Tonight, Iowa State will tip off against Baylor, as the Cyclones try to stay unbeaten against Baylor at Hilton. That's right. Iowa State has never lost a game to Baylor at Hilton Coliseum, and I would love to see the streak continue.
Baylor is 12-3 on the season. They do not boast any bigtime wins: Arizona State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma are their top three wins. Their three losses have all come from pretty good teams: Gonzaga, Washington St., and Florida St. Similar to the Baylor teams the past few years, they are long and athletic. They play three forwards ranging from 6-7 to 6-11 or so, and two guards (one of which is 6-4).
Similar in a way to Iowa State, Baylor does not get much scoring from their bench. Their starting five has scored about 83% of the team's total points on the season. Their three leading scorers are LaceDarius Dunn (22.5 ppg), Quincy Acy (13.9 ppg), and freshmen Perry Jones III (13.3ppg).
The strengths of Baylor offensively are offensive rebounds (16th in the nation in OR%), and 2 point field goal shooting (24th highest in the nation). They have guards who can slash to the hoop, along with forwards who can go down-low. The big area they struggle is taking care of the basketball. Baylor turns the ball over in about 23% of their possessions, which is in the bottom quartile of D-I basketball.
Defensively, Baylor plays a lot of zone, which forces their opponents to take a lot of outside shots. It is not easy to get to the basket against this team. Baylor has boasts the 13th highest DR% in the nation, meaning teams just do not get offensive rebounds against them at a high rate. Fortunately for Iowa State, they enjoy taking a lot of outside shots, which creates longer rebounds, giving our guards a chance to scoop them up, as opposed to hoping our bigs can collect them on their bigs.
If Iowa State is going to win tonight, they are going to have to shoot well from outside, especially if Baylor gets lazy in their zone and does not come up to defend the shooter very well. Iowa State is going to have to stay out of foul trouble; fouls are going to happen, but they need to limit them to not include fouls when Baylor is tipping the ball in, or making a layup. If Iowa State is going to foul in the paint, don't let the guy get the shot off. Lastly, Iowa State needs to take advantage of Baylor's weakness: the turnovers. Iowa State needs to do better than they did Wednesday night (especially in the first half) of making smart decisions with the basketball, and they need to continue to be scrappy to try and force some extra turnovers.
It is going to be a close one, and if Iowa State can play a well executed game, most of what I wrote above will take care of itself, and it will come down to three point shooting. Iowa State is probably going to shoot another 25-30 three pointers in this one, and they are going to need to make at least 10 of them to win, in my opinion. Having Christopherson with a good shooting night would help tremendously, but that's going to be tough to count on as this bone spur injury is going to nag him all season long.
Perhaps Iowa State's frequent attempts from the three point line can force Baylor to get out of what they do well offensively (get to the hoop), and settle for outside shots. Considering they are 109th in 3 point percentage, if they take a lot of attempts from out there, that's to Iowa State's advantage. I've seen enough games where if one team shoots a lot of threes, it gets contagious and the other team tries to do the same. If that happens, I love Iowa State's chances.
Iowa State has a legit shot tonight, but like always, it comes down to how the players execute and perhaps a little bit of luck. Hopefully the crowd is good tonight and as animated as they were last game, contributing to an Iowa State victory.