Saturday Look Ahead: Big 12 EditionPosted by KoryCarpenter on February 2nd, 2013
We will be halfway home in the conference season later tonight, but we’ve had more questions than answers through seven Big 12 games this season. Kansas is still on top, like most years. But we still don’t know how things will play out in terms of the order behind the Jayhawks, who hold at least a two-game lead over everyone else. Here’s what to watch for around the league:
1) Game Of The Day… #18 Kansas State at Oklahoma, 6:00 PM ESPN2: The Sooners are the favorite tonight against the Wildcats in Norman. Oklahoma is 7-1 in its last eight home games, but Kansas State has won three of its last four road games as well. Kansas State won the first meeting in Manhattan a few weeks ago, 69-60, thanks to Rodney McGruder’s 20 points. Head coach Lon Kruger has made the Sooners relevant for the first time since Blake Griffin was on campus four years ago, and while they’re a good bet to make the NCAA Tournament as of right now, a solid win over a ranked Kansas State team would make them near-locks. McGruder had a big game in the first meeting between these teams, but he has been quiet lately, averaging 11 points his last three games. Not surprisingly, the Wildcats are 1-2 in that stretch.
2) Something to Watch… Kansas has won 18 straight games, but they haven’t been pretty the last month. As Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal points out here, the Jayhawks have a -8 turnover margin (95-87) in conference play. Bill Self told Meek that the team has been “careless and lazy.” For a team that has had guards like Keith Langford, Russell Robinson, Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor in the lineup over the years, it’s strange watching the Jayhawks struggle at the point. Sophomore Naadir Tharpe has been good at times and awful at others, while senior Elijah Johnson has struggled to take over for Taylor. With lockdown defenders like Travis Releford and Jeff Withey and one of the most talented players in the country in Ben McLemore, strong point guard play could lead Kansas to a national title. Poor point guard play, on the other hand, could have the Jayhawks bounced in the second round.
3) Nothing Important But Interesting Anyway… If Texas Tech beats West Virginia, the Red Raiders will have more conference wins than both the Mountaineers and Longhorns. I’m sure Vegas doesn’t take bets on things like that, but what would the odds have been that Texas Tech would have more conference wins than those two teams on February 2? 50 to 1? 100 to 1?
4) Team That Desperately Needs A Win… Iowa State. If “Hilton Magic” is indeed a real thing, the Cyclones will need it working against Baylor today. Iowa State is a 3.5-point favorite and is currently 4-3 in the Big 12, a game behind Baylor, Oklahoma, and Kansas State. They have lost two out of three games, but are undefeated at home this season. With another game against Kansas and tough road games at Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma remaining, the Cyclones can’t afford to lose their third game in 11 days.
5) Bold Prediction… Oklahoma State upsets Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. I wouldn’t put any money on the Jayhawks losing at home, especially to an inconsistent team like Oklahoma State. But they are due for a loss, right? They’ve been walking a tightrope the last month, and it’s not like they are invincible at home, either. Iowa State had them beat in the Phog a few weeks ago until a Ben McLemore banked three-pointer sent the game to overtime.