Well, after a week void of good basketball it appears that finals week is over at most schools. And with the lead into Winter break, we get a ton of great Big 12 basketball this weekend.
We'll preview three of the games in depth, so I briefly scan those before talking about the other six going on this weekend.
(#7) Baylor Bears at BYU Cougars, 1p
Baylor's (8-0) first test comes in one of the most vibrant college basketball venues in America. BYU (8-2) fans are rabid and come out in droves, and should pack the Marriott Center with the seventh ranked Bears in town. Even though both teams average 77 ppg, BYU will be overmatched by Baylor's size and the Bears should remain undefeated. Read a more in depth preview here.
(#13) Florida Gators vs (#22) Texas A&M Aggies at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, FL, 1:30p
The Aggies (8-1) also get their first real test of the season against a future SEC opponent, the guard heavy and quick scoring Gators (7-2). The key to this one is with who is controlling the tempo. If the game gets into the mid-70s then Gators should come out victorious. If the Aggies can slow the pace down and keep it under, say 74 then they should come out on top. Full preview forthcoming. Read a more in depth preview here.
(#21) Alabama Crimson Tide vs Kansas St. Wildcats in Kansas City, 9p
Alabama (8-2) bounced back from two consecutive losses to beat Detroit in their last game, while shifting from a three guard set to a bigger line-up. They'll need that size to contend with K-State's big bodied Thomas Gipson, Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez. Those contribute to K-States 42.6 rebounds per game, good for 6th nationally. If K-State (6-1) can control the boards, they should be able to hand Bama it's third loss in four games. Full preview forthcoming.
Temple Owls at Texas Longhorns, 1:30p
The Longhorns (8-2) ramp up for their matchup against North Carolina on Wednesday with an intriguing game against Temple (6-2). The Owls and Longhorns both let their guard do most of the scoring. For Texas, their top four leading scorers - J'Covan Brown, Sheldon McClellan, Myck Kabongo and Julien Lewis - are all under 6-4, while Temple's top three scorers - Ramon Moore, Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez - each list at 6-4. So this game should be won or lost on the perimeter. And putting more of an emphasis on perimeter play is an injury to 6-11 Owl big man Micheal Eric, who is sidelined up to six-weeks with an injured right knee. With or without Eric, Temple would need to play the game of their year to win this one in Austin, so we should see an easy Longhorn victory and increased confidence in the Horn frosh before Wednesday's game.
Houston Cougars vs Oklahoma Sooners at All-College Classic in Oklahoma City, 7p
If you've been reading this blog, you know I am bullish on the Sooners (7-1). Maybe it's that I had zero expectations on them coming in, figuring it'd be more of the same, but the job Lon Kruger has done with essentially the same team that Capel had, is really impressing me. My thoughts, and Sooner momentum shouldn't stop with this one. Houston (4-4) is a bad team, even by C-USA standards. They do have a marquee victory over Arkansas (so do the Sooners), but they have losses to such basketball powerhouses as Oakland, TCU and Texas State. With a partisan "neutral" crowd in OKC, the Sooners should win this one going away.
New Mexico Lobos vs Oklahoma St. Cowboys at All-College Classic in Oklahoma City, 9:30p
if you've been reading this blog, you also know that I am skeptical about Oklahoma State (6-3). I feel like they have talent, but haven't quite gelled yet. And maybe that comes with time, especially when you are relying on a freshman to lead the team, as OSU is doing with Le'Bryan Nash (with apologies to Keiton Page). The fact that this "neutral" game isn't played at Madison Square Garden does bode well for Ok State, who have suffered all three of their season losses in the basketball mecca. Jeff Sagrain essentially calls this one a toss up on a neutral court, with Ok State edging out New Mexico (7-2) by a half point. Since the neutral site is about an hour from Stillwater, I'll go ahead and give the Pokes the home court advantage and J-Sags ~4 pt home court advantage and say that Ok State wins by a couple of timely free throws down the stretch.
All times CT