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Big 12 Game of the Week: Oklahoma vs. Iowa State

Big 12 play kicks off with a loaded slate of games.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

#11 Oklahoma vs. Iowa State at 5:00 p.m. CT on Saturday, December 6th on ESPN+

Although these two squads may not be marquee names like Kansas, Houston, or Texas, this battle poses the most interesting duel of the weekend. Oklahoma is 12-1 to begin the season with wins over Arkansas, USC, and Providence. The Sooners’ only loss came at the hands of the North Carolina Tar Heels. And while they aren’t a ranked team, the Cyclones are 11-2 on the season with wins over Iowa and VCU, and narrow losses to Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Both squads rank in the top five in both points scored and points allowed per game.

As part of their vaunted offense, the Sooners feature a balanced attack. Oklahoma only has two players who average double digits, Otega Oweh and Javian McCollum. However, six Sooners average between 6.5 and 9.7 points per game. Despite the high-scoring offense, the Sooners average the fourth fewest assists in the Big 12. Only two Sooners, including McCollum, average more than 1.5 assists per game. The aforementioned McCollum has been a revelation for the Sooners this season.

Oklahoma was picked to finish 12th in the Big 12 out of 14 squads to begin the season. McCollum, a transfer from Siena, has averaged 14.7 points, 3.8 assists, and 2.2 3-pointers per game thus far. The Sooner guard uses an array of moves to get shots up against defenders in isolations. He has a lightning-fast crossover, quick release, and deep layup package. Alongside McCollum, Oweh is an excellent counterpart. Rather than using shifty moves on the perimeter, Oweh uses his speed and strength to get past defenders and finish at the rim. He doesn’t take many 3-pointers, but he’s shooting a mind-numbing 72.2 percent from downtown.

The Cyclones offense is also a high-powered unit. Yet, it’s far different from the Sooners offense. Iowa State has four players who average double-digits. And the Cyclones pass it well, they average the fourth most assists in the Big 12. Sophomore Tamin Lipsey leads Iowa State in points, rebounds, and assists per game. Over a month ago, against DePaul, Lipsey recorded a triple-double. He joins 6 other Cyclones, including NBA star Tyrese Haliburton, to record a triple-double.

The offense has been explosive, but the defense is even more so. The Cyclones are second in the nation in steals per game at 12.0. Once again, Lipsey leads the Cyclones in yet another statistical category, steals. He averages 3.6 steals per game, second in the nation. While Lipsey is the showstopper, Iowa State has several other quality contributors. UNLV transfer Keshon Gilbert stuffs the stat sheet. He averages 14.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. One player to take note of who’s yet to contribute, Omaha Bilew. The former 5-star forward was the 11th-ranked player in the ESPN 100. Nevertheless, he’s only averaging 3.4 points per game in 9.5 minutes.

Both teams, like many teams today in the college basketball landscape, are veteran-laden. Freshmen will be few and far between. But, each squad does feature excellent second-year players in Oweh and Lipsey. Watch for these guards, as well as McCollum and Gilbert, to battle it out. While the Sooners may have the leg up with the better duo, the Cyclones are deeper and the more well-rounded squad.

My pick: Iowa State wins 77-72