Not only is this a matchup of two of the top teams in the conference, but it is a battle between a pair of teams ranked in the top 10 in both of the major national polls. Baylor is No. 7 and Iowa State No. 9 in this week’s Associated Press poll. Interestingly, the two teams reverse that order in the USA Today Coaches Poll, with Iowa State seventh and Baylor coming in at No. 9.
The Cyclones are one of six NCAA Division I teams that have yet to suffer defeat this season. Their 13 consecutive victories to begin the season is the best start in school history and matches Iowa State’s longest winning streak in men’s basketball. The Cyclones found the going a little more challenging than expected in their conference opener at Texas Tech over the weekend. The game was tied at 50-all midway through the second half before Iowa State gradually pulled ahead and extended the lead out to a 73-62 victory.
“We just came out a little soft,” said Cyclone senior forward Melvin Ejim. “They (Texas Tech) came out, hit us in the mouth, and it took a while for us to regroup and hit them back. We just didn’t come out right away, and they just played real physical.”
Baylor also was a winner over the weekend, shooting 75 percent in the opening half on the way to an easy 80-50 victory over Savannah State in a final nonconference contest before opoening league play. Among the Bear’s victories this season are wins over two ranked teams: Kentucky and Colorado. Their lone loss was a seven-point loss to Syracuse in the Maui Invitational Tournament over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Both teams rank in the upper half of the Big 12 in scoring offense as well as scoring defense, which should make for a close-fought battle on Tuesday night. The Cyclones are led in the scoring column by 6-6 senior forward Melvin Ejim, who is averaginng a Big 12 second-best 17.7 points per game. Baylor’s leading sc0rer is 6-9 senior Cory Jefferson (14.2 ppg).
Another player to keep an eye on in this game is Baylor 7-1 sophomore center Isaiah Austin, who leads the conference in blocked shots, averaging three per ball game.
Iowa State leads the conference in defensive rebounds behind the conference’s top rebounder, Dustin Hogue, but the Bears are tops in the conference in rebounding margin, outrebounding their oppoents by 10 boards a game.
Looking ahead to tonight’s Big 12 showdown in Ames, Baylor head coach Scott Drew said: “The Big 12 is special, and having a chance to go up against an Iowa State team that hasn’t lost a game, we’re excited and ready to go.
Iowa State won both games against Baylor a year ago.
Things won’t get any easier for the Cyclones in the two games after hosting Baylor. They travel to Norman to take on an Oklahoma team that is playing very well this season, and then tip off the “Big Monday” Big 12 TV schedule with a game at Kansas next Monday. Coach Fred Hoiberg and his team will be able to scout their next two opponents in one tape session. Oklahoma and 20th-ranked Kansas play at Oklahoma on Wednesday night.
Expect a low-scoring affair between Kansas State and TCU Tuesday evening, Neither team is averaging more than 70 points a game, and Kansas State is holding its opponents to a league-best average of 59 points a game. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well, either, which is a strong contributor to their low-scoring team average.
Kansas State, which cracked the top 25 this week at No, 25 in the AP poll, is one of the hottest teams in the Big 12 right now, having won nine consecutive games, the longest in coach Bruce Weber’s short time at K-State. TCU is much improved this season, winning nine of their 12 nonconference games, but the Horned Frogs dropped their conference home opener on Saturday to an up-and-down West Virginia team. The Wildcats have a 5-2 record in the all-time series between the two schools, including a 2-0 mark in games played in Ft. Worth.
K-State gave the other teams in the Big 12 something to think about with its defeat of then No. 6 Oklahoma State on Saturday. “What can you say? It’s just a great win – a gutsy win by our guys,” Weber said in his remarks to the press afterward.
This is the Wildcats first true road game of the 2013-14 season. They are 39-31 in true road games since 2006-97.
Big 12 Tuesday Night Predictions
Baylor @ Iowa State -Iowa State by 8 points
Kansas State @ TCU – Kansas State by 5 points