TAG | Texas
This conference has scene quite a shakeup from what the preseason prognosticators had thought. Texas came out of nowhere to be a national title contender; Kansas St. has taken a dump right in the middle of the court, and Kansas’ home winning streak is finally over. I gave the Big Ten and Big East the titles of frontcourt and backcourt of America so that doesn’t leave me with a whole lot more to anoint upon any of the other conferences (that’s ok, the disparity from those two conferences and the rest is significant). Although, the Big 12 could hold the most “confusing conference” title, that is if this were some sort of fucking yearbook voting.
Best Team: Texas (19-3, 7-0)
I have to adhere to the rule of winning on the road to put the Longhorns over the Jayhawks at this point. There is still something about this team that rubs me the wrong way, but they have been spectacular recently.
The Horns have won three of four on the road in convincing fashion within the league, including the now infamous win in Fog Allen and an ass blasting of arch rival A&M. Their schedule in the non-conference was much tougher than the Jayhawks and they had some nice wins (Illinois, UNC, Sparty), tough losses (Pitt, UConn), and one baffler (@USC). They should coast to the regular season title, the toughest game left on the schedule is probably @ Nebraska, then most likely get a rematch with KU in the Big 12 title game. So, what’s to question?
First off, a couple of aberrations are acceptable (especially early in the year), but any loss to a Pac 10 team has to be pondered, especially when that team isn’t spelled Washington Huskies. Second, I’m not completely sold on Jordan Hamilton. He forces a lot of shots and that caused chemistry issues last year, so it could happen again. Finally, Rick Barnes. This guy has never struck me as more as than a great recruiter without the X’s and O’s mentality (look at some of the players this guy has had), but maybe this year he recruited so well that he doesn’t have to coach them very much.
Next in line (you’ll be shocked!): Kansas (21-1, 6-1)
It is possible that the loss to Texas was one of the Jayhawks’ aberrations for the year. Close home games against UCLA, Nebraska, USC (again, how?), and road wins over Michigan (OT) and Iowa St, say that they may have had more than just that one even though the record doesn’t show it. They seem to have put the loss behind them, winning three straight, but the schedule gets considerably tougher down the stretch, which means it will be difficult to actually catch UT.
Biggest Disappointment (duh): Kansas St. (14-8, 2-5)
Another preseason top-five team (are you starting to understand how stupid those rankings are yet!?) that has not lived up to any of the expectations. They lost Denis Clemente and now Jacob Pullen is lost between playing the point and being the primary scoring threat. Curtis Kelly hasn’t stepped up like the team had hoped, former McDonald’s AA Wally Judge quit the team, and the chemistry is bad all the way across the board (92nd in the nation in assists). This all rests on the head coach. Maybe crazy eyes killer Frank Martin isn’t as good of a coach as everyone thought he was when he had Bobby Huggins’ recruits (which the best players on the team still are).
*Special note: They were the other team in the running with Michigan St. for most disappointing in the country. Things were pretty much settled in that category tonight as K St. dominated Nebraska at home and the Spartans were embarrassed @Iowa. So congrats to the Wildcats for avoiding such an astronomical embarrassment.
Next in line: Baylor (14-7, 4-4)
Started out 7-0 and the main complaint was that they hadn’t played anyone yet. Turns out those arguments were very valid. This team’s best win is probably…….Colorado, at home, really? This team had LaceDarius Dunn and Quincy Acy returning to combine with Percy Jones, a super frosh, who was supposed to be as good as Ekpe Udoh, and were supposed to at least make it to where they were a year ago. This team doesn’t look close to that team.
Biggest Surprise (not named Texas): Nebraska (15-6, 3-4)
They get a nod over Oklahoma because the Huskers didn’t lose to a Division 3 school (see Chaminade 68 OK 64). A desperate Kansas St team hammered them tonight, but Nebraska has played tough in every other game this year and can still move up in the standings. The toughest games they have left are at home so a run could be possible (of course the obvious argument is that there are no easy games on the road). The Huskers play fierce D (best in the B12) and have a solid shooting percentage (48%). We’ll see in that translates into enough wins to be NCAA tourney bound.
Next in line: Oklahoma (12-9, 4-3)
The coaches, media, really even fans didn’t think much of the Sooner basketball season before and soon after it started. Let’s go back just two weeks to Jan 18th. Before that date, they were swept in the Maui Invite (including that D3 loss), got blown out by every BCS conference team they played, and were 0-3 in the B12. Since that day they’ve won four straight (including decent wins over Colorado and Baylor at home and @Iowa St.). All of a sudden the Okie’s are tied for third! Doubt it will last, but at least Jeff Capel has temporarily gotten himself back into the good graces with the Sooner faithful.
Saturday’s Big Games
1:00 Baylor (14-7, 4-4) @ Texas A&M (17-4, 4-3): The Aggies are struggling, losing three of their last four (to be fair two of them were to Texas), but the schedule favors a strong finish down the stretch and a win at home is a good way to start that. Meanwhile, the Bears need to bounce back from their extended trip to Norman (which considering the talent disparity, should be a humiliating loss) because their schedule does not favor a strong second half surge.
3:oo Kansas (21-1, 6-1) @ Nebraska (15-6, 3-4): This was only a three point contest in Lawrence so the Huskers should have that confidence going for them, they also know they need more signature wins. The Jayhawks need to avoid looking ahead to the Big Monday match-up with rival Missouri and if they drop another game any hope of catching Texas is officially toast.