Posted February 15th, 2018
Each week I give you 12 things to know about Big 12 men’s basketball. Here’s last week’s column.
Let’s start strong.
12. 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:
The Red Raiders have a one game lead in the Big 12 heading into the weekend. With five games left, time is running out on Kansas, but boy is that still a lot of time.
Like a lot of time.
There’s a chance that heading into the final week of the season that this league race will still be up in the air. Or it could just be academic.
Texas Tech’s next two games are on the road against Baylor and Oklahoma State. Kansas, a game behind Tech, has back-to-back home games against West Virginia and Oklahoma.
You wonder if the pressure will get to both teams. Kansas needs to go 2-0 at home to put itself in position to win the league. Tech needs to go 2-0 on the road to try and stick the stake into this Kansas streak’s heart.
Then they play each other in Lubbock next Saturday.
If Kansas goes 2-0 and Tech 0-2 leading up to the matchup, Kansas enters Lubbock with a game lead and, with two games remaining, could win a share of the league title that day with a victory and two games left to play.
If Texas Tech goes 2-0 and then beats Kansas, clinching the league title depends on West Virginia. The Mountaineers could beat Kansas to climb into second place and then still play Tech in Morgantown on Feb. 26.
So Texas Tech is in the driver’s seat as of today, but the Red Raiders still have to defuse the ejector seat button.
11. It was moving week
Last week we asked if “moving week” was here.
In a way it was. Tech took over sole possession of first-place by a game. But most of the moving was done in the opposite direction.
Texas lost its third straight game on Monday to Baylor, a loss that has severely injured its NCAA Tournament hopes. But Baylor has now won four games in a row to climb back into the NCAA picture.
West Virginia fell two games back from first due to a home loss to Oklahoma State.
But the biggest drop has come from the NCAA Selection committee’s No. 4 seed, Oklahoma. The Sooners have lost seven of their last nine games — and one of those wins came by fouling a team with five minutes to play. The Sooners have lost four games in a row and are 1-6 on the road. They entered the league with many picking them as the team to beat Kansas for the title. That hasn’t happened.
The moves are mostly all toward the middle, which is great if you’re Baylor and Oklahoma State, not great if you’re Oklahoma and Kansas State.
10. Comparing the resumes of the bottom 5 teams
Speaking of resume builders. The top of the league doesn’t need to worry about Selection Sunday, and I’m pushing Kansas State in there following its road win over Oklahoma State. And we’ll eliminate Iowa State from this conversation since the best the Cyclones can finish in the league is 9-9, and would need to go 5-0 to make the tournament and at that point still be a bubble team.
So let’s look at that middle: Oklahoma (6-7), Baylor (6-7), Oklahoma State (5-8), TCU (5-8) and Texas (5-8).
The best win of all these teams comes from Oklahoma State which beat Kansas in Lawrence. But they also have wins over West Virginia and Florida State on the road. They play Tech next week which would almost certainly put them in the field with a win even if they finish 8-10 in the league. The Cowboys’ three non-conference losses were to two ranked teams (Wichita State and Texas A&M) and on the road against a likely NCAA team, Arkansas.
Here’s the most frustrating thing about Oklahoma State: the last two Saturdays they’ve gone on the road and beaten ranked teams in Kansas and West Virginia. They’ve followed each of those wins with double-digit losses at home. Oklahoma State falling 82-72 to Kansas State at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Wednesday was stunning. At 5-8, Oklahoma State has the wins to make the tournament, but losing at home the way they have negate them.
Winning on the road is the metric I like to use in separating bubble teams because they’re more difficult to get. Oklahoma State does have them.
Oklahoma is probably safely in the tournament. Two home wins against Texas Tech and Kansas should get them in. But they look more like an 8-12 seed now than a top four seed. This team is 1-6 on the road and they still have to play Kansas and Baylor on the road. Three home games against Texas, Kansas State and Iowa State will stop the bleeding and get them in, but I don’t know how the Sooners’ resume will stack up against teams from other conferences when it comes to seeding.
TCU has a home win over West Virginia and Texas has a home win over Texas Tech. These teams could potentially end tournament speculation with road wins over Tech (TCU) and Kansas (Texas).
I laugh at people already burying Texas’ tournament chances with opportunities for wins against Oklahoma, Kansas and West Virginia (not to mention Oklahoma State and Kansas State) still out there.
9. Players’ only meetings
About that Texas team.
Following a double-digit loss to TCU in Fort Worth, I wrote that win or lose, Texas always plays better after a loss. They did so on Monday but still lost in double overtime to the hottest team in the league, Baylor, 74-73. Yes, they lost in a frustrating way: block out Baylor’s best rebounder, and they might have won.
After the game the Longhorn players had a player’s meeting directly after the game.
I have never been involved in something like that. Most of the teams I played on growing up were either so bad all year long that a players’ only meeting wasn’t needed (eighth grade football we only won one game and freshman year lacrosse we only won six games). All the other teams I personally played on were really good, so I don’t know what is even said in a players’ only meeting.
But I can imagine it went something like this:
Player 1: Hey, teammates, we miss too many 3-pointers, why do we take this many 3-pointers?
Player 2: You are right, teammate, we do take too many 3-pointers, maybe we should utilize our biggest strength and try to score more in the post!
Player 3: Teammates! I love this idea!
All the players: Hook’em Horns!
Don’t be surprised if Texas wins a couple games and Hookem.com beat writer Brian Davis is writing a feature story on this players’ only meeting being the turning point.
And if Brian doesn’t write that story, me, reporter Danny Davis, recruiting writer Mike Craven and columnists Cedric Golden and Kirk Bohls– writers’ only!– will meet with Brian and hash this stuff out.
(Is that how it works?)
8. Let’s press pause and talk about recruiting
Spring signing period doesn’t begin until April 11, and a lot can happen in the next two months when it comes to recruiting. But expect many of the unsigned players to at least verbally commit between now and then.
So who is having a good recruiting cycle?
Well, for as grim as Kansas’ conference streak looks now, the Jayhawks are on track to land the top class in the conference. Had freshman Silvio De Sousa not graduated early, the Kansas class would be ranked in the top three nationally at 247 Sports composite rankings. Instead, they’re sitting at No. 5 currently with one 5-star guard, Romeo Langford, still considering Kansas.
After that? Texas has the No. 11-ranked class. Texas has had the best recruiting classes in the Big 12 the last two cycles.
The only other program in the top 25 from the Big 12 is Iowa State — which bodes well for the Cyclones, who had a good class last year and should be returning the bulk of their rotation next year.
The top player heading to a Big 12 school is Texas product Quentin Grimes, the No. 11-ranked player and top player in the state from The Woodlands College Park. Grimes picked Kansas over Texas. He joins the only other 5-star, according to 247 Sports, heading to a Big 12 school in guard Devon Dotson of North Carolina — signed with Kansas.
So what are the big recruiting battles left?
If Langford picks Kansas, the Jayhawks will have the No. 2 class in the nation. Already a contender to open the season in the preseason top five next year, Kansas would be combining that class with three of the top transfers from last offseason with a roster that could return up to five of the seven players currently in Kansas’ rotation. Even if Langford picks one of his other three finalists — Indiana or Vanderbilt — Kansas will still enter next season likely ranked inside the top 10.
However, the recent addition of Ochai Agbaji to Kansas’ recruiting class (if the last name is familiar it’s because his sister Orie Agbaji plays for the Texas volleyball team) could be a sign the Jayhawks’ pursuit of Langford is cooling. Also, Kansas is one over the scholarship limit as of now, so attrition in some way is going to happen.
Then again, this happened on Wednesday:
Bill Self will also have a home visit today with Romeo Langford https://t.co/JBWia2r2YC
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) February 14, 2018
Texas is reportedly still in pursuit of 4-star point guard Courtney Ramey of St. Louis. He’s the No. 40-ranked player in the class and holds offers from a lot of solid programs. 247 Sports has him 62 percent heading to Villanova, but according to the site the Wildcats haven’t offered the 6-foot-3-inch guard. Reports say Ramey met with coach Shaka Smart in late January, about a month after he took his visit to Texas on Dec. 28.
The most interesting program to watch over the next two months will be Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders’ breakout season has been fueled by strong play from a handful of seniors, but also stellar play from some freshmen. Right now, Tech has two signed recruits, 3-stars Kyler Edwards and Deshawn Corprew. The Red Raiders will still have upwards of four scholarships to hand out, and that’s not factoring in any potential transfers or graduate transfers that could happen.
Could a Big 12 title and strong tournament run make Texas Tech a desirable landing spot for top uncommitted players, transfers and grad transfers?
Not ranked in the top 100
Oklahoma’s recruiting class is currently not ranked in the top 100 of 247 Sports Composite rankings and the Sooners lost out on a big recruit Wednesday.
Jahvon Quinerly, a 5-star guard who was apart of the Arizona FBI kerfuffle last fall, is going to be a Wildcat — but a Villanova Wildcat. Quinerly was committed to Arizona, but when former Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested last fall, Quinerly found himself involved in the scandal, so he decommitted. Oklahoma and Villanova were said to be the two finalists, and he chose to go to Philadelphia over Norman.
I don’t expect Oklahoma to stay still in recruiting, but it is a little surprising.
Kansas State is likely returning most of their roster next year with just one senior on this year’s team. Unless some transfers happen, the Wildcats will be a Big 12 title contender with, potentially, every starter back next season, including Dean Wade, Barry Brown, Cartier Diarra and Kamau Stokes. They have one player signed in Shaun Williams, a 3-star point guard from Missouri.
7. Tweet of the week
It comes from our own Kevin Lyttle, whose (fire emoji) takes on the NCAA Selection Committee have made him a must follow:
— Kevin Lyttle (@klyttlesports) February 14, 2018
Kevin Lyttle Twitter: Come for the NCAA flame throwers, stay for the Austin MLS news.
6. The toughest final 5 games in the league for the top 4 teams
Texas Tech: at Baylor, at Oklahoma State, Kansas, at West Virginia, TCU
Kansas: West Virginia, Oklahoma, at Texas Tech, Texas, at Oklahoma State
West Virginia: at Kansas, at Baylor, Iowa State, Texas Tech, at Texas
Kansas State: Iowa State, Texas, at Oklahoma, at TCU, Baylor
If you look at this and think about history, then Kansas playing three of five at home makes it seem easier. But Kansas now loses at home all the time, so that’s out the window. As tough as that stretch is, I think Texas Tech has the most difficult schedule of the bunch. Not only will it be playing with the weight of “ending the streak” but they’ll need to beat Baylor, Oklahoma State and West Virginia on the road to make sure they can win the league. They’ll also need to beat the best road team in the league, at 5-2, in Kansas at home.
NOTE: It’s been a rough stretch picking these weekend games, so I hope you’re placing bets on these predictions.
5. Iowa State (13-12, 4-9) at Kansas State (18-8, 7-6) noon, ESPNU
Iowa State: Not great overall, but really not great away from Hilton Coliseum.
Kansas State: Decent team overall, pretty good at home.
Prediction: Kansas State.
4. Texas (15-11, 5-8) at Oklahoma (16-9, 6-7) 11 a.m., ESPN
3. Oklahoma State (15-11, 5-8) at TCU (17-9, 5-8), 7 p.m., ESPNU
Another game that Oklahoma State lost at home was TCU. This game is on Saturday. This game is not in Stillwater.
Are the Oklahoma State Cowboys an NCAA Team? I’m not sure, but it does look like they stay at Holiday Inns on the road.
TCU is 3-3 at home. Oklahoma State has won its last two on the road — in the two toughest venues in the league — but they were 0-4 before that. The Horned Frogs were blown out by West Virginia on Monday 82-66 in Morgantown.
This game will hinge on this: Oklahoma State played up to Kansas and West Virginia, but then played down to Kansas State and Baylor and were beaten by double-digits. Which Cowboy team will be on the court Saturday?
2. West Virginia (19-7, 8-5) at Kansas (20-6, 9-4), 5 p.m., ESPN
The ESPN College GameDay game. Kansas is 2-0 in its last two games against WVU but both times needed epic comebacks to win. Maybe that’s the case in this one.
While West Virginia is capable of beating Kansas, the reason Kansas lost the games at Allen Fieldhouse this year has been because Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Arizona State connected on 32 shots from 3-point range and 40 percent overall. The Cowboys made eight in the first half to get its lead. Tech had four of its six in the first and Arizona had seven in the first.
You want to beat Kansas at home? Make 3-pointers, make them early, and hope Kansas doesn’t: 14-for-38 against ASU, 6-for-26 against Tech and 8-for-22 against Oklahoma State.
Can West Virginia do that? Mountaineers are seventh in 3-point defense and are eighth in 3-point shooting percentage.
1. Texas Tech (22-4, 10-3) at Baylor (16-10, 6-7), 6:30 p.m. ESPNU
Kansas-West Virginia has more national buzz and features two teams in the top three of the standings, but if you’re truly paying attention to the league, this is the best game of the day. Baylor and Tech have won their last 11 games combined. Tech’s seven game winning streak is the longest in the league followed by Baylor.
It’s too dismissive to say this game means more to Baylor, who is trying to secure a tournament seed. Tech is trying to elevate itself to a No. 1 seed, let alone win the league outright. So expect both of these teams to play at a high level on Saturday.
Tech’s schedule is about to get very difficult. Two weeks ago it looked like Tech had the easiest path down the stretch, but then Baylor and Oklahoma State started beating good teams.