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Big 12 MBB Preview 2/22

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College Gameday, #1 vs. #3, the Big 12 title potentially on the line... and that’s all in the first game of the day!

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

#3 Kansas @ #1 Baylor

Saturday, February 22nd 11:00 AM CT, ESPN

This is the game that has been circled on Baylor’s calendar since before the season, before they got their #1 rank, and before they went on their current, 23-game winning streak. Now, with College Gameday coming to town, a top five matchup, and the Big 12 title race potentially being on the line, this game has reached monumental importance. #1 Baylor (24-1, 13-0) got the best of the Jayhawks in their first matchup in Lawrence. #3 Kansas (23-3, 12-1) will be dead-set on revenge. Kansas has been nearly as hot as Baylor, with their only conference loss coming to the Bears. If Baylor wins, that might just about do it for the Big 12 race with the way the Bears have been playing. A two game lead feels steep against a team that hasn’t lost a game since November. On the other hand, if Kansas wins, the Big 12 regular season title will likely come down to the wire and might very well end in a tie.

In these teams’ last meeting in Lawrence, where Baylor won by 12, Jared Butler came up big with 22 points. The second leading scorer for the Bears was Macio Teague with 16. Thankfully for the Bears, all signs point to Teague being back from a wrist injury for the game this Saturday. Baylor has actually had pretty decent offense these past few games without Teague, but the Bears will certainly appreciate having their second leading scorer back against Kansas’s very stout defense. Speaking of stout defense, Baylor’s defense held nearly every Kansas player to single digit scoring in their last meeting. Isaiah Moss had 15 off the bench and Marcus Garrett had 11. Devon Dotson only scored nine (granted he left the game with an injury in the second half). Udoka Azubuike was held to a mere six points. That defense, even more than the offense, will likely be the key for Baylor in this game. They have to shut down and frustrate Kansas both on the perimeter and in the paint. They accomplished that shutdown defense wonderfully in Lawrence and I have seen nothing to make me think they can’t do that again in Waco (unless the referees start calling a lot of touch fouls, which could land important contributors like Mark Vital in foul trouble). Given that both teams play aggressive defense, I don’t see the refs coming down hard on either team. Also, Baylor seems to play at its best in big games.

63-57 Baylor

#17 West Virginia @ TCU

Saturday, February 22nd 1:00 PM CT, ESPNU

#17 West Virginia (19-7, 7-6) picked up a much needed win over Oklahoma State during the week. After dropping three straight games, the victory over the Cowboys showed a renewal of the Mountaineers’ defense that has been so good for most of the season. The WVU offensive output still wasn’t quite what they might like, only scoring 65. They now face TCU (14-12, 5-8) who is definitely on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament. TCU absolutely must string together some late season wins if they want to have bigger aspirations than the NIT. Their loss to a bad Texas team certainly didn’t help. I like WVU in this game a lot, especially if they can get their offense moving a little better after a slew of games against elite defenses.

71-52 West Virginia

Texas @ Kansas State

Saturday, February 22nd 1:00 PM CT, CBS

Texas (15-11, 5-8) honestly surprised the heck out of me this week. I thought they were going to pack it up after getting blown out by Iowa State. They’re still almost certainly out of the NCAA tournament race. But, picking up a win over the Horned Frogs in front of all 100 Longhorn fans in attendance was impressive:

On the other hand, Kansas State (9-17, 2-11) took another loss, but they were able to keep it relatively close with Texas Tech, at least. The Longhorns won at home by a wide margin against the Wildcats in their last matchup, and I suspect they’ll win on the road too.

61-53 Texas

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State

Saturday, February 22nd 3:00 PM CT, ESPN2

Bedlam round 2! Oklahoma (16-10, 6-7) is likely the last Big 12 team that will make it into the NCAA Tournament field at this point. But that isn’t a forgone conclusion yet. The Sooners need to bounce-back and beat their rival after suffering a loss to Baylor earlier in the week. Oklahoma State (13-13, 3-10) followed up their great win against Texas Tech with a disappointing, blowout loss to WVU. Oklahoma annihilated the Cowboys in their first meeting. That probably happens again this weekend.

76-59 Oklahoma

Texas Tech @ Iowa State

Saturday, February 22nd 5:00 PM CT, ESPNU

So Iowa State (11-15, 4-9) just put up 71 points on Kansas’s top-tier defense. That’s pretty good. What’s not pretty good is that they let Kansas score 91 points. The Cyclones need to keep that offensive rhythm while playing better defense to have a shot against Texas Tech (17-9, 8-5). Tech has looked shakey in its last few games: they lost at Oklahoma State and only beat Kansas State at home by seven. While Texas Tech beat Iowa State by 20 last go around, and Iowa State is playing without its best player—Tyrese Haliburton—I actually think the Cyclones have a shot here. They’ve somehow looked a little better, at least offensively, without Haliburton (it doesn’t make any sense to me, either). So I’ll call this as my out-on-a-limb upset pick. Cyclones get it done in Hilton.

73-69 Iowa State

Overall Prediction Record

56-19 (74.7%)