- #8 West Virginia (6-1) hosts ice-cold Iowa State (1-3) on Friday, Dec. 18, at 9:00 PM ET
- The Mountaineers’ only loss came by five points against #1 Gonzaga, while the Cyclones have dropped three straight
- Find the odds for the game, as well as matchup analysis and a pick, in the article below.
Iowa State is probably as excited as anyone to see 2020 coming to a close. Since January, the Cyclones have struggled to a 6-18 record — including a 1-3 start this season — looking nothing like the team that went to the NCAA tournament as a 6-seed two seasons ago.
The road does not immediately get easier for Iowa State, who’ll be on the road Friday, Dec. 18 to face #8 West Virginia (tipoff at 9:00 PM ET). The Cyclones, rightfully, are pretty substantial underdogs on the current odds:
#8 West Virginia vs Iowa State Odds
|Team||Moneyline||Point Spread||Over/Under Total|
|#8 West Virginia||-4500||-17.5 (-118)||Over 146.5 (-110)|
|Iowa State||+1600||+17.5 (-104)||Under 146.5 (-110)|
Odds as of Dec. 17th, 2020.
How They’ve Fared So Far
West Virginia has played about as well as any one-loss team possibly could. Their lone defeat came against #1 Gonzaga, at a neutral site by a score of 87-82.
The Mountaineers had a lead as late as the seven-minute mark of the second half, so this was a pretty close game. Pulling off that kind of effort — while shooting an uncharacteristically low 40.8 percent from the field — is a good sign for what this team can be.
Otherwise, West Virginia has six wins, five of which have come against teams inside KenPom’s top 100 rankings (the only win was against North Texas, ranked 107th by KenPom). In other words, there have been no cakewalks for Bob Huggins’ bunch.
Iowa State started well, albeit against one of the worst teams in NCAA Division I (Arkansas Pine Bluff, ranked 350th by KenPom out of 357 schools). Since then, the Cylcones have faced three top 150 teams (including #3 Iowa) and lost all three.
Most recently, the Cyclones kicked off Big 12 play with a 74-65 home loss to Kansas State, a game in which they trailed for the final 30 minutes. If Iowa State wants to hang with West Virginia, it’ll have to shoot better than 6-of-21 from 3-pt. range (28.6 percent) and not commit 18 turnovers, as it did against the Wildcats.
How hard could it be for Iowa State to 17.5-point spread? That seems awfully large, right? Well it could be that the oddsmakers are shifting their expectations of the Cyclones a bit now that they’ve started the season 0-4 against the spread (including 0-1 on the road).
West Virginia is a much more palatable 4-3 against the spread (including 1-1 at home). In their last matchup, the Mountaineers easily cleared a 7.5-point spread in an 87-71 home win over Richmond.
Do What We Do‼️#HailWV pic.twitter.com/SSQadtrx3r
— WVU Men’s Basketball (@WVUhoops) December 16, 2020
Neither the Cyclones nor the Mountaineers plays at a particularly fast pace (both are between 140th and 180th among NCAA Division I’s average possession length, as calculated by KenPom). But they both have demonstrated an ability to score into the mid-70s or more, making this a challenging over/under to bet on.
West Virginia has won three consecutive matchups dating back to March 6, 2019. Last year, the Mountaineers got the better of the Cyclones with scores of 76-61 and 77-71. Obviously both of those margins are much thinner than the existing 17.5-point spread for Friday’s matchup.
So, then, what to do? The Mountaineers’ 77-71 win last season featured four scorers in double-figures, all of whom have returned. Meanwhile, only two of Iowa State’s top five scorers from that game are back this season.
There simply isn’t enough value in picking West Virginia to win straight up. But it’s understandable if 17.5 points seems disconcertingly hefty (their biggest margin of victory this year is 16 points).
If you can find a site to tease that point spread down a bit, the Mountaineers are a solid pick. If not, you might be better served taking the Cyclones with all of these points.
Pick: Iowa State +17.5 (-104)