Each week, KJHK Sports member C.J. Matson will break down each Saturday’s Big 12 men’s basketball games.
Texas (13-7, 3-4) vs. Baylor (18-2, 5-2) (Tipoff at noon CT)
Both Texas and Baylor bounced back Tuesday night with an important victory after losing an emotional, dejecting game last Saturday against Kansas and Missouri respectively.
Finding themselves two games behind the Jayhawks for first place in the Big 12, the Bears understand that they cannot afford to lose winnable games, especially if they are at home.
Saturday’s affair with the Longhorns is a winnable one.
An area that the Bears must exploit is the Longhorns’ perimeter defense. The Longhorns are 9th in the Big 12 in 3-point field goal percentage defense, and the Bears are 1st in the Big 12 in 3-point field goal percentage. Baylor guards Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip are two of the top three 3-point shooters in the Big 12 statistically, shooting a combined average of 48.9 percent.
In their victory Tuesday night, Texas held Iowa State, the Big 12’s 3rd best 3-point shooting team, to 23.8 percent.
If the Longhorns want to win their first Big 12 road game against the Bears on Saturday, they cannot get exposed defensively from behind the arc.
With that being said, the Bears front court, anchored by Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy, will be too much for the Longhorns. Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene can only hope that they can limit the trio because shutting them down is inconceivable. Jones III, Miller and Acy make up 50.4 percent of Baylor’s offense.
Prediction: Texas 57, Baylor 73
Texas Tech (7-12, 0-7) vs. Missouri (18-2, 5-2) (Tipoff at 12:30 P.M. CT)
When a highly ranked team loses to an inferior team, they tend to have a break-out performance in the following game, and destroy their opponent.
That will be the case for Missouri, who lost to Oklahoma State Wednesday and face the worst team in the Big 12, Texas Tech, at home.
For the season, the Tigers are shooting 38.4 percent from the 3-point line, 2nd in the Big 12, but in their loss against the Cowboys, they shot a paltry 21.1 percent.
For a guard-oriented team that scores most of its points from the perimeter, that’s unacceptable.
Luckily for the Tigers, their next opponent is the wretched Red Raiders, so Saturday’s tilt in Columbia will be a recuperation game.
One thing that has stood out for the Tigers in the last few games is the productivity of Ricardo Ratliffe, Missouri’s one-man front court. In the last two games against Baylor and Oklahoma State, Ratliffe’s averaged 26 points and 10 rebounds.
When the Tigers’ back court is having an off night, Ratliffe must play out of his mind, especially against stiffer competition, to improve the Tigers’ chances of winning.
Expect the Tigers to overwhelm the hapless Red Raiders as they prepare for next week’s games against the Longhorns and Jayhawks.
Prediction: Texas Tech 56, Missouri 97
Kansas (17-3, 7-0) vs. Iowa State (14-6, 4-3) (Tipoff at 1:00 P.M. CT)
What separates Kansas from the rest of the Big 12 is their ability to win on the road. In this young Big 12 season, the Jayhawks are undefeated on the road, but were very fortunate to leave Austin with a victory last week Saturday.
The Jayhawks’ trip to Ames this Saturday is the last road game before they face the Tigers in Columbia next week, but the Jayhawks cannot overlook the Cyclones, who are trying to show America that they belong amongst the Big 12’s elite as well as the NCAA Tournament field.
Spearheaded by Royce White, Chris Babb, Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen, the Cyclones are revitalizing a team that was dormant for several years
The Jayhawks’ offense lacked rhythm in their game against Texas A&M Monday night. Kansas had a difficult time trying to operate their offense through Thomas Robinson because he was getting double- and even triple-teamed constantly. Because of that, the Jayhawks took a near majority of their shots from behind the arc and only managed to convert 20 percent of their shot attempts.
The Jayhawks were able shoot 87 percent from the free-throw line off 23 attempts in their victory over the Aggies. Robinson was a perfect 10-10 from the charity strip.
To achieve efficiency offensively, the Jayhawks must be able to run their offense through Robinson. If he can produce down low for Kansas, then players like Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey will have better scoring opportunities.
The Cyclones are 9th in the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense at .425 while the Jayhawks’ .48 field goal percentage is 3rd in the Conference.
Look for the Jayhawks to attack the Cyclones defense by penetrating their defense and getting Robinson involved so they can avoid taking ill-advised 3-pointers.
Prediction: Kansas 84, Iowa State 78
Oklahoma State (10-10, 3-4) vs. Texas A&M (11-8, 2-5) (Tipoff at 3:00 P.M. CT)
Texas A&M’s season thus far is parallel to their football team’s 2011 season. Like their football team, the Aggies are underachieving.
In their game against Kansas Monday night, Texas A&M did enough to win the game, but it still wasn’t enough, blowing a lead at halftime and losing by 10 points.
For Oklahoma State, they have all the confidence in the world after upsetting Missouri Wednesday night in Stillwater.
Highly touted player LeBryan Nash showcased his skills in front of a national audience and proved why he was a prized recruit coming out of high school. Nash scored a career- and game-high 27 points against the Tigers and shot 67 percent from the field.
For a team like Oklahoma State that lacks depth and is seriously overmatched against its opponents, Nash must play like a superstar in every game.
The Cowboys and Aggies are two teams that are offensively challenged. Both are dead last in field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage and near the bottom in scoring, assists and rebounds but what separate the two teams are their defenses. The Aggies’ .382 field goal percentage is 2nd in the Big 12.
The Aggies showed in their loss against the Jayhawks why they were picked in the preseason to win the Big 12 championship. Their defense will hunker down and force bad shots.
The Cowboys put on an offensive clinic against the Tigers, but don’t expect that fortune to carry into Saturday when they travel to College Station.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 49, Texas A&M 58
Oklahoma (12-7, 2-5) vs. Kansas State (15-4, 4-3) (Tipoff at 6:00 P.M. CT)
When people debate the top teams in the Big 12, Kansas State seems to be forgotten in the discussion.
Only a game behind Missouri and Baylor for second in the Big 12 standings, Kansas State is poised to make noise.
Since their unexpected loss against the Oklahoma Sooners on Jan. 14, the Wildcats have won three straight games.
For Kansas State to get revenge against Oklahoma, they must win the rebounding battle. Kansas State and Oklahoma are the top two rebounding teams in the Big 12 and pride themselves in offensive rebounding.
Rodney McGruder, who is 6th in the Big 12 in scoring and 6th in field goal percentage, is the Kansas State offense.
Besides McGruder, the Wildcats’ offense isn’t anything to rave about, and even with him, they still are average at best.
Guys like Martavious Irving, who came off the bench to score 16 points against Texas Tech, Will Spradling, Jamar Samuels and Thomas Gipson must take the scoring load off McGruder and provide a punch for the Wildcats offensively.
Oklahoma’s scoring defense is the worst in the Big 12 and their field goal percentage defense is 8th. Because the Sooners are playing in the hostile, uncomfortable Octagon of Doom, the Wildcats should be able to score points at will and make life miserable for them. Oklahoma has not won a Big 12 road game yet.
For the Sooners to have any chance of winning this game Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald must dominate the paint and boards and Steven Pledger must penetrate to the basket and make shots from the perimeter to quite the Wildcats fans.
Prediction: Oklahoma 64, Kansas State 78