Iowa State -1.5 at Texas, 4 pm ET
Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones have now dropped two consecutive games in the Big 12, so it’s understandable that people are beginning to question the long-term potential of this team. But the issues for Iowa State recently have been far from debilitating, and essentially boil down to erratic three-point shooting. Despite hitting just 34.3% of their attempts from long range this season, the Cyclones are very diverse along the perimeter and currently have seven players who already own double-digit makes from behind the arc. Forward Georges Niang has been the main culprit during his team’s losing streak with 12 straight bricks from three, and his play is essentially a microcosm for how inefficient the Cyclones have been over the last week. All of this should change on Saturday afternoon in Austin however, as Rick Barnes’ Longhorns won’t have the personnel necessary to slow down such a talented offensive arsenal. In addition to a severe lack of focus from the charity stripe this season, Texas will have to deal with big man Cameron Ridley serving as a legitimate detriment at the defensive end here. Ridley’s 285-pound frame and shot-blocking prowess might be intriguing assets against programs with more traditional lineups, but the Cyclones, despite being undersized, are so unbelievably athletic that Ridley’s prodding style can be easily taken out of the game while Barnes scrambles for a smaller lineup. Iowa State is the better squad on paper here anyway, and should prove it with a bounce-back win this afternoon.
VCU -16.5 vs. Duquesne, 4 pm ET
Coming off a frustrating loss to George Washington in their last outing, Shaka Smart’s Rams will be back on their home court on Saturday afternoon to face an extremely poor Duquesne squad. The Rams continue to make things happen with their trademark lockdown defense along the perimeter, but were simply whistled one too many times in a game where George Washington attempted 16 more shots from the free-throw line. Smart’s players also did not shoot the ball particularly well in that loss to the Colonials, and it’s quite telling how the Rams have yet to hit more than 40% of their shots from deep in a road game this season. At home, though, the Rams are literally as tough as it gets in the Atlantic 10, and everything starts with point guard Briante Weber. The junior floor general owns a 2.85/1 assist-to-turnover ratio over his last four games, and has been a complete menace in the passing lanes with 16 steals over that same span. On a team where the ball moves around plenty on offense, Weber’s court vision remains one of the most vital aspects to VCU’s success. Duquesne is more comfortable playing at a faster pace than most other A-10 schools, but there’s still not enough scoring prowess here to keep this game close against VCU’s long, athletic defenders. Expect the Rams to cruise by 20.
Season record: 76-48-2
December: 28-17 (62.22%)
November: 36-22-2 (62.06%)