#13 Texas Tech @ #5 Kansas
Monday, January 24th 8:00 PM CT, ESPN
Both #13 Texas Tech (15-4, 5-2) and #5 Kansas (16-2, 5-1) are coming off of big wins over the weekend. Texas Tech was able to stave off an upset minded West Virginia and Kansas rallied from a large deficit to beat rival Kansas State on their home court. That brings us to this game which could end up having significant consequences for the Big 12 title race. More and more it’s looking like three teams have separated themselves from the Big 12 pack: Kansas, Texas Tech, and Baylor. Kansas seems like a bit of a one trick pony, but that pony might be player of the year: Ochai Agbaji scored 29 in Kansas’s last win. For Tech, it’s going to come down to offensive consistency. The Red Raiders are really tough on defense, but have their ups and downs on offense. Texas Tech beat Kansas a couple weeks ago, can they do it again in Lawrence? Ultimately I have Kansas winning this one but it should be a good, close game either way.
Kansas State @ #4 Baylor
Tuesday, January 25th 7:00 PM CT, ESPN+
#4 Baylor (17-2, 5-2) secured a nice win against Oklahoma over the weekend. The Bears led for the most of the game, although that lead fluctuated between near blowout and near loss. Luckily, the Bears pulled away after a late game technical fiasco and secured a 14 point win. Baylor is still trying to find offensive consistency as James Akinjo continues to work through a bruised tailbone. While Akinjo played some in this one, his only basket saw him going down hard on his backside, possibly reinjuring his tailbone. I assume he’ll be back to day-to-day status and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he is out for this game. Luckily, while the Bears have struggled offensively they have kept up the defensive effort, holding OU to 51. They’ll need that as they face Kansas State (10-8, 2-5) who is coming off of a brutal loss. The Wildcats were up on Kansas by double digits for much of the game before blowing it down the stretch. Clearly, the player the Bears will need to watch for is Nijel Pack who had 35 points against Kansas and is averaging 16.7 ppg. Still, 8-12 from 3 point is a stat line that is difficult to repeat for a single player two games in a row, especially after such a deflating loss. The Bears should be able to keep Kansas State in check with their defense.
Texas @ TCU
Tuesday, January 25th 8:00 PM CT, ESPNU
TCU (13-3, 3-2) secured their first ranked win of the season over Iowa State in Ames, potentially solidifying their position as the team at the top of the 2nd tier of the conference. Head coach Jamie Dixon hit the transfer portal in the offseason and it has paid dividends, as players like Mike Miles have really stepped it up. However, it’s not just Miles, but the Horned Frogs supporting cast has been playing well too, such as Damion Baugh putting up 23 on Iowa State. For Texas (14-5, 4-3) it’s all about consistency. The Longhorns stopped a two game losing streak with a tight win over Oklahoma State. They now need to keep building on that momentum. However, I just don’t really see that happening because of how inconsistent they have been. I like the Horned Frogs here who have been really hot for most of this season.
#23 Iowa State @ Oklahoma State
Wednesday, January 26th 7:00 PM CT, ESPN+
#23 Iowa State (14-5, 2-5) has been fairly disappointing in conference play given their undefeated non-conference run. While they’ve had a couple nice wins, and a couple close losses, their last two games against Texas Tech and TCU haven’t really been all that close. They need to bounce back in a big way as they travel to Oklahoma State (10-8, 3-4). The Cowboys are a bit of a landmine this year: they aren’t going to the tournament (both on NCAA infractions and on resume), but they can beat anyone any day (Baylor learned that the hard way). And the Cowboys certainly gave Texas a run for their money. I see Iowa State trending down and Oklahoma State trending up, so I like the Cowboys in Stillwater.
65-58 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma @ West Virginia
Wednesday, January 26th 7:00 PM CT, ESPN2
Oklahoma (12-7, 2-5) and West Virginia (13-5, 2-4) are two teams in desperate need of a win. The Sooners lost a disappointing one to Baylor over the weekend, where they were never quite able to get over the hump. That makes four losses in a row for OU. West Virginia, similarly, couldn’t quite keep pace with Texas Tech and are on a three game losing skid. One of these teams is destined to break their losing streaks while the other is bound only to add to it. Even though this game is in Morgantown, I think OU is due for a win. They’ve really been fighting in their last few and it seemed like Tanner Groves, who has been in a bit of a funk, might have gotten energized late in the Baylor game by Matthew Mayer’s knee to his face and subsequent technical foul from the refs. If he can find the motivation to get back into good form, the Sooners will win this one. However, if the end of that game only leads to further frustration for Groves and the team as a whole, then Oklahoma is in for some more losses. I’ll go with the former.