Iowa State Cyclones vs. Baylor Bears Pick & Prediction MARCH 15th 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No. 14 Baylor, the third seed in the Big 12 tournament, and No. 7 Iowa State seeded second, match up in a high-profile date Friday with a spot in the conference title game at stake.

In Thursday’s tournament quarterfinal, Baylor defeated 11th-seeded Cincinnati 68-56 after Iowa State knocked off Kansas State — the 10th seed — 76-57.

The top four seeds have made it to the semifinals. No. 1 Houston, the top seed in the tournament, will face No. 25 Texas Tech, the fourth seed, in the first semifinal of the day on Friday.

Iowa State (25-7) is the only remaining team with a previous Big 12 conference tournament championship. The Cyclones have won five, the last coming in 2019. They’re the only team in Big 12 history never to lose in the championship game.

Baylor (23-9) has lost in the title game three times and wants to cut down the nets on Saturday.

“That’s something that we would love to make happen,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of teams that want to win it, too.”

Texas Tech has lost twice in the championship game, most recently in 2022. Houston is in its first year in the conference.

Immediately following his team’s quarterfinal victory, Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said he didn’t care who Friday’s opponent would be. “We know whoever we play, it’s going to be a really good team who is very well-coached,” Otzelberger said, adding the Cyclones are “going to be ready for the challenge. We’ve just got to get our rest and be prepared for whoever we play to be at our best come tomorrow.”

Baylor overcame a sluggish start to defeat Cincinnati, which bounced Kansas on Wednesday. They missed their first nine shots and shot just 25 percent in the first half. Still, they managed to trail only 26-24 at halftime. But in the second half, the Bears shot 51.6 percent and outscored the Bearcats 44-30.

“The only downside to the double bye is that in the first half, you gotta get the jitters out and get used to everything,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I think the second half was a lot truer to what we are offensively. We scored 44 points instead of 24. Defensively we were really good. On the glass, we were good. Turnovers, too high to advance in postseason. Hopefully we’re better tomorrow.”

Drew said he has trust in his team to make those improvements.

“Coaches are always nervous about everything,” Drew said. “The great thing is we have players that are really coachable, and they don’t make the same mistakes multiple times. They’re at a point in the season they’re coaching themselves. They tell us what they’re doing wrong or what we can do better.”

Iowa State let a 34-27 halftime lead get away against Kansas State. The Wildcats outscored the Cyclones 12-6 in the early moments of the second half to close the gap to one point, but Otzelberger called a timeout and fired up his players. They responded with a 14-2 run to take a 54-41 lead.

The Cyclones did just about everything well against the Wildcats. The exception was 3-point shooting, where the Cyclones made just 1 of 14 attempts. Otzelberger wasn’t visibly concerned by that stat.

“If we defend and rebound and share the basketball, I don’t think it’s going to be a factor,” he said. “It wasn’t a factor tonight.”

Keshon Gilbert leads a balanced Iowa State scoring attack with an average of 13.5 points per game. Six Baylor players average double figures, led by Ja’Kobe Walter’s 14.6 points.

-David Smale, Field Level Media

Docsports, The most trusted name in sports handicapping