If Texas Tech is going to get enough wins to separate itself from the middle of the pack in the Big 12 and finish the regular season alone in third place, this is the time for it to rack up some wins. The No. 24 Red Raiders (16-8, 7-4 Big 12) have already won three straight and can run that total to six straight victories with wins over Big 12 bottom-feeders Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Iowa State over the next week.

That would give Chris Beard's squad some breathing room as it heads toward a daunting end to the league slate that will require it to face Baylor and Kansas in back-to-back games entering the conference tournament.

But Oklahoma State (12-12, 2-9) poses a bigger challenge than its poor league record indicates as it prepares to host the Red Raiders on Saturday. The Cowboys took No. 1 Baylor down to the wire last Saturday before losing 78-70. They followed that up with a 64-59 win at Kansas State on Tuesday.

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Texas Tech: The Red Raiders smashed Oklahoma State 85-50 on Jan. 4 as Texas Tech hit one of its peaks in a season that has also brought plenty of valleys. The defending Big 12 regular season champions lost three straight to Iowa, Creighton and DePaul early in the season, only to beat then-No. 1 Louisville 70-57 in their next game to spark a five-game winning streak that was capped by the first meeting with the Cowboys. Then, the Red Raiders lost four of their next six. Now, they are on the upswing again and back in the AP Top 25 poll after a two-week absence. These Red Raiders don't look like the Final Four team they were a year ago, but their only loss in the last five games was by three points on the road at Kansas. They appear to be peaking again, and it's largely due to freshman guard Jahmi'us Ramsey, who is shooting an absurd 64% on 3-pointers over his last five games and averaging 19 points during that span.

Oklahoma State: The league's coaches picked Oklahoma State to finish sixth in the Big 12 preseason poll. Remarkably, that benchmark remains plausible for the Cowboys, even after an 0-8 start in league play. That's because third-year coach Mike Boynton's squad has won two of its past three in a top-heavy conference. Good defense and solid contributions from sophomore forward Yor Anei were a common denominator in the Cowboys' recent wins. After averaging just 4.8 points in Oklahoma State's first nine conference games, Anei chipped in 14 against TCU and 15 against Kansas State as the Cowboys held both teams under 60 to get their first two Big 12 victories.

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Game prediction, pick 

Latest odds via SportsLine: Texas Tech -4.5 

Sure, Oklahoma State has been playing better since an 0-8 start to conference play. And sure, Texas Tech feels a little bit untrustworthy because of its many ups and downs this season. But the Red Raiders are on the upswing again, and they won the last meeting by 35 points. Covering the spread should not be an issue for them. Pick: Texas Tech -4.5