Each week, KJHK Sports member C.J. Matson will break down each Saturday’s Big 12 men’s basketball games.
Iowa State (20-8, 10-5) vs. Kansas State (19-8, 8-7) (Tipoff at 12:30 CT)
No team in the country has had a bigger two-game span than the Kansas State Wildcats. Not only did Kansas State beat Baylor and Missouri within the last seven days, but they beat them on the road.
The Wildcats are a lock to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
The Iowa State Cyclones hope to be a lock to advance to the NCAA Tournament, but they must beat the Wildcats Saturday.
In the previous matchup, Kansas State had Iowa State beat, but the Wildcats lost the game. Royce White made the game-winning shot with 1.8 seconds remaining in the game.
White’s stat line in the victory over Kansas State: 22 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two steals and four assists.
Iowa State can certainly beat Kansas State in Manhattan. For the Cyclones to win the game, they must win the rebounding battle, contain Rodney McGruder and force Kansas State into foul trouble.
My X-factor is Jamar Samuels, a versatile forward for the Wildcats who can make shots from the perimeter as well as the paint. Whoever wins the Samuels-White matchup wins the game.
Prediction: Iowa State 68, Kansas State 73
Oklahoma (14-13, 4-11) vs. Baylor (23-5, 10-5) (Tipoff at 12:45 CT)
After suffering a dejecting and inexplicable loss to Kansas State last Saturday, Baylor bounced back to beat Texas Monday night.
The Bears’ 51 points in the second half to defeat the Longhorns was the defining moment in their season that could bode well for them the rest of the way. For a team like the Bears that were smacked around by the Jayhawks and Tigers, the Big 12 big dogs, Baylor became the brunt of jokes and ridicule. Pundits questioned their legitimacy.
Oklahoma put a stop to the bleeding this week when they beat intrastate rival Oklahoma State, but the rivalry lost its luster this year because both teams are mediocre at best and have no tournament aspirations.
Nonetheless, the Sooners have tanked, losing six of their last seven games.
With Baylor playing at home against an inferior opponent, I don’t see how they can possibly lose. With how they beat the Longhorns – coming back on the road against an in-state rival that is a possibly NCAA Tournament team – the Bears got their swag back.
Prediction: Oklahoma 58, Baylor 75
Texas A&M (13-14, 4-11) vs. Oklahoma State (13-15, 6-9)
This is a battle of bad Big 12 teams.
Oklahoma State is the ultimate bipolar team. They play incredibly well at home and incredibly awful on the road.
Luckily for the Cowboys, this game is at home.
Both teams are playing for school pride.
For the Aggies, this is their last trip to Stillwater.
Texas A&M must do what Texas couldn’t do: Stop Keiton Page. Page scored 40 points against the Longhorns, shooting 20-20 at the free throw line and shooting 57 percent from the court off 14 attempts.
Look for Markel Brown and LeBryan Nash to play aggressively and get David Loubeau and Khris Middleton into foul trouble.
The Aggies have no offense. Dash Harris, when healthy, can provide a huge lift for the Aggies. He must stay on the floor for the Aggies to have a real chance of beating the Cowboys. The mystique of Gallagher-Iba Arena could be too much for the Aggies.
Prediction: Texas A&M 54, Oklahoma State 60
Texas (17-8, 7-8) vs. Texas Tech (8-19, 1-14) (Tipoff at 3:00 CT)
Texas’ nice little run is now a thing of the past.
The Longhorns are sliding at the wrong time, losing their last two games against the Cowboys and Bears.
A dose of Red Raiders medicine will probably treat the Longhorns ailments because the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee can’t be too please with their recent performances.
Expect Myck Kabongo and J’Covan Brown to explode and pick apart the Red Raiders defense. Texas Tech is arguably the worst offensive and defensive team in the Big 12. The stats can back that up.
For the Red Raiders to have any shot of upsetting the Longhorns, Jay Crockett, Ty Nurse and Jordan Tolbert need to score and score often.
The Red Raiders don’t need this game. The Longhorns, on the other hand, do. They’ll play like a desperate team in desperate need of a victory.
Prediction: Texas 78, Texas Tech 61
Missouri (25-3, 12-3) vs. Kansas (23-5, 13-2) (Tipoff at 3:00 CT)
It’s a shame that this rivalry is coming to an end, but it’s certainly ending with a bang.
Both Kansas and Missouri are ranked in the top 5 going into Saturday’s huge matchup.
Missouri picked the worst time to lose a game, falling to Kansas State at home Tuesday night. It’s fair to say that Missouri overlooked Kansas State because of their matchup with Kansas in Lawrence.
Since the Jayhawks lost to the Tigers on Feb. 4, the Jayhawks have won five straight games, including big wins over the Bears and Wildcats on the road.
Jeff Withey will be the difference maker. He was held scoreless in the first game was not a factor. He only had four rebounds and one block. Those numbers are way too low for Withey, who must use his height to his advantage against a small team like Missouri.
In the last three games, Thomas Robinson hasn’t played like an All-American candidate, but in a game of this magnitude, expecting Robinson to continue his uncustomary way would be a serious mistake.
Travis Releford’s defense on Marcus Denmon will be instrumental in the outcome of the game. If Denmon can get going offensively, then Missouri could pull off the upset, but if he’s not making shots, then Missouri won’t win. The Tigers’ have great offensive efficiency, but Denmon is the catalyst.
So much is at stake in this rivalry game. One factor that could ultimately decide the game: the student section at Allen Fieldhouse.
Prediction: Missouri 74, Kansas 82