The Big 12 men are set to play in the Big 12-SEC Challenge this weekend and here are five things to watch as the league’s 10 teams hit the floor on Saturday.
Schedule (all times central)
No. 19 LSU at TCU, 11 a.m., ESPN2
Oklahoma at No. 1 Auburn, 1 p.m., ESPN
Missouri at No. 23 Iowa State, 1 p.m., ESPNU
West Virginia at Arkansas, 1 p.m., ESPN2
No. 4 Baylor at Alabama, 3 p.m., ESPN
Kansas State at Ole Miss, 3 p.m., ESPNU
Oklahoma State at Florida, 3 p.m., ESPN2
No. 12 Kentucky at No. 5 Kansas, 5 p.m., ESPN
No. 18 Tennessee at Texas, 7 p.m., ESPN
Welcome Back, Rick Barnes
Rick Barnes has coached Tennessee in the Big 12-SEC Challenge before, but never against his former team. In fact, when Barnes and the No. 18 Volunteers darken the door of the Erwin Center on Saturday evening, it will be the first time Barnes has coached against his former team.
Barnes legitimized Texas basketball. He won 402 games, most in school history. He took the Longhorns to the NCAA Tournament 16 out of 17 seasons, reaching the Final Four in 2003. Since he landed in Knoxville, he’s rebuilt Tennessee basketball into a Top 25 power.
He knows it’s going to be an emotional night and he talked about it earlier this week
Fixing West Virginia
The West Virginia Mountaineers are in a tough spot. They’ve lost four straight and head coach Bob Huggins called out himself for not having his team prepared. He also noted that his team isn’t running any “offense,” as in offensive sets, and hasn’t all season. He’s even took the unusual step of apologizing to the people of West Virginia after the loss to Oklahoma. Huggs has a lot of pride in his program and a lot of pride in his alma mater. He’s hurting right now. So are players like Jalen Bridges.
What does that mean? Better defense, better outside shooting and finding some semblance of offense from the frontcourt. Huggins told reporters on Wednesday that he’s not opposed to changes in playing time or the rotation. We’ll see if that happens against Arkansas.
Before I recorded my part of the Heartland College Sports Radio show with Pete Mundo, he checked out the second-hand ticket prices for Saturday’s Kentucky-Kansas game. Upwards of $500. Well, I think it will be a great game and the atmosphere will be tremendous. It could end up being the best game of the day at one of college basketball’s iconic venues. Both Pete and I have been to Allen Fieldhouse this season. We talked a bit about our experiences on the radio show — I went to the Stephen F. Austin game in December and he was at the double-overtime Texas Tech win on Monday. I wrote about my experience at ‘The Phog’ earlier this month.
This Was NOT in the Brochure
When Oklahoma drew Auburn in the Big 12-SEC Challenge in the summer, I thought it was a bad matchup for the Sooners because they were turning over so many players. Well, overall, Porter Moser has done a fine job this season getting basically a brand-new team to gel, including Wednesday’s win over West Virginia. Now, I think it’s a bad matchup because they have to play the No. 1 team in the country on the road. I wouldn’t be surprised if Auburn was pushed, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Auburn gets away from the Sooners, either.
The Under-The-Radar Game
Don’t be surprised if the Kansas State-Ole Miss game comes down to the wire. Ole Miss hasn’t won a game since Jan. 8, and they’re hosting a Kansas State team that plays well on the road and is fighting hard for head coach Bruce Weber. The Rebels haven’t really played anyone close the last three weeks and they likely see K-State as an opportunity to get off the losing tip.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.