Big 12 Confidential (Week 6)
Ah, the Big 12 Conference; it’s good to see you’re back in rare form again!
Just when you think you have the Big 12 all figured out this year, the conference turns around throws a Dice-K gyroball your direction.
The “consistent” play from Kansas? Gone.
Baylor’s Cinderella run? It’s hanging on like one of those ugly stepsisters.
Kansas State is now a conference power? Yep.
Welcome back to the rough and tumble of the real Big 12, where every week is a new story!
With that in mind, I thought I’d take a stab at where the top six teams (the one’s that actually have a shot at the NCAA Tournament) stand going into the stretch run of conference play, what games they have to win down the stretch, and what type of realistic chance they have of dancin’ in March.
Chance of making the tournament: LOCK
Stretch-run objectives: Win a couple of road games. After losing to Kansas State and Texas, the KU faithful have to be worried about this battle-tested team that didn’t seem to have a single chink in the armor.
Must-win games: @ Iowa State (2/27), @ Texas A&M (3/8)
Chance of making the tournament: GOOD
Stretch-run objectives: The Aggies need to beat a couple of top-tier teams in the next few weeks if they expect to get a good seed in the NCAA Tournament. It looks like they’ve finally learned to win on the road again, but they have yet to have that critical “WOW factor” win.
Must-win games: @ Texas (2/18), @ Oklahoma (3/1), @ Baylor (3/5)
Chance of making the tournament: VERY GOOD
Stretch-run objectives: Find another forward. The Longhorns have Damion James to compliment the outside combo of Augustin and Abrams, but other than that, the team lacks another inside presence. If the ‘Horns plan on making a run through the tournament, they better see if Connor Atchley or Gary Johnson can help carry a bigger load.
Must-win games: @ Baylor (2/16), Texas A&M (2/18), @ Kansas State (2/25)
Chance of making the tournament: VERY GOOD
Stretch-run objectives: Rest Beasley and Walker. Both have played over 26 minutes per game and will be relied upon heavily when the ‘Cats make the tournament.
Must-win games: @ Baylor (2/23), Texas (2/25)
Chance of making the tournament: GOOD
Stretch-run objectives: Find the consistency that got Baylor into the national spotlight. After winning four straight to start conference play, the Bears’ have suddenly lost their swagger. Consider them the 2008 version of the 2004-05 Texas A&M Aggies. Just like A&M, the Bears have to be nearly perfect down the stretch to make it in.
Must-win games: Texas (2/16), Kansas State (2/23), @ Colorado (2/27), Texas A&M (3/5)
Chance of making the tournament: FAIR
Stretch-run objectives: Win, win, and win some more.
Must-win games: @ Texas Tech (2/16), @ Texas (2/23), Texas A&M (3/1), @ Oklahoma State (3/5)
Big 12 Player of the Year candidates (After Week 5)
1. Michael Beasley, F, Kansas State: Average 22 points and almost 10 rebounds per game last week. The only blemish would have to be the ugly road loss to Texas Tech. Regardless, the points and boards just keep piling up for the fabulous frosh.
2. D.J. Augustin, PG, Texas: Augustin’s leadership was critical in the 72-69 upset win over Kansas earlier this week. His shooting was atrocious (1-13 FG), but I’m willing to overlook it since they won. Averaged 18 points and five assists last week in wins over Oklahoma and Iowa State.
3. Joseph Jones, F, Texas A&M: Points have dropped off recently, but he is still the cornerstone of the A&M surge that’s seen them win five straight. Big game against Texas looms on Monday.
4. Brandon Rush, G, Kansas: Mediocore numbers against Texas and Baylor knock Rush down a couple of places. Losing to Texas won’t help your stock either.
5. Bryan Davis, F, Texas A&M: Davis is finally living up to his hype coming out of high school a couple years ago. In his last three games, Davis has averaged almost 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. Those numbers have been critical to the Aggies who have been looking for another big forward other than Joe Jones to step-up all season.
Dropped out: Bill Walker, F (Kansas State)
Notables: Darrell Arthur (Kansas), A.J. Abrams
Big 12 Freshman of the Year candidates (After Week 5)
1. Beasley: One of the best freshman in nation.
2. Bill Walker, F, Kansas State: Continues to put up big numbers as the second best threat on the team.
3. LaceDarius Dunn, G, Baylor: His numbers are off the charts in his last three games: 14 points, 23 points, 26 points; however, the one thing hurting his stock is the fact that the Bears’ can’t win a game to save their life. Regardless, he is going to really be a star at the next level.
4. Blake Griffin, F, Oklahoma: Averaged over 20 points per game last week for the struggling Sooners.
5. DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M: Averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds for the Aggies last week. After a run of inconsistent games and foul trouble, Jordan finally looks to be filling into his role on the A&M squad.
Top 5 teams in the Big 12 (updated every Tuesday)
1. Kansas (23-2, 8-2 Big 12): Texas defeat couldn’t have come at a better time for a team that’s really in need of a wake-up call. After sleepwalking through the conference, the Jayhawk’s should be coming out of their mid-February slumber to make a big stretch run. Home game against Colorado could get ugly.
Tournament bound? Loss to Texas hurts their chance of winning the regular season title, but they’re still a lock for the dance.
2. Texas A&M (20-4, 6-3): Five straight wins for the Aggies mean they currently own the longest winning streak in the conference. Who would have seen that coming a month ago? Beating Iowa State and Missouri on the road in must-win situations proved the team has character. Should win at home against Oklahoma State on Saturday to move the streak to six.Tournament bound? Road wins really help their stock.
3. Texas (20-4, 7-2): Just when you think the Horns’ are down for the count, they rise from the mat and make you take notice again. Two big road wins against Oklahoma and Iowa State were needed, but the Kansas win at home is something that should make the tournament committee take notice.
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.
4. Kansas State (17-6, 7-2): Loss to Texas Tech was ugly, and with A&M and Texas currently rolling at the moment, the Wildcats had to fall. Home game against Missouri on Saturday should be another win.
Tournament bound? Big wins over A&M and Kansas keep the Wildcats firmly in the tournament for now.
5. Baylor (17-6, 5-4): Should be on red alert after losing four of their last five games. Road loss to Kansas was acceptable, but losing to Oklahoma State on the road proved that the Bears’ aren’t there just yet. Huge home game against Texas on Saturday could be a make or break game.
Tournament bound? Still in, but their stock is falling really fast.
Best of the Rest: Oklahoma (16-8, 4-5), Texas Tech (13-10, 4-5), Missouri (14-11, 4-6),
Game of the week
Texas (20-4, 7-2) at Baylor (17-6, 5-4) — Saturday, 9:00 pm EST (ESPN)
Baylor is spiraling out of control, while the Longhorns’ continue to prove every year that they are one of the most consistent teams in college basketball. Even without Kevin Durant, the Horns’ have found a way to claw their way back into the Big 12 title picture with guards D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams leading the way.
The Bears’ are a totally different story. After screaming out of the gates the early part of the season, the team now finds themselves mired in a two-game losing streak. Normally that wouldn’t be a reason for concern, however, that is until you notice that Baylor has now lost four of their last five.
Can you say must-win?
I know I can, but I doubt Baylor will be able to. In a game that could define their season, you have to look at the fact that Texas has been in pressure situations before — Baylor is a virgin to the NCAA tournament scene since joining the Big 12.
Texas takes the game in a tight contest.
Final Score Prediction: Texas 82, Baylor 79