The Longhorns (20-5, 9-3) also have much at stake in their Tuesday matchup with the Cyclones. Texas is trying to keep pace with league-leading Kansas, which also is in action on Tuesday at Texas Tech. The Longhorns have won seven of their last eight games, with the lone loss during that stretch coming on the road at Kansas State.
Texas, ranked 19th in this week’s AP poll (17th in the USA Today poll), has played well on the road this season, notching three Big 12 wins on the road in five games away from Austin, but Iowa State has played even better at home. The Cyclones are 13-1 on the season at Hilton Coliseum and 5-1 in conference play. The only team to beat Iowa State on the Cyclones’ hone floor this season has been Kansas.
No. 17 Iowa State (19th in the USA Today poll) continues to be one of only nine schools in NCAA Division I with three players averaging 15 or more points again. Senior Melvin Ejim leads the Cyclones and the Big 12 in scoring, averaging 18. 9 in all games. Teammates Georges Niang and DeAndre Kane average 16.3 and 15.9 points per game, respectively.
Jonathan Holmes leads the Longhorns with a 12.3 scoring average, with three other players (Cameron Ridley, Javan Felix and Isaiah Taylor)also averaging in double figures. Texas is second in the conference in rebounding with a plus-8 margin over its opponents. Rebounding has not been a strength for the Cyclones this season.
Iowa State leads the Big 12 in scoring at 84.1 points per game, and the Cyclones are very good at distributing the ball and finding good looks at the basket. They lead the nation with right at 18 assists per ball game. Texas will counter the Cyclones’ offensive attack with the Big 12′s best field-goal defense. The Horns are holding their opponents under 40 percent shooting. Given that stat, offensive rebounding and second-chance opportunities to score could be very important for Iowa State against Texas.
Texas lead the all-time series with Iowa State 17-10, and the Longhorns won the first encounter between the two teams this season 86-76 in Austin.
Three Things To Watch For In The Game
- In the Longhorns’ last two games (wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia), they have averaged 87.5 points per game, shot 52 percent from the field and posted an average margin of victory of 18 points. We should also point out that both of those games were played in Austin. Iowa State is next to last in the Big 12 in scoring defense, yielding an average of 74 points a game. They are going to have do better than that to hold down a good Texas offensive attack.
- Texas’ Javan Felix has been on a terror the last two games for the Longhorns, averaging 22.5 points in those two games and shooting at a 56 percent clip from three-point range. Iowa State cannot afford to let Felix and/or Isaiah Taylor to get on a roll in this game. Those two have been big igniters in the Longhorn success story over the last eight games, seven of them wins.
- In their nine Big 12 wins, Texas is holding its opponents to an average of 65 points a game on 38-percent shooting. In the three Longhorn losses (at home to Oklahoma, at Kansas State and at Oklahoma State) have given up 83 points, on average, on 47-percent field-goal shooting. The Cyclones average 80 points a game in the Big 12.
My pick: Iowa State 85, Texas 78 – The home court makes all the difference in the world in this game. The Cyclones will feed off their very vocal home crowd and prevail over another ranked team in a close game in front of the Hilton Coliseum crowd.
Kansas @ Texas Tech
In another Tuesday night game, eighth-ranked Kansas (19-6, 10-2) will go up against a fast-improving Texas Tech (13-12, 5-7) team that doesn’t appear intimidated by any Big 12 team right now. The Red Raiders completely outplayed Oklahoma on the road last Wednesday and knocked off the Sooners on their home floor, which is tough to do, and they played exceptionally well at Iowa State on Saturday before losing by six points to the Big 12′s highest-scoring team.
The Jayhawks will get seven-foot freshman Joel Embiid back for this game, which will give them considerably more size and length at the rim. The smaller Red Raiders have done a good job this season overcoming their size disparity and defending against offensive rebounds by their opponents, and it will be interesting to see if they can sustain that effort against a very good Kansas team that rebounds well on both ends of the floor.
This will be a more difficult game for the Jayhawks than it would have been early in the conference schedule because of the way coach Tubby Smith has his guys playing their best basketball of the season. There is a good reason why coach Smith has taken four different teams to the NCAA Tournament.
My pick: Kansas 73, Texas Tech 62 – The Red Raiders are playing as well as any team in the Big 12 right now, but Kansas has too much talent and depth and too much on the line to lose this game. If Kansas overlooks Texas Tech, looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown with Texas in Lawrence on Saturday, the Red Raiders are good enough, especially at home, to pull off the improbable upset.