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BYU-Iowa State Preview: Cougars Slight Favorites in Top 25 Matchup

BYU welcomes Iowa State for a top 25 clash in Provo.

Baylor v Iowa State Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

We’ll get our first matchup between two AP top 25 Marriott Center in over three years when #20 BYU hosts #24 Iowa State Tuesday night in Provo. The last top 25 matchup in the Marriott Center was when #23 BYU upset #2 Gonzaga February 22, 2020.

BYU and Iowa State have had similar seasons, both played a mostly soft non-conference schedule and beat up on bad teams that impressed the metrics. Both are top 10 in the NET rankings and are looking for a surefire Quad One win to add to the resume.

As of this writing, BYU is anywhere between a 3.5-4.5 favorite depending where you look.

BYU and Iowa State by the Numbers

ISU Record: 13-3

KenPom: 12

NET: 9

Best Wins: Iowa (H), VCU (N), Houston (H), Oklahoma State (H)

Losses: Virginia Tech (N), Texas A&M (N), Oklahoma (A)

BYU KenPom: 11

Net: 5

Record: 13-3

Best Wins: San Diego State (H), NC State (N), Arizona State (N), UCF (A)

Losses: Utah (A), Cincinnati (H), Baylor (A)

KenPom Prediction: BYU 72, ISU 68 — BYU 63% win probability

Iowa State Overview

The Cyclones are disruptive and one of the best defenses in the country. ISU leads the nation in defensive turnover percentage behind a suffocating backcourt. Sophomore Point guard Tamin Lipsey is one of the best players in the Big 12 and is the Cyclone engine on both sides of the ball. Lipsey leads ISU in points, assists, and is second nationally with 3.4 steals per game. Two other Iowa State guards average nearly 2 steals a game. ISU may not press BYU a bunch, but they will HOUND BYU and aim to disrupt and takeaway dribble handoffs.

Iowa State’s one weakness on defense is the amount of threes they give up. The Cyclones defense is 356 nationally with a 3PA rate of of 47%, meaning 47% of opponents FGA are from behind the arc. That is the 6th highest percentage nationally. ISU’s defensive assist rate of 58% is sub 300 nationally, meaning 58% of field goal attempts are assisted. Additionally, 40.5% of opponents points come from behind the arc, second most of any team. ISU’s defensive 3P% of 33% is middle of the pack nationally. A lot of those 3PA are undoubtedly rushed as the result of the defensive pressure, but teams can also find open looks if they don’t turn the ball over.

What does that mean? Iowa State is ELITE at pressuring the ball. They’ve blown out a lot of teams and handed Houston its first loss because they can really guard. However, teams that can limit turnovers have had success in finding open three-point shooters.

That formula gives this game a large scale in which it can go. BYU has struggled against teams that can really pressure the perimeter, but the Cougars also are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country.

Offensively, Iowa State is capable but not as scary as they are on defense. They don’t shoot a ton of threes and like to attack the rim and get to the foul line. They get at the offensive glass fairly well but not as much as BYU’s previous three Big 12 opponents. Iowa State has decent size, but the tallest guy they play is 6-foot-10.

Iowa State Players to Watch

Tamin Lipsey, Guard — Lipsey is on the early list of Big 12 POY candidates. He averages 15 points, 5.6 assists, and 3.4 steals while shooting 47% from the floor and 38% from distance. He will give Dallin Hall is toughest test of the year to date.

Keshon Gilbert, Guard — Lipsey’s backcourt mate, the 6-foot-4 guard averages 13 ppg and 1.8 steals. Gilbert shoots 24% from three, but leads the Cyclones in free throw attempts and is top 65 nationally in free throw rate.

Milan Momcilovic, Forward — One of the best freshmen in the Big 12, the 6-foot-8 forward is second on the team with 13.3 ppg leads the teams with a 41% clip from three. He leads the Cyclones in three point attempts and makes.

Curtis Jones, Guard — ISU’s top sixth man, Jones averages a modest 8.6 ppg, but he is an absolute pest off the bench and averages a shade under 2 steals per game.

Tre King, Forward — Just 6-foot-7, but King is a tenacious rebounder and leads the team there with an average of 5.6 per game. King is just 3-14 from 3 on the season, but shoots 55% from the floor and averages 10 points.

Robert Jones, Center — At 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds, Jones is ISU’s biggest player and starting 5 man. He averages 2.5 offensive rebounds versus 2.4 defensive boards.

Matchups and Storylines to Watch

  • How does BYU handle the pressure? And I’m not talking about full court pressure. How will BYU handle being picked up 30+ feet from the basket in the halfcourt and having dribble handoffs cutoff. Watch the first highlight of the below clip. Iowa State knows BYU will look to execute dribble handoffs around the arc. Aly Khalifa does a good job operating the offense from up there, and his IQ of knowing when to fake and set up cutters will be massive.
  • Can BYU control the offensive glass? Iowa State does a lot of things well and rebounds well, but they don’t have quite the same size as BYU’s first three conference opponents. Offensive rebounding was a huge part of BYU’s success in non-conference play and has predictably tapered off as the level of competition has increased, but BYU will need to create more second chance opportunities in order to give themselves more advantages.
  • How does Iowa State handle the road environment? Hilton Coliseum is one of the best homecourt advantages in college basketball and the Cyclones are 11-0 there this season. Outside of their own gym, ISU is 2-3 and 1-1 in true road games. One of those wins was versus one of the worst P6 teams in DePaul, and the other was an 8-point loss to Oklahoma. ISU’s style of forcing turnovers is especially conducive to a strong home court advantage where the crowd can just be an avalanche after several turnovers, but on the road that energy has to come organically.


This is a fascinating game. Iowa State could put BYU in a torture chamber the whole night and force turnovers, but they are also susceptible to open threes, so you could see a scenario where BYU rides the Marriott Center energy and shoots like 14-34 and stymies some of ISU’s pressure.

This will be Dallin Hall’s toughest test of his career. BYU has other ball handlers they will need to rely on, but Dallin Hall will get the brunt of the pressure from ISU’s swarm of guards. Luckily he gets to see ISU first in Provo before the March 6 rematch in Ames, but ISU’s physicality and quickness is a lot. Against Houston, Iowa State forced senior point guard Jamal Shead into 5 turnovers. If Dallin Hall can keep his turnovers to even 4 and plays close to or over 30 minutes, I think that would be a positive for BYU.

There is a reason BYU is favored. The game in Provo is a huge factor, and ISU also isn’t an elite offensive team and can be susceptible to the three ball on the other end. I think BYU’s defense keeps them in the game, but ultimately Iowa State’s swarming defense gets them out of Provo with a narrow win.

Prediction: Iowa State 68, BYU 66