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Big 12 Confidential (Week 5)

by Jonathan Wall | February 9th, 2008

Hot Topic:
I was thinking about writing a huge post on the resignation of former Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight and the impact it could have on the team in the coming weeks, but I figured most of us have already gotten their fill of the story from ESPN.com and the rest of the crew that loves nothing more than to bash the coach when they can. (Yes, Pat Forde, I’m pointing my finger directly at you and your absurd column).

Instead I thought I’d share my favorite memory of Coach Knight since he came to the Big 12. It came during the 2005 season when I was covering the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. I was standing with a group of reporters in the media room asking the coach questions after his first round victory over Iowa State when I fired out a question I regret asking to this day.

I asked Coach Knight if he thought his team had a real shot at winning the Big 12 tournament after seeing its performance against Iowa State. He turned, looked me square in the eyes and said, “Did you skip class to be here? Because after asking that question, I think you might want to turn right around and head back to campus.” It was one of the highlights of reporting when I was back in college.

I threw up a beach ball question for Knight and he smacked it out of the park. That’s typical Bob Knight humor for ya!

Also, I thought I’d end the Hot Topic this week with one of the most hilarious clips of Bobby Knight I’ve ever seen. The clip was taken from Knight’s days at Indiana where he supposedly hosted a golfing show with a local pro. I will say right now that the clip is vulgar, but if you can watch the whole thing without laughing, then obviously don’t have a soul … I’m only kidding. Enjoy the clip.

Big 12 Player of the Year candidates (After Week 4):

1. Michael Beasley, F (Kansas State): Maintains the spot for another week after pouring in 25 points in a 84-75 upset victory over Kansas. His 17 points against Missouri weren’t enough to help his team win later in the week (K-State lost 77-74), but beating Kansas will make most of us look the other way.

2. Brandon Rush, G (Kansas): Averaged over 17 points during his last three Big 12 conference games. Loss to Kansas State was a tough one to swallow, but beating Missouri and Colorado handily keeps him moving up the list.

3. Joseph Jones, F (Texas A&M): Averaged 16 points last week in two must-win games against Texas and Oklahoma. The points are nice, but in the end it’s really his senior leadership that makes him such an appealing POY candidate.

4. D.J. Augustin, PG (Texas): Augustin had a relatively down week after scorching most of the conference this season. 14 points in a blowout loss to Texas A&M won’t move you up the list. Followed up the loss by going 1-7 from the field in a 80-72 win against Baylor.

5. Bill Walker, F (Kansas State): Wildcat fans should be so lucky to have Walker and Beasley on the same team. Averaged 16.5 points in his last two games against Kansas and Missouri. Continues to prove his worth as one of the best freshman in the Big 12.

Dropped out: Curtis Jerrells G, (Baylor)

Notables: Darrell Arthur (Kansas), Curtis Jerrells (Baylor), Bryan Davis (Texas A&M)

Big 12 Freshman of the Year candidates (After Week 4):

1. Beasley: His play against Kansas makes him the top collegiate player going into the NBA Draft.

2. Bill Walker, F (Kansas State): 22 points against Kansas is nothing to sneeze at. Would be a leading freshman of the year candidate in any other conference in the nation.

3. Blake Griffin, F (Oklahoma): Continues to lead the team in points and rebounds. Did I mention that he’s still nursing an MCL injury that was supposed to keep him on the self for another two weeks?

4. DeAndre Jordan, C (Texas A&M): Played one of his most dominant games of the season against Texas when the team needed it most (10 pts/5 reb). Followed that game up with two solid showings against Oklahoma and Iowa State. Still needs to work on his consistency and footing in the post before he thinks about bolting for the draft.

5. LaceDarius Dunn, G (Baylor): Averaged almost 10 points last week for the Bears. The only problem was that Baylor ended up losing both of the games.

Top 5 teams in the Big 12 (rankings will be updated every Tuesday):

1. Kansas (22-1, 7-1 Big 12): Losing to in-state rival Kansas State won’t hurt the Jayhawks’ Big 12 ranking due to the fact that they were due for a letdown at some point. Followed the loss up with two blowout wins against Colorado and Missouri. Home game against Baylor on Saturday should be another great test against one of the better teams in the South division.

Tournament bound? No question about it.

4. Kansas State (15-5, 5-1): Jumps over A&M after beating undefeated Kansas at home. Loss to Missouri on the road hurts, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the Wildcats are still one of the hottest teams in the nation. Home games against Nebraska (Wednesday) and Oklahoma State (Saturday) should pad their winning percentage.

Tournament bound? Wildcats have their foot firmly planted in the tournament after the big win against Kansas.

3. Texas A&M (19-4, 5-3): A&M again proves that pressure is the best remedy for a team spiraling out of control. Victories last week against Texas (80-63) and Oklahoma (60-52) were must-win games. Followed last week’s momentum with a blowout win over Iowa State (69-51) to run the current conference winning streak to four.

Tournament bound? Stock looks really solid after two big home wins and a solid road showing. A road win at Missouri would continue to improve their seeding even more.

4. Texas (17-4, 4-2): Blowout loss at A&M is something that ‘Horns fans should be concerned about. The team has now won only one conference road game, and now face the daunting task of beating Oklahoma and Iowa State in their buildings this week.

Tournament bound? The Longhorns currently sit in the tournament right now based on some big non-conference road wins against UCLA and Tennessee, but if they don’t find a way to win at least one of the two road games this weekend, then you can expect the committee to take a hard look at their seeding.

5. Baylor (16-4, 4-2): Baylor’s stock is falling harder than a lead balloon after two critical losses to Texas and Baylor. You have to win games against the best in your conference if you want people to take notice. Home game against Texas Tech on Wednesday shouldn’t be a problem, but road game at Kansas could get ugly if Baylor can’t find a way to stop the post presence of Arthur and Jackson.

Tournament bound? Still have some work to do, but consider the Bears in the tournament for right now.

Best of the Rest: Oklahoma (15-6, 3-3), Missouri (13-10, 3-5), Texas Tech (12-8, 3-3)

Game(s) of the week:

Texas (17-4, 4-2) at Oklahoma (15-6, 3-3) — Wednesday, 7:00 pm EST (ESPN2)
Red River Rivalry. Texas and Oklahoma. Need I say more?

The game comes at a time where both schools are desperately looking to make their move in conference. After Texas lost in a big way at A&M, the ‘Horns really need to prove their worth as a legitimate contender with a conference road game that matters.

For Oklahoma, the game would improve their place in conference, and could be just the medicine it needs to make the committee take notice.

The Longhorns’ will need to rely on the outside shooting from guards D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams to get the job done against the physical size of the Sooners. OU will need to counter with freshman Blake Griffin (14.3 ppg/8.7 reb) in the post early and often, and hope that he can put the ‘Horns in early foul trouble.

The bad news for the Sooners is that they haven’t defeated the Longhorns since the 05-06 season. The good news for them is that this time around they have Blake Griffin in the post.

Griffin makes the difference in a tight battle.
Final Score Prediction: Oklahoma 75, Texas 72

Baylor (16-4, 4-2) at Kansas (22-1, 7-1) — Saturday, 8:00 pm EST (Jayhawk Television)
Comparing the history of Kansas and Baylor basketball is like comparing Adriana Lima to the girl next door. One is arguably the most beautiful woman in the world, while the other is well, just the girl next door.

But ya know what? Sometimes the girl next door isn’t so bad. Case in point: Baylor basketball.

Emerging from years of poor play, lack of talent, and a murder trial to boot, the team finally looks to be making the turn with head coach Scott Drew at the helm.

After beating A&M two weeks ago, the Bears have since fallen back to earth, losing two of their last three games. Junior guards Henry Dugat and Curtis Jerrells will need to have a colossal game against the Jayhawks if they expect to walk out of Allen Fieldhouse with a win.

For Kansas, the game is nothing more than a tune-up for the Big 12 tournament and better seeding in the Big Dance. With Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush leading from the outside, the Jayhawks have more than enough options to keep Dugat and Jerrells quiet for most of the night.

The only thing making this game a bit more intriguing than usual is the fact that the Bears have been such a solid road team all season. With wins against South Carolina, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Nebraska away from home, the once mocked Bears have proven to be a tough out this season.

However, regardless of their prowess on the road, playing at Allen Fieldhouse isn’t like playing at any other arena in the country. Expect the Jayhawks to be on the Bears from the start.
Final Score Prediction: Kansas 85, Baylor 70

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