As we near the midway point of the college basketball season, it is time for the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge. Going on its eighth year, the Big 12/ SEC Challenge will feature several incredible games and some big matchups against Top 25 opponents. So let’s take a look at the Big 12/SEC Challenge preview!
Big 12/SEC Challenge Preview
This year, we will see one less matchup than we were expecting, as it was announced earlier today that the game between Kentucky and Texas has been canceled, due to COVID protocols. There are other intriguing matchups, however, like Arkansas traveling to Oklahoma State, Alabama and Oklahoma, Mizzou and TCU, and plenty more. Without further ado, here is my Big 12/SEC Challenge preview!
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
As a Hogs fan myself, this is one of the more exciting matchups to write for this Big 12/SEC Challenge Preview, but I think there’s a lot to like about this matchup for any fan of basketball.
This matchup will feature two of the most talented freshmen in the country this season, as Cade Cunningham from Oklahoma State faces off against Moses Moody of Arkansas. Moody and Cunningham both hail from the same high school prior to going their respective ways in college, and they both have shown potential to be lottery picks in this year’s NBA draft.
For the Hogs, they are riding a 3-game win streak in the SEC, after wins over Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss. They’re feeling a lot better now that they have Justin Smith back in the lineup after he missed the first few weeks of the SEC season due to an ankle injury.
On the Cowboys side, they are recently returning to practice after they had to pause team activities due to COVID protocol. Cunningham has missed significant time recently. He will be working his way back into game shape, but sources out of Stillwater say that he will be available to play come Saturday afternoon.
Both teams are banged up, but the show must go on. Coach Eric Musselman will need to have his guys ready to play if they hope to upset an Oklahoma State squad who has been on a tear in recent weeks. For the Cowboys, the big key will be slowing down the tempo of the Hogs transition game and limiting second-chance points as much as possible.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Oklahoma Sooners
No one outside of Tuscaloosa could have predicted the tear that the Crimson Tide have been on this season. For a team that typically plays second fiddle to their football counterparts, the run these boys have been on has got to have them feeling good. The Tide are sitting atop the SEC at 9-0 in the conference, and are coming off of a hard-fought win against Kentucky in Alabama on Tuesday night.
Coming from Norman, the Oklahoma Sooners are feeling equally as good after a heart-pounding 80-79 win against #5 Texas. The Sooners are 6-3 in the Big 12 this season, with their only losses being to Kansas, Baylor, and Texas Tech. They have been playing well as of late, on a 4-game win streak over TCU, Kansas, Texas, and Kansas State.
The key in this game for the Tide will be limiting the transition offense of the Sooners. They’re going to have to keep an eye on Austin Reaves, who torched the Longhorns with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. He finished that game with a pair of game-winning free throws with 18 seconds on the clock.
For the Sooners, they are going to have to run John Petty off of the 3-point line. He has been automatic from beyond the arc all season long, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Auburn Tigers vs. Baylor Bears
On paper, this game should be a blowout. The Baylor Bears are playing absolutely lights out, and are almost a lock for the NCAA Tournament. They are sitting at a smooth 15-0, and have dominated every single game they have played. The Bears’ closest game this season was an 8-point win against Kansas, and even then there wasn’t much doubt who the winner was going to be.
On the other side of the court is a much-maligned Auburn team that is flying under the radar. After a slow start to the season, the Tigers are also playing very sound, and Sharife Cooper has been the driving factor. After he was deemed eligible by the NCAA, Cooper started like a bat out of hell and has been playing absolutely lights out. Teammates JT Thor and Allen Flanigan have also provided solid play.
The one way that the Tigers can pull off the upset in this game is on defense. The Baylor offense can score, and they can score in a hurry. Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and Macio Teague have been the main forces on offense, all scoring over 13 points per game, so slowing those guys down is going to be key.
This can be a sneaky good game if Sharife Cooper can get the Auburn offense rolling like he did the last time out against Mizzou. If they can’t, it could turn into a boat race early on.
Kansas Jayhawks vs. Tennessee Volunteers
This game can go either way, depending on how you look at it. The Kansas Jayhawks have been struggling lately against the teams in their conference, losing to Baylor by 8, Oklahoma State by 5, Oklahoma by 7, and Texas by 15. In all of those losses, the main issue has been an inability to score. The most about of points scored by the Jayhawks in any of those losses is 70, but the other side of that is that they are giving up an average of 78 points in those contests.
The lack of offense is not only on the Kansas side, though. the Volunteers have seen their share of struggles when facing solid defenses. They started strong, but have lost two of their last three against Mizzou and Florida. In that game against Florida, the Volunteers scored a total of 49 points.
For Tennessee to be able to make it a winnable game, they are going to need to get something going on the offensive end. Kansas can score well, and if the Volunteers are not up to the task of matching them point for point, they could see themselves on the losing end of another blowout.
The Jayhawks are going to need to be solid in transition against the Volunteers for any chance of being able to win this game. Ochai Agbaji has been a bright spot on this Kansas team, averaging 14 points per game, and he is going to need another strong showing to be able to pull off the upset.
Mizzou Tigers vs. TCU Horned Frogs
For my last matchup to watch in the Big 12/SEC Challenge Preview, we take a trip to Columbia, Missouri, where the 12th ranked Tigers will host the TCU Horned frogs.
Mizzou has been up and down this season, so it will be interesting to see what version of the Tigers take the floor on Saturday. The main key here for this game is going to be the work inside the paint. Jeremiah Tillmon has been a menacing presence in the paint this season, and he will need to keep that up if the Tigers want to cruise to an easy victory.
TCU has had a rough go of it so far this season, so look for them to play the Tigers tough. Sitting at 9-6, the Frogs have dropped 4 of their last 5, and have had three of their games postponed due to COVID protocols. This game will be a wake-up call for a team that has not played much in recent weeks, and if they are up for the challenge, they can make it a close game.
Big 12/SEC Challenge Preview
This is one of my favorite weekends of the season, and as a fan of the SEC, I am excited to see what will transpire. inter-conference matchups always pose a good time for upsets, and hopefully, we’ll see more of the same this weekend. There are other games I did not get a chance to look at for this Big 12/SEC Challenge Preview, like Florida-West Virginia and Texas Tech-LSU.
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