Could the West Virginia Mountaineers steal a bid? Thanks to a 79-74 win over regular season co-champion Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals, the Mountaineers are two victories from an improbable March Madness appearance.
Freshman forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. had just three double-digit scoring games in his short career, but he racked up 28 points in the dramatic 79-74 triumph.
Joining the Mountaineers in the semifinals are top-seeded Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas. Each of the latter programs have locked up a spot in the NCAA tournament, so the Big 12 semifinals offer a chance to pad their respective resumes.
You need to know when, where and how to watch Friday's action in the Big 12 tournament; B/R has you covered.
Big 12 Tournament Semifinals Schedule
No. 1 Kansas State vs. No. 5 Iowa State: 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
No. 10 West Virginia vs. No. 3 Kansas: 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Both games can be live streamed on WatchESPN.
Iowa State Shaking Off Its Slump
As the calendar turned to February, Iowa State was in a great position. Victories in the first two games of the month helped the Cyclones rise to No. 17 in the AP poll with an 18-5 record.
But the season-high ranking was shortlived.
Iowa State dropped six of its final eight contests, including three straight to end the regular season. During that rough stretch, however, the Cyclones managed to pick off Kansas State.
Lindell Wigginton scored 23 points off the bench in a 78-64 win, hitting five triples along the way. Talen Horton-Tucker buried six threes to help Iowa State convert on a season-best 58.3 percent (14-of-24) clip from three-point range.
The Cyclones surely would like a similar type of efficient shooting performance to experience a little winning streak before the Big Dance arrives. Plus, they have a slight advantage because K-State forward Dean Wade (foot) is injured again.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, fellow forward Xavier Sneed picked up the slack Thursday with a 16-point second half to knock off TCU. Barry Brown added 12 points and six assists.
If that duo combines for 30-plus points and K-State plays its typically stout defense on the perimeter, the short-handed roster should still be in good shape to win.
An Unexpected Rematch for Kansas
Last season, the Jayhawks toppled West Virginia 81-70 to win the Big 12 tournament crown. Entering the 2019 edition, though, it was improbable the Mountaineers would return to the final round for the fourth consecutive season.
This is a good reminder improbable does not mean impossible.
West Virginia edged Oklahoma in the opening round because guard Christian James' game-tying three at the buzzer was actually a two-pointer. His foot was on the line, so the Mountaineers escaped with a thrilling 72-71 victory.
Thursday, they returned to the floor against third-seeded Texas Tech―a team that swept the regular-season series and cruised to an 81-50 shellacking during the February matchup.
Given that, it seems prudent to ignore Kansas' 78-53 obliteration of West Virginia a mere 12 days after Texas Tech's blowout win.
The Jayhawks will continue leaning on Dedric Lawson yet will only be as productive as the complementary pieces allow. Devon Dotson provided 17 points and four assists to beat Texas, but he's prone to quiet showings offensively. The same goes for Quentin Grimes, Ochai Agbaji and to a lesser degree Marcus Garrett.
Kansas already has enough issues as the Big Dance approaches, and a loss to upstart WVU would only add to the concerns.
No. 1 Kansas State def. No. 5 Iowa State
No. 3 Kansas def. No. 10 West Virginia