The Breakdown: Wednesday Night in the Big 12 TournamentPosted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012
Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.
Knowing most of you are probably not all that interested in reading about the league’s bottom four teams, I’ll try to be brief here. Here’s exactly what you need to know — and nothing more — about the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.
Game 1: (8) Oklahoma vs. (9) Texas A&M, 6 p.m CT.
With only one scholarship senior on the roster, Lon Kruger may actually have a decent roster to work with next year. So although Wednesday could be the final game of C.J. Washington‘s career, this could mark the beginning of a turnaround in 2012-13. The Sooners have not fared well in Big 12 play after a strong start in November and December, but they have an underrated point guard in Sam Grooms, a blossoming scorer in Steven Pledger and a couple of really good forwards in Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald. Osby has quietly played very well down the stretch for Kruger, helping offset Pledger’s inconsistency and Fitzgerald’s struggles. He’s one of the top offensive rebounders in the Big 12, which sets up a showdown with Ray Turner and David Loubeau. Billy Kennedy will need to rework his roster more than Kruger next year, but the Big 12 Tournament could still give him some valuable feedback on what needs to change in his program.
The key player is… Osby. When these two teams played on Saturday, he scored 24 points and looked virtually unguardable. Surprisingly, Texas A&M actually kept him off of the offensive glass, which is Osby’s main strength.
Game 2: (7) Oklahoma State vs. (10) Texas Tech
In what could be Keiton Page‘s final collegiate game at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys’ adverse season could get even worse if they fall victim to an upset here. The Red Raiders are young and beaten down, but they have help this weekend with Le’Bryan Nash and Philip Jurick sidelined with injuries for OSU. This team was already thin. Now, it must learn how to deal with an entirely new dynamic. Oklahoma State did sweep Tech during the regular season, even winning by 17 points in Lubbock. Neither team has much to lose, but you get the sense Page won’t let his storied career end with a loss to the Big 12′s worst team. Then again, basketball works in funny ways, so there’s no guarantee Page’s senior leadership will get OSU anywhere this weekend. Especially with Nash and Jurick on the bench.
The key player is… Page. Even as his teammates have transferred and torn ligaments, Page has been the model of consistency. He will leave Oklahoma State as a four-year contributor, making him one of those “is-this-his-eighth-year?” kind of guys. He’s won a lot of games, and he’s lost a lot of games, too. He’s also made a lot of shots and missed a lot of shots, making him a polarizing and divisive figure in college basketball as a volume shooter with the potential to score 40 or miss 11 three-pointers. Whatever you want to say about him, he’s meant a lot to this program. And for Texas Tech to end his career, it must frustrate him into forcing bad shots.