Checking in on… the Big 12Posted by Brian Goodman on February 7th, 2011
A Look Back
Last week in the Big 12 seemed to be a bit of a slow week in the grand scheme of things. Not in the sense that games weren’t being played, but simply from the standpoint of few high-stakes games being played. As the league has turned into a two-team race, it’s become more apparent that the Big 12 may only have four teams playing in the NCAA Tournament, league play has taken a bit of a different tone on a day-to-day basis.
Still, there was plenty of action, and it kicked off last Monday with a Big Monday showdown between Texas A&M and Texas in College Station. The matchup was highly anticipated, as the Longhorns had just recently dispatched the Aggies in Austin with relative ease and this was a game that figured to be a potential stumbling block for Texas. At the end of the day, however, Texas ran away with this one in a 20-point victory, further staking their claim atop the conference.
Tuesday saw a Kansas Jayhawk team that continues to look better head into Lubbock and manage an easy victory over Texas Tech while Colorado won by a wide margin over the Iowa State Cyclones in Boulder.
Wednesday did provide the league’s primary upset for the week, as Missouri went into Stillwater and dropped their fourth league game, all but eliminating the Tigers from conference title contention.
Saturday saw all 12 teams in action and another upset of sorts. Baylor, a team with tremendous talent, finally put together a solid win in a two-point overtime victory over Texas A&M. The loss dropped A&M back to the pack in the Big 12 and the conference is now a two-team battle between Kansas and Texas, while a logjam in the middle exists with eight teams having either four or five losses in conference play.
Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be interpreted as a poll, but are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.
- Texas (20-3, 8-0) – At this point, there isn’t an argument otherwise. The Longhorns are running through the Big 12 with ease and the hold the head-to-head advantage over the only real challenger in Kansas.
- Kansas (22-1, 7-1) – Kansas has looked like a team that might have finally found its chemistry over the last few games. The offense has been efficient, the defense has stepped up, now it’s just a matter of whether or not Texas ever loses and gives the Jayhawks a chance pull even.
- Baylor (15-7, 5-4) – The three spot is a tough call right now in the Big 12. After #2, you have eight teams with 4 or 5 losses. Right now, Baylor is coming off a nice win over A&M, and they look to be creeping a little bit closer to putting things in place and scraping together a workable conference record.
- Missouri (18-5, 4-4) – Missouri is a different team at home and on the road. In Columbia, they are every bit the top-15 ranking they’ve held for much of the year. The margin of victory is typically big and the Tigers look dangerous. On the road, they look pedestrian offensively and the pressure doesn’t seem to cause near the problem for opponents that Missouri is accustomed to. They’re a tourney team, no doubt, now they just need to play for a better seed.
- Texas A&M (17-5, 4-4) – A&M has gone 1-4 in the last two weeks with two losses to Texas, one to Baylor and one to Nebraska. The Aggies are still a tournament-caliber team but Mark Turgeon needs to right the ship in a hurry.
- Oklahoma(12-10, 4-4 Big 12) – The Sooners have won four of their last five in the conference to reach a surprising 4-4 record and currently sit tied for fourth in the conference. The schedule gets tougher here in a hurry, but for now, Jeff Capel has his team exceeding expectations.
- Oklahoma State (16-7, 4-5) Oklahoma State put together two solid wins in the past week to get things back on track after a tough start in the conference. At 4-5 they definitely have work to do, but the Cowboys have shown the ability to pull off an upset this year.
- Kansas State (16-8, 4-5) – K-State has won three of their last four, and minus the buzzsaw that they ran into in Lawrence, the Wildcats have looked better of late. The departure of Wally Judge is another blow to their thin hopes at the NCAA Tournament, but it might still be a bit early to write of the Wildcats just yet.
- Colorado (15-9, 4-5) – Colorado continues to slide. They did pick up one win this week, but they still sit 1-5 in their last six games and the early season NCAA Tourney hopes have faded away rather quickly in Boulder.
- Nebraska (15-7, 3-5) – Nebraska continues their farewell tour, and as usual, they seem to come up just a bit short. The Cornhuskers definitely look like a better team this year under Doc Sadler, but it’s still not enough to push it over the top and make a serious play at a tournament bid.
- Texas Tech (11-13, 3-6) – Tech has a record almost equal to that of the Huskers, but if you asked yourself which place you’d be more nervous about traveling to it would be Lincoln and not Lubbock.
- Iowa State (14-10, 1-8) – Reality has set in completely in Ames. The Cyclones’ best talent is probably sitting on the bench awaiting eligibility. This year looked like it had some potential, but Fred Hoiberg has a serious depth problem and a rebuilding project on his hands.
A Look Ahead
The week in the Big 12 kicks off with another solid Big Monday matchup as nationally ranked Missouri will head into Lawrence to take on #2 Kansas. The Tigers and the Jayhawks have one of college basketball’s most bitter rivalries, and the game should provide a solid kickoff to the week.
Wednesday night, the Longhorns head into Norman to take on an Oklahoma team that has surprisingly put together a 4-4 record halfway through league play. Jeff Capel has managed to take a team left for dead early and put them in a position to compete in the middle of the Big 12 pack. It won’t be enough to talk tournament, but it’s something to build on in Norman.
Other Wednesday games include Nebraska heading into Waco to take on Baylor, and Texas A&M heads to Boulder, where both the Aggies and the Buffs are looking to gain an edge for a first day Big 12 tourney bye with a win.
Fast forward to Saturday and the Baylor Bears head to Austin. The Longhorns have taken on all comers and won with relative ease in the conference, but the Bears are a team with the talent to compete. Baylor hasn’t been able to put the pieces together, but if they can, it’s one of the few games left on the Longhorn schedule that could prove a bit tricky.
Other games include Iowa State at Kansas, Oklahoma at Missouri, Oklahoma State at Nebraska, A&M at Tech and Kansas State heads to Boulder looking to get a little revenge for the early season loss in Manhattan.
Player of the Year Watch
Power Ranking Style and Based on Conference Play
- Jordan Hamilton – (17.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG): Hamilton is the leader on the best team in the conference. That’s a big part of the resume when selecting a player of the year.
- Marcus Morris, Kansas – (18.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG): Marcus has looked unstoppable at times in the last two weeks but statistically his numbers have dipped as others have stepped up as well and at this point Kansas still sits one game back of Texas. Morris is definitely in the conversation for the POY but right now he has taken a backseat to Hamilton much like Kansas has taken a back seat to Texas.
- Alec Burks, Colorado – (21.6, PPG, 8 RPG): First in scoring, third in rebounding. Those are Burks conference rankings in two key statistical categories. Usually, a player of the year is going to come from a team in contention, but Burks might be one of the few players that still have a chance despite being on a middle of the pack team.
- Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (19.7 PPG, 3.44 APG): Pullen is still a pretty good player, but his team has been one of the most disappointing stories in college basketball. That’s not a likely recipe for a player of the year nod, but Pullen received preseason mention and has still been a statistically solid contributor. Tough to say how serious of an option he really is.