For the fans, the sting of the 18th straight loss in Stillwater may not have left the body yet but for the players and coaches in Ames their full attention should already have moved on to the Baylor Bears. It has been discussed—probably ad nauseam here—how important the games between the five teams fighting for slots 2-6 in the standings are but if you have missed it, they’re really important. The Cyclones dropped one on the road at Oklahoma State; they can’t do that on their home court.
The first leg of the two game/three day home stretch of games that fall under that umbrella is Baylor on Saturday. It is a familiar story for the Baylor Bears, stockpiled with talent but their coach is still Scott Drew, which tends to get them into trouble with their wildly inconsistent play.
The Bears are led by senior guard Pierre Jackson and one of the best scoring rates in the Big 12 at 16.09 points per 50 possessions. He torched ISU in Ames last season until Chris Babb was put on him and used his length to cause him fits. This year I’m sure Lucious will start on him as his quickness should be able to match Jackson. Also impressive for Jackson is his outrageous assist percentage of 42.1%.
The real mismatch for ISU will be on the inside where freshman center Isaiah Austin is having a very solid year. The interesting thing to me is that his rebounding numbers aren’t as strong as you’d probably expect. Clyburn and Ejim both out rebound him by defensive rebounding percentage.
Corey Jefferson is another force on the inside for Baylor that is scoring and rebounding right on par with his rookie post teammate Isaiah Austin.
AJ Walton is back for what feels like his 10th year at Baylor as a solid lead guard but one that likely won’t beat anyone on his own. Brady Heslip is one of the best shooters in the Big 12 and in the history of Baylor’s basketball program.
For Iowa State, Bubu Palo makes the table because he has played 25% of the available minutes in the two games that he has appeared but as of yet he hasn’t made much of an impact statistically—but his turnover percentage is exceptional!
Babb is logging a ridiculous 94% of available minutes and is one of five Cyclones that makes more than one three pointer per 50 possessions played. The impact of Niang, Clyburn, and McGee on the Cyclone offense is quite evident with all of the red in their rows in terms of points, shot attempts, and made shots. Niang has been especially important as the most consistent post scoring threat on the roster.
When Baylor has the ball…
The Baylor offense is tough to get a solid grasp on. I haven’t seen them play as much as I would like but when you look at their talent across the board, consider they have one of the best scoring posts in the league, and the pre-season player of the year in Pierre Jackson to team up with a deadeye shooter like Brady Heslip you’d expect better than the 6th most efficient scoring offense in the league.
The three point shot has been key in the arsenal for the Bears but also scoring from the free throw line. They are 7th in the league in both field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage but they make up for it with their rebounding. In Big 12 games they haul in 37% of available offensive rebounds which leads the league. Without diving in to all of the math here for the sake of keeping things brief this essentially gives them almost five more scoring chances per game than the next closest team in the league.
Thus far the Cyclone defense hasn’t done a whole lot of great things. Seventh best scoring defense in league games but they have done well in defending the three point shot. The defensive rebounding percentage is 4th best in the league which has come up from 9th just three games in to the league schedule.
When Iowa State has the ball…
This is where the matchup gets really serious. You may not expect it but Baylor has one of the top defenses in the Big 12. By scoring efficiency, and shooting accuracy all over the floor and then finishing possessions off by being the third best rebounding team in the league. On top of all of that they block shots at the second highest rate in the league.
The Cyclones, on the other hand will be a tough match up for the Bears. Sporting the second best scoring efficiency in the league largely due to the best three point shooting accuracy to go along with the best effective field goal percentage in the Big 12. Iowa State’s assist and turnover numbers are also very high. The one lackluster area for the offense comes with their rebounding percentage that is just 9th in the league 28.57%.
Baylor has a tough and pivotal two game stretch of their own with road games to Ames and Stillwater coming up next. Their home loss the last time out to Oklahoma could become extra painful should they drop the next two games. While the Cyclones loss to Oklahoma State was another game that would have been a very good road win slipping through their fingers there is still plenty of time to notch good wins. The primary key is to protect the home court while hoping to steal a couple on the road. Losing games at home is a good way for the rest of the pack to gain separation from you.
It won’t be an easy matchup for Iowa State, especially in the paint as someone is going to have to be able to guard Austin and Jefferson on the block as well as contain Jackson and Walton on the perimeter. Asking Niang to guard Austin and stay out of foul trouble for the entire game to keep the offense working may not be the best option. Ejim would give up at least seven inches to the taller Austin. Percy had a decent game in Stillwater but his defense is still a struggle.
What does that leave? I think we see more of Anthony Booker than we have for awhile. He too will have to stay out of foul trouble but he has the strength to defend the post in a tough spot, he did it with Thomas Robinson last year.
I think we’re in for a heart attack inducing special but the Cyclones will pull out a close one to win at home for the 20th straight game.