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Big 12 Confidential (Week 6)

by Jonathan Wall | February 18th, 2008

Hot Topic:
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.

Kansas
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)

Texas A&M
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)

Texas
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)

Kansas State
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)

Baylor
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)

Oklahoma
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

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8 Responses to “Big 12 Confidential (Week 6)”  

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  1. Mark Says:

    Love the site and the service you provide. However, Texas is a lock to make the tourney and not “very good” as you suggest.

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  2. Jonathan Says:

    Mark.
    Thanks for the kind words. I agree Texas is a lock now. I am the type of person that seems to be pessimistic until the end. In the next set of rankings, Texas will indeed be a lock.

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  3. John Says:

    @ Jonathan Wall. Oklahoma is to me the hardest team in the country to judge. They have terrific non-conference wins vs West Virginia, Arkansas and Gonzaga and a nice road conference win at Baylor. But they also have not beaten any of the top 4 teams in the Big 12. What helps them is that Stephen F. Austin loss doesn’t look so bad with the Lumberjacks at 20-3. You said Oklahoma has to win, win, win. Do you mean win out and 1 game in the Big 12 Tournament?

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  4. Mark Says:

    No problem, Mr. Wall. Maybe I’m just grouchy LOL. But every bracket I’ve seen has Texas a 2 seed and I don’t see how you can go from a 2 seed to a bubble team unless Texas drops 4 more games the rest of the year and I don’t see how that’s possible.

    Also, I have no idea where this KU love-fest comes from. It’s beyond me how they are ranked ahead of Texas in any poll. KU has ZERO quality wins so far over ranked opponents, whereas Texas has wins over 5 ranked teams who are tourney locks. KU’s strength of schedule is 51 …. Texas is 3rd. Texas beat KU head-to-head. But KU is a 1 seed and ranked ahead of Texas??? what a joke

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  5. Jonathan Says:

    @John:
    I apologize if that comment didn’t seem clear, but in all honesty, Oklahoma really does need to win the rest of their schedule and probably one conference tourney game to make the tournament. The reason I used the 05-06 Aggies as a reference is largely due to the fact that A&M found themselves in a similar situation at 3-6 that season. They were able to win seven straight before losing a close one to Texas in the second round of the big 12 tournament. The 10-6 record was nice, but I think it was the momentum they had that made the committee take notice and slot them in the tournament. Remember that A&M was STILL on the bubble that season until Selection. I agree OU is one of the toughest teams to judge based on some of their wins, but if they want to clear thing up, I would really suggest they just keep winning starting with tonight’s game at Baylor.

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  6. Jonathan Says:

    @Mark:
    I understand the frustration about Texas, however, you need to understand that Kansas started the season, 20-0. They were only one of two teams in the country with an unblemished record. While I will agree that Texas is playing some of the best basketball in the country, they did get beat on the road early by a Missouri team they had no business losing to, and an A&M team that made them look really bad again on the road. I’m not sure who made the comment that Texas was a bubble team, but I can promise you that they will make the tournament without question. I did say if they lost a couple more road games that they could see the committee take a look at their seed, but I didn’t say they would be left out of the tournament.

    Also, the Texas game was in Austin. I can promise you Kansas would probably win a game on a neutral floor if the two teams met head-to-head later on (and they probably will in the big 12 championship). Just like the seedings that everyone spit out, my opinion that Kansas is still a better team is, well, just that: a matter of opinion.

    Thanks for the friendly banter.

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  7. Mark Says:

    “I understand the frustration about Texas, however, you need to understand that Kansas started the season, 20-0. They were only one of two teams in the country with an unblemished record.”

    True, however that had more to do with their weak schedule than anything else. What happened when KU finally played good teams? So far they are 0-2 against the only ranked teams they’ve played. I thought the selection committee rewarded tough scheduling? Kansas would easily have at least 4 losses if they played the schedule Texas has. You can’t seriously tell me KU beats Tenn in New Jersey like Texas did…. beats UCLA at Pauley like Texas did….or beats Michigan State at their place. It remains to be seen if KU can beat A&M at their place. Kansas has a SOS at 51…. Texas has a SOS ranked # 3.

    “they did get beat on the road early by a Missouri team they had no business losing to, and an A&M team that made them look really bad again on the road.”

    Mizzou had all their players available and were 11-5 when Texas played them. Mizzou was actually a solid team, although not great. Plus, it was a road game. Every team plays a stinker now and then. NC lost to a Clemson team at home they had no business losing to and almost lost to a so-so Virginia team. Duke got killed by a so-so Wake team. True, A&M made us look bad on the road. We made them look even worse at our place last night. I’m not sure you can argue road losses to Mizzou and A&M negate road and neutral site wins over UCLA and Tenn.

    “I’m not sure who made the comment that Texas was a bubble team”

    When you didn’t say Texas was a “locK” I assumed you were suggesting that Texas could be a bubble team with a few more loses. Otherwise, if you thought Texas would make the tourney no matter what why wouldn’t you call them a lock?

    “Also, the Texas game was in Austin. I can promise you Kansas would probably win a game on a neutral floor ”

    I don’t see how you can make that claim. Texas has played better on the ROAD than they have at home more times than not. Also, you have to keep in mind the only reason the game was close was because Damion James only played 2:28 of the first half. After the 1st half KU had a 4 pt lead and a 10 rebound edge. After Damion James played the entire 2nd half Texas outscored KU by 7 pts and out-rebounded them by 12 boards in the half. If James plays the whole game I think it’s very safe to assume a double digit win by Texas since James had a double/double while only playing about 22 minutes

    “Just like the seedings that everyone spit out, my opinion that Kansas is still a better team”

    I just don’t see it.

    KU – 0 wins over ranked teams
    Texas 5 wins over ranked teams (KU, UCLA, Tenn, A&M, St Mary’s)

    KU – 0-1 against Top 10 teams
    Texas 3-0 against Top 10 teams

    KU strength of schedule – 51
    Texas strength of schedule – 3

    thanks for the give-n-take. I do appreciate your work and the site.

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  8. Dex Says:

    @ Mark, NC didn’t lose to Clemson at home or on the road. They lost to Maryland at home, is that what you’re thinking?

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