The Baylor Bears have risen to the No. 2 spot in the AP poll. Their first game in the position is against the Iowa State Cyclones.
TV Schedule: Wednesday, January 15, 2020 at 8:00 PM ET, ESPN+
Location: Ferrell Center, Waco, Texas
After Saturday’s colossal road victory at Kansas – the first at Allen Fieldhouse in program history – the pollsters could no longer ignore the Baylor Bears, elevating them to the No. 2 spot in the AP poll, only behind Gonzaga.
The Bears’ win over the Jayhawks was historic, but it was just another in a string of remarkable victories in a remarkable season for Scott Drew’s team. It was the team’s fifth win over a ranked opponent and second last week alone, as they also secured a road victory over Texas Tech.
Baylor’s only loss of the season came in their second game when they fell to Washington in a neutral site game in Alaska.
Davion Mitchell has been a major factor in Baylor’s hot streak to start Big 12 play. He’s averaging just 9.6 points per game, but he has hit double figures in four of the past five, beginning to separate himself as the potential third scoring option on the team, a development Drew would certainly appreciate.
While Baylor is now burdened by expectations, Iowa State is only burdened by what once could have been.
Like any major program, the Cyclones entered the 2019-20 season with hopes of at least making it to the NCAA Tournament. After showing off potential during his freshman year, Tyrese Haliburton was set for a grand sophomore campaign.
The guard has been as good as advertised, averaging 16.6 points, 7.7 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game, proving to be one of the best all-around players in the country.
Outside of Haliburton and Rasir Bolton (15.1 points per game), however, the rest of the Cyclones have been trailing behind and it reflects in the team’s disappointing 8-7 overall record. Only one loss stands out as gallingly bad (the loss to Florida A&M), but the sheer amount of defeats is not what fans in Ames were expecting this year.
Iowa State is coming off a victory entering Wednesday’s contest, a resounding 81-68 toppling of Oklahoma. Bolton and Haliburton led the way, as expected, but the most important stat was the nine turnovers the Cyclones committed, below the team’s 11.5 turnover per game average. Protecting the ball better down the court will give Iowa State a chance to stay in tough games.
Still, traveling to Waco is not a recipe for success given the way Baylor has been playing. Since 2012, the Cyclones have played at Baylor eight times, winning only once in 2013. The Bears haven’t lost at the Ferrell Center since the end of last season and the buzz surrounding the program is only going to make it harder for road teams to steal victories.
Iowa State is not nearly as mediocre as their record suggests and they should be able to keep things close – Haliburton will be the best individual player on the court, after all – but Baylor seems like a lock right now.
Prediction: Baylor 75, Iowa State 60