The Kansas Jayhawks have already locked up the Big 12 regular season title, but the race for the 2 seed in the Big 12 Tournament rages on. Currently, the Texas Longhorns are tied with the Iowa St. Cyclones at 10-5 in conference play. The Oklahoma Sooners and Kansas St. Wildcats lurk at 9-6. If you're curious how the script has flipped, check out the power rankings prior to conference play.
If Texas and Iowa State finish the regular season undefeated, Texas holds the tiebreaker thanks to its one win against Kansas. Of the teams in contention, the Cyclones have the hardest finish: @ K-State, @ Baylor, vs. OK State. Both the Bears and Cowboys are on bubble watch and will bring the wood. The Wildcats play @ OK State and finish the year vs. Baylor.
Meanwhile, the winner of the Texas-Oklahoma game this Saturday will have the best odds to finish second in the league. If Oklahoma wins, the Sooners will hold the tiebreaker over Texas thanks to a sweep of the Longhorns. If Texas wins, the Horns will be two games up on the Sooners. Oklahoma wraps up vs. WVU, @ TCU, while Texas gets vs. TCU, @ Tech.
Oklahoma has been moderately vulnerable at home, with an overtime loss to Louisiana Tech and loss to a 13-15 Tech team that punches above its record. The Sooners have also beaten the Cowboys, Cyclones, and Bears in Norman.
The Longhorns and Sooners opened conference play with a nailbiter of a game. A Demarcus Croaker 3 to tie didn't fall, handing OU the win. The preview from that game still holds true. Je'Lon Hornbeak actually returned to play against Texas but has scored in double figures just once since then.
A few things I'll be watching:
Isaiah Taylor vs. Jordan Woodard: the two freshmen promise to have a heated rivalry over the next few years. Woodard plays more like a facilitator and has a decent 3-point stroke, while Taylor prefers the lead guard role and does an amazing job getting to the rack. Taylor had a brutal game one, scoring 2 points and turning the ball over 3 times against 3 assists. I'm expecting a much better performance from him.
Perimeter scoring besides Felix: Javan Felix's conference home-away splits have been well-documented in the open threads. So I guess expecting him to score 28 like he did in the first game is foolhardy. Demarcus Croaker played 26 minutes in that game, scoring 15, and followed that up with 26 minutes and 12 points at OK State. Since then, Croaker has been closer to Club Trillion status than anything else. Can he, Martez Walker, or Kendal Yancy provide some bench help?
Power up inside: Oklahoma went 13-28 from distance last game. The Sooners are a good 3-point shooting team, but not that good. If the Sooners regress to the mean from the perimeter, the difference in the game should be Texas' inside presence. In Austin, Cameron Ridley had 14 and 8 and Jonathan Holmes 15 and 4. Nothing has changed: the Longhorns still have a significant height and bulk advantage inside, and need to leverage that differentiator.
The game tips at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. Unfortunately, it's just available on the Big 12 Network or ESPN3.