Posted on: March 8, 2012 10:07 am

Big 12 quarterfinals preview

Not much of note went down on the first day of the Big 12 tournament. Texas A&M knocked off Oklahoma and Oklahoma State took care of Texas Tech. 

Now's when it gets interesting. 

Kansas and Texas are the two teams with the most to gain from the tourney. The Jayhawks can wrap up a No. 1 overall seed if they run through the tourney -- as has been the case each of the past two years. 

Rick Barnes' young Longhorns are playing for their NCAA tournament lives, squarely on the bubble and likely needing a victory on Thursday against Transfer U. - Iowa State. 

Teams like Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State are all playing for seeding while Oklahoma State and Texas A&M will attempt to play the role of spoiler. 

Now, let's look at Thursday's games in Kansas City: 

Kansas (1) vs. Texas A&M (9). The Jayhawks have won eight straight Big 12 regular-season titles and the last two conference tourney crowns as well. Bill Self has arguably the nation's top player in Thomas Robinson, but the key for KU is the play of point guard Tyshawn Taylor. Texas A&M has had a rough season with the health issues of its coach, Billy Kennedy, and the injuries to the Aggies top player, Khris Middleton. 

Missouri (2) vs. Oklahoma State (7). The Tigers have exceeded expectations this season under first-year coach Frank Haith, whose taken a veteran group and put them in position to receive a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. These guys have strong guard play -- led by Marcus Denmon and Phil Pressey. Oklahoma State has been disappointing, largely due to injuries and the erratic play of talented freshman Le'Bryan Nash. 

Iowa State (3) vs. Texas (6). This is the most intriguing matchup of the day. Fred Hoiberg has done a terrific job assembling a team loaded with transfers and getting them to click. The Cyclones are led by Royce White, but have lost six straight years in the first round. Texas is down this season due to a lack of size and experience. J'Covan Brown is the star of the team, but he'll need help in order for the Longhorns to pull off the win. Rick Barnes will be without senior big man Alexis Wangmene, who dislocated his wrist in the regular-season finale and is done for the year. 

Baylor (4) vs. Kansas State (5). There aren't many teams who possess more talent than Scott Drew and the Bears. Baylor jumped out of the gates strong, but have struggled in league play -- losing six times. However, four of the setbacks came against Kansas and Missouri. Perry Jones III needs to play with toughness because right now it's Pierre Jackson who is carrying the team, averaging 21.5 points over the past four games. Frank Martin's Wildcats are balanced and have won four of the past five against Baylor. 

-- Jeff Goodman

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:02 pm

What-to-know tourney previews: Big 12

Everyone counted Kansas out prior to the season, but the Jayhawks won yet another Big 12 regular-season title despite being painfully thin and relying heavily on National Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson. Now it's time to see if they can win the conference tourney as well. A number one overall seed could be at stake for Kansas if Bill Self's group can reel off three more wins. Missouri also has an outside shot at earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament if the Tigers win the league tourney.

Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State are all likely locks for the Big Dance, but also could use momentum -- none more so than Scott Drew and the Bears. This was a team that was regarded as a Final Four caliber club just a month or so ago, but now everyone questions Baylor's toughness -- and that of Perry Jones III in particular. Baylor will face Kansas State in a terrific matchup on Thursday afternoon. Third-seeded Iowa State will play a Texas team that is squarely on the bubble in the nightcap.

Rick Barnes' young Longhorns are the only team that is likely playing for an NCAA tournament berth this week in Kansas City. Kansas plays the Oklahoma-Texas Texas A&M winner and Missouri gets the winner of the Oklahoma State-Texas Tech matchup.

The Big 12 tourney has intrigue because Baylor stands to still earn a two seed, and KU/Mizzou chase a No. 1 (AP)

Oklahoma (8) vs. (9) Texas A&M. The Sooners did just about what was expected of them in Lon Kruger's first season in Norman. The Aggies? Not so much. It's been a rough year for rookie A&M coach Billy Kennedy, who has dealt with personal health issues and also multiple injuries to his bestplayer, Khris Middleton.

Oklahoma State (7) vs. (10) Texas Tech. Travis Ford's team has been a disappointment. There's just no way of sugarcoating it. The Cowboys have dealt with plenty of injuries and it's still unclear whether talented freshman Le'Bryan Nash will play against the Red Raiders due to a fractured left hand. Billy Clyde Gillispie's Texas Tech team is dismal -- with just one league victory all year long.

-- Jeff Goodman
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 12, 2011 11:32 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 11:55 pm

Welcome to the Dance, Kansas Jayhawks

What was supposed to be a marquee match-up between two of the top-10 teams in the country for the Big 12 title turned into a warning shot by Kansas to the rest of the country. The Jayhawks clearly cemented themselves as a Final Four favorite with an 85-73 victory over Texas. They jumped out to a 27-15 lead in the first half and cruised the rest of the way, with the margin ballooning to as much as 18 in the second half. Six Kansas players scored in double-figures, led by Tyshawn Taylor’s 20 points.

Kansas will enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed on an eight-game winning streak. The Jayhawks are playing some of the best basketball in the country, leading the nation in effective field-goal percentage and two-point shooting percentage. Can Kansas avoid being upset as No. 1 seed two years in a row, though? Last season, the Jayhawks were knocked out in the second round by Northern Iowa.

Player to know: Marcus Morris. The Jayhawks have a balanced group, with a plethora of options who can make plays offensively. Morris is the go-to-guy, though. He is a very difficult match-up for opponents due to his ability to face-up and his overall offensive skill set.  Morris has scored in double-figures in all but two games this season, also racking up eight double-doubles. He is hitting his stride down the stretch.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 32-2, 14-2 Big 12.
  • Team colors: Crimson and Blue.
  • We’re thinking: 1-seed.
  • KenPom ranking: 3
  • RPI: 1
  • Best win: Texas (27-7)
  • Worst loss: Kansas State (21-10)
  • Notable stat: The Jayhawks lead the nation in assists per game, with 18.0 per game.
  • Most recent tournament history: 2010. Entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed, and lost in the second round to Northern Iowa.

Posted by Jeff Borzello

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 12, 2011 1:10 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 1:22 am

Big 12 championship game preview

With all the talk surrounding upsets and the bubble during championship week, marquee match-ups sometimes get swept under the rug. It will be tough to do that on Saturday, as the Big 12 championship game will feature a battle between two top-10 teams, Kansas and Texas.

Kansas (31-2, 14-2) is playing some of its best basketball of the season right now, having won seven straight since its 16-point loss at Kansas Sate on Valentine’s Day. The Jayhawks struggled against Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, needing some poor decision-making and execution from the Cowboys down the stretch to advance. They bounced back against Colorado, hitting on all cylinders in eight-point win.

The Jayhawks are a lock for a No. 1 seed and one of the Final Four favorites. They lead the nation in effective field-goal percentage and two-point percentage, and are also one of the best defensive clubs around. Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris are the go-to players offensively, providing double-double potential on a nightly basis. Not too many teams can counter them down low. On the perimeter, Kansas uses a variety of options, with Tyrel Reed knocking down shots and Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar and co. creating opportunities with their playmaking abilities.

Texas (27-6, 13-3) struggled late in the year, losing three of four before defeating Baylor on the road in the season finale. The Longhorns have played well in the conference tournament, easily advancing past Oklahoma in the quarterfinals and then pulling away from Texas A&M down the stretch in the semifinals on Friday night. In the first meeting between the two teams, Texas went into Lawrence and came out with an 11-point victory.

The Longhorns are the best defensive team in the country, pacing the nation in defensive efficiency and effective field-goal percentage defense. Offensively, they can knock down perimeter shots, but make their living inside the arc. Jordan Hamilton has blossomed into one of the best offensive players in the country after going through bouts of selfishness during his freshman season. Freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph have been very solid down the stretch, and Gary Johnson does the dirty work inside.

This is going to be a fantastic game, with intriguing match-ups all over the floor. Markieff Morris and Tristan Thompson will bang down low, but it will be interesting to see if Gary Johnson can defend Marcus Morris’ versatility. On the perimeter, who will defend Jordan Hamilton? He had 17 in the first match-up. Texas also has the defensive guards to disrupt Tyshawn Taylor and Josh Selby.  

Both teams have the personnel to make a run to the Final Four, but which will emerge as the Big 12 champion? Kansas has superior depth and numerous offensive options, while Texas’ defense can be impenetrable at times. If Kansas attacks the rim and gets Texas’ bigs in foul trouble, the Jayhawks should win. If they allow Texas to dictate their sets and settle for 3-pointers, the Longhorns will come out victorious.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 12:02 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 12:04 am

Big 12 without clear favorite heading into semis

While the final two games of the day weren’t very exciting, the Big 12 still had its moments on Thursday. It might have been overshadowed in the early afternoon by the Big East and Kemba Walker’s buzzer shot, but there was a near-upset and a bubble team punching its ticket. The remaining field seems wide open.

Oklahoma State looked to continue its run through the conference tournament against top-seeded Kansas, and nearly pulled it out. The Jayhawks needed a late run and a missed heave at the buzzer from J.P. Olukemi to escape. In the 4-5 game, Colorado received 52 points from Alec Burks and Cory Higgins to beat Kansas State for the third time and put itself in good position for an at-large bid.

Texas received a reprieve by getting Oklahoma in the quarterfinals after the Sooners upset Baylor, and the Longhorns took advantage. They led by as many as 25 in the first half and cruised the rest of the way. In the nightcap, Texas A&M got off to a great start against Missouri and shot nearly 58 percent from the field on the night. Missouri still struggles to win away from home.

Updated Big 12 Tournament Bracket

Kansas (1) vs. Colorado (5): Kansas looked less than impressive in its win over Oklahoma State on Thursday and will now face a Colorado team that is playing its best basketball at the right time. Alec Burks and Cory Higgins are capable of filling it up offensively, although Kansas has the wing defenders to create problems. Kansas State struggled to defend both. Offensively, the Buffaloes will have draw fouls and score around the rim. On the other side, Colorado struggles to defend the 3-point arc – Kansas can take advantage. Moreover, the Buffs have no one to defend Marcus Morris.

Texas (2) vs. Texas A&M (3): Neither team had much trouble dispatching of its quarterfinal opponent, but Friday’s battle should be a little tougher. Texas handled A&M both times the two teams played each other this season, winning the two games by a combined 41 points. If A&M is to avenge its earlier losses, it will need to get to the free-throw line and try to get the Longhorns’ bigs in foul trouble. Defensively, it has to keep Texas off the glass. If Texas controls the interior and stifles A&M’s offense, it could be another long night for the Aggies.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 10, 2011 12:45 am

Big 12 quarterfinals feature juicy storylines

The Big 12 Conference tournament came into Wednesday with more storylines than any league besides the Big East. While a few questions were answered, plenty of interesting action remains.

Nebraska and Oklahoma State kicked things off with a back-and-forth battle that ended with the Cowboys on top, 53-52. Nebraska had the ball on the final possession, but Lance Jeter turned it over in the lane and the Cornhuskers didn’t get a shot off. In a must-win situation, Colorado overcame a late deficit by going on a 13-3 run to pull out a two-point victory. Alec Burks finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.

Baylor, playing without a suspended Perry Jones, needed to make a run to the Big 12 title game in order to have a shot at an at-large bid. The Bears were blown out by Oklahoma, 84-67, and will be relegated to the NIT. In the nightcap, Missouri finally found a way to win away from home – but it wasn’t easy. Texas Tech went on a 10-2 run to cut the Tigers’ lead to two with fewer than two minutes left, but Missouri came up with a couple of clutch defensive plays to escape.

Updated Big 12 tournament bracket

Kansas (1) vs. Oklahoma State (9): When these two teams met in late February, Kansas manhandled the Cowboys, 92-65. Can Oklahoma State hold its own against a hot Kansas team?

Kansas State (4) vs. Colorado (5): A very interesting battle. Kansas State has won six in a row, while Colorado could lock up an NCAA tournament bid if it can pull out a win here. The Buffaloes won the first two meetings, by a combined 10 points. In fact, Colorado was the last team to beat the Wildcats, on Feb. 12.

Texas (2) vs. Oklahoma (10): Baylor’s size and length would have given Texas problems. Instead, the Longhorns get a Sooners team that lost eight in a row before winning their last two games.

Texas A&M (3) vs. Missouri (6): Quite the contrast of styles. Missouri likes to get out and run, while A&M would prefer a half-court setting. The two teams participated in a three-overtime classic back in January, with the Aggies pulling out a 91-89 victory. It will be fun to see which team can pick up some momentum heading into the Big Dance.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 8, 2011 4:56 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 8:57 pm

Big 12 Conference tournament preview

There will a ton at stake in Kansas City, starting on Wednesday. The favorites, contenders and sleepers might be separated in the standings, but there is more than enough on the line in the Big 12 tournament to make it interesting. 

Kansas has likely locked up a No. 1 seed, but that is the only thing set in stone out of this conference for Selection Sunday. Texas has struggled lately, but the Longhorns can play themselves into a two seed, while Texas A&M and Kansas State are trying to improve their seeds as well. Missouri is safely in the field, but the Tigers need to develop some sort of confidence away from home.

That doesn’t even begin to discuss the bubble. Colorado is likely in the field right now, but it needs to beat Iowa State in the first round and then possibly defeat Kansas State as well. Nebraska needs a run to the title game, which would include a win over Kansas, while Baylor might need the same.

While the opening-round games in some of the other major conferences lack excitement, the Big 12 is different. Bubble teams face must-wins, tournament locks look to get back on the right track – it’s all previewed below. As the tournament progresses, we will have plenty more on Kansas, Texas and the other contenders.

Nebraska (8) vs. Oklahoma State (9): Both of these teams had their chances on the bubble this season, but neither is in particularly good shape heading into the final week. Nebraska lost three of its final four to end the season, while Oklahoma State went 6-10 in the Big 12. It will be interesting to see how the two teams match-up, though. Nebraska plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, and the Cowboys would prefer to speed it up. The battle down low between Marshall Moses and Brian Jorge Diaz will be solid, as will Oklahoma State’s aggressive two-point offense against Nebraska’s stingy defense.

Colorado (5) vs. Iowa State (12): This is an absolute must-win for Colorado, which sits squarely on the bubble. The Buffaloes have a host of impressive wins on their resume, but they have mediocre computer numbers and some bad losses. Iowa State has played spoiler late in the season, beating Nebraska and this same Colorado team in back-to-back games. Both teams like to play up-tempo basketball, as evidenced by the 95-90 final in their meeting last week. Alec Burks and Cory Higgins can score for Colorado; Iowa State needs to be disciplined defensively.

Baylor (7) vs. Oklahoma (10): With a potential at-large bid on the line, Baylor struck out over the weekend, losing to Texas at home. Now, the Bears will be in desperation mode in Kansas City. Interestingly, the loss that might have done them in back in early February was to Oklahoma, a seven-point road defeat that dropped them to 14-7. The key in this one will be the Sooners’ ability to rebound on the defensive end, keeping Baylor’s stable of long and athletic forwards off the offensive glass.

Missouri (6) vs. Texas Tech (11): Although Missouri is headed to the NCAA tournament, the Tigers would be smart not to lose this one. If the game was in Columbia, Missouri would probably win by 20 points. Away from home, though, Missouri is simply not the same team. The Tigers went 1-7 on the road in Big 12 play, with the lone win coming against Iowa State. In the only meeting between these two teams, Missouri survived, 92-84. If Texas Tech is to pull the upset, it needs to care of the ball and get back in transition.

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
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