Preview: BYU heads to Ames for a grudge match against number 6 Iowa State

BYU and Iowa State will face off on Tuesday for the second time this season.

Fousseyni Traore backs down against TCU
Fousseyni Traore backs down against TCU / Chris Gardner/GettyImages
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Following wins against Kansas and TCU, the 20th-ranked BYU Cougars will head to Hilton Coliseum to take on a much-improved 6th-ranked Iowa State team. Tuesday's matchup between two Top-25 Big 12 teams will be their second matchup this season as ranked foes when the Cougars took down the then 24th-ranked Cyclones in Provo by a score of 87-72. Don't expect it to be quite so easy this time.

The Cougars are finally playing their best basketball of the season. Since dropping their game at Oklahoma State, the Cougars have won games against Baylor and TCU in Provo and grabbed the biggest win of their season against Kansas in Lawrence. BYU is proving that they have the tools to beat almost anyone, and they're rising just in time for March's postseason. With one week remaining in the regular season, tonight's game against Iowa State will be getting all of BYU's attention thanks to a final matchup at home against a weaker Oklahoma State team.

BYU will struggle more offensively in this game than in the previous matchup, as Iowa State boasts the Big 12's second-best defense (obviously no one is better than Houston right now). The Cyclones are still undefeated at home, which doesn't encourage much confidence from Cougar fans. Fortunately, while BYU's offensive strength will be mitigated against a stout Iowa State front, Iowa State also struggles offensively as the 12th-ranked team in the conference. Coach T.J. Otzelberger's team has been fantastic defensively in their last 3 games, allowing only 64, 45, and 52 points. The Cougars will need to hit their shots to stay in this game.

Mark Pope
Mark Pope calls out to his team against TCU / Chris Gardner/GettyImages

In the previous matchup, Iowa State was still finding who they were. Of course, being ranked 24th is nowhere near being 6th, but this team truly began to mesh after their loss to BYU--they were late bloomers. Iowa State doesn't necessarily pop off the page when you look at their resume, but this team led by Tamin Lipsey has an impressive record and reputation across the country. Iowa State prides themselves on their turnover-forcing defense, so taking care of the ball will be key for BYU's chances to come out with a W, as it was in their 15-point win earlier this season.

With wins against Houston and Kansas, Iowa State is legit, but recent play has Cyclone fans feeling weary about their perfect home record's chances against a BYU team that is heating up. In ISU's last game, they needed an 11-0 run against UCF to steal a late win against the Golden Knights. In their home game against West Virginia, Iowa State struggled to find any sort of rhythm against the Big 12's last-place Mountaineers.

As a BYU fan, I of all people should know that good teams have bad games all the time. The most important statistic in sports is found in the Win/Loss column, though, and Iowa State wins. If the Cougars asked Doctor Strange if any reality existed in which they walk out of Ames with a win, he'd likely respond how he did when the Avengers asked a similar question, seeing only one reality in 14,000,605 possible futures where they came out the victors. While I think BYU's chances of stealing a win are much greater than that, expect Iowa State to give BYU all they've got.

You can watch this game on ESPN2, or listen via KSL NewsRadio at 7:00 PM MST.

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