Big 12 Headlinin': Week Four

From now, this "Headlinin'" feature will take the place of the midweek wrapup. It basically serves the same purpose, but instead of going game-by-game (instead, we're going to do the weekend Roundup a little differently, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it) we'll merely point out the big events in this week's Big 12. The Headlines, if you will. I'm kind of stealing the name from Dr. Saturday, but hopefully it's generic enough that there won't be a lawsuit. Heh.

With that said, let's get to the Headlines. We'll try to keep them as chronological as possible, but I'm not promising anything. If it turns out OK, we could expand it to other things in the future (like Cookie Miller's dad calling for Gottlieb to apologize to Cookie for saying he was"acting like a punk"), but for now, we'll stick to the teams, and the games, and the All-World performers. 

Just for now.

Baylor: A Sinking Ship?

Coming into the season, Baylor was a chic sleeper pick to win the Big 12. Returning nearly everyone from a pretty damn good team last year, they were expected to grow, to finish in the top fourth in the Big 12 (preseason t-3rd with Kansas) and to get a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they could make some serious noise. And they didn't disappoint in the non-conference, really, save a surprising loss in Waco to South Carolina.

And yet, conference play hit, and the Bears haven't played well. They've won some games, sure, including a game up in Manhattan, but have lost five. Five > three, their win total. No matter how good the non-con is, you'd have to think they have to at least finish .500 in league play, considering the Big 12 is having an "off year". All hope is not lost, though. Their current four-game losing streak has come against the four 'big boys' of the conference (Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Kansas), and their only other loss was on the road against Texas A&M, another fine team. They could win every game from here on out, and besides a road trip to Austin, wouldn't necessarily surprise anyone with a victory in any single game. They're halfway through conference play, and probably have to win at least 5 gams the rest of the way, get to 8-8, and go into the Big 12 Tournament with a shot. Considering they still Texas Tech and Iowa State on the road and Colorado and Nebraska at home, that isn't all that difficult. Win those four, steal a game somewhere else, and boom. NCAA Tournament team.

More headlines after the jump...

K-State and Texas A&M: NCAA Tournament Contenders?

Now, these two don't seem to be even on the totem pole. Texas A&M's record is 17-6; K-State's is 15-7. Texas A&M was bringing most people back; K-State lost its two best players, and never really proved it could win without Michael Beasley or Bill Walker. In short, it seemed as if the Powercats' goal should be the NIT, while the Aggies appeared to have an inside track on an NCAA bid. In the non-conference, the assumptions held true, with the Wildcats' best win (@ Cleveland State) coming against the fourth-best team in the Horizon while the Aggies picked up wins over Arizona, Alabama and LSU. A&M only lost once, while the Powercats lost thrice (including to winless-in-the-Pac-10 Oregon and second-worst-in-the-Big-10/11 Iowa).

However, ever since conference play started (at least since both teams' murderous openings ended), one team has appeared to be better than the other: K-State. However, both teams have showed plenty of life these past two weeks-or-so, and both have an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament. The interesting question is which team is ahead of which, if the Selection Committee were to meet today.

Like I said earlier, the non-con goes to ATM. As does the worst loss category (compared to K-State's loss to Oregon, ATM's worst loss is probably Tulsa) and RPI (A&M's is 37, K-State's is 80). But, Kansas State has a pair of wins (vs. Missouri; @ Texas) better than any one of ATM's victories (vs. Baylor or vs. LSU), and should pick up more wins the rest of the way, as they play in the "weaker" North (more on that in a second).

In any case, tomorrow's game between the two should determine a lot. The game is in College Station, but that can be a double-edged sword, too. A K-State win in College Station firmly places the Wildcats above the Aggies, as they beat them in their place. Both teams are playing really well, currently (K-State on a four-game winning streak, A&M lost on Wednesday, but it was @ Oklahoma and they were leading for a large majority of the game, plus they're coming off of two wins before that), and it should be a joy to watch. The number one Big 12 game to watch on Saturday, in my opinion.

Is the North Better than the South?

I will only touch on this briefly, as hiphop over at Oread Boom Kings did a fabulous piece on it earlier this week. However, it certainly is worth bringing up again. Typically, in the Big 12, South teams dominate. It's just how it is. In football, especially, but in basketball, too, usually. This year in hoops was supposed to be no different. They had Oklahoma, they had Texas, they had Baylor, they had Texas A&M, they had Oklahoma State. Five legitimate NCAA contenders. The North had a rebuilding Kansas team, a high-risk-high-reward Missouri team, an incredibly small Nebraska and a K-State teampost-Beasley. Two NCAA contenders was the preseason thinking.

And while none of the assessments were really all that far off, all of the little changes are shifts in the North's favor. Okie State's lack of size has hurt them a lot, ATM doesn't have the dynamic scoring to stick with really good teams, Texas has looked very, very beatable at times. Missouri is better than expected, as is Nebraska, and K-State turns you over enough to become incredibly dangerous. But even after all of that, it took two consecutive North teams beating Texas in Austin to really raise the question. It is a fair one, though.

If I had to match up the division's teams, 1-6, and pick the better of the two, here's how I'd do it:

  1. Oklahoma versus Kansas -- Oklahoma
  2. Texas versus Missouri -- Missouri
  3. Baylor versus K-State -- Baylor
  4. Texas A&M versus Nebraska -- Tie
  5. Oklahoma State versus Iowa State -- Okie State
  6. Texas Tech versus Colorado -- Texas Tech

Obviously, the South still has an advantage. Nebraska tying ATM is quite generous on my part, and still the South comes out ahead, 4-1-1. The only sizable gap, however, is at #5, between the Pokes and the Clones. Every other matchup would likely be a tossup, or something close to it, on a neutral floor.

And keep in mind, in games played between the two divisions, the North is 8-7. Too early to draw too much from that, but also keep in mind that Boomer Sooner has picked up 3 of those 7 wins.

Certainly something to keep an eye on, as the season progresses.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Those are all of the headlines we'll go over from now. I'll try and do this every week, while doing (hopefully) every single game on the Sunday version. I'll do it a little differently than I have been doing it, but hopefully it'll be even better. Still with the Bubble Watch, of sorts, and the Key Games to Watch For.

Maybe we'll even throw in a Player of the Week, or something.

 

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