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Men’s Basketball Preview: Texas Tech (and Bonus Baylor Recap)

We’re Talkin’ Red Raiders and a quick recap of Baylor

Syndication: The Des Moines Register Kelsey Kremer/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

Baylor Recap and Reaction

Iowa State’s 77-72 loss to the number 1 ranked Baylor Bears elicited what seemed like a collective sigh and nod from each fanbase as both proved what we already knew: Baylor is damn good, and this Iowa State team seems to be very real. Across Twitter and beyond, I was shocked to see fellow Cyclones with calculated and reasonable responses in the face of the first sign of adversity this year. Fans were proud of the fight the scrappy Clones showed against a Baylor team that hasn’t lost a basketball game since early March of last year. Iowa State forced the Bears to commit 18 turnovers, their second highest total of the year, by using a combination of swarming traps and ball pressure, though TJ Otzelberger would still counter the defense wasn’t where it needed to be.

“The areas we talk about after every game, when they show up to the best of our ability, I don’t think anybody can beat us,’’ Otzelberger said. ‘’Our ball pressure wasn’t at the level if needed to be, we got outrebounded and our ball toughness wasn’t where it needed to be.’’ (via CBS Sports)

But Iowa State competed at both ends, and subsequent effort included plays like this:

This play embodies everything Otzelberger wants out of his team. Note the intensity and wherewithal to sprint back on defense, match up, and settle into the appropriate gaps. George Conditt plays perfect pick n’ roll defense multiple times, Iowa State defenders stay at home late in the shot clock, and Tre Jackson provides just enough help to make Flagler think twice about taking another dribble. The result is a Conditt block which turns into a dunk on the other end.

I felt Iowa State played tremendous defense, despite giving up a season high 77 points. Multiple times the Cyclones locked down the Bears for 25 seconds before what seemed like James Akinjo (16 Pts on 6-12 shooting) would sink a jumper or difficult shot as the shot clock expired.

The poise of Baylor’s guards was on full display. Adam Flagler essentially throws a blind pass to Akinjo for an open three. As Fran correctly alludes to on the broadcast, Flagler is throwing a ball and trusting his guy to be in the right spot. If you watch the clip again, isolate Tyrese Hunter on the weakside and watch the precarious position he finds himself in: With 5 seconds left on the shot clock, he’s forced to leave Akinjo open on the other side of three point line to protect the Baylor roll-man setting the screen for Flagler. Here is what that ends up looking like:

Tyrese has no choice but to help protect the paint, and rotates correctly, leaving Akinjo for an open three. Baylor’s poise on offense was on full-display in the midst of Iowa State’s attacking defense. Sometimes you have to take your medicine and tip your cap to a better team, and there’s no doubt Baylor was.

That being said, Iowa State had a historically bad night from behind the arc (1-14) and had to deal with Gabe Kalscheur being an absolute liability on offense. His 6 turnovers and 0 points contributed to an offensive rating of... 6. Easily his lowest of the year. Baylor did a nice job of hounding Gabe and forcing him into committing mistakes and I’m not worried about Kalscheur in the slightest. He’s a guy that needs to see the ball go in the basket to improve confidence levels, and the best thing for him is to keep shooting.

All-in-all, I think the reaction to his game was justifiable. Iowa State dropped just three spots to number 11 this week, which is much higher than what I would’ve imagined the voters would’ve done. KenPom also raised Iowa State’s ranking from 45 to 41, even after a loss. One look at the box score tells you that the Cyclones gave Baylor a game on an abysmal night from behind the line, and if you watched the game at all, you’d understand that this Cyclone team is for real.

Texas Tech Preview

The Raiders (10-2, 0-0) bring an experienced team to Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday night as they look to start conference play 1-0. Under new coach Mark Adams, Tech has played an up-and-down non-conference schedule, with 9 of 12 teams currently ranked in the bottom 199 on KenPom. With losses to Gonzaga (2) and Providence (40), Tech’s only quality win of the season was a Tennessee team that they took to OT before dispatching by a 57-52 final score.

356th highest strength of schedule aside, this Tech team brings the same components that we saw under Chris Beard in previous years. Efficient, albeit slow offense, and stifling defense. The Red Raiders feature a defense that gives up only 58.2 points per game, good for 14th fewest in the country. They also allow the fewest 2P and 2PA per game, despite allowing a massive amount of 3 point attempts - A stunning 26.6, good for 337th.

Mark Adams’ was primarily recognized as the chief architect of Chris Beard’s swarming “no-middle” defense. After Beard jumped ship to take the head coaching job at Texas, Adams was the choice to continue to run the same system that brought Tech to the National Championship a few years ago. “No-Middle” is exactly what it sounds like: defenders force ball-handlers to the sideline in order to utilize the out-of-bounds line as an extra defender. Primarily, this involves “icing” ball screens, or forcing the ball handler to the sideline by denying use of a ball screen. The idea is captured in the below video that showcases a few of Texas Tech’s previous teams.

Iowa State will have opportunity to score from behind the arc on Wednesday night. Teams that play against Texas Tech are averaging just over 26 attempts per game, and the Cyclones should be no different. I fully expect Caleb Grill, Tre Jackson, and Gabe Kalscheur to have plenty of chances to connect from deep. Especially after an abysmal shooting performance against Baylor, the Iowa State offense should be licking their chops at the prospect of having a chance to bounce back from deep.

Last Time Out

Texas Tech took care of business against Alabama State, 75-53. Davion Warren led the way for Tech with 15 points. Kevin McCullar added 7 assists, and the Red Raider held ‘Bama State to 35% shooting from the field.

Player to Watch

Junior guard Kevin McCullar remains a key part of the Red Raider attack. The 6-6 wing boasts one of the highest usage rates on the team, and averages just under 14 points per game.

Pick Three

1 - Iowa State makes 8 threes

2 - Texas Tech scores more than 68 points

3 - Iowa State forces more than 14 turnovers

What Will Happen

Iowa State will have to shoot better from behind the arc in order to win this game. Watch early and often for Iowa State to generate shot attempts from deep, but keep an eye out for the quality of looks: Are they corner threes? Are they late in the shot clock prayers? Is the offense putting the right individuals (Grill, Jackson, Kunc) in comfortable positions to knock down shots? I fully expect a rock fight - Texas Tech runs an offense that’s about as slow as the DMV, and Iowa State has shown that they can be comfortable in grind-it-out battles. The students are back, and Hilton should be back to where it has been in years past (good for at least three points).

Iowa State - 69

Texas Tech - 64

Author’s Note: This was written before the news that Texas Tech guard Terrence Shannon Jr. was announced as unlikely to play.