It is Big XII Tournament time and while some dreams will be realized, others will be dashed with a single blow. As conference tournaments come to a close across the nation, bids to the NCAA's will be handed out to a few surprise teams (ex. Liberty Flames) shaking the landscape. The Baylor bears will certainly be looking play the part of spoiler and adding their name to the list of Big XII berths.
While it would appear that both the Oklahoma Sooners as well as the Iowa St. Cyclones have sealed up a bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 20+ win season, both have legitimate shots at down the favorite in the Kansas Jayhawks in the third round and claiming the ultimate prize, Big XII Tourney Champ.
The biggest story here is that Iowa St. has been tough to take down playing in front of the home crowd. On the season, they completed a nearly flawless run going 16-1 in Ames. However, there are always two sides to a coin. On the flip side, the Cyclones have been less than impressive on the road with a record of 5-9.
In comparison, Oklahoma has been nearly unbeatable at home as well boasting a 12-2 record in Norman. On the road, this is a squad that remained at the .500 mark going 8-8 outside of Lloyd Noble Center.
Now here is where it gets interesting,the Cyclones dished out a thrashing of Oklahoma thanks to leading the nation in 3-point makes at 10 per game. The first match up between these two witnessed a 19 point victory for Fred Hoiberg over OU. Yet, the Sooners would get revenge as they handed Iowa St. their worse loss of the season with a 17 point victory late in the season.
The one-on-one match ups to watch will be with Romero Osby and the ISU defenders in the paint. Osby is a player who has the ability to step outside and hit or shot, take the defender off the bounce, or post up players bigger than he is thanks to his physicality and broad shoulders. He has the ability to take over and will be Lon Kruger's primary weapon as he has carried this team all season long with his "one game at a time" mentality.
Sam Grooms has one of his best games against the Cyclones and will be looking to continue his success against this opponent. Look for him to be a contributor as he uses his strength to create a mismatch at the top of the key.
Hoiberg has his team getting open looks from beyond the arc. When the shots are falling, this is one of the toughest teams in the country to compete with offensively. Oklahoma will need to put their best on the ball defender on Will Clyburn while staying out of foul trouble as Clyburn attempts to create for his teammates.
Melvin Ejim currently has 13 double-doubles on the season and leads the Big XII in the category. He remains a dangerous player when the ball is in his hands as well as on the offensive and defensive glass. Finding Ejim and putting a body on him any time a shot goes up could swing this game more into the favor of the Sooners.
Things will shake out as these two take the hardwood in the second round of the tournament Thursday, March 14th at 11:30 AM CST.