

It’s always easier to slow teams down than it is to speed them up. Iowa State HAS to try and push the tempo, every chance it gets. While Iowa State is capable of knocking down shots, the trend that is becoming an identity, is that Iowa State is not a good jump shooting/3-point shooting team. Any points that the Cyclones can get in transition are extremely valuable, as points will be hard to come by in the halfcourt.

Defensively, Iowa State has to do a great job of identifying personnel. In the first half against Texas Tech, they were atrocious at this, but greatly improved in the second half. Look no further than the production of Anthony Livingston (13 1st H; 0 2nd H) for proof. The Cyclones will have to selectively double Motley to try and get the ball out of his hands, but shouldn’t be leaving Lecomte or Freeman open. If the Cyclones double from the weak side post, the secondary rotations will be necessary to help deny big to big lobs to Lual-Acuil.

Iowa State has its hands full, and Baylor is an awful matchup for Iowa State personnel wise. For ISU to stay within arms’ length, they’re going to have to push the tempo and make open shots. Iowa State has steadily improved their spot up shooting numbers, and has still struggled shooting off the bounce. They must get the ball in the middle of the zone, reverse the ball, and force the zone to collapse and move laterally. After the Gonzaga game, Prohm moved Morris to the middle of the zone, where Burton had previously had been and had better results. My guess is you’ll see both players in the middle, and they must distribute quickly and accurately to guys like Mitrou-Long, Jackson and Thomas, who must knock down shots.

If Iowa State shoots more than three mid-range jumpers, just shut the TV off - it could get ugly.

Pick 3

  1. Iowa State shoots 25+ 3’s
  2. Motley leads all scorers with 20+ points
  3. First team to 60 wins

Iowa State - 57; #2 Baylor - 71

Game Notes

Game Time: Wednesday, January 4th, 7 p.m. CST

Line Open: Baylor (-10); O/U (133)

The Foe: Our Daily Bears

TV/Webcast: ESPNews (Mark Neely, Stephen Howard)

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network/TuneIn Radio App (John Walters, Eric Heft)

Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here