Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest time of the year is finally upon us. Starting tonight, the Big 12 Tournament begins as Kansas State takes on Oklahoma State followed by Texas Tech against TCU, as all four schools start their battle for the Big 12 crown and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
8 Kansas State vs. 9 Oklahoma State
Broadcast Info: 6:00 p.m. on ESPNU
What To Watch For
Kansas State is led by senior guard Justin Edwards, who leads the team in points, rebounds, steals, and is second in assists. He's averaging 13.5 points and 8 rebounds in his two games against Oklahoma State this season. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State's senior forward Jeff Newberry and junior guard Leyton Hammonds have had to step into leadership roles as Cowboy stars Phil Forte and Jawun Evans have both suffered season ending injuries. Both are averaging about 11 points and 5 rebounds a game.
The Wildcats destroyed the Cowboys in their first meeting, 89-73. Kansas State, the third worst shooting team in the conference, looked like an offensive powerhouse, knocking down 9 of their 17 attempted 3-pointers while all five starters scored in double figures. The 89 points scored were 10 more than the next best conference team, not named Kansas, was able to put up against Oklahoma State. That's impressive considering OSU was the second best Big 12 defense in terms of points allowed per game.
But the Cowboys shut K-State down in Stillwater a few weeks later, allowing the Wildcats to score just 55 points in two halves and an overtime - the lowest point total they gave up to a Big 12 team all season. Tavarius Shine came up huge for Oklahoma State, putting up five points in overtime while senior Jeff Newberry put up 10 points and 10 rebounds in the victory as the Cowboys kept Kansas State to just 36.7% shooting from the field - a 21% drop from what the Wildcats shot the first time around.
If Kansas State puts up 70 or more points, the Wildcats should win. Oklahoma State hasn't won a game in which their opponent scored 68 or more points since November against Long Beach State. Coincidentally, Kansas State is averaging right at 70 points a game during conference play.
7 Texas Tech vs. 10 TCU
Broadcast Info: 8:00 p.m. on ESPNU
What To Watch For
Texas Tech is one of the hottest teams in the conference right now. The Red Raiders lost just two games in February, a month in which they defeated three ranked teams and had a streak of five wins in a row - a rarity for the strongest conference in the nation. Texas Tech has no lethal players, but as a team have four men averaging double figures in points. Big man Zach Smith has been big for the Red Raiders all season, averaging 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks a game.
As hot as Texas Tech is, TCU is just as cold. The Horned Frogs enter the game on a seven game losing streak and won just two conference games all season. TCU is led by two sophomore guards in Chauncey Collins and Malique Trent. Both players are averaging over 11 points and 2 assists a game, while Trent also averages 2 steals a game.
Texas Tech won both meetings between the two teams this season, but TCU kept the outcomes close, with the Red Raiders winning by just an average of 5.5 points. Both teams tend to play a slower style of ball, but Texas Tech has begun playing faster than normal this year, improving their average points per game by 12 points from last year, scoring over 72 points a game. The Horned Frogs score one point less per game this year and are the second worst scoring team in the league this season, while also allowing over 71 points a game to their opponents.
The key to this one will be how low TCU can keep the score. TCU has kept their conference opponents below 60 points just twice this year - both happened to be the only two Big 12 victories for the Horned Frogs. Other than those two games, they have held their opponents below 70 points just one other time. If Texas Tech can get out and score, while not allowing TCU to control the tempo of the game, the Red Raiders should walk out with a victory.