Breaking down the Big 12 men’s basketball tourney

Ryan Aber | The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY (TNS) — The Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament begins Wednesday at Kansas City’s Sprint Center with a pair of games with big NCAA Tournament implications. Here’s a look at each team’s first game at the tournament:

^

Wednesday

No. 8 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma, 6 p.m.

Records: Oklahoma State 18-13, 8-10 Big 12; Oklahoma 18-12, 8-10.

Season series: Oklahoma won 109-89 in Norman on Jan. 3. Oklahoma State won 83-81 in overtime on Jan. 20 in Stillwater.

Tournament implications: The Cowboys kept their hopes of earning an at-large berth alive with Saturday’s win over Kansas. A win over Oklahoma would only strengthen its case at getting into the NCAA Tournament. Despite its late-season struggles, Oklahoma figures to be in the field thanks to a strong resume of early season wins. But the Sooners would be advised to win a game in Kansas City, if nothing else to avoid the possibility of a First Four game.

Players to watch: Oklahoma’s Trae Young is leading the nation in both scoring (27.5 points per game) and assists (8.9), attempting to become the first player to lead the nation in both categories. Young averaged 37.5 points per game against the Cowboys. For Oklahoma State, Tavarius Shine went 13 of 25 from the field in two Bedlam games this season, but he hasn’t scored more than eight points in a game since scoring 16 in the overtime win over the Sooners on Jan. 20.

No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Iowa State, 8 p.m.

Records: Texas 18-13, 8-10; Iowa State 13-17, 4-14.

Season series: Texas swept the series, winning 74-70 in Ames and 73-57 in Austin.

Tournament implications: The Longhorns likely played their way into the field with Saturday’s win over West Virginia, which was down without Mohamed Bamba or Eric Davis Jr. Iowa State is the only team in the field that has no hope of making the tournament as an at-large. A loss would end the Cyclones season short of the tournament for the first time since 2011.

Players to watch: If Bamba is healthy and able to go — he’s missed the last two games with a sprained toe — then he’s a game-changing player. Bamba is averaging 13.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 blocks. Iowa State freshman Lindell Wigginton is one of the best scorers in the Big 12 but had a season-low four points against the Longhorns in Ames on Jan. 1.

^

Thursday

No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 5 TCU, 11:30 a.m.

Records: Kansas State 21-10, 10-8; TCU 21-10, 9-9

Season series: The teams split, with TCU winning the last game 66-59 on Tuesday in Fort Worth.

Tournament implications: TCU hasn’t made it to the tournament since 1998 but will break that streak this season. The Horned Frogs are likely in the 5-7 range when it comes to seeding but could boost their resume with a win. Kansas State, especially after Saturday’s win over Baylor, is likely in but could drop to a First Four game.

Players to watch: Vladimir Brodziansky has been a model of consistency for the Horned Frogs this season, averaging more than 15 points per game. Kansas State’s Barry Brown has averaged better than 20 points per game vs. TCU this season.

No. 1 Kansas vs. Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, 1:30 p.m.

Record: Kansas 24-7, 13-5.

Season series: Kansas was swept by Oklahoma State, including Saturday’s 63-51 win by the Cowboys in Stillwater. It was the first time a Bill Self-led Jayhawks team had been swept in the regular season. Oklahoma and Kansas split their two meetings this season.

Tournament implications: Kansas’ chances for a No. 1 seed took a hit with Saturday’s loss but if it gets bounced in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, that possibility would be completely by the wayside. If Oklahoma State makes it to this game, another win over the Jayhawks could make it difficult to exclude the Cowboys from the big dance. An Oklahoma win over the Jayhawks could push the Sooners into the 6-7 range.

Players to watch: Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham has made a push for Big 12 Player of the Year honors and possibly even national awards with his strong close to the season.

No. 2 Texas Tech vs. Texas/Iowa State, 6 p.m.

Record: Texas Tech 23-8, 11-7

Season series: Texas Tech split with either of the teams it may face, winning in Lubbock and losing in Ames and Austin.

Tournament implications: ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Red Raiders as a No. 4 seed before Saturday’s win. They could move themselves back in position to open the NCAA tournament in Dallas with a strong Big Tournament. Texas could play itself out of a potential First Four game with its performance in Kansas City.

Players to watch: After missing the midweek game against West Virginia, Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans returned Saturday with 23 points against TCU, his best game since a Feb. 13 win over Oklahoma.

No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 6 Baylor, 8 p.m.

Records: West Virginia 22-9, 11-7; Baylor 18-13, 8-10

Season series: West Virginia swept both games, most recently a 71-60 win in Waco on Feb. 20.

Tournament implications: West Virginia is in the neighborhood of a 4-6 seed after Saturday’s overtime loss to Texas. The Mountaineers could get on the high side of that with a strong performance. For Baylor, the stakes are higher. The Bears are in danger of having to play in the First Four or missing the tournament entirely after Saturday’s loss at Kansas State.

Players to watch: The big-man matchup between these teams figures to be intriguing with West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate and Baylor’s Jo Lual-Acuil both serving as rim protectors.