Checking In On… the Big 12 ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 2012
The Week That Was
- Bears Dropped At Home: Baylor’s Big 12 title hopes took a huge hit this week, losing at Kansas and at home to Missouri. Though they are just two games back of leader Kansas and play both the Jayhawks and Tigers again, their Big 12 title odds are down to just 3.8% according to teamrankings.com and some questions probably need to be asked of Scott Drew. Baylor settled for jumpers time and time again against Missouri and let the Tigers rebound nearly half of their misses; inexcusable numbers for a team with the size that Baylor has.
- Frank Martin Hands Down Punishment: Kansas State’s big front line took a hit this past week when they suspended junior Jordan Henriquez indefinitely. Henriquez wasn’t a big offensive threat, averaging 7.1 points per game in under 20 minutes per game, but he was very good on the glass at 11.9%, which ranked third on the team, and was their best defensive rebounder as well. With the Wildcats ranking seventh in Big 12 play in defensive rebounding, Henriquez’s absence will be felt.
- What Can Brown To For You?: Last week, I highlighted the good side of J’Covan Brown, so this week the bad: Brown helped Texas come back from an 18-point deficit against Kansas over the weekend, but proceeded to shoot them out of the game, making only four of the 18 two-point shots he took on Saturday. Myck Kabongo had a rough game and the Horns lack someone other than Brown who can create his own shot so it’s understandable that he’d shoot that much, but he did them no favors this weekend.
- Kansas (16-3, 6-0): On the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death, Thomas Robinson turned in a very good performance with 17 points and nine rebounds to keep the Jayhawks unbeaten in Big 12 play. After the game, he had the early frontrunner for heartbreaking quote of the year, saying: “No disrespect intended, but that’s something I have to live with every day… For the media, it’s an anniversary.” Robinson’s main focus this year has been to take care of his little sister, Jayla, and with him projected to be a high lottery pick, that certainly looks to be a goal that can be accomplished, but even if not, a scholarship fund has reached roughly $300,000 in donations from fans.
- Missouri (18-1, 5-1): The Tigers, as I mentioned above, rebounded nearly half of their misses at Baylor over the weekend and shot 68% from two, with Ricardo Ratliffe scoring 27 points on 11-14 shooting. All season, they’ve struggled rebounding and at defending the two-point shot, so questions about how they’ll react when faced with size in the tournament are still valid, but they answered some of those questions on Saturday.
- Baylor (17-2, 4-2): I have never been a big Scott Drew fan, and he showed me why on Saturday. With a huge height advantage, Baylor settled for jumpers, only shooting 11 free throws on the day. They are a poor defensive rebounding team as it is, but with their height advantage, there is no way Missouri should have grabbed about half their misses. Thanks in part to getting shredded by Kansas and Missouri, Baylor’s once-stout two-point defense is now allowing teams to shoot 49.8% in Big 12 play, which ranks seventh in the league.
- Iowa State (14-5, 4-2): Royce White may be the most versatile player in the country: he’s the only player (with a usage rate over 28%) who has an eFG 55% or higher, a defensive rebounding rate of 24.5% or higher, and an assist rate of 30% or higher. Despite the off-court problems that plagued him at Minnesota, the country is beginning to see why White was such a sought-after player coming out of high school.
- Kansas State (14-4, 3-3): I bet the Wildcats were happy to see their conference schedule slow down a bit. Despite being without Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, they held off Texas and then overcame a poor offensive effort to beat Oklahoma State. Jamar Samuels stepped up big time on the glass in that one with 12 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass. Just two weeks after losing in Norman, the Wildcats will get a chance to avenge their worst loss of the season when they host the Sooners.
- Texas (12-7, 2-4): Despite an 0-2 week, I am leaving the Longhorns at sixth in the rankings this week. They played Kansas State tough in Manhattan and almost shocked Kansas, succumbing by three. Against the Jayhawks on Saturday, Texas erased an 18-point deficit and led as late as the 1:53 mark in the second half. Texas continues to struggle defensively, allowing opponents a 53.2% eFG in Big 12 play, which is the worst in the league. In fact, their opponents’ eFG is almost as high as their free throw percentage, which is a league-worst 57.8%.
- Oklahoma (12-6, 2-4): Oklahoma shoots 37.1% from beyond the arc overall this year, but in conference play they are shooting an abysmal 26.8%, which ranks last in the Big 12. They’re also last in frequency of shooting threes: Steven Pledger has taken 101 of them, and the rest of his teammates combined have only taken 156.
- Oklahoma State (9-10, 2-4): Oklahoma State ranks eighth in both offensive and defensive efficiency in Big 12 play, so it’s only fair that they rank eighth in these rankings. They also rank tenth in both offensive and defensive rebounding, which makes sense for a team that is ranked 278th in average height and their second-tallest player is 6’7” wing LeBryan Nash. With two of their next three games coming against the two teams trailing them in these rankings, the Cowboys can get closer to .500 in league play.
- Texas A&M (11-7, 2-4): A&M received as many first place votes in the preseason Big 12 poll as Kansas, and tonight they travel to Allen Fieldhouse, where KenPom gives them just a 3% chance of pulling the upset. They’ll have to win with defense, as they rank eighth in the league in three point shooting, two point shooting and free throw shooting. Their defense actually has been decent, allowing opponents to shoot just 47.3% from two in Big 12 play.
- Texas Tech (7-11, 0-6): Writing about the Red Raiders is just depressing at this point. They have just an 8% chance of beating Kansas State and 1% chance of beating Missouri this week, according to Ken Pomeroy. In fact, their best chance of winning a Big 12 game this year is currently when they host Texas A&M on Valentines Day, where they have a 36% chance of winning. I still think they’ll get one, but it’s not going to be easy.
- Texas at Baylor – Saturday, Jan. 28 – Texas has won eight of their last nine games in Waco, with their only loss coming in the 2010 regular season finale.
- Kansas at Iowa State – Saturday Jan. 28 – Iowa State had a double-digit lead in Allen Fieldhouse when these two met earlier this year, which will lead a lot of people to pick an upset here. Kansas has struggled in Ames recently, so this could be the game their undefeated conference record ends.
- Oklahoma at Kansas State – Saturday Jan. 28– The Wildcats have a chance to avenge their worst loss of the year, whereas sweeping Kansas State will give the Sooners a foothold in the Big 12 race and could inch them towards the NCAA tournament.
Spotlight on… Tyshawn Taylor
Tyshawn Taylor has been one of the more enigmatic players in recent Big 12 history. Between his controversial tweets and his penchant for turning the ball over, the past couple of seasons have been a rollercoaster ride for Kansas fans. But this year, he has cut down on his turnovers to 24% of his possessions, and has raised his assist rate to 30.8%. His performance as of late (averaging 26 points over his last three games with zero turnovers against Texas) have been a breath of fresh air for the KU faithful, especially considering the general lack of scorers on the team.