Big 12 First Round Picks: Texas Tech & Kansas State Will Be Tested

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 1:34 PM GMT

Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2016 1:34 PM GMT

Defense should dominate in the Kansas State-Oklahoma State opener, while TCU and Texas Tech may provide fireworks. Check out our NCAA basketball picks and betting analysis here.

The first round of the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City tips off Wednesday night with No. 8 seed Kansas State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State squaring off in the early game (7 p.m. ET) and No. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 10 TCU tussling in the night cap (9:30 p.m. ET). No. 1 Kansas awaits the winner of the Wildcats-Cowboys matchup, while either the Red Raiders or Horned Frogs face No. 2 West Virginia in the Quarterfinals.

 

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Oklahoma State vs. Kansas State
The Wildcats (5-13 SU, 9-9 ATS in B12 play) and the Cowboys' (3-15 SU, 7-10-1 ATS in B12 play) split their two regular-season meetings in two wildly different affairs. Kansas State pulled off a 89-73 win at home in January, in an uncharacteristically high-scoring contest, while Oklahoma State got revenge in Stillwater 58-55 a few weeks later.

Both teams own very strong defenses. Kansas State's 94.3 points allowed per 100 possessions is the 15th most efficient in all of college basketball, and fourth best in the Big 12. It stymied poor offenses all year. The Wildcats earned all five of their conference wins in a span of nine games (6-3 ATS) versus teams shooting below 45 percent from the floor.

Oklahoma State (3-15 SU, 7-10-1 against the NCAA basketball odds in B12 play), meanwhile, allowed only four of 16 Big 12 opponents to surpass their team points total; the most out of any program in conference. Its 42.9 field goal percentage allowed was tied for second best, trailing only Kansas (39.2).

Offense, or lack there of, may be the difference-maker in this one. The Cowboys' scoring touch is anemic headed into the tourney. It is averaging 56.7 points on 37.5 percent shooting in its last 10 games—a stretch in which the team went 1-9 SU and 3-7 ATS to close out the season. In fact, all year the unit consistently performed below oddsmakers' expectations, scoring over its projected team total just four times in conference play. Oklahoma State's 103.7 points per 100 possessions ranked 173rd nationally.

For what it's worth, the Cowboys were 1-12 SU as a dog in conference; the one win coming in a 86-67 shocker over 9-point chalk Kansas.

 

Final Analysis
The Cowboys are one of four active Big 12 schools to own a winning record (23-17) in the tournament, and I expect them to pull this one out against the number an ugly, low-scoring contest. Two of Oklahoma State's three conference wins were earned in four games against foes averaging less than 72.6 points per game, as its smothering defense held each to an average of 57 points per contest. Travis Ford's team will have to be a little better on offense, a tall task for a team putting up 57 points since February 1, but the 5-point spread may be a couple too many. Expect defense to be the victor in this one. 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Oklahoma State +5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

TCU vs. Texas Tech
TCU's (2-16 SU, 7-11 ATS in B12 play) -13.4 average scoring margin in Big 12 play was more than two times lower than the next closest competitor, Oklahoma State (-6.9). The Horned Frogs shot a conference worst 38.4 percent from the floor, posting a paltry 63.7 points a night. Since joining the powerhouse conference in the 2012-13 season, head coach Trent Johnson is 1-3 SU and 3-1 ATS in the championship, losing by an average of 6 points per game.

Following an impressive 19-win season (9-9 SU, 9-9 ATS in B12 play), Texas Tech's Tubby Smith was named the Big 12's Coach of the Year in the All-Conference awards given out on Sunday. Its the most victories for the program since the 2009-10 campaign.

Scoring just 70.8 points per game in conference play, don't let the pedestrian total fool you. Smith's team is highly efficient with the ball, scoring 114.0 points per 100 possessions, ranking 26th in the nation. They're scoring nearly 12 points more per game than last season (72.7 to 60.9), shooting 44.3 percent from the floor. Smith plays an extended seven-man rotation with each player averaging at least 18 minutes and 8 points or more per game. In fact, only four players post double digits per game, and none higher than Toddrick Gotcher's 11.2.

 

Final Analysis
Texas Tech should win, as it beat up on the conference's non-elite offenses all year. Smith's squad was 7-2 SU (5-4 ATS) against those averaging less than 79 points per game, but 2-7 SU (4-5 ATS) equaling the number or higher. But as bettors, we're more interested in the spread. The Red Raiders compiled a 9-3 ATS when up against defenses allowing 67 points or more a night in conference, as opposed to 0-6 ATS versus better. They scored 73.2 per game versus 66.0 under these conditions, beating the spread by an average of 4.1 points. The 8.5 points in this one may be too steep to lay. Since Smith took over in 2013, the Red Raiders are 2-4 ATS against TCU, besting a 8.5 margin just once--in his first meeting. This year, Texas Tech won both matchups by seven and four points, respectively. The value here may be in the total with Smith's team putting up 76 and 83 in the contests. OVER 136 is the NCAA basketball pick.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Over 136
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

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