The Iowa St. Cyclones are certainly the surprise team of the Big XII this year even though the Sooners have challenged for that title. While wins over the Kansas St. Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks along with close losses to teams like the Missouri Tigers bode well for the Cyclones, they have certainly had their ups and downs. Taking a quick glance at their non-conference schedule, their tournament resume is blemished with losses to the Northern Iowa and the Drake Bulldogs. It would appear that the Cyclones struggled to find their identity through the first portion of the season but once conference play hit, they found what they were looking for.
For the Oklahoma Sooners, this is a must win. After facing ranked opponents in 6 of the first 9 conference games, the second half of the season will be watered down as there are only 2 currently ranked teams left on the schedule. The Cyclones have been one of the hottest teams recently and a win over them right now will only boost the tournament resume the Sooners are currently building on.
Last season, Oklahoma met the Cyclones in an overtime win. Steven Pledger dropped a career high 38 points on 7-13 from beyond the arc.
Confidence level is going to be key in the remainder of the season for both of these teams. Stat wise, these two match-up very well from rebounds to field goal percentage. However, 6-8 270-pound Royce White has this Cyclone team rallying around him and they have done so up to this point. This sophomore is averaging 14 points, to go along side 9.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game making him the only player in the country to lead his team in each of these categories. This could be the most well rounded big man the Big XII has seen since Blake Griffin declared for the draft.
Oklahoma will need to slow White down in order to disrupt the chemistry that Iowa St. has built. But all the focus cannot be put on him. The Cyclones as a team are dangerous from range. One thing Oklahoma has lacked in past seasons is a close out defense. This is another on of those games where fans will be able to see if there has been improvement in this area as the Cyclones boast Chris Allen (44 3-pointers made) along with Scott Christopherson (34 3-pointers made) and Chris Babb (48 3-pointers made).
To slow this down, Oklahoma will need to stay active in the passing lanes to slow down the ball movement to find the open man. Iowa St. is averaging 8.6 three's a game and it could be the deciding factor.