Checking In On… The Big 12 ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2012
The Week That Was
- Two Big 12 teams notched their first wins of the conference season this week with Oklahoma defeating Kansas State and Texas A&M downing Texas Tech. Andrew Fitzgerald had a season-high 21 points to key Oklahoma’s first win as the Sooners overcame a double-double from Rodney McGruder. A&M meanwhile overcame a poor day on the glass to beat Texas Tech with five players in double figures. It doesn’t get any easier for the Aggies, as they have Missouri and Kansas in their next three games.
- The conference’s two top defenses will meet tonight in Allen Fieldhouse when unbeaten Baylor visits Kansas. The Bears are allowing 0.908 points per possession and a 44% eFG, each mark bested only by Kansas. The Jayhawks are allowing opponents only 0.839 points per trip and an eFG allowed of 38.2%. They both have been very accomplished in Big 12 play offensively as well, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a very high-scoring affair on Big Monday.
- At roughly the halfway point, the Big 12 leader in both points per game and points per 40 minutes is Texas junior J’Covan Brown. Brown is scoring 19 points per game and 22.9 points per 40 minutes. Brown has grown into and embraced his role as a scorer, going from playing in 53% Texas’s minutes last year to over 80% this year, and from taking roughly a fourth of the shots available all the way up to nearly a third this season.
- Baylor (17-0, 4-0): The Bears narrowly avoided their first loss of the year by surviving 75-73 at Kansas State. Lest you wonder about them getting caught looking ahead to the showdown with the Jayhawks on Monday, they thumped Oklahoma State 106-75 over the weekend. While NBA scouts must be drooling about seeing Perry Jones match-up with Thomas Robinson, I’m more interested in the guards: Pierre Jackson has gotten a lot of ink lately for his stellar play (and it’s warranted, as he’s shooting 49% from three and has the 24th–best assist rate in the country), but he’ll have to go up against some good defensive guards for the Jayhawks, and with Jackson turning it over at a rate of 30% that could provide some easy buckets for the Jayhawks.
- Kansas (14-3, 4-0): The Jayhawks trailed nearly all game on Saturday against Iowa State (looking ahead to the Baylor game perhaps?) before finally pulling away at the end to win 82-73. Tyshawn Taylor had a career-high 28 points, and chipped in six assists and four steals. After the game, Iowa State’s Chris Allen was none too complimentary, remarking “I honestly can say that we did what we had to do to win,” Allen said. “I don’t want to make any excuses, but you watched the game like we all watched the game. It’s our fault we let the refs keep them in the game and had a couple of (bad) calls that kind of made us sink down a little bit.” Not that this is the be all end-all method of determining referee favoritism, but the Cyclones actually attempted one more free throw than the Jayhawks, and that was even with the intentional fouling at the end as Iowa State tried to play catch-up late.
- Missouri (16-1, 3-1): When they shoot the three as they were against Texas, Missouri is going to be nearly impossible to beat. They made 10 of their 21 threes they took, and are now shooting over 40% as a team on the season. Marcus Denmon and Phil Pressey were the stars in Saturday’s effort, combining to go 7-16 from behind the arc. Missouri still lacks a true inside presence outside of Ricardo Ratliffe, but with how well they can stretch out a defense, it may not matter.
- Iowa State (12-5, 2-2): Chris Allen’s comments aside, the Cyclones acquitted themselves extremely well on Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse. Royce White had 18 points and 17 rebounds and has probably sewn up the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award assuming he continues at even 80% of his performance so far. The Cyclones will be in every game this year for two reasons: first, they’re shooting 41% from three in conference play, and second, Fred Hoiberg has revived some Hilton Magic in Ames. The Cyclones are 9-2 at home this year, and nearly knocked off Missouri in Ames last week.
- Kansas State (12-4, 1-3): Although they are 1-3 in Big 12 play, the Wildcats are actually the fourth-ranked team in the Big 12 in the Pomeroy rankings. They have the quirkiest schedule in the league this year facing Kansas, Missouri, and Baylor back-to-back-to-back not once, but twice. The overwhelming adjective to describe a Kansas State game is helter-skelter: The Wildcats are 226th in turnovers, but 43rd in forcing them. They also get to the line more than all but 17 other teams in the nation, but are 241st in terms of sending opponents to the line.
- Texas (12-5, 2-2): Texas nearly came back against Missouri on Saturday, but faded a bit down the stretch. As I noted above, J’Covan Brown is carrying a heavy load offensively for the Longhorns, as he is leading the Big 12 both in scoring and in minutes played. Myck Kabongo continues to get better in his freshman season, and currently gets to the line more than any player in the country. Impressive for anyone, but especially a 6’1” newcomer.
- Oklahoma (11-5, 1-3): The stats are a bit skewed by them having to play both Kansas and Missouri already, but Oklahoma currently has the worst defense in Big 12 play, allowing 1.15 points per possession. It’s not much better on offense either, as they’re scoring just 0.96 points per trip. They are not turning it over much, just 18%, but absolutely can’t shoot, shooting 41% from two and 30.4% from three on the year. The Sooners’ convincing win against Kansas State is the kind of thing that can spark some consistency, but we’ll have to wait and see.
- Oklahoma State (9-8, 2-2): Oklahoma State is shooting just 43.9% from two, which is one of the more glaring stats in the league. Their defense has been pretty good in three of their four conference games, but they’re allowing 1.04 points per trip in league play, which ranks seventh, heartily skewed by allowing 106 points against Baylor over the weekend.
- Texas A&M (10-6, 1-3): The Aggies finally won a league game, beating Texas Tech at home. A&M has no doubt been one of the biggest disappointments in the league, but surprisingly enough they have emerged as the third best defensive team in the league. The problem is they can’t score: they are scoring just 0.84 points per possession and they’re 322nd nationally at shooting threes.
- Texas Tech (7-9, 0-4): I have been pretty negative about the Red Raiders so far this year, so let me add a positive note: through four conference games, Texas Tech is the best defensive rebounding team in the Big 12, allowing opponents to grab only 27.6% of their misses. Not to look too far ahead, but they host Kansas State next Wednesday and with how much the Wildcats rely on the offensive glass to score points if you’re looking for a Tech conference win, it just might come there.
- Baylor at Kansas – Monday, January 16 – Baylor enters Allen Fieldhouse undefeated. The game pits the top two defenses in the league and two of the top three offenses. Predictably, it is tops on Ken Pomeroy’s FanMatch scale for the night.
- Missouri at Baylor – Saturday, January 21 – Baylor starts and ends the week with games that could vault them into the driver’s seat in the Big 12 race. Baylor has a big edge over the Tigers inside, but Missouri should be able to take advantage of their guards.
- Texas at Kansas State – Wednesday, January 18– Rodney McGruder vs. J’Covan Brown might be one of the best individual match-up of the year so far with each player carrying a heavy load offensively. They also are the two teams who force the most turnovers in Big 12 play, so it should be a fun one.