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Big 12 MBB Preview: NCAA Tournament First Round

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Tournament Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

#6 Texas Tech vs. #11 Utah State

Friday, March 19th 12:45 PM CT, TNT

6 seed Texas Tech (17-10) opens a loaded slate of Big 12 teams playing in the NCAA Tournament with an intriguing matchup with 11 seed Utah State (20-8). Texas Tech is only favored by 4 points in this game and with potentially good reason: Utah State has been an elite defensive squad this season and ranks 16th in offensive rebounding rate. That rebounding prowess could be key, since Texas Tech ranks all the way down at 254th in defensive rebounding rate. I expect a low scoring matchup that Tech ultimately wins, but if you want a potential upset game to pick this is one to consider. If Tech makes it through this game, they will play the winner of the 3/14 game between Arkansas and Colgate.

65-60 Texas Tech

#1 Baylor vs. #16 Hartford

Friday, March 19th 2:30 PM CT, TRUTV

1 seed Baylor (22-2) opens their bid for an NCAA title by taking on 16 seed Hartford (15-8). Hartford won their conference tournament in the American East to secure a berth in the NCAA tournament. Looking at games they played against relevant competition, Hartford lost to UCONN by 12 and lost to Villanova by 34. Baylor, who has had a historic season but has looked a bit off since their COVID pause, should be able to handle this team just fine. Baylor is a 26 point favorite in this game. Ideally, the Bears gets a nice confidence boost before their game against the winner of the 8/9 matchup between North Carolina and Wisconsin.

88-68 Baylor

#4 Oklahoma State vs. #13 Liberty

Friday, March 19th 5:25 PM CT, TBS

4 seed Oklahoma State (20-8) has a decent amount of momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament after finishing second in the Big 12 Tournament. 13 seed Liberty (23-5) actually got a couple of big wins against SEC foes Mississippi State and South Carolina, but also lost to stronger competition like Purdue, Missouri, and TCU. Liberty has a ton of momentum winning 12 games in a row and their conference tournament. Liberty plays a very slowed down style of basketball that is efficient, with high field goal percentages and a limited number of turnovers. The Cowboys will need to hit their shots and play patient defense to secure this win. Oklahoma State is favored by 7.5 points. If the Cowboys win, they will play the winner of the 5/12 game between Tennessee and Oregon State.

71-65 Oklahoma State

#3 West Virginia vs. #14 Morehead State

Friday, March 19th 8:50 PM CT, TRUTV

3 seed West Virginia (18-9) begins their tournament entry by playing 14 seed Morehead State (23-7). The argument in favor of Morehead State is that they have won 18 of their last 19 games and secured their conference tournament championship. The argument against Morehead State is that they got blown out by pretty much every major foe they faced, including a 36 point loss to a bad Kentucky team. West Virginia had a very impressive season in an incredibly tough Big 12, so they should be able to defeat Morehead State with little issue. West Virginia is favored by 13 points. If the Mountaineers win here, they will play the winner of the 6/11 game between San Diego State and Syracuse.

84-68 West Virginia

#3 Kansas vs. #14 Eastern Washington

Saturday, March 20th 12:15 PM CT, TBS

3 seed Kansas (20-8) opens up the Saturday lineup of Big 12 games by taking on 14 seed Eastern Washington (16-7). For Eastern Washington’s part, they won their conference tournament and had a string of really close, early season games against major conference competition. They lost to Washington State, Arizona, and Saint Mary’s all by less than 5 points. The biggest question here will be what players, if any, have to sit out this game. Bill Self said they are traveling with three less players than they typically would because of COVID protocols. The Jayhawks’ best big man, David McCormack, had to sit out the Big 12 tournament because of COVID protocol. If he is out here, that would hurt. But Self said he should be in uniform for this game. However, Kansas can probably win this game either way. KU is favored by 10.5 points. If they win this game, they will play the winner of the 6/11 game between USC and Wichita State/Drake.

84-75 Kansas

#8 Oklahoma vs. #9 Missouri

Saturday, March 20th 6:25 PM CT, TNT

8 seed Oklahoma (15-10) is the lowest seeded Big 12 team in the NCAA Tournament this year and they will open their bid against 9 seed Missouri (16-9). All things being equal, this would likely be a really close game with OU being favored by 1.5 points at the writing of this article. However, news broke yesterday that Oklahoma’s second leading scorer, De’Vion Harmon, would miss the first weekend of the tournament because of a positive COVID test. That’s a huge loss. Oklahoma might be able to sneak by against Missouri, but that loss would really hurt if Oklahoma advances to play the winner of the 1/16 game between Gonzaga and Norfolk State/Appalachian State. But I don’t think they even make it to that game.

77-73 Missouri

#3 Texas vs. #14 Abilene Christian

Saturday, March 20th 8:50 PM CT, TRUTV

3 seed Texas (19-7) wraps up the first round of play for the Big 12 as they take on 14 seed Abilene Christian (23-4). Abilene Christian won their conference tournament and had a few notably close games against major competition. For instance, they only lost to Texas Tech by 7 points. So the Wildcats have the ability to keep this game close. However, they have not proven that they can pull the upset yet this season. Texas has had an exceptionally good season and should be able to advance to the second round. Texas is favored by 9 points. If they win here, they will take on the winner of the 6/11 matchup between BYU and Michigan State/UCLA.

83-75 Texas