Checking In On… The Big 12 ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on February 20th, 2012
The Week That Was
- Baylor Falls At Home: Baylor had only lost conference games to Kansas and Missouri, but that changed with a one-point loss at home against Kansas State. Despite Wildcat freshman Angel Rodriguez traveling on an easy layup, Baylor could not win on its last possession when freshman Quincy Miller missed a shot with just seconds left. Baylor didn’t score in the final two minutes of the game, and had a couple of possessions marred by some physical play that went uncalled. The loss drops the Bears into a tie with Iowa State for third in the league.
- Can The Jayhawks Make A Deep Run?: One of the tenets in picking a national champion is finding a team that is ranked in the KenPom top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency. At this point, only two teams meet these criteria: Kentucky and Kansas. The Jayhawks are tenth in adjusted offense and fourth in adjusted defense, giving them the ability to play with any team in the nation. Though its offense has been concentrated in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor (and lately Jeff Withey), the Jayhawks have good defenders all over the floor, which is exactly how Bill Self likes it. Considering the perception of Kansas coming into the season after losing the Morris twins, Self’s team has come a long way.
- A Banner Day In Stillwater: Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page had the game of his career, scoring a career-high 40 points in a win over Texas. Page was efficient from the field, going 4-6 from two and 4-8 from three, but he was fantastic from the line, getting to the charity stripe 20 times and making every last one. Page’s shooting percentages have dropped a bit this year as he’s had to take a more active role in the offense, but Saturday was a reminder of what shooting skill the senior has.
- Missouri (25-2, 12-2): Missouri has the best offense in the country (by a good margin), but its defense has been just mediocre. The Tigers are now fourth in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency, and have allowed over a point per possession in five of their last six games. Hosting a Kansas State team that struggles to score should give Frank Haith’s crew an opportunity to tighten up its defense.
- Kansas (18-5, 8-2): Kansas has never lost to Texas Tech in Allen Fieldhouse, winning this year’s edition by 33 points. Four Jayhawks scored in double figures, including Conner Teahan, who made three of his five threes, which is a huge key for the Jayhawks if they want to advance far in the NCAA Tournament. Probably the player who most delighted the home crowd, though, was walk-on Jordan Juenemann, who scored a career-high 7 points in the waning minutes.
- Baylor (22-5, 9-5): After starting out 17-0, Baylor is now 5-5 in its last ten games. The Bears failed to score in the final two minutes of their loss against Kansas State, their first loss this year to a team other than Kansas or Missouri. They didn’t get much help from the officials down the stretch, but Baylor fans hardly have room to complain, as Kansas State took only six free throws. Low for any team, but abysmally low for Kansas State, who is third in the league and 24th nationally at getting to the line.
- Iowa State (19-8, 9-5): I have a sneaking suspicion that Texas would beat the Cyclones on a neutral floor, but it’s tough to argue against what Fred Hoiberg has done with this Cyclone team. Certainly the surprise of the year in the league, I think Hoiberg should get his name on the short list for not only Big 12 Coach of the Year, but the Cyclones’ accomplishments should not be overlooked on a national scale, either. Iowa State won just three Big 12 games last year, and won its third of this season over a month ago this season.
- Texas (17-10, 7-7): J’Covan Brown still leads the Big 12 in scoring at 19.7 points per game (and just over 20 per game in Big 12 play), but he was also given another honor recently as he was named first team Academic All Big 12. It’s the second straight year the junior has been honored. In order to be named to the first team a player must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 either cumulatively or in the previous two semesters and must have participated in 60% of the team’s action. Hats off to Brown for getting it done on and off the court.
- Kansas State (18-8, 7-7): At 7-7 in the Big 12, Kansas State sits squarely on the bubble. Another win over Missouri, this time in Columbia, would do wonders for the Wildcats’ resume. If they can’t do that, they still have a tilt with Iowa State this week that is a potential elimination game. In order to win, freshman Angel Rodriguez will need to be a lot better. He had seven turnovers and no points in a loss to Kansas last week, and a potentially game-altering turnover in the final seconds on Saturday.
- Oklahoma State (12-13, 5-7): After his 40-point outburst on Saturday, Keiton Page is the fourth-leading scorer in conference play at 17.4 points per game, just fractions of a point behind Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas. Page is also playing more minutes than anyone in the Big 12, and with J.P. Olukemi out for the year and LeBryan Nash struggling to take on a prominent role, it’s arguable that no player in the league is more important to his team than Page.
- Oklahoma (13-13, 3-11): The Sooners have slipped nearly 50 spots in the Pomeroy ratings in the past month, thanks in part to a six game conference losing streak. Steven Pledger is ranked eighth in the league in scoring, but has struggled in Big 12 play, with just a 49% eFG clip.
- Texas A&M (13-13, 4-10): A&M beat Texas Tech 47-38 in a 53-possession game, which has to be the worst Big 12 game of the year by far. The Aggies played Missouri well before narrowly losing on Saturday, and on Wednesday will get a chance to play spoiler again when they host Kansas. While Khris Middleton has gotten most of the ink for the Aggies, Elston Turner is their leading scorer in Big 12 play at 15.5 points per game, and is shooting almost 39% from three on the year. If he gets hot, the Aggies could nip a Kansas team looking ahead to Missouri.
- Texas Tech (8-18, 1-13): Texas Tech got hammered at Allen Fieldhouse and Jordan Tolbert struggled against Kansas’ big front line, going just 4-12 and grabbing only four rebounds. Tolbert has a great future ahead of him, but right now, he relies on power more than an advanced repertoire of post moves, which hurt him against a shot-blocker like Jeff Withey. Still, with Tolbert, and top 75 recruit Wannah Bail, who committed last week, Tech has a foundation to build on for next year.
- Kansas State at Missouri – Tuesday, February 21 – Missouri will try to avenge one of its two conference losses on Tuesday when they host the Wildcats. On January 7 in Manhattan, Kansas State’s huge front line dominated Missouri as the Wildcats destroyed the Tigers, 75-59.
- Kansas State at Iowa State – Saturday, February 25 – Both teams sit squarely on the bubble, and the winner will have a leg up in the race to get into the NCAA Tournament, though it is very possible both will get in. Royce White has struggled a bit lately for Iowa State, and will need to be at his best in order for the Cyclones to win.
- Missouri at Kansas – Saturday, February 25 – Missouri travels to Lawrence for perhaps the last time, and Kansas tries to avenge one of its two conference losses. The winner will have a one-game lead in the Big 12 standings and will be a near-lock to at least share the conference title.
Caught on Film
In the waning seconds of the Kansas State-Baylor game, Kansas State’s Angel Rodriguez caught a long pass and took to the hoop for what appeared to be an easy layup. He was whistled for a traveling violation, though, as the officials ruled Rodriguez took three steps to lay it in. It was inconsequential to the outcome of the game, but it was still extremely close. Judge for yourself at the 0:50 mark.