Big 12 Roundup: Week Two

Hopefully, this can become a weekly feature. Maybe even bi-weekly, with another edition coming on Thursday/Friday. Basically, this is simply a rundown of how the Big 12 teams have fared the past week, and some power-ranking-type stuff. Mostly just conversation starters, with some bare-bones analysis.

Saturday's Games

Baylor 98 Oklahoma State 92 (OT) -- This was a fantastic game. I caught a little bit of it during early commercials of the KU-CU broadcast, and these two teams are both really good. Okie State's four-guard alignment is almost a five-guard set; they start a F in Malcoln Kirkland, but he only played 9 minutes against Baylor. But hey, it works, and Travis Ford's team is awfully dangerous. The Bears still have all of the talent they had last year, but they've disappointed so far this year. Tells you how far the two teams have gone since late November; when Baylor and Wake met at the Championship game in the 76 Classic out here in Anaheim, I figured Baylor would win. Yes, I was serious. Still, though, Baylor is dangerous. Both are. Both, I think, are NCAA Tournament teams.

Plenty, plenty, plenty more content after the jump...

Missouri 77 Iowa State 46 -- Uh, what? We all figured, at least I did, that Missouri would win this game; Big 12 North teams will, more often than not, win at home against fellow North teams. But, who would have guessed that the Tigers could pull two consecutive absolute demolitions out of their hat? The first half was fairly close, but the Tigers simply pulled away, and rather quickly, in the second twenty minutes never to look back. The Clones couldn't hit a shot to save their life, and combining that with Missouri's stifling, turnover-creating D isn't a good idea. Of course, Missouri didn't force that many turnovers; just forced bad shots, I suppose. In any case, the game at Iowa State looks much less frightening, while the trip to always-packed Mizzou Arena is now a legitimate concern. Of course, they aren't going to hit more than 50% of their threes in most games, so that's comforting. Still, it isn't like this was a flukey performance. Missouri is for real, yo.

Here is what the team blogs had to say:

Clone Chronicles:

Ignore all the previous positive thoughts I had. I went to Columbia, and between Missouri's hot shooting and our apparent lack of interest at being there.....kind of a waste of a day.

Rock M Nation:

Whereas Mizzou beat Colorado by forcing an insane amount of turnovers, they beat Iowa State with good non-turnover defense, forcing bad shots and grabbing the rebounds.  Oh yeah, and by making 13 of 25 3-pointers.  Can't forget that part.

Oklahoma 68 Texas A&M 63 -- Looking for an underrated Big 12 team? Take a look at the Aggies. We'll get plenty more specific on A&M tomorrow, but this is a club no one is talking about. And they're good. However, this game was all about Blake Griffin and that five-foul limit. You get Blake in foul trouble, and Boomer Sooner becomes a very beatable team. Very, very beatable. They are still a good team without BG, maybe even an NCAA team, but aren't nearly as good. Austin Johnson has developed a lot, sure, but he is terrible as a first option. And, honestly, he probably is after Griffin. Willie Warren is supposed to fill that role, and he still may, but he has yet to really breakout. Should be interesting.

Crimson and Cream Machine:

Even when Blake Griffin isn’t Oklahoma’s main scoring threat he can still beat you. The best game plan against the Sooners is to flood Griffin with pressure inside and force OU to beat you with someone else. It’s a solid plan unless one of Oklahoma’s other players has a game like Austin Johnson did and then you find out that by putting pressure on Griffin he’s beat you just by having to pay extra attention to him. On Saturday afternoon in College Station Texas A&M sold out to stop Blake Griffin and Austin Johnson reaped the benefits.

I Am the 12th Man:

This one was simply one we let get away. We let OU get out to a 9-0 lead early, and we were never able to tie them or take the lead away from them. We were able to get their lead down to 4 with 5 minutes left int he game, and even down to 2 points, but we were never able to tie the game and take control away from them.

...

Overall, I was very pleased with the Aggies' effort, coming back from large, double-figure deficits several times in this game, and putting in a terrific showing against a top 5 ranked team. We were only 14-23 from the charity stripe; if we hit a few more of those, this is a completelyt different game. We played well enough to win the game, but OU simply made more plays. If we can play at this same level for the rest of the season, particularly on the road, we will win a lot more games in conference play.

Texas 71 Texas Tech 49 -- I was already pretty confident on both of these theories, but yesterday afternoon pretty much solidified both of them for me. (A), Texas Tech is brutal this season. That is a road game we should win, easy. They just aren't a good basketball team. And (B), Texas could make a Final Four. It isn't likely, and almost assuredly won't happen, but they are good enough to make a run at the right time. A.J. Abrams is an incredible shooter, and it is always dangerous to have your best offensive player be a shooter, as no matter how good they are hot-and-cold, but then they have Damion James. And Damion James is ridiculous. Not to mention Justin Mason and Gary Johnson, who are two of the most underrated players in the Big 12. This team is really, really good.

Double T Nation:

The difference between this year's team and last year's team is that this year's squad does not have a guy that can create off the dribble. The previous seasons under RMK, he's had at least one player that can create his own shot and as we all watched the Red Raiders dribble around the perimeter, it was painfully obvious that this is the case.  Last year it was Martin Zeno and the two years before that, it was Andre Emmett.

There's a lot more on this in tomorrow's basketball post, but I want to point out that this group of five seniors posted 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 assist in 77 minutes yesterday.

Burnt Orange Nation:

For the first time in weeks, the Texas Longhorns looked like they knew what to do on offense, at least in the second half. In the first half, Texas still struggled and led just 30-24. Some might look at a six point lead at half against a conference opponent and be pleased. Don’t be fooled into giving Pat Knight’s club too much credit. The Red Raiders are not good. They are no better than the ninth or tenth best team in the conference and only better than Colorado for sure. Texas Tech does not have great athletes, only has one player opponents have to game plan for, in Alan Voskuil, and doesn’t play pressure defense or force the tempo, which often helps inferior teams stay competitive. No, this was a road game that the Longhorns had to win and should win convincingly.

In the second twenty minutes, Texas did just that. Damion James (game high 18 pts) came alive on offense with timely three pointers, on-balance pull-up jumpers, and cuts to the basket which left the Tech defenders trailing. Longhorn fans also witnessed the "true" Justin Mason (15 pts) in the second half. Mason was a difference maker on both ends. He played solid defense, slashed to the basket in the half-court, and even knocked down a three pointer.

Nebraska 73 Kansas State 51 -- Uh, what? I'll tell you what, I can't this Big 12 North thing figured out. Again, it makes sense that the home team wins; that'll be the norm involving all teams not named Colorado and (hopefully) Kansas, in an opposite fashion, of course. And, I suppose, maybe Missouri, although they played terribly up in Lincoln last Saturday. In any case, the Cornhuskers showed up in a big way, which is important. K-State, on the other hand, simply refused to show up. Coming into Big 12 play, I figured they would be decent. Not great, but probably the #3 team in the Big 12 North. And while they started out conference play in awfully tough fashion (vs. OU, @ KU, @ NU), to come out of that stretch with three losses over 15 point isn't great. They simply can't take care of the ball. As ridiculously fast as Denis Clemente is, it doesn't do too much good if he's turning the ball over a ton. And don't get me started on Jacob Pullen.

Bring on the Cats:

For the second year in a row, K-State traveled roughly 2 hours north and took a 40-minute nap and woke up on the end of a lopsided loss. Just replace Alecs Maric with Paul Velander (I just heard a collective "who?") and the games are pretty much mirror images.

...

What sucked beyond recognition
- Turnovers. Yeah, 25 of them. That's 2-5. It is next to impossible for basketball teams to win games when they turn the ball over more than 20 times. What is more troubling, we will see much more of the same defensive pressure the rest of the season. Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen are two seemingly capable ball handlers, yet the offense never gets in a good rhythm due to the fact our guards can't distribute the ball.

Power Rankings

Conference records in (parentheses)...

  1. Oklahoma (3-0)
  2. Texas (2-1)
  3. Baylor (2-1)
  4. Oklahoma State (1-1)
  5. Kansas (2-0)
  6. Texas A&M (1-2)
  7. Missouri (2-1)
  8. Nebraska (2-1)
  9. Iowa State (1-2)
  10. Kansas State (0-3)
  11. Texas Tech (0-2)
  12. Colorado (0-2)

Basically, the Big 12 goes seven deep right now. Realistically, all seven teams could make a play for the NCAAs, and I still don't think it is unfeasible that the Big 12 could send six teams to the dance. At least five, me thinks. And, at #8, Nebraska isn't terrible. Doc Sadler has that program on the way up, and they are a decent #8 in terms of overall conference strength. They have NIT written all over them. The bottom four teams, though, are all pretty brutal. K-State and Iowa State both have a light and some hope waiting for them at the end of the tunnel, I think, but they have gotten off to pretty poor starts. And Tech and the Buffs are absolutely terrible. Godawful. But, seriously, the Top 7 are all legitimate NCAA contenders. Yes, this includes Missouri. Their Cal win looks a helluva lot better right now, and they have won their two games very convincingly.

Key Games

Monday January 19th

Texas A&M (1-2) @ Kansas (2-0) -- A&M's opening conference slate has been brutal, but they could really use a W to keep from starting out 1-3. Kansas, on the other hand, could use a solid, convincing W to let the Big 12 know that they are for real this season. A big game for both involved, both of which have a realistic shot to go to the Tournament.

Wednesday January 21st

Missouri (2-1) @ Oklahoma State (1-1) -- A chance for Missouri to pick up a Big 12 victory against a living-and-breathing Big 12 team, as opposed to a mere shell of one. A win here could go a long way in determining their legitimacy. Okie State, on the other hand, could use a rebound win, at home no less, after a heartbreaking loss in Waco on Saturday. Should be a huge game.

Saturday January 24th

#21 Baylor (2-1) @ #5 Oklahoma (3-0) -- Absolutely huge game. Gigantic. Of course, for some reason, this game is being shunned to ESPNU while Kansas @ Iowa State gets the national spotlight of ESPN. In any case, both teams are good, both teams could use a big, signature win. Baylor could, conceivably, drop out of the NCAA race, while Boomer Sooner could really use a win to stay ahead of the rest of the conference while also making a potential push for a #1 seed. An outside possiblity, sure, but a definite one.

Texas A&M (1-2) @ #11 Texas (2-1) -- Oh my goodness. Talk about an absolutely ridiculous opening stanza of a conference schedule. A&M starts out conference play with the following slate: @ OSU, vs. Baylor, vs. OU, @ KU, @ UT. Wow. And, if they lose Monday night, this could be a near must-win game. Hard to blame them due to such a tough early conference slate, but starting out 1-4 doesn't look so hot.

OK, that's all for now. We might add some other features to this Roundup as we move on, but for now, that's all we'll give you.

Tomorrow, it's all about Texas A&M.

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