Big 12 Weekly Primer: Jan 9 – 11Posted by dnspewak on January 9th, 2012
Kansas State has a rare opportunity this week to ruin two teams’ undefeated seasons in consecutive games. Just three days after handing Missouri its first loss at Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats will host 15-0 Baylor on Tuesday night in a battle of two of the Big 12’s top frontcourts. There are a few other games to keep an eye on this week, too: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will meet tonight in a Bedlam game, though the series is hardly enticing right now with both programs struggling. And on Wednesday, MU will need to recover quickly from Saturday’s smackdown with Iowa State looming in Ames.
GAME OF THE WEEK
- Baylor at Kansas State, Tuesday, 7 p.m. CT (Big 12 Network)
Facing an undersized Missouri team this weekend, Kansas State frustrated Ricardo Ratliffe and punished the Tigers with a physical frontline. Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez combined for seven blocked shots and Rodney McGruder attacked the basket at will as Frank Martin‘s team exposed MU’s main weakness in the paint. Unfortunately for KSU, it won’t be able to bully Baylor like that on Tuesday night. The Bears, who have been rebounding better lately, can throw any number of forwards at the Wildcats’ post defenders, including Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Perry Jones and starters Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller. They can’t play effectively unless their guards get them the basketball, though, so it’s important for Pierre Jackson in particular to play well in a road environment. He has turned the ball over at a fairly alarming rate this year, but he has provided the missing piece for Baylor’s offense this year as a facilitator off the bench. Still, Kansas State’s half-court intensity on the defensive end may give the guards some problems, and this game could turn ugly if they can’t hold on to the basketball. In fact, for all of the talk about the forwards in this game, the guards will make the difference. Brady Heslip can provide BU with another element if his outside shots are falling, and starter A.J. Walton and reserve Gary Franklin cannot be outplayed by Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez and the rest of KSU’s deep and balanced backcourt. When BU has looked shaky offensively this season (for example, in a two-point win over Mississippi State), turnovers and a lack of ball movement has held it back. Baylor may have been able to edge MSU on a neutral court during a cold shooting night, but it won’t be able to recover from an off game in Manhattan.
The key individual matchup is… Perry Jones vs. Jordan Henriquez. Filling in for the struggling Thomas Gipson, Henriquez earned the start against Missouri on Saturday and did not disappoint. The seven-footer blocked four shots and played one of his most complete games of the season with 10 points and eight rebounds. Now a junior, Henriquez no longer plays like a project anymore. He has the size and defensive ability to frustrate Jones, who has struggled against elite big men like Arnett Moultrie (MSU) and Kevin Jones (West Virginia) this season.
Baylor will win if… it limits turnovers, matches KSU’s intensity and gets a good performance out of Jones. Two statistics have caused problems for BU during its otherwise unblemished season: turnovers and offensive rebounds. The Bears cough the ball up too much, and they’ve been unable to keep teams off the boards at times. Most famously, BU did not have a rebound during the first eight minutes of a win at BYU, and the Bears also rank near the bottom of the Big 12 in turnovers. Against Kansas State, that could be a recipe for disaster. The Wildcats will come after Baylor from every angle on defense, and they will not back down from BU’s size. In front of a lively crowd, Scott Drew‘s team needs to play smart basketball and generate its own energy. Also, it’s important for Perry Jones to get going. Save for a couple of dominating performances vs. Prairie View A&M and BYU, he hasn’t controlled games offensively like he’s capable of. His guards need to get him the basketball and let him go to work.
Kansas State will win if… it gets second-chance points and lets Rodney McGruder take over. KSU may have embarrassed Missouri’s bigs on Saturday, but even with a +14 rebounding advantage and 10 offensive boards, the Wildcats didn’t win the game because of their rebounding. They won because they kept Missouri’s guards out of the paint on the defensive end and attacked the Tigers’ thin frontcourt on the offensive end. Baylor simply has too much size for that to happen again. Second-chance points are going to be even more important on Tuesday, and Kansas State has to find a way to generate offense off putbacks and missed shots. McGruder, who scored 20 points despite not making a three-pointer against MU, will also need to play that kind of basketball again against the Bears. As a slasher, McGruder is a very difficult matchup for Baylor’s guards, and he has the ability to get to the free throw line and put BU’s forwards in foul trouble.
OTHER GAMES OF NOTE
- Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Monday, 6 PM CT (ESPNU)
Bedlam isn’t what it used to be. Instead of a prime time matchup, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will play tonight during the same time slot as the BCS National Championship on a channel most of America does not pay for. That’s the harsh reality of college basketball — if two programs are down on their luck, nobody’s interested. We’re a little intrigued by this game in Stillwater, though, especially after OU played Kansas somewhat tough on Saturday and even led at halftime. Even though Gallagher-Iba has had its share of attendance issues, don’t expect fans to skip this game tonight in favor of college football. OSU may not be very fun to watch right now, but it certainly has a shot to beat OU at home. The Sooners may have a size advantage with Andrew Fitzgerald and Romero Osby, and they have a better point guard in Sam Grooms. Steven Pledger is probably the best scorer on the floor, too. So what does OSU have going for it? Well, for one, the home crowd. Also, the Cowboys have played very well defensively in two Big 12 games, holding Texas Tech and Texas to less than 40 percent from the floor. Travis Ford‘s team just needs to figure out a way to score, and that falls on Keiton Page and LeBryan Nash tonight.
- Missouri at Iowa State, Wednesday, 7 PM CT (Big 12 Network)
Hilton Magic might be back. Now 2-0 in the league after blowing out Texas A&M in College Station, Iowa State returns home for one of its most anticipated home games in recent memory against Missouri. Hilton Coliseum was once a pit for opposing teams, and as recent as a decade ago, ISU almost never lost in front of its home crowd. With a chance to improve to 3-0 in Big 12 play, the always-faithful Cyclones fans will be out in full force on Wednesday night, and that’s not good news for an MU team that still has not proven it can win major road games. The Tigers were exposed in Manhattan on Saturday, as they did not execute offensively and could not contain KSU’s size. Iowa State doesn’t have the kind of shot-blockers KSU has, but Royce White is quickly becoming a household name across the country after recording a triple-double against A&M. White is an opposing coach’s nightmare because of his ball-handling skills from the forward position, although Frank Haith luckily has an athletic big man in Ricardo Ratliffe to keep up with him. Three-point shooting may also dictate the outcome of this game. Both teams love to shoot from beyond the arc, and there will be shooters all over the floor on Wednesday.