With the football season over for the Big 12, it’s time to focus in on conference basketball play which tips off today and features your #6 Baylor men’s basketball team!
Oklahoma State @ #22 Texas Tech
Saturday, January 4th 11:00 AM CT, ESPN2
This game ought to be a defensive slugfest as Oklahoma State (9-3) and #22 Texas Tech (9-3) open up Big 12 men’s basketball conference play. For the Cowboys, they’ll need sophomore guard Isaac Likekele to handle the Red Raiders’ defensive pressure. Likekele leads the Cowboys in both points per game, 13.1, and assists per game, 4.9. For Texas Tech, guard play will also be key. Freshman guard Jahmi’us Ramsey leads the team in points per game at 17.4 and senior guard Chris Clarke leads the team in both rebounding and assists. While I expect this game to be tight, Texas Tech has a bit stronger scoring prowess and is at home. They’ll likely cover the 5.5 point spread by the end of the game when Oklahoma State is forced to start fouling.
69-63 Texas Tech
Kansas State @ Oklahoma
Saturday, January 4th 12:00 PM CT, ESPN+
Kansas State (7-5) had a bit of a rough non-conference, losing to pretty much all of their major competition. Oklahoma (9-3) faired a bit better, getting wins over Minnesota, Missouri, and Oregon State while dropping games to Stanford, Wichita State, and Creighton. For Oklahoma, it’s all about senior forward Kristian Doolittle who does more than a little for the Sooners. He leads the team in points per game at 16.7 and rebounds per game at 8.9. For Kansas State, look for senior forward Xavier Sneed to lead the team in scoring. He is averaging 14.4 PPG. But, the Wildcats do have a bit more of an even scoring distribution, so if Sneed has a down night players like Cartier Diarra could pick up the slack. Still, I like Oklahoma at home to win a close one with their more proven ability. Kansas State might cover the 6.5 point spread, though.
#16 West Virginia @ #3 Kansas
Saturday, January 4th 3:00 PM CT, ESPN+
The fact that this game is on ESPN+ is a bit of a travesty, as it is the highlight of the day for Big 12 basketball, at least in terms of ranked matchups. #16 West Virginia (11-1) is back in full force after a down season last year. They travel to face #3 Kansas (10-2), who is still humming along amidst major NCAA investigations. WVU has a number of impressive non-conference wins, including over Ohio State. Their only loss was to St. Johns. Kansas has losses to high-ranking teams Villanova and Duke. However, they don’t have a ton of impressive wins yet. Honestly, if I was in charge of ranking teams, West Virginia would be ahead of Kansas based on resumes. But that’s preseason poll inertia for you. West Virginia’s defense has regained its tenacity this season, which will be a big test for the Jayhawks. Kansas will need sophomore guard Devon Dotson to step it up big time as he leads the team in points per game, 18.8, and assists per game, 4.6. Senior center Udoka Azubuike is also always a handful for teams and West Virginia will need a plan to shut down this big-man that leads the Jayhawks in rebounding. West Virginia has its scoring a bit more spread out, but is led by freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe at 11.8 PPG. Kansas is favored by 10 points and ESPN’s BPI only gives West Virginia a 16.7% chance of victory. I get it, Phog Allen is a difficult place to play. But I think both of those lines are very skewed. I like West Virginia to certainly cover that spread, and perhaps even win outright.
68-67 West Virginia
Iowa State @ TCU
Saturday, January 4th 5:00 PM CT, ESPNU
Well Iowa State (7-5) has certainly found its way to the bottom of the Big 12, even without conference play starting just yet. That’s thanks to their recent home loss to Florida A&M, who only has two wins on the season. The Cyclones have also faltered in most of their big games, with the notable exception being a rematch win over Seton Hall. Most of Iowa State’s woes come from inconsistent shooting and terrible defense. If they are shooting well (which, seems to be more of a rarity than a norm), they can go out and drop 104 on teams like Alabama. If they aren’t shooting well, their defense isn’t good enough to hold up even against FAMU. TCU (9-3) had a fairly uneventful non-conference, winning the games they should and losing to Clemson, USC, and Xavier. The Cyclones lean heavily on sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton, who leads the team with 17.3 PPG and 7.7 APG. TCU is led in scoring by senior guard Desmond Bane who has been prolific from beyond the arc. TCU is a 4 point favorite at home. Given Iowa State is coming off their worst loss in recent memory, I like TCU to win and cover that spread.
Texas @ #6 Baylor
Saturday, January 4th 7:00 PM CT, ESPN2
A huge conference opener sits here for Texas (10-2) and #6 Baylor (10-1). With Wisconsin beating #5 Ohio State last night, a win by the Bears here would almost certainly land Baylor in the top 5 come next week. Kendall has an excellent, in depth preview posted that you can find here. Here’s my quick preview: Texas has some ugly, blowout losses to Georgetown and Providence. Their best win was early in the season over Purdue and they also beat Texas A&M. Baylor, on the other hand, has been collecting good wins like an intergalactic bounty hunter, with victories over Villanova, Arizona, and Butler. Their lone loss came to tournament-caliber Washington in a game that the Bears probably should have won. Baylor leans heavily on three point shooting and offensive rebounding, areas that Baylor leads Texas by large margins. If sophomore guard Jared Butler is feeling it from deep, it’s hard for just about any team to keep up. Butler averages an impressive 17.6 points per game. Baylor’s defense will need to keep junior guard Matt Coleman III in check, as he leads the Longhorns with 12.6 PPG and 4.8 APG. Baylor is a heavy 9 point favorite in this matchup in Waco. I like the Bears to cover that, making a statement to open Big 12 play.