Big 12 Wrap & Tourney PreviewPosted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2009
Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and MVC Conferences.
Kansas didn’t rebuild, they reloaded this season. After questions whether this team would be able to be as good as they were last season with basically only Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, this new class has gelled together and Bill Self was able to prove that he is one of the best developers of talent in the nation and also the Big 12 Coach of the Year. As I said in my preseason predictions, Kansas could fly under the radar and by the end of the season have a seasoned team. I just didn’t think they would actually win the conference. Oklahoma has also had a great season, but the loss of Blake Griffin over two key games was the difference between winning the conference and finishing second. I’m sure a lot of people were surprised to see Missouri be as successful as they were this season. You just didn’t know if Mike Anderson had the guys he wanted to play high pressure defense. But probably the surprise for me is the performance of Texas. To be real honest, I am really surprised how many people feel so confident Texas is comfortably in the tournament after the inconsistencies this team has had this season. I had high expectations for them to win the Big 12, but the non-existence of a player to step up to play point guard has really hampered this team. But I’ll have more on Texas later. Kansas St., Texas A&M and Oklahoma St. all have realistic desires of making the NCAA Tournament.
The Big 12 released their postseason awards this week. I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone that Blake Griffin received the Player of the Year honors. The Big 12 did give the Defensive POY honors to both Cole Aldrich of Kansas and J.T. Tiller from Missouri. Aldrich led the Big 12 in blocks and Tiller was second in the league in steals. It was the 2nd time in the past 3 years that the DPOY award went to two players.
Here are the Big 12 All-Conference teams:
All-Big 12 First Team
- Craig Brackins, Iowa State
- Cole Aldrich, Kansas
- Sherron Collins, Kansas
- DeMarre Carroll, Missouri
- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
All-Big 12 Second Team
- Denis Clemente, Kansas State
- Willie Warren, Oklahoma
- James Anderson, Oklahoma State
- A.J. Abrams, Texas
- Damion James, Texas
All-Big 12 Third Team
- Curtis Jerrells, Baylor
- Cory Higgins, Colorado
- Leo Lyons, Missouri
- Ade Dagunduro, Nebraska
- Byron Eaton, Oklahoma State
- Josh Carter, Texas A&M
I guess I am kind of surprised that if Tiller received Defensive Player of the Year that he wouldn’t also make one of the All-Conference teams. I probably would have put him on the third team instead of Cory Higgins from Colorado.
But now it is time to look forward to the Big 12 Tournament that starts on Thursday in Oklahoma City:
The Favorite (s)—Oklahoma and Kansas. Both teams are playing really well right now. Kansas got past a few bumps early in the season, winning 6 out of their last 7. Oklahoma ran into a few bumps towards the end of the season, losing 3 of their last 5. Oklahoma had to try life without Blake Griffin for a few games, but he has now settled back in and will be ready to take on the rest of the Big 12 and solidify a #1 seed for them. Kansas has kind of flown under the radar all season and has actually been considered by some as having an opportunity to get a #1 NCAA tournament seed themselves. I expect them to battle it out in the finals.
The Darkhorse—Texas A&M has won their last 6 games of the season after a very rocky start to conference play. With Josh Carter playing very well as of late, he has the ability to lead A&M to four wins in four days.
Bubble Buster Game—A second round matchup between Texas and Kansas St. could very well be a deciding factor for these two teams. Kansas St. finished 4th in the conference race after staring league play 0-4. Texas has been up and down all season and really, I am surprised that even as I write this, Texas is still an 8 seed according to ESPN while Kansas St. is still sitting on the outside. This is where I have done a total 180 on Texas where I saw them as winning the conference at the beginning of the season to I don’t think they should even make the NCAA Tourney. Texas is 6-1 in the conference against the teams below them in the conference standings, but are 3-6 against the teams that finished ahead of them in the standings. Kansas St. almost looks the same as Texas, as they were 6-2 against the bottom half of the league while they were 3-5 against Texas and above. Now the non-conference schedules do not even compare, but while Texas’ wins against UCLA, Villanova and Wisconsin look pretty good, their losses against Notre Dame and Arkansas look worse than originally thought. Then with the mediocre Big 12 performance, Texas should really be sitting on that bubble more than people think. First, Texas needs to get to this game by beating Colorado on Thursday. If these two teams then meet and Kansas St. wins and ends up getting a win against most likely Kansas, I don’t think Texas should make the NCAA Tournament. Now if Kansas St. loses to Texas they should have a real fear of not getting in as well due to their similar Big 12 performance.
Cinderella—Baylor. Baylor had high expectations coming into the season and were even ranked by some publications. However, once conference play started, Baylor just plain fell apart and did not do anything losing 4 of their last 5 and going 2-10 in the last 12 after starting 3-1. However, Baylor has a lot of experienced seniors that have had a history of being able to score. For their last hurrah, you never know what might happen after getting a taste of the NCAA Tournament last season.
Champion—Oklahoma. Kansas kind of has an asterisk win against Oklahoma because Oklahoma did not have Blake Griffin for their only matchup of the year. The battle between Aldrich and Griffin should be fun to watch as both teams will be fighting for a #1 seed. Though Kansas’ young players have made a great transition, they will wear down playing three games in three days which is why Oklahoma will prevail.