It looked for a while like the Iowa State Cyclones were going to fizzle out following a 14-0 start to the 2013-14 college basketball betting campaign. But Fred Hoiberg has his troops back on track with three straight wins, and they'll look to continue that string Monday night against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The Big 12 battle will be aired on ESPNU starting at 7 PM (ET). Iowa State began the betting proceedings at -1.5 before the spread increased to -2. SBR's live NCAA basketball odds is even showing a couple of shops at -2.5.
A quick check of the Big 12 standings finds the Kansas Jayhawks on top as usual, and holding a 2-game lead over the Texas Longhorns. Oklahoma is a half-game behind Texas with Iowa State and Kansas State tied for fourth three games back. West Virginia is sixth, a half-game south of the Cyclones and Wildcats.
Monday's matchup is the first of two scheduled meetings between Iowa State and West Virginia, the follow-up a little more than two weeks from now back in Ames. The Cyclones won both of last season's contests, eking out a 69-67 win at home as 8.5 point favorites before an 83-74 decision at WVU Coliseum as 2.5 point road chalk.
Those were the first two times the schools had met on the hardwood.
Cyclone Backers In 1-7 ATS Rut
Trouble started for Iowa State (18-4 straight up, 9-10-1 against the spread) after getting off to a 2-0 start in conference play. The Cyclones dropped three straight at that point, and four out of five, to appear in danger of falling completely out of the rankings after climbing as high as seventh in the Coaches Poll.
They managed to avoid that by winning their last three to climb back up to 16th in the AP, 17th according to the coaches in advance of the new rankings set to come out a few hours before this tip-off. Still, Iowa State hasn't regained favor with bettors who have cashed just one ticket the last eight times out.
Offense is the Cyclones' forte, with no team yet to hold them under 70 points. That sets up an interesting statistical battle with the Mountaineers who have limited nine teams to 69 points or less, and won all nine games.
Melvin Ejim leads four players in double-digits on average per game, and three netting 16+. The 6-6 senior is scoring at a 19.8 clip, and combines with 6-6 junior Dustin Hogue plus 6-7 sophomore Georges Niang to give Iowa State a formidable frontcourt trio. The threesome is tallying about 47 points per game, or one less than Ejim's monster effort on Saturday when he scored a conference record 48 in ISU's 84-69 victory over TCU.
Mountaineers' 3-Game Win Streak Ends At Kansas
Anyone who has followed Bob Huggins' teams over the years knows that he prefers defense over offense. But West Virginia (14-10 SU, 11-8-2 ATS) didn't have much defense to speak of in Saturday's setback to Kansas in Lawrence. Getting 13 on the road, the Wildcats fell a point shy of covering the spread in an 83-69 loss that halted West Virginia's 3-game win streak.
The Mountaineers let Andrew Wiggins (19 points) and Company connect on nearly 55% of their field goals, and hit just 6-of-23 of their own 3-point shots after making better than 40% over the previous five games (44-of-109). Eron Harris, Huggins' best sniper from beyond the arc, will have to lead the way from outside to open up the lanes a bit for West Virginia to have a chance on Monday.
It's a shame sports books aren't yet confident in themselves enough to release a total earlier, because there are some interesting contrasting trends to consider on that end. Instead, I'll bite the bullet and lay the points on the road team for my free college basketball pick.
College Basketball Pick: Iowa State -2
Season: 33-25-3 (+5.5)