Big 12 Championship Quarterfinal: Iowa State Cyclones vs #10 Baylor Bears (3/9 @ 12:30 PM EST)
Spread: Baylor -4.5
Money Line: ISU +160 / Baylor -190
Overview and Betting Info
The fifth-seeded Iowa State Cyclones (18-12) will be taking on the fourth-seeded Baylor Bears (22-9) on Thursday in the quarterfinal of the Big 12 Tournament Championship. These teams met twice in the regular season with the Cyclones winning both by 15 points. According to DraftKings, the Cyclones are +650 to win the tournament while the Bears are +450.
Iowa State is 15-15 against the spread this season but have covered just three of their last ten games. They’ve gone over the total ten times but have been under in seven of their last ten games.
Baylor is 16-14-1 versus the spread and have covered six of their last nine games. They have gone over the total 16 times and have done so in three of their last five games.
Overview and Betting Info
The Cyclones enter the Big 12 Tournament Championship having lost seven of their last 10 games, but they ended with another 15-point win over Baylor. It was a badly needed victory for a team that was coming off back-to-back losses to West Virginia and Baylor. Still, Iowa State has gone 8-3 against ranked opponents this season. Iowa State’s defense has carried them this season, ranking sixteenth in the country in opponent scoring. They rank third in the Big 12 in opponent field goal percentage (41.8%), fifth in steals (6.5 SPG), and fourth in blocks (2.9 BPG). The Cyclones’ offense has been a different story, ranking ninth in the Big 12 in scoring (68.5 PPG), eighth in field goal (45.0%) and three-point (33.6%) percentage. On major area of concern is rebounding, as the Cyclones rank ninth in the conference with 33.2 per game. Iowa State is 2-1 in neutral court games this season.
Iowa State is led by Jaren Holmes (13.2 PPG, 1.1 SPG) and Gabe Kalscheur (12.7 PPG, 1.5 SPG). Holmes has been their best offensive player, despite struggling on the road this season. His field goal percentage drops 9 points when outside of Aimes, while his three-point percentage drops by 14. It’s a disturbing trend heading into March Madness, however he bucked the trend in their last game against Baylor by making 66.7% of his shots for 16 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. The win broke a streak of seven games making 40% or less of his shots. Kalscheur is averaging 14.2 points over his last five games despite making just 35% of his shots. He has also had a dramatic drop off in shooting on the road where it drops by 8 points (36%). Kalscheur scored 35 combined points with five steals in his two games against Baylor.
The Cyclones depth took a big hit last week when it was announced that Caleb Grill (9.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG) had been dismissed from the team. That means it will be up to Osun Osunniyi (8.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 BPG), Aljaz Kunc (8.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG), and Tamin Lipsey (7.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, 2.1 SPG). Osunniyi’s numbers have been down of late averaging 7.2 points and 3.6 rebounds over their last five games. He is fourth in the conference in blocks but has just three blocks during that span. Kunc is one of their best shooters, making 45.6% of his shots and 34.2% from three. His scoring has been falling off of late, averaging 3.25 points over his last four games. Lipsey is fourth in the conference in assists and is third in steals, with at least two steals in his last seven games (19 total). He had just one shot against Baylor last weekend, but added five assists and two steals. Keep an eye on Tre King (5.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG) as the forward has 13 points and seven rebounds against the Bears on Saturday.
The Bears lost a key game to the Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday that caused them to drop to fourth in the Big 12. It was their second loss to the Cyclones and set them up for a first-round re-match. The Bear’s offense has been great ranking second in the Big 12 in scoring (77.3 PPG), first in three-point percentage (36.8%), and fifth in assists (14.6 APG). The Bears’ defense has struggled this season, ranking ninth in opponent scoring (70.0 PPG), tenth in field goal percentage (45.2%), sixth in three-point percentage (32.0%), eighth in steals (6.6 SPG), and tenth in blocks (2.4 BPG). Baylor is 3-1 in neutral-court games this season.
The Bears are led by a trio of Keyonte George (16.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG), Adam Flagler (15.6 PPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 SPG), and LJ Cryer (14.6 PPG). George is a solid shooter who ranks sixth in scoring in the Big 12. The Freshman is making 34.9% of his threes and taking seven per game. He had an awful showing against the Cyclones on Saturday as he wen 1-7 from three for seven points. George has shot the ball better when away from Waco, so we’ll see if that stays true in Kansas City this weekend. Flagler is seventh in scoring and is fourth in the conference in assists. He’s been on fire from three of late, making 47% of his threes over his last three games. Flagler scored 20 points in both of their losses to Iowa State. Cryer is third in the Big 12 in three-point shooting by making 42.1% of his threes this season. He is another player that has been better away from Waco, making 48.1% of his threes in those games.
Baylor’s stars are supported by the play of Jalen Bridges (9.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.1 BPG) and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (6.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG). Bridges can be a streaky scorer but is making over 47% of his shots this season. He was great in their first meeting with ISU, but was struggled on Saturday going 1-9 for five points. Bridges is one of the Bears best defenders down low, ranking fifth in the Big 12 in blocks. Tchatchoua debuted in early February afting missing the first half of the season with an injury. He’s been shooting well by making 51.3% of his attempts since returning. He had just two points against the Cyclones, but added seven rebounds. Watch out for Langston Love (6.6 PPG) as he is making 36.4% of his threes this season and has hit some big shots for the Bears this season. Love didn’t score in either of their games against the Cyclones, but could be set to break out on Thursday.
Free Pick: ISU +4.5
Baylor is the better basketball team, but the Cyclones have proven to be a matchup nightmare for the Bears. The ISU defense held this explosive Baylor offense to under 63 points in both games, while their offense was able to score 70 or more. The Bears aren’t the only team to struggle against ISU, as the Cyclones have wins over all of the top five teams in the conference. They play better when the lights are brightest, so expect to see them come out strong against a Bears team they’ve beaten twice by a combined 30 points.
Another reason we like the Cyclones is how they have defended against Baylor’s top shooters. They took Love completely out of the game in both meetings, and held Bridges to 1-9 from the field. While Baylor’s top three players have been better on the road and Flagler has 40 points against them on the season, the lack of scoring depth will cost Baylor their offensive advantage. That means they’ll need to rely on their defense, which has failed them time and time again.
We’re taking the points to roll with Iowa State on Thursday.