This week’s midweek schedule in Big 12 men’s basketball is a little different than most weeks. This week there were two Monday night games and there are another pair of games set for Wednesday, with a single game Tuesday night.
Speaking of Monday night’s games, it’s been a week now since a home team lost in the Big 12. Texas was the last road team to win way from home when the Horns defeated TCU last Tuesday night in Ft. Worth. Since then, seven teams have tried to steal a road win but have failed. All five home teams won on Saturday, and Monday night, both West Virginia and Kansas State held home serve with resume-building victories over No. 11 Iowa State and No. 7 Kansas, respectively.
It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a ranked team or not, when you go on the road in the Big 12, your ranking serves no purpose other than as extra incentive for the home team to turn it up a notch and play out the time-worn adage: “No one comes into our house and beats us.” Not this season, anyway.
Tuesday night’s matchup between struggling Oklahoma State and No. 19 Texas at Texas is the featured game of the Tuesday/Wednesday schedule. A week ago, the Texas-Oklahoma State game would have featured two ranked teams, but Oklahoma State’s current four-game slide has knocked the Cowboys out of the top 25 in the national polls. Just two seeks ago, the Cowboys’ record stood at 16-3 and they occupied the No. 8 position in the AP poll.
If the home teams prevail again Tuesday night, it could spell doom for Baylor’s chances of making an NCAA Tournament appearance this season because it would mean nine conference losses and almost assure Scott Drew’s team of a losing season record in conference play. And a Texas home win over free-falling Oklahoma State would drop the Cowboys to 4-7 in Big 12 action and deal a serious blow to their hopes for a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Two weeks and four games later, Oklahoma State’s record now has dropped to 16-7 overall and an extremely disheartening 4-6 in conference action. And to add insult to injury, Travis Ford’s team is without the services of its best player, Marcus Smart, who is suspended for the next three games because of his inappropriate action at the end of the Cowboys’ game Saturday at Texas Tech.
On the surface, it would be easy to surmise that Texas and Oklahoma, OSU’s next two opponents would be licking their chops over getting to take on the Cowboys without Smart in the lineup. I’m going to take a contrarian view, however, and go on record with a prediction that Smart’s absence right now may just make Oklahoma State a better team.
Before you question whether I have lost my mind or just become delerious from the Arctic cold weather in the Midwest, let my try to enlighten you as to why I have this premonition. The last few games, culminating in the behavior blow-up that resulted in his three-game suspension, OSU’s star player and last year’s Big 12 Player of the Year has been pressing so hard that he actually has done his team more harm than good.
He may have managed to get his points, but it’s the other parts of Smart’s game that have beeen anything but, in my estimation. For instance, in the Cowboys’ recent losses to Baylor and Texas Tech, Smart had only three assists total. This doesn’t speak well of his floor leadership, which is absolutely critical in the Cowboys’ game plan. And his angry on-court behavior in two of his last three games has only served as an unnecessary distration and disruption to the rest of the team.
Without Smart on the floor, other Cowboys are going to have to step up, and I think they will. Watch for Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash to have a big game against Texas. And the timing is just right for a guy like three-point artist Phil Forte, the Big 12′s leading three-point shooter, to catch some lightning and go off for some 20-plus points.
Texas ate some humble pie at Kansas State on Saturday, and I would expect the Longhorns will come out with fire in their eyes as they try to hold on to second place in the topsy-turvy Big 12 standings. I just think this game means more to Oklahoma State, and that’s why I’m going with an upset in Austin. Oklahoma State is only 1-4 in road games in the conference, but I have a feeling that we will see a different Cowboys’ team at Texas, one that realizes it has to play tougher and more together and play better defense to win in this league.
Like Baylor, Oklahoma State has been ranked in the top 10 this season. Because of the four-game losing streak, the Cowboys have now fallen out of the rankings and find themselves on the brink of going over the cliff if they don’t get things together pretty quickly.
My Midweek Big 12 Men’s Basketball Picks
Oklahoma State 75 @ Texas 70 – Texas is playing much better basketball than OSU, but the way things have been going in the Big 12 this season, I believe Oklahoma State will find itself tonight, and without its best player.
Texas Tech 74 @ Oklahoma 83 - Only Kansas has beaten Oklahoma in Norman in Big 12 play. Texas Tech won’t change that. The Red Raiders’ two-game win streak will end in Norman.
Baylor 74 @ TCU 62 – I still believe TCU is going to beat somebody in the very near future, I just don’t see it happening against Baylor, despit how poorly the Bears have been playing.