Checking In On… The Big 12Posted by Brian Goodman on November 28th, 2011
The Week That Was
- J’Covan Carrying Longhorns: In what could quickly turn into a weekly J’Covan Brown watch, the Texas guard had 17 in a loss to NC State and was dreadful in a closer-than-it-looked 56-40 win over Sam Houston State. Brown had exploded onto the scene early but some questions over his efficiency have cropped up again: Brown went just 3-12 from two-point range against Sam Houston State. With Texas currently ranked as the 34th best offense by Ken Pomeroy, the Longhorns need Brown, their best offensive player, to be a lot better if they want to be one of the top teams in the league this year.
- Tigers Get ‘Em Talking: More ridiculous offense from Missouri. The Tigers played two 70-possession games this week and scored 87 and 92 points in them. That’s good against anyone. They currently have the fourth-best three point shooting team in the country and turn it over at a rate higher than just four teams. The same question – What will they do when having to play a team with some size? – will probably linger until conference play, but it’s clear over the first month of the year that their guards are as good as any backcourt in the country.
- The Big Picture: For all the talk that the Big 12 might be down this year, it sure doesn’t seem that way, as they are 38-10 so far this year and two of those losses were Kansas’s defeats at the hands of Kentucky and Duke, both on neutral courts. The league’s two worst losses no doubt belong to Texas Tech, who has dropped games to both DePaul and Indiana State.
- Missouri (6-0): The Missouri stat that surprised me the most this week is their rebounding numbers: The Tigers snatch just 28.4% of the available offensive rebounds, which is 270th nationally. It’s very strange that a team that thrives on pressuring opponents and forcing them to speed up would be so focused on getting back defensively rather than crashing the boards. Of course, it could be more that the team wants to set up its press, but it is something to watch for sure.
- Kansas (3-2): After senior Tyshawn Taylor had 11 turnovers in a hard fought Maui Invitational championship game, several Kansas fans took shots at the guard and he responded on Twitter. Thomas Robinson was named to the Maui all-tournament team after putting up double-doubles in each game, but his struggles facing double teams highlight a potential concern for the Jayhawks. If he’s not scoring efficiently, Kansas could find it extremely difficult to repeat as Big 12 champs. One possible answer is the emergence of junior Jeff Withey. Withey had 14 points and 10 rebounds against Duke and might find himself matched up with Jared Sullinger in a little over a week when the Buckeyes pay a visit to Allen Fieldhouse.
- Baylor (5-0): Baylor continues to do work defensively. Their two-point defense is now sixth-best in the entire country. A game at Northwestern will put a ton of pressure on that defense with Jon Shurna having a good year for the Wildcats. Plus Northwestern as a whole has the 20th best two point offense in the land. The two teams present a rare but very enticing non-conference style mismatch: Northwestern’s games average 64 possessions and they’re the best team in the country at taking care of the ball. Baylor, meanwhile, is a bit (but not too much) more up-and-down and is 256th in turnover rate.
- Texas (3-2): How much do you think Texas misses Dogus Balbay? A year after displaying perhaps the best defense in the country, the Longhorns allowed much more than a point per possession in losses to Oregon State and NC State. Even more troubling is that they’re doing poorly despite opponents struggling from three. Though their two-point defense is ok (45.9% allowed), but they are allowing opponents to get far too many second chances.
- Kansas State (3-0): The Wildcats benefit from a bit of a soft schedule (and not a very clustered one), but they are still playing excellent basketball. As has been the case during the entire Frank Martin era, the Wildcats crash the boards extremely well. They also have the 10th best two-point defense in the country, a testament to the type of big men in Manhattan. Offensively they have been a lot more balanced with six players averaging between 9.5 and 14.3 points per game. Replacing Jacob Pullen’s production was one of the biggest questions coming into the season, and it may be a balanced effort that gets it done.
- Texas A&M (4-1): A&M’s biggest problem has been in the turnover game. They’re 235th at turning it over and 246th at forcing turnovers. Billy Kennedy’s Murray State teams were always mediocre in terms of turning the ball over, so there’s no reason to suggest that this is some type of fluke from the Aggies. Again, we need to take all A&M stats with a grain of salt because they are still without Khris Middleton.
- Oklahoma State (3-2): The Cowboys have the second-best pair of losses, if you will, losing back to back games to Stanford and Virginia Tech on a neutral floor this week. In a bit of a rarity, Travis Ford has a team that is better on the defensive side of the ball at least as of now. The Cowboys have four players averaging double figures in scoring, but only one of them is shooting 50% from the field. Super-talented freshman LeBryan Nash actually has the lowest field goal percentage on the team at 34.7%.
- Oklahoma (4-1): The Sooners dropped a 20-point decision to St. Louis in suffering their first loss of the year, but Lon Kruger is building a tough team down in Norman. The Sooners are the second best offensive rebounding team in the country and defensively, they have allowed a point per possession just twice this year. To put that in perspective they allowed a point per possession on average in 2010-11.
- Iowa State (5-1): The Cyclones are starting to gel offensively it seems, as they now sport the 10th best effective field goal percentage in the country. A lot of that is due to them shooting 44.2% from three, but they’re also not turning it over too much, the sign of a team that is playing together. They have two good tests this week, hosting Northern Iowa and visiting Michigan, and they have a chance to pull off two big wins if their three point shooting continues.
- Texas Tech (3-2): Yikes. The Red Raiders just aren’t a good team. They have only two players averaging over 7.5 points per game, and that is despite playing at a pretty high pace. Texas Tech is shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc, but they are only shooting 25.1% of their field goals from beyond the arc. If they’re going to capitalize on the few amount of shots they do get (they’re near the bottom in turnover rate in Division I and 272nd in offensive rebounding), they need to attempt more threes.
- Iowa State at #15 Michigan – Saturday, December 3 – The Cyclones go to Ann Arbor with a chance to claim maybe the best non-conference win by the Big 12 this year. With the amount of threes they take and the percentage they make Beilein and company should be on upset alert.
- Texas at UCLA – Saturday, December 3 – Two programs in need of a win meet in a battle between two talented yet enigmatic players. J’Covan Brown has lit up the stat sheet at times for the Longhorns, but also picked up a technical to foul out while trying to keep NC State at bay last week. Reeves Nelson is no doubt UCLA’s best player, but has been suspended once already by Ben Howland and then missed the team’s flight to Maui.
- Kansas State at Virginia Tech – Sunday, December 4 – The Wildcats should be able to dominate on the offensive glass – Virginia Tech is currently ranked 245th in defensive rebounding – but they will get all they can handle from the Hokies, who once again desperately need a big non-conference win.
Spotlight on…Quincy Miller
Baylor’s Quincy Miller was thought to be one of the best freshmen in the Big 12 this year, and one of the most talented players in the entire country coming into this year. So far he hasn’t disappointed leading the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game. He has a 50% eFG and has made 24 of his 29 free throws. He’s certainly a player to watch this year, but how does his game translate to the pros? Matt Moore of ESPN’s Hardwood Paroxysm says he doesn’t see what Miller’s role in the pros may be, which should be interesting to monitor. If Miller plays for the NBA scouts he and Perry Jones could clash, but if he concentrates on the Bears, they still have the highest ceiling in the conference.