Most Texas Tech fans did not expect to start Big 12 play 0-3, but here we are. With the Red Raiders in danger of falling off the bubble early in the season, there is a lot of urgency to get things right in a hurry. A win tonight in Ames against a surging Iowa State team could ignite the Red Raiders into a competitive stretch of conference games and get them firmly back on the bubble, while a loss likely ends any hopes of a Big 12 title only four games into the conference fight. With two very important players likely coming back, there has not been a more pivotal game yet in this young season.
Where: Hilton Coliseum (Ames, Iowa)
When: 7:00 P.M. CST
Odds: ISU -5.5, 128.5
About Iowa State:
Three players to watch
Grill is the best shooter on this Iowa State team and has become something of an offensive leader for this team. Grill was decent for ISU last year, but he’s taken the next step in his second year back in Ames (he originally played under Steve Prohm, then transferred to UNLV, then came back to the Cyclones with T.J. Otzelberger). Grill started the season on a 4-24 slump from deep, but a 7-11 outburst against then-#1 UNC (yeah, I don’t want to talk about it) sparked a stretch where he has shot 47% on high volume since then. Grill can create his own shot, is efficient off-the-ball, and is passable defensively.
Kalscheur was a standout performer in the Clones’ game against TCU but is not a particularly efficient scorer. That said- the 6’4 guard is great at hitting tough shots, can distribute decently well, and is the best perimeter defender for an elite ISU defense.
Lipsey is essentially the Tyrese Hunter replacement for Iowa State, as he provides a lot of the same on-ball value for them as Hunter did while being extremely efficient as a half-court distributor. The 6’1 guard is undersized but makes up for it on the defensive end by having elite on-ball instincts and being great positionally. On the offensive end, Lipsey cannot really shoot or create at the rim, but his playmaking is critical for a Cyclones offense that otherwise doesn’t really have great individual facilitators.
What They’re Good At
Forcing turnovers: Iowa State forces turnovers for opposing teams at a higher rate than literally any other team in the nation. That’s… concerning.
Offensive rebounding: This isn’t anywhere near as massive as them forcing turnovers, but ISU is top-60 in OREB%, and in Big 12 play they’ve been above the 30% mark in all three games. It’s a good thing Daniel Batcho should be back.
Got that dawg in them: ISU is 4-0 in close games this year, including wins over TCU, OU, and UNC where the opposing team seemed to take control of the game at some point, but could not close the game out. This team is incredibly experienced, does not beat themselves, and finds ways to get lucky at opportune moments. The Big 12 often comes down to winning in the margins, and no team does a better job of that than Iowa State.
Keys for Texas Tech:
Don’t turn the ball over: Again… Iowa State forces turnovers for opposing teams at a higher rate than literally any other team in the nation. Texas Tech turns the ball over a lot at times. That’s not a good combination.
Shoot good shots: Provided you take care of the ball, getting the right shots will be essential offensively. Against Oklahoma, that was a massive issue in the half-court, and unfortunately, ISU does not play a style that lends itself to playing in transition. Getting good looks off of cuts (with post passing specifically) and horns action has been something that Tech has done well at times this year, and with Daniel Batcho allegedly back in the lineup, it should help a ton to run those actions.
Play sound defense: The last two games have been brutal for Tech from a missed rotations standpoint. Cleaning that up against a team that can be incredibly streaky from deep will be very important if Tech wants to win. Grill in particular is a shooter that shoots significantly better on shots with limited contests, so giving him open looks and allowing him to get hot would not be ideal.
Final thought: Tech needs this one. Bad. Like if they do not win this one I really doubt they will be able to make the tournament after starting 0-4 in the Big 12. Despite the urgency, ISU will have a significant home-court advantage, is coming off a really good stretch of games, and matches up well against Tech’s biggest weakness (half-court turnovers). Add in ISU winning in the margins and Tech losing close ones, and I just do not see the good guys pulling this one out. I hope I’m wrong.
Final Prediction: Texas Tech 59-63 ISU