The Big 12 men are set to play five games this weekend and here are five things to watch as the league’s 10 teams hit the floor on Saturday.
Schedule (all times central)
West Virginia at No. 18 Texas Tech, 11 a.m. ESPN2
Oklahoma State at No. 23 Texas, 1 p.m., ESPN2
No. 5 Baylor at Oklahoma, 2 p.m., Big 12/ESPN+
No. 7 Kansas at Kansas State, 3 p.m., Big 12/ESPN+
TCU at No. 15 Iowa State, 3 p.m., ESPN2
Controlling Malik Curry
West Virginia needs a third scorer to go along with Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil. Malik Curry is emerging as that option. Curry, in the last two games, scored 23 points against Kansas and 19 points against Baylor. While he’s only averaging 8.6 points per game this season, but he’s averaging 12.8 points in his last six games. This is the development the Mountaineers sorely need. Can the Red Raiders cool him off defensively? The Red Raiders are sure to focus attention on Sherman and McNeil. How much attention they need to pay to Curry may help determine the winner.
Time for Revenge
Texas lost its first Big 12 game this season at Oklahoma State. The Longhorns get the chance to get a little revenge, but they look vulnerable now after losing two straight to Iowa State and Kansas State, the latter of which came at home. That was Texas’ first loss at home this season. Two things determined their first meeting. Oklahoma State shot 47.1 percent from the arc and made eight 3-pointers. Second, Oklahoma State forced 14 Texas turnovers. For Texas to win on Saturday, they must shoot better from distance and possess the ball better.
Is Baylor Getting Healthy?
The Bears were without guard James Akinjo and forward Jeremy Sochan when they beat West Virginia on Tuesday. Head coach Scott Drew said both were dealing with day-to-day injuries, but he also didn’t tell reporters what those injuries were. Sochan had been in a walking boot previously. Without the pair, LJ Cryer scored 25 points and Matthew Mayer scored 20 points. The Sooners present some unique problems for the Bears, most notably better inside offensive players than West Virginia. The return of Akinjo and Sochan, and how it impacts the outcome, is something to watch.
In talking with our site owner Pete Mundo, it sounds like some folks are stressing about the Sunflower Showdown being on ESPN+ (or Big 12 Now). Well, not every Big 12 can be on the ESPN mother ship, and per the league’s contract with ESPN, a set number of games have to be on Big 12 Now for each team. I have a subscription because I watch nearly every game. But I get why others might not want to dole out the money. But this could be an interesting game. I don’t think Kansas State will win. But, the Wildcats have won two straight, they’re full strength and, as our Joe Mathieu wrote, they might be turning the corner overall. As for Kansas, watch Remy Martin. He didn’t play much in the second half against Oklahoma on Tuesday and Bill Self made it clear after that game that he played the best players that would help them win the game. Eventually, that equation needs to include Martin, who is still working back from an injury.
TCU and Iowa State In Need of a Win
Both TCU and Iowa State need a win on Saturday. The Horned Frogs are coming off a game that, to be honest, they blew. The Horned Frogs had a six-point lead over Oklahoma State in the waning seconds and the Cowboys rallied to win. Head coach Jamie Dixon said after the game it was “unacceptable.” As for Iowa State, they’re coming off a humbling loss to Texas Tech in which the Red Raider defense just shut Iowa State down Both will need help from third and fourth options on offense — Chuck O’Bannon Jr. and Damion Baugh for TCU and Tyrese Hunter and Caleb Grill for Iowa State.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.