There are some HUGE Big 12 games going down tomorrow, as the conference race heats up early.
#4 Baylor @ #3 Kansas
Saturday, January 11th 12:00 PM CT, CBS
#4 Baylor (12-1, 2-0) follows up its huge road win over Texas Tech with an even bigger road test: a top five showdown in Lawrence against #3 Kansas (12-2, 2-0). Kansas is fresh off a dominating win in Ames against Iowa State. Usually, that would be a very impressive feat but with Iowa State being down this year its not as big of a deal. Kansas was basically able to pick their shot and take it in Ames. One thing is certain, the way that Baylor has been playing defense this year, Kansas will face a much stiffer test when they have the ball. One of the big keys to this game will be how Baylor matches up against Kansas big man Udoka Azubuike. Baylor’s one loss to Washington happened in large part because the Huskies started bullying Baylor in the paint late in the game. With Tristan Clark still working through injury recovery, much of the defensive duties will go to Freddie Gillespie when Clark isn’t on the court. Baylor will likely have to consider doubling down in the post when Azubuike gets the ball, potentially opening up three point shooters. While Baylor has shied away from its zone for large portions of the season, this is a game where it might make a lot of sense to bring it back in force. I think Baylor ultimately holds Kansas to lower than its scoring average but Kansas’ offense is good enough to still get its points. If Baylor wants to win this game, their offense will need to play better than it has against Texas and Texas Tech. I do think the Bears are due for a big shooting night, so I’ll say this is the night.
Oklahoma State @ TCU
Saturday, January 11th 1:00 PM CT, ESPN2
TCU (11-3, 2-0) is off to a hot start in conference play, which has seen back to back last second shots to secure victories over Iowa State and Kansas State. On the other hand, Oklahoma State (9-5, 0-2) is off to a terrible start with a 35 point loss to Texas Tech and a 14 point loss to West Virginia. While TCU is not as talented as Texas Tech and West Virginia, I still suspect the Horned Frogs have the edge here, especially at home. One possible distraction for TCU is the news that they have been officially listed in the FBI corruption probe, although I doubt that means much to the players themselves in this game. Oklahoma State probably plays this game closer than their last couple, but TCU should still get the W.
#22 Texas Tech @ #17 West Virginia
Saturday, January 11th 5:00 PM CT, ESPN2
This could end up being a critical game in the Big 12 race. #22 Texas Tech (10-4, 1-1) already took a loss to Baylor and #17 West Virginia (12-2, 1-1) has a loss from Kansas. Kansas and Baylor are currently vying for #1 in the Big 12 but the conference season is still very early. The winner of this game could set themselves up as another strong contender, while the loser starts to drop a bit out of the picture. Texas Tech had a massive shooting day in its first conference game and then went ice cold against Baylor. West Virginia looked good against Kansas for half the game, before losing and then blasted Oklahoma State. I think WVU’s defense is strong enough to elicit another poor shooting night form the Red Raiders and defend the Mountaineers’ home court.
63-58 West Virginia
Oklahoma @ Iowa State
Saturday, January 11th 7:00 PM CT, ESPN2
Yeesh, Iowa State (7-7, 0-2) is a mess. They aren’t a particularly good shooting team but they’re forced to throw up threes most possessions because they don’t have much of a post game either. They got blown out at home by Kansas and now they have to try to regroup and face Oklahoma (11-3, 2-0) who is fresh off a big, road rivalry game against Texas. Long story short, the Sooners look like they could be a solid 6-8 seed tournament team. Iowa State won’t even make the NIT at this rate. I just don’t think Iowa State can play strong enough defense to keep up with the Sooners in this one.
Kansas State @ Texas
Saturday, January 11th 7:00 PM CT, LHN
Kansas State (7-7, 0-2) and Texas (10-4, 0-2) are both off to rough starts to conference play. The winner of this game has a shot of redeeming their season some. While it’s still early, the loser is looking at an extremely steep hill to climb. It’s hard to say that I really “like” one team over the other, since I see a lot more flaws than pluses with both squads. That being said, Kansas State showed fight in both of its losses to Oklahoma and TCU. Texas showed some fight at home in a rivalry game against Oklahoma but looked lifeless against Baylor. I think the Wildcats have more spunk and a better coach in Bruce Weber than Shaka Smart. I’ll take KState to notch its first conference win on the road in Austin.
64-61 Kansas State