Winning on the road during conference play is tough.
Like, really tough.
And everybody knows it. You’ve heard various sayings about that fact from color commentators, players, and coaches especially. Fred Hoiberg used to say that “boys win at home, men win on the road”, and that statement has a lot of truth to it.
Winning on the road has been the secret ingredient, the seasoning to the main course of winning all your home games, that has allowed Kansas to win 17,000 straight Big 12 regular season titles.
Road wins are always tough to come by, but road environments have been a bit kinder to Iowa State (last season excluded) lately. The Cyclones have won ~3 road games per season in conference play under Fred Hoiberg/Steve Prohm, and that’s good enough when you get to play home games in Hilton Coliseum.
The long losing streak in Gallagher-Iba Arena was put to rest in dramatic fashion in 2014 (required Threesus of Nazareth and 3 OT’s), and the Cyclones have had few issues winning in that building since. The Cyclones have also recently won a road contest in Phog Allen (thanks to Donny-Jackson’s large boulders).
But one of the few remaining houses of horror for the Cyclones is the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, as the Cyclones have won in Waco only once since 2008. While it seems Silos draws a larger crowd on a Tuesday afternoon than a Baylor home game, winning in Waco has been a tall order for the Cyclones.
Why have wins in Waco been tough to come by?
Let’s start by looking at game day atmosphere. While the atmosphere isn’t usually all that electric in the Ferrell Center, the less-than-capacity crowd has seemed to unnerve opponents for years in a manner similar to United Supermarkets Area when Taco Tech was down. For whatever reason, the building seems to have some effect on opponents.
That being said, the real reason for Iowa State’s struggles in Waco is that Baylor has been quite good over the last ~10 years. In fact, one could go as far as calling them a semi-elite basketball program since 2010.
Below are the results of the last 9 road contests in Waco, going as far back as 2008. Keep in mind that the Cyclones were the (Mc)Doormat of the Big 12 during the latter part of the 2000’s.
Lets examine ranking first. Looking at the averages, it’s pretty clear that Baylor has been a good program over this stretch. Iowa State has only been ranked in 3 of these 9 games, though I should point out that this game was often played early in conference play before Iowa State earned a top-25 ranking.
Next, I’d like to direct your attention to the post-season results. What these columns show are rather remarkable success from these two programs - Baylor especially. Two Elite 8 and two Sweet 16 appearances is very impressive. Iowa State has made 2 Sweet 16 trips, and was a broken foot and a bad call from making that 3 trips to the Sweet 16 and an Elite 8 appearance. The Cyclones also won 3 conference tournaments over that stretch as well.
Finally, lets look at Baylor’s margin of victory and scoring. On average, it has hovered around 9 points, which is a fairly large margin. There have also been plenty of points scored in these contests, as evidenced by the average score for each team. Baylor’s largest victories came in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2018.
When you look at the postseason result for those games, you’ll notice that two of them occurred during down years for Iowa State. Lets then remove those 3 seasons from the list, and see what we come up with.
With those games removed, the margin becomes much tighter. You’ll still notice two large outliers, which are listed in red. These loses can be simply chalked up to Iowa State playing a very good Baylor team, especially in the 2012 contest. The next largest Baylor victory was the defense-optional boat race in 2016.
When looking at the rest of these games, it’s clear that the Cyclones have come up just short twice (officiating takes credit for one of those losses), and that it is possible to win in Waco. The run-and-gun 2012-13 squad did it with perimeter shooting and solid ball movement while playing a physically imposing (and very, very tall) Baylor squad.
This year’s Baylor team is much different stylistically, and is similar to the 4 guard look Iowa State is rolling with. This year’s Baylor squad is also on a trajectory much different from the successful teams of the past.
All of this means the Cyclones have a good chance to end the losing streak in Waco, a streak whose breaking is long overdue.