Iowa vs. Iowa State: Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (12/9/21)

Iowa vs. Iowa State Betting Odds

It’s felt like an eternity since Iowa State was last competitive with Iowa in basketball. The Cyclones haven’t beaten the Hawkeyes since Luka Garza’s freshman season. And the Hawkeyes are generally vying for a national title while the Cyclones are Big 12 bottom dwellers.

This year, things are a little different. Iowa State is ranked at No. 17 and sitting at 8-0 with some marquee wins. Iowa is still an offensive powerhouse, but they’ve now lost back-to-back conference games to begin the Big Ten season.

However, the betting market refuses to move. Iowa is laying three points on the road Thursday night.

So, are the ranked Cyclones the obvious pick as home underdogs? Or is this a trap line, and it’s time to buy Iowa?

Iowa Hawkeyes Betting Odds 

The Hawkeyes lost the program’s best-ever player in Garza, plus several other key offensive weapons. Yet Fran McCaffery’s team rolls on as if nothing ever happened.

Iowa is fifth in offensive efficiency and scoring the fifth-most points per game in college basketball (90.1), likely due to playing at the 30th fastest tempo. Iowa speeds into its offensive sets, recording the seventh-fastest average possession length nationally (14.7 seconds). However, that does include transition buckets, wherein Iowa records a transition shot at the 23rd highest rate nationally.

But Iowa doesn’t just play fast and record counting stats. The Hawkeyes veteran backcourt paces the nation in turnover rate (10.1%) and non-steal turnover rate (4%) despite playing at such a ridiculous pace.

Moreover, the Hawkeyes have seemingly replaced their interior volume scoring option. Keegan Murray has taken perhaps improved more than any player in college basketball. Not only is he leading the Hawkeyes in scoring, but currently leading the nation in points per game (23.9).

Murray is top-40 nationally in ORtg (136.2), possession percentage (31.5%), and shot percentage (33.9%). But despite working at such a high volume, the Sophomore is shooting almost 60% from the field.

Iowa was expected to take a big step back this season. But if Murray continues this trajectory, don’t be surprised if Iowa is a high-end NCAA tournament seed again.

Iowa State Cyclones Odds

 Iowa State has won three straight games outright as underdogs, beating Xavier, Memphis, and Creighton along the way. This team might be for real.

TJ Otzelberger, who was hired from UNLV, has transformed the Cyclone defense. This unit ranks fifth in defensive turnover rate (27.2%) and 33rd in defensive effective field goal percentage (44.1%).

However, it’s fair to wonder if this team is due for some regression on that end. The Cyclones rank 19th in 3-point defense, but that number stands at an unsustainable 26.5%. Iowa State also sits outside the top-50 in adjusted defensive Shot Quality, and shows the team is due for negative regression across both the offense and defense.

Prediction and Pick 

My pick: Iowa -4.5 or better

This line opened at Iowa -3, but sharp money has pushed it up to -3.5. I’m looking to follow the smart money in this spot and back Iowa to win convincingly.

Iowa State is having an incredible season, but this team is due for regression. Iowa is primed to take advantage of weaknesses in Iowa State’s interior defense, and the Hawkeyes will generate enough good scoring opportunities to avoid variance.

One thing I’m particularly interested in is Iowa State’s proclivity for fouling. The Cyclones are allowing the 30th highest free-throw rate nationally (40.7% FTA/FGA), and that could be a death sentence against a good free-throw shooting team in Iowa. Murray himself is getting to the line more than six times per game and making more than 81% of them.

I’ll back Iowa as a road favorite in this spot. But, if the line creeps up to Iowa -6, I’m going to buy the Cyclones as a medium home dog instead.

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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