AMES — On Saturday afternoon, the last team to beat Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum, the Baylor Bears, will roll into town for a 2 p.m. tip on ESPN2. The Bears will have an upset on their minds yet again as they look to solidify themselves as a true contender in the Big 12.
Scott Drew’s squad dropped out of the Top 25 for the second time this season earlier this week after suffering a 102-74 loss on the road at Kansas last Saturday. The Bears received 22 votes in this week’s AP poll where they had climbed as high as No. 16 earlier in the season.
Once again, the Bears bring one of the nation’s best rebounding teams to Hilton Coliseum and their leader in that category is where we start today’s numbers to know before they and Cyclones tip-off Saturday afternoon.
This is the number of rebounds averaged by senior forward Rico Gathers. Gathers has been one of the best glass-eaters in the country over the past few seasons and earned himself first team All-Big 12 honors last year.
His 11.3 rebounds per game ranks eighth nationally, and helped him reach the 1,000 career rebounds mark Tuesday night against Oklahoma State.
It will be especially key for the Cyclones to keep Gathers from hitting the offensive glass where he has already corralled 89 boards this season. That number of rebounds is higher than all but two Cyclones have total (Jameel McKay 137, Georges Niang 94).
That’s just on offense. The dude is an animal on the glass.
Gathers isn’t the only one hitting the offensive glass as the team’s 15.4 offensive boards per game ranks seventh in the nation.
Three other players have more than 25 offensive boards, which should further magnify how crucial box-outs will be for the Cyclones Saturday afternoon.
The Bears are plus-11.4 rebounds per game in rebounding margin, which means they won’t allow their opponent many of the second chances that they feast on themselves.
Drew has built this team around keeping opponents to one shot ever single time down the floor, and it has been effective throughout the first two months of the season.
Baylor’s offense has been up-and-down during the first few months of the season but they’ve shown the ability to have explosive nights scoring the ball while averaging 81 points per game.
They’ve been held to as few as 61 points by Texas A&M, but they’ve also scored 100 points on two different occasions. Their 46 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent from behind-the-arc is evidence that they aren’t the most efficient team, but their track record shows they can get rolling when given the chance.
Taurean Prince, the Big 12’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, has taken his game to the next level this season after sliding into the starting lineup. The 6-foot-8-inch senior’s 15.5 points per game leads the team, and they have three other double-figures scorers around him (Gathers 14.1, Al Freeman 13.2 and Johnathan Motley 10.1).
Prince is capable of scoring in a multitude of ways as he can drive to basket, but can also shoot from outside at a 35 percent clip.
Perhaps the one down-side to his game is he leads his team with 2.9 turnovers per game.
The Bears caught fire after Scott Drew called a timeout right before the under-eight minute timeout in the second half at Hilton Coliseum last season. Baylor knocked down seven straight 3-pointers on their way to handing Iowa State their only loss at home on the year.
For more on last year’s game, check out this piece from our Rob Gray.
The Bears are No. 29 in the most recent KenPom rankings. Their 113.4 Adjusted Offense ranks No. 22, while they are No. 77 in Adjusted Defense (98.2).
Senior point guard Lester Medford has solidified himself as one of the best distributors in the nation as his 6.6 assists per game is tied for 13th nationally.
He is also second on the team in minutes per game with 30.
KenPom ranks the Bears’ strength of schedule 251st nationally.
They played only three teams out of Power 5 conferences during the non-conference schedule. Although, all three teams they did play (Oregon, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt) were ranked at the time.
The Bears have only played three road games this season and they didn’t win any of them.
They’ve played in some tough environments by visiting Oregon, Texas A&M and Kansas, but all three of the games were some of the Bears’ worst offensive performances this season.
Last week, Kansas used a strong start in order to put the Bears away early, so look for the Cyclones to attack early and often to prevent Baylor from hanging around.