Friday the 13th is upon us, but there's not much freaky left to happen in the Big 12 Conference after Thursday's action. Top-seeded and defending National Champions Kansas were stunned by Baylor while Oklahoma feel to their rivals from Oklahoma St. That leaves the No. 15 Missouri Tigers as the only ranked team still in the hunt for the conference title when play resumes today at the Ford Center.
Well, that wasn’t what we expected. The Big 12 Tournament has gone to the underdogs – only one of the top four seeds made it out of Thursday’s quarterfinal round. The No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (-8), the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (-5) and the No. 4 Kansas State Wildcats (+3) have all been eliminated, although K-State did at least manage a push in its 61-58 loss to the No. 5 Texas Longhorns.
Kansas and Oklahoma will lick their wounds and prepare for March Madness. The Wildcats will probably have to content themselves with the NIT; meanwhile, there are four teams left in the Big 12 tourney who still have work to do this Friday. The survivors will meet on Saturday in the championship game at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 5 Texas (-3½, 141)
Friday, Mar 13, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
The Bears (19-13 SU, 8-15 ATS, No. 52 Pomeroy) pulled off the stunning 71-64 upset of Kansas on Thursday despite blowing a 17-point lead. This was one day after Baylor’s 65-49 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers (-1) in the first round of the Big 12 tourney. Can they make it three upsets in a row? The early betting odds on this matchup had the Longhorns (22-10 SU, 11-17-1 ATS, No. 26 Pomeroy) favored by 3.5 points with a total of 141.
Texas will also be playing its third game in three days. Wednesday’s first-round matchup was against the No. 12 Colorado Buffaloes, who stuck close enough to the ‘Horns (-14½) to bag the cash in a 67-56 final. Baylor hasn’t beaten Texas in over a decade and is 0-4 ATS during the past two seasons. The Longhorns won 73-57 in Austin two weeks ago as 8-point faves; that final didn’t come close to the posted total of 146½, part of a current 9-0 run for the under in Baylor games. The under is also 4-1 for Texas in its last five.
Both teams have strong offenses that are good at protecting the ball. However, the Longhorns are miles ahead of Baylor in the defensive department, and notably taller with 6-foot-10 forwards Dexter Pittman and Connor Atchley combining for 2.3 blocks per game. Baylor is already a poor offensive rebounding team that leans heavily on the 3-point attempt; the Bears will take heart in knowing that Texas is a very average team out on the perimeter, allowing a 34.2-percent success rate. That’s No. 165 in Division I.
No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 3 Missouri
Friday, Mar 13, 9:30 p.m. (ET)
The Cowboys (22-10 SU, 14-11-1 ATS, No. 31 Pomeroy) are considered near-locks to receive a Tournament invitation after downing Oklahoma 71-70 on Thursday. That’s a far more impressive result than their 81-67 triumph over the No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones (-10½); OSU also has a victory over Texas as part of this timely 9-0 ATS streak.
Oklahoma State isn’t safely off the March Madness bubble, though. A strong performance against Missouri (26-6 SU, 15-10 ATS, No. 12 Pomeroy) will give the Selection Committee the ideal parting impression. The Tigers (+1) pulled off a 97-95 squeaker in Stillwater when these two clubs met on Jan. 21; Mizzou was up by 15 with just over four minutes left before coming within a whisker of collapse. The win pushed the Tigers to 5-2 SU and 6-1 ATS against OSU over the past six years.
The most intriguing battle in this matchup should be between guards Byron Eaton for Oklahoma State and Matt Lawrence for Missouri. The ‘Pokes pry the ball away from their opponents on 26 percent of possessions, but Eaton is an excellent distributor with a great handle who also loves to drive the lane, where he hits 87.5 percent of his free-throws. Lawrence, meanwhile, cans 41.7 percent of his trey attempts and burned OSU for 19 points in just 20 minutes when they last met.
Missouri (-12½) hammered the No. 11 Texas Tech Red Raiders 81-60 in the last of Thursday’s four quarterfinals to wrap up, so early odds weren’t available on this matchup at press time. Missouri will be the better rested of the two teams, being the only one to reach the Big 12 semis after getting a bye on Wednesday.