Hello fellow Red Raiders! With this being my inaugural article, I just wanted to take the opening of this article to introduce myself to the readers of Viva The Matadors. I love Texas Tech University! Both my parents attended Tech in the early 80s, my Mom graduated with a Finance degree and my Dad with a Mechanical Engineering degree. My little sister is currently attending Tech, and she will be graduating next December with an International Marketing degree. I graduated last May with two degrees, one in Marketing and one in Management (I have a History minor too). To further the family connection, at one point last year my family had five members, including me, my sister, and some cousins, attending Tech. As you can see, the Scarlett and Black run in the family! I am currently working a few jobs, one includes the top sports radio station in the Metroplex. Ultimately, I want to be a sports radio host. However, that’s enough about me. Let’s get to the reason why you really clicked on this link, Viva The Matadors’ Big 12 Tournament Championship Preview, and first up is our beloved Red Raiders.
I will be breaking down teams into 3 categories for this article, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. And no, Clint Eastwood will not be making a cameo in this article.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (13-18 overall, 3-15 Big 12) - It’s not a government secret that Tubby Smith was hired on to rebuild this Texas Tech basketball team. This season has been tough reminder of just how much work has to be done. At home, Tech has had some good moments, most memorably the win over then ranked #9 Iowa State. However, on the road it has been UGLY! Tech has rarely been competitive in the road games. I was in Norman for the Sooners 81-36 drubbing of Texas Tech. A few weeks later, at United Supermarkets Arena, Tech took that same Sooner team to overtime, losing 71-75. Tech scored 38 points in a loss at Iowa State, but scored 75 in a win, at home, over the Cyclones. In Manhattan, against Kansas State, Tech only scored 51 points in a loss, but beat the Wildcats 64-47 in Lubbock. At the USA, Tech won a thriller against Oklahoma State 63-62, but when the Cowboys’ hosted Tech our Red Raiders lost by 20, scoring only 43 points. Overall, Tech was 13-6 at home, but styled the donut on the road, going 0-12 (including two neutral location games). What do the above stats tell you? 1. Tech has a hard time competing on the road. 2. Tech can’t score on the road. Scoring was difficult enough for the Red Raiders at home. On the road, it became darn near impossible. Of the nine road conferences games, Tech scored above 60 points once, this past Friday in Waco against the Bears. Twice they scored in the 30s. So what would be considered a success for Tubby’s team in the Big 12 tournament? The obvious answer would be to end the Longhorn’s chances of a NCAA tournament bid and pull off the upset. However, I think the more realistic goal would be to just play a competitive game outside the friendly confines of the United Supermarkets Arena.
TCU Horned Frogs (17-14 overall, 4-14 Big 12)- Stand up if you thought that at the end of non-conference play, that the Horned Frogs would be one of a handful of undefeated teams in the nation. TCU head coach, Trent Johnson, you can sit down now. While that undefeated record non-conference record proved to be fool’s gold (it always helps to build up the non-conference schedule with creamiest cream puff teams out there) TCU did improve this year. Like Tech, TCU is in rebuild mode. More than just on court, this season they played their homes games in a Fort Worth ISD arena while their typical home court, Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, undergoes renovation. In TCU’s first two years of Big 12 play, they had won two games. Those two wins came in their first season. Last year, TCU won a whopping ZERO Big 12 games. This year they won four Big 12 games, including an impressive win over a ranked Oklahoma State team. They also pulled out a home win over Kansas State, and only lost by 5 to the Wildcats on the road. The Wildcats will be TCU’s first round opponents. I like their chances against the Wildcats. Based on the previous games, I think that this matchup will be another close one. The Horned Frogs could advance to the next round.
Kansas State Wildcats (15-16 overall, 8-10 Big 12)- Kansas State’s Big 12 season can be broken into thirds. In the first seven games, they went 4-3; including an impressive overtime win at #16 Oklahoma. In the next five games, they failed to win any. They did play four tough games against ranked opponents, some without leading scorer Marcus Foster on the court because of a suspension, but they also had a loss to Texas Tech in that stretch. To close the season, they went 4-2 with wins over #17 Oklahoma, #8 Kansas, and #12 Iowa State. However, they suffered 10+ point losses to teams closer to the bottom of the Big 12, Texas and TCU. It seems that on any given day, this team can be great or lousy. With that potential, this team can easily be the long-shot darkhorse that screws up everyone’s Big 12 championship bracket! OR they could flop against TCU…
Oklahoma State Cowboys (18-12 overall, 8-10 Big 12)- From January 27th - February 9th, the Cowboys were one of the best teams in the nation. In that five games stretch, they only played teams in the top 25. They beat four of them, Texas, Kansas, and swept Baylor. Their one loss was against Oklahoma. However, there are not just five games in the Big 12 regular season, there are 18. The remaining 13 are the reasons that Oklahoma State is not one of the best teams in the nation. Of those 13, they won 4 games. Of those four wins, only one was against a ranked opponent. That win was against an extremely over ranked Texas team that was sitting at #10. If the Cowboys’ can regain that late January and early February mojo, they will be a force to reckon with. This is an NCAA bubble team, meaning that a good run in the Big 12 Tournament could help them cement a spot in the NCAA tournament, just like a bad run could ruin any tournament aspirations.
Texas Longhorns (19-12 overall, 8-10 Big 12)- This had to be a disappointing Big 12 regular season for the Burnt Orange fans. At one point, the Longhorns were ranked in the top 10. By the end of the Big 12 regular season, they were not ranked. Their disappointing Big 12 season has them needing to make a run in the Big 12 Tournament to receive an NCAA tournament berth. Can the Longhorns’ finally live up to the early hype surrounding this team?
#18 West Virginia Mountaineers (23-8 overall, 11-7 Big 12) Led by Big 12 Coach of the Year, Bob Huggins, this West Virginia team is looking to become the first WVU basketball team to claim a Big 12 title. As all teams in The Good section, WVU has some big time wins, including a one point win over then #8 Kansas on February 16th . However, of their 11 conference wins, 8 of them came against the teams not ranked. They had 7 losses on the year against Big 12 top 25 teams. Their first opponent in the Big 12 Championship tournament is #16 Baylor, who beat them by at least 10 points in both regular season meetings. However, there is hope! The Mountaineers are #1 in the nation in steals per game, with 11. I don’t think it would surprise anyone if WVU stole their first round game against Baylor and made a serious run at the Big 12 Tournament Championship.
#16 Baylor Bears (23-8 overall, 11-7 Big 12)- Last year’s Big 12 tournament runner-ups are looking to improve by one spot. The Bears are pretty solid against Big 12 top 25 teams, going 6-4. They stayed away from any major blowout losses and took care of business at home, going 7-2 in conference play. Outside of being ranked 8th in the nation in rebounds, they don’t have spectacular stats. However, they are peaking at the right time, winning five of their last six games. We have seen it time and time again in sports; the hot team at the end of the regular season continues that run in the post season and comes away with the title. Baylor is primed to make a run at finishing one spot better than last year in the Big 12 Tournament.
#15 Oklahoma Sooners (21-9 overall, 12-6 Big 12)- Can a team ranked #15 really be considered a darkhorse to win a conference tournament title? Well, when there are teams ranked higher and with better overall records in their conference (and because this is my column and I get to make the rules), I say yes. This Sooner team has the chance to do something really special. Led by Big 12 player of the year, Buddy Hield, OU is looking to win their first Big 12 Tournament Championship since 2003. Like Baylor, OU really does not have many stats that stick out at you, outside of being 10th and 20th in the nation in rebounds and steals, respectively. However, they do have a defense that clamps down in crunch time. If you like teams peaking at the right time, then you will love the run the Sooners’ are on. In the Sooners last 11 games, they have won 9 times, going 3-1 against Big 12 top 25 teams in that stretch. They ended their regular season with a heart pounding 75-73 win over the #9 Kansas Jayhawks. The Sooners are looking to continue their "Sooner Magic", beginning with their tournament matchup against the their in-state rival, Oklahoma State.
#13 Iowa State Cyclones (22-8 overall, 12-6 Big 12)- The Cyclones are looking to defend their Big 12 Tournament Championship. Offense is the name of the game for Iowa State. They rank 9th in the nation with 79.6 points per game, with a .485 field goal percentage, which is good for 11th in the nation. They spread the ball around well, averaging 16.8 assists per game, good for ninth in the nation. They are the "Air Raid" basketball team for the Big 12 this year. They split the season series against both Kansas and Oklahoma, both times winning at home and losing on the road. They could potentially meet Oklahoma in the semifinal for a rubber match, and Kansas in the final for that rubber match. Wouldn’t that be fun to watch?
#9 Kansas Jayhawks (24-7 overall, 13-5 Big 12)- Just like death and taxes, you can count on Kansas being Big 12 regular season champions, they have done it every year since 2005. This year, some chinks have been seen in the Jayhawks’ armor. They had some bad losses against Kansas State and in the non-conference season, Temple. However, toss out the blowout loss to #1 Kentucky and Kansas has been in every game. They went 7-3 in Big 12 play against top 25 opponents. As always, they are the team to beat in the tournament.
My heart wants our beloved Red Raiders to pull off the biggest upset in the history of the Big 12 Tournament Championship. However, I know that there are better chances of me dating Taylor Swift than Tech winning the title. My pick is (drum roll) KANSAS! Way to end my first column with a bang, right?! I’d love to hear your pick to win the Big 12 Tournament Championship. Take the poll, comment below, and tweet me at @ConnerCrisp. Thank you for reading and GUNS UP!