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Big 12 Confidential (Week 8)

by Jonathan Wall | February 27th, 2008

Hot Topic:
What a week this should be for the Big 12 Conference. It seems just like yesterday we were talking about the conference getting six bids into the tournament, and now with the recent play of a few teams (namely Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas A&M), it could be looking at only five tickets.

Let’s take a look at the current standings of the six most eligible teams in the conference and see which teams could be coming and going after this past weekend’s matchups.

Kansas (24-3 overall/9-3 Big 12)
Chance of making the tournament: LOCK

Stretch-run objectives: Forget about winning the Big 12 regular season title. I know, it’s really hard for a team with this caliber to lay down and watch Texas take it, but if Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State told us anything, it’s that Kansas would be best suited to rest some of their starters when they can and coast into the conference tournament.

Must-win games: @ Iowa State (2/27), @ Texas A&M (3/8)

Texas A&M (20-7/6-6)
Chance of making the tournament: GOOD

Stretch-run objectives: Win at home. The objectives have since changed for the Aggies, who are currently mired in a three-game losing streak. Instead of resting players like the rest of the conference, the boy’s from College Station now have to fight for their tournament lives, and with two of the final four on the road, the team would be best off winning at least one of the two to secure a spot. Lose both and the picture becomes very cloudy.

Must-win games: @ Oklahoma (3/1), @ Baylor (3/5)

Texas
Chance of making the tournament: LOCK

Stretch-run objectives: Mission accomplished for Texas. The win against Kansas State was the perfect exclamation point for a team that continues to get better each week. Now it’s time to rest and prepare for Selection Sunday.

Must-win games: @ Kansas State (2/25) W

Kansas State (18-9/8-5)
Chance of making the tournament: GOOD

Stretch-run objectives: The new objective is to get back to winning again. Like A&M, the Wildcats can’t seem to get out of their current losing funk. Assuming they lose on Saturday at Kansas, that would bring the streak to four straight. If that happens, it will make the final two games of the season really interesting. A home game with Colorado should result in a win, but a road game at Iowa State could decided whether a first round victory in the conference tournament is a “must-win.”

Must-win games: @ Baylor (2/23) L, Texas (2/25) L

Baylor (18-8/6-6)
Chance of making the tournament: GOOD

Stretch-run objectives: Try to reach 20 wins before the end of the regular season. Baylor is currently back in the projected tournament after defeating Kansas State on Saturday, but the Bears still need to win two of the next four to grab some secure footing.

Must-win games: Kansas State (2/23) W, @ Colorado (2/27), Texas A&M (3/5)

Oklahoma (18-9/6-6)
Chance of making the tournament: FAIR

Stretch-run objectives: For one, the Sooners need to stop the lopsided defeats. Saturday’s 62-45 road drubbing against Texas won’t make any committee member take notice, let alone even consider you for a berth over other more deserving teams. The Sooners have to beat Nebraska this weekend in what should be considered a make-or-break game.

Must-win games: @ Texas (2/23) L, @ Nebraska (2/27), Texas A&M (3/1), @ Oklahoma State (3/5)

Big 12 Player of the Year candidates (After Week 7)
1. D.J. Augustin, PG, Texas: This was bound to happen with the way Augustin is currently playing. He leads one of the hottest teams in the country in points and assists (19.3 ppg/5.9 ast), while also pushing the Horns into a possible number one seed in the tournament. He also played a key role in wins against Oklahoma and Kansas State.

2. Michael Beasley, F, Kansas State: Set a Big 12 record with 44 points on Saturday against Baylor, but his team lost the game. Averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds per contest is great, but Augustin is helping his team win down the stretch. I think that’s enough to drop Beasley down a notch.

3. Brandon Rush, G, Kansas: 12 points and 6 rebounds in a loss to Oklahoma State.

4. Darnell Jackson, F, Kansas: 16 points and 10 rebounds against Oklahoma State weren’t good enough to help his team secure the road win.

5. A.J. Abrams, G, Texas: Had 13 big points in a road win over Kansas State on Monday night. His 16.6 ppg makes him the second biggest threat behind Augustin.

Dropped out: Darnell Jackson, F (Kansas)

Notables: Aleks Maric (Nebraska), Bill Walker (Kansas State)

Big 12 Freshman of the Year candidates (After Week 7)
1. Beasley:
In his first and only season in the Big 12 conference, Beasley manages to break the single-game scoring record by pouring in 44 points in a loss.

2. Blake Griffin, F, Oklahoma: Griffin’s 16 points and 16 rebounds against Texas ended up being the only bright spot in a 62-45 loss.

3. Bill Walker, F, Kansas State: It was a rough start to the week for Kansas State’s second leading scorer. After dropping 31 against Baylor, he followed that showing up by going 0-14 from the field for one point against Texas. Talk about being inconsistent!

4. LaceDarius Dunn, G, Baylor: Comes up big when his team needs him the most. 16 points and seven rebounds against Kansas State were big in a must-win game.

5. DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M: Six points and eight rebounds against Nebraska were small numbers, but then again, Jordan hasn’t played as big a role of late with the Aggies pushing for a tournament spot.

Top 5 teams in the Big 12 (updated every Tuesday)
1. Texas (24-4,11-2): Wins against Oklahoma and Kansas State push the Horns into the top spot in the Big 12 rankings.

2. Kansas (24-3, 9-3 Big 12): After coming out firing during the early part of the season, the Jayhawks have now lost their last two road games. Another road game against Iowa State on Wednesday should be intriguing.

3. Kansas State (18-9, 8-5): Lacking the finishing touch right now when they need it the most. Loss on the road at Baylor was a bad loss this late in the year. Cats need a big showing on Saturday at Kansas since they only play once this week.

4. Texas A&M (20-7, 6-6): Losing at home to Oklahoma State was bad, but getting beat at home by Nebraska is just uncalled for. To call the two games this week against Texas Tech and Oklahoma critical would be an understatement.

5. Baylor (18-8, 6-6): Win against Kansas State was just what the team needed to hopefully get back on track. Wednesday tilt at Colorado is a critical late season game.

Best of the Rest: Oklahoma (18-9, 6-6), Nebraska (16-9, 5-7), Texas Tech (15-11, 6-6)

Game(s) of the week
Texas Tech (15-11, 6-6) at Texas A&M (20-7, 6-6) — Wednesday, 8:00 EST (ESPN Plus)

For A&M this game could define the season. After losing their last two home games to inferior opponents, the Aggies need to find a way to pick themselves off the floor and push onward to March. The last two meetings between these schools in College Station have produced some close contests, including last season’s 77-75 Tech victory.
Final Score Prediction: Texas A&M 78, Texas Tech 70

Oklahoma (18-9, 6-6) at Nebraska (16-9, 5-7) Wednesday, 8:00 EST (No TV)

What a shame that this matchup is the only Big 12 game on Wednesday night without television rights. Oklahoma will be playing for its tournament life against one of the biggest darkhorse teams in the conference, the once forgotten Nebraska Conrhuskers. Conventional wisdom would say that Oklahoma should take care of business, but frankly, there’s been nothing conventional about anything that’s gone on this season.
Final Score Prediction: Nebraska 80, Oklahoma 79

Texas A&M (20-7, 6-6) at Oklahoma (18-9, 6-6) Saturday, 2:00 EST (ESPN)
Assuming both schools win on Wednesday, this game should be nothing more than another conference game. But if they both lose, this game could decide who stays in the tournament and who could be left fighting for a spot in theBig 12 tournament. The Sooners have lost only two conference games at home this season, and judging by the possible importance of this game, they should show up for this one.
Final Score Prediction: Oklahoma 74, Texas A&M 68

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

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  1. Dex Says:

    Jonathan, do you have the Huskers beating Oklahoma because it’s kind of a must win situation for them, or do you think they’re hot right now after beating K-St. and TX A&M? I just don’t think that Nebraska is all that good. They’ve beaten Oregon, Arizona St., and the two I mentioned above. The Oregon win to me is not that impressive, considering the Ducks lost at Oakland a week later. K-St. is probably the best team out of the four. A&M is a tournament team but I think that they are overrated and Arizona St. has been pretty impressive but is at about the same level or worse than A&M. I just don’t see how they can get in unless they win out. If they do, they’ll be the 6th and final team in out of the Big 12 (assuming Baylor gets in).

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  2. Jonathan Wall Says:

    @ Dex:
    I do have the Huskers beating OU (see the Games of the Week at the bottom of the article), but I honestly could see this game going either way. I think Oklahoma lost a lot of momentum in the Texas game, so I would agree that the game tonight is critical to their season.

    Kansas State is a pretty sure thing so long as they don’t totally collapse down the stretch. They have some big wins against KU and A&M to help take pressure off the current three-game losing streak, but assuming they can beat Colorado and Iowa State in their last two games, they should be a sure thing.

    A&M is a tricky team to choose, however, you’re talking about a team that is probably already in the tournament. They should win tonight at home against Tech to setup a big road game on Saturday with Oklahoma. Assuming they beat Tech, that would put them at 21-wins. Even if they lose both games to Baylor and Oklahoma, I just can’t see them missing out. They should be the fifth team in the tournament from the conference. The final team fighting for a spot should be baylor based on their current play.

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  3. John Says:

    To me, Texas is the best team in the Big 12. What a remarkable job by Rick Barnes this year. D.J. Augustin might be the best point guard in the country. They are primed for a Final Four run. I think Kansas is a little bit overrated, although I thought that all year. Kansas State certainly has talent, with Walker and Beasley, but I wonder if their backcourt can get it done in a big spot. They can make the Sweet 16, but I think we see youth catching up to them. Texas A&M seems a little stale this year. They always play good defense, but I find they can struggle to score sometimes. I think they are an unpredictable team come tournament time. Baylor is certainly loaded in the backcourt, and I think they’ll be carefree in the tournament, but i’ll be interested to see how they perform in crunch time during their tournament games. Nebraska has Aleks Maric and not much else, but he is very, very good. The nation is finally starting to see that. A fine coaching job by Doc Sadler this year. Oklahoma, to me is out. Not acceptable to get blown out this late in the season, even on the road. Hopefully, Blake Griffin stays around Norman to make next year’s NCAA Tournament.

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  4. Dex Says:

    John, I agree Texas is probably the best team in the Big 12. I’ve wondered about Kansas and I thought it was hard to judge them based on their easy non-conference schedule. But I think that you have to look at the talent on the team (Arthur, Collins, Kahn, Rush, etc) to be able to judge their real potential. I think that when it comes down to it in the Big 12 tournament, they’ll show how good they really are. Kansas St. has a superstar in Beasley and a star in Walker, but I think youth and inexperience will catch up with the Cats when it matters.

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