Checking in on… the Big 12Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010
A Look Back
- Thanksgiving week tends to signal the unofficial start of basketball season as the non-conference competition ticks up a notch and holiday tournaments tip off in force. For the Big 12, that meant trips to Hawaii, Kansas City, Cancun and Las Vegas, among other destinations. For some, it was a positive experience, for others it was a bit of a negative, but for nearly all, the week provided a test and some answers as to where the early season concerns might lie.
- Perhaps the biggest pair of games for the week in the Big 12 occurred in a city experiencing a resurgence in basketball relevance, Kansas City. The Wildcats of Kansas State took to the court against two top-15 foes in successive nights. The first resulted in a victory for Frank Martin’s team over a tough Gonzaga opponent in convincing fashion. Kansas State’s hard-nosed, physical style wore down the Bulldogs and set the stage for a huge early-season matchup and a big time measuring stick with a game against top-ranked Duke. Unfortunately for Kansas State, the Blue Devils played every bit the part of the #1 team in the nation. Their defense came out and punched Jacob Pullen and the Wildcats in the mouth. Duke experienced a comfortable lead throughout the game and while Kansas State stepped up the defensive effort after a slow start, missed free throws and turnovers kept a stalling offense on the ropes.
- Elsewhere in the conference, the Kansas Jayhawks took on a surging Arizona Wildcats squad in Las Vegas. The contest looked like a runaway early, but Kansas struggled for the first time all season before eventually putting away a pesky Arizona squad that appears to be well on its way to a return to the top of the Pac-10. The win secured the Vegas Tourney Title for Kansas.
- Another tournament winner from the Big 12 emerged in Cancun, as the Missouri Tigers ran through the competition with relative ease and took the Cancun Challenge with wins over Wyoming and La Salle.
- Not all the holiday tournaments proved kind to the Big 12, however, as Oklahoma lost in every appearance during the annual Maui Invitational, including an embarrassing losing effort against perennial host and Division II school, Chaminade.
- A few other notable wins in the conference as Nebraska kicked off the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series with a win over USC. Texas A&M dropped a game to ACC opponent Boston College while Colorado and Texas Tech continue to struggle with early season competition, the pair losing to Harvard and St. Mary’s, respectively.
- Kansas Jayhawks (6-0) – Kansas looked vulnerable for the first time against the Arizona Wildcats during tournament play in Las Vegas. With Marcus Morris on the bench in foul trouble, the Kansas offense wasn’t its normal self and Bill Self finally has a little bit to work on as he prepares for UCLA this coming week.
- Kansas State Wildcats (5-1) – It’s hard to fault a team for losing to Duke. Watching the Wildcats take on the Blue Devils, it probably proved more about how good Duke is than what can be expected from Kansas State. The Wildcats still played a high caliber of defense during stretches, and if they can learn to value the basketball a little more and knock down free throws, they’ll be in the conference hunt.
- Texas Longhorns (5-1) – Texas struggled against a pesky Rice Owl squad but managed to get a win as their schedule softened after a tough early stretch. The Longhorns continue to show strength on the interior, an area that will be critical in any hopes at a conference title run.
- Baylor Bears (4-0) – Baylor continues to coast through sub-par competition, but did receive 24 points from LaceDarius Dunn in his first game back from suspension.
- Missouri Tigers (5-0) – The Tigers are still a tough read. They are winning, but not necessarily in the convincing fashion one might expect. Ricardo Ratliffe is looking the part of the big man they’ve needed, but the Tigers still look like a team trying to find itself. That hasn’t been all that uncommon for a Mike Anderson-led team as they typically improve throughout the season.
- Texas A&M (5-1) – The Aggies dropped a game against ACC’s Boston College, but recovered with a win over nationally-ranked Temple at the Old Spice Classic in Florida. Right now, they look to be the best of the Big 12’s middle tier, but Oklahoma State is in the rearview.
- Oklahoma State (5-1) – Oklahoma State is beating the teams they should, but dropped a close one to a tough Virginia Tech team that was ranked to start the season. The early play of Marshall Moses has been cause for optimism in Stillwater, however, and the Cowboys could be better than originally thought.
- Iowa State (6-0) – Iowa State and Fred Hoiberg keep winning basketball games. The competition hasn’t been particularly impressive, but they’ll get a chance to show what they can do against a real opponent in the very near future.
- Nebraska (4-2) – A win on the road (Hofstra) and a 20-point comeback over a Pac-10 opponent (USC) show that Nebraska might not be the worst in the conference. This still isn’t a team with any tournament aspirations as of yet, but they might be able to outclass a few in their final season in the Big 12.
- Texas Tech (4-3) – Tech has lost two in a row, but against decent competition. The same can’t be said for the two teams below and that might be the saving grace for Tech in the power rankings.
- Colorado (2-3) – Two potential lottery picks and the Buffaloes lose to Harvard? Colorado was picked much higher headed into the year, but they just don’t look like a team that is going to live up to those expectations.
- Oklahoma (3-3) – Three straight losses in Maui including one to Chaminade. Not a good loss by any stretch and the Sooners look to be in trouble if Jeff Capel can’t get his team to recover.
A Look Ahead
- The game of the week in the Big 12 once again tips in Kansas City. The Sprint Center plays host to Georgetown and the Missouri Tigers in yet another early season marquee matchup in Big 12 country. The Tigers have started the season 5-0, but will face their toughest test in the Big East power. Georgetown brings a 6-0 record and a very efficient offensive game to Kansas City in hopes of pulling the upset.
- Elsewhere in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, tradition-rich UCLA is headed to Lawrence for a game against the Kansas Jayhawks Thursday in a matchup of two blueblood programs. Unfortunately, this is a game that, in name, has a little more excitement than the reality. UCLA is down, Kansas is not and the Jayhawks will be heavily favored in this one.
- Missouri will play in their second notable game of the week when they head to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks, a team that courted head coach Mike Anderson unsuccessfully in the offseason.
- Other notable Big 12/Pac-10 games include Iowa State vs. Cal on Saturday as the Cyclones try to put a little more substance to the fast start this season. Baylor takes on Arizona State, Texas Tech takes on Washington and the Colorado Buffaloes go head-to-head against Oregon State as they get a little preview of what’s to come in the future.
Stats, Quotes and Other Notables
- #1. That’s where the Kansas Jayhawk rank overall, according to Ken Pomeroy’s basketball rankings in offensive efficiency and in defensive efficiency. Interestingly, last year’s #1 team headed into the tournament was Duke.
- “They knocked the living piss out of us.” Frank Martin describes the loss to Duke in a way that only he can. Again, last week’s game probably spoke more to how good Duke really is and Kansas State and Martin will be better off having played them.
- 24 points on 7 of 11 from the three point line. LaceDarius Dunn returns for Baylor in impressive fashion.
- 4 points on 1 of 12 shooting. Jacob Pullen struggles against Duke. Is it a sign of what Denis Clemente’s complementary play meant to Pullen as a scorer?
Player of the Year Watch
- Jacob Pullen – (14.3 PPG, 4 APG, 39% FG) Trending down
- Marcus Morris – (19.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 68% FG) Even
- Quincy Acy – (17.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 60% FG)Trending up
- Alec Burks – (23.0 PPG, 48% FG) Trending up
- Jordan Hamilton – (22.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG) Even
- LaceDarius Dunn – (24.0 PPG, 5 RPG, 61% FG) NEW