Big 12 Saturday Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 24th, 2015

This weekend’s slate of Big 12 action isn’t quite as loaded as last week’s in terms of games expected to have a significant impact on the league race, but with the conference being arguably the best one in the country, that’s all relative. The biggest match-up on Saturday’s schedule features league favorite Kansas traveling to Austin to take on the Longhorns, who are looking to reassert themselves in the conference race. 

Oklahoma State at Kansas State (12:00 EST) – The 3-3 Cowboys have a win over Texas in their back pocket, but on the whole, their resume isn’t particularly impressive. If the NCAA Tournament started today, they would almost certainly be in, but a rough go of it on the road has prevented Travis Ford’s team from compiling a stronger case for seeding. They’ll look to reverse their fortunes when they shoot for just their second true road win of the season (the first being a convincing victory over a mediocre Memphis team) with an early afternoon tilt in Manhattan. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are still trying to prove their worth as a potential NCAA Tournament team, and a big component of that equation is holding serve on their home court against competitive teams. The battle between Marcus Foster and Phil Forte should be a fun one, and whether Nino Williams (20 points per game in his last two contests) continues to emerge as a dependable complement to Foster could play a decisive role. Prediction: Kansas State 66, Oklahoma State 63.

Everyone is Waiting on Kansas State to Regress (USA Today Images)

Everyone is Waiting on Kansas State to Regress (USA Today Images)

TCU at West Virginia (2:00 EST) – It’s still crazy to believe that after missing the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons, the Mountaineers are just a few bounces away from 16-1. Their offense hasn’t been pretty, with sub-200 rankings in both two-point shooting and three-point shooting, but it’s still been one of the most effective units in the country thanks to an aversion to turnovers. Of course, there’s also West Virginia’s stifling pressure defense, which has created barrels of extra possessions for Bob Huggins’ team. They’ll look to speed up a TCU offense that is much more deliberate at 62 possessions per game, so the Horned Frogs will have very small margin of error as they try to get their second league win. Prediction: West Virginia 70, TCU 59.

Kansas at Texas (2:00 ET) – The Longhorns started conference play with just one win against two losses, leading many people to shift their focus to Iowa State and Oklahoma as the top candidates to unseat Kansas at the top of the Big 12. While mid-January was always too soon to write off a contender as good as Texas, Rick Barnes’ team has shown in big wins over West Virginia and TCU that they may be ready to rejoin the conversation. For the first time in what feels like forever, Texas will have a size advantage over Kansas, and it will be very interesting to see how the Jayhawks defend the inside-outside threat of Myles Turner. Normally, Kansas has a foreboding rim-protector to serve as the last line of defense, but as we’ve all seen, this is a completely different team on defense despite Cliff Alexander‘s improvement down low. Turner can also cause headaches on the perimeter, however, and with Kelly Oubre likely to be preoccupied with Jonathan Holmes, there doesn’t appear to be an ideal solution for the Jayhawks for situations when Turner ranges out. Prediction: Texas 72, Kansas 68.

Iowa State at Texas Tech (4:00 EST) – The Cyclones may own a share of first place at 4-1, but the ride has been anything but comfortable, as each of their last six games have been decided by six points or less. As our Chris Stone pointed out todayJameel McKay has been a godsend, contributing not only some much-needed defensive intensity and shot-blocking but also some offensive skill as a pick-and-roll specialist and finisher down low. He’s still raw in some ways, but he’s given the Cyclones a presence they’ve never had before. Elsewhere on the Iowa State roster, there’s been a small issue simmering as Georges Niang is in a shooting funk. The conference’s biggest matchup nightmare has hit just 27 of his last 75 shots over his last six games. He contributes enough rebounding and passing to remain an asset even when he isn’t connecting from the field, but it’s not a reach to say that Iowa State’s chances would be a lot better if he returned to the consistent weapon he’s proven to be. Prediction: Iowa State 74, Texas Tech 58.

Oklahoma at Baylor (6:00 EST) – There aren’t many major conference teams that are .500 or worse in league play but still not anywhere close to the bubble, but that’s exactly what we have with the Sooners (3-3) and the Bears (2-3). That’s the Big 12 this season for you. Despite their record, Oklahoma is one of the best-coached teams in the conference, but as I mentioned in my recap of their loss to Kansas, it’s becoming a fool’s errand to predict what the Sooners are going to do in any given game (outside of Buddy Hield hitting a few jaw-dropping shots, that is). Throw in another defense-oriented team in Baylor that is very reliant on offensive rebounding and what you get is the potential for this one to get pretty muddy. Prediction: Oklahoma 71, Baylor 66.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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