When the Big 12/SEC Challenge matchups were released this game had little hype. Both teams were coming off dreadful seasons and Ole Miss had extended their NCAA Tournament drought to three years.
Fortunately, for both schools and the die hard followers of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, of which there are dozens, this game now looks much better on paper with both teams ranked inside the AP Top 25 and looking like they’ll be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Last Time Out
Oh, what could have been. The Cyclones suffered another tough loss (are there ever any easy losses) in conference play, falling 80-76 to the Kansas Jayhawks. If the Cyclones had won, they would have stayed atop the Big 12 standings and owned a regular season sweep of their biggest basketball rival. But, as they saying goes, if my grandma had two wheels she’d be a bicycle.
Marial Shayok was once again the star for the Cyclone offense scoring 26 points on 18 shots from the floor. The conference’s leading scorer unfortunately was outpaced by the odds on favorite for Big 12 Player of the Year, Dedric Lawson, who scored 29 points on 17 shots from the floor.
About Ole Miss
The Rebels, picked to finish last in the SEC, have wildly exceeded season expectations and recorded two more wins (14 int total) than they had all of last season. New coach Kermit Davis has worked his magic with this Mississippi squad as they have risen 60 spots in the KenPom ratings since the beginning of the year.
Their strength certainly lies on offense where they have an effective field goal percentage of 55.7%, good for 18th in the country. They are an above average offensive rebounding team, which helps their offensive efficiency, but will put opponents at the line at an above average clip on the defensive end of the court.
While the Rebels have been one of the biggest surprises of the SEC this season it is not hard to wonder whether they appear to be falling back toward pre-season expectations after losing two of their last three in convincing fashion. The Cyclones will be their toughest foe they have faced this season.
Opposing Player to Watch
Breein Tyree and Terence Davis carry much of the load offensively, but it is containing Tyree that will be Steve Prohm’s greatest challenge. The 6’ 2” junior takes the highest percentage of shots on the team and gets to the free throw line at an impressive clip. Will the Cyclones have made any adjustments after getting thrashed by dribble drives Monday evening in Lawrence?
If Iowa State can keep Tyree off the free throw line, look for the Cyclones to get some easy buckets in transition as the Rebels turn the ball over on over 19% of their possessions, putting them outside the top 200 in the country in turnover percentage.
What Will Happen
Iowa State is clearly the better team on paper. In the days before analytics and point spreads became so accessible, fans were naive enough to think the better team would win and win handily no matter the location and the strengths of the other team. Well, in this information age, fans now typically think...exactly the same.
The truth of the matter is this game is a coin flip after accounting for home court advantage. KenPom predicts a 73-72 victory for the Cyclones.
Lately, I get the feeling writers and media around the country are higher on this team than the Cyclone fan base. This team is really good. A win Saturday could propel the Cyclones toward a nice run and help build their case for a trip to Des Moines come March. A loss? Honestly, it won’t do much harm toward Iowa State achieving their goals this season.
The Rebels keep it close before allowing the Cyclones to pull away late in the second half.
Pick: Iowa State- 74 Ole Miss- 65
- Lindell Wigginton starts his first game of the year
- Cameron Lard records three blocked shots
- Marial Shayok shoots 8+ free throws
The Matchup: No. 24 Iowa State (14-5, 4-3 Big 12) vs. No. 20 MIssissippi (14-4, 4-2 SEC)
Where: Oxford, Miss. - The Pavilion at Ole Miss (9,500)
When: Saturday, Jan. 26, 11 a.m. (CST)
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network/TuneIn Radio Talent: John Walters (PxP), Eric Heft (Analyst)
TV: ESPN “Talent”: Mark Neely (PxP), Chris Spatola (Analyst)
Sirius/XM/Internet: 111/203/967 (internet)
Live Stats: Cyclonestats.com