Big 12 Weekend In Review

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 19th, 2018

Another weekend of Big 12 action is in the books, and with it another dramatic set of games, each one carrying significant implications on both the league standings and the at-large picture for the NCAA Tournament. With Kansas and Texas Tech drawing back to even with four games remaining — including a crucial head-to-head match-up this coming Saturday — there’s still plenty of intrigue even if Saturday night’s events in Lawrence gave the impression that a 14th straight conference title for the Jayhawks is likelier than the standings suggest.

Bob Huggins became the latest visiting coach to show his frustration with the officiating at Allen Fieldhouse. (Nick Krug/Lawrence Journal-World)

  • Starting with the weekend’s marquee game between Kansas and West Virginia, Bob Huggins’ comments on the officiating, while valid, also left me ambivalent. Huggins certainly made a strong point when he pushed for referees to be made available to media after games in a fashion similar to that of coaches and players. The game as a whole would benefit, but as The Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger wrote in his postgame column, Huggins is probably not the right messenger for that idea when you consider his own team’s style of play. That said, while the 35-2 free throw disparity between the Jayhawks and Mountaineers drew the lion’s share of attention, caution should be exercised from draw sweeping conclusions. After all, the Mountaineers held a double-digit lead with fewer than 10 minutes to go despite the difference in free throw attempts, and West Virginia attempted just six shots at the rim all game long — compared with 13 by the Jayhawks. When a team fails to attack the tin, it will have a much harder time getting foul calls, especially on the road. Again, that isn’t to absolve John Higgins’ officiating crew from some responsibility here, but proper context is the name of the game when it comes to wide free throw disparities, even in extreme cases like this one.

  • Baylor’s 2017-18 campaign is starting to feel very similar to the 2014 season, when the Bears started league play at 2-8 only to bounce back with a 7-1 finish and a run to the Big 12 Tournament final (punctuated by a Sweet Sixteen appearance). That team had more NBA talent than this one, but the bottom line is that nobody in the Big 12 is on a better run right now than Scott Drew’s team, especially on the defensive end. The Bears have allowed just 0.93 points per possession over their current five-game winning streak, which, if extrapolated over the full season, would rank fourth in college basketball. Baylor’s four remaining regular season games don’t include any against Oklahoma State and Iowa State, so there are no potential bad losses looming, but the Bears could stand to put their at-large case on firmer ground by notching at least two more victories between now and Selection Sunday.
  • Texas is rightfully considered a defense-first team, but some recent signs of life have emerged on the offensive end to put the team in position to make a run at one of the last remaining at-large-bids. The Longhorns have scored 1.14 points per possession over their last three games, which includes Saturday’s much-needed road win over a reeling Oklahoma team. Ironically, Texas’ defense failed over a three-game skid during which they allowed Kansas State, TCU and Baylor to shoot a combined 56 percent inside the three-point line, but they bounced back with their best interior defensive effort of the season against Oklahoma on Saturday, holding the Sooners to just 37.4 percent on their two-point tries. With tilts to come against three likely NCAA Tournament teams, Shaka Smart’s team still has plenty of chances remaining to make a strong impression.
Brian Goodman (966 Posts)

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

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