Big 12 Weekend Primer: New Years WeekendPosted by dnspewak on December 30th, 2011
- Missouri (12-0) at Old Dominion (6-6), Friday 6 PM CT (ESPN2)
Eight days ago, Missouri showed its human side for the first time this season. After obliterating the likes of Notre Dame, California and Villanova, the Tigers nearly blew a double-digit lead to Illinois in the second half before recovering for a 78-74 victory in the Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis. That second half stretch, which featured poor passing, forced shots and turnovers by every player on the floor, marked the first time Missouri had ever looked rattled in a basketball game this season. Though half of the arena was wearing black and gold, the Illinois crowd came alive late in that game, and it was the Tigers’ first experience in a hostile environment. For a team that finished 1-7 on the road in Big 12 play last year, this is the last major concern for Frank Haith to tackle: Can his team win on the road? Old Dominion may be 6-6, but don’t write this off as a down year for Blaine Taylor‘s program. For the uneducated basketball fan, losses to Northern Iowa, Vermont, Fairfield, UCF and Richmond may not look very good, but we know better than that. All six losses for ODU (also including Kentucky) have come against league front-runners with at least outside shots to win their respective conferences. Hosting one of its most important non-conference games in recent memory, Missouri will have to deal with a rowdy and electric crowd in Norfolk. Yes, the Tigers are much quicker, and they obviously have much better guards. There’s a reason Mizzou blasted an even stronger Old Dominion team in Columbia last season. It’s a new season, though, and again, Missouri has no reason to be confident in a road setting until it proves it is not the same team as 2010-11. The formula for an upset here is simple: The Monarchs need to slow the tempo and let their defense go to work. Kent Bazemore is arguably the best defender in college basketball, so expect him to hound Marcus Denmon all night, and ODU has a couple of decent shotblockers in Nick Wright and Chris Cooper. ODU isn’t nearly as big or physical as it was a year ago, but it is still a sound rebounding team that won’t let MU get many second chances. This is a Blaine Taylor team we’re talking about here, after all. If Missouri stays hot from the perimeter, it won’t need to dominate the boards to win. Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon need to initiate the offense like they did in the first half against Illinois, as opposed to that disastrous second-half stretch. If that happens, the looks will be there for Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe.
- Virginia Tech (10-3) at Oklahoma State (7-5), Saturday 11 AM CT (ESPN2)
More than a month ago, these two teams met in New York City and played an ugly, ugly basketball game. Virginia Tech managed a 59-57 victory despite not making a basket during the last six minutes of the second half, and it shot just 31.6% from the field. The Hokies and Cowboys clanked shot after shot and three-pointer after three-pointer, and they even combined to foul 45 times and miss 18 free throws. Maybe Round Two will provide a cleaner result, although the early start in Stillwater on New Year’s Eve probably won’t help. Oklahoma State snapped a three-game losing streak by edging SMU in double-overtime in Dallas on Wednesday, but the game looked just about as ugly as that first meeting with VT in NYC. Still plagued by the transfers of point guards Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell, senior Keiton Page started at the point but did not exactly look like Steve Nash out there. He’s a catch-and-shoot guard and a scorer first, not a distributor, and that was evident from his stat line: 27 points, 16 shot attempts and just one assist. Instead of focusing on all of the negatives, it’s important to point out that these Cowboys could have easily quit trailing by six points in the first overtime. They rallied to force a second overtime, and freshman Cezar Guerrero took over on the offensive end to seal the victory. There’s a lot of work left to do in order to defeat the Hokies, but perhaps that resiliency will carry over. Travis Ford just has to find a way to get LeBryan Nash involved. Ford says his freshman wing is starting to understand how to play at the Division I level, but he scored just four points in 28 minutes against SMU. With no point guard, post presence or experienced scorer on this squad, Nash is the only player on this roster with star potential. If he can’t produce, OSU is going to have a hard time finding other players to take shots, and Ford’s up-tempo style doesn’t really work when his team can’t score. Though the Cowboys seem like the team in shambles, Seth Greenberg actually has a lot to learn about his team, too. Virginia Tech has lost all three of its toughest games (Syracuse, Kansas State and Minnesota), and it is an undersized team that has not shown the ability to keep opponents off the offensive glass. Don’t accuse the Hokies of lacking toughness, though. This is one of the better defensive teams OSU will face all season, and it has a good point guard in Erick Green, who leads the team in scoring (15.4 PPG) and assists (3.2 APG). Greenberg has a lot of guards that can score, and he’s lucky to have Green running the show. Oklahoma State has the speed and athleticism to matchup with the guard-oriented Hokies, but it just needs to execute better in all facets of the game in order to protect its home court.