Checking In On… the Big 12 ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on February 13th, 2012
The Week That Was
- Baylor Drops From Contention: The Big 12 separated at the top this week as Baylor lost both to Kansas and Missouri. Perry Jones III, who is talked about as a probable lottery pick next June, disappeared this week, scoring five points on 1-8 shooting against Kansas and four points on 2-12 shooting against Missouri. Jones, like the rest of his teammates, has a ton of talent, but doesn’t appear to have the toughness necessary to compete at the highest level.
- A Third Weapon for Kansas: When the weekly conference awards are announced, Jeff Withey may be the fourth different Kansas player to be named Big 12 Player of the Week this season. Withey had a career-high 25 points against Baylor on Wednesday and followed it up with a great game against Oklahoma State, with 18 points, 20 rebounds, and seven blocks in Lawrence on Saturday. Everyone knows what Thomas Robinson has done, and Tyshawn Taylor’s putting up solid lines lately, but Withey’s emergence gives Kansas maybe the best post combo in the country.
- Red Raiders Hit The Win Column: The Red Raiders, who were 0-11 in conference play going into the weekend, got an early Valentine’s Day present, beating Oklahoma 65-47 at home. Javarez Willis scored 21 points and Robert Lewandowski had 16, but it was the Red Raiders’ defense that stole the show: Texas Tech held Oklahoma to just 0.73 points per possession and forced them to turn it over on a quarter of their possessions.
- Missouri (23-2, 10-2): Missouri survived a scare on Monday when Oklahoma guard Steven Pledger’s three at the buzzer rimmed out (it didn’t stop him from celebrating a bit early, though). They’ll get the opportunity to avenge one of their conference losses this week when Oklahoma State comes to town. I’m assuming they’ll shoot a bit better than 48% from two and 21% from three in that one.
- Kansas (18-5, 8-2): It was a tale of two halves on Saturday, as Kansas completely destroyed Oklahoma State in the first half, jumping out to a 51-24 lead after 20 minutes. But they came out lethargic in the second and struggled with Oklahoma State’s press, turning it over regularly and getting outscored by 12. Kansas used its size advantage well that day, grabbing over half of its misses and limiting Oklahoma State to just a 13.2% offensive rebounding rate. The one negative for Kansas as of late has been their inability to take care of the ball: their turnover rate is sixth in the Big 12.
- Baylor (21-4, 8-4): Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner wrote a piece on Baylor this weekend, saying that the Bears’ defense is keeping them from being a Final Four contender. After being one of the most stout defenses in the country in the non-conference portion, Baylor’s defensive effort has all but abandoned them as they are now ninth in the league in defense, allowing teams to shoot around 49% from two against them. They are getting more steals than anyone in the league and are third in shot blocking, but their defensive rebounding and toughness has let them down against the best two teams in the league.
- Iowa State (17-6, 7-3): If you’re looking for a turnover-free game, make the trek to Ames. The Cyclones force the fewest number of turnovers in the league, and turn it over fewer than all but one team. Royce White is for some reason refusing to shoot the ball lately, attempting only five field goals against Texas A&M, which could be a response to going 6-16 in a loss to Oklahoma State.
- Texas (16-9, 6-6): J’Covan Browntook a break from scoring in Texas’ win over Texas A&M (though he did have 20 points), instead dishing out seven assists in the win. He also had 23 points against Kansas State, a game which featured the Longhorns shooting 48 free throws and compiling the rare +100 free throw rate. Each team had an eFG under 50% and turned it over on one-fourth of their possessions which, combined with all the free throws, didn’t exactly make for a model basketball game.
- Kansas State (17-7, 6-6): Kansas State fans were not happy with the officiating on Saturday, and perhaps understandably so after seeing the free throw disparity. The Wildcats now have Kansas, Baylor, Missouri and Iowa State in a four-game stretch that will make or break their NCAA Tournament fortunes. The complete opposite of the Cyclones, if you like seeing turnovers head to Manhattan, as Kansas State is the best team in the league at forcing turnovers but turns it over more than all but one other team.
- Oklahoma State (12-13, 5-7): The Cowboys got a big win over Iowa State last week behind 19 points from Markel Brown and 18 from LeBryan Nash, but couldn’t pull off the second half comeback against Kansas on Saturday. Keiton Page had 19 points, most of them coming via the three, but he is shooting just 33.5% from three this year, likely a function of having to take more shots than any other year of his career.
- Oklahoma (13-11, 3-9): The Sooners are the unfortunate team to give Texas Tech its first conference win, as they responded quite poorly after narrowly losing to Missouri. The Sooners had just one player in double figures in that game and Steven Pledger went just 2-7 from the field, scoring only four points as the Sooners were outscored 40-25 in the second half.
- Texas A&M (12-12, 3-9): A&M narrowly lost to Texas last Monday, holding a one point lead with just over a minute left, but the Aggies scored just one point in the final minute, not even getting off a shot attempt from the floor. They will get a chance to alter the Big 12 landscape in the next couple weeks, as they host both Missouri and Kansas.
- Texas Tech (8-16, 1-11): Texas Tech’s first conference win was a defensive masterpiece, as the Red Raiders held Oklahoma to just .73 points per possession, a 34.5% eFG and they forced turnovers on 25% of the Sooners’ possessions. Offensively they weren’t great, with just two players in double figures, but congrats nonetheless to the Red Raiders for getting a conference win.
- Kansas at Kansas State – Monday, Feb. 13 – Kansas State has beaten their biggest rival just once in their last seven meetings, but have taken them to overtime in another matchup and always play the Jayhawks tough in Manhattan. Their ability to force turnovers coupled with Kansas’s deficiency lately in that area could make this a close contest.
- Iowa State at Baylor – Monday, Feb. 13 – After being in a tie for first in the Big 12 this time last week, Baylor can slip into fourth if they lose to the Cyclones. Despite the recent trend that Iowa State’s performance is seemingly inversely related to the number of shots Royce White attempts, White should get to have a field day with that defense.
- Texas A&M at Texas Tech – In a matchup of the league’s two worst teams, Texas Tech could pull off a two game winning streak. A&M is only favored by about four in this game and with Tech’s recent improvements defensively coupled with A&M’s struggles on offense they could win their second game in as many tries.
Caught on Film
In a league of great dunkers, Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown stands out. He dunked on Thomas Robinson this weekend and had this nice effort against Iowa State. With Oklahoma State all but guaranteed to not be playing in the season’s final weekend, he is a must-have for the dunk contest, and he should be the favorite, as he has compiled quite the collection of highlight reel dunks this year (ed. note: unfortunately, the event is only open to seniors).