Preview: Iowa State @ Texas Tech

Chris Williams

Publisher

By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams

What: Iowa State (13-5, 3-2) @ Texas Tech (7-10, 0-5) When: Saturday, Jan. 21 at 4:05 p.m. Where: United Sprint Arena in Lubbock, Texas TV: ESPN2/ESPN3.com (Mark Neely & Sean Farnham)

Heading into games one and two of the Big 12 season, Iowa State was a combined 0 for its last 15 in games vs. Texas and Texas A&M. Those streaks were slayed.

The Cyclones have another nasty streak to break on Saturday. The United Sprint Arena has not been kind to the Cyclones over the last decade. Iowa State hasn't won a game in Lubbock, Texas since March 1, 2000 (87-79).

Will the fourth place Cyclones leave Lubbock with a road victory?

Let's break this down.

Iowa State's probable starters:

G: Chris Allen, 6-3 Sr. - 12.5 PPG, 2.7 APG G: Chris Babb, 6-5 Jr. - 9.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG G: Scott Christopherson, 6-3 Sr. - 11.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG F: Melvin Ejim, 6-6 So. 7.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG G: Royce White, 6-8 So. 13.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG

Texas Tech's probable starters:

G: Terran Petteway, 6-6 Fr. 4.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG G: DeShon Minnis, 6-3 Fr. - 3.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG G: Ty Nurse, 6-1 Jr. - 9.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG F: Jordan Tolbert, 6-7 Fr. - 13.- PPG, 6.5 RPG C: Robert Lewandowski, 6.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG

BREAKING DOWN THE CYCLONES

CHRISTOPHERSON TAKES CONTROL: I wrote this after Wednesday night's 71-68 Iowa State win over Oklahoma State and it's how I'll lead in the Texas Tech preview as well.

Down six with three to play on Wednesday night, I saw something in Scott Christopherson. In fact, the senior had a different edge to him all night long. Christopherson seemed more animated. He was awfully vocal. His eight points in the last three minutes of that game pushed Iowa State to its third Big 12 victory of the season, which ties how many the Cyclones won in all of last year.

“He came over in the huddle when we got down a little bit and said, ‘Guys, we are not losing this game,'" said head coach Fred Hoiberg." That shows growth on his end where in the past, we might not have had anybody come over and say anything. Heads would have been down but those guys looked determined. They had that look in their eye and then we went out and made plays.”

Christopherson has scored in double figures in his last seven games. It's arguable that he's playing the best basketball of his career right now.

BABB SLUMPING AGAIN: It's been well documented all season long that junior Chris Babb is Iowa State's best defender and it isn't even close. However over the last two games, Babb has struggled offensively going 2-for-15 from the field.

I recently re-watched the Oklahoma State game and heard ESPNU commentator (former Arizona guard) Miles Simon discuss how the fact that Babb is chasing elite Big 12 offensive players all over the court could be affecting his offense.

I asked Hoiberg about that theory.

“He chased (Khris) Middleton around down at Texas A&M all over the court. He’s a physical player and his offense was fine that game," said Hoiberg. "Does it affect him a little bit? Maybe. But he’s a guy who plays with a lot of confidence when he knocks down his first couple of shots. If he comes out of the gate and hits a couple, it’s going to be a big night for him.”

There goes that...

Chris Babb is a streaky shooter. When tip time rolls around on Saturday afternoon, hope that he makes his first few. Like Hoiberg said, that's usually a pretty good sign.

BREAKING DOWN THE RED RAIDERS

Year one of the Billy Gillispie era has been rough. Texas Tech enters Saturday's date with the Cyclones 7-10 (0-5), with only one Red Raider averaging double-digit scoring on the season.

The talent level within this program is down. Way down. That's the good thing for Iowa State. Mike Singletary (the former Red Raider, not football player/coach) is not going to drop 33 on the Clones this season.

From a personnel standpoint, this matchup isn't even close. But Texas Tech might have an edge when it comes to fire. Ask any coach in the Big 12 what they think about Texas Tech. Every one of them will tell you that Gillispie's bunch plays as hard as any team in the league.

“It is very typical of Billy’s teams," said Hoiberg. "We’re going to have to go down there with the right mindset and hopefully get off to a good start.”

Texas Tech's frontcourt could potentially pose a problem or two for the Cyclones.

“Billy runs a lot of sets, very similar to Kansas. It worked for Bill Self," said Hoiberg. "We’re going to have to do a good job of battling their bigs. They have some very talented players in there. With (Robert) Lewandowski, the big fella, setting screens and those guards coming off.”

Raider to watch: That's the Big 12's leading freshman scorer and rebounder, Jordan Tolbert. He's averaging 13 and 6.5 and is a future star in this league.

Texas Tech's best win: Trust me. Picking out Texas Tech's best win on the season is NOT an easy thing to do. I get to choose from the likes of: Troy, North Texas, Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Grambling State, Cal State-Bakersfield and SE Louisiana.

According to the always reliable KenPom.com, North Texas is the titan of that bunch so I'll go with the Mean Green (much love Danny Mac).

Texas Tech's worst loss: Just because it is somewhat interesting for Big 12 fans, future conference foe TCU is Tech's worst loss. TCU is currently sitting at 10-7 on the season and 0-2 in Mountain West Conference play.

Key to a Cyclone victory: Iowa State has to get off to a good start in this one. The Red Raiders are 0-5 in conference play and by all means shouldn't be a confident basketball team at this point in the season. If the Cyclones can match Texas Tech's energy early and crush their will to win, then Iowa State shouldn't have a problem of getting to 4-2 in the Big 12.

PREDICTION

If Iowa State is an NCAA Tournament team, by all means, the Cyclones should win this team.

As I mentioned earlier, the talent isn't even close to being equal in this one.

How much fire will the Cyclones play with when this thing tips at 4 p.m.? That's the key.

Before I did much research, this game scared me quite a bit. After looking into things more closely, I feel better about Iowa State's chances to go 4-2 in the Big 12 for the first time since 2004.

Royce White will throw down his second triple-double of the season and the Cyclones will win by 10.

THE PICK

Iowa State 73, Texas Tech 63

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