This. Is. March.
The most exciting time of the year for us college basketball fiends, our fix is never fulfilled more than in this month.
Tell your family and friends they won’t be seeing much of you until early-April. The Big 12 Tournament is here, TODAY, March 8, and it’s only an appetizer for the upcoming buffet of basketball scheduled for our plates.
We’ve kept you covered with in-depth Team Previews earlier this week, so check those out if you want more in-depth “analysis”, but today we’re here to have a little fun.
Yes - I’ll probably be very, very wrong, but I thought I’d predict every game of the Big 12 Tournament, all the way to the championship game on Saturday. Below isn’t any in-depth game or team previews, again, check out Anthony North’s blog for that, but rather predicted play-by-play and key moments from every single game played in Kansas City this week.
So - without further ado, let’s get into predicting today’s First Round games. Let’s see how murky my crystal ball is…
#9 Texas Tech vs. #8 West Virginia (3/8, 6:00 p.m. CST)
I’ll say it (and again will probably be very wrong) - this will be the most lopsided game of the whole tournament. In a conference that seemingly can’t get crazier, the two teams separated a seed away from each other will face-off in the most unintriguing game of the tournament.
Yes, the issue of Mark Adams will plague Texas Tech, but since Feb. 11 the Red Raiders are 4-3. That’s impressive in any conference this time of year, and specifically the Big 12. (The Frogs are 3-4 in the same span).
Last time these two met - on Feb. 18 in Morgantown - Tech got the 78-72 win. On a neutral site, with a motivated Red Raider locker room, I see Texas Tech running away with it. This isn’t the same Mountaineer defense as years’ past, and West Virginia’s already solidified its spot in the NCAA Tournament field. WVU won’t be playing for much, and a poor shooting performance by Erik Stevenson will only lend to more trouble. (He shoots 1/11 tonight…)
This hungry Texas Tech team - led by a 21-point game from Kevin Obanor and a 19-point performance from De’Vion Harmon - takes the early lead and doesn’t look back.
Texas Tech beats West Virginia 81-64
#10 Oklahoma vs. #7 Oklahoma State (3/8, 8:00 p.m. CST)
According to Joe Lunardi and ESPN’s Bracketology, Oklahoma State is currently the “First Team Out” of the NCAA Tournament field. I personally think that’s lunacy (OSU should be in), but it’ll motivate the Cowboys deep into this tournament.
Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma both times these teams matched up in the regular season, handily too, winning both games by a combined 26 points, and I don’t see much changing here. The Sooners just don’t match up well against the Cowboys this year.
OSU’s star Avery Anderson III will be back on the court fighting away a nagging injury, but his presence will only prove valuable to the Cowboys. His 16 points, 5 assists, and 4 points tonight in a complete performance will push Oklahoma State over the edge. OSU’s Caleb Asberry adds 14, and despite solid efforts from OU’s Milos Uzan (17 points) and Jalen Hill (16), the Cowboys deal with the Sooners easily once again.
OU’s “stars” - Grant Sherfield and Tanner Groves - combine for only 18 points and leave the Sooners high-and-dry. Oklahoma ends its season with a loss to its in-state rivals.
And -another unremarkable, uncontested game ends the first day of Big 12 Tournament action with a little something to be desired… but wait, it’s only giving you some time to butter your popcorn.
Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma 80-70
#5 Iowa State vs. #4 Baylor
Now here’s where it starts to heat up…
Iowa State-Baylor will be one the best games of the tournament. Besides my predicted championship game, this may be the one tournament matchup I’m most excited to watch.
The Cyclones won both games over the Bears this season by a combined 30 points - but unless you’re the worst team in the conference (sorry Oklahoma) - it’s almost impossible to beat the same team three times in one season.
In this one - the Cyclones take an early 17-4 lead, but Baylor storms back on a 22-8 run and takes the lead at 26-25. A couple more LJ Cryer (18 points) and Adam Flagler (15 points) buckets push Baylor to a 33-29 halftime lead.
Then - a short Cyclone run, and a back-and-forth second half, gives Iowa State the 63-60 lead with 1:30 to play, but a Flo Thamba dunk and a late Adam Flagler three-pointer give the Bears the momentum needed to close it out.
A Jalen Bridges steal, and a Keyonte George (10 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds) mid-range pullup, ices it for Baylor.
Iowa State’s shooters don’t get hot down the stretch - Jaren Holmes (16 points) and Gabe Kalschuer (10) can’t find that clutch gene - and the Cyclones don’t play again until the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Not a bad consolation.
Baylor beats Iowa State 67-66
#9 Texas Tech vs. #1 Kansas
I think Texas Tech keeps this one closer than some may expect. Remember, this Texas Tech team is as motivated as any squad in the country. An NCAA Tournament berth is on the line. The Red Raiders will want to earn it.
Unfortunately, it’ll have to face the NCAA Tournament’s potential #1 overall seed in Kansas. Not the best of scenarios.
Like I said though - the motivated Red Raiders keep the game close throughout - and the Jayhawks take only a one-point lead into halftime as Tech’s Kevin Obanor carries in the first half (14 first-half points, finishes with 19).
But, a couple Red Raiders turnovers down the stretch, specifically from DaJuan Harris Jr. forcing De’Vion Harmon to make mistakes, plague Tech. A few Jalen Wilson free throws close it out for the Jayhawks.
He isn’t missing those. A spectacular shooting performance from Gradey Dick (20 points), and Wilson showing out all-around (10, 4, and 16 rebounds (Aimaq isn’t stopping him)), deliver Kansas from an early upset.
Kansas beats Texas Tech 68-64
#7 Oklahoma State vs. #2 Texas
UPSET ALERT!! UPSET ALERT!!
Yes - Oklahoma State earns itself a trip to the NCAA Tournament with a win over Texas in the Big 12 Tournament’s Quarterfinals.
Texas beat Oklahoma State twice this season - and, again, it’s tough to beat the same team ‘thrice’ in one season, especially when the team is as hungry as Oklahoma State.
Avery Anderson III has been M.I.A. the past couple weeks. He’ll want to show everyone he’s still one of the Big 12’s premier point guards, and he does so here, dropping 20 points on Marcus Carr’s (18 points) head, adding 5 assists and 2 rebounds. He’ll look dominant in the middle of Thursday’s spotlight.
Thus it’s only fitting that the game’s tied at 67 with :10 seconds to play, as Anderson III drives into the paint, scoring an acrobatic layup before the buzzer sounds.
While the Longhorns rush it down the court to get a final shot off, Timmy Allen’s (18 points, 6 rebounds) forced three-pointer doesn’t land. Texas is knocked out of 2023’s Big 12 Tournament after one game, killing its chance at a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Oklahoma State beats Texas 69-67
The news released earlier today surrounding Eddie Lampkin, and that he won’t be traveling to Kansas City with the rest of the team scares me a bit, but doesn’t deter me from predicting a Quarterfinal win over Kansas State.
Lampkin’s absence, and the sour taste left in the Frogs’ mouths from Saturday’s beatdown in Norman, will cause TCU to start slow, and the Frogs only score 25 in the first half, taking a 10-point deficit into halftime.
But - we’ve seen a second-half comeback from the Frogs before. Many a time. A 16-4 run to open the second half (and a quick 6-point run from Mike Miles Jr. himself) gives TCU the lead and it never looks back. I see a full, all-around team performance from the Frogs in this Quarterfinal matchup; four players score in double figures (Miles Jr., Emanuel Miller, Damion Baugh, and Shahada Wells), while Kansas State is forced to rely only on Markquis Nowell (18, 10, and 4), and Keyontae Johnson (14 points), who can’t do it all themselves.
This game - funny enough - is the most “lopsided” of the Quarterfinal round.
TCU beats Kansas State 69-63
#4 Baylor vs. #1 Kansas
After Baylor and Kansas’ close wins over Iowa State and Texas Tech in the Quarterfinals, the two most recent NCAA champions to come out of the Big 12 face each other in the Semis.
Keyonte George, who gets the benefit of avoiding DaJuan Harris Jr.’s perimeter defense all game, jumps out to 10-early-points and Baylor takes an 8-point lead into halftime.
With Harris and McCullars continuously draped over LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler (who still finishes with 14), George continues to show up and show out, ending the game with a 20-piece McNugget.
Jalen Wilson’s valiant effort (24 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds) isn’t enough, as Gradey Dick and Harris Jr. don’t show up offensively, and a 13-2 Jayhawk run in the final minutes makes the end score look as if this game was closer.
In reality, after a back-and-forth first half, Baylor and George take control and find their way into the Big 12 Championship.
Baylor beats Kansas 73-70
#7 Oklahoma State vs. #6 TCU
As TCU beats Kansas State in the Quarterfinals, and Oklahoma State upsets #2-seeded Texas, the Frogs catch themselves a bit of “luck”, if playing a motivated Oklahoma State team is what you’d call it.
Like in the Quarterfinal against Kansas State, TCU again finds itself down early, as it looks like some tired legs carried over from Thursday. Oklahoma State, still riding off momentum, has its best shooting half of the season against a tired TCU defense, and takes a 48-36 lead into halftime. Avery Anderson III doesn’t cool down.
But - the cardiac Frogs slowly claw their way back with an incredible team effort in the second half (Damion Baugh’s 4 second-half steals helped), and TCU cuts it to one with :30 seconds left to play.
After JaKobe Coles is forced to foul Moussa Cisse on the other end, Cisse gets sent to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1 opportunity and MISSES the first!
This gives Mike Miles Jr. (who struggled all game) the opportunity to play hero… and he does.
A pull-up midrange jumper over the arms of Anderson III, and off an Emanuel Miller slip screen, takes the Frogs to the program’s first Big 12 Championship in team history.
TCU beats Oklahoma State 78-77
2023 Big 12 Championship
#6 TCU vs. #4 Baylor
The “Big Daddy” of the Big 12. The Championship game.
If my crystal ball is at all correct, this match-up isn’t one most Big 12 fans would scoff at. One of the Big 12’s fiercest rivalries meeting each other in the championship game? Sign me up.
TCU has a chance to win its first Big 12 Championship ever?! Write my name down again. And can I bring a plus-one?
If you could notice the pattern by now, which has truly been the pattern season-long, the Frogs will go into halftime without the lead. For whatever the reason, it takes this team a while to heat up, and on the conference’s biggest stage it won’t be any different. Baylor takes a 37-29 lead into the second half.
BUT - THIS TEAM WILL NEVER STOP FIGHTING. WE’VE SEEN IT TIME AFTER TIME.
Down 69-63 with :30 seconds to play after Keyonte George (another 20-point performance) hits a three-pointer that Fran Frischilla calls the “dagger”, a quick Shahada Wells three-pointer (off a Mike Miles Jr. assist), gives hope.
After Keyonte George is fouled immediately after Wells’ bucket, and shanks the back end of a 1-and-1, the Frogs’ bench, and fans across the country, are off their seats. The TCU cheering section at T-Mobile Arena only grows louder when Miles Jr. drives into the lane for a wide-open layup. Baylor now only has a two-point lead. :13 seconds left.
After the Bears get the ball back to George (Frogs couldn’t force the steal), and he’s back on the line, TCU is praying for one missed free-throw…
But the freshman delivers. Baylor takes a four-point lead with seconds to play and clinches the Big 12 Championship.
A “garbage time” Damion Baugh layup covers the +3.5 spread, but it doesn’t soften the blow for Frog fans, who are still craving for that Big 12 title.
Baylor beats TCU 72-70
MVP: Keyonte George
(Two back-to-back 20-point performances against Kansas and TCU would win him the Tournament MVP with flying colors.)