In case you need a good depiction of how tough the Big 12 conference is as a whole, both Iowa State and West Virginia are a respective sixth and eighth in their conference standings, yet both are in the top-25 in AdjEM per Kenpom. It is a gauntlet night in and night out and this matchup serves as no different as both look to improve their seeding as we approach conference tournament play. In a contrast of styles, can West Virginia’s offense crack open the vaunted Cyclones defense?
West Virginia Vs. Iowa State Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Iowa State -3.5
This line has seen some movement already and I will ride the wave by backing Iowa State at no higher than -4. The harsh reality is that West Virginia may not have the firepower to take advantage of the Cyclones defensive weakness. Even as a top-20 ranked offense in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per Kenpom, they will be hard pressed to find consistency against the Cyclones suffocating defense. That will open the door for Iowa State’s offense to generate some rhythm, getting the pleasure of taking advantage of a weak Mountaineer defense.
Iowa State swarms to the open man, shutting down shooters to near league best lows. They are well above average in defensive three-point percentage, as well as two-point percentage, and force opposing units into low quality looks. This will pose a problem for the Mountaineers who are around league average in shooting as a whole and fail to field a productive big man. Doing work in the interior and forcing the defense to clamp down is the key to scrambling a defense, creating gaps for guards to make cuts into and exploit for high quality looks.
Should the Cyclones continue their high level of defensive pressure at the perimeter, then that will give their offense ample opportunities to put this away early. That has been an issue for the Cyclones as their offense has struggled to generate any sort of consistency. They currently rank 107th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency but go against a reeling Mountaineer defense. Like WVU, ISU does not field a game changing big man and in turn have relied on halfcourt sets to generate open looks. We may see them pick up the pace to create openings for their shooters.
West Virginia Vs. Iowa State Odds
Oddsmakers don’t think so as they opened the Mountaineers as a +3 underdog on the road. Bettors also side with the home favorite, taking Iowa State up to as high as -4 in some shops as of writing. Power ratings have this slightly in West Virginia’s favor on a neutral court, giving the Cyclones the swing for being at home. West Virginia’s offense will need to block out the noise and be locked in over the course of 40 minutes as Iowa State fields one of the most lockdown defensive units in the nation.
Speaking of offense, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 134.5. Bettors have yet to take a stand on either end, keeping the current total the same as the opening number. This comes as a bit of a surprise as I thought early money would flood in on the under, making this stalemate intriguing to see which ends breaks down first. It will be heavily predicated on the Mountaineers ability to score, taking on the eighth ranked defense in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per Kenpom.
West Virginia Vs. Iowa State Key Matchups
Can the Cyclones handle the full court press?
Press Virginia vs Iowa State guards
It hasn’t been the most feared defensive unit that West Virginia has seen over the years but the full court press lives on when it’s called upon. A simple concept, used to rattle opposing guards in crucial situations.
Iowa State has been modest at limiting the turnovers, but are still susceptible nonetheless. Leading scorer and ball handler Jaren Holmes averages 2.3 turnovers per game.
This may bode well for the Cyclones offense as the WVU defenders being spaced out may give Iowa State the opening they need for more clean looks when they are able to break the press. This will be worth monitoring for a potential live opportunity.
Back the Cyclones at no higher than -4 in what will be a defensive slugfest as they look to improve their seeding with a late season momentum building win.