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Iowa State Cyclones vs. Houston Cougars Prediction: Big 12 Tournament Championship Comes Down to Defense

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published March 16, 2024
10 min read

The Iowa State Cyclones and Houston Cougars, the top two teams in the Big 12, will go toe-to-toe for a third time this season with a Big 12 Tournament championship on the line! Houston and Iowa State each secured one win versus the other during the 2023-24 regular season, but this game will be on a neutral court at the T-Mobile Center.

Can Iowa State exact revenge for falling just short of a conference regular season title to Houston, or will the Cougars continue their dominance over the rest of the ever-competitive Big 12 with a conference tournament win? Check out the betting odds, preview, prediction, and picks for the Iowa State Cyclones versus Houston Cougars Big 12 Tournament championship game below!

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Iowa State Cyclones vs. Houston Cougars Betting Odds for Saturday, Mar. 16

The Iowa State Cyclones are five-point underdogs against the top-ranked Houston Cougars on Saturday night. Iowa State has been sensational against the spread during the 2023-24 campaign, covering 67.7% (21-10-1) of their games. On the other hand, the lines have been well-set for the Houston Cougars, as they are covering just over 50% (16-15-2) of their bouts this season. 

The point total for this Big 12 matchup rests at 120.5 points, with the Over and Under holding -110 odds. This season, the Iowa State Cyclones have an Over record of 15-17, often holding opponents to meager scoring output due to their stout defensive attack. Similarly, the Houston Cougars have a 14-19 Over record, as their pace (349th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom) and defense (first in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency) are conducive to Unders.

Iowa State has Moneyline odds of +185, making it a slight underdog, while Houston is -225 to win the Big 12 Tournament championship.

Teams Spread Moneyline Total
Iowa State Cyclones +5 (-110) +185 120.5 (-110)
Houston Cougars -5 (-110) -225 120.5 (-110)

Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook. Use our FanDuel Link: Bet $5, get $200 in bonus bets.

Iowa State vs. Houston Preview

It has been another dominant season for the Houston Cougars. Still, there has been one significant difference between this year’s Cougars squad and the teams in the past few seasons: they dominated in the Big 12 instead of the AAC. While the AAC has a few strong programs, it is much easier to handle mid-major programs than to play in the toughest conference in the country.

Yet, the Cougars didn’t skip a beat. In some ways, they have performed even better. Houston has a 30-3 overall record, with its three losses coming on the road against No. 7 Iowa State, No. 16 Kansas, and TCU. Since their last loss (Kansas), the Cougars have strung together 11 consecutive wins versus some high-quality teams, but their past three games have been exceptional.

Houston has held its past three opponents to an average of 50 points (first in the nation) on 28.8% shooting from the field (first) and 19% shooting from behind the arc (first). Additionally, the Cougars have forced the third-most turnovers nationally and have the second-highest scoring margin in their past three games despite playing three NCAA Tournament-bound teams. 

Meanwhile, Iowa State has also charged through its first two Big 12 Tournament opponents, including Kansas State and Baylor. The Cyclones won those games by double-digits, holding K-State to 57 points and the high-octane Baylor offense to merely 62 points.

Iowa State’s 14-point win over the 14th-ranked Baylor Bears does come with a few eye-opening statistics, though. The Cyclones knocked down 50% (10-for-20) of their three-pointers against Baylor, which helped them build a lead on the Bears and keep them at arm’s length; however, in the two previous games, which were both against a tough Kansas State defense (19th in adjusted defensive efficiency), Iowa State shot a combined 7-for-31 from deep.

Additionally, the Cyclones were outrebounded by 16 boards, including the 18 offensive rebounds that they gave up to the Bears. Baylor is a fantastic rebounding team, particularly on the offensive glass (27th in OREB%), but Houston is even better. The Cyclones must clean that up if they want a shot at a Big 12 championship in the 2023-24 campaign.

Can Iowa State put together the perfect game and hand the Houston Cougars their fourth loss of the season? Our prediction and betting pick for the Iowa State Cyclones versus Houston Cougars Big 12 Tournament championship game is below!

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Iowa State Cyclones vs. Houston Cougars Prediction and Betting Pick

Iowa State is a fantastic basketball team that could make a run in the 2024 NCAA Tournament due to their stout defense (second in adjusted defensive efficiency margin, per KenPom); however, the Cyclones do not have the offensive firepower to put points on the board against this Houston team right now.

The Cougars have been otherworldly on the defensive end of the floor in their past three games, two of which have come in the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas (48th in adjO), Texas Tech (24th in adjO), and TCU (31st in adjO) all have far superior offensive attacks to Iowa State (79th in adjO), which is not ideal for the Cyclone, considering two of the other three teams listed above didn’t even sniff 50 points. 

Then, there’s the obvious rebounding issue that Iowa State will have to confront. The Houston Cougars have spent the majority of this season as the first—or second-ranked offensive rebounding team (OREB%) in the country, pulling down nearly 13 offensive rebounds per game in their 2023-24 campaign.

On the other hand, the Iowa State Cyclones are a poor defensive rebounding team, ranking merely 232nd in defensive rebounding percentage this season. While that number is unadjusted and does not account for the quality of opponents that the Cyclones face, Houston’s numbers also aren’t adjusted to competition.

Further, Iowa State’s offensive numbers are held up by its performances on its home floor. On the road, the Cyclones had an effective field goal percentage nearly six percent lower than at home. This game might not be on the road, but it isn’t at home, either. Iowa State entered the Big 12 Tournament with just a 1-2 record on a neutral court.

Ultimately, Houston has held its recent opponents to shockingly low offensive output, which should continue here. The disparity in rebounding also gives Houston a monstrous advantage. This is not the spot to overthink this line; the Cougars should cover and continue to steamroll their competition.

How to Watch Iowa State Cyclones vs. Houston Cougars

  • When: Saturday, Mar. 16 @ 3:00/6:00 p.m. PT/ET

  • Where: T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, MO

  • TV: ESPN

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Andrew Norton

148 Articles

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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