Checking In On… the Big 12 ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2011
The Week That Was
- Kansas scored a huge win over Ohio State on Saturday. One big difference was accuracy behind the arc as the Jayhawks shot 53% from three while the Buckeyes shot just over 29%. The other key was the great defense Travis Releford displayed while guarding William Buford, limiting him to a paltry 8-23 from the field. Thomas Robinson scored 21 points on 77.8% shooting despite rumors that he was battling the flu, and Tyshawn Taylor had a career high 13 assists – against one of the best defenders in the country – all while playing with a torn meniscus.
- Missouri keeps rolling, beating Villanova in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday and Navy on Saturday. They are currently favored by Ken Pomeroy in every game but two remaining on their schedule, and while I don’t think it will happen, there is at least a chance that they will be 22-0 on February 4 for perhaps the last border showdown ever with Kansas in Columbia. Entering this week, they are currently ranked in the top 15 nationally in the following offensive categories: adjusted efficiency, effective FG%, turnover rate, three-point percentage, two-point percentage and free throw percentage. There were a lot of questions aboutFrank Haith when he was hired, but for now, he seems to have passed the test.
- Khris Middleton made his return to the Texas A&M lineup this weekend, scoring 24 points on 8-14 shooting (2-5 from three) and grabbing six rebounds. With Texas A&M struggling offensively despite starting the season 8-1, Middleton is just the medicine they need. And with the team being extremely effective defensively so far, perhaps the Aggies will prove to be Big 12 title contenders yet.
- Missouri (9-0) – The Tigers are fantastic offensively as I noted above, but they have struggled a bit lately on the defensive end. They allowed Villanova to score over a point per trip and they are down to 41st nationally in forcing turnovers (though if the season ended today, it would be right in line with their rate last year, when they finished ninth nationally). They’ll have two cupcakes to practice against before a big rivalry matchup with Illinois on December 22.
- Kansas (7-2) – Tyshawn Taylor had a career high 13 assists versus Ohio State on Saturday despite playing with a bad knee that required surgery on Sunday. He’s expected to miss up to three weeks, which could mean more playing time for Naadir Tharpe, who has played just one minute in the last two games combined. Kansas doesn’t have the toughest schedule over the next couple weeks,but the Jayhawks will need Taylor back and at 100% when their conference season starts January 4.
- Baylor (7-0)- Baylor hasn’t played all week, so I am going to cheat and re-use my blurb from last week: Baylor’s offense needs some work. Their turnover rate has gotten better, but now their shooting is worse, down to sub-50% from two. As bad as their offense has been their defense has been perhaps better: they now have the best two-point defense in the country, allowing opponents to make just 33.2% inside the arc.
- Texas (7-2) – J’Covan Brown could be hitting the wall. He had just 11 points on 2-11 shooting against Texas-Arlington and 11 points on 5-8 shooting against Texas State. He’s playing 86.6% of available minutes and is taking nearly a third of the team’s shots while he’s on the floor, so maybe Rick Barnes would be wise to cut back on his playing time a bit before the Big 12 season starts.
- Texas A&M (8-1) – Khris Middleton made two of his five threes in his first game back for the Aggies, and the junior, who shot 36% from three last year, should be a big boost for A&M’s biggest weakness offensively. The Aggies shoot just 29.2% from behind the arc, which is 272nd nationally. Defensively, however, they have been incredible, limiting opponents to just a 37.1% eFG, which ranks second in the nation.
- Kansas State (6-1) – A narrow win over North Florida at home drops them a spot, but they have a chance to move up again with a win over Alabama this week. They have four players averaging double figures in scoring at this point, but they need to execute better, and despite being 6-1 they are seemingly getting on the nerves of head coach Frank Martin.
- Oklahoma State (6-3) – The Cowboys nearly pulled off an upset of Pitt on Saturday, losing by just six at Madison Square Garden. They haven’t been great at scoring this year, but they aren’t giving away opportunities either, turning it over on just 16.5% of their possessions. The Cowboys have only two starters with higher than a 50% eFG, and their highest volume shooter (LeBryan Nash) is sputtering with a 43.1% eFG.
- Oklahoma (7-1) – Oklahoma shot a few more threes and upped their three point percentage to 41.9% this week, so clearly they are loyal RTC readers. Junior Steven Pledger has played only 55% of the team’s minutes, but has been incredible, shooting at a 67.3% eFG clip, shooting 80% from the line and owning just a 5% turnover rate. It all adds up to the fifth-best offensive rating in the country.
- Iowa State (7-3) – Iowa State beat Iowa for the third straight year this week, the largest winning streak in the Hawkeye State rivalry in over a decade. Transfers Royce White and Chris Allen are two of the three Cyclones receiving the most playing time, and they’ve been two of Fred Hoiberg’s most effective players as well. White leads the team in both offensive and defensive rebounding and, despite having the reputation of being a bit of a selfish player, also has the highest assist rate on the team at just over 28%.
- Texas Tech (4-4) – Billy Gillispie has his work cut out for him, with the Red Raiders ranked 214th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 183rd in adjusted defensive efficiency. Potentially a big help is freshman Jordan Tolbert, who is taking 34.1% of the team’s shots while he’s on the floor, and putting up a 62.7% eFG. He’s also the team’s best offensive and defensive rebounder, and looks like a potential star for the Red Raiders.
Spotlight on… Khris Middleton
Texas A&M has struggled on offense quite a bit so far, ranking just 135th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and ranking 272d in three point shooting. But the return of Middleton should help quite a bit. He wasn’t the most efficient scorer last year with just a 50.7% eFG, but he stands 6’7” and shot over 36% from three, presenting potentially a pretty sizable matchup problem. At the very least, he is the guy who should receive most of the attention from opposing defenses, which will open things up for everyone else. If he gets too much attention, he’s shown a willingness to get the ball to his teammates, leading the team in assist rate last year.
Finals week brings a lull to the college basketball schedule, and the Big 12 is no different, but things pick back up at the end of the week:
- Kansas State vs. Alabama – Saturday December 17 – The Crimson Tide visit the Wildcats in Kansas City, so Alabama will find itself in a de facto road environment (well, except for hometown kid Trevor Releford). K-State and Alabama both have been very good defensively this year, with Alabama sporting the nation’s 12th-ranked defense and Kansas State checking in at 25th, so make sure to take the under.
- Temple at Texas – Saturday December 17 – Texas’s young backcourt of J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo will get a stiff test on Saturday both offensively and defensively as Temple’s all-senior backcourt of Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez is one of the more underrated pairings in the country.
- Texas A&M vs. Florida – Saturday December 17 – Khris Middleton’s second game back will be against the Gators and Patric Young, and if he plays the way that he did in his first game back, the Aggies could have that signature win that is oh so important come NCAA Tournament selection time.