Previews & Predictions – Big 12 Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals
#1 Kansas (26-5, 14-4 Big 12) VS. #9 Texas Tech (11-19, 4-15 Big 12) | - (Thursday, March 14th at 2pm)
The victory over West Virginia was great for our guys and Chris Walker! Everything was fairly even matched, and we were lucky enough to capitalize on the last possession of the game. I felt that the game would be emotional for the players in terms of playing for Chris Walker, and it was. Here is what Dejan Kravic said after hitting the game winning shot, “I let out all my emotions in the locker room, I don't have any emotions left." Our guys had a big lead, lost it, and still finished out the game on top from battling. I’m proud of our squad and happy for them. Our three-pointers were amazing as we were 8-12 for 66.7% from behind the arc. All season in a lot of games we have died by the three, in the one last night we lived by the three for the first time and it felt great! I’m wondering what Kirby Hocutt thought about the game, and what chances were increased for Chris Walker to get the head coaching position in his mind? Anyways, conference tournament wins are short lived and we must get ready for the next one that’s rapidly approaching. Time to bring on Kansas, who doesn’t match up evenly with us at all.
When we first played Kansas it was in Lubbock and we lost 60-46. If you remember the game back in January then you will recall this is one of the first times that Chris Walker tried to implement the slow-down offense with this team. We had the run-and-gun philosophy in all the others leading up to it. A team like Kansas can be slowed but still will burn you when they can. Check out the stats in our favor; we hit 4 downtown shots compared to their 3, we outrebounded them 28-26, we had 11 assists to their 9. The ones that weren’t; turnovers 16 (TTU) to 9 (KU), and steals 3 (TTU) to 10 (KU). They whipped us inside on points in the paint 18-28. This game was decent to watch through the first half, but in the second you could see how much talent they had compared to us.
I have had nightmares about the last time we went to Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, KS and got a bomb dropped on us. KU won 79-42 as it was their senior night and they were putting on a show for their crowd. I remember watching and thinking that some of the alley-oops that they were jamming home were so entertaining that it was like I was watching the Harlem Globetrotters. No use for me to try and put up any stats, because I checked and we were beat in EVERY single statistical category besides bench points and fouls. We had 11 bench points to their 10, and we had 21 fouls to their 18.
In college basketball any team can win on any given day. I am all for hyping up our team and actually believing we can win most games. I do know we have a chance in this one because we have nothing to lose. It is the Big 12 tournament and anything can happen. If Texas Tech (RPI #213) is going to beat Kansas (RPI #6) there are multiple things that must happen. We need to stop Ben McLemore at the shooting guard position and Jeff Withey at the post. Kansas is so deep that we can’t forget that Elijah Johnson, Kevin Young, and Travis Releford are also guys that can go off and have huge nights too. Jaye Crockett was terrific last night against West Virginia in all aspects of his game, and all the posts need to play like he did. We need to have Dejan Kravic and Jordan Tolbert both have perfect games down low, no fouling out for any of them. Josh Gray really displayed his leadership last night and was crowned player of the game by the announcers of the Big 12 Network in the game. He needs to play even better today. Jamal Williams and Dusty Hannahs will have to hit most of their shots and be ready to fight on defense. If all that can happen we might be able to pull out the victory. I want to win very badly, but I know that I will probably see Kansas in the Final Four during the NCAA Tournament this year. Kansas had a three game losing streak this year, with a loss to TCU who we beat twice. They are coming off a bad loss to Baylor to end the season. I still think they are going to take this one from us unless we can play the perfect game. Predicted Winner: Kansas
#4 Oklahoma (20-10, 11-7 Big 12) VS. #5 Iowa State (21-10, 11-7 Big 12) | - (Thursday, March 14th at 11:30am)
This should be a damn good game. Oklahoma was a surprise in the Big 12 and has done exceptionally well with the help of Romero Osby (15.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.1 apg), Steven Pledger (12.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.5 apg), and Amath M’Baye (10.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg). The first game against Iowa State and the Sooners; OU was destroyed 64-83 and none of their top players scored more than 8 points. When they beat ISU all three scored in double figures. The point is that when the posts Osby and M’Baye are going strong, and guard Pledger gets hot from downtown Oklahoma is really hard to beat.
I love watching Iowa State play. They are exciting and are the #4 team in the nation in points per game. They have FIVE guys that average double figures in scoring. Their leaders are Will Clyburn (15.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.2 apg) and Melvin Ejim (10.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.3 apg). When ISU beat OU both guys had nice games with 31 points and 12 rebound combined. In the loss to OU they had 16 points and 7 rebounds combined. ISU is a complete team, and they need the whole team to contribute to win. When their 2 top players struggle the whole team struggles.
Iowa State (RPI #47) is the better team in my opinion, but Oklahoma (RPI #35) is very dangerous when they have their key players doing well. Both teams will most likely make the NCAA tournament and this game will be the deciding factor for how high of a seeding they can get. It will mean something to both teams, and they will both want it bad. I’m going to go with my gut and say Iowa State to me is the better team and will go farther in the NCAA tournament than OU. I like ISU in this game. Predicted Winner: Iowa State
#2 Kansas State (25-6, 14-4 Big 12) VS. #7 Texas (16-16, 8-11 Big 12) | - (Thursday, March 14th at 6pm)
Kansas State has been spectacular this year. They had slip-ups to ISU and OSU, but who wouldn’t. KU has gotten the better of K-State twice. I still am amazed how little love K-State gets in the media because they aren’t a fancy team with loads of talent. They just win games, and that’s it. Their star player is undoubtedly senior guard Rodney McGruder (15.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.3 spg). K-State is a team that is well-coached and knows how to play together against the other guys to get a victory.
Texas beat TCU last night 70-57, and Myck Kabongo had 16 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and a steal. Against K-State last time he had 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists but UT still lost 81-69. UT is much better with Kabongo, but against a team like K-State it doesn’t matter. Sheldon McClellan (14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) better be ready to step up in this match-up.
I’m not going to be able to say it any nicer than this… UT doesn’t seems to play with great chemistry as a team and K-State has the formula figured out to play with great chemistry. I’d be surprised if UT even has a chance in this game. Anything can happen in college basketball, but I just don’t see this game going in favor of UT. The first game UT and K-State played this season was the Wildcats win 83-57, the second game was won by K-State 81-69. Maybe the gap will get closer, but I still think K-State runs away easily with tonight with the win. Predicted Winner: Kansas State
#3 Oklahoma State (23-7, 13-5 Big 12) VS. #6 Baylor (18-13, 9-9 Big 12) | - (Thursday, March 14th at 8:30pm)
If I had to pick my top match-up of the Big 12 tournament this is it! I get the feeling that whoever wins this game has a chance to sweep the rest of the opponents out the way and grab the Big 12 championship trophy. There’s so much on the line in this game, from OSU desire to get that high seed in the NCAA tourney to Baylor fighting for a chance to just make the Big Dance. Oklahoma State has the Big 12 picks for both player of the year and freshman of the year, the same dude was given both of the awards… Marcus Smart (15.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, 3.0 spg). He is a hell of a basketball guard and will be lighting it up in the NBA soon after helping OSU make a strong run in the NCAA tournament. OSU also has some other great talent in Markel Brown (15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.0 spg), Le’Bryan Nash (14.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 apg), and freshman 3-point shooting sensation Phil Forte (10.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg). OSU can play with anybody and is a team that has all the right tools to win the conference tournament no problem. They are fast and deadly in a game if you drop your guard with them.
Baylor is another team that has NBA-bound talent. Senior Pierre Jackson (19.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.5 spg) can light it up from anywhere on the court. He can ball hard while breaking down the defense with his handling skills. I enjoy watching Jackson take on other point guards because he usually eats their lunch on the court. 7 foot frosh Isaiah Austin (13.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg) is a different kind of player from your conventional seven footer. He can dribble and shoot the three, and likes to put the ball on the floor before he goes to the basket. The NBA scouts are drooling over Austin because they are begging to get a chance to develop him and make him into the next big professional star. Cory Jefferson (12.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg) is also a force inside, and can power over anyone in his way.
Both these teams together are a series of highlight reels ready to go up at any time on SportsCenter. This is by far my hardest pick of the entire tournament. I want to go with Oklahoma State because I truly believe they are the better team. Baylor just doesn’t have the right coaching to be able to put all their talents to the use it could be at to win more ballgames. The first game this season these two played was won by Baylor 64-54, the second was only won by 2 points in overtime by OSU. Baylor just came off a huge blowout win over Kansas to end their season. Baylor is a tournament team, and I know they get hyped up for the excitement of the media at the tournaments to get their faces on TV. But, I am going to say I just have to go with Oklahoma State in this one, I think they will crush Baylor’s chances of making the NCAA tournament and have a smile on their face while they do it. Predicted Winner: Oklahoma State