Takeaways from the Big 12’s Opening Night

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 10th, 2016

Over the last few years there has been at least one NCAA Tournament bid on the line during the Big 12 Tournament’s opening night. It was Texas making its case last season, with Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State before that. For better or worse, there was no such drama last night at the Sprint Center as the team with the shakiest prospects, Texas Tech, already seems safely in the field. The Red Raiders, however, may have dinged their seed with an upset loss to TCU. The games went on regardless, and Kansas State‘s win over Oklahoma State gives us a third game with Kansas in what will undoubtedly be a juiced Sprint Center this afternoon. Here are some quick takeaways on each team that played Wednesday night in Kansas City.

Kansas State Moves On to Face Kansas on Thursday Afternoon (USA Today Images)

Kansas State Moves On to Face Kansas on Thursday Afternoon (USA Today Images)

Kansas State. Kansas State’s offense was not pleasant in its last game against Oklahoma State, as a miserable 0.85 points per possession performance resulted in a three-point loss that effectively killed any hopes of a late season run. The Wildcats’ first half on Wednesday night was a different story, as they did a great job utilizing Dean Wade in the high post and Justin Edwards (four first half assists) in keeping the offense moving. This allowed Kansas State to build a 17-point lead that proved insurmountable. Wesley Iwundu admitted after the game that the Wildcats got “too comfortable” with a lead and let Oklahoma State back into the game in the second half. Their date with the rival Jayhawks will not be comfortable, but Bruce Weber said that his team simply needs to “enjoy the opportunity” and compete with them. Replicating their free-flowing offensive effort from last night’s first half will be the only way to challenge a Jayhawks team that hasn’t lost a Big 12 Tournament opener since 2009.

Oklahoma State. Travis Ford said after the game that the loss to Kansas State summed up the Cowboys’ season. “A lot of injuries and a lot of fight.” That was apparent when Mitchell Solomon and Leyton Hammonds went down within a few minutes of each other in the first half and both tried to stay in the game. The Cowboys showed their fight by clawing back into the game largely because of the contributions of Tyree Griffin (11 points, 10 assists) in the paint and Joe Burton (13 points) stretching the floor. The pair of sophomores should be able to build on this performance as they are expected to return alongside Big 12 Freshman of the Year Juwan Evans and (hopefully) a healthy Phil Forte.

Texas Tech. This is definitely not the way Texas Tech wanted to enter its first NCAA Tournament under Tubby Smith. The 67-62 loss to TCU (#182 RPI, #149 KenPom) is easily the worst of the season for the Red Raiders, but their overall body of work in the Big 12 should keep them safe nonetheless. Joe Lunardi listed Texas Tech as a #7 seed in his latest bracketology, so it could be that the loss drop them down to the dreaded #8/#9 seed line. The Red Raiders came out flat against a team they had beaten twice this year and were stymied by their zone. By packing it in and defending without fouling in the post (nine blocks, four by Vladimir Brodziansky), TCU kept Texas Tech from its bread-and-butter (the free throw line) and forced the Red Raiders into taking more threes than they like. It wasn’t pretty, but it would still be a shock if Texas Tech’s name isn’t called on Selection Sunday.

TCU. Midway through the second half, J.D. Miller jumped a Texas Tech pass, raced down the court for a breakaway dunk and ran back upcourt with a bright smile on his face. This play exhibited the kind of energy and looseness with which the Horned Frogs played all night long. As Smith said after the game, Trent Johnson should be commended for having his 2-16 team ready to play an NCAA Tournament team. It’s highly unlikely the run will continue today against West Virginia, but this was a feel good night for a TCU team that didn’t play any seniors and advanced to the Big 12 quarterfinals for the second year in a row. Chauncey Collins also produced, according to him, the top highlight of his career — it might be safe to lock up his first half dunk as the most jaw-dropping play of the entire tournament.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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