Two top-10 teams begin conference play on ESPN’s first Super Tuesday tomorrow when the Baylor Bears battle the Iowa State Cyclones. Fred Hoiberg’s team enters Big-12 play undefeated with a perfect 13-0 mark while Baylor comes in with just a single loss to the number two ranked team in the country, Syracuse, in Maui back in November. The ‘Clones have been touted at 7.5-point home favorites against their conference foes.
Iowa State has exceeded expectations after a Sweet 16 finish last season. The Cyclones were supposed to be good but not this good after losing Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee, who were both prolific scorers at the collegiate level. Now, ISU is led by a trio of Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and DeAndre Kane – Niang being the only non-senior (sophomore). The three have all improved on pretty productive seasons last year but the biggest surprise and difference-maker among this ISU bunch is junior college transfer Dustin Hogue. The 6’6″ Hogue is playing in his first season under Fred Hoiberg and putting up over 12 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game for Iowa State. Like the three leading-scorers for Iowa State, Hogue also gets it done from beyond the arc with deathly efficiency. ISU shoots the three-pointer with over 36 percent accuracy as a team on the season, which will be the main part of their game that Baylor will look to neutralize on the road playing at one of the toughest buildings in college basketball.
Baylor knows first-hand that getting a win at the Hilton Coliseum is one of the toughest tasks in the game. And this year is no different. But I expect this year’s Baylor team to accept this game as a challenge as a team that’s been battle tested early in non-conference play. The Bears are led by two really good bigs in Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin that feature an interesting mix of size, strength and perimeter ability. Jefferson is big and strong and will bang with any player in the country. Austin is getting stronger but has an outside game that doesn’t come along everyday in a player with his kind of height and wing span. Brady Heslip and Kenny Chery are the veteran guards that can score the basketball from the outside. Heslip is arguably the best shooter in the country this season with a three-point percentage of nearly 48 percent. His ability to hit the outside shot is always key for a Bears team that, somehow, even shoots better than ISU from deep at over 42 percent.
I won’t discredit Iowa State in the least bit but in their first Big-12 game of the season against a really good Baylor team that has played some of the best teams in the country I just don’t think you can lay 7.5 points in this spot. Baylor might not leave the Coliseum with a victory but I like their chances to keep it close.
Free Pick: Baylor +7.5