Friday, January 7, 2011

Big 12 basketball preview

Reprinted from Musings, Notes & Quotes

The second season of the college hoops schedule is about to begin and thus it's time to break down the Big 12 performance to date and speculate on what's to come in conference play. It was an eventful first season, non-conference schedule for the conference with five teams performing well enough to now reside in the top 25 and two others getting votes from the Associated Press. Yet, the overall RPI of Big 12 teams is currently low, even though Kansas is the #1 team in the land, according to the important RPI ratings.

Let's break it down, shall we?


- The surprise of the conference has to be Iowa State, now coached by former Cyclone great Fred Hoiberg. Iowa State is 12-2 with quality wins at Iowa and at Virginia. They have five players averaging in double figures yet don't shoot a high FG percentage--their strength has been on defense.

- Missouri is 13-1, ranked 10th, and has only lost in overtime to Georgetown in a game that they admittedly gave away. (Georgetown, by the way, is the #2 RPI team in the country.) The MVP of the Tigers is Marcus Denmon and he is surrounded by a deep team of players who know their roles. The Tigers are susceptible to good rebounding teams and teams disciplined enough to attack the basket once they've beaten the press. Their current RPI is #32.

- Down in Austin, Texas fans are disappointed in the lack of a college bowl game yet in that other sport played at this time of year, the hoops team is 11-2. Texas has three quality wins--Illinois, North Carolina and Michigan State, and only lost to Pitt by two. The other loss was to USC by 17. Freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph are the real deals and Jordan Hamilton is a stud. The Longhorn's current RPI is #36.

- Texas A&M was picked to finish in the middle of the Big 12 pack but is currently 18th in the country, 12-1, and owning quality wins over Washington and Arkansas. The Aggies play tough defense with no team scoring more than 65 points against them to date. They, however, are a weak rebounding squad. Current RPI - #31.

Performing as expected:

- This may be a bit unfair, given the suspension of prized recruit Josh Selby for nine games, but Kansas has done what most expected, up to this point. Bill Self has a list of issues which need to be solved if this KU team is considered a true Final Four team--interior defense, a point guard who had two horrid outings back-to-back, finding a rebounder other than Thomas Robinson, and blending Selby into the rotation. The good news in conference play is that KU faces Texas at home. Current RPI - #1.

- Colorado is 9-4, has two guys (Alec Burks and Cory Higgins) who are legit all-conference performers, yet likely will finish eighth in the conference--right as predicted.

- Oklahoma State is 11-2 with quality wins over Alabama and Stanford. Current RPI - #42.

- Nebraska's final season in the Big 12 has started with a 10-2 record.


- This list has to start with Kansas State, picked by most to be a top five team and Big 12 conference champ. Those predictions failed to comprehend the impact of losing PG Denis Clemente. Additionally, Curtis Kelly was a disappointment this year, even prior to his suspension. Current RPI - #25.

- Some picked Baylor as high as second in the conference--they've not played that way to date. The Bears have lost to Gonzaga, Washington State and Florida State on their way to an 8-3 record thus far, with the only quality win being over Arizona State. Current RPI - #153.

- Oklahoma is 7-6 and will battle Texas Tech, 6-7, for last place in the conference. It's amazing to see how OU's program has fallen since the days of not too long ago with Blake Griffin and Willie Warren. In Lubbock, it's hard to imagine Pat Knight lasting past this season.

Conference and post-season predictions:

1. Kansas - I trust that Self will mold his talent such that everyone knows their roles and, in Selby, KU has a talent which can take over a game. He's behind, given the nine games out, but the potential was on full display against USC and California. A seventh-straight championship, in this conference, is an amazing achievement and Self isn't given enough credit for that consistency. In the NCAA, Kansas will go all the way to the Final Four.

2. Texas - The Longhorns have numerous weapons, are road-proven, and are playing as well as anybody right now. NCAA: Elite Eight.

3. Kansas State - I suspect that Kelly and Jacob Pullen will get their heads screwed on straight but this is a team which misses the speed, leadership and toughness of Clemente. NCAA: Win one game.

4. Missouri - The Tigers could sneak up to the three spot if Kansas State continues to falter but they have to go on the road to play Texas A&M and Texas, and have a final four conference games of Baylor, at Kansas State, at Nebraska and back home against Kansas. NCAA: Sweet 16.

5. Baylor - The Bears' very low RPI signals that they have plenty of work to do. Baylor's zone defense is a pain for teams and the Bears have a couple of battle-tested vets in LaceDarius Dunn and Quincy Acy--I expect them to get their act together yet finish just outside the top four in the Big 12. NCAA: Win one game.

6. Texas A&M - I like Mark Turgeon's team and I like how he coaches defense. NCAA: Lose in R1.

7. Oklahoma State - Marshall Moses is having an all-conference season to date. NCAA: Lose in R1.

8. Colorado - Burks and Higgins are currently accounting for 36 points per game. NIT.

9. Nebraska - The Huskers have nine guys averaging between 5-10.5 points per game. NIT.

10. Iowa State - The excitement returns to Hilton Coliseum, given the guy in charge. But, can he recruit? No postseason play.

11. Texas Tech - The only quality win to date for Tech is against Oral Roberts. No postseason.

12. Oklahoma - The Sooners have gone from having the Player of the Year in the conference to a 13-18 record last year (4-12 in the league) to this. Obviously, no postseason awaits OU.

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