The Big 12 tournament never lets us down. Tuesday’s first round games we fun in completely different ways. Thursday gives us four fun games to watch.
11:30am (ESPN2): #4 Baylor vs #5 Iowa State (-3)
Iowa State is the lower seed but the favorite. Does that seem strange to you? It is a 4 vs 5 game and Baylor finished just one game better than Iowa State in the conference season. Baylor also won both meetings between the two teams. They won in Waco 73-70 and then later in Ames 73-69.
So what does Las Vegas see to make Iowa State the favorite in this game? One reason might be that Iowa State fans travel well and always flood Kansas City for the tournament. In fact, a lot of people in Kansas City cheer for Iowa State because of this once the Jayhawks and Wildcats are eliminated.
Iowa State led the conference in scoring this season. The Cyclones averaged 77.7 points a game to Baylor’s 71.8. Baylor’s defense allowed fewer points per game by 2.1 points. Iowa State will usually shoot the ball better but Baylor will do a better job at rebounding.
So as is usually the case in the Big 12 tournament, either team can win. It’s just going to come down to the team that plays better Thursday.
Prediction: The crowd will favor Iowa State and it’s tough for two relatively even teams to have one of them win three games in a season against the other. However, Iowa State has been too inconsistent for me this year. Even though I never trust Baylor to come through in a big game, they seem a little different in that respect this season. I’ll take Baylor to advance to the semifinals on Friday.
Approx. 2:00pm (ESPN2): #Kansas State vs #8 TCU
If you would tell me which TCU team will play Kansas State I would have a better idea of the outcome. Will it be the TCU team that won the first half against Oklahoma State on Wednesday 45-29? Or will it be the TCU team that lost the second half 41-28?
TCU was up as many as 21 points against Oklahoma State but the Cowboys rallied back and took a two point lead with just over a minute to play. TCU went over six minutes without a field goal in the second half. I expected Oklahoma State to take some bad shots but I didn’t expect TCU to take so many bad shots in the second half, especially after how they started the game playing so well.
So the best way to look at this Kansas State vs TCU game might be to figure out if TCU is more likely to play like they did in the first half or like they did in the second half. I would bet that Kansas State’s defense will force TCU to look more like the second half team.
This game will pit the third best Big 12 offense in TCU against the conference’s second best defense in Kansas State. And although Kansas State often struggles on the offensive end, TCU is the third worst scoring defense in the conference.
Kansas State will be without Dean Wade for this game and likely for the entire tournament so we have to figure that into our selection.
Prediction: Kansas State’s experience of playing without Dean Wade will help them in this game. Often in college basketball the better offensive team has the advantage over the better defensive team. In this game, I expect Kansas State’s offense to have more success than TCU’s. The Wildcat defense will show up and make it tough for TCU to score. I’m taking Kansas State to advance to the semifinals on Friday.
6:00pm (ESPN2): #1 Texas Tech vs #10 West Virginia
West Virginia had to upset not only Oklahoma but my picks in this tournament in just the second game. Is it possible that West Virginia is better after letting a couple of players go earlier this conference season? It sure looks like they have become a better team. Great job by the Mountaineers. It’s always nice to keep Bob Huggins around as long as possible to talk with the media.
West Virginia is going to have to pull off a much larger upset if they are going to beat Texas Tech Thursday night. West Virginia had the worst scoring defense in the conference this season entering the tournament. However, they held Oklahoma to 71 points when they had allowed an average of 76.8 this season.
Thursday the Mountaineers will be facing a red-hot offensive team in Texas Tech and the best defense in the Big 12. Add that to the fact that the Red Raiders did not have to play Wednesday night and it could be trouble for West Virginia. There are times when having one game behind you in the tournament is helpful and provides an advantage over your opponent who hasn’t played yet. If that does appear to happen in this game Thursday, I would expect Texas Tech to adjust and be into the game by the ten minute mark in the first half.
Prediction: Texas Tech wins easily to advance to the semifinals on Friday. Of course, I picked Oklahoma to easily defeat West Virginia in the first round so this could be a bad sign for the Red Raiders. I will take my chances though and go with Texas Tech.
Approx. 8:30pm (ESPN2): #3 Kansas (-2.5) vs #6 Texas
The Kansas Jayhawks have not played an evening game in their first Big 12 tournament game in quite a while. That’s because the top seed usually plays around 2:00pm. This year they are the #3 seed so they get the last game of the day. The restaurants in the Power & Light District around the Sprint Center are glad the Jayhawks are in the late game.
I have said it before but it can’t be said enough. This is a strange Kansas team. It has been a long time since Kansas fans have been uncomfortable in every game they play but that’s how the conference season has been this year. Even when the Jayhawks are up ten points with less than five minutes to play, Kansas fans are nervous wondering what will go wrong this time. Don’t expect any of the other schools to feel bad for Kansas. As far as they are concerned it’s about time this happened.
Many will want to jump all over Kansas in this game but don’t be so quick to do that. Kansas opened as a 3-point favorite but that number has dropped to 2.5. The money is coming in on Texas. Kansas beat Texas in Lawrence but by just two points. However, the Longhorns handled Kansas in Austin by ten and it could have been worse.
Kansas is surprisingly the second highest scoring team in the conference at 75.6 points per game . When you watch the Jayhawks you wouldn’t think that would be the case. They struggle to score so much more this year than they did last year. Texas puts up just 71.2 points on average. However, the Jayhawks are allowing 70.1 each game to Texas’ 67.1.
There are many differences between this season’s Kansas team and those in the recent past. The Jayhawks have nobody teams fear on the inside when their opponent tries to attack the rim. Kansas has also struggled a lot shooting the three-point shot compared to last season. That might not be fair because Kansas was terrific from three last season. But all of those shooters left and the ability to score from deep went with them. So, Kansas doesn’t have much of an inside game and they struggle shooting the three-point shot. So how did they even finished third in the league? The have a lot of talent that helps them overcome those problems. Their players are generally better than your players.
I expect this game to come down to emotion. Kansas will have the crowd advantage. If the Jayhawks come out determined and play hard for the entire game they should move on. If they come out like they have so often in conference play and fall down 10-15 points forcing Bill Self to call a timeout or two within the fist six minutes then Texas could pull this one out. Of course, Texas might not be in the NCAA tournament if they lose this game so they should have some emotion of their own.
Prediction: Kansas finds the energy they need and gets on a roll in this game to advance to the semifinals. Besides, you don’t think a Shaka Smart team could beat Kansas in a post-season tournament, do you?
With Iowa State playing in the 11:30am game, Kansas State playing in the 2:00pm game and Kansas playing in the 8:30pm game, the Sprint Center and Power & Light District could make a record amount of money on Thursday. Kansas City always supports the Big 12 tournament as well as a city can support a conference basketball tournament. It’s a party for four days. Get to the tournament if you can. While the semifinals and finals might be the big draw, the quarterfinals, especially this year, might be the best day of the tournament.