The Red Raiders escaped with a 66-65 win over the #25 Kansas State Wildcats on Tuesday to improve to 13-3 (2-2) on the season. The second straight one-point home win over a ranked team was the perfect response to a tough loss at Kansas last Saturday. The team heads into the weekend tied for fifth in the conference and will look to earn their first Big 12 road win of the season against Oklahoma. With the Sooners off to a slow start, a road win here is needed to keep pace in the race for the NCAA tournament.
Strength of Schedule
Tech have finally moved into the ESPN RPI top 50 and are inching their way up all strength of schedule rankings. Coming out of a brutal start to conference play at 2-2 is a huge positive and will certainly help when the dust finally settles. The LSU Tigers appear to be a mess, so the Red Raiders have little to gain but much to lose when they meet in the Big 12/SEC Challenge later this month.
Eight teams in the Big 12 were ranked in the top 33 of kenpom.com’s rankings through games played on January 12, more than any other conference. Baylor getting destroyed in their first game as the No. 1 team could mean that Kansas will assume the crown in next week’s rankings. The Big 12 certainly has the muscle up top and the depth to claim it is the nation’s best conference.
Peaks and Valleys
The upset of West Virginia is still the best win to date and the Auburn loss hurts the worst. However, traveling to Norman this weekend could sneak up on fans who only look at the conference standings. Oklahoma are 0-4 in the Big 12 but return star guard Jordan Woodard just in time to play Texas Tech. Woodard is their best player and the Sooners hung around with Kansas earlier this week. If OU can’t climb their way back up the standings but win this game, it could hurt Tech’s chances of making the tournament down the road.
3 Big 12 Games That Matter
Baylor @ Kansas State
Baylor were humiliated by West Virginia this week and will look to bounce back against the Wildcats. Kansas State have lost three games this year by a combined four points, so they’re a team that’s hard to finish off. Most people will pick Baylor to bounce back here, but a Kansas State win could punish the Bears in the rankings and shoot the Wildcats right back into the top 25.
Iowa State @ TCU
TCU certainly don’t have the home court advantage that the Cyclones enjoy, but they should still compete here. Iowa State are on the verge of a 4-1 conference start, while TCU are scrapping for positioning in the middle of the standings. This will be one of TCU’s biggest games of the season in terms of quality and chance to win, and they could catch a distracted Iowa State team who will head home to host Kansas just two days later.
Kansas State @ Oklahoma State
The Cowboys could enter this game 0-5 in conference play and see their season slipping away. Still, they’re good enough to play spoiler and will have plenty chances to do so down the stretch. Kansas State appear to be legit and will be fighting for fifth in the Big 12. A Wildcat win here would be huge, but again, Oklahoma State are certainly good enough to beat anyone despite their record.
Losing at Kansas and then squeaking by Kansas State at home is probably all most fans could have hoped for this past week. Travelling to Norman and then hosting TCU is a much easier schedule on paper, but the Big 12 demands that teams bring it every night. At this point, Tech appears to be in the NCAA tournament field, as ESPN writer Joe Lunardi currently has Tech as a 12-seed and “last four in.” While this is great news, a win in Norman and then over TCU would likely bump that seeding up even further.