Big 12 Weekend Games PrimerPosted by dnspewak on December 9th, 2011
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
- Ohio State (8-0) at Kansas (6-2), Saturday 2:15 PM CT
Bill Self has gained a reputation during his long career for producing some of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, but his 2011-12 team hasn’t performed up to his expectations quite yet. “Our offense sucks,” Self said. “It’s ridiculous to watch.” That’s a harsh statement to make in public, but Self has a point. Kansas turned the ball over 22 times in a win over Long Beach State this week, although it did tally 16 assists and hung 88 on the Big West favorites. To put Self’s comments into perspective, however, consider his team’s three games against Kentucky, Georgetown and Duke. The Jayhawks shot 28 percent from three-point land in those contests, and they totaled more than 10 team assists just once. Right now, much of the problem stems from the lackluster play of point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who owns an assist-to-turnover ratio of less than 1.0. He turned the ball over 11 times against the Blue Devils on national television last month in the Maui Invitational title game, and his subpar efforts seem to have major implications on the way KU runs its offense. But don’t give up on the senior point guard just yet. He has a chance for redemption against a smothering Ohio State defense, and in particular, he’ll need to rise to the occassion against the feisty Aaron Craft. The matchup at point guard will to some extent determine the outcome of this game, especially since star center Jared Sullinger‘s status is in question for the Buckeyes due to back spasms. If he plays opposite of KU’s Thomas Robinson, we’ll be treated to two of the best rebounders in America on Saturday afternoon.
The key individual match-up is… Aaron Craft vs. Tyshawn Taylor. It doesn’t take long to recognize Craft’s impact on a basketball game. Making his mark as a distributor and defender, Craft may actually be the most publicized player in college basketball who does not average double figures in scoring. He has the ability to frustrate Taylor with his intensity and aggressiveness, but it’d be silly to write off Taylor in this match-up. Craft is a sophomore; Taylor, on the other hand, is a senior who’s never turned the ball over at this rate (4.0 TPG) at any point in his career. As long as he takes care of the ball, Taylor is a good enough player to hold his own here.
Kansas wins if… It executes better offensively. You heard Bill Self — the offense “sucks” right now. With Self’s track record, that shouldn’t last for long. If the Jayhawks share the ball better and limit turnovers, they have more than enough scoring options to hang with the Buckeyes at Allen Fieldhouse.
Ohio State wins if… Jared Sullinger plays– and dominates. With Robinson and Jeff Withey, Kansas has the interior defense to contain Sullinger… sort of. No matter who he faces, Sullinger finds a way to score by playing within the offense and making high-percentage shots. If Thad Matta slots him in the starting lineup, it won’t matter who guards him.
OTHER GAMES OF NOTE
- Oklahoma State (6-2) at Pittsburgh (8-1), Saturday 1:30 PM (Madison Square Garden)
November wasn’t exactly kind to the Cowboys. With a young team, Travis Ford predictably saw some bumps during the Pre-Season NIT Tip-Off: his team needed overtime to beat UTSA, and it lost to both Stanford and Virginia Tech. Star freshman LeBryan Nash didn’t look much like a phenom, and the Cowboys’ inexperience seemed obvious. Fast-forward just a few weeks now — the buzz is a bit different in Stillwater. OSU knocked off a solid Tulsa team and then rallied for a road win at Missouri State, the reigning MVC regular season champions. Nash has emerged by combining for 40 points in those two victories, helped in part by 19 trips to the free throw line. OSU is making a living off the charity stripe right now, and with all of the athleticism on the roster, why shouldn’t it? The Cowboys will have issues with Pitt’s size and physicality up front, but they can stay competitive by using that quickness and drawing fouls from the Panthers’ bigs.
- Arkansas (5-2) at Oklahoma (6-1), Saturday 2:00 PM
After playing against Mike Anderson’s Missouri teams, OU’s players won’t back down from Arkansas‘ frenetic style. And hey, after all, Lon Kruger loves to push the ball himself. So even though this game features two teams that may struggle to even make the postseason, the up-and-down action may be worth a look. Anderson’s debut with the Razorbacks has been a bit rocky. He’s still trying to implement his style of play, and it’s clearly a work of progress based on the way Connecticut easily handled UA’s pressure defense earlier this month. Both teams are trying to recover from the losses of top players: Arkansas lost Marshawn Powell to injury, and OU’s Calvin Newell has opted to transfer. Luckily for Kruger, guard Steven Pledger is shooting lights out thus far as the team’s leading scorer, and new point guard Sam Grooms has looked terrific. With Grooms controlling the offense, this matchup bodes well for Oklahoma. It can take care of the basketball against the pressure, and the Sooners’ relative lack of size may not come into play.
- Iowa (5-4) at Iowa State (6-3), Saturday 7:00 PM
The key to ISU’s success is simple: make shots. The Cyclones love to shoot the three-ball, and that’s because they’re good at it. Whether it’s Scott Christopherson, Chris Allen or Tyrus McGee, Iowa State has a whole cast of characters that can light up the scoreboard from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, everybody went cold in losses to Northern Iowa and Michigan last week. With in-state rival Iowa looming, ISU has a chance to regain that shooting stroke. That same UNI team, for example, torched the Hawkeyes for 11 three-pointers on Tuesday. Perhaps that’s a good omen for Fred Hoiberg‘s team.