Texas College Hoops Roundup: No. 9 Texas, No. 24 Texas A&M each hope to compete for conference titles in regular season’s final week

Feb 18, 2023; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Sir’Jabari Rice (10) reacts to a play during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Moody Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Texas College Hoops Roundup: No. 9 Texas, No. 24 Texas A&M each hope to compete for conference titles in regular season’s final week

Each week, Gallery Sports will take a quick look at the week that was and the week that is 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. 7 BAYLOR BEARS (21-8, 10-6 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 75-65 at No. 14 Kansas State; Won, 81-72 vs. No. 8 Texas

Baylor battled its way to a 1-1 week against a pair of top 15 teams, falling on the road in Manhattan before picking up an impressive home win over the eighth-ranked Texas Longhorns. Baylor traded leads with No. 14 Kansas State Tuesday night, but never led after the Wildcats broke a 43-43 tie with 14:34 to play. Baylor was outscored 32-22 down the stretch, and was unable to pick up a road win despite holding K-State to just 19% from beyond the 3-point arc. Freshman guard Keyonte George led the way with 23 points for the Bears. Saturday saw Baylor show its character, battling back from an early 18-4 deficit to pull away from Texas comfortably in the second half. The win was impressive, especially given the loss of Keyonte George less than nine minutes into the game before the star freshman could even score a point. George is considered day-to-day, although the program has already announced that he will miss Monday night’s game at Oklahoma State. 

The week to come: Monday, Feb. 27 at Oklahoma State; Saturday, March 4 vs. Iowa State

No. 7 Baylor enters the final week of regular season Big 12 play 10-6 in conference, and would need a miracle to win a share of the conference’s regular season title at this point. Still, the Bears have plenty to play for – including NCAA Tournament and Big 12 Tournament seeding – heading into these final two games on the schedule. The Bears get little time to rest before traveling to Oklahoma State Monday night, where they will look to complete a season sweep of Mike Boynton’s Cowboys. Baylor handled Oklahoma State with ease back on Jan. 14 in Waco, winning 74-58 as four different starters scored in double figures and the Bears out-rebounded the Cowboys 41-30. Like many Big 12 foes, Oklahoma State is a much tougher opponent on its home floor. A win over Baylor would surely lock the Cowboys into the NCAA Tournament field, so there’s no doubt they’ll be hungry for revenge against the Keyonte George-less Bears. 

Baylor returns home for the final game of the 2022-2023 regular season Saturday, when they’ll take on Iowa State. The Cyclones, who began the season 13-2, have seen their Big 12 season unravel in recent weeks. Iowa State has lost three straight and seven of their last nine, and has not won a game on the road in the Big 12 since Jan. 7. Regardless, Baylor ought to know not to overlook T.J. Otzelberger’s Cyclones after a humbling 15-point loss on Dec. 31 that opened conference play on a sour note for the Bears in Ames. 

No. 22 TCU HORNED FROGS (19-10, 8-8 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 63-58 vs. No. 3 Kansas; Won, 83-82 at Texas Tech

The Horned Frogs trudged through another bruising week in the Big 12, falling just short of upsetting the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks at home before narrowly surviving on the road in Lubbock. TCU’s loss to Kansas saw them shoot an abysmal 30.3% from the field overall, led by Mike Miles Jr.’s poor shooting performance (4-for-14). The Horned Frogs were also out-rebounded by the Jayhawks, who pulled down a ridiculous 48 boards to hold on to a narrow lead in the game’s final moments. It felt as if the Frogs had countless opportunities to make big shots for the lead in the game’s last moments, but never did get over the hump. Saturday’s win in Lubbock was no less nerve wracking, but in many ways followed an opposite script. TCU led almost the entire afternoon over the upstart Red Raiders, forging ahead by as many as 12 with just 7:42 to go before a ferocious late rally by Texas Tech. The Red Raiders led 82-81 with just 13 seconds remaining, but two free throws by JaKobe Coles at the four-second mark clinched a road win that brought TCU back to .500 in Big 12 play. 

The week to come: Wednesday, March 1 vs. No. 9 Texas; Saturday, March 4 at Oklahoma

With two games remaining on the Horned Frogs’ regular season Big 12 schedule, TCU hopes to finish with a winning record in conference play for the first time since joining the league. To do so, the Horned Frogs would need to topple both No. 9 Texas and Oklahoma. TCU will look to avoid a season sweep on Wednesday night versus the Longhorns, a team it narrowly lost to in Austin back on Jan. 11. The Horned Frogs led almost the entire game that day, but succumbed to a late Texas rally after committing 14 turnovers. Jamie Dixon’s team will look to be sharper with the ball Wednesday night and feed off of a raucous senior night crowd at Schollmaier Arena. 

TCU then travels to Norman for their regular season finale against the Oklahoma Sooners, a mercurial opponent that has won impressively and lost embarrassingly at times this season. The Sooners have impressive, double-digit wins over Alabama, Kansas State and at Iowa State on their resume, but have been blown out by the likes of West Virginia as well. Still, TCU should expect a solid effort from the Sooners on senior night at the Lloyd Noble Center. 

No. 9 TEXAS LONGHORNS (22-7, 11-5 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 72-54 vs. No. 23 Iowa State; Lost, 81-72 at No. 9 Baylor

The Texas Longhorns had an up-and-down penultimate week of the regular season, blowing out the 23rd-ranked Iowa State Cyclones in Austin before blowing a double-digit lead in Waco. Texas was impressive against Iowa State, leading by as many as 20 in the first half before cruising to a comfortable win. Tyrese Hunter and Sir’Jabari Rice each scored 15 points and drilled three triples, and the Horns tallied assists on 18 of their 27 made field goals. Saturday’s game at No. 9 Baylor looked equally promising in the opening minutes, but Rodney Terry’s team fell apart during a 25-5 first half run by the Bears. Baylor only extended its lead from there, scoring 52 second-half points to lead by as many as 18. The Longhorns managed to bring the score back within single digits in the final moments, and intentionally fouled down to the game’s final possession, but never really threatened to complete the comeback. Dylan Disu led the way for Texas, scoring 24 points while making 10 of 15 field goals. 

The week to come: Wednesday, March 1 at No. 22 TCU; Saturday, March 4 vs. No. 3 Kansas

If No. 9 Texas is to win its final two games and claim at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title, it will have to go through a gauntlet in the final week to do so. First, the Longhorns travel to Fort Worth to take on the upset-minded Horned Frogs. TCU is surely seeking revenge after leading most of the teams’ first matchup in Austin, and are hoping to boost their resume heading into March. With Mike Miles Jr. back healthy, TCU is a formidable opponent, especially on the road and especially on senior night. The Horned Frogs struggle from the 3-point line, so the marching orders are clear for the Longhorns in Fort Worth – pack the paint and force TCU into difficult outside shots. It will not be an easy task against Jamie Dixon’s transition-happy and desperate-for-momentum Horned Frogs. 

Should the Longhorns find a way to win on the road at TCU, they will set up the most important game of the entire Big 12 regular season Saturday in Austin vs. No. 3 Kansas. Texas lost on the road in Lawrence 88-80 back on Feb. 6, a game in which the Horns struggled to battle back after an early 30-16 deficit. Saturday, Texas will try to flip the script and establish momentum of their own on the Moody Center’s first senior night. The biggest factors for Texas if it hopes for a better outcome Saturday are commitments to rebounding and taking care of the basketball. The Longhorns were beaten 38-23 in the rebounding department in the first matchup, and committed 15 costly turnovers. 

No. 24 TEXAS A&M AGGIES (21-8, 13-3 SEC)

The week that was: Won, 68-63 vs. No. 11 Tennessee; Lost, 69-62 at Mississippi State

Texas A&M validated its first ranking of the season with a hard-fought 68-63 win over No. 11 Tennessee Tuesday night in College Station, but stumbled on the road in Starkville on Saturday to severely hamper their chances of winning the SEC regular season title. Wade Taylor IV scored 25 points while making 16 of 17 free throws in Tuesday’s win, while Julius Marble poured in 21 points and nine rebounds for the Aggies. Saturday, Texas A&M saw a nine-point second-half lead slip away while turning the ball over 16 times versus Mississippi State. The Bulldogs shot just 14% on 3-pointers, but finished the game on a 34-18 run behind Tolu Smith’s 17 points and a loud Humphrey Coliseum audience. Now 13-3 in conference play, the Aggies need help this week to have a chance at a share of the SEC title. 

The week to come: Tuesday, Feb. 28 at Ole Miss; Saturday, March 4 vs. No. 2 Alabama

Given the controversy circling No. 2 Alabama’s men’s basketball team and its narrow escapes versus South Carolina and Arkansas last week, No. 24 Texas A&M has plenty of reason for hope that the Crimson Tide might falter versus Auburn on Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa. If Alabama loses, the Crimson Tide’s trip to College Station on Saturday would potentially become an opportunity for the Aggies to earn a share of the SEC regular season title. In order to make that possibility a reality, Texas A&M will first need to bounce back with a win as their road trip to Mississippi continues on Tuesday night at Ole Miss. The Rebels have had an awful season, winning just three SEC games so far. Ole Miss has yet to defeat a conference foe ranked in KenPom’s top-100, and is just 6-18 overall since beating Siena all the way back on Nov. 25. 

If the Aggies can handle their business in Oxford, Saturday’s home game against No. 2 Alabama ought to be an ear-splitting atmosphere at Reed Arena. The Crimson Tide notoriously make teams uncomfortable with suffocating defense and a blistering pace of play, ranking second nationally in KenPom’s effective field goal percentage allowed metric while averaging just 15 seconds per offensive possession. Alabama is the only team to score more than 100 points on three different occasions in SEC play. If the Aggies can pull off the upset and potentially secure a share of the conference title, they’ll need to take much better care of the basketball than they did in last week’s games (29 combined turnovers).

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (16-13, 5-11 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 74-63 at Oklahoma; Lost, 83-82 vs. No. 24 TCU

Texas Tech picked up its second straight road win at Oklahoma last Tuesday before seeing its momentum halted in a heartbreaker at home versus 24th-ranked TCU. The Red Raiders pulled away late to defeat the Sooners, dominating Oklahoma on the glass (38-22) and making a ridiculous 61.7% of their shots (including 58% on 3-pointers). Texas Tech then led TCU at home with just 13 seconds left, but two free throws in the final moments were enough to snap the Red Raiders’ four-game winning streak. After trailing by as many as 12 with less than eight minutes to play, Mark Adams’ team continued to show its makeup with a late comeback – but with just two games left before the Big 12 Tournament, Texas Tech has plenty to do to prove it belongs in the NCAA Tournament. 

The week to come: Tuesday, Feb. 28 at No. 3 Kansas; Saturday, March 4 vs. Oklahoma State

If the Red Raiders are seeking a resume-boosting win – and they certainly are – Tuesday night in Lawrence is as much a daunting task as it is a golden opportunity. Texas Tech travels to No. 3 Kansas, where it will hope that the defending national champion Jayhawks are looking a little too forward to Saturday’s showdown with No. 9 Texas. Mark Adams’ team knows it can compete with the mighty Jayhawks – after all, Tech had plenty of opportunities to win back on Jan. 3 in Lubbock. Kevin Obanor led the Red Raiders with 26 points that night, but Tech was undone by 15 turnovers. 

Texas Tech will finish its Big 12 regular season schedule on Saturday when it hosts Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, like Texas Tech, are in desperate need of wins as they look to convince the NCAA Tournament committee that they deserve a bid. Oklahoma State narrowly defeated the Red Raiders in Stillwater on Feb. 8, but enters this week on a four-game losing skid. If Texas Tech wants to keep its hopes alive for an at-large bid, winning Saturday’s game is a non-negotiable.

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