You can’t ask for a better day of quarterfinals action than the Big 12 received Thursday.
Oklahoma State, which may be the most talented No. 8 seed that a conference tournament has ever seen, took the No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks to the limit but eventually lost 77-70 in overtime.
It was an impressive effort by the Cowboys considering the partial crowd that packed the arena in Kansas City. Marcus Smart hinted at such after the game, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
It's always hard to beat Kansas, especially in this building. They have the fanbase to back them up. It's kind of hard. They have the energy and momentum from their fans and it kind of takes the opposing team out of it.
The story of the contest was Andrew Wiggins’ stat line of 30 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block. It is scary how the freshman seems to be just peaking at the end of the season considering how much talent he has, as ESPN’s Jeff Goodman pointed out:
Love watching this Andrew Wiggins. The early season one was somewhat frustrating, but has really matured & gained confidence last few weeks.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 13, 2014
Elsewhere, No. 4 seed Iowa State outlasted No. 5 seed Kansas State 91-85 behind 24 points and 10 rebounds from Melvin Ejim. No. 7 seed Baylor continued its hot streak with a 78-73 win over No. 2 Oklahoma, and No. 3 seed Texas obliterated No. 6 seed West Virginia 66-49.
It all set up a thrilling Day 3 of semifinals action. Here is a look at the schedule:
|Time (ET)||Team One||Team Two||TV||Live Stream|
|6 p.m.||Kansas||Iowa State||Big 12 Network/ESPN U||ESPN3|
|8:30 p.m.||Baylor||Texas||Big 12 Network/ESPN U||ESPN3|
Now that we know what the slate looks like, let’s dig into a couple of Friday predictions.
Andrew Wiggins Carries the Day Yet Again
As previously mentioned, Wiggins is just beginning to hit his stride.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for Kansas, considering superstar center Joel Embiid is sidelined for the foreseeable future with a stress fracture in his back just as the postseason is heating up.
Wiggins will lead the Jayhawks to their third win over Iowa State Friday. The last time these two teams met, the freshman star ended up with a career-high (at the time) 29 points and seven rebounds.
Wiggins is attacking the rim with more aggression, which is leading to more free throws, easier opportunities at the rim and open looks for his teammates when the defense collapses. The Cyclones won’t be able to match up with Wiggins’ length and athleticism, as Kansas prevails in a tightly fought contest.
Baylor Will Reach the Finals
There are few teams in the country as hot as Baylor.
The Bears have won nine of their past 10 games, although the lone loss in that stretch came at the hands of their Friday opponent, Texas. A few weeks ago, Baylor was a bubble team that appeared to be on the outside looking in, but a win over the Longhorns will set up a championship date with the mighty Jayhawks.
The foursome of Cory Jefferson, Kenny Chery, Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip will be too much for Texas to handle in Kansas City.
Each of those four average double-figures scoring a night, and it gives the Bears multiple threats on the inside and outside.
Looking forward, Baylor has nothing to worry about on Selection Sunday, even with a loss to Texas, in terms of getting into the Big Dance.
However, a victory would drastically improve the Bears’ potential seed. Considering how much talent they have at their disposal and how well they have been playing, a run to the Sweet 16 or beyond is not out of the question.
The better seed Baylor gets, the clearer the path will be to March accomplishments.
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