Texas College Hoops Roundup: No. 6 Texas hopes to maintain top spot in Big 12 while No. 9 Baylor, others lurk closely behind

Jan 23, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears guard Adam Flagler (10) and guard LJ Cryer (4) celebrate after a play against the Kansas Jayhawks during the first half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Texas College Hoops Roundup: No. 6 Texas hopes to maintain top spot in Big 12 while No. 9 Baylor, others lurk closely behind

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 (19-6, 8-4 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 82-72 vs. Oklahoma; Won, 72-68 at No. 17 TCU

After Baylor saw its six-game winning streak halted last week versus Texas, the Bears have won three straight as they continue to steadily climb the Big 12 standings. Now 8-4, Baylor sits just one game behind Texas atop the conference with three weeks of action left. The Bears led almost wire-to-wire over Oklahoma on Wednesday night, holding off several rallies to eventually pull away for a 10-point win in the game’s final moments. Keyonte George had a huge first half, while Adam Flagler scored at will in the second half, and the two guards combined for 43 points in the win. Baylor then traveled north to Fort Worth for a huge road win, toppling No. 17 TCU 72-68 after a late surge. The Bears trailed by eight points with just eight minutes left but finished the afternoon on a blistering 24-12 run to put the Horned Frogs away in the final moments. Adam Flagler had a huge day for Baylor, finishing with 28 points on just 16 field goal attempts.

The week to come: Monday, Feb. 13 vs. West Virginia; Saturday, Feb. 18 at No. 5 Kansas

Baylor’s next challenge comes from the battered West Virginia Mountaineers, who come to Waco Monday night following a blowout loss Saturday afternoon in Austin. Bob Huggins’ team is well-respected by advanced metrics like KenPom and ShotQuality, and has impressive wins on their resume against the likes of Iowa State, TCU, and Auburn – but in Big 12 play, the Mountaineers are just 4-8 overall. The Mountaineers’ only road win in conference play came against Texas Tech, currently the Big 12’s bottom feeders. At its best, West Virginia is a team known for pressing opponents into turnovers and driving the lane to earn opportunities at the free throw line. Baylor will need to be prepared for a physical game Monday night if they hope to earn a season sweep of the Mountaineers.  

Saturday afternoon sees No. 9 Baylor travel to Lawrence for a battle with No. 5 Kansas, hoping for a season sweep of the defending national champions. Winning on the road at Allen Fieldhouse is always challenging, and the Bears will definitely have their work cut out for them in what looks like the biggest game of the day Saturday across the college basketball landscape. The Bears and Jayhawks both enter the week 8-4 in Big 12 play, each chasing Texas atop the league. Baylor’s 75-69 home win over Kansas back on Jan. 23 was Kansas’ third straight loss at the time, but Bill Self’s team has since righted the ship with four wins in five games. Public enemy No. 1 for the Jayhawks is Jalen Wilson, but as Kansas showed in its win over Texas last week, it has a multitude of ways to beat even a talented opponent. Baylor will need to avoid the early avalanche of momentum in front of what will likely be a capacity crowd in Lawrence, and maintain poise throughout.

No. 22 TCU HORNED FROGS (17-8, 6-6 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 82-61 at No. 12 Kansas State; Lost, 72-68 vs. No. 14 Baylor

Life without leader Mike Miles Jr. on the floor has been a challenge for TCU, but never more obviously than in last week’s two losses against talented conference foes Kansas State and Baylor. TCU trailed by only two in the early moments of Tuesday night’s second half in Manhattan but fell apart down the stretch as the revenge-seeking Wildcats pulled away for a blowout win in front of a packed house at Bramlage Coliseum. Damion Baugh led the Horned Frogs with 16 points, but 19 turnovers were entirely too much to overcome. TCU was much more competitive in Saturday’s loss to No. 14 Baylor but squandered a late lead to fall to just 6-6 in Big 12 play. The Horned Frogs cleaned up the turnovers significantly but didn’t make enough plays in the late portions of Saturday’s loss, while Baylor’s Adam Flagler (28 points) carved up TCU’s defense. Damion Baugh once again led the Frogs with 16, who need to turn things back around in a hurry to climb the Big 12 standings once again.

The week to come: Wednesday, Feb. 15 at No. 19 Iowa State; Saturday, Feb. 18 vs. Oklahoma State

There is some hope that the Horned Frogs will get Mike Miles Jr. back for Wednesday’s game at No. 19 Iowa State after the guard returned to practice last week. No. 22 TCU is in somewhat desperate need of a win, but getting one on the road in Ames is no easy task. Iowa State has lost just one home game all season. Part of what makes the Cyclones a difficult opponent in their building is how effectively they create momentum-building plays – Iowa State forces more turnovers than any team in the nation, and the runouts that result are electrifying for what is usually a capacity crowd at Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State already stole a 69-67 win on the road in Fort Worth back on Jan. 7, so they’ll enter Wednesday night’s game with no shortage of confidence. The return of Miles to TCU’s lineup would go a long way in helping the Frogs deal with the Cyclones’ never-ending backcourt pressure, but TCU just might need to find a way without him in what feels like a must-win game.

If any team feels it has a score to settle with TCU, it might be Saturday’s opponent. The Horned Frogs will welcome Oklahoma State to Fort Worth on Saturday, a team they came back from a 19-point deficit to topple just two weeks ago in Stillwater. The Cowboys are quietly the hottest team in the Big 12 Conference outside of Waco or Austin, winning five straight games and seven of eight overall. Oklahoma State, like Iowa State, wins with its defense – TCU will need to be crisp to pull off a sweep of Mike Boynton’s team.

No. 6 TEXAS LONGHORNS (20-5, 9-3 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 88-80 at No. 9 Kansas; Won, 94-60 vs. West Virginia

Texas maintained its position atop the Big 12 last week with a 1-1 record, falling in a tight game on the road in Lawrence before blowing the doors off West Virginia at home. If there is an “acceptable” loss to be taken in the Big 12, a close one on the road in Lawrence fits the bill. Texas never led Monday night at Kansas but also never let the Jayhawks pull away – and the Longhorns more than got their frustration out when West Virginia came to Austin on Saturday. Texas’ 94-60 win was never competitive, a performance that showcased its incredible depth and defensive talent. Sir’Jabari Rice was unstoppable, leading the Longhorns with 24 points off the bench, while a 21-point halftime lead became a 34-point win. What makes this year’s Longhorns so difficult to beat is that so many different players can carry the load on any given night, including non-starters who would easily make the starting lineup for most of the country’s top teams.

The week to come: Monday, Feb. 13 at Texas Tech; Saturday, Feb. 18 vs. Oklahoma State

No. 6 Texas goes on the road for the fourth time in six games Monday night with a trip out west to Lubbock, where the Texas Tech Red Raiders await them. At 2-10 in Big 12 play, there is no sugarcoating the fact that the conference season has been a massive disappointment for Tech – but if the Red Raiders have shown anything, it’s an ability to sneak up on teams at United Supermarkets Arena. Texas Tech’s two conference wins have both come at home and have both come in the last two weeks, toppling ranked foes Iowa State and Kansas State to help strengthen Texas’ position atop the conference. Monday, Tech will look to spoil the Longhorns’ excellent run of play – and despite their poor record, it is no secret that the Red Raiders have the talent to sneak up and defeat any unsuspecting foe.

Texas then comes home to take on Oklahoma State, a team closer to the middle of the pack in the Big 12 standings that is playing exceptionally well. The Cowboys have won five games in a row and seven of eight and have a score to settle after a 56-46 loss at home to the Horns on Jan. 7. Mike Boynton’s team leans heavily on its defense, but the Longhorns’ experienced backcourt is rarely rattled. Still, a lackluster effort against the Cowboys can have perilous results – just ask Iowa State, who fell as a favorite versus Oklahoma State on Saturday.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (18-7, 10-2 SEC)

The week that was: Won, 83-78 vs. Auburn; Won, 74-62 at LSU

Texas A&M picked up another pair of wins last week in SEC play, improving to 10-2 and holding serve just two games behind No. 1 Alabama. First, the Aggies won a hard-fought game versus Auburn in College Station over the revenge-minded Tigers. Auburn led by as many as 12 in the first half and maintained an advantage deep into the game, but Texas A&M, led by Wade Taylor IV’s 22 points, made all of the plays late for an impressive home win. Julius Marble added 20 as well, as Texas A&M’s 9-4 run to end the game sealed it. The Aggies then traveled to Baton Rouge looking to avoid a slip-up against the struggling Tigers, who entered the game 1-10 in the SEC. The Aggies grabbed control early, blitzing LSU for a 39-12 lead before holding off a late rally from the Tigers. Wade Taylor IV once again led the way, this time with 23 points.

The week to come: Wednesday, Feb. 15 vs. Arkansas; Saturday, Feb. 18 at Missouri

As the Aggies continue to work toward validating their impressive 10-2 conference record with just three weeks to play, they’ll have an opportunity for revenge Wednesday night against Arkansas. The Razorbacks defeated A&M 81-70 on Jan. 31, but the Aggies have not lost since. Arkansas is elite across the board defensively and boasts one of the most talented rosters in the conference when healthy – but the Razorbacks’ inconsistency has kept their record from reflecting what they’re capable of. Salvaging a sweep will be no easy task for Texas A&M, which hasn’t defeated the Razorbacks since Jan. 8, 2022.

Texas A&M will get another stiff challenge Saturday on the road in Columbia, where the Aggies will try to sweep their season series with Missouri. An 18-point victory for A&M over Missouri on Jan. 11 was an impressive showing, but the Missouri Tigers’ only two losses at home this season have come against No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Kansas. Missouri has won five of its last six and could be 20-6 by the time Texas A&M comes to visit Saturday.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (13-12, 2-10 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 71-68 at Oklahoma State; Won, 71-63 vs. No. 12 Kansas State

It may not look like it at 2-10 in Big 12 play, but Texas Tech has started to build a bit of momentum in recent weeks. Wins over ranked foes Iowa State and Kansas State are proof of Texas Tech’s growth, but losses like last Wednesday’s 3-point defeat on the road in Stillwater show an overall improved ability to compete in the nation’s premier basketball conference. The Red Raiders’ 71-68 loss in Stillwater showed plenty of grit, especially considering how well the Cowboys have played of late. Jaylon Tyson led the way with 20 points for Tech. In yet another close game Saturday’ Da’Vion Harmon’s 23 points helped the Red Raiders topple the 12th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats 71-63 while forcing 23 turnovers.

The week to come: Monday, Feb. 13 vs. No. 6 Texas; Saturday, Feb. 18 at West Virginia

The Red Raiders have had a habit lately of spoiling things for ranked Big 12 opponents who travel to Lubbock, and they’ll look to put a dent in the conference’s top dog Monday night. In the frustration and anguish of Texas Tech’s brutal Big 12 season to date, it can be easy to forget that the Red Raiders nearly pulled off the upset in Austin back on Jan. 14, a 72-70 loss. Texas could come into United Supermarkets Arena Monday night feeling good about themselves after a 34-point win Saturday afternoon, and could be surprised by the intensity Mark Adams’ Red Raiders are still playing with down the stretch.

Tech travels to West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers Saturday, a team reeling after being blown out by the aforementioned Longhorns. The Red Raiders fell apart in the final 10 minutes of their first matchup with West Virginia, losing by 15 at home in one of their most disappointing games to date. At this point, the final three weeks of Tech’s conference schedule are about preparing to make one last run at the NCAA Tournament via the Big 12 tournament next month, and winning on the road in Morgantown would go a long way toward showing that the Red Raiders are worthy of competing in the Big 12.

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