With the calendar about to flip to February, the Big 12 race is heating up. Fortunately for Texas Tech basketball fans, the Red Raiders are squarely in the fight for a league title as they head to Norman to play No. 11 Oklahoma on Saturday.
After a week off, the Red Raiders are part of a full slate of seven Big 12 games on Saturday. So let's preview some of the games that folks in Raiderland should keep an eye on.
No. 7 Kansas @ No. 23 Iowa State: 12:30 PM CST on CBS
It is strange to see Big 12 bully Kansas with two conference losses this early on in conference play. So imagine what it would look like to see Bill Self's team sitting at 4-3 in league action if the Jayhawks can't find a way to win in Ames, Iowa, one of the toughest ports of call to visit in the nation.
The ESPN.com matchup predictor favors the No. 23 Cyclones in this game, giving them a 76.7% chance of coming out on top. Earlier this year, ISU took down then No. 2 Houston in Ames, 57-53 and now they will look to take out the other conference favorite.
Throughout their run of Big 12 dominance, the Jayhawks have made it a habit of winning tough road games like this but this KU team doesn't feel as complete or imposing as other Bill Self teams have. Look for Iowa State to defend its home court and send KU to another early conference loss.
Texas @ BYU: 1 PM CST ESPN2
Two teams headed in opposite directions meet in Provo, Utah on Saturday. Texas is feeling better about itself after impressive wins over Baylor and OU in its last two outings while BYU has dropped its last two games (at Texas Tech and vs. Houston).
Texas started league play just 1-3 leading many to question head coach Rodney Terry's ability to run a top-flight program. However, the Horns seem to have found their footing in recent games with guard Max Abmas averaging 18.5 p.p.g. in their last two wins.
At just 2-4 on the season in Big 12 play, the Cougars are likely to be the more desperate team in this game. Plus, they will have 19,000 fans on their side at the Marriott Center. The Cougars will perplex a suspect Texas team with its five-out offense and a bevy of 3-pointers and back cuts to pick up a much-needed win.
TCU @ No. 15 Baylor: 3 PM ESPN 2
Texas Tech's next opponent, TCU, will face a tough task on Saturday when the Frogs play Baylor in Waco. ESPN.com gives the Bears a 73.2% chance of prevailing but TCU has every opportunity to pull the upset over a Baylor team that, like Tech, has not played since last Saturday when it lost to the Horns in Austin on a buzzer-beater.
This is a tough game to predict because both teams have been so up-and-down in Big 12 play. TCU has wins over Oklahoma and Houston while nearly beating KU before being robbed by the officials in Lawrence but has dropped games at Cincinnati and at home to Iowa State.
Meanwhile, Baylor began the conference year 3-0 before dropping its last two games to Kansas State and UT. How will Scott Drew's team respond after a week to lick its wounds? In this game, look for the Bears to pull out a close win on their home court.
Regardless of what happens in Norman on Saturday, Tech will remain at least tied for first place in the league race and that's a great place to be. This week, the Red Raiders can get a bit of separation from some conference contenders if things break right around the Big 12. So keep an eye on these important games, as well as what Tech does against OU because the Red Raiders could head into the last week of January alone in first place.