Checking In On… the Big 12 ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2012
The Week That Was
- The Big 12’s feel-good story has to be Texas Tech freshman Luke Adams. Adams was born almost entirely deaf with only about 10% hearing in his left ear. Thanks to cochlear implants however, he is hearing nearly completely normally now. He has been effective in limited playing time as well, shooting 46% from three and 78% from the free throw line to go with a 24.4% assist rate. Although he was the leading scorer in Class 3A in Texas last year, his scholarship options were limited due to his size. He chose to walk on at Tech and based on his early performance, he could be a nice shooter off the bench for them in the coming years.
- Thomas Robinson had the performance of the week in the Big 12 scoring 30 points and grabbing 21 rebounds against North Dakota. It was first 30 point 20 rebound game for a Kansas player since Wayne Hightower did it against Missouri 50 years ago, and it was just the sixth time in the history of the Big 12 a player has had a 30 and 20 game. Robinson joins elite company including Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Michael Beasley in the conference’s 30-20 club.
- For the second week in a row, the two Big 12 unbeatens stayed that way by the narrowest of margins. Baylor beat Mississippi State in Dallas, despite what a cynic would call their best efforts to give it away, and Missouri picked up a nice true road win, going to Old Dominion and surviving, 75-68. Interestingly, they both had to fight the crowd a bit: Old Dominion was at home and has a nice atmosphere at the Constant Convocation Center, but the crowd in Dallas was pitiful for the Baylor-Mississippi State game. Playing in front of a stale crowd is probably good preparation for the NCAA Tournament, but it makes for some awful regular season basketball.
- Missouri (13-0): Although their offense is fantastic, I think it is officially time to start worrying about Missouri’s defense. They have allowed over a point per possession in back-to -back games, and almost did earlier in the month to lowly Kennesaw State. Frank Haith has generally had good defenses considering the talent he had at Miami so I think they can get the ship righted but it still is a potential red flag for the Tigers if they want to win the Big 12.
- Baylor (13-0): I promised I would put Baylor at the number two slot if they beat Mississippi State, but yikes. After squeaking out a two-point win in Dallas in which they tried their hardest to let the Bulldogs get out of there with the win, it probably will be a one week stay at the 2 slot. All of Baylor nation seems to have Pierre Jackson fever, as last year’s highest ranking junior college player scored 14 points against Mississippi State and has a 63.5% eFG on the season. But to temper those expectations a bit, I don’t think you can win the Big 12 title with a point guard who has a turnover rate of 30.4%. It is true that he will get more comfortable with the offense as the season goes on, but he will also be playing much tougher opponents.
- Kansas (10-3): The Jayhawks feasted on a pair of cupcakes last week, beating Howard by 55 and North Dakota by 26. They held Howard to exactly a point per possession on Thursday, the first time in over two years they had done that to an opponent. They still struggle in the half court offensively, and need to get offense from players other than Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, but they have the best defense in the Big 12 which will keep them in every game and should make them favorites.
- Kansas State (11-1): The Wildcats had just one game over the holiday week, crushing Howard, and start off the Big 12 conference season in a big way with a visit to Allen Fieldhouse. The first week could launch the Wildcats into the driver’s seat in the Big 12, or it could perhaps knock them out of contention, as they go to Kansas and then host Missouri and Baylor in their first three league games. With two of those coming at home, the pressure will be on to go 2-1 in those three.
- Texas (10-3): The Longhorns’ offense has struggled as of late, scoring just 213 points over their last 205 possessions. The biggest problem has been turnovers: Texas turned it over over on a fourth of their possessions against Rice with six of them coming from J’Covan Brown. Brown had 23 points shooting 4-9 from two, 3-7 from three, and 6-6 from the line, but he is not getting much help and as a result has to force the action leading to more turnovers.
- Oklahoma (10-2): The Sooners have a tough pair of opponents to open their conference season as they visit Missouri before hosting Kansas. Like Kansas State, they can announce themselves as a Big 12 contender by pulling an upset in one of the two games. To do so they will have to rely heavily on Steven Pledger, who has the 12th-best offensive rating in the country at 135.9. The Sooners have four junior starters, so while they may not be the most talented team they have the experience to perhaps make a run in the Big 12.
- Oklahoma State (7-6): The Cowboys have probably the deepest team in the league, with no player on the team playing 30 minutes per game. Senior Keiton Page is the player averaging the most minutes, and based on his offensive performance, it’s not hard to see why: his eFG of 53.6% leads the team, and is just one of two over 50% on the team. Oklahoma State’s biggest problem so far has been offensive rebounding: they grab just 27.9% of their misses, which is 296th in the country, and have an average pace which tells me that they are making at least a decent effort to grab offensive boards.
- Iowa State (10-3): The Cyclones have blended transfers Royce White and Chris Allen into their roster extremely well, and quietly have one of the better offenses around. Their eFG of 55% is one of the best in the country, and they are taking a heavy share of threes and making 38.4% of them. Ken Pomeroy has Iowa State’s projected conference record at 6-12, but with the number of teams who turn the ball over, and that being Iowa State’s biggest defensive weakness, I think they can maybe make a run at .500 in the league.
- Texas A&M (9-3): The Aggies are 9-3, but had an embarrassing non-conference schedule, and lost against the best three teams they played. Losing to Mississippi State is nothing to be ashamed of without Khris Middleton. Same with losing to Florida, even if it was by 20. But losing at home to Rice is inexcusable. With two of their first three coming against Baylor and Texas, the Aggies have a shot to get off to a good start. Like a lot of the teams in the league, the Aggies are struggling on offense but at times have the ability to have a stifling defense, which should keep a lot of their games close.
- Texas Tech (5-5): Texas Tech is projected to go just 2-16, so they aren’t going to be favored against anyone, but with two of their first three opponents being Baylor and Kansas at least a 1-2 start is all but assured. Jordan Tolbert continues to be excellent in his freshman year, scoring 11 points on 5-7 shooting in their latest game. He’s also the best Red Raider at getting to the line, drawing 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes, which ranks 89th nationally.
- Kansas State at Kansas – Wednesday, January 4 – Kansas hasn’t lost at home in almost a year, and haven’t lost at home to Kansas State since 2006. It should be a defensive slugfest, with the defenses being ranked 3rd (Kansas) and 17th (Kansas State) in defense, but 21 stand 45th on offense.
- Oklahoma State at Texas – Saturday, January 7 – Both the Longhorns and Cowboys play great defense inside the arc, and each needs to get off to a fast start. Last year the Cowboys started off 1-2 in conference play and couldn’t get back on track, eventually going 6-10 and playing in the NIT.
- Oklahoma at Missouri – Tuesday, January 3– The Sooners get to see how for real they are and try to hand Missouri their first loss of the year all in one fell swoop. With Missouri’s defensive issues and Oklahoma’s ability to shoot the three (41%) and rebound offensively (43%) it is certainly not impossible, but it is still definitely improbable.