Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

The Week That Was

  • Game Of The Year: Kansas was 16:42 away from being swept by Missouri and perhaps letting the Big 12 title slip away. Perhaps recognizing the importance of the last meeting as conference foes, Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit, took the game to overtime, and behind 28 points and 12 rebounds from Thomas Robinson, as well as 24 points and five assists from Tyshawn Taylor, the Jayhawks clinched no worse than a share of their eighth straight Big 12 title and perhaps have the inside track on a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Wildcats Looking Strong: Kansas State notched a huge win on the road at Missouri last Monday, and coupled with its victory over Baylor on Saturday, it was the first time Frank Martin’s team had beaten top ten teams back-to-back on the road. The Wildcats lost to Iowa State on Saturday, but the wins over Baylor and Missouri perhaps locked them into an NCAA Tournament berth.
  • A Coaches’ League: Frank Haith and Bill Self have gotten a lot of ink for national coach of the year, but the Big 12 Coach of the Year might be Fred Hoiberg. The Mayor has taken Iowa State from the conference basement to a probable NCAA tournament berth, as the Cyclones currently sit in a tie for third in the league. Royce White and Chris Allen have been great as transfers, but it’s Hoiberg who gave them the second chance and has gotten everyone to buy in. Impressive stuff up in Ames.

All Eyes Were On Allen Fieldhouse Saturday, And The Jayhawks And Tigers Delivered A Game For The Ages. (David Eulitt/The Kansas City Star)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (24-5, 14-2): The final regular season of the Border War was one of the best ever and with the win Kansas clinched a share of its eighth straight Big 12 title. A win in either of its last two games – at Oklahoma State or at home against Texas – can clinch it outright, continuing perhaps the most underrated streak in sports.
  2. Missouri (25-4, 12-4): In the span of a week, Missouri went from Big 12 favorites to having next to no shot at even winning a share of the Big 12 title. After being ahead by ten points or more for much of the second half, Missouri fans are no doubt questioning Frank Haith’s decision to stall on offense for much of the half (a strategy I tentatively agree with, by the way) as well as the final possession when Missouri did not even get a shot off. They didn’t have a timeout so Haith could not draw up a play, but not having a better option built into the offense there was a bad move.
  3. Baylor (24-5, 11-5): Baylor got back to its winning ways with a pair of wins over Texas and Oklahoma. With Texas Tech and Iowa State remaining, Baylor has the ability to hold off the Cyclones to finish third in the league. Four Bears scored in double figures in the win over Texas, including Quincy Acy’s incredibly efficient 22 points on 7-10 shooting. If Baylor is to make some tournament noise, however, they will need more from Perry Jones. The sophomore went just 3-14 from the field against Texas.
  4. Iowa State (21-8, 11-5): The Cyclones, like Baylor, will have the opportunity to finish third all by their lonesome. Their road is a bit harder, though, as they will have to go to Missouri before hosting the Bears. They have already been fantastic though. According to the team’s official Twitter account, their eight-win improvement in Big 12 play tied a conference record.
  5. Kansas State (19-9, 8-8): Though they lost to Iowa State on Saturday, they struck resume gold with a win on Monday at Missouri. A 24-point effort from Rodney McGruder led the way. McGruder hasn’t gotten the ink he has deserved this year, but he has been very good for the Wildcats as the only player on the team who can consistently create his own shot. Kansas State isn’t very good on offense, but McGruder has basically willed them to the NCAA Tournament.
  6. Texas (18-11, 8-8): The Horns can put themselves in position to earn a tournament bid with a win at Kansas on Saturday, or by winning a couple in the Big 12 Tournament, but they have to take care of business against Oklahoma as well. They narrowly avoided a crippling defeat to Texas Tech on Saturday, but they made seven of eight free throws in overtime to hold off the Red Raiders.
  7. Oklahoma State (14-15, 7-9): The Cowboys lost to Oklahoma on Wednesday and suffered another big loss in the process when freshman LeBryan Nash suffered a hand injury. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said he hasn’t ruled Nash out for the rest of the year and he may in fact play against Kansas on Monday. Nash has just a 41.8% eFG on the year, but he is maybe the only Cowboy who can consistently create his own shot, so he will be missed from that standpoint.
  8. Oklahoma (14-14, 4-12): Because of their soft non-conference schedule (ranked 313th, according to KenPom) no one should have been terribly surprised at the relative dive the Sooners took in conference play. Still, going from 10-2 in non-conference action to 4-12 in league play can’t sit too well with Sooner fans. The good news is they will have all five starters back next year while Lon Kruger continues to build.
  9. Texas A&M (13-15, 4-12): The Aggies put a scare into conference champion Kansas on Wednesday, turning a huge halftime deficit into just a four-point deficit on multiple occasions, but could not quite finish the job, losing by eight. Speaking of bad non-conference slates, A&M went 9-3 against the 340th-ranked non-conference schedule and just 4-12 against the Big 12 slate (which admittedly is the second best conference in the country this year).
  10. Texas Tech (8-20, 1-15): Texas Tech lost in overtime at home to Texas, but with Baylor and Missouri remaining on the schedule, it looks like they’ll have to settle for just one league win in Billy Gillispie’s first season at the helm. Whether you want to call it balance or ineptitude, Tech has just one player averaging more than ten points per game, and five players between seven and nine.

The Wildcats Notched A Key Win Over Missouri Last Week. (L.G. Patterson/AP Photo)

Looking Ahead

  • Kansas at Oklahoma State – Monday, February 27 – Kansas can clinch the Big 12 title outright with a win, but it has lost three of its last four meetings in Stillwater, Bill Self’s old stomping grounds. Will Kansas suffer a letdown after the big win over Missouri?
  • Baylor at Iowa State – Saturday, March 3 – If Iowa State manages a win over Missouri this could be for third in the league outright. If nothing else it could determine who has the #3 seed in the Big 12 tournament. Baylor beat Iowa State by 15 at home in their first meeting.
  • Texas at Kansas – Saturday, March 3 – The Longhorns could leap into the NCAA Tournament discussion in a big way with a win in Lawrence. It looks like a tough ask, but Texas was the last team to win in Allen Fieldhouse, and lost by just three to the Jayhawks earlier this year.

Caught on Film

This post has been pretty heavy on Border War content, but it was easily the most important game of the year for the conference: not only did it decide the conference champion, it may have decided who gets a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as well. It’s only fitting then that this week’s feature be the end of the overtime period from Saturday.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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