KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — It's the marquee matchup that everyone figured would happen in the Big 12 tournament: Kansas against Oklahoma State, featuring Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart.
Not many people thought it would be happening in the quarterfinals.
The top-seeded Jayhawks earned a bye into Thursday's showdown with their 10th consecutive regular-season title, but the eighth-seeded Cowboys — who at one point lost seven straight league games — needed to beat Texas Tech in a first-round matchup just to get the opportunity.
None of that matters now. The two teams picked as favorites to win the Big 12 title last fall will meet at the Sprint Center for a spot in the tournament semifinals.
"We understand the challenge. It's going to be an incredible challenge," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "We have a lot of respect for Kansas, and we understand how good they are."
In the other quarterfinals, second-seeded Oklahoma will play seventh-seeded Baylor, which didn't put away pesky TCU until late in their game Wednesday night. No. 3 seed Texas will play No. 6 seed West Virginia, and fourth-seeded Iowa State will play fifth-seeded Kansas State.
The game that's sure to draw the most interest, though, is Kansas-Oklahoma State.
The Jayhawks have the star freshman in Wiggins, while the Cowboys have arguably the league's most dynamic player in Smart, who had 18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and six steals in an 80-62 victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday night.
Neither player was particularly good in their first meeting — Smart was 3 for 14 from the field and 0 for 6 from beyond the arc, while Wiggins scored just three points. And they played to a virtual draw when the teams met in Stillwater earlier this month.
So maybe the game will be decided by their supporting casts.