Grading the Big 12’s Feast Week Performances

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2014

With much of the Big 12 participating in competitive, neutral-court tournaments last week, we were able to get a solid litmus test for most of the conference’s squads. All in all, the league had a good showing, but it wasn’t spectacular. Here are some grades relative to how each team was expected to perform during Feast Week:

  • Texas (wins vs. St. Francis and UConn): A. In the Longhorns’ first action since Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist (minus the game against Cal the following night at MSG), Rick Barnes’ team rolled over the Red Flash without a problem, as they were paced by Myles Turner’s 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. All they did was follow that up by handing UConn its first non-conference loss at Gampel Pavilion since 1993, when current Husky guard Sam Cassell, Jr.’s dad helped Florida State beat UConn in Storrs. Big ups go out to Jonathan Holmes, who, with this game-winner from Sunday, is now shooting an eye-popping 61.9% from distance.
Jonathan Holmes' late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated.

Jonathan Holmes’ late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated. (Getty)

  • Kansas (wins over Rhode Island, Tennessee and Michigan State in the Orlando Classic): A-. After the big Kentucky loss, Kansas’ last game against venerable competition before the holiday weekend, the Jayhawks had their fair share of unanswered questions. With this still being the first week in December, the rotation still has some kinks to iron out, but fans should be happy about Perry Ellis‘ improved rebounding to complement his scoring ability as well as Frank Mason‘s overall progress, though I’m still a little bearish because we’ve seen both these movies before and because I’m not sure Michigan State is all that good. The keys moving forward are whether Ellis and Mason can maintain that level of play, and whether Bill Self‘s leash on Cliff Alexander has truly lengthened. It would also be helpful if Wayne Selden could bust out of a big scoring funk (6.8 PPG on 24.1% shooting over his last four games).

  • Oklahoma (wins over UCLA and Butler, loss to Wisconsin in the Battle 4 Atlantis): B. Your opinion of Oklahoma’s week probably depends on your perspective. If you think of the Sooners as a legitimate dark horse candidate to topple Kansas, you’re probably disappointed in their struggles to hold onto the ball during a winnable game against Wisconsin that would have done wonders for their resume. If, like me, you think Oklahoma is merely a good team with a more limited ceiling, you’re probably pleased by their improved defense, as they held the Bruins, Bulldogs and the Badgers to 0.88, 0.70 and 0.99 points per possession, respectively, and you’re not so hung up on the missed opportunity against the Badgers. The bad news is that Lon Kruger‘s team took a step back on offense themselves, scoring just 0.90 points per trip over their three games in the Bahamas. To sum things up, Oklahoma showed that it can win ugly against solid competition, but it can do better.
  • Iowa State (win over Alabama, loss to Maryland in CBE Classic): C+. Credit Maryland for putting the clamps on the Cyclones’ fast-paced attack, but even good offensive teams can run into bad shooting nights, and we saw that on display last Tuesday. The biggest takeaway from ISU’s week is how badly they need a rim protector, especially given the emergence of Kansas’ frontcourt alongside those of Texas and Oklahoma. Fortunately, 6’8″ Jameel McKay will be eligible soon, but he’ll need to become an asset in fairly short order.
Iowa State's lack of a true inside presence was exposed in Kansas City.

Iowa State’s lack of a true inside presence was exposed in Kansas City. (AP)

  • West Virginia (wins over VMI and College of Charleston): A. The new and improved Mountaineer defense continued its strong showing in blowout victories over the Keydets and the Cougars, but I didn’t expect either team to give West Virginia much of a challenge in the first place, so just think of last week as the class you took to get an easy A and keep focused on the more important hurdles.
  • Baylor (wins over Stephen F. Austin and Memphis, loss to Illinois in the Las Vegas Invitational): B. Three good games on defense for the Bears, but an ice-cold offensive effort plagued them in the second half against Illinois. Baylor led the Illini at halftime despite being without Kenny Chery due to a foot injury (he missed the Memphis game, too), but a lack of quality non-con opponents on the Bears’ schedule could put added weight on Friday’s loss, especially if the undefeated Illini prove to be legit.
  • Kansas State (win over Purdue, losses to Arizona and Pittsburgh in the Maui Invitational): B-. The Wildcats beat Purdue to set up a meeting with Arizona and even led Sean Miller’s team in the second half, but ‘Zona’s talent eventually proved to be the difference. It’s tempting to give Kansas State a pass for their blowout loss to Pittsburgh since they were playing for the third straight day, but the Panthers were playing under the same circumstances, so I can’t do that in good conscience. Now with three losses on the year, the Wildcats’ upcoming trip to Tennessee is bigger than it probably should be, though I wouldn’t call it a must-win.
  • Oklahoma State (wins over Oregon State and Tulsa in the MGM Grand Main Event): B-. The Cowboys won their event and at the very least haven’t shot themselves in the foot with bad losses so far in the young season, but we really don’t know any more about them than we knew two weeks ago. Le’Bryan Nash is doing his part as the alpha dog in the early going, but where’s the bench scoring? Where’s the inside presence to complement Michael Cobbins? Be sure to keep an eye on Jeffrey Carroll, who has really stepped up as a second long-range threat for the Cowboys.
  • TCU (wins over Radford, Bradley and Mississippi State in the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic Championship): A. I know it’s the Horned Frogs, but why not? It’s rarely going to look pretty when you’re TCU, who needed some clutch free throws from Kyan Anderson to take care of Bradley before handling an improved-but-still-mediocre Mississippi State team. But if you’ve been through what Trent Johnson has been through over the last few years, you take any win you can get, no matter how marginal the opposition. So what’s the fun part? Beat Mississippi on Thursday and you’re likely looking at an undefeated team come January 3. The Horned Frogs aren’t going to sniff an NCAA Tournament bid, but Johnson finally has Amric Fields healthy (for now), so maybe this is the year TCU scratches out more than a couple Big 12 wins.
  • Texas Tech (wins over Northwestern State and Air Force): Incomplete. These haven’t been Jeff Bzdelik’s Falcons for a long time, but kudos to the Red Raiders for putting up 47 second half points and coming back from 19 points down with 13 minutes to go on Sunday, even though Air Force is an inferior team. An interesting test comes Wednesday when Tubby Smith’s team welcomes Bruce Pearl and Auburn to town.
Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

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

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