There are just over three weeks left in the Big 12 season and Texas Tech is making a push to dethrone Kansas at the top.
The Jayhawks have won or shared the Big 12 regular season title for 13-consecutive seasons, but this may be the most real threat to the Jayhawks’ reign atop the league. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State have both stolen wins from KU inside Allen Fieldhouse this season, keeping Kansas within an arms length of the rest of the conference.
With just two games separating the top half of the Big 12, Saturday’s slate of games will go a long way in determining the champion.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys followed up their big road win at Kansas by falling flat at home against Baylor, putting a halt to any momentum the victory had given them. They’re in for a tough test on Saturday, as they head to Morgantown to take on West Virginia. The Mountaineers have won back-to-back games, including a 38-point win over K-State and a 2-point road win at Oklahoma. A win would keep the Mountaineers on pace with Kansas and Tech atop the Big 12.
Jevon Carter will be a huge key piece in this game, as he is fifth in the Big 12 in points per game (16.6) and fourth in assists per game (6.8). If Carter has a game where he hits or exceeds his averages, it’s going to be very hard for Oklahoma State to win in Morgantown.
Jackson’s Pick: West Virginia 86-74
10 Kansas @ Baylor, 1PM CBS
Kansas stayed atop the Big 12 with a much-needed win over TCU on Tuesday night. The win helped them stay even with Texas Tech in a tie for first place. Baylor will be looking to give Kansas some payback for their loss in Allen Fieldhouse just a few weeks ago, where Baylor lead by six with less than two minutes to play and Kansas ended the game on a 9-0 run to steal the win. Defeating Kansas will be no small task for the Bears, as they have lost their last 11 meetings against KU.
Svi Mykhailiuk struggled against TCU on Tuesday, and whether or not he gets back on track will go a long way in determining the outcome in Waco. When he’s clicking on all cylinders, Mykhailiuk averages 16.4 points per game. A fully effective Mykhailiuk combined with the always lethal Devonte’ Graham will make things very difficult for a struggling Baylor team.
Jackson’s Pick: Kansas 63-58
17 Oklahoma @ Iowa State, 1PM ESPN
Trae Young has been undoubtedly the most electric player in college basketball this season. He’s dangerous from long range and can get to the hoop with ease, and when things aren’t clicking for himself, his great passing ability puts his teammates in great position to score. Young leads the Big 12 in both scoring (29.9 ppg) and assists (9.3 apg). Iowa State will have their hands full hosting Oklahoma, but Hilton Coliseum has been host to multiple upsets this season, as ISU has beaten both West Virginia and Texas Tech convincingly in Ames. The Cyclones will need every ounce of Hilton Magic they can muster if they hope to restrain Trae Young and the Sooners.
A key component for the Cyclones’ efforts against OU will be Cameron Lard, a freshman forward averaging 12.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Lard has been a matchup problem for multiple teams this season, most recently Texas Tech on Wednesday, where he shot 10/11 from the field for 22 points against the Red Raiders, before fouling out.
Jackson’s Pick: Oklahoma 81-74
Texas @ TCU, 1PM ESPNU
As of right now, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has slated both Texas (9 seed) and TCU (10 seed) solidly in the NCAA Tournament. That could all change for one team after Saturday. With both teams in the middle of the pack in conference play and sporting losing records. Saturday afternoon’s game in Fort Worth will determine just how capable each of these teams are of making the postseason. Texas dropped a close loss at home on Wednesday night to Kansas State and TCU fell on the road to Kansas, so both teams are looking to get back in the win column.
Texas freshman Mohamed Bamba leads the Big 12 in both rebounds (10.8) and blocks (4.2) per contest. His inside presence will go a long way in determining this game. Whether it’s defensively, or offensively, Bamba will alter the game. His 13.2 points per game average make him one of the most impactful players in the conference, and his 7-foot-9 wingspan make him a tough task for any player in the country. Bamba will be the deciding factor in this game.
Jackson’s Pick: Texas 73-69
7 Texas Tech @ Kansas State, 7PM ESPNU
Just a few days ago, Kansas State looked dead in the water. West Virginia handed K-State their most lopsided loss of the Bruce Weber era, 38 points. That loss, coupled with a frustrating home loss to rival Kansas, seemed to have put an end to K-State’s NCAA tournament hopes, but after a crucial road victory in Austin on Wednesday, Kansas State is alive and looking to make waves in the Big 12. The Wildcats sit in fourth place and just two games out of first. Texas Tech is one of the two teams holding it down atop the conference, but heading in to Manhattan will provide a challenge for the Red Raiders and their bid for a conference championship.
Dean Wade has used his junior campaign as a spring board for his career, averaging 16.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest, providing key plays for K-State all season long. Wade in combination with Barry Brown has been a lethal combination for much of the year, but since dropping 34 points at Baylor on January 22nd, Brown struggled mightily, combining for 19 points over three games. Wednesday, Brown provided 11 points in a K-State win and seemed to resurrect his play. Wade and Brown will have no room to struggle against Tech on Saturday if they have any hopes of upsetting another top-10 team.