Checking in on… the Big 12Posted by Brian Goodman on January 24th, 2011
A Look Back
For the Big 12, it was a week to start sorting out the contenders, the pretenders and a week where one team finally emerged as the conference favorite.
The week kicked off with a Big Monday doubleheader, the first match featuring Kansas State and Missouri both sitting at 1-2 as they squared off in Columbia. While it might be too early to call this one a must-win, a 1-3 start in the conference is a lot different than a 2-2 start Missouri kept their hopes of a Big 12 title in their sights with a win while the Wildcats’ slow descent to a possible NIT bid continued.
The second game was a head-to-head matchup of across-the-board NBA talent. Thirty-five NBA scouts and 10 NBA GMs took in Kansas against Baylor in Waco and they didn’t leave disappointed. Kansas looked as good for 40 minutes as they had all year and the Morris twins dominated in an impressive offensive performance.
On Tuesday night, the surging Colorado Buffaloes would find themselves exposed on the road against Doc Sadler’s hard-nosed Nebraska squad as the Husker defense shut down the Colorado offense and secured an 11-point win. The loss was the first in conference play for Tad Boyle and the Buffs, but it wouldn’t be the last or the worst.
Wednesday night was highlighted by a matchup in Austin between two top 15 Texas schools and bitter rivals, the Aggies squaring off against the Longhorns. Texas took an early step toward the conference title with a very impressive 21-point win over Mark Turgeon and the Aggies, snapping A&M’s 13-game winning streak.
And as usual, the Big 12 took center stage on Saturday, starting with a top-25 win by the Aggies over the Wildcats in College Station. The win kept A&M in the hunt and further moved Kansas State to the back with a now 1-4 conference record. A far cry from expectations for this team and things just aren’t pretty in Manhattan.
The story of the day though would end up being the Texas Longhorns. Kansas hosted Texas in Lawrence, where Rick Barnes and the Horns had an overall 0-9 all-time record. Kansas set out the way they left off in Waco, building an 18-3 lead to start the game. Texas stormed back behind J’Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton before securing an 11-point win in this one. The game snapped a 69-game home court winning streak for Kansas, the longest then-active streak in D-I men’s basketball, and put Texas in sole possession of first place in the Big 12.
Elsewhere, Colorado would drop its second on the week in Norman. The loss brings expectations in Boulder crashing back down to earth. Missouri dominated Iowa State and looks like a juggernaut at home once again. Baylor crushed Oklahoma State to get back on track, and last but not least, Texas Tech finally snagged a conference win over visiting Nebraska.
Note: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll. They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.
- Texas (16-3, 4-0) – Sole possession of first place belongs to the Longhorns after a HUGE win in Lawrence on Saturday. Texas played tough physical basketball and despite a pretty horrendous first half claimed a victory. Of course, that was its second top 15 win of the week, having already beaten A&M on Wednesday. Texas has earned the top spot without a doubt.
- Kansas (18-1, 3-1) – One game, Kansas looked like an unstoppable force, the next they fell apart a bit. In their defense, the Jayhawks received news of the death of forward Thomas Robinson’s mother late the night before the game against Texas, so the distraction is certainly understood. Nonetheless, the Jayhawks are playing catch-up to a very good Longhorn basketball team.
- Texas A&M (17-2, 4-1) – A&M dropped one on the road against Texas. There’s no shame in that. The Aggies are still a good team and do get a chance to return the favor when the Longhorns come to College Station.
- Missouri (17-3, 3-2) – Two home games, two impressive wins for Missouri. This team is one of Mike Anderson’s best and despite the two losses, anyone counting them out would be wrong. The Tigers are a juggernaut at home and have the athletes and depth to make life difficult for anyone.
- Baylor (13-5, 3-2) – For awhile, this looked like a very balanced league. That might still be the case, but the drop-off from the top four to the next eight might be bigger than originally thought. Baylor sits at five, but it’s not because they were overly impressive. Just not as bad as everyone else on any given night.
- Oklahoma State (14-5, 2-3) – The Cowboys got a tough win at home against the Cyclones but couldn’t stay with Baylor on Saturday. Again, this is a mediocre team at the moment and they have some work to do between now and March.
- Colorado (14-6, 3-2) – Colorado fell off a cliff a bit this week. Road losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma aren’t good losses this year. It’s still a talented team, but these two games put expectations back in perspective. The Buffs host Kansas on Tuesday.
- Kansas State (13-7, 1-4) – K-State is more talented than some of the teams at this level, but the wheels seem to have fallen off and they are also in the midst of a very difficult stretch of Big 12 play. The biggest problem is that by the time they get done with Baylor and Kansas this week, it might be too late to salvage any outside shot at a day one bye in the Big 12 tourney.
- Oklahoma (10-9, 2-3) – Yes, it’s borderline shocking, but Oklahoma won back-toback games in the conference and moved to ninth in this week’s power rankings. There are glimmers of hope in Norman as the Sooners get a win over Tech and Colorado in the same week and for the first time in a while have a little positive momentum on their side. Hat tip to Jeff Capel.
- Nebraska (14-5, 2-3) – The Huskers get a win over Colorado, which is a solid victory, but then go on the road and lose to a pretty abysmal Tech squad. Not good for the momentum.
- Iowa State (14-6, 1-4) – A loss to Oklahoma State on the road is acceptable, and a loss to Missouri is certainly expected in Columbia. But not showing the ability to compete isn’t going to get it done. Perhaps the real Iowa State is starting to emerge.
- Texas Tech (9-11, 1-4) – Tech is on the board with a win over the Huskers. Further proof that perhaps this is a top heavy conference with 6 or 7 mediocre teams at best providing the floor.
A Look Ahead
- Another week with no shortage of marquee matchups across the conference as things kick off Monday in Manhattan with a matchup between Baylor and Kansas State. Both teams are in need of a win to boost their position, with K-State perhaps the most desperate for anything positive to grab hold of and turn the tide.
- Tuesday night, the Jayhawks will look to get back on track in Boulder against a Colorado team looking to do the same. It’s a tricky game for Kansas, as Colorado has done some damage at home this season and Kansas is coming off an emotional weekend and a tough loss to Texas.
- Two games are on the docket for Wednesday, as Texas Tech and Iowa State square off to decide the last place spot in the conference and Texas goes on the road against a pesky Oklahoma State squad that will play as physical as the Longhorns.
- Saturday, all 12 teams return to the court. Kansas welcomes ESPN’s College Gameday to Lawrence for a game that was expected to be a matchup of top 10 teams between K-State and Kansas.
- Perhaps the game of the day, though, will take place in Austin, where two nationally ranked teams face off in Missouri and Texas. The Tigers have been very good at home, but not always on the road. Texas will present a big challenge for Mike Anderson once again and Texas will look to get another marquee win in the conference and take one more step toward the Big 12 title.
- Elsewhere, Colorado heads to Waco to take on Baylor. Oklahoma looks to avoid a subdued Hilton Magic against Iowa State. Texas A&M goes on the road against a sometimes tricky Nebraska, and Oklahoma State looks to take advantage of a game in Lubbock to secure a conference road win.
Player of the Year Watch
Power Ranking Style and Based on Conference Play
Jordan Hamilton, Texas – (19.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG) Trending Up: Hamilton led his team to wins over Texas A&M and Kansas in a single week. That’s deserving of top billing for player of the year at the moment.
Marcus Morris, Kansas – (22.5 PPG, 9 RPG) Trending Down: It was hard to imagine Morris could sustain his week one pace, but factor in the fact that he struggled against the physical play of Texas and Morris takes a bit of a dip this week.
Khris Middleton, Texas A&M – (17.4 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.2 SPG) Trending Up: Middleton is the player to watch when Texas A&M takes the court. The team struggled in Austin, but Middleton and the Aggies rebounded nicely against K-State.
Marcus Denmon, Missouri – (17.4 PPG, 45% 3PFG) Trending Up: Sure, Denmon’s numbers have taken a hit since the start of conference play, but that might have more to do with the emergence of other players for Missouri. Denmon still is a difference-maker for the Tigers; he just isn’t left carrying as much weight on his shoulders in the backcourt as maybe he did a month ago.
Alec Burks, Colorado – (21.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG) Trending Down: Statistically, he’s a very strong candidate. From a wins and losses standpoint, two bad losses this week don’t help the cause. A player of the year has to find a way to do more and lead his team in road games against Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (20 PPG, 2.8 APG) Trending Down: Preseason All American, preseason POY candidate. It’s hard to imagine that can carry over to any postseason recognition based on the struggles in Manhattan.
Fell Off: Diante Garrett – Iowa State, LaceDarius Dunn – Baylor