A day delayed, but the Roundup lives on. Here is your recap of the week's Big 12 action, primarily focusing on the Saturday games. Also included, at no extra charge, a look-ahead at the upcoming week's slate of games, including a big one tonight on Big Monday; Boomer Sooner at Okie State.
Missouri 97 Texas Tech 86 -- In the early going of conference play, this would seem to be Missouri's MO: beat the hell out of inferior opponents. Still, while their offense was clicking yet again, their D didn't show up like it usually does, and Tech had an outside shot to pull off the upset late in the game. It didn't happen, though, giving the Tigers another win over an overmatched team that likely won't even be invited to the NIT at the end of the year. Oklahoma State is the only good team the Tigers have beaten in conference play, despite standing at 4-1; Iowa State is alright, but Colorado and Texas Tech are just godawful. They are a good team, sure, but they need to beat a really good team to show up on people's radar.
Tech, on the other hand, just isn't very good. They got their win Tuesday night against an even worse Colorado team, and they are probably decent enough to steal another home win or two the rest of the way out. But they are definitely a team in rebuild mode, and who knows if Pat Knight is the guy to get them back to the NCAAs. I think he is, and I'm a big proponent of giving people time. Next year, though, is an important year for him. He doesn't need to do anything special, but they shouldn't be the doormat of the league, either. Just baby steps, and he should be fine. It isn't like the Red Raiders have decades of basketball history to compare the dude too.
Anyway, to the game. Two minutes in, Texas Tech was on pace for 100 turnovers. They ended up with a rather insane 29. That made the difference in a game where Tech grabbed too many offensive boards and, for a brief moment, looked ready to make an OSU-like comeback before Marcus Denmon, perpetrator of a 6-0 OSU run on Wednesday, went on a 7-0 run with about 5:00 left to seal the deal for the home team.
It was the turnovers that killed Texas Tech again. The Red Raiders lost to the Missouri Tigers 97-86 (boxscore). This game could have been much worse and to give these guys credit, Texas Tech fought all game long, they just lacked the ability to keep pace with Mizzou, that and the turnovers were the biggest stories.
The rest of the game breakdowns, plus plenty more assorted goodies after the jump...
Kansas State 77 Colorado 75 (OT) -- Wow. An impressive performance from the Buffs, and a less-than-encouraging effort from the Powercats, made this an incredibly interesting game to watch. Both teams came in winless, although in entirely different fashions. K-State faced a bitch of an early-conference schedule, while the Buffs are in entire rebuilding mode, and are littered with freshmen and sophomores learning how to play. However, Dwight Thorne Jr.'s thirty points was enough to keep the Buffs afloat, and they even had a last-ditch three from Jermyl Jackson-Wilson to try and steal this game. Alas, the shot rimed around for a split second before bouncing away, harmlessly.
The Powercats were led by their two guards, Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen, who both put up quality lines. Still, this game pretty much proves that the schedule isn't the only reason K-State started out 0-4 in conference. They aren't that good, and Frank Martin isn't that good of a coach.
Now that we have finally managed a conference win, it will be very interesting to see where we go from here. The upcoming week isn't really conducive to using this win to go on a run, with a home game against surging Missouri and a trip to Austin to visit nationally ranked Texas on the horizon. If we want to salvage something out of this season, it would really help us to protect our home court against a fellow North opponent in Mizzou. Yes, the Tigers are good this year. Yes, they're playing well right now. But they're not invincible, as previous games with Illinois and Nebraska have shown. We need to get that game, then see what happens in Austin. If we can pick up a few wins here in the next two weeks, the concluding leg of the schedule is much easier.
The Buffs basketball team lost a tough one yesterday against Kansas State, losing in overtime 77 - 75, in a game that CU had ample opportunity to win the game. Bad turnovers and an ability to get a big rebound towards the end of the game allowed Kansas State to win the game. In fairness the Buffs, they fought back in both halves after trailing by double digits. Dwight Thorne was great, scoring 30 points and providing the only perimeter threat. Cory Higgins never could get it going. Both of these teams really wanted this win, more like needed this win. Kansas State hopes that this can turn their season around and give them some swagger back.
Oklahoma State 76 Nebraska 74 (OT) -- In a game the Pokes desperately had to have, they finally picked up some good luck late in the game. Their past two games, against Baylor and then Missouri, their late comeback efforts were both stifled by questionable-at-best calls by the Big 12 officials. This time, what seemed to be a foul on an Ade Dagunduro putback attempt with six seconds left in overtime went uncalled, letting Travis Ford pick up a much-needed W.
You've gotta love Ford, who starts a player, Malcoln Kirkland, who notched an entire three minutes of playing time. It's almost as if he starts Kirkland simply to say he starts a forward, then puts in six-foot-nothing Keiton Page play thirty seven minutes. Damn. Still, though, it works. From Nebraska's perspective, they have to feel as if they let one get away. They held a lead for the majority of the game, and were it not for a career worst 1-8 effort from three from long-range bomber Paul Velander, it likely wouldn't have even been close. Nevertheless, this essentially just further pisses off the Corn, making them more desperate to pick up a signature win Wednesday night against the Jayhawks.
Oklahoma 95 Baylor 76 -- I didn't watch this one, was out-and-about, but I fully expected it to be a really good game. One of those old, shootout-style games, where the offense that was more on fire that night would win. Of course, I expected Blake Griffin and Company to end up with the victory, but I did not, in any way, shape or form, expect a nineteen point victory margin. It just didn't seem possible. But, just from boxscorin' the game, I think I've learned a thing about each team. Now, these are both obvious observations that I've gleaned in the past from watching the two teams play, but this game just proved them.
(A) -- Baylor doesn't play a lick of defense. Not really sure if it's an inability to, a lack of coaching 'em up or just a lack of motivation, but they just don't D it up. Like, ever. And no matter how innately talented you are, or no matter how dominant you can be on offense, or how many points you can score, you have to play D to win in the Big 12. It isn't defense-heavy like the Big East, but the best teams in the league are always really good defensive clubs. Baylor isn't. More and more, I'm growing confident we can win in Waco.
(B) -- Oklahoma doesn't have much depth. They have a decent reserve guard in Omar Leary, and a decent reserve big in Juan Patillo. Cade Davis isn't terrible, and I don't know much about Ryan Wright. They don't have anyone else. I mean, it isn't terrible, and they can play a little, but it isn't the depth that will pay off in March. It's stupid to go too deep in March, like Roy always seems to do, but it's just as bad to go out there and expect to play seven players and beat top-quality teams.
Texas 67 Texas A&M 56 -- Let's call the Aggies K-State on steroids. Or a rich man's Powercats outfit. Much of their early conference struggles can attributed to an absolutely brutal schedule, even worse than K-State's. But, they haven't played terribly well either, and who knows how much of their 1-4 start is their schedule and how much of it is just the fact that this team isn't very good. I think they are an alright team, who can scare some teams late, but a team that is destined for the NIT. They just aren't NCAA-caliber, or at least haven't shown to be yet. They need a big, big win somewhere down the line.
Texas, on the other hand, is an intriguing team. They don't have a great bench (only 7 bench points, all from Dexter Pittman) and their low post game is almost entirely on the back of Pittman and Gary Johnson. Connor Atchley is big and tall, but he likes the three. But then you have two of the league's best players in Damion James and A.J. Abrams. I don't think they are a Final Four team, but they are definitely another contender for the League crown, and aren't to be taken lightly by any stretch.
The only bright side of our 9-point loss to texas yesterday was the score differential; so far under Turgeon, we've averaged a 20-point deficit in losses in road conference games; losing only 67-58 suggests we're making progress. The problem with looking positively on that stat is the simple fact that this really isn't a good texas team. They don't have a true point guard, they have a very talented player in Damion James, an up-and-coming talent in Gary Johnson, and a bunch of role players on the rest of their roster who really aren't difference makers. Overall, A&M has a more talented team than texas does, but we don't have the coaching to match up with them, and that is disappointing. We let a very winnable game get away from us yesterday, and a big reason for that is because we have a soft coach who doesn't instill fear into his players, and we have a soft team as a result.
After receiving less than impressive performance from his team on defense and from Damion James in Norman two games ago, Rick Barnes saw both have respond solidly against Texas Tech last Saturday and again last night against the Aggies. Texas held A&M to 45% shooting for the game but to just 36% from the floor in the second half. (The second half percentage would have been even lower had the Aggies not knocked down three three-pointers in the final minute and a half with the game already out of reach.) Texas forced 13 Aggies turnovers and won points in the paint (32-22), points off turnovers (15-9), and second chance points (15-7). The Longhorns also controlled the glass on both ends with 16 offensive rebounds and an overall 41-29 margin on the boards.
NCAA Tournament Chances
Instead of doing your typical, simple Big 12 Power Rankings, I want to do something different. Something that has been discussed a lot around here is how many teams the Big 12 will get in to the Dance; most think 5, I and a few others think six, IIRC. So, I figured I'd break the Big 12 into sections, from locks to make the Tournament to almost-locks, to bubble teams, to on-the-outside-looking-in, to NIT fodder, to complete lack of postseason. It seems simple enough, and it should be. Basically, it is a Big 12-only version of Bubble Watch over at ESPN. Bracketology gets all of the love from most bloggers and the MSM, but I find the Bubble Watch Andy Glockner does infinitely more exciting. Seeding is too far away and too unknown to project, but it is fascinating, at least to a college hoops junkie like me, to see who is around the bubble, and what they need to do to get in, and all of that fun stuff. It makes watching some games absolutely incredible; knowing Team X needs this win or they are in big-time trouble NCAA-wise, while Team Y could string together a few wins and make things interesting on Selection Sunday.
As we get closer to Selection Sunday, we'll get more in-depth; right now, these are just bare bones assessments of each team's respective postseason hopes, as they currently stand.
Anyways, that long intro out of the way, on to the breakdowns.
- Oklahoma 17-1 (5-0) -- Only a loss to Arkansas on the road is keeping Boomer Sooner from being undefeated. They are a serious contender for a #1 seed, and could pretty much lose every game from here on out and still maybe get in. Probably not, but they're getting in. I promise.
- Texas 14-4 (3-1) -- Their road victory up at Wisconsin doesn't look as good anymore, but they are still getting in to the NCAAs. None of their losses are bad, per se, but the Notre Dame and Arkansas ones look worse than they did at the time of the L. Still, like I said, no need to worry here.
- Kansas 15-4 (4-0) -- I almost put us in the above category, but the losses to UMASS and Arizona keep us here for now. Neither of those are good, but the Arizona loss it at least defensible, given the youth of our team and the hostile environment and it being the first road game of the year and all. Still, we just have to win all of the supposed-tos from here on out, and we're dancing. Even a slip up in one of those shouldn't be enough to kick us out. We are in fine shape.
- Baylor 15-4 (3-2) -- Again, I wanted to put them in the above category, but they got blown out on Saturday, so I couldn't quite defend it completely. Their early-season win over Arizona State looks damn impressive currently, and the victory over Providence isn't half-bad, either. The Wake Forest loss hurts zero, and the South Carolina home loss looks better; clearly, the Gamecocks are a better team than they were last season. One more big win, like Tuesday night against Texas in the Ferrell Center, or just taking care of business with the gimmes should do it for the Bears.
OK, so, that gives the Big 12 a minimum of four teams. No matter what happens, barring an epic meltdown from one of those four teams, they are all getting in. Then, there is a trio of deserving teams next up. Basically, the only-five proponents say only one of these teams gets in, while the all-six proponents say two of these teams find a way in. The next category has a team (Nebraska) who could, maybe, squeak into some discussions, but they would almost need to go undefeated from here on out for that to happen. So, we'll leave them in the outside-looking-in category.
- Missouri Tigers 17-3 (4-1) -- The Tigers look to be dancing this year. We all know the Tigers are certainly not immune to collapses one couldn't have dreamed up, but as it stands currently, they are on the good side of 34 at-larges. All of their losses are fine (the Illinois one looks particularly better, now, than it did then) and they do have that monstrous victory over Cal to hang their hat on. Wednesday's night win in Stillwater is important too; with the league almost locked in with five bids, picking up a win on the road against the team that is likely #6 in the pecking order goes a long way. A long, long way.
- Oklahoma State 13-5 (2-2) -- Given all of the other teams, I'd say that the Pokes' chances is what is dividing the five and six crowds. On one hand, the Pokes have lost five times, and their best win is probably against Tulsa or Rhode Island (or, maybe, their win on Saturday against Nebraska). On the other, all of the losses were to teams currently in the Top 28 according to KenPom (the lowest of which being Baylor), and they have plenty of chances left to pick up some big-time victories. If they get to 21 wins total, and 10 in the conference (Conference Tournament included), I think they get in. Which would be really big for the conference; to get six in in a supposed down year.
- Texas A&M 15-5 (1-4) -- This is where it gets much, much worse. While the first six all have really solid shots, the Ags' chances don't look so hot. In fact, I wanted to put them in a separate category, but given their impressive non-con, I figured they belonged more with these two teams than with the Huskers. They still have some opportunities to pick up some big-time wins, but more importantly they have to get to .500 in league play. 9 wins, if they want to feel good at all. 9 wins in conference, including a solid win somewhere along the way, should be enough. Thing is, I don't see them getting that many wins.
Outside Looking In
- Nebraska Cornhuskers 12-6 (2-3) -- If the Cornuskers want to go Dancing, they need to go on an incredible run. I'm talking going on a 9-2 run to close out the conference season. That's pretty much what it's going to take, and even then, it might not be enough. Most likely, they'll be headed to the NIT, and could be a threat to win it all. I'm telling you; Doc Sadler is an awesome coach.
The rest of the teams, honestly, would be lucky to make the NIT. In order, I'll list their likelihood of making the three-letter tournament. Some (K-State, Iowa State) have better shots than others (Texas Tech, Colorado), clearly, but I only see one team making it out.
- K-State 12-7 (1-4)
- Iowa State 12-7 (1-3)
- Texas Tech 11-8 (1-3)
- Colorado 8-10 (0-4) -- No shot. Sorry, Buffs.
Games of the Week
It is a slow week in terms of Big 12 conference action, with not a whole lot of really must-see games going on. Still, there are a couple that are worth paying attention to. Those games follow:
Monday January 26th
Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State - A fabulous chance for Boomer Sooner to lose, moving us one game closer to potentially winning the Conference. Okie State could use a big, signature victory; this would certainly be it. Combining all of that with the fact that it is Bedlam, and it is the Game of the Week in the Big 12.
Tuesday January 27th
Texas @ Baylor - See above, except take out the Bedlam part. The two teams are rivals, though, so it should be fascinating. Baylor isn't as needy as the Pokes are, but a win here would essentially lock up their NCAA hopes.
Saturday January 31st
Oklahoma State @ Texas A&M -- This will basically be a must-win game for both teams, if the Cowboys lose tonight to Boomer Sooner. The Pokes could weather a loss, although they would be desperate for one; the Ags, on the other hand, couldn't survive a home loss to Okie State and still fight for a NCAA berth. Should be interesting.
Baylor @ Missouri -- A chance for Missouri to prove its worth again, while providing the Bears an opportunity to pick up their second big victory in as many games. Should be a big week for the Baylor Bears; a sweep would be incredible, shooting them back up into the polls, most likely. A split would be fine, and do wonders for their NCAA chances. Getting swept, though, would hurt quite a bit. Depending on what happens Tuesday night, this game could get even bigger.
OK, that's all for now. Nebraska-related stuff starts Tuesday, while I want to do something KieffCus Morris-related sometime tonight. Big 12 mid-week summary should come out Thursday.