Previewing the Big 12's tournament representatives and the paths that await them

USA TODAY Sports

A look at our fellow Big 12 members in the NCAA tournament, and the road they face

There will be plenty of attention paid to Kansas' path in the tournament this week here on RCT (rightfully so, this is a KU blog), but what about their Big 12 counterparts? Every Big 12 team in the tournament was awarded a 9 seed or higher, so we have several teams that could potentially make a nice March run.

With that in mind, we'll be looking at each Big 12 team's early tournament matchups, and potential path to the Final Four. Because we have six other teams in the Dance, we'll split this up over two days, covering the two Thursday games and first Friday games today.

5) Oklahoma (23-9, 12-6)

First Game: vs 12) North Dakota State (25-6, 12-2), Thursday at 6:27 CT

Offense Poss/40 PPP FG% 3P% eFG% oReb% TO%
Oklahoma 72.6 1.13 45.1% 37.8% 52.0% 32.3% 15.8%
NDSU 64.2 1.19 50.9% 36.7% 56.0% 32.5% 15.3%
Defense PPP FG% 3P% eFG% dReb% Steal% Block% TO%
Oklahoma 1.05 43.5% 34.0% 49.5% 69.4% 9.4% 5.5% 17.7%
NDSU 1.17 50.2% 37.3% 55.3% 73.2% 10.0% 8.6% 15.2%
KP Off KP Def KP rank Sagarin RPI Line
Oklahoma 13 81 29 26 27 -4.5
NDSU 20 140 55 65 36

Matchup Preview: I didn't know much of anything about NDSU's basketball team until putting this together. After reading up on them, I think this makes for a compelling matchup. Both teams fit the "good offense/shaky defense" mold, but with very different styles of play. North Dakota State plays a much slower game than Oklahoma, and doesn't shoot nearly as many threes (316th nationally in 3P attempts), but manages to score at a frighteningly effective rate. The teams are virtually dead even in turnovers and offensive rebounding, so this should be an interesting contest between two effective but vastly different offenses.

Defensively, though Oklahoma leaves quite a bit to be desired for a tournament team, NDSU is far worse. They allow an incredibly high eFG% against, which has to have Lon Kruger's OU squad salivating. The metrics tend to agree on where Oklahoma belongs, though Sagarin seems to favor them over NDSU by a bit more.

1st game prediction: Oklahoma (-4.5). I'd give NDSU the points all day in this one. Seeing these two hyper-effficient offenses facing each other may create the illusion of an evenly-matched game, but NDSU played horrendous defense even against Summit League competition. They'll score points, but no way can they keep up with Oklahoma well enough to keep this a one- or two-possession game.

The rest of the way: Assuming chalk in the West Region, Oklahoma would move on to face 4 seed San Diego State and, with a win there, top seed Arizona in their next two games. These are both tough matchups for offensive-minded Oklahoma, representing the 7th and 1st ranked defenses in the nation according to KenPom. Outscoring SDSU can be done by a team like Oklahoma who just needs an average game from three point range to put up too many points for the challenged SDSU offense, but Arizona would likely be too much for them to handle. Wisconsin and Creighton are the likeliest candidates to face them if they make it to the regional finals.

7) Texas (23-10, 11-7)

First Game: vs 10) Arizona State (21-11, 10-8)

Offense Poss/40 PPP FG% 3P% eFG% oReb% TO%
Texas 69.7 1.06 43.1% 32.4% 47.4% 39.4% 17.7%
ASU 70.3 1.07 45.0% 38.6% 52.3% 24.2% 16.3%
Defense PPP FG% 3P% eFG% dReb% Steal% Block% TO%
Texas 1.06 42.4% 31.1% 46.7% 70.0% 8.3% 10.3% 18.0%
ASU 1.01 42.5% 37.6% 49.4% 70.1% 7.3% 9.5% 17.3%
KP Off KP Def KP rank Sagarin RPI Line
Texas 78 36 39 38 37 -1.5
ASU 97 27 47 35 44

Matchup Preview: Like Oklahoma, Texas gets a team that mirrors their offensive/defensive outputs to some extent. Both these teams rely on defense over offense to get the job done. Offensively, Arizona State plays at a similar pace to Texas, and shoots the ball better, but it hasn't resulted in improved scoring, due in part to Texas' superior offensive rebounding. Neither team is a turnover machine, and neither forces a lot on defense, relying instead on solid rim protection to keep scores low. Expect a physical, and at times sloppy game in this one.

KenPom slightly prefers Texas to ASU, while Sagarin actually ranks the lower-seeded team higher. Vegas doesn't see a huge advantage one way or another, either

1st game prediction: Arizona State (+1.5). I like ASU to win this one outright. These teams have good defensive bigs who block shots, and the best way to beat them is by shooting. Neither team does this well, but Arizona State does it better. Unless Texas can find their shooting rhythm, they will likely be frustrated by an inability to get points in the paint, From Taylor/Felix driving to the basket, or by Ridley throwing his weight around in the post. Regardless of who wins, this should be a tight, low-scoring game, but I think ASU is slightly better-equipped to play around Texas' strengths than vice versa.

The rest of the way: If Texas does beat ASU, they should face Michigan on Saturday. This is a pretty bad matchup for Texas, as there is little doubt that Michigan can shoot their way past Texas' tough interior defense. In the unlikely event that Texas shows up in the Sweet 16, Duke and UMass are the likeliest candidates to face them, in which Texas would be praying for UMass, because Duke presents the same matchup problem that Michigan does. Texas' tournament life will probably be short.

6) Baylor (24-11, 9-9)

First Game: vs 11) Nebraska (19-12, 11-7)

Offense Poss/40 PPP FG% 3P% eFG% oReb% TO%
Baylor 65.2 1.15 45.6% 39.0% 52.3% 41.6% 18.1%
Nebraska 65.3 1.03 42.7% 33.9% 48.3% 26.1% 16.7%
Defense PPP FG% 3P% eFG% dReb% Steal% Block% TO%
Baylor 1.13 42.9% 37.5% 49.9% 67.5% 8.0% 9.6% 17.3%
Nebraska 0.99 41.8% 32.8% 47.6% 71.1% 10.5% 5.7% 17.6%
KP Off KP Def KP rank Sagarin RPI Line
Baylor 7 114 31 29 30 -3.5
Nebraska 99 30 48 54 49

Matchup Preview: Here we see a distinct contrast in styles. The two teams play at a similar pace, but try to beat you in very different ways. Offensively, Baylor shoots far more threes than Nebraska, and is much better at connecting on those attempts. The result has been a Baylor offense that dwarfs Nebraska's. With Baylor's incredible offensive rebounding, this has the first-glance look of a lopsided affair.

Then you get to the defensive numbers. While Baylor outscores Nebraska by .12 per possession, they give .14 more points each time on the other end. Despite Baylor's rim protection, teams score efficiently and frequently against them, which puts Nebraska back into the discussion in this matchup. The ratings systems think more of Baylor by a decent-sized margin, which is fair, because Nebraska doesn't do anything as well as Baylor scores.

1st game prediction: Baylor (-3.5). Nebraska can have their 3.5 points (they're going to need them). The style of ball that Nebraska plays does not lend itself to them getting blown out, so while my initial reaction to seeing this pairing was that Baylor would destroy them, I've tempered that expectation a bit. Still, Nebraska has very little interior game, and that makes containing Baylor's post duo of Jefferson and Austin an imposing task. The Huskers also don't have a variety of outside shooting threats, which plays into Baylor's hands, since they block quite a few shots near the rim. I still expect Baylor to make Nebraska's offense look better than it is, but not enough to keep the Huskers in this one at the end.

The rest of the way: Assuming a win over Nebraska, Baylor likely faces somewhat of a mirror image in Creighton on Sunday. In a game that could end 100-90, Baylor would be facing a team that leads the nation in threes made and three point %, while also ranking third in threes attempted. Creighton doesn't have anything resembling a post player that should be able to contain Baylor's bigs, but Baylor doesn't have anything that resembles perimeter defense, which plays into Creighton's hands. If seeding holds, Wisconsin and Arizona would stand between Baylor and a Final Four appearance.


Questions? Comments? Email me at PenHawkRCT@gmail.com, and follow me on Twitter @kspen124

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