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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Around the country: Marquee matchups in Big 12

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Photo by Hannah Harrison
Tip off in Reed Arena during Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024 at Reed Arena. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)

No. 2 Houston @ No. 11 Baylor

Saturday, Feb. 24 — 11 a.m. on CBS Sports

Foster Pavilion — Waco

This match will be a dream for “defense wins championships” naysayers.

Make sure to mark your calendars for Saturday morning as the No. 1 and No. 4 teams in the Big 12 duke it out in Waco. The No. 2 ranked Houston Cougars stumbled slightly in its loss to No. 9 Kansas at the beginning of February, but have since won four straight against conference opponents, including No. 6 Iowa State.

The Cougars’ defense has been their biggest asset this season, remaining the best-scoring defense in the nation for most of the season, allowing only 55.3 points per game.

Another noteworthy statistic that can be game-defining for many teams, but is often not talked about enough, is turnover ratios. Houston sits atop the national rankings in this category at 7.3, meaning the Cougars are not giving up the rock so easily.

Baylor has made headlines lately due to its ranked wins at home over the Cyclones, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. The Bears fell short against the Jayhawks and BYU on the road, showing how this team plays on the road versus the confines of Foster Pavillion.

Even though the Bears have one of the more dynamic offenses in the country, their offense is far from overcoming the Cougars’ stone wall of a defense, even with home-court advantage.

Prediction:  Houston 76, Baylor 69

No. 10 North Carolina @ Virginia

Saturday, Feb. 24 — 3 p.m. on ESPN

John Paul Jones Arena — Charlottesville, Virginia

Virginia will make you question how much you like watching basketball. The Cavaliers have achieved a 20-7 record with hard-nosed defense, limiting opponents to 58.6 points per game to pace the ACC. However, like its opponents, Virginia has been offensively challenged, averaging 64.1 points per game for next to last in the conference.

The Cavaliers’ top-notch defense adds to the intrigue of the matchup, as North Carolina boasts the ACC’s No. 1 offense at 82.9 points per game. Senior guard RJ Davis enters as the conference’s top scorer, putting up 21.3 points per game, while graduate forward Armando Bacot and junior F Harrison Ingram are first and fourth in rebounds, respectively.

Virginia is in need of a big win following Monday’s 75-41 embarrassment at the hands of Virginia Tech. The loss moved the Cavaliers closer to the bubble, marking dangerous territory for a team as the regular season wraps up. A win over the Tar Heels, a projected No. 2 seed, would do wonders for their standing, but they may not have the scoring ability to keep up with North Carolina.

Prediction: North Carolina 75, Virginia 68

No. 13 Alabama @ No. 17 Kentucky

Saturday, Feb. 24 — 3 p.m. on CBS

Rupp Arena — Lexington, Kentucky

Offense, offense and offense. Get ready for a thunderstorm of scoring as the SEC’s top offenses collide at Rupp Arena. Alabama’s 90.7 points per game meet Kentucky’s 88.2, with both teams sharing the same M.O. of intense 3-point shooting. The Wildcats pace the conference at a 40.5% rate, while the Crimson Tide, as Texas A&M fans are well aware of, come in third at a 38.5% clip.

Kentucky’s history has been built on running through the SEC, yet Alabama comes in touting the top spot this year. The Crimson Tide have the look of a program that could make a lengthy run through March by dominating opponents with their up-tempo offense. While the Wildcats are 8-4 in conference action, the talent on their roster gives them a high postseason ceiling.

If there’s one weakness to Alabama, it’s the team’s 4-4 record away from home. Kentucky rediscovered its stride on its home court with a win over Ole Miss last week, and last weekend’s win at No. 13 Auburn gives it plenty of confidence. The 20,000 fans on the Wildcats’ side could be the edge they need.

Prediction: Kentucky 92, Alabama 90

Texas @ No. 9 Kansas

Saturday, Feb. 24 — 5 p.m. on ESPN

Allen Fieldhouse — Lawrence, Kansas

This game has the makings of either one or two classic Big-12 outcomes: No. 9 Kansas randomly drops a game to an unranked team at home, or Kansas absolutely mutilates an unranked Texas on its home court.

The latter is the more likely outcome.

Kansas dropped some strange Big-12 games this season, like UCF and Kansas State, so this game could be a trap game for the Jayhawks, despite being unranked, the Longhorns have managed to hold on to a 17-9 record and a projected 8-seed in the tournament.

The only issue with them securing an upset victory against Kansas is one key variable: Allen Fieldhouse.

Historically, the Jayhawks do not lose at home and this season is no different, as Kansas sits at 13-0 in the Phog.

Texas has weapons like graduate G Max Abmas and graduate F Dylan Disu, but so did No. 2 Houston when they were projected to win at Kansas earlier this year; they proceeded to lose by 13. The Jayhawks will run away with this one.

Prediction: Kansas 86, Texas 67

 

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About the Contributors
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a junior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
Hunter Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor
Hunter Mitchell is a sport management senior minoring in journalism. Hunter has covered football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball, hockey, cross country, track and field, along with swim and dive. Hunter's favorite sport is college basketball, and he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association. Hunter also hosts weekly episodes of the Home Turf sports podcast.
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