Big 12 Saturday PreviewPosted by Kory Carpenter on February 1st, 2014
All 10 Big 12 teams are in action today, but we’re going to look at the three games with conference championship and NCAA Tournament implications. We’ll start with the nine-time defending conference champs, who travel to Austin.
Kansas (16-4, 7-0) at Texas (16-4, 5-2), 3:00 P.M. CST, ESPN
Try finding anyone who thought today’s game between Kansas and Texas would mean so much in the Big 12 regular season race. The Longhorns are the most surprising team in the conference this season and, barring a late-season meltdown, will make the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season. Kansas is looking to lock up their 10th Big 12 regular season title in a row with a win. It won’t be official, but a win would give the Jayhawks at least a three-game lead on everyone else with 10 games left. Not to mention 5 games remaining against TCU, West Virginia, and Texas Tech. It will be a story of offense vs defense as Kansas comes into the game with the #4 offense on kenpom.com while Texas is #20 in defense. The Longhorns are only three-point underdogs in this one and have been playing great lately, winning five straight. They’ve also been off since last Saturday, so expect them to be fresh and make this one close. Don’t be surprised if they hand Kansas its first conference loss today.
Oklahoma (17-4, 6-2) at Iowa State (15-4, 3-4) 3:00 P.M. CST, ESPN3
Iowa State was supposed to challenge for the conference title this season, not Oklahoma. But the Sooners find themselves in a tie for second place and could stand alone in that position by this evening with a win and Texas loss. The defense hasn’t been great this season, but Lon Krguer’s offense has been efficient as almost any team in the country. 13th on kenpom.com, to be exact, thanks to senior forward Cameron Clark. Clark leads the team with 16.5 PPG and is second with 5.8 RPG. Expect Clark to have a big game this afternoon. Iowa State has lost four out of five since starting the season 14-0. Granted, the losses have come against Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas (three of which were on the road) but the schedule doesn’t get much easier after today. They play at Oklahoma State Monday night and have play Texas and Baylor once a piece. The Big 12 title is just about out of reach, but NCAA Tournament seeding is still important.
Baylor (13-7, 1-6) at Oklahoma State (16-4, 4-3) 1:00 P.M CST, ESPN
Both of these teams have underachieved in conference play, but on different scales. Baylor has collapsed in January after starting 12-1. Losses to Texas Tech and West Virginia cemented the idea that the Bears are frauds this season. They have had trouble scoring lately, failing to surpass 72 points in their last five games. The defense hasn’t been any better, though, coming in at 94th nationally on kenpom.com. They’ve gone from nationally ranked to the bubble, and they’ll need a few impressive wins to improve their NCAA Tournament resume. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, was supposed to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 regular season title. They still can, but three losses in their first seven conference games have hurt. Losing junior forward Michael Cobbins for the season with a torn achilles against Robert Morris on Dec. 30 changed the makeup of the team from “short” to “tiny.” Their starting lineup against Oklahoma Wednesday featured a front court of 6’8” Kamari Murphy and 6’7” Le’Bryan Nash. Oklahoma won that game, 88-76. Oklahoma State should win today against Baylor because they are at home and Baylor isn’t very good. But it’s hard to see the Cowboys making anymore noise in the Big 12 without Cobbins in the lineup.