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Friday, March 11
I don’t feel any different about the Iowa State Cyclones as I did when I picked them to beat Oklahoma yesterday. I still think they are a really good team. I still think they have the ability to make a run into the second or third weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
With that said, maybe they needed rest more than I thought. They need Monte Morris and his shoulder to be at their best if they want to make that deep run. When he isn’t able to score it allows the defense to put a lot more pressure on Georges Niang.
We saw last night that he’s more than capable of handling that pressure, but you still need to find points from somewhere else. Morris and Niang are the two guys that make this team go when they are at their best.
Abdel Nader, Matt Thomas, Jameel McKay and Deonte Burton have all had their games when they’ve been the No. 2 option behind Niang. They need that to be Morris in the postseason.
I still think this team is playing some of their best basketball at the best time. I’m not worried.
Here are my previews, picks and matchup to watch in Friday’s Big 12 tournament semifinals:
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Baylor
The two games between these two teams couldn’t have been much more different. Really, the only similarity as that Kansas won both of them.
The first game between them was each team’s first Big 12 game (way back on Jan. 3) and the Jayhawks were firing on all cylinders. Wayne Selden scored 24 points and Kansas rolled to a 102-74 win.
After that the Bears started to get it clicking in their own right. They didn’t win when Kansas visited Waco, but they kept it close losing 66-60. It was Frank Mason that led the way for Kansas that day dicing the Baylor zone for 19 points.
Baylor did a nice job of limiting penetration yesterday in their win over Texas. That task becomes exponentially harder when it’s the Jayhawks on the other side. They’ve just got so many guys capable of driving, passing and scoring that it’s a nightmare for the Bears.
This one will stay close for the first half, but Kansas will run away and hide in the second.
Matchup to watch: Perry Ellis vs. the bottom of the Baylor zone
My pick: Kansas
No. 2 West Virginia vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
The Sooners barely snuck by the first time these two played when a Khadeem Lattin tip-in at the buzzer was the difference. The second game was far from a sneak job with Oklahoma rolling through Morgantown for a 76-62 win.
Buddy Hield did Buddy Hield things in the second game, where as he wasn’t quite on that next level in the first one. He had 29 points in that win in on the road and carried his team.
Hield looked like he is a man on a mission during the game last night. It’s tough to stop a man on a mission.
Matchup of the day: Buddy Hield vs. Javon Carter, Tarik Phillip and Jaysean Paige
My pick: Oklahoma
Thursday, March 10
Is there a day each year that is better than quarterfinals day at the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament?
Maybe, Christmas Day?
Nah, I don’t think so. Watching seven of the nation’s premier basketball teams (and TCU) in two doubleheaders is better than any Christmas gift. There could be a case for birthdays, but those always just signal how old you’re getting.
Quarterfinals day at the Big 12 tournament means high-quality hoops, star coaches, superstar players and a packed arena in a college basketball crazed city. Don’t forget it’s the only time the Power and Light comes close to matching the intensity of a Royals World Series game.
This is bigger than any holiday and it’s bigger than a basketball tournament. The Big 12 men’s basketball tournament is a whole different animal. Some call it a right of passage for Iowa State fans. I call it college basketball fan heaven.
To each his own.
Here are my previews, picks and matchups to watch for Thursday’s four games at the Sprint Center:
No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 Baylor
These two teams split their regular season series with each team winning on the other’s home floor. Baylor’s guards were, to put it lightly, not good when the two teams faced off in Austin on Feb. 2 with Lester Medford, Ish Wainwright and Al Freeman combining to shoot 5-of-18 from the field and 1-of-7 from 3-point range in a 67-59 Bears loss.
The second matchup would be all Baylor with Jonathan Motley dominating his way to 24 points on 12-of-13 shooting in a 78-64 win. Interestingly, the Bears attempted just five 3-pointers in the second game compared to 17 in the first.
Motley will likely be the key for the Bears as when he’s on they become an exponentially harder team to stop. Baylor has dropped three of their last four though since beating Texas on Feb. 20 so they could really use a win to get themselves on the right track.
Keep in mind, Texas big-man Cam Ridley practiced on Wednesday after being out since late December.
Matchup to watch: Jonathan Motley vs. Prince Ibeh
My pick: Texas
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Kansas State
The season series between these two teams was highlighted by the controversial Branden Greene dunk at the end of the first contest, a 77-59 Jayhawks win, in Lawrence. There wasn’t really too much else of note.
Perry Ellis scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting to lead Kansas in the first win. KU had a 17-point lead at one point during the second half of the second game that ended in a 72-63 win.
Matchup to watch: Perry Ellis vs. Wesley Iwundu
My pick: Kansas
No. 2 West Virginia vs. No. 10 TCU
My dude Trent Johnson and his team live to fight another day. Bob Huggins’ crew hasn’t faired well historically in the Big 12 tournament, but that ends today.
The Mountaineers forced 26 turnovers when these two teams played on Feb. 13, a 73-42 West Virginia win. I doubt the Horned Frogs turn it over that many times again, but they’ll turn it over early and often.
Matchup to watch: West Virginia’s press vs. TCU’s guards
My pick: West Virginia
No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 6 Iowa State
The nightcap in Kansas City is most likely the game of the day in college basketball, and it is going to be oh, so fun. Two of college basketball’s best teams and several of college basketball’s best players in college basketball’s best conference tournament.
Too bad it’s just a quarterfinal.
Brent Blum said on last week’s Cyclone Fanatic Radio Show that keeping Buddy Hield below 30 points is going to be the key for the Cyclones and I agree with him. Matt Thomas has shown he can lock Hield up at times, and it will be important to not allow him to get confidence early on.
The same holds true for the Sooners when it comes to Georges Niang. Let either of those guys get going early and it could be a long night.
In the words of Bart Scott.
Matchup of the day: Buddy Hield vs. Matt Thomas
My pick: Iowa State