Men's Basketball

12 Big things about Big 12 basketball: Is this the week someone breaks away from the field?

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Posted February 8th, 2018

Each week I give you 12 things to know about Big 12 men’s basketball. Here’s last week’s column. 

Trae Young of the Oklahoma Sooners looks down court as Lamont West #15 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during Monday’s clash between the teams. (Brett Deering/Getty Images)

12. Trae Young’s hectic week

The National Player of the Year favorite can’t catch a break, it seems.

People say he’s selfish because of the bad shots he takes, so he gets 14 assists in one game, but his team loses to Texas by five because he didn’t have a great shooting day and “only scored 19” points. But when is 14 assists bad?

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He overcorrects the next game, scores 32 points while being hounded by West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, but has just one assist, and that assist came in the final minutes of the game. His team loses by two.

When Oklahoma loses and Young performs like he has the last two games, don’t blame Young. Clearly his team is not helping him enough.

Oklahoma State guard Jeffrey Carroll (30) celebrates his team’s win over Kansas this week. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

11. Kansas loses to Oklahoma State at home

This kind of shook the league on Saturday.

Kansas losing to one of the worst teams in the league, currently tied with TCU and Baylor at 4-7 for ninth place, and losing a little handedly — although Kansas nearly pulled the game out — will do that. Kansas has five losses on the year, and three came in Allen Fieldhouse. It’s bizarre.

It’s definitely a loss to react to, but some overreacted. If you read the blog every week, you know I’ve been pretty impressed with the job Mike Boynton has done in Stillwater. He was the non-conference coach of the year, in my opinion. The Cowboys have beaten good teams on the road, so I wasn’t stunned — I was surprised — when OSU pulled off the upset.

Kansas playing so flat at home after beating Kansas State earlier in the week was more stunning. Kansas falling face first when the program brought back hundreds of former players and dedicated a bench for former coach Ted Owens was surprising.

This Jayhawk team has battled high expectations and reality all season. This team hasn’t consistently played like a Final Four caliber team all year. But “Kansas” is on the jersey, so no one cares about reality.

The reality is Kansas is a good team susceptible of losing to anyone, but also able to beat any team in the country when they play to their potential — Udoka Azubuike down low, 3-point barrages and playing fast. When they don’t, they get beat. It’s why Kansas can’t pull away from teams but it’s why, even in the Texas Tech and OSU games, those big leads never seem big enough until the final two minutes.

Writing off Kansas in the Big 12 title race — they’re still tied for first– and as a team that can make a deep run in the tournament based on an 11 a.m. Saturday, February loss is dumb.

By the way, Kansas came back a few days later and held one of the nation’s best offenses, TCU (No. 6 at KenPom in adjusted offense), to 64 points in a 7-point win.

Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans dunks during the second half of the Red Raiders’ 76-58 win over Iowa State Wednesday. (John Weast/Getty Images)

10. 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 post-game 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 Tech

The Red Raiders are the best team in the conference right now. They are winning games by bigger margins than any team in the league. On Wednesday it looked liked Iowa State was going to push them for 40 minutes, but instead it was 35 minutes, and Tech– like a python — just wore them down, ate them up on the defensive end and won by 18.

Tech went on the road and beat TCU and South Carolina the last few weeks — great wins. But Tech has also played tight games at homes, needing a miracle shot by Keenan Evans to beat Texas and getting everything they can handle from Oklahoma State at home and West Virginia.

But they’ve won. The question is can they avoid what many teams haven’t during Kansas’ streak: the weird loss. West Virginia and Baylor last year both lost on the same day Kansas lost its only home game. I knew Kansas was going to win that league that day. Similar situation happened the year before when Oklahoma lost in Manhattan in early February. Two games later, they lost to Kansas at home and the Jayhawks easily won the league.

But Tech may have already survived its weird loss — 18 point defeat to Iowa State — so we’ll see.

9. Tweet of the week

We’re all rooting for Andrew Jones:

8. Is this ‘moving week’ in the Big 12 standings?

One could say this about any round of league games this year, but let’s look at a few key back-to-backs.

Texas Tech travels to Kansas State on Saturday and Kansas travels to Baylor. Tech then hosts Oklahoma and Kansas travels to Iowa State.

Baylor and Iowa State both nearly beat Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse this year, so those aren’t guaranteed wins a possible No. 1/2 seed team would usually expect when playing squads who are on the outside of the tournament picture.

But let’s say the Jayhawks do what Vegas will think they do and win.

This mean Tech’s margin of error is razor-thin the next seven days. Especially considering Oklahoma’s back-to-back games.

The Sooners need another good win on the resume to help improve their tournament seed. Specifically, they need a good road win. They have that chance next week in Lubbock. They also have a tricky game against Iowa State, who has been much better at home than on the road — i.e. the Tech game. This weekend could be the difference between OU climbing back in the conference title race or falling off completely.

West Virginia has back-to-back home games. If they go 2-0 they could be tied for first by next week.

However, TCU could beat the Mountaineers and then it would impossible for the Horned Frogs to be left out of the tournament with a road win over them.

This week is very important for the three teams who are currently on the cusps of making a run to join the field and completely losing the season. A 0-2 week from Baylor with Kansas at home and a road trip to Texas would put them on ice for the NCAA Tournament if they aren’t already there.

Iowa State would need to do more than go 2-0 this week to make they tourney, but wins over OU and Kansas at home go a long way.

And then there’s Oklahoma State, who gets WVU on the road Saturday and Kansas State on Valentine’s Day. A 2-0 record against that, and how could they be left off a bracketology bubble with wins over Kansas, WVU, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida State?

Speaking of…

Texas forward Mohamed Bamba (4) contests a shot by Kansas State guard Barry Brown (5) during the Longhorns’ to the Wildcats Wednesday. (Nick Wagner/American-Statesman)

7. Bracketology update

Joe Lunardi has seven teams in the field of 68: Kansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State and TCU. Kansas State is on the bubble according to the ESPN guru.

My guess is Oklahoma State is closer than Baylor is to getting in.

The ACC and the SEC will get more than the Big 12.

Over at CBS, Jerry Palm has the same set of teams in, but has TCU, Texas and Kansas State on the bubble.

Texas guard Eric Davis Jr. (10) shoots 3-pointer earlier in the season. (Nick Wagner/American-Statesman)

6. The best sixth man in Big 12 is….

Texas junior Eric Davis is averaging 8.8 points per game off the bench for Texas and averaging 24 minutes per game. He’s only started one game for Texas. He’s probably the most clear sixth man in the league.

Weekend previews

Jevon Carter #2 of the West Virginia Mountaineers dribbles outside against the Oklahoma Sooners during Monday’s game. (Brett Deering/Getty Images)

5. Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 11 a.m.

As much as I like Oklahoma State, West Virginia beat Kansas State 89-51 at home on Feb. 3 and then beat Oklahoma 75-73 on the road in its last two games. The Cowboys beating Kansas on the road probably did more for WVU not underestimating them than anything else.

Prediction: WVU wins going away.

Head Coach Lon Kruger of the Oklahoma Sooners appeals to an official during Monday’s game against West Virginia. (Brett Deering/Getty Images)

4. Oklahoma at Iowa State, 1 p.m., ESPN

A fairly pivotal game for Oklahoma. If the Sooners lose this it would be a 3-game losing streak and fourth loss in five games. It would be another questionable loss on the road for a team wanting a top five seed in the tournament– Sooner have already lost to Oklahoma State and Texas on the road not to mention Alabama. This would be the worst of the bunch.

And guess what? Iowa State can totally do it. They beat Tech by 18 at home.

Prediction: I just don’t see it. OU wins close.

Udoka Azubuike #35 of the Kansas Jayhawks lays the ball up against Kouat Noi #12 during Tuesday’s gamer versus TCU. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

3. Kansas at Baylor, 1 p.m., CBS

The Jayhawks are 4-1 on the road in Big 12 play and played better away from Allen Fieldhouse than any of the last three or four Jayhawks teams. A lineup switch on Tuesday with Mitch Lightfoot in for Lagerald Vick might have sparked the squad. The box score didn’t show it, but Vick was more active off the bench than he had been in any game for two weeks. This will put that new lineup to the test because Baylor has great length and post play.

The Bears have won two games in a row by double digits, including a road win over Oklahoma State, who had just beat Kansas. A win over Kansas and it would be time to start re-looking at Baylor’s tournament hopes.

Prediction: The Jayhawks controlled Baylor for 35 minutes in their first game. The Bears rallied to take a six point lead with less than three minutes left, but Kansas finished on a 9-0 run and won the game. I think Kansas is more likely to play like it did for the majority of the first matchup and if Kansas goes zone, it’ll force Baylor to take 3-pointers. Baylor shoots 36 percent, which is sixth in the league, but they’ve also shot the ninth fewest threes in the league with 167 — Tech is 10th with 163. Kansas has shot the most and makes 40.5 percent of them. Kansas wins close.

TCU coach Jamie Dixon yells instructions to his team during the first half in the Horned Frogs’ 71-64 loss versus Kansas Tuesday. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/TNS)

2. Texas at TCU. 1 p.m., ESPNU

Two teams desperately wanting to avoid another loss usually makes for the very best of what college basketball has to offer.

And if TCU and Texas can match what they did on Jan. 10 in Austin, it would be one of the best games of the season.

Texas won a 99-98, double overtime thriller that day.

Texas had just announced the Andrew Jones news and TCU had lost a ton of close games and were looking to get back in the thick of the Big 12 race. It might have been the biggest win of the season just from a mental standpoint.

Missing for TCU in this game is Jaylen Fisher, who was lost for the year with a knee injury. TCU hasn’t quite been the same without their best scoring guard, but they’ve still be competitive.

Meanwhile, Texas has been inconsistent all season. Every time the Longhorns appear ready to start rolling, they lose. Beat TCU in double OT, lose a big lead on the road to OSU and fall. Beat Texas Tech at home, lose by 35 points to West Virginia. Beat Oklahoma at home, lose to Kansas State at home a few days later.

So now what? TCU is trying to bounce back after losing at Kansas– a game they led for a longtime.

It’s also a contrast in styles that makes this so juicy. Will Texas match TCU’s scoring like they did a month ago? Or will TCU match UT’s defense, which would probably just be more of Texas’ own offensive struggles than anything TCU does. Kenrich Williams scored 26 for the Horned Frogs in the first meeting and Vlad Brodziansky added 19. Williams, Kouat Noi and Alex Robinson combined for 13 3-pointers, while the league’s top 3-point shooter, Desmond Bane, had just one.

The difference really was Eric Davis for Texas who scored 22 off the bench. Mo Bamba had just 10 points in the game, but his six blocks went a long ways. Dylan Osetkowski might have played his best game that night, making 9-of-11 free throws and scoring 20 points, followed by Matt Coleman who had 17 points and 12 assists.

Prediction: If Texas plays like they did against Kansas State on Wednesday and TCU played like it did on Tuesday against Kansas, TCU will win, maybe by a large margin. I don’t think the Longhorns will play that bad, and if they do, then coach Shaka Smart has major problems, because he was not happy on Wednesday night. Still, TCU is at home, so the Horned Frogs pick up the win.

Texas forward Dylan Osetkowski (21) defends Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) during Wednesday’s game. (Nick Wagner/American-Statesman)

1. Texas Tech at Kansas State. 7 p.m., ESPNU

The first time they played, Tech ran Kansas State out of the gym in a 74-58 win in Lubbock. Tech limited Kansas State to 4-of-13 shooting from 3-point range (30 percent) and Kansas State had just two fast break points. Tech, meanwhile had better bench production, 34 points to 13 and never trailed in the game. They led by 21 in the first half. Kennan Evans scored 27 points and was 7-for-11 from the field.

Kamau Stokes got hurt in the game for Kansas State and played just 15 minutes and the Wildcats were unprepared. His replacement Cartier Diarra took over and he’s been very good ever since. Stokes returned against West Virginia, coming off the bench and has played less than 15 minutes a game since his return.

Kansas State is better at home than on the road. Tech has played some close games lately and has lost all of their three Big 12 losses on the road.

Prediction: The Wildcats are 11-3 in the “Octagon of Doom.” They are just 3-2 in conference play at home, but still, they don’t lose much at home. To add, Kansas State hasn’t played at home in almost two weeks (Jan. 29) by the time Saturday rolls around. I think Tech comes up short in the Little Apple.

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