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Basketball Preview: We’re Talking Baylor Pt. 1

Baylor and their fifty shades of green are flirting with a 1-4 start in Big 12 play

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Last Time Out

There is a saying out there about horseshoes and hand grenades. The Cyclones haven’t been playing with either, while it appears they’ve stumbled upon plenty of the latter. Steve Prohm’s squad has been in position to win the last three conference basketball games only to falter down the stretch and Tuesday evening was no different as the Cyclones fell to Kansas Jayhawks 83-78 in Lawrence, Kansas.

As frustrating as the ending of the game may have been, there was plenty to be proud of during the first 36 minutes. Super freshmen Lindell Wigginton and Cameron Lard had impressive Allen Fieldhouse debuts while Donovan Jackson continued his hot shooting from long range connecting on six three pointers.

Against a roster full of McDonald’s All-American’s, Lindell Wigginton often looked like the best player on the floor while tallying 27 points. Had Iowa State been fortunate enough to get that version of Wigginton the previous two games they are likely standing at 2-2 in the conference.

Cameron Lard struggled taking care of the ball, but the rest of his stat line was stellar for the freshman playing in just his 13th collegiate game. Lard recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

About Baylor

Scott Drew’s squad started the year playing short-handed but is back to full strength. Sound familiar? The Bears are a tournament quality team that might be sweating it out on Selection Sunday if they don’t reach nine or ten wins in conference play. Standing at 1-3, they would fall into a tie for last place with Iowa State if they dropped this game on Saturday.

In fact, Iowa State’s resume would be very comparable to Baylor’s at that point outside of the Bears’ victory over Creighton. Baylor has the talent to overcome their poor stretch while Iowa State’s start is most likely a sign of things to come.

Like many Baylor teams of recent years, it is their defense that makes things go for Scott Drew. This team will molest opponents all over the court, yet rarely are they convicted of many fouls. Their free throw attempt to field goal attempt ratio on defense is the fourth lowest in the country.

With their incredible size, Baylor does a great job of keeping opponents out of the paint on the defensive end. On offense the opposite is true as Baylor forces a lot of unwanted penetration en route to scoring 54.4% of their points from two point range.

Iowa State will struggle if Baylor wins the battle of pace. Baylor boasts one of the slowest adjusted tempos in the country, while Iowa State is at their best when they are pushing it in transition.

Players to Watch

Jo Lual-Acuil is the latest in a long run of seven foot Baylor big men. The senior is tough to keep off the boards, collecting 11.9% of available offensive rebounds and 20.4% of all defensive rebounds. The Cyclones will have a hard time at the rim as Lual-Acil blocks over 7% of all opponent’s shots when he’s on the floor.

As impressive as those numbers are, the good news for Iowa State fans is Cameron Lard is collecting offensive rebounds at an even greater rate and blocking a higher percentage of shots than the seven footer.

Manu Lecomte, who took his talents away from South Beach after beginning his career with Miami (FL), is Baylor’s best play maker with the ball. The senior will dish out his fair share of assists while shooting efficiently from the floor. Lecomte is shooting over 41% from three point range while hitting free throws at an impressive 90.5% clip.

What to Expect

Scott Drew had seemingly figured out the trick to breaking the curse of Hilton Magic stringing together back to back wins in 2015 and 2016 before losing last season in Ames, Iowa. This will be the first time in awhile his squad is actually favored in their road match-up with the Cyclones.

The win-less conference record for Iowa State is troublesome for Iowa State’s post-season hopes, but it is very apparent to the naked eye that this team is close to breaking through the win column.

If Iowa State is going to collect any wins this season they will need their three guards playing well on the same night. Assuming that happens Hans Brase will play a key role as the “zone buster” in the high post.

With Jeff Beverly out of the rotation, Iowa State will likely only have six or seven players record major minutes. While Iowa State would like to push the pace, Baylor’s slow tempo might actually help keep the Cyclones fresh down the stretch.

Iowa State is the underdog here, but it is their best chance at a win most likely until they travel to Waco, Texas to face this same Baylor team the first weekend of February.

The big four of Babb, Jackson, Wigginton and Lard continue their quality play and Iowa State gets in the win column for the first time this conference season.

Iowa State- 71 Baylor- 67

Pick Three

  1. Nick Weiler-Babb finally records the triple-double he’s been chasing all season.
  2. Scott Drew uses his last timeout before 4 minutes remaining in the game.
  3. Donovan Jackson connects on another six three-point shots

Game Notes

Game Time: Saturday, January 12th, 2 PM

Line: Baylor (-2.5) O/U (141)