Checking in on… the Big 12Posted by Brian Goodman on December 6th, 2010
A Look Back
This week saw the return of more great Big 12 basketball to Sprint Center in Kansas City as well as a week highlighted by matchups around the league taking place as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.
- The first major action of the week tipped on Tuesday night as Missouri played host to the #14 Georgetown Hoyas at Sprint Center in Kansas City. The game represented the first true test for the Tigers, and much like Texas did early on against Pittsburgh, Missouri might have said plenty about what they have to offer despite a loss. Georgetown hit the court with a haymaker jumping out to an early 18-point lead while Mizzou struggled to find their way. After settling in, the Tiger pressure started to pay off and lead to points in transition. From there the fastest 40 minutes of basketball finally got underway. Missouri brought the game all the way back and held a lead late only to see it erased by a last-second lead and a brilliant overtime frame from Hoya guard Jason Clark. Either way, the game made a statement for Mizzou. They still have work to do in the halfcourt, but with the addition of Ricardo Ratliffe and the ability to force teams into their brand of basketball, Mizzou will be tough.
- Thursday featured more action in the Big 12/Pac-10 challenge with Kansas, MU and Baylor all claiming wins over their respective opponents. The big news early? The way the Jayhawks won. Kansas struggled at home against a resurgent UCLA team and after a Bruin three-pointer looked to have both teams headed to overtime, Kansas’ Mario Little drew a foul with seven tenths of a second on the clock. Kansas would win 77-76.
- Friday night, the Kansas State Wildcats took on Washington State. Popular preseason Preseason POY candidate Jacob Pullen stumbled a bit and was a non-factor for most of the game. Fortunately, the supporting cast handled business and K- State was able to secure a five-point victory to push the Big 12 to a 6-0 record to start the series.
- Saturday saw three teams continue the series with Texas Tech being blown out by the Washington Huskies after escaping with a close win early in the week against Oral Roberts. At this point, Pat Knight has his team at what many would consider a disappointing 5-4 early season record and buzz is building that Knight could be on the hot seat.
- Elsewhere, Iowa State continued to look better than expected early. While the Cyclones still lost the game in Ames, Cal is no cakewalk and the Cyclones were in the game until the very end before losing by just three.
- The lone winner from the Big 12 on the day was from Colorado, who will soon be departing for the Pac-10. Tad Boyle’s team looked like a group turning a corner in a 26-point win over Oregon State. The Beavers are far from a good team, but Colorado might just be getting closer to being the team that many expected.
Big 12 Power Rankings
- Baylor (6-0) – The Bears looked the most impressive of any team this week, leading to the top spot nod in the power rankings. They’re long, athletic and they can beat you in a variety of ways. Scott Drew looks to have reloaded after losing a few players following last season’s Elite Eight run.
- Kansas (7-0) – After looking like a finished product through a few early season cupcakes, Kansas has plenty of room to improve. UCLA took the Jayhawks to the brink with an impressive performance, and for the moment, Kansas drops a spot until they can find a way to better manage their defense on the interior.
- Kansas State (7-1) – The Wildcats are still getting used to being the hunted and Jacob Pullen is learning what it means to have all the attention. Kansas State is handling business as expected against lesser competition, but like Kansas, when the level of play ticks up, things tend to get interesting.
- Missouri Tigers (6-1) – The Tigers might have shown as much about who they are in a loss as they have all year. Despite losing to Georgetown they fought back from a big deficit, had the game in hand and played Mike Anderson basketball before dropping the game in overtime. Two days later, they went to Oregon and scored a nice win on the road to put the tough loss behind them.
- Texas (6-1) – Texas beat a bad team handily. They play USC late Sunday night after this report wraps up so there’s a possibility they could make an argument for a higher spot, but for now other teams just did more to look good in a power ranking.
- Texas A&M (7-1) – The Aggies handled business against two lesser opponents. Their depth and the multiple weapons on the interior continue to be a strength. Circle next Saturday’s game against Washington as the Aggies will face a big test against the Huskies. With their top players still averaging less than 30 minutes per game, and ten players averaging at least ten minutes per game, Mark Turgeon is still trying to find the best rotation.
- Oklahoma State (7-1) – Oklahoma State was one of the teams expected to drop off after the Big 12 experienced one of the most successful seasons in its history a year ago. That doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case. The perceived weakness on the interior has actually been a strength with Marshall Moses continuing to lead the way. They still need to prove they can hang with quality opponents (just one game against a KenPom top 50 squad, which they lost at home).
- Colorado (4-3) – After losing at Harvard a week ago, this looked like a team dead in the water early. However, in a couple blowouts this week, Colorado looks like they could be turning a corner. They’re finding themselves offensively and may be buying in to Tad Boyle’s defensive focus.
- Iowa State (6-2) – The Cyclones dropped two in a row this week to Northern Iowa and California after jumping out to a 6-0 start. Still, things might be better than expected in Ames. A team picked last by many has managed to compete in every game and in a very impressive stat at the moment, five players currently average double figures in scoring. That’s balance and Fred Hoiberg has to like that.
- Nebraska (6-2) – The Huskers are doing what they’ve done over the past several seasons: Pad their resume in the non-conference and then try to hold on. They’re undefeated at home and continue to hang their hat on tough physical play. Just one game this past week (against lowly Jackson State), but they took care of business Wednesday. It’s just hard to say this early against token competition if that success will translate to the Big 12 or fail once again.
- Texas Tech (5-4) – Tech appears to be on a path to underachieve in 2010-11. A big loss to Washington and a narrow win at home against Oral Roberts are the signs of disappointment from last week. Last year, defense was the concern, and that appears to be the developing trend yet again for Pat Knight in Lubbock.
- Oklahoma (3-5) – Oklahoma went straight from Maui into a tough stretch on the road against Arkansas and Arizona. They aren’t winning, but they might be finding a reliable inside presence in sophomore Andrew Fitzgerald (14.6 PPG and 5.6 RPG).
A Look Ahead
- This week, the Kansas Jayhawks dive in head first with their first ranked opponent in Memphis. The game between the two teams will take place at Madison Square Garden as part of the Jimmy V Classic.
- Wednesday’s schedule is full of solid games and in-state opponents. Mizzou hosts a Vanderbilt team from the SEC that has experienced some success early this season and currently sits at 7-1. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State host in-state opponents TCU and Tulsa, respectively, while Colorado will tip against in Colorado State in what promises to be a great test of the Buffaloes’ recent upswing.
- Friday, the Cyclones head down the road to Iowa City to take on their big intrastate rival, the Iowa Hawkeyes. The game presents an opportunity for Iowa State to get back on track and put an early feather in the cap of first-year coach Fred Hoiberg.
- All that leads to next Saturday, when eight Big 12 teams will be in action across the country as we get ever closer to conference play. The headliner for the day is Texas A&M and Washington as the Aggies play host to their Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series game and will look for an upset to continue the conference’s control in the series.
Stats, Quotes and other Notables
- 6-4 – That’s the record of the Big 12 against Pac-10 competition through the first week of the Hardwood Series. With two games to go, last year’s record of 9-3, which was the single best by one conference over the other during the series, will go unmatched. Two additional games in late December (Stanford at Oklahoma State and Kansas at Cal) as well as some past matchups like Kansas vs. Arizona in Las Vegas two weeks ago are not officially considered part of the series.
- 18-18 – Georgetown goes 100% from the free throw line and in general shoots extremely well in an overtime win over Missouri. The irony lay in that it took a missed Missouri free throw for the Hoyas to even have a chance at the end.
- 4 years – That will be the duration of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series which wraps up this year after starting in 2007. Seems like a mistake as the ACC/Big 10 Challenge enters it’s 11th year of existence.
- “It was really a poor way to end the game on that call.” – Ben Howland, discussing the most talked-about call of the young basketball season.
Player of the Year Stock Watch
- Jacob Pullen – (15 PPG, 4.3 APG, 40% FG) Even: Pullen’s numbers are up, but he once again struggled against a solid opponent. Ultimately his season will be judged on conference play and during the Tournament.
- Marcus Morris – (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 62% FG) Trending Down: In his last two games, Morris has found himself in early foul trouble and it’s hurt his team. He’ll need to play smarter down the stretch for Kansas to reach their potential.
- Quincy Acy – (14.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG,55% FG) Trending Down: After a fast start, Acy might be coming back down to earth. The return of Dunn has no doubt played a factor, and at this point, he’s an important piece but probably not player of the year material.
- Alec Burks – (19.9 PPG, 48% FG) Even: Burks’ numbers are falling, yet his team has played better. Colorado seems to be finding themselves and Burks is still the leader. His improvement on the defensive end might be the most welcome sign for coach Tad Boyle.
- Jordan Hamilton – (20.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG) Even: A slow week and a poor game against USC for the Longhorns but Hamilton is still in the mix.
- LaceDarius Dunn – (22.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 53% FG) Even: Dunn was welcomed back to Baylor after biding his time due to off-court issues. His addition has paid dividends immediately, as the Bears look long, athletic and as explosive as anyone in the country.
- Marcus Denmon – (16.4 PPG, 1.7 SPG, 56% 3FG) New: Mike Anderson’s team is balanced, so you don’t necessarily expect on player to rise above the rest in his system. Denmon has, though, thanks to deadly outside shooting.