Preview: Iowa State vs. Baylor
Baylor is Baylor is Baylor is Baylor…
I started that little half-joke, half-truth of a saying around two years ago. The meaning of it is simple: Scott Drew’s basketball program is like a box of chocolates. You just never know what you’re going to get.
On the surface, the “Baylor is Baylor is Baylor is Baylor” line comes off as a tad bit disrespectful but here’s the thing – it’s not. It’s actually more of a backhanded compliment than anything. It’s my way of getting the point across that Baylor is talented enough to beat anybody in the country on one night, but undisciplined enough to lose to anybody two days later.
Baylor is Baylor is Baylor is Baylor - This is modern day Baylor basketball as we know it.
Say what you want about the Bears. Regardless of your opinion, you cannot take away the fact that this program has made it to the Elite Eight in two of the last three seasons. North Carolina, Florida Kentucky and Butler are the only other programs in college basketball that can make that claim.
Baylor still is Baylor is Baylor is Baylor is Baylor.
After all, this program did win at Kentucky this season. It also lost at home to the College of Charleston. But having said that, it’s a program that deserves much respect, as it has been one of the most consistent in college basketball over the last three years.
Baylor comes to town in a game that Iowa State will be desperate to win. Think about it this way - if Iowa State would lose to Baylor on Saturday night, the Cyclones get Oklahoma at home two nights later. Not a lot of recovery time. After that, it's a brutal road trip to Manhattan.
This is a big, big basketball game. It's one that Iowa State will be favored in (3.5 points to be exact) and rightfully so. It's also one that Iowa State cannot afford to lose.
Breaking down the Bears...
Prior to Wednesday night's surprising home loss to Oklahoma, Baylor's Big 12 season had been fairly predictable. Before that game, Baylor's only loss came at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks in a 61-44 thumping in Allen Fieldhouse. It was ugly no doubt - but really nothing to be ashamed of either.
Baylor, who enters Saturday 5-2 in league play, has wins over Texas, Texas Tech, TCU (twice) and Oklahoma State. Four of Baylor's wins have come against the league's three worst teams. A 10 point home win over Oklahoma State was impressive.
Pierre Jackson is the straw that stirs the drink for Scott Drew. Jackson, who scored 35 points in Baylor's trip to Hilton last season, is leading the Big 12 in scoring at 18.8 points per contest and 5.9 assists as well. Jackson scored 22 points on 18 shots in Wednesday night's win over Oklahoma.
Surrounding Jackson is a TON of young (and raw) talent.
Isaiah Austin, a 7-foot-1 freshman, is a load down low. Get this - Austin snagged 20 rebounds on Wednesday vs. the Sooners. He's averaging 9.4 boards per game (second in the Big 12 behind Melvin Ejim) on top of 14.8 points (sixth in the league). Look for Fred Hoiberg to attack Austin in a similar way that he did with Jeff Withey & Kansas - an attempt to get the big man away from the basket via Georges Niang.
Baylor's role players are abundant too. Cory Jefferson is this team's do-it-all guy, comparable to Mevln Ejim (although he's longer at 6-foot-9). Brady Heslip is the sharp shooter. A.J. Walton is the distributor.
This match-up is certain to be a fun one. Iowa State enters the game as the Big 12's top-ranked scoring offense. Baylor is No. 2 behind the Cyclones. The same goes for rebounding, with Iowa State entering the contest at No. 1 with the Bears at No. 2.
Stats like the one I'm about to give you crack me up. In reality, they don't mean much. It's like Iowa State not winning a game in Stillwater since 1988. Georges Niang hadn't even been born then. Is that stat really relevant to him?
However, Iowa State is 10-0 over the course of history vs. Baylor in Hilton Coliseum. That means nothing to a guy like Pierre Jackson. He's only partly responsible for one of those losses. But the 0-10 mark in Hilton does have a little bit of validity in my opinion. It's part of the Baylor is Baylor is Baylor is Baylor saying...
Over the course of time, Scott Drew teams have seemed to struggle in hostile environments. The Bears don't appreciate the Allen Fieldhouse's and Hilton Coliseum's of the world. Iowa State's homecourt winning streak is now at 18 games, which is the eighth best in America. The Cyclones have won 10 straight Big 12 home games.
Despite the loss, I liked what I saw from this team on Wednesday at Oklahoma State. With Chris Babb going off and hitting five threes, it was more proof that on any given night, one of six Cyclones can drop 20 and lead his team to victory. Georges Niang is a match-up nightmare right now.
Baylor's size will without a doubt give Iowa State some issues but I don't see the Cyclones having an off night from behind-the-arc against the zone defense that Drew will likely bring to the table.
Give me Iowa State in a high-scoring Big 12 affair.
Iowa State 80, Baylor 75