Men's Basketball

12 Big things about Big 12 basketball: It's good again

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Posted November 30th, 2017

Get ready to hear “the Big 12 is the deepest league in the nation” again. Here are 12 things about the Big 12 this week.

Kansas State’s Kamau Stokes (3) gets past Oral Roberts’s Emmanuel Nzekwesi to put up a shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in Manhattan, Kan. Kansas State won 77-68. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

12.  Everyone’s a winner so far

There are no teams in the Big 12 who enter the weekend with losing records. Iowa State and Texas are the only teams with two losses. Texas’ two losses are to ranked teams in overtime, including the No. 1 team, Duke. Iowa State lost its first two games in embarrassing fashion (a 74-56 loss to Milwaukee, yikes), but have reeled off four straight wins and won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament.  So it’s very likely that Big 12 season will begin with every team having a winning record.

Sacha Killeya-Jones #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats and Lagerald Vick #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks battle for a rebound during the State Farm Champions Classic at the United Center on November 14, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Kansas defeated Kentucky 65-61. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

11. The most impressive win of the non-conference season

It’s tough to not to pick Kansas’ win over a then-ranked No. 6 Kentucky team at the Champions Classic. The current No .2-ranked Jayhawks’ only game against a Power-5 team so far ended with a 65-61 win in Chicago. Had Texas held on to beat Duke, that would have been No. 1 by a far. Outside of that not many teams have scored huge notable wins — Baylor and Oklahoma beat Wisconsin and Oregon last week, but those squads are unranked.

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Oklahoma guard Trae Young, left, stands with head coach Lon Kruger, right, during the second half in an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas during the Phil Knight Invitational Tournament, in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Troy Wayrynen)

10. Early Big 12 Player of the Year favorite

Trae Young of Oklahoma is fantastic.

The freshman point guard is averaging 28.2 points, 8.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds a game. He’s shooting 38 percent from 3-point range and 47 percent from the field. The Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, Devonte Graham, had been in a shooting drought, but exploded for a career high 35 points against Toledo on Monday and was second in assists per game nationally before playing the Rockets. Overall, Graham is averaging 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists.

If there was a vote today, Young would be my pick.

TCU Horned Frogs forward Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed (23), forward JD Miller (15), guard Alex Robinson (25), forward Kouat Noi (12) and forward Vladimir Brodziansky (10) sing the school song after they beat Belmont 87 to 76 in college basketball at the Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, TX, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

9. Team that had the best Thanksgiving

TCU is 7-0, ranked in the top 25 and won the Emerald Coast Classic last week. TCU has not lost since the 2017 Big 12 Tournament, having won the NIT last spring.

TCU beat mid-major darling Belmont on Wednesday, 87-76. The No. 23-ranked Horned Frogs don’t have a juggernaut non-conference schedule. They’ll play Nevada and SMU in December, two tough games, that surround games against Yale, Texas Southern and William & Mary. Their Big 12 opener against Oklahoma in Fort Worth will be one of the best games of the night.

Texas mascot Hook’Em celebrates 40 years of the Frank Erwin Center inside a cake Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

8. This week’s “Kansas Dethroner Power Ranking” leader:

Kansas has won 13 straight Big 12 titles. It’s ridiculous — especially on senior night at Phog Allen Field House when it takes a row of tables to contain all the trophies they trot out for postgame ceremonies (I’ve seen it live, it is indeed ridiculously impressive).  But who is going to end it?

Here’s my No. 1 team in this week’s streak-ender power ranking:

Texas.

At 5-2, Texas is tied with Iowa State for the most losses, but that’s a misleading and dumb fact. Their two defeats are overtime losses to AP top 25 teams including the No. 1 team. Texas’ defense is one of the best units in the conference, the Longhorns have playmakers and athletes all over the court. Sure there are warts. Texas has started off slow a couple of times and they aren’t a great shooting team. But once this team starts getting Mo Bamba even more involved on offense — as our own Brian Davis suggested:

Texas’s offense will be even better.

How Texas beats Kansas: Outside of the Kansas game, the Jayhawks haven’t been tested against a power-five program. They’ve played a host of teams that are all expected to compete for their conference titles (Oakland, Texas Southern, South Dakota and Toledo), but they’ve been walk-throughs. And they haven’t tested Kansas’ depth problem. A team like Texas, with its foot on the pedal for 40 minutes, could and should. Kansas is very good at shooting threes and that has allowed their center Udoka Azubuke to get open looks underneath. That won’t be easy against Texas because of Mo Bamba.

Why Texas doesn’t: If Texas presses Kansas, that could potentially be disastrous for the Longhorns as Kansas starts four guards and three of them are very talented at handling the ball. If Kansas breaks the press, then open shots could follow.

Baylor’s Nuni Omot (21) speaks with head coach Scott Drew in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in Cincinnati. Xavier won 76-63. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

7. Baylor’s schedule this week/weekend

No. 16 Baylor went to Cincinnati last nigh,t and the Xavier Musketeers blew the Hall of Fame Classic champs off the court in the second half. The Muskies (Cincinnati slang for Xavier) won 76-63, avenging a blowout loss to Baylor last year. Baylor now hosts No. 8 Wichita State on Saturday. It’s a big week for the Bears, and a win over the Shockers would do great things for this team in March. The loss to Xavier shouldn’t hurt them down the road.

Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard congratulates his players on the sideline at an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Texas Tech won, 85-49. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn)

6. Team of the non-conference so far

No. 22 Texas Tech hasn’t actually played a grinder of a schedule this month, but they have a very impressive win and a tournament championship (the 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip Off Tournament, we serious on that long of a name?). Tech beat No. 20 Northwestern 85-49.

That’s right.

Now the Wildcats were clearly overrated and living off their NCAA Tournament buzz entering the season, but Tech announced its intentions to the basketball world on Nov. 19. Outside of that, Tech hasn’t played a lot of great teams. Boston College is supposed to be a ACC cellar dweller and who knows about the Red Raiders’ mid-major opponents they’ve beaten (Maine, South Alabama, Wofford and Savannah State).

Today Texas Tech plays Seton Hall, a huge game for both teams.

Billy Preston #23 of the Kansas Jayhawks watches from the bench during the game against the Toledo Rockets at Allen Fieldhouse on November 28, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

5. The Billy Preston saga at Kansas and help from the football team

Who knows if Billy Preston will ever play for Kansas after a car accident (where the only thing damaged were tires and Kansas’ bench) initiated a university review of Preston. He hasn’t played a second for Kansas this season. The Jayhawks haven’t been hurt by this yet and Kansas coach Bill Self has no idea when he’ll return.

There is help coming. Sam Cunliffe will begin playing in the middle of December after transferring mid-season last year to Kansas.

But the most interesting thing I’ve read about this situation is this: Kansas could be getting a lift from the football team. Remember when basketball players and football players once got into a fight in Lawrence? Well that was then, and this is now. James Sosinski, a 6-foot-7-inch tight end could — stress could — be an option this year as Kansas has only two scholarship post players.

Not a un-normal thing, but a very bizarre thing for the Associated Press’s  NO. 2 TEAM IN THE NATION.

Baylor’s Manu Lecomte (20) shoots against Xavier’s Quentin Goodin (3) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in Cincinnati. Xavier won 76-63. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

4. Game of the weekend:

Baylor and Wichita State is it. But Saturday’s Kansas-Syracuse (both undefeated) matchup on a neutral floor in Miami is a close second.

Oklahoma State guard Kendall Smith (1) holds off Pittsburgh guard Marcus Carr (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Legends Classic tournament, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, in New York. Oklahoma State defeated Pittsburgh 73-67. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

3. Oklahoma State is 6-1

The Cowboys’ offseason was just the worst. The worst.

They lost their head coach after one season (Brad Underwood), the guy they hired to be the head coach was a relative unknown assistant, another assistant coach was arrested in the FBI case a month before the start of the season and the top player, Jeffrey Carroll, was suspended/held out during an internal review by the program (he’s back now). But here we are: Oklahoma State is 6-1.

A weak non-conference schedule with five home games has them out to a great start. Oklahoma State plays Wichita State, Florida State and Tulsa between now and the Big 12 opener, so we’re guessing the Pokes will be no worse than 8-4 when conference play begins.

LUdoka Azubuike #35 of the Kansas Jayhawks goes up for a dunk on a fast break during the game against the Toledo Rockets at Allen Fieldhouse on November 28, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

2. A college basketball blog’s mandatory mention of “Kenpom rankings”

Kansas is No. 1 in the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings. 

West Virginia and Texas Tech are in the top 20, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU are in the top 25. Texas is No. 28.

NOTE: The Pomeroy rankings are in-depth looks at each team from a statistical standpoint that basketball hipsters like to use to describe their love of Wichita State.

Is Kansas really the No. 1 team in the nation? Well Kenpom rankings have always looked kindly to teams that continually blowout opponents, which is why the Shockers are almost always in the top 10 of the rankings (they are No. 8).

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) celebrates after earning a 83-79 win over Missouri in an NCAA college basketball championship game at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament Monday, Nov. 27, 2017, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

1. AP loves the Big 12.

Kansas was a Florida collapse away from being ranked No.1 this week in the AP poll. They’ll settle for No .2. All together, the Big 12 has five teams (Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia,Texas Tech and TCU) in the top 25. Texas and Oklahoma (both received points this week) are probably a few weeks away from eventually getting in the rankings.

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