The Big 12 still has four teams alive, making up a 4th of the remaining field. That’s impressive by any measure, let alone by the smallest of the power conferences. Let’s briefly look at each of the match ups.
#9 Kansas State vs. #5 Kentucky
Thursday, March 22nd 8:37 PM CT, CBS
The only Thursday match up featuring a Big 12 team is a Wildcats vs. Wildcats battle. Kansas State (24-11) cleared 8 seed Creighton and 16 seed UMBC to get to the Sweet Sixteen. Kentucky (26-10), meanwhile, beat 12 seed Davidson and 13 seed Buffalo. Both teams were beneficiaries of massive upsets in the region, with all of the top four seeds in the region being eliminated before the Sweet Sixteen for the first time ever. Both teams have a tremendous Final Four opportunity in front of them, but they have to play each other first. Kentucky is clicking right now and has superior size and talent. The Kansas State Wildcats struggled some against UMBC (granted, UMBC beat Virginia). I like Kentucky in this one.
#1 Kansas vs. #5 Clemson
Friday, March 23rd 6:07 PM CT, CBS
1 seed Kansas (29-7) handled 16 seed Penn and won a close, 4 point game against 8 seed Seton Hall to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Clemson (25-9) had a strong win against 12 seed New Mexico State and blew out 4 seed Auburn to make it here. Honestly, Clemson has looked far more impressive in their wins against better opponents than Kansas has in games against weaker opponents. I suspect this will be another disappointment for the Jayhawks if Clemson can adequately guard the three point line. While still a good Kansas team, it definitely has its flaws that Clemson can exploit.
#5 West Virginia vs. #1 Villanova
Friday, March 23rd 6:27 PM CT, TBS
West Virginia (26-10) is set to take on the highest remaining one seed and reigning national champions, Villanova (32-4). Villanova blew out both 16 seed Radford and 9 seed Alabama to get here while West Virginia blew out 12 seed Murray State and 13 seed Marshall. Both teams are firing on all cylinders right now. The question is, will West Virginia’s unique press defense slow down a prolific Villanova offense? I actually think the Mountaineers might have the best shot of any teams remaining at slowing Villanova down and beating them. That doesn’t guarantee they will, but I’ll take the upset.
78-75 West Virginia.
#3 Texas Tech vs. #2 Purdue
Friday, March 23rd 8:57 PM CT, TBS
Texas Tech (26-9) squeaked its way into the Sweet Sixteen with a good win against 14 seed SFA and a three point victory over 6 seed Florida. Purdue (30-6) blew out 15 seed Cal State Fullerton before also barely getting a 3 point win over 10 seed Butler. This game could hinge on whether or not Purdue star Isaac Haas plays in this game. He is likely out with a fractured elbow, but there’s rumors that Purdue is working on a brace that would allow him to play. Coach Matt Painter has largely dismissed that in press conferences thus far. With Haas likely out, I think this game leans in favor of the Red Raiders.
65-61 Texas Tech.