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Big 12 MBB Preview: 1/4-1/5

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Big 12 conference play continues with a number of key early tests!

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma @ #1 Baylor

Tuesday, January 4th 6:00 PM CT, ESPN2

#1 Baylor (13-0, 1-0) picked up a very nice, top ten road win over then undefeated Iowa State over the weekend. I said before the game that Iowa State on the road would probably be the second toughest game Baylor would play this season, and the final score seems to bear that out some. However, part of that is Baylor having significant issues with the press late in the game. Beyond that, Baylor controlled the game wire to wire. And I’m sure Scott Drew will be focusing on breaking the press in practices going forward. Oklahoma (11-2, 1-0) was in a fight at home against Kansas State, eventually winning by two points. While each and every win should be cherished in this conference given its incredible depth, that game should be a little concerning for Sooners fans as Kansas State is likely the second worst team in the conference. The games aren’t going to get easier and this game against the #1 team on the road ought to prove that point. Oklahoma has three players averaging double digits, with Tanner Groves leading the way at 14.2 ppg. None of their leading scorers concern me enough to think they’ll break through Baylor’s stellar defense though. Plus Baylor has an incredibly balanced scoring attack led by LJ Cryer, with four players averaging over double digits and three more averaging just under. I’ve got the Bears winning this game by around 15.

76-61 Baylor

#14 Texas @ Kansas State

Tuesday, January 4th 6:00 PM CT, ESPN+

We talked some above about the loss Kansas State (8-4, 0-1) suffered to Oklahoma. However, while that game was potentially worrisome for the Sooners I actually thought it was a good omen for the Wildcats. Road wins are going to be tough as nails to come by in the Big 12 so the loss isn’t all that surprising or damaging. However, the fight they showed to make it close down the stretch could pay dividends if they keep that up. Similar to Oklahoma, Kansas State has a trio of double digit scorers lead by Nijel Pack at 15.1 ppg. #14 Texas (11-2, 1-0) has had a very stingy defense against mostly inferior competition. And while their win over West Virginia looks impressive on paper, the Mountaineers were missing their leading scorer and two rotation players to COVID protocols. This road game at Kansas State ought to tell us a little more about Texas’s consistency. They only have two players that average barely over double digits in ppg, so the Longhorns will have to rely on defense for a lot of their wins. I ultimately like the Longhorns to win this one, although it will probably be in the 4-8 point range given Kansas State’s fighting spirit.

71-64 Texas

#6 Kansas @ Oklahoma State

Tuesday, January 4th 8:00 PM CT, ESPN2

#6 Kansas (11-1, 0-0) is slated to tip off Big 12 conference play in Stillwater after a slew of COVID cancellations and rescheduling. The Jayhawks have looked pretty good, although they have struggled to blow out some teams they probably should and lost to a very average Dayton. If Kansas wants to make a legitimate run at dethroning Baylor from the Big 12 title, this is the type of game they have to win. Oklahoma State (7-4, 0-0) certainly figures to be at the bottom of the Big 12 as things currently stand. For Kansas, leading scorer Ochai Agbaji should be enough to lift them over many teams, including Oklahoma State. But as conference play unfolds, the Jayhawks will need to get more quality production out of David McCormack in order to be contenders. The Cowboys only have two players averaging double digits and will need more production if they want to pick up some conference wins. Kansas should survive this early road test.

76-60 Kansas

#25 Texas Tech @ #11 Iowa State

Tuesday, January 5th 8:00 PM CT, ESPNU

#11 Iowa State (12-1, 0-1) suffered its first loss of the season against Baylor. And while that is not all that surprising, Iowa State did show enough fight to keep the game close throughout (even if they never really controlled the game at any point). The Cyclones will need to regather as they face another stiff test in #25 Texas Tech (10-2, 0-0). One home loss to the #1 team in the nation is not all that damaging, but if the Cyclones drop a consecutive home loss then there might be some concern for Iowa State as they continue through league play. Iowa State has three players averaging double digit scoring, but Izaiah Brockington is well ahead of the pack at 17 ppg. For the Cyclones to find sustainable success this season, they’ll need to continue to play stellar defense and find some scorers who can take the defensive pressure off of Brockington. Texas Tech has found early success under new head coach Mark Adams, as they have a very balanced scoring attack with four players averaging double digits. Nevertheless, road wins are tough to come by and I can’t see Iowa State dropping two home games in a row given the potential they have shown. Iowa State wins in a low-scoring contest.

63-59 Iowa State