Each week, KJHK Sports member C.J. Matson will break down each Saturday’s Big 12 men’s basketball games.
Oklahoma (13-12, 3-10) vs. Iowa State (18-8, 8-5) (Tipoff at 12:30 CT)
Iowa State wasted a golden opportunity to enhance their resume and possibly ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament by losing to Baylor Monday night.
Sitting a game behind the Bears for third place in the Big 12, the Cyclones return home to face the ice cold Sooners. Last week, Oklahoma became the first Big 12 team to lose to Texas Tech this season, a dubious honor to say the least. The Sooners also got crushed by the arch-rival Texas Longhorns at home this week to fall to 3-10 in the conference.
This is a good bounce-back game for the Cyclones because they need to regain the confidence and determination that they had when they beat the Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats.
Iowa State has been nearly invincible this season at home, but vulnerable on the road. The Cyclones must take advantage of their next two games against the Sooners and Red Raiders – the two worst teams in the conference – because they close the Big 12 schedule out playing two road games against the Wildcats and Missouri Tigers and a home game against the Baylor Bears.
Expect 3-point specialists Scott Christopherson, Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee to break through Saturday.
Prediction: Oklahoma 62, Iowa State 81
Kansas State (17-8, 6-7) vs. Baylor (22-4, 9-4) (Tipoff at 12:30 CT)
Kansas State had to win their last two games against Texas and Kansas to make their case to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, but they didn’t, which is why their game against Baylor is arguably the biggest game of their season.
Baylor, on the other hand, won a huge game against Iowa State Monday night in Waco. They regained the confidence that was lost last week when they were manhandled by Kansas and Missouri.
This game is a bigger game for Kansas State than for Baylor, but that isn’t to say that Baylor doesn’t need it.
Baylor’s defense stepped up against Iowa State Monday night, forcing the Cyclones to shoot 44.1 percent from the court and 30.8 percent from behind the arc. Their defensive improvement could bode well in their game against the Wildcats. In their last three games, Kansas State has shot 34.1 percent.
The front court battle intrigues me. Can the Bears outrebound the Wildcats, and can the Wildcats pound the ball inside to their big men? Baylor’s front court is notoriously finesse while Kansas State’s interior is tough and rugged.
The last time the Wildcats and Bears played each other, the game went down to the wire. Expect another exciting finish in Waco Saturday.
Prediction: Kansas State 74, Baylor 72
Missouri (24-2, 11-2) vs. Texas A&M (13-12, 4-9) (Tipoff at 1:00 CT)
Many college basketball pundits say that Missouri’s lack of size hurts them. If that’s the case, then why have they lost on two games this season?
Missouri can compete with college basketball’s best teams because their guards –Marcus Denmon, Kim English, the Pressey brothers and Michael Dixon, Jr. – are silly good. For essentially being the main guy in the Tigers’ front court, Ricardo Ratliffe is playing like an All-American, shooting 73.4 percent, scoring 14 points-per-game and averaging 7 rebounds a game.
Missouri’s road game against Texas A&M will be its last before they travel to Lawrence next week to face Kansas, which will be their biggest game of the season.
The Tigers’ offense could have a long day against the vaunted Aggies’ defense. Texas A&M ranks first in the conference in scoring defense, yet Missouri ranks first in scoring defense.
Something has got to give.
For the Aggies to have any shot of upsetting the Tigers, they must make their shots and control the tempo of the game. Texas A&M’s turnover margin is the second worst in the conference while Missouri is the first in the same category.
Prediction: Missouri 70, Texas A&M 58
Texas (17-9, 7-6) vs. Oklahoma State (12-14, 5-8) (Tipoff at 3:00 CT)
Last week was a statement week for Texas. The Longhorns are hot right now. They have won four in a row, including a vital victory over the Wildcats.
With that victory over the Wildcats, the Longhorns put themselves in a good position to advance to the NCAA Tournament, but they cannot afford any lapses.
A loss Saturday against Oklahoma State would be a lapse.
The Cowboys were destroyed on the road against Kansas and Missouri. They return home battered and dejected, but hope that the mystique of Gallagher-Iba Arena can help them prevail against the Longhorns.
J’Covan Brown is clearly the main source of the Longhorns’ offense, but the emergence of Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo has alleviated pressure off Brown.
LeBryan Nash and Markel Brown need to return to form like they did in their upset victory over Missouri several weeks ago. Otherwise, it could be a long day for the Cowboys.
Prediction: Texas 76, Oklahoma State 67
Texas Tech (8-17, 1-12) vs. Kansas (21-5, 11-2) (Tipoff at 7:00 CT)
Congratulations to Texas Tech for winning their first Big 12 game against Oklahoma last week. They disproved me by winning a Big 12 game. My apologies go to the Red Raiders for predicting incorrectly that they would lose the remainder of their games.
The Red Raiders are eager to win another conference game. They could, but it won’t happen Saturday against Kansas.
Since losing to Missouri, Kansas has won three in a row and looks as determined as they have ever been this season.
The rise of Jeff Withey has certainly garnered national attention. Withey has clearly been the Jayhawks’ best player since the loss against Missouri. That game served as a wakeup call for Withey, who has averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 blocks and 12 rebounds-per-game since the loss in Columbia.
He alone is the reason why the Jayhawks will win. Oh, by the way, the Jayhawks still have Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor.
Prediction: Texas Tech 53, Kansas 98