Ranking the Big 12’s 2015 Big Monday GamesPosted by Nate Kotisso on August 12th, 2014
ESPN and the Big 12 Conference released the schedule for their 2015 Big Monday slate of games on Monday afternoon with a small twist. On March 2, 2015, the last Big Monday of the regular season, ESPN will select between two Big 12 games to put in its 9:00 PM time slot. The two options will be Baylor-Texas and Oklahoma-Iowa State, with the less interesting game airing on ESPNU. Most of the usual conference suspects are featured in this year’s slate, including Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State, each of which can make up to four appearances. Texas will make up to three Monday games while Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia will each be on once at the most.
Now to some numbers. The 2013 version of this schedule featured eight conference members, which included three games involving West Virginia, leading to forgettable match-ups against Kansas, Texas and Kansas State. Consequently, last year’s Big Monday schedule was tightened to just six teams and ESPN/Big 12 is following a similar format for 2015. Also worthy of note: Baylor, a Sweet Sixteen team just five months ago, finds itself with just one *maybe* Big Monday date against the Longhorns. Meanwhile, Kansas State boasts Marcus Foster, one of the most exciting point guards in America, and somehow gets only one game. Another NCAA Tournament team from 2014, Oklahoma State, was left off the schedule altogether.
The only thing left to do now is to hopelessly rank each game from worst to best. This will almost assuredly be used against me in the future. Enjoy it, Internet!
8. Kansas at West Virginia on February 16, 2015
Outlook: All respect to the Mountaineers fans out there, but I can’t figure out why West Virginia made it on the schedule. They finished one game above the .500 mark at 17-16 last year, and two of their top three scorers in 2013-14 — Eron Harris (17.2 PPG) and Terry Henderson (11.7) — decided to transfer to Michigan State and NC State, respectively. Juwan Staten is the only name you might recognize but WVU will have to count on guys who played sparingly last season or are waiting to become eligible. But you’ll watch this game anyway. You’ll tune in either to see Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre fly around the court or to hear the TV announcer say, “Here comes Billydee Williams, checking in for the Mountaineers!” (I fall into the latter category.)
*7. Baylor at Texas on March 2, 2015 (*denotes flex game)
Outlook: The Horns swept the Bears a season ago and considering who’s returning/entering for both teams, it appears it’ll happen again. Texas already had a clear advantage in this game with Cameron Ridley coming into his own coupled with the departures of Baylor’s Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. Then you throw in five-star Myles Turner into the Longhorn front line and it’s almost impossible for the Bears to contend with. Whether it’s their bigs, wings or guards, the edge goes to Texas in all three categories. It may not be the most attractive game to flex (especially when compared with Oklahoma at Iowa State) but it would seem the likeliest to be flexed to ESPN. This is because Iowa State at Oklahoma is scheduled for its Big Monday appearance on February 9, and the network doesn’t typically double down on certain match-ups for Big Monday. Perhaps in the name of conference diversity, Baylor gets this one game.
6. Kansas at Kansas State on February 23, 2015
Outlook: Nothing to quibble with here. The Sunflower Showdown is one of the preeminent rivalries that the conference has to offer, which makes it worthy of the Monday night spotlight. Last year’s game at Bramlage Coliseum was a memorable one with KU staging a late comeback to force overtime. K-State eventually won, 85-82, while defying gravity in the process. Kansas will have it’s hands full with the talented guards of Kansas State again this time around. The under-recruited Marcus Foster had a stellar freshman campaign that earned him an invite to the LeBron James Skills Academy this summer. Foster will be joined in the backcourt by Maine transfer Justin Edwards, who has a penchant for putting the ball in the basket (16.7 PPG in 2012-13).
5. Texas at Iowa State on January 26, 2015
Outlook: Here’s what we know about Iowa State. The Cyclones lost stat sheet-stuffing extraordinaire DeAndre Kane, Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim and some 25 pounds from Georges Niang. And yet they could be as good, if not better, than last season. We talked earlier about the Texas frontcourt, but the Cyclones might have the best core in the conference. Along with Niang, ISU brings back Dustin Hogue, JuCo All-American Jameel McKay will be eligible to play in December, and then there’s 7″1′ freshman center Georgios Tsalmpouris who hails from Greece (Hoiberg said of the incoming freshman, “He can really shoot it.”). Jeez, more Cyclone bigs who can shoot. Just what the rest of the Big 12 needed.
4. Iowa State at Oklahoma on February 9, 2015/*Oklahoma at Iowa State on March 2, 2015 (*denotes flex game)
Outlook: If last season was any indication, both teams are going to do a lot of running and scoring this year. Hey I like high scoring affairs, sue me. By the way, the Sooners have a couple big guys of their own to throw at ISU. Ryan Spangler nearly averaged a double-double in 2013-14, and having seen him play at Houston last season, TaShawn Thomas could be a game changer if the NCAA allows him to play this season. He has an improving post game, hits the boards hard, blocks shots and is surprisingly agile for a guy who is listed at 240 pounds.
3. Oklahoma at Texas on January 5, 2015
Outlook: It seems like a long time ago when the Oklahoma-Texas basketball rivalry games were shelved over to the Big 12 Network syndicated package due to both programs backsliding. Now they’re back and they’d like your attention, please. Oklahoma was the only Big 12 school to sweep their season series from the Longhorns last year. No team in the conference rebounded and blocked more shots than the Longhorns. The Sooners will win this game if the trio of Jordan Woodard/Buddy Hield/Isaiah Cousins are hitting outside shots, but UT wins if they’re rebounding Oklahoma’s misses.
2. Oklahoma at Kansas on January 19, 2015
Outlook: It’s been a hallmark of the Bill Self era at Kansas: defensively-inclined centers anchoring the middle like Sasha Kaun, Cole Aldrich and Jeff Withey. So how does a program replace a center with the raw but developing skill set of Joel Embiid? Say hello to Hunter Mickelson, a junior who led Arkansas in blocked shots in both seasons as a reserve with the Razorbacks. Pair him with Cliff Alexander’s strength and wingspan and you’ve got a nice one-two punch down low. If OU doesn’t have Thomas available, then they’re probably in trouble; plus, the Sooners haven’t won a game in Lawrence since 1993. So…yeah.
1. Iowa State at Kansas on February 2, 2015
Outlook: This will be the third consecutive season in which Big Monday will showcase Iowa State vs. Kansas but beyond that, this burgeoning rivalry has given us great theater in recent years. Why should we expect anything different? These are the two teams most expect to see atop the Big 12 standings at season’s end. Iowa State likes to score and Kansas likes to stop you from scoring. It’s a classic contrast in style game and oh crap I just realized it’s mid-August and we won’t see this for like five more months [/cries nonstop].
Congrats! You’ve made it to the end… of this piece. Not the offseason! Nope, that isn’t over for awhile. So find something to keep you busy until then.