Hard to believe, but we are at the final game of the regular season in Big 12 men's basketball. This is the first time I can remember that most all of the seeds and the first-round matchups for the Big 12 Tournament were already decided before the final weekend preceding postseason play.
Texas A&M is at Oklahoma. Both teams are tied for eighth place with identical 4-13 records. The winner will claim eighth place outright, but with the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds scheduled to play in the opening-round play-in game to the Big 12 Tournament, the only thing that will be determined by Saturday's game at Oklahoma is who will be the home team and wear their white uniforms in the follow-up game in Kansas City.
Outside of the OU-Texas A&M game, the Baylor-Iowa State matchup at Iowa State may be the most competitive of the weekend. Baylor currently sits in third place, a game up on Iowa State. Baylor won the first game last month in Waco. An Iowa State win on Saturday, however, would move the rejuvenated Cyclones into a tie for third. Because Iowa State was responsible for one of Kansas' two losses (Missouri owns the other), third place would be awarded to the Cyclones. If this scenario plays out, Iowa State would play the six seed instead of the five seed (Texas or Kansas State).
If Kansas State and Iowa State both prevail at home on Saturday, which is what I predict will happen, Iowa State would play Texas in the conference tournament, and Kansas State and Baylor would play in the 4-5 second-round matchup.
Here is how I see this weekend's Big 12 regular-season finales going:
Texas @ Kansas
After a couple of grueling weeks, Kansas clinched its eighth straight conference championship with a win at Oklahoma State on Monday. It would be easy to predict a Jayhawk letdown in this one with not a lot to play for if you're Kansas, but that won't happen. It just isn't in this team's character. Plus, it will be Senior Day at Allen Fieldhouse, so you know that emotions will be running high. Bill Self doesn't necessarily want his team to go into the Big 12 Tournament next week with a loss, although the Jayhawks have historically come out very strong after suffering a defeat. I can't even remember when the last time was that KU lost back-to-back games. Kansas wins its 16th game in the conference and completes a perfect 9-0 season in the league at home. Kansas 78, Texas 69
Missouri @ Texas Tech
The only danger Missouri seemingly faces in this game is playing down to the level of its opponent. Texas Tech is in last place in the Big 12 for a reason: The Red Raiders aren't very good. If these two teams were to play 20 games against each other this season, I don't see Texas Tech winning any of them, regardless of where they were played. This will be a good prep game for the Tigers for the Big 12 postseason tourney, but beyond that it shouldn't be much of a contest. Look for Mizzou to win this one big, and hardly break out much of a sweat in the process. Missouri 80, Texas Tech 63.
Oklahoma State @ Kansas State
The Wildcats have been an enigma all season. They are one of four teams with a winning record (5-4) on the road in conference games, including big wins over Missouri and Baylor, but they have lost as many as they have won in eight home games against Big 12 foes. They will be playing their regular-season finale at home against middle-of-the-pack Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have won only one road game all season in the Big 12, vs. Texas Tech. If that isn't enough going against them, they also are the worst shooting team in the conference and among the worst in rebounding, which places them at a serious disadvantage coming into Bramlage Coliseum to take on K-State. Kansas State 68, Oklahoma State 61
Texas A&M @ Oklahoma
This is about as hard a matchup to predict as any game in the conference this season. Both teams are playing better right now than their records indicate, but both still have plenty of problems or they wouldn't be where they are in the standings (tied for eighth). Saturday is Senior Day at OU, but the Sooners have only three seniors on the roster and only one who plays with any regularity, so this shouldn't have a major impact on the outcome. The Aggies won the first game, played in College Station, by six points in overtime. OU has been getting out to double-digit leads in the opening half against a number of its conference opponents, only to succumb to serious, game-changing point runs in the second half and late in games. A home win Saturday would make for a year-over-year improvement, albeit ever so slight. I see the Sooners breaking through in this one and holding on to the end. Oklahoma 69, Texas A&M 63
Baylor @ Iowa State
Iowa State is having an excellent year, and the Cyclones are 7-1 at home, including a huge win over regular-season league champion Kansas. The two teams are presently third (Baylor) and fourth in the league standings, and an Iowa State win would reverse that order. Both teams are about as evenly matched as you can get in the major statistical categories, which accounts for their close positioning in the standings. I think the X-factor in this game is the home court. Hilton Coliseum is one of the most difficult places to play in the league, and I believe the home court will be the critical difference in this contest. Iowa State wins big in their rematch with the Bears (Baylor won by 15 in Waco). Iowa State 82, Baylor 68
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