The Red Raiders are fresh off a thrilling 77-76 overtime win over #7 West Virginia Tuesday night. Anthony Livingston hit a go-ahead 3 with under five seconds left off of a great assist from breakout performer Niem Stevenson. The win was an incredible response to the tough loss in Ames and should leave the team confident heading into their matchup with #3 Kansas on Saturday. The win moved the team to 12-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play and boosted their NCAA tournament resume in a big way.
Strength of Schedule
Essentially every statistic used to gauge a team’s resume got a boost from the win over West Virginia. Tech has jumped substantially in ESPN’s strength of schedule metric and are steadily rising in RPI. According to KenPom.com, the schedule strength is slowly rising. This aspect of the resume is capped by the anemic non-conference schedule, but every Big 12 game will bump these numbers up.
Baylor and Kansas began this week ranked #2 and #3 in the nation, respectively. After top-ranked Villanova fell to Butler, the conference has a chance to field the top two teams in the country when the new rankings are released. That is, unless Tech can find a way to end Kansas’ 50-game home winning streak and knock them down the rankings.
The five conference games this week were decided by a ridiculous 11 points total, with the home teams winning all five. Defending home court will be imperative in a league this deep, and almost any road win will be considered an upset.
Peaks and Valleys
Auburn are winless thus far in SEC play and don’t appear to be a huge threat to the best teams in the conference, so losing to them still hurts. However, Tech picked up a huge win over the Mountaineers that caught the attention of some national media members. A win at Kansas is perhaps the most impressive win possible in college basketball, but short of that, a home upset over the #7 team is a giant check mark for Texas Tech.
3 Big 12 Games That Matter
With so many close games already played, the Big 12 has proven to be one of the toughest and deepest leagues in America. Here are three games over the next week that will shape the conference standings and NCAA tournament picture.
Oklahoma State @ Baylor
The Bears top the conference at 2-0 while the Cowboys have sputtered to an 0-2 start in conference play. A Baylor win here could lead to a #1 ranking, while Oklahoma State could be staring down an 0-3 hole. The Cowboys have the shooting to hurt Baylor’s zone, but Baylor is much better inside. Tech benefits more from a Baylor win that would validate the Big 12 and push the rival Cowboys to the bottom of the standings.
Baylor @ West Virginia
Baylor’s reward for becoming #1 in the country would be a trip to Morgantown, while a Baylor slip-up could be compounded here. These teams are the main threats to Kansas and will each have a lot to prove. Tech now benefits from West Virginia finishing as high as possible in the national rankings, so root for a Mountaineer win in this game.
Iowa State @ Oklahoma State
As previously mentioned, an 0-3 start for the Cowboys could doom their season. After losing a heartbreaker in Baylor, the Cyclones should be able to respond at home against Texas. Both teams rely heavily on their guards and are expected to finish somewhere around the top five in conference play. A Cyclone win could effectively bury Oklahoma State and would inch Iowa State closer to a top-25 ranking.
Tech fans should be happy with a 1-1 start to conference play given the schedule. The competition will lighten up after the Kansas game, but Big 12 fans can already see that there are no sure wins on the schedule for anyone.