The Big 12 never disappoints. Quarterfinal Thursday was as enjoyable as ever. The Power & Light District got exactly what they wanted: Kansas State vs Iowa State and Kansas vs West Virginia. Actually, only those who like to listen to coaches cared that West Virginia stuck around. Bob Huggins is an entertaining listen. The businesses downtown wanted the other three teams to make it to this point. We got what we wanted. Let’s dig into both games.
6:00pm (ESPN2): #1 Kansas State vs #5 Iowa State (-2.5)
Good Iowa State showed up against Baylor on Thursday. The Cyclones shot 51.7% from the field including a ridiculous 52% from behind the line. Iowa State will win the Big 12 tournament if they can shoot over 50% behind the line while taking 25 of those shots every game. Any team would win with those statistics. Talen Horton-Tucker scored 21 points behind 5-for-9 shooting from the three-point line. Marial Shayok was 4-for-7 behind the line on his way to scoring 18 points.
Iowa State held Baylor to 43.1% shooting and just 36% behind the line. The Cyclones also forced Baylor into 14 turnovers.
Iowa State led 38-29 at the half and extended that lead after the break. This game was in Iowa State’s control early and throughout.
Unlike Iowa State, Kansas State got off to a slow start, falling behind TCU early. We talked yesterday about teams who played their first tournament game sometimes having an edge early against a better team that received a bye. I don’t know if that was the reason for the start of this game but it did seem like that might have played a role. TCU on the other hand started off much like they did against Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Kansas State charged back before the half and trailed just 34-32 at the break. The Wildcats took control in the second half to win 70-61.
The good news for Kansas State is that they played without Dean Wade, shot just 41.9%, including 32% from behind the line, and defeated TCU by nine points. Bruce Weber has the Wildcats playing so well that when things don’t go their way they can still win games by a comfortable margin.
The game between these two teams in Manhattan earlier this season saw Iowa State shoot 52.7% for the game and 58.3% behind the three-point line. The Cyclones also out rebounded the Wildcats 34-27 on their way to a 14 point win.
The game in Ames saw Kansas State hold the Cyclones to just 42% shooting and 37.5% behind the line. Even though the Wildcats shot just 35.7% they pulled off the road win.
On Friday, Kansas State is going to need its strong defense to stop the hot shooting of Iowa State. If Iowa State shoots anything like what they did against Baylor they will move on to the finals. However, if Kansas State plays their typical tough defense they have a good chance of advancing.
Prediction: Iowa State struggled with consistency this season but will put together back-to-back good shooting nights and will defeat Kansas State to advance to the championship game.
Approx. 8:30pm (ESPN2): #3 Kansas (-10.5) vs #10 West Virginia
West Virginia is in the Big 12 tournament semifinals. Wait. What? That’s right. West Virginia is in the Big 12 tournament semifinals. Did you have them winning two games? If you said yes you are probably lying. West Virginia fans didn’t pick this. The parents of the West Virginia players didn’t picks this. But do you know what? West Virginia is playing pretty well right now. They are playing so much better than they did earlier in the season.
Freshman forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The Mountaineers dominated the boards 44-30. They handled the best defense in the conference.
West Virginia will play Kansas in the semifinals. We talked yesterday about Kansas likely beating Texas if they can just play with emotion and energy. They did that and won 65-57. Kansas needs to play well on defense to win against quality teams these days because they simply don’t have the offense on most days to keep up with a high scoring team.
Kansas got 17 points from Devon Dotson and 16 from Dedric Lawson but probably the most important player for the Jayhawks right now is freshman David McCormack. McCormack scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Longhorns. McCormack continues to slow the game down and get better and better. He’s not exploding like Silvio DeSousa did in the Big 12 tournament last year but he could have up to two more games to get to that point.
Kansas struggled once again from behind the arc, shooting just 27.3 against the Longhorns. They did out rebound Texas 41-32.
The biggest concern for Kansas against West Virginia would have to be rebounding. Kansas struggles shooting from the outside so they will need to grab boards on both ends of the court to help make up for that.
West Virginia will have confidence that they can beat Kansas. The Mountaineers earned their first conference victory this season against the Jayhawks in Morgantown when West Virginia was having problems beating everyone.
The surprising aspect of this game is that one of these two teams will advance to the finals. Almost everyone assumed it would be a relatively easy road for Texas Tech to get to the finals and likely to win the tournament.
Prediction: Kansas comes with energy for the second straight day and squeaks by West Virginia to reach the finals on Saturday.