On paper, No. 9 Oklahoma State should have no trouble on Wednesday night as the highest-ranked team playing at home and facing perhaps the worst team in the Big 12 in Texas Christian. However, could the Cowboys be caught looking ahead to a big showdown at Kansas on Saturday? The Pokes opened as 22.5-point favorites vs. TCU on NCAA basketball odds.
Big 12 Pushover
The only reason TCU moved to the Big 12 was for football. That sport drives the money train and nothing else matters. So far, the football team has struggled against the better competition and so definitely has the men's basketball team.
TCU finished 18-15 in its final season in the Mountain West (7-7 in conference) and played in the postseason CBI Tournament. Last year in their first season in the Big 12, the Frogs didn't sniff postseason play. The finished 11-21 overall and just 2-16 in conference. One of those wins was a home stunner over No. 5 Kansas in one of the big upsets of last season (the other was against Oklahoma). Otherwise TCU was blown out mostly every night.
This year, the Horned Frogs (5-4 ATS, 3-5 over/under at sportsbooks) aren't finding Big 12 play much easier. TCU finished non-conference play a solid 9-3 -- although with no wins over likely NCAA Tournament teams -- but has lost three straight to open conference play. It was a 4.5-point home dog to West Virginia on Jan. 4 and lost 74-69. Three days later, TCU was a 3.5-point home dog on NCAA basketball odds to Kansas State and fell 65-47. And on Saturday in its first game of the year against a ranked foe, TCU was +15 at sportsbooks visiting No. 7 Baylor and was routed 88-62. TCU was outrebounded 54-25 and its bench outscored 52-9.
TCU's best player is junior guard Kyan Anderson, who leads the team in points (15.6 per game on .521 percent shooting) and assists (5.0 per game). He has struggled a bit in the three Big 12 games, averaging 12.0 points and 3.0 turnovers per game. The Frogs struggle to score as a whole, ranking 275th at 68.1 points per game. They are 7-1 this season when scoring 70.
Freshmen like Jabari Parker (Duke), Julius Randle (Kentucky) and Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) get all the publicity, but the college player perhaps most ready for the NBA next season is Oklahoma State sophomore guard Marcus Smart. He probably would have gone No. 2 overall in the 2013 draft to Orlando hadn't he surprisingly returned to Stillwater.
Smart was a beast last week as OSU took an 87-74 home win over Texas and a 73-72 victory at West Virginia on Saturday, a game in which Markel Brown hit the winning 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. Smart had 24 points and 11 boards (along with six steals) against the Horns and 22 points and 13 rebounds against WVU to be named Big 12 Player of the Week for the second time this season.
The only two losses thus far for Oklahoma State (6-6 ATS, 7-5 O/U at sportsbooks) were 74-71 at Kansas State in the Big 12 opener and 73-68 to Memphis in a holiday tournament in Orlando. That was actually OSU's second game against Memphis. On Nov. 19 in Stillwater, the Pokes rolled 101-80 over the Tigers thanks to a career-high 39 from Smart. He struggled in the rematch, going 4-for-13 and 0-for-5 from long range for 12 points. Smart was also off against Kansas State by shooting 6-for-14 from the field (1-for-6 from 3-point range) for 15 points.
OSU swept the Frogs in 2012-13, beating them 63-45 in Stillwater as an 18.5-point favorite on NCAA basketball odds and 64-47 in the most recent meeting in Fort Worth as a 13.5-point favorite at sportsbooks. The Cowboys are 19-2 all-time against TCU, but will these trends prove to be relevant when placing our NCAA Basketball picks tonight?
If TCU can somehow get the lead within the final five minutes, that bodes well considering it has won every game in which it has led at some point in the final five minutes and all six losses have come when the Frogs never had a lead in that stretch. The Frogs are just 1-5 ATS in their past six following a loss of at least 20 points. OSU is 7-19 in its past 26 against teams with a winning record. I do think the Cowboys will have their eyes on Kansas and perhaps pull their starters with a big lead against the Frogs.NCAA basketball free pick: TCU +22.5.