Iowa State vs. Houston Prediction: Can Cyclones Sweep Cougars and Take Solo First in Big 12?

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published February 19, 2024
7 min read

On Monday night, the Iowa State Cyclones (20-5, 9-3 in Big 12) will aspire to be the first team this season to knock off the Houston Cougars (22-2, 9-3 in Big 12) on their home floor. Iowa State and Houston are atop the Big 12, with 9-3 conference records through mid-February, giving this matchup even more punch. 

The winner of this game will have a substantial advantage over the other team and the rest of the Big 12, as there are only five conference games left in the regular season. If the Cyclones secure a road win, they will have a one-game lead on Houston and will own the tiebreaker, as they would have beaten Houston twice. The Cougars need to lock down this home win if they want to even up the tiebreaker and take a lead over Iowa State. 

Find our Iowa State Cyclones vs. Houston Cougars prediction, betting picks, and complete analysis of each team’s season below!

Iowa State guard Tamin Lipsey dribbles pass Texas Tech's Pop Isaacs

Iowa State Cyclones vs. Houston Cougars Betting Odds for Monday, Feb. 19

Even though the tenth-ranked Iowa State Cyclones secured a four-point home win against Houston earlier in the season, they enter this Big 12 Conference matchup as massive 9.5-point road dogs. The Cougars have been unbeatable on their home floor, winning all 14 matchups this season. The point total for this bout has steadied around 129 points, with the Under (-112) holding a slight advantage over the Over (-108.)

Teams Spread Moneyline Total 
Iowa State Cyclones +9.5 (-110) N/A Over 129 (-108)
Houston Cougars -9.5 (-110) N/A Under 129 (-112)

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Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson has built the Cougars into a powerhouse program. This is the fourth consecutive year (assuming they don’t collapse) that they will finish the season in the top five in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin. They will also finish in the Top 25 rankings for the seventh straight season.

Sampson has continued building within the Cougars program while adjusting to the changing landscape of college basketball, which has begun to welcome the transfer portal and NIL money for existing players and recruits. Houston lost several key players from last season’s squad, including first-round picks Jarace Walker, Marcus Sasser, and Arkansas standout Tramon Mark. 

Still, the Cougars had many great players returning, including Jamal Shead, J’Wan Roberts, Emanuel Sharp, and Ja’Vier Francis. Additionally, Sampson also hit the transfer portal hard, snagging former Temple guard Damian Dunn and former Baylor scoring guard L.J. Cryer.

Cryer has filled Sasser’s shoes as well as any player in the country could, averaging 15.3 points per game in just over 30 minutes of play. Between Cryer, Shead, and Sharp, the Cougars have a three-headed offensive attack that has helped them hang around 16th in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric; however, the team’s shooting efficiency is not the reason they are so dominant on that end of the floor.

As a matter of fact, Houston’s offensive rebounding is the reason that the Cougars put most of their points on the board. They rank second nationally in offensive rebounding percentage behind only Texas A&M, pulling down 42.4% of their misses. 

Meanwhile, the Iowa State Cyclones have had a resurgence after a rock-bottom year for the program during the 2021 season, when they logged merely two wins overall and zero wins in Big 12 conference play. Since then, Iowa State has made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet 16 in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

The Cyclones are as close to a surefire at-large bid for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament as a team can be in college basketball; they hold a 9-5 record in Quads 1 and 2 and are the tenth-ranked team in the nation with only six remaining Big 12 regular season games. 

As mentioned in past articles, the Cyclones have the most efficient five-man lineup in the nation, per EvanMiya. Iowa State has an adjusted efficiency margin of +54.7, which is +7.2 higher than the next-closest lineup (Purdue), when Keshon Gilbert, Robert Jones, Tre King, Tamin Lipsey, and Milan Momcilovic are on the floor together.

Like the Houston Cougars, Iowa State is a defensive-centric squad, ranking third in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. The question for the Cyclones won’t be whether or not they can play solid defense against Houston but, rather, whether or not they can keep them off the glass on Monday night. Check out our Iowa State Cyclones vs. Houston Cougars prediction and betting pick below to find out!

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Iowa State Cyclones vs. Houston Cougars Prediction and Betting Pick

In the previous matchup between these two powerhouse programs, the Iowa State Cyclones edged out a narrow four-point victory over Houston on their home floor, winning by a score of 57-53 in a defensive-centric battle, where neither team shot 40% or better from the floor.

Despite the Iowa State Cyclones being such an exceptional offensive team at home, they were held to merely 57 points by the Houston Cougars, who have the best defense in the nation. In fact, Iowa State shoots 51% from the floor and 40% from behind the arc on their home floor and has an average scoring differential of +27.1, which ranks third nationally.

It is a different story for the Cyclones on the road, though. While they have been much better away from home in recent games, securing wins in three of their past four games, this is a bad matchup. First, the Cyclones have the 22nd-worst defensive rebounding percentage on the road, securing only 65.5% of the opponent’s misses. For reference, that puts Iowa State in the same category as teams like IUPUI, Mississippi Valley State, and Prairie-View.

The Cyclones have gotten away with weak defensive rebounding numbers against inferior teams. Still, they won’t be able to do that against Houston, arguably the best offensive rebounding team in the nation. 

Further, as alluded to above, Iowa State’s offense takes a significant dip on the road. Its effective field goal percentage plummets by nearly nine percent when it is away from its home floor. Meanwhile, the Cougars are essentially an impenetrable fort defensively at home, ranking first in the country in opponent field goal percentage (33.5%) and effective field goal percentage!

This spread is visually gross for Houston backers, but all the statistics and trends point toward the Cougars winning by double-digits at Hofheinz Pavilion. Iowa State’s offense and defensive rebounding fall off a proverbial cliff on the road, and this is arguably the most challenging road game it will play all season.

How to Watch Iowa State Cyclones vs. Houston Cougars

  • When: Monday, Feb. 19 @ 6:00/9:00 p.m. PT/ET

  • Where: Hofheinz Pavilion, Houston, TX

  • TV: ESPN

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Andrew Norton

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Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.
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