Classes are back in session here at K-State. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a 6 hour layover between classes, so there is a good chance I will get bored until school work starts picking up in a few weeks. There is only so much Skip Bayless, and Tim Tebow talk a Chiefs fan like myself can handle, So I turned off ESPN and opened my laptop…
I’ve decided I will share my thoughts on Big 12 Basketball from top to bottom since conference play is well underway.
Fresh off their Big Monday victory against undefeated Baylor, KU goes to 5-0 in conference play for the 4th time under Bill Self, and looks to climb even further in the polls. Tyshawn Taylor matched his career high with 28 points going 10-14 from the field, and 4-6 from three point land. In Taylor’s last 2 games, he has combined for 56 points. I believe Kansas is at their peak right now as they are playing their best basketball of the year. Not saying that they won’t get better, but with blowout wins at home against K-State, and Baylor within a few weeks period, KU probably won’t have a better 5 game stretch this season than what they are currently experiencing.
Thomas Robinson has been in full beast mode this season, averaging 17.2 points a game, and 12.2 boards per game. The only concern I have about KU is that they aren’t as deep as Bill Self’s teams usually are. However, their starting 5 are playing very well right now, and the team is rolling, so there is no need for concern right now. It will be interesting to see KU play on the road though.
Ending thoughts on KU: We all know that they are dominant at Allen Field House, but can a team with such little depth go on the road and win in tough environments such as Bramlage, and Mizzou Sports Arena? We will have to wait and see. As of now, hopes are high for the Jayhawks and an 8th straight conference title is very likely after a rocky start to the season. Kansas has shown me enough to make me believe that they CAN win the Big 12, and go deep in the NCAA Tournament.
I had them at 4-1 going into their January 21st (My 22nd Birthday J) home contest against Missouri, figured they would either lose at K-State, or KU. As we know, the Baylor Bears fell 92-74 to Kansas making it the Bears first loss of the season. I mentioned that Kansas is at the peak of their season, and unfortunately for Baylor, they had to go into Allen Fieldhouse and play the Jayhawks during that time. I do believe Baylor will rebound, and beat Missouri in Waco on Saturday. This is a big game for both teams, and the winner will have a great “W” to add to their resume when it comes to seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
Baylor, without a doubt, has the most impressive starting 5 in the conference, and maybe the nation. I would put Quincy Acy, Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip, Quincy Miller, and Perry Jones III up against the starting 5 of Syracuse, Kentucky, and Duke. I think that the only games I can possibly see Baylor not winning the rest of the season are at Mizzou, and KU at home. I think that Baylor is better than Missouri, and maybe better than Kansas.
Ending thoughts on Baylor: Even after the 18 point loss in Allen Fieldhouse, Baylor is still the best team in the Big 12. KU took Baylor out of their element on Monday night. I still see Kansas slipping up on the road a few times this year, leaving Baylor as your Big 12 Champion.
Ahh good ol’ Mizzou, the team that is succeeding, but also the team that everyone else wants to see fail. Missouri is in their last year of playing in the Big 12 before signing the death sentence to their football program, and their 100 year rivalry with Kansas in both sports. Now that I have my insults towards Missouri, and their annoying blinded by the glitter of the SEC fans, let’s talk about first year coach Frank Haith and his 17-1 MU Tigers.
Besides being blown out at K-State, MU has looked pretty solid this year, and their record speaks for it. If you’re waiting for the typical Missouri relapse down the stretch, I don’t think that will happen this year. MU is 4th in the nation in points scored per game with 83.1, and is 2nd best shooting team in the land shooting right around 50%. Their only obvious weakness is their inability to rebound. The Tigers are ranked 205th in the nation only averaging 34.4 boards a game. This is where I think the Tigers are in trouble up against Baylor and Kansas. In MU’s only loss to K-State, the cats out rebounded the Tigers 36-22. K-State went on to win easily 75-59. So if K-State can kill MU on the glass like that, I could only imagine what KU and Baylor could do better.
Ending thoughts on MU: I think Missouri is a good team, and Marcus Denmon deserves everything he earns this year. Mizzou could go deep in the NCAA Tournament if matched up against the right teams. However, the Big 12 Championship race is a two headed monster with Kansas and Baylor.
The Cyclones are a dangerous team that not a lot of people know about. Their only conference losses are to Missouri and Kansas. Those were games where ISU looked good at times, but were out matched by the Tigers and Jayhawks. I think it is safe to say that “Rolls” Royce White is the front runner for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Baylor’s Pierre Jackson being 2nd. While I don’t see Iowa State being a real threat to anybody this year, they are not a team to be taken lightly. History has shown that they can be a very good team at home.
ISU has three winnable games coming up. They play Oklahoma State on Wednesday, at Texas Tech on Saturday, and then at Texas the following week before playing KU and K-State at home back-to-back. With that said, I think it is very important for ISU to win at least 2 of those 3 games before playing KU, and K-State. If they don’t they could fall into a losing streak, and will have a tough time finishing in the top half of the league.
Ending Thoughts on ISU: They are a bubble team at best this year. However, you never know, 8 or 9 conference wins finishing 5th might deserve a NCAA Tournament bid. This team is capable of winning half their conference games.
This is another one of those years where you sit and think how is Texas not better? J’Covan Brown averages 19 points per game, which leads the conference. They are also getting big time contributions from newcomers Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo. There is clearly talent on this Longhorn team, as there always is, but under Rick Barnes UT always seems to lose games they shouldn’t. Earlier this year they lost back to back home games against Oregon State, and NC State, that’s just terrible. Wait, Is Oregon State the team that just started a fight with Arizona in a Pac-12 game that nobody cares about?
Texas has a very, very tough stretch in their schedule coming up. They play at K-State, at home against KU, at Baylor, and Missouri for the 2nd time this year. All those games are played in January! This Texas team is very young, and I think that they will roll over and die before the end of the month with that brutal schedule.
Ending thoughts on UT: Look for them to finish 6th or 7th in the league due to their youth, and inability to win close games. Let’s be honest, Texas fans would rather sweep Texas A&M and kick them out the door to the SEC than make the NCAA Tournament. Sarcasm? Maybe…
Well, they won Bedlam, which is a good start towards turning the season around, and beating OU keeps the black and orange faithful happy. Funny story, the Monday of that Bedlam game was also the same day as the National Title game between Alabama and LSU. I was sitting in Todd Leabo’s office at Sports Radio 810’s Overland Park, Kan building while the Big 12 conference calls were going on. We were thinking that the ratings of the National Title game would be higher than Bedlam in both cities of Stillwater, and Norman, Okla. At the time, both teams were not playing well and Bedlam seemed irrelevant. I’d like to look those numbers up actually, somehow.
OSU has just looked flat terrible for the better part of the season. They average 66.3 points per game, that’s not going to cut it in the Big 12. They also only shoot 40% on average per game, yikes. On the upside, Le’Bryan Nash has been looking fairly solid in his freshmen year. The 6’7 small forward is averaging 12.5 points per game. Keiton Page is in his senior season, averaging 14.4 points a game. However, a lot of those points come from the free throw line, he can’t really create shots on his own.
Ending thoughts on OSU: They don’t have the playmakers and just aren’t good enough to make a NCAA Tournament run. I think that OSU, OU, Tech, and A&M are the bottom feeders of the league and will be lucky to make the NIT at this point.
Beat Tech last night in a non-impressive fashion, probably shouldn’t have beaten K-State, but they did. The Sooners played their best game of the year last Saturday against the Wildcats, they hit every shot it seemed like, not really, but they made big shots when KSU started to make a run. I’m not sure that OU is all that good. They rebound very well, and are getting good scoring production from Steven Pledger, and Andrew Fitzgerald, but have given up 80+ points in 2 of their 5 losses, including an embarrassing 38 point loss to Missouri.
Ending thoughts on OU: I don’t know, maybe this team is better than I give them credit for. I can’t quite put a finger on the Sooners, I need to see them play more. I think their impressive win over K-State was a fluke, and that they played lights out and above their capabilities. But hey, who knows? This Oklahoma team could surprise us this year.
It’s been sort of an up and down year for K-State. The Wildcat’s thrilling double overtime loss to former KSU coach Bob Huggins didn’t seem to affect this team that much. Shortly after, K-State went on to beat Kansas City, MO native Trevor Releford and the 21st ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sprint Center in KC. K-State let Kansas go on too many runs in Allen Field House a few weeks back, losing to the Jayhawks 67-49 in a game in which KSU had the KU lead cut down to 4 in the 2nd half at one point. One game later K-State owns Missouri in Bramlage 75-59. Then KSU loses to Baylor by 2, and then to Oklahoma by 9. Like I said, it’s been an up and down season for the cats.
Based off what I have seen from Frank Martin and the Wildcats this year, K-State is still not quite a top tier team in the Big 12 with Kansas and Baylor. K-State had a 4 point lead over 3rd ranked Baylor with 2 minutes left in the game, at home. I’m sorry, but if Kansas were in that situation, they pull out the “W” there. K-State has not looked very good on defense the past few weeks, which is something the cats will need to improve if they want to even think about having a shot to win in Waco, Columbia, and Kansas at home.
Ending thoughts on KSU: I think K-State is looking at 10, 11, 12 conference wins this year, which is plenty to make the NCAA Tournament. K-State still gets OSU, Tech, ISU, and A&M twice this year. Potentially that is 8 wins if the cats can sweep all 4. I’m not saying that is going to happen, but it’s doable. I have the cats finishing 4th in the league, not bad for what most consider a “rebuilding year”.
Really not much to say about the Aggies, other than that they are 10-7 and started the year ranked 19th in the nation. They lost to Mississippi State at home in November, ehh that’s not the end of the world by any means. Then they lost to what I think is an underrated Florida team at home by 20. Ok, Florida is good, so we will let that slide. But then they lose to Rice at home, smh. It’s been a disaster for the Aggies since then, losing 4 of 6 since then. Offensively A&M has been terrible this year, only averaging 61.7 points per game.
Ending thoughts on A&M: Still have to play KU, Baylor, and KSU twice, good luck! A&M still has yet to show us why they were ranked so high to start the season, and I just don’t see it happening either. Keep your heads up Aggie fans, you get to join all the juggernaut basketball programs in the SEC West next year, have at it!
Not much has gone right for the Red Raiders this year. Just for grins, let’s list off Texas Tech’s wins this year…
Troy, North Texas, Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M-CC, Grambling State, Cal State Bakersfield, and finally, Southeastern Lousiana.
Ending thoughts on Tech: To be fair, they are actually 0-6 in the Big 12. They lost to TCU in December.