Checking in on… the Big 12Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2010
A Look Back
- The run of non-conference tune-ups continues around the league, with teams facing a smattering of lower tier programs as is customary for this time of year. Still, an increasing number of compelling matchups are developing. In-state rivalries, top-25 matchups, overtime excitement and a statement game all make an appearance in this week’s look back. The first big game of the week in the Big 12 came as part of the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden. Kansas and Memphis took to the court as top 15 opponents, but at the end of the day, a Memphis team that is very young looked very young and Kansas walked away with the win in its first matchup with a ranked opponent. It was a game that was expected to kick off a great week of Big 12 basketball, but the majority of the excitement ended up kicking off a day later.
- On Wednesday, the Big 12 slate featured six games. Texas Tech’s struggles continued with a loss to TCU, the same TCU that would get throttled by Nebraska later in the week. The seat in Lubbock could be getting very hot for Pat Knight. The Red Raiders sit 5-5 and it’s not looking like expectations will be met. In Colorado, the Buffaloes played in-state rival Colorado State. As in many rivalries, the game was a back and forth overtime thriller. Tad Boyle and Colorado continue to look like a team beginning to find themselves and the win in overtime was a good test for CU. On that same night, Vanderbilt took a trip to Columbia and battled Missouri into their second overtime contest of the year. Marcus Denmon continues to make a name for himself in the early going. He was instrumental in the second half of the contest after a very slow start. In classic Missouri fashion, the game ultimately ended on a Denmon steal that led to a layup on the other end with only seconds remaining.
- In a rare Friday night contest, the Iowa State Cyclones went into Iowa City and took a game from Iowa. The win moves the Cyclones to 8-2 and further legitimizes the team as a potential surprise success story in coach Fred Hoiberg’s first year. Junior guard Scott Christopherson led the charge with 30 points and is looking like one of the most improved players in the league early.
- Saturday saw eight teams in action and the Big 12 finished the day with eight wins. The big one on the day took place in College Station, where Mark Turgeon and the Aggies made a statement with a win over #22 Washington as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. The Aggies have looked better than expected in the early going, and this game more than solidified the team as a tournament player and further speaks to the job that Turgeon is doing at Texas A&M.
- Late Sunday, it was announced that Wally Judge will be out of action indefinitely for Kansas State, with Frank Martin citing personal reasons. His absence does nothing to quell the inconsistencies in the Wildcats’ frontcourt.
- Kansas (9-0) – All week, Kansas coach Bill Self has not been particularly pleased with his team’s performance. The knock on the Jayhawks is that they don’t know how to put teams away. Despite all that, they’re winning games by wide margins and doing so while playing at less than their potential. Christmas will come early for Jayhawk fans, when stud recruit Josh Selby becomes fully eligible at the end of the week against USC.
- Texas A&M (9-1) – A&M has been answering the bell in the early going. This week’s win against Washington made a statement that they are a team to be reckoned with in the Big 12 South. Khris Middleton and David Loubeau are leading the way, with perimeter contributions from Nathan Walkup.
- Kansas State (9-1) – Kansas State seems like a team struggling to live up to their preseason hype just a bit. They’re a talented group, Frank Martin has proven his abilities as a coach, but they just haven’t quite clicked on a night in night out basis. The loss of Denis Clemente might be the source of some of the problems, but it’s a long season and it’s a group that works too hard not to eventually find the answer.
- Missouri Tigers (8-1) – Missouri continues to play in some of the more exciting games of the early season. After coming up short against Georgetown, the Tigers met Vanderbilt in an overtime contest that the Tigers would win by three. Probably the biggest news in Columbia is the emergence of two leaders, Marcus Denmon in the backcourt and Ricardo Ratliffe in the frontcourt. These two have the ability to lead Missouri to a conference title, but it’s still a work in progress.
- Baylor (6-0) – The Bears took an entire week off. They currently sit as the only team to have played fewer than nine games in the nonconference and Scott Drew has done very little to challenge his team. Struggling Gonzaga pays a visit to Dallas at the end of the week, where Baylor will look to score a win in the alumni stronghold.
- Texas (7-2) – The loss to USC has raised questions and scaled back expectations a bit in Austin. This week, a big win over a cupcake opponent and just a week from now, the Longhorns get an opportunity to make a statement with games against North Carolina and Michigan State. That stretch of games a year ago signaled the beginning of the infamous slide.
- Oklahoma State (9-1) – The Cowboys continue to cruise through the non-conference and they are a team that has the makeup to compete with the other Big 12 South players. Travis Ford has things going in Stillwater and Marshall Moses is playing like a man possessed, more than doubling his production from a season ago.
- Iowa State (8-2) – Fred Hoiberg is getting it done in Ames. The team moves to a surprising 8-2 after wins against Southeast Missouri, Iowa and Texas Southern. Scott Christopherson is third in the country in triples made (35), sporting a fiery 59.3% clip from deep. Freshman Melvin Ejim is proving to be a difference-maker early for the Cyclones.
- Colorado (5-3) – Colorado won in overtime against in state rival Colorado State. The concern is that the bigs for Colorado State had a field day. The Buffaloes have the horses in the backcourt, but on the interior, they have a lot to prove.
- Nebraska (8-2) – Another week, another two wins for Doc Sadler and the Cornhuskers. The 11-man rotation in Lincoln is starting to turn a few into believers, but have been light on notable wins. This is a team that can probably compete in the middle tier of the conference, but they lack a go-to player (different players have lead the team in scoring in each of the Huskers’ last five games) and the overall talent to get over the hump.
- Texas Tech (5-5) – At this point, about the only thing keeping Tech above Oklahoma is that they’ve at least been competitive in losing. It will be interesting to see if Pat Knight can keep his team on board or if as the seat gets hotter, is this a team that packs it in.
- Oklahoma (5-5) – Two wins this week, which was a much-needed change following a five-game skid dating back to the week before Thanksgiving. This is still a team with a fragile psyche, but one positive is the emergence of Andrew Fitzgerald as a team leader in the frontcourt. A year ago, Fitzgerald was a minor role player, but he now plays more than 30 minutes a game and leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.
A Look Ahead
- A very slow week in the league as is often the case when students are in the middle of finals. The light at the end of the tunnel does exist however, and it comes in the form of a ten-game schedule next Saturday.
- Kansas State heads to Florida in a Power Six matchup to highlights the day. Frank Martin has taken steps in the early going to challenge his basketball team, and this is another game that will help develop the toughness that Martin and the Wildcats take such pride in.
- Two other matchups that had a little more fanfare a few weeks ago include Baylor taking on Gonzaga in Dallas and Texas heading to North Carolina to battle the Heels in Greensboro. To start the season, Gonzaga and UNC were top 15 teams. Both have struggled and fallen off. This will still be one of Baylor’s biggest early season tests and for Texas, it represents an opportunity to make a few more believers as they sit almost a year removed from the beginning of last season’s collapse.
- The biggest story on Saturday has to be the debut of top ranked freshman Josh Selby in Lawrence when the Jayhawks take on the USC Trojans. The Jayhawks have been a pretty good team in the early going and all eyes will be on KU to see how the team dynamic changes with the addition of Selby.
Stats, Quotes and Other Notables
- “To all the fans that jump on and off the bandwagon who think we suck, go cheer for somebody down the road then” – Jacob Pullen, calling out Kansas State fans who are expressing frustration over some of the early-season growing pains.
- 5.8 Seconds. – Time left on the clock when Marcus Denmon came up with a steal and a game-clinching layup to beat Vanderbilt in overtime.
- 27-20 – The Big 12’s all time record in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood series which concluded its final year on Saturday.
- 7-12 - Scott Christopherson’s three point field goal line from Friday nights win over ISU in-state rival Iowa.
Player of the Year Watch
- Jacob Pullen – (16.3 PPG, 4 APG, 40% FG) Even. Pullen called out a fanbase and seems to have a little fire in his belly. Keep an eye on his upcoming games, a focused senior leader can be a very good thing.
- Marcus Morris – (16.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 64% FG) Even. Morris added five assists, two blocks and two steals to his versatile array of production this week when the Jayhawks took on Memphis. A knee injury sustained against Colorado State gave fans a scare, but he later returned.
- Alec Burks – (20.5 PPG, 48% FG) Even. Burks had a big game in a win over Colorado State. If he can improve his numbers from behind the arc, he’s got the rest of his game going well enough to be a problem for just about anyone.
- Jordan Hamilton – (20 PPG, 7.0 RPG) Trending down. Other Longhorns are stepping up to the plate and the big numbers that were coming early have leveled off a bit as the team has settled in.
- LaceDarius Dunn – (22.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 53% FG) Even. No change, no games. Baylor sat idle all week.
- Marcus Denmon – (16.4 PPG, 1.7 SPG, 51% 3P%) Even. Denmon was the man of the hour in the Tigers win over Vanderbilt. 19 second half points and a late steal to secure the win just a day after his cousin was shot and killed in Kansas City.