Texas College Hoops Roundup: No. 25 Texas A&M out to prove it belongs while No. 8 Texas, No. 9 Baylor prep for showdown in Waco

Feb 15, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies guard Dexter Dennis (0) celebrates the win over Arkansas Razorbacks with fans at Reed Arena. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Texas College Hoops Roundup: No. 25 Texas A&M out to prove it belongs while No. 8 Texas, No. 9 Baylor prep for showdown in Waco

Each week, Gallery Sports will take a quick look at the week that was and the week that’s coming up for several of the premier NCAA men’s basketball programs in Texas. Andy Yanez covers the Houston Cougars for Gallery Sports, while this space is reserved for the Big 12 and SEC programs around the Lone Star State.

No. 9 BAYLOR BEARS (20-7, 9-5 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 79-67 vs. West Virginia; Lost, 87-71 at No. 5 Kansas

Baylor continued the winning ways that have seen it climb to near the top of the Big 12 standings with last Monday’s win over West Virginia but fell apart on the road at Allen Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon. Monday’s win completed a season sweep for Baylor over West Virginia, led by a red-hot shooting performance by L.J. Cryer. Cryer finished the night a ridiculous 8-for-11 on 3-pointers, scoring 26 points to lead four Bears in double figures. Saturday’s game was a tale of two halves on the road at No. 5 Kansas. Baylor dominated the Jayhawks in the first half while shooting the lights out, building their lead to as high as 17 in a hostile environment in Lawrence. The Bears’ second half was an unmitigated disaster, as the Jayhawks won the period 55-26 while building a lead of their own to as high as 18 points. L.J. Cryer, Adam Flagler, and Keyonte George combined for 42 of Baylor’s 45 first half points. Flagler finished with 22 points, while Keyonte George finished with 20.

The week to come: Tuesday, Feb. 21 at No. 14 Kansas State; Saturday, Feb. 25 vs. No. 8 Texas

Now 9-5 in Big 12 play, No. 9 Baylor has two weeks to make a move if they want to finish atop the Big 12 standings. This week presents a golden opportunity for the Bears, who will stay in the Sunflower State ahead of Tuesday night’s showdown at No. 14 Kansas State. Baylor will be out for revenge against the Wildcats, who won 97-95 in an overtime thriller in Waco on Jan. 7. Markquis Nowell’s 32 points and Ismael Massoud’s late 3-pointer, were the difference in that game, which dropped Baylor to 0-3 in Big 12 play at the time. K-state has been sliding of late, losing four of their last six while falling a game behind Baylor in the conference race. Winning on the road in Manhattan will be no easy task for the Bears – Kansas State is 13-1 on their home floor this season, including a win Saturday over No. … Iowa State.

Baylor returns home Saturday for one of the most impactful games of the entire Big 12 schedule at home versus No. 8 Texas. The Longhorns enter the week one game ahead of Baylor atop the conference but have lost two of their last four while needing overtime to topple Oklahoma on Saturday. Baylor dropped a close game on the road in Austin on Jan. 30 but were competitive throughout. Saturday’s battle in Waco ought to be just as tightly contested and will likely come down to guard play between two of the best backcourts in the country.

No. 24 TCU HORNED FROGS (18-9, 7-7 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 70-59 at No. 19 Iowa State; Won, 100-75 vs. Oklahoma State

TCU’s nightmarish stretch without star guard Mike Miles Jr. continued with Tuesday night’s loss on the road in Ames, a game in which the Horned Frogs struggled offensively and were buried under a barrage of 3-pointers by Iowa State’s Aljaz Kunc. The loss dropped TCU to 1-4 without Miles and moved TCU to 6-7 in Big 12 play – their first time under .500 in league play since last season. The Horned Frogs finally did get Mike Miles Jr. back for Saturday’s home game against Oklahoma State, and the positive effect of his presence on the offense was immediately apparent. Emanuel Miller led the Horned Frogs with 18 points, but six different TCU players finished in double figures as the offense looked as smooth as it has all season. Currently projected by ESPN’s Bracketology as a No. 6 seed, the Horned Frogs will look to move up as they exhibit what they’re capable of with their leader back on the floor over these next two weeks.

The week to come: Monday, Feb. 20 vs. No. 3 Kansas; Saturday, Feb. 25 at Texas Tech

Now at full strength, the Horned Frogs will next brace for impact with revenge-minded Kansas Monday night at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth. TCU dominated the defending champions on the road back on Jan. 21, dealing the Jayhawks their only home loss of the season by a whopping 23 points. Kansas, much healthier than the Horned Frogs since that day, has rattled off wins in six of their last seven games and rolls into Monday night on a four-game winning streak, including victories over Texas and Baylor. The Jayhawks are elite on both sides of the ball and have proven capable of winning in tough environments on the road this season. Expect an all-out effort from one of the nation’s most talented teams on Monday night, requiring the Horned Frogs’ best if they’re to come out victorious.

TCU goes from battling the cream of the Big 12 crop in Kansas to last-place Texas Tech Saturday in Lubbock but make no mistake – the Red Raiders are trending upward in a hurry. Tech, once 1-10 in conference play, has now rattled off three straight wins and beaten three top-15 teams in the last three weeks. Sandwiched between huge games at home versus Kansas and Texas, the Horned Frogs cannot afford to overlook the upstart Red Raiders, a team with enough talent that it they started the season in the AP Top 25.

No. 8 TEXAS LONGHORNS (21-6, 10-4 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 74-67 at Texas Tech; Won, 85-83 vs. Oklahoma (OT)

Texas fell into a tie atop the Big 12 standings this week while going 1-1 but came close to going 0-2 against two of the conference’s bottom feeders. It is no secret that Texas Tech is much more talented than their record indicates, and the Longhorns were greeted by a hostile arena Monday night in Lubbock. Still, a loss to Texas Tech is a disappointing result for the Horns, who need every win they can get down the stretch to hold off challengers Kansas and Baylor. Texas flirted with a disastrous week Saturday but ultimately pulled out an 85-83 win in overtime over the hated Oklahoma Sooners. After a halftime stalemate, the Sooners led by as many as seven points in the second half before the Horns stormed back to force overtime. Sir’Jabari Rice, who continues to look like the best non-starter in the nation, led the way with 24 points while making 8 of 13 shots for Texas.

The week to come: Tuesday, Feb. 21 vs. No. 23 Iowa State; Saturday, Feb. 25 at No. 9 Baylor

After taking on two foes from near the bottom of the Big 12 last week, the competition ramps up significantly for the Longhorns this week. First, Texas hosts defensive-minded No. 23 Iowa State Tuesday night at the Moody Center. The Longhorns will seek revenge for Jan. 17’s 78-67 defeat on the road in Ames and are hoping to take advantage of a suddenly reeling Cyclones team. Iowa State has lost five of its last seven and have lost six consecutive road games in conference play dating back to Jan. 7. The Cyclones force turnovers at the second-highest rate in the country per KenPom, endeavoring to frustrate opponents and create easy opportunities for their offense. Texas’ veteran guards will need to play like it to pull out a home win on Tuesday night.

One of the tougher challenges on the entire Big 12 calendar awaits Texas on Saturday, a 90-minute drive up I-35 to take on No. 9 Baylor. Scott Drew’s Bears are just one game behind the Horns atop the Big 12 and would love nothing more than to shake things up with a win at the Ferrell Center. Texas has not won in Waco in more than seven years, and nothing ought to come easy on Saturday, either. The Bears are one of the only teams in the nation capable of matching the Longhorns’ backcourt in terms of talent and experience and boast the second-most efficient offense in the nation per KenPom.

No. 25 TEXAS A&M AGGIES (20-7, 12-2 SEC)

The week that was: Won, 62-56 vs. Arkansas; Won, 69-60 at Missouri

No, the Texas A&M Aggies have not played Tennessee or Alabama yet this season, but how much longer can the national media really ignore the Aggies’ 12-2 mark in SEC play? Texas A&M has now won 14 of its last 16 games overall and rides a five-game winning streak into this week. The Aggies earned their revenge over Arkansas in Wednesday night’s home win, a defensive-minded victory behind 18 points by Wade Taylor IV and Dexter Dennis’ double-double. Texas A&M held the Razorbacks to just 0.86 points per possession, a significant decrease from their average of 1.12. 

The Aggies then traveled to Columbia to complete a season sweep of Missouri, stifling the Tigers with defense to win a game in which the Aggies turned the ball over an alarming 21 times. Wade Taylor IV once again led Texas A&M in scoring, pouring in 21 points while making all 10 of his free throw attempts. Dexter Dennis posted another double-double, scoring 17 points while pulling down 10 rebounds. Now 12-2 in the SEC, all of the Aggies’ conference goals are theirs for the taking, with Tennessee and Alabama still on the schedule.

The week to come: Tuesday, Feb. 21 vs. No. 11 Tennessee; Saturday, Feb. 25 at Mississippi State

A golden opportunity awaits newly-ranked Texas A&M Tuesday night, as No. 11 Tennessee comes to College Station for a showdown with massive implications atop the SEC standings. To say that the Volunteers win with their defense would be an understatement – Tennessee ranks No. 1 in the country in points per possession allowed, effective shooting percentage allowed, and 3-point shooting percentage allowed per KenPom. With five seniors in the rotation, the Volunteers are a veteran team that understands where they excel – and after Saturday’s loss on the road at Kentucky, Tennessee will look to take out its frustration on the Aggies. A win for Texas A&M would certainly grab national attention and move the Aggies to 13-2 in conference play to boot.

Texas A&M will follow up their showdown with Tennessee by traveling to Starkville to take on Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are surging, having won six of their last seven, and could really use a win over the likes of Texas A&M to boost their tournament resume. Like Tennessee, Mississippi State boasts a top-5 defense in the country. Where Chris Jans’ team struggles is in their inability to make shots from deep – the Bulldogs rank 359th nationally in that category, making just 28.2% of their shots from long range.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (15-12, 4-10 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 74-67 vs. No. 6 Texas; Won, 78-72 at West Virginia

Don’t look now, but Texas Tech is surging – and given the strength of the Big 12 this season, a 3-1 finish with a respectable showing in their conference tournament might just be enough to sneak the Red Raiders into the NCAA Tournament field. Last Monday night’s win over No. 6 Texas was an exhibition of what the Red Raiders are capable of, highlighted by De’Vion Harmon’s 25 points and a dominant performance on the glass. Tech then validated that victory with another, winning on the road versus West Virginia to split the season series with a team that previously ran the Red Raiders out of their own gym. Even more so than the emotional home win over Texas, Saturday’s road win exhibited just how far Texas Tech has come – and with two weeks left, the Red Raiders still have some time to show the NCAA Tournament committee that they deserve consideration.

The week to come: Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Oklahoma; Saturday, Feb. 25 vs. No. 24 TCU

Texas Tech faces another opportunity for an impactful road win as they head to Norman to play the Oklahoma Sooners on Tuesday night. Oklahoma, like Tech, has struggled in Big 12 play – and after the Red Raiders’ recent exploits, the Sooners now find themselves looking up at Texas Tech in the standings. Porter Moser’s team has lost eight of its last 10, but the two wins are eye-popping – Oklahoma toppled now-No. 2 Alabama by 24 and No. 12 Kansas State by 14. A win over Texas Tech is likely a must for an Oklahoma team sprinting to the finish line in search of an NCAA Tournament bid, so expect a difficult challenge for the Red Raiders at the Lloyd Noble Center.

The Red Raiders will return home to Lubbock for Saturday’s matchup with No. 24 TCU, a team that is as scary as any in the conference now that it is fully healthy once again. Tech lost its Big 12 opener at TCU back on Dec. 31, turning the ball over 23 times in a sloppy showing that foretold several others to follow it. It’s hard to argue that Tech is the same team now as it was then, but TCU will be plenty motivated to show what they are capable of with Mike Miles Jr. back in the fold. The Horned Frogs do not shoot 3-pointers well but are a hard-nosed defensive team that is potentially starting to surge at the right time. A win over TCU would be a huge boost to the Red Raiders’ tournament profile.

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