Jan 13, 2024; Orlando, Florida, USA; Brigham Young Cougars center Aly Khalifa (50) guard Trevin Knell (21) and UCF Knights forward Ibrahima Diallo (11) look for the rebound during the second half at Addition Financial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
No. 24 Iowa State (13-3, 2-1) will travel to Provo, Utah to take on No. 20 BYU (13-3, 1-2) in the first of a two-game road stretch this week.
After dropping the Big 12 conference opener to Oklahoma, the Cyclones have rattled off back-to-back home victories against No. 2 Houston and Oklahoma State.
Iowa State sits in a four-way tie for third place in the Big 12 standings and entered the AP Poll for the first time this season Monday at No. 24.
The Cyclones have now been ranked for at least one week in each of T.J. Otzelberger’s first three seasons as the program’s head coach.
About the Cougars
The most surprising team in the Big 12 so far this season comes in BYU. The team, led by coach Mark Pope, was picked to finish second to last in the conference’s preseason poll, but have since catapulted into the Top 25 rankings.
Despite a 1-2 start to league play, BYU ranks No. 11 overall in the KenPom ratings. The Cougars dropped games to Cincinnati and Baylor, but have wins over No. 17 San Diego, Arizona State, NC State and UCF.
The Cougars nearly have six players averaging double-figures this season.
Arkansas transfer Jaxson Robinson leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game, but doesn’t typically start. The 6-foot-7 senior will likely come off of the bench as the sixth man Tuesday.
BYU comes into the game at No. 2 in the country in 3-point attempts per game, averaging 33.4 attempts. The team’s leading three-point shooter is 6-foot-5 guard Trevin Knell. The redshirt junior is averaging 13.1 points per game and shooting 47 percent from behind the arc.
Detroit Mercy transfer Noah Waterman is the force in the paint for the Cougars. The 6-foot-11 senior is a matchup nightmare for opposing big men. He can stretch the defense with his ability to score in the paint and shoot the three-ball. He is averaging 10.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game on 45.1 percent shooting from the floor and 37.3 percent from behind the arc.
Tough road tests ahead
The Cyclones are now getting into the thick of things in Big 12 play. That includes two road games against top 20 opponents this week.
Iowa State has not played BYU since 2014 in Provo, where the Cyclones won 90-88. The program has a 5-0 all-time record against the Cougars.
The Cyclones have once again moved up in KenPom’s adjusted defensive numbers to No. 2. This comes after holding Houston and Oklahoma State to their worst offensive performances of the season.
Iowa State ranks No. 1 in defensive turnover percentage and that is going to be key for the Cyclones on Tuesday night. Although they are ranked No. 2 in adjusted defense in KenPom, the Cyclones have struggled to defend the three-ball. That is a major strength for the Cougars as noted above.
If Iowa State can turn BYU over before they put up a shot, it will bode well for another top-25 win on the road.