TEXAS LONGHORNS (20-5)
at IOWA STATE CYCLONES (19-5)
Hilton Coliseum - Ames, IA
Tip-off: Monday, 7:00 p.m.ET
Line: Iowa State -4.5
No. 19 Texas, winners of nine of its past 10 games, starts the most important week of its season on Tuesday with a trip to Ames to take on No. 17 Iowa State.
These two teams played on Jan. 18 in Austin, with the two-point underdog Longhorns pulling away in the second half for the comfortable 86-76 win. The Texas defense played a huge role in that game, limiting the Cyclones to 39 percent shooting from the field, while also forcing 18 turnovers. Texas is 12-10 ATS overall this season, including 6-3 ATS in the underdog role. But the club is an average 6-6 ATS in conference play and just 3-3 ATS on the road, losing by 17 points at Kansas State in the most recent road game on Feb. 8. Iowa State is 1-9 ATS (5-5 SU) in its past 10 games to fall to a subpar 9-12-1 ATS overall and 3-9 ATS in Big 12 play. The club is also just 5-6 ATS at home despite a 12-1 SU mark in Ames. The Longhorns have dominated this series SU since 2006, going 11-2 SU, but the Cyclones have the 7-5-1 ATS advantage in that timeframe and destroyed Texas 82-62 in Ames last season. Although Iowa State is a woeful 0-8 ATS versus poor pressure defenses (14 or less turnovers per game) after 15+ games this season, the club is also 10-2 ATS after a win by six points or less in the past three seasons.
Which school will come up with the crucial Big 12 win on Tuesday night? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 59% ATS (215-149-11) mark, including a hefty 61% ATS (183-115-6) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Brian is at 67% ATS (49-24-2) in Best Bets for the season, 85% ATS (17-3-1) since Jan. 17 and 71% ATS (42-17-1) since Nov. 26. StatFox Dave is 61% ATS (45-29-1) for the season and 67% ATS (28-14) since Dec. 18, while StatFox Zach is 55% ATS (39-32-4) on Best Bets this season, including 57% ATS (33-25-3) since Nov. 22. StatFox Scott is 56% ATS (41-32-2) for the season and 57% ATS (31-23-2) since Dec. 2, while StatFox Gary is 56% ATS (41-32-2) for the season, and 60% ATS (35-23) since Nov. 29.
The biggest advantage for the Longhorns this season has been the ability to dominate the glass, as they currently rank fifth in the nation rebounding (42.0 RPG) with a +7.9 RPG margin. They don't shoot particularly well with 44.2% FG (192nd in Div. I) and 66.7% FT, but Texas still scores 76.9 PPG overall (49th in nation) and 75.4 PPG in conference play. Defensively, this team allows a pedestrian 69.9 PPG (171st in Div. I), but alters a lot of shots (6.1 BPG, 15th in nation), leading to a strong shooting defense of 39.8% FG (29th in Div. I). PF Jonathan Holmes (13.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and C Cameron Ridley (11.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG) have both provided the team with production in the paint. The sophomore Ridley was a McDonald’s All-American coming into his freshman season last year, but he had his struggles. However, this season he came in significantly lighter, and has been nearly unstoppable at times. In last month's win over ISU, Holmes led the scoring with 23 points (9-of-13 FG) and contributed seven boards and two blocks, while Ridley had a double-double with 16 points (7-of-10 FG) and 11 rebounds to go along with five blocks. The ability of the Longhorns down low has allowed a young, but explosive backcourt to go out and make plays. PG Javan Felix (12.7 PPG, 2.8 APG) struggled shooting against ISU last month (5-for-17 FG), but still made 3-of-8 threes to finish with 17 points, three assists and zero turnovers. And after making just 3-of-12 shots in the last road game at Kansas State, Felix caught fire on the two-game homestand with 22.5 PPG on 10-of-18 threes (56%). PG Isaiah Taylor (12.1 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.1 RPG) continues to attack the rim with 40 free-throw attempts over his past six games, knocking down 37 of those for a 93% FT clip. Taylor was not heavily recruited out of high school, but has had some monster games in the Longhorns biggest tests this season. In consecutive games against Baylor and Kansas, the freshman averaged 25.0 PPG. One glaring weakness for Texas has been its struggles from the three-point line, where it shoots just 33.6%. If the team is able to establish the paint and drive the ball to the hoop, it has a good chance to leave town with a victory. However, if the Longhorns get caught up in playing at Iowa State’s pace, then it could be a long night for Texas.
The Cyclones come into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in assists (18.6 APG) and No. 5 in scoring (84.1 PPG). They shoot 47.2% FG (47th in Div. I) and make 8.5 threes per game (20th in nation), but make just 34.2% of their long-range tries. This is also a quality rebounding team with 38.9 RPG (24th in Div. I), but its rebounding margin is only +0.6 RPG because of the rapid pace ISU plays at. This up-tempo offense doesn't always clamp down on the defensive end, allowing 73.7 PPG (269th in nation), but opponents make only 41.4% FG and 33.4% threes against the Cyclones. Iowa State has a plethora of guys that can go off for 25 points on any given night, making the team nearly impossible to guard. PF Melvin Ejim (18.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG) is emerging as a legitimate candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year. He had the best individual performance of any player this season when he scored 48 points (20-of-24 FG) with 18 rebounds in a home victory over TCU on Feb. 8, but has scored just 19 points on 6-of-17 FG in two games since the monster output. Ejim also had a big game in Austin last month, scoring 18 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. SF Georges Niang (16.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.7 APG) and PG DeAndre Kane (15.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 6.1 APG) both have the ability to take over a game by themselves. Niang played very well against the Longhorns last month with 18 points (4-of-7 threes), six assists and five rebounds, but Kane made just 3-of-12 FG and committed seven turnovers in that loss. PF Dustin Hogue (10.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.0 APG) is the glue guy for the Cyclones, getting Iowa State many second chances with his tenacity on the boards. He fouled out of that game in Austin, contributing only nine points (2-of-6 FG) and six rebounds in 29 minutes before leaving the game. Head coach Fred Hoiberg has steadily built a contender at Iowa State, and this may be his best team to date. This game could easily be decided in the first few minutes, because if Iowa State is able to get out into the open and get easy transition baskets early, it could turn into another blowout like last season's 20-point home rout of the Longhorns.