Texas College Hoops Roundup: Setting the stage for the Big 12, SEC tournaments

Mar 4, 2023; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Sir’Jabari Rice (10) reacts with fans after making a three point basket during the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks at Moody Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Texas College Hoops Roundup: Setting the stage for the Big 12, SEC tournaments

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. 10 BAYLOR BEARS (22-9, 11-7 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 74-68 at Oklahoma State; Lost, 73-58 vs. Iowa State

Baylor went 1-1 last week for a third consecutive time, picking up a solid win on the road in Stillwater before falling flat at home versus Iowa State. Without Keyonte George, Baylor leaned on its defense to defeat the Cowboys and put a potentially fatal puncture in their NCAA Tournament bubble. The Bears built an 11-point halftime lead and held off every rally from Oklahoma State down the stretch. Four Bears – Dale Bonner, Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, and Jalen Bridges – all scored 13 or more points. In its home finale, Baylor followed an impressive road win with a surprisingly poor performance. Iowa State blitzed the Bears from the outset, leading by as many as 14 in the opening 20 minutes and extending its advantage to as many as 20 in the final minutes. It was the second straight game that Baylor was dominated on the glass, as the Cyclones pulled down 36 boards to just 24 for Scott Drew’s team. Adam Flagler scored 20 for the Bears, who committed 14 turnovers in the loss. 

The week to come: Thursday, March 9 vs. Iowa State

With the regular season now in the books, No. 10 Baylor will head to Kansas City for the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship. As the conference tournament’s No. 4 seed, the Bears have earned a bye into the quarterfinals on Thursday. They’ll rematch with Iowa State, a team that twice defeated Baylor by exactly 15 points this season, including last Saturday afternoon in Waco. If Baylor hopes to flip the script against the underdog Cyclones, it will need to rebound the basketball more effectively and avoid another high-turnover game after it committed 33 of them over two matchups. Should the Bears advance out of Thursday’s matinee game, they’ll take on either No. 3 Kansas, West Virginia, or Texas Tech in Friday’s semifinals.

No. 22 TCU HORNED FROGS (20-11, 9-9 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 75-73 vs. No. 9 Texas; Lost, 74-60 at Oklahoma

TCU experienced another week of highs and lows in conference play, toppling No. 9 Texas on senior night in front of a packed Schollmaier Arena before being quickly run out of the building by last-place Oklahoma. TCU’s win over Texas was cathartic after the Horned Frogs blew a 13-point lead in Austin earlier this season. Jamie Dixon’s team led by as many as 16 points before a late Longhorns’ comeback made things interesting, and senior Damion Baugh posted an impressive 24 points, nine assists, and five rebounds. Saturday, the Sooners opened up a 36-14 first half lead and never looked back, bullying the Horned Frogs 40-26 on the glass and never trailing. Tanner Groves scored 23 points and pulled down 10 rebounds on his senior night for Oklahoma, while Mike Miles Jr. and Damion Baugh were the only Frogs in double figures. 

The week to come: Thursday, March 9 vs. No. 12 Kansas State

With a 9-9 regular season record in conference, No. 22 TCU earned the No. 6 seed in this year’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship, meaning they’ll get a bye to advance past the first round before tipping off Thursday. No. 3 seed Kansas State awaits, a team TCU split with this season. Home court advantage played a huge part in the Wildcats-Horned Frogs series this year, as the hosting team won each game by 14 or more points. TCU’s loss in Manhattan did come without Mike Miles Jr., but No. 12 Kansas State finished its season winning four of five and will be a stiff challenge for the Horned Frogs regardless. If TCU advances past the Wildcats, it will take on one of No. 7 Texas, Oklahoma, or Oklahoma State. 

No. 7 TEXAS LONGHORNS (23-8, 12-6 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 75-73 at No. 22 TCU; Won, 75-59 vs. No. 3 Kansas

Texas squandered its opportunity to potentially win the Big 12 regular season title with Wednesday night’s loss at No. 22 TCU, but made a statement anyway by blowing out No. 3 Kansas on Saturday in Austin. The Longhorns’ loss in Fort Worth was never as close as the final score indicated. TCU led by as many as 16, and every Texas rally in the second half seemed to fall short. The Longhorns were especially poor in the rebounding department, where TCU pulled down 46 boards to Texas’ 28. On Saturday, Texas turned senior night into a party at the Moody Center with a decisive win over defending national champion Kansas. The Longhorns led by double digits for the vast majority of the afternoon, stifling the Jayhawks defensively to win despite shooting 28.6% from beyond the arc. Texas only turned the basketball over seven times, an impressive number alongside the Longhorns’ 19 assists. Sir’Jabari Rice scored 23 points on his senior day while Tyrese Hunter contributed 20 of his own. 

The week to come: Thursday, March 9 vs. Oklahoma/Oklahoma State

By virtue of earning the No. 2 seed in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship, the Longhorns’ will not play until Thursday’s quarterfinals against the winner of Wednesday’s Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game. Texas finished the season 4-0 against the Oklahoma schools, but the matchups looked decidedly different. The Longhorns played one high-scoring and one low-scoring game against Oklahoma State, but defeated the Cowboys by double digits on both occasions. Oklahoma, meanwhile, gave Texas all it could handle. Texas’ two wins over the Sooners came by a combined three points, including an 85-83 overtime triumph in Austin on Feb. 18. There are no easy games in the Big 12, especially against schools desperate for a tournament bid, so the Longhorns should expect a tough test from either school. If Texas advances past the quarterfinals, it would take on either No. 12 Kansas State or No. 22 TCU in the semifinals on Friday.

No. 18 TEXAS A&M AGGIES (23-8, 15-3 SEC)

The week that was: Won, 69-61 at Ole Miss; Won, 67-61 vs. No. 2 Alabama

Texa A&M may have fallen just short of an SEC regular season title, but it certainly proved its legitimacy as a high-level contender throughout conference play. The Aggies swept the final week of their regular season, spoiling senior night at Ole Miss before toppling second-ranked Alabama in front of an ear-splitting crowd at Reed Arena. Texas A&M’s win in Oxford overcome a big shooting night from Matthew Murrell of the Rebels (26 points) as well as an early 20-8 deficit and saw the Aggies force 18 Ole Miss turnovers. Tyrece Radford’s 13 points led a balanced night of scoring from Texas A&M, which used a late first-half run to take control of the game for good. The Aggies’ win over Alabama on Saturday felt like a statement, establishing Buzz Williams’ bunch as a real threat come March Madness. Wade Taylor IV scored 28 points, including making all 10 of his free throw attempts for the Aggies. Texas A&M’s defensive pressure forced 18 Alabama turnovers, and the Crimson Tide lost just their second game in SEC play. 

The week to come: Friday, March 10 vs. Auburn/Arkansas

Texas A&M earned a No. 2 seed in the 2023 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, which will be played this week in Nashville, Tenn. As a result, the Aggies will bypass the first two days of the event and play a quarterfinal matchup on Friday evening against either Arkansas or Auburn. Texas A&M won three of its four combined matchups against the Razorbacks and Tigers, falling only on the road to Arkansas on Jan. 31. Texas A&M enters the conference tournament red hot, having won eight of nine games to end the regular season. If the Aggies get past Friday’s matchup, they’ll take on one of Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia, or LSU in the semifinals. 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (16-15, 5-13 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 67-63 at No. 3 Kansas; Lost, 71-68 vs. Oklahoma State

Two weeks ago, it felt as if Texas Tech was building momentum and re-entering the conversation for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Red Raiders’ basketball program is seemingly in pieces after three straight losses and with head coach Mark Adams having been suspended for what the university is calling an “inappropriate, unacceptable, and racially insensitive comment.” Texas Tech finished the Big 12 regular season 5-13 after last week’s close losses to No. 3 Kansas and Oklahoma State, the latter of which leaves Tech almost certainly needing to win the Big 12 Tournament to advance into the NCAA Tournament. The Red Raiders went just 3-for-16 on 3-pointers in Lawrence, leaving fans wondering what could have been in an otherwise tight loss. Texas Tech trailed most of the game against Oklahoma State in its final regular season game, but came back in the final moments to tie it up before the Cowboys finished the Red Raiders off. Texas Tech finished the game without a single player in double figures.  

The week to come: Wednesday, March 8 vs. West Virginia

Given the noise surrounding the Red Raiders’ program, it is hard to know what to expect when they take the court in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship’s first round on Wednesday versus West Virginia. Texas Tech would need to win four games in four days to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, starting with the Mountaineers, a team they split with during the regular season. Both Tech and West Virginia defeated the other on the road, but computer rankings like KenPom suggest the Mountaineers are much better than their No. 8 seed in the Big 12 tournament suggests. If Texas Tech does sneak past West Virginia, a virtual road game with No. 3 Kansas is up next. 

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