Kansas City, MO (Sports Network) - The Kansas Jayhawks begin their quest for their ninth Big 12 Tournament title as they square off with the ninth-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders in the quarterfinals at the Spring Center on Thursday.
The winner of this game will advance to take on the victor of the fourth- seeded Oklahoma Sooners and fifth-seeded Iowa State Cyclones bout on Friday.
The Red Raiders were demolished twice by the Jayhawks this season. First, Kansas won, 60-46, at Texas Tech on Jan. 12. It then welcomed the Red Raiders to Allen Fieldhouse on March 4, only to get out the brooms and complete a 79-42 rout of TTU.
The Red Raiders dropped 11 of their last 12 regular season games before their thrilling, 71-69, victory over West Virginia in the first round of the tourney. The game was tied up at 69 with just seconds remaining before Dejan Kravic tipped in a shot to lift TTU to the win. Jaye Crockett scored a game- high 18 points for the Red Raiders. Ty Nurse and Jordan Tolbert chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively. Josh Gray and Kravic added 10 points apiece.
Despite the positive outcome from Thursday's first round, the Red Raiders will be huge underdogs in their second postseason appearance. Coming into the tournament, TTU had the worst scoring defense in the Big 12, allowing 72.3 ppg to opponents, and its scoring offense wasn't nearly strong enough to keep pace (65.2 ppg). Crockett boasts 11.9 ppg and 6.8 rpg, while Tolbert (9.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Kravic (8.6 ppg, 5.2 ppg) round out a solid trio of forwards.
Bill Self's Jayhawks earned the No. 1 seed and could be given the same honor in the upcoming NCAA Tournament with a strong showing in the conference tourney. Kansas has now won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season crown for nine years in a row. It was very impressive throughout its campaign, outscoring its opponents by 13.4 ppg and also grabbing an average of 6.5 rebounds more per tilt.
Ben McLemore has emerged as one of the top prospects for the upcoming NBA Draft after being relatively unknown coming into the season. McLemore leads the way with 16.7 ppg to go along with 5.3 rpg, while senior center Jeff Withey is averaging 13.6 ppg and 8.6 rpg. Withey is also one of the top defenders in the nation due to his tremendous pairing of agility and size. Withey registered a triple-double earlier in the season when he tallied 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks against San Jose State. He almost notched another triple-double against WVU on March 2 with 14 points, 10 boards and nine rejections.