Oklahoma State Advances Past Nebraska

March 9, 2011

In a first round game that had plenty of NCAA implications, the Oklahoma State Cowboys beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 53-52. OSU advances to the second round, where they will play top ranked Kansas. Nebraska will now await their post season destination, most likely the NIT.

It was a fairly well-played game defensively for both teams, and both offenses struggled for long stretches of the game. Nebraska got off to a terribly slow start, and it looked like Oklahoma State might run away with the game, but they hit a shooting drought as well.

Nebraska had a lead coming into the final two minutes, before two three pointers from Keiton Page put the Cowboys up for good. Page missed the front end of a one and one with 15 seconds left though, and it opened the door for Nebraska to win. Lance Jeter slipped in the lane though, losing the ball and the game.

It was a shame too, because it looked like Jeter either had an easy pass to his teammate, who would have had a pretty easy layup, or Jeter could have taken an eight foot jumper in the lane. Either option would have given Nebraska the win and kept their NCAA hopes alive.

Instead, Nebraska has played their final Big 12 game. They will play a game or two in the NIT before moving on to the Big 10 next season. Oklahoma State is now just three more wins away from stealing a NCAA bid, though I expect Kansas will knock them out tomorrow afternoon.

Colorado-Iowa State is up next.


Kansas at Missouri preview

March 4, 2011

No. 2 Kansas at No. 22 Missouri – 11 a.m. CBS

The Tigers are unbeaten at home this year, but with few quality wins. KU has won 8 of 9 against MU since Mike Anderson took over in Columbia in 2006. A loss for Mizzou would mean the Tigers’ first three-game losing streak since Jan. 2008. Kansas claims the league title outright with a win.

A common scene at Mizzou Arena in recent seasons, the Jayhawks celebrate last year's easy win in Columbia. Source: NBC Sports

KANSAS: The Jayhawks (28-2, 13-2) sure didn’t look like a league champion in their Big Monday game at K-State, but they have looked the part since then. Four easy wins have made the Jayhawks a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, especially when you consider how well they’ve done in the league tournament in recent years.

The strengths that pushed KU through tough nonconference games early have stayed with the team during league play. They are the best passing team in the league, operating brilliantly in the halfcourt.

It also helps they shoot remarkably well from the outside. Even the Morris twins, who like to trail on the fast break, can both pull up and hit a 2o-footer confidently.

In the first meeting in Lawrence, KU maintained a four-point lead at the half. They stretched it throughout the middle of the second half, rooted largely in a withering segment of about four or five minutes where they scored on almost every possession. As well as Missouri seemed to operate offensively in the first half, there was no way the Tigers could keep up with that kind of output.

Fortunately for the Jayhawks, Bill Self has had Missouri scouted better than any other coach in the league (with a nod to Doc Sadler). Missouri wins at home because they force turnovers, so as long as Kansas can avoid that (as good teams should), I bet they find a lead before too long.

Missouri's most consistent player this year, Marcus Denmon needs a productive game against Brady Morningstar and the Jayhawks. Source: Dak Dillon photography

MISSOURI: The Tigers (22-8, 8-7) are not playing well. It would probably take a blowout loss to Kansas AND an inexcusable first-round loss to a conference bottom-dweller to even put Missouri on the bubble.

Still, the Tigers have provided us no indication they will play well enough to advance in the NCAAs.

(Remember, taking a blowout loss to Kansas and an inexcusable first-round loss to last-place Nebraska is exactly how the Tigers limped into the NCAA Tournament last year.)

The Tigers have struggled with foul trouble. Their interior depth is noticeably thin when Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers are on the bench. Defensively, they are inconsistent.

Bowers’ jump shot, which looked so good throughout most of conference play, disappeared in road games at Kansas State and Nebraska. Kim English, who has failed to break a habit of bad shot selection all season, had a brutal 1 for 9 shooting night in Lincoln.

Bramlage is the only road venue KU has seen that is as bad as Mizzou Arena will be tomorrow, and that was a disaster. Despite its recent poor play, it’s only reasonable to expect the Tigers will play better tomorrow than they have lately – at least in spurts.

Bottom Line

There is much more pressure on Missouri. Kansas can lose and still get a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs with a good performance in Kansas City. But Mizzou has much more improvement to make in the next week and a half.

I would point out a key player for the Tigers, but a better effort is needed across the board. That’s what it will take to beat Kansas and to win the elimination games soon to follow.

Kansas 81, Missouri 66

Which Big 12 Teams are Going Dancing?

March 3, 2011

The Big 12 season is about to end, and the conference tournament will start next week. Speculation on who will and won’t make the NCAA tournament has been going on for months, but we finally have a really good idea of who is going to make it, and who won’t. Below is a status update on all 12 teams.

In no matter what: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State

The first three are obvious, despite the fact that the Longhorns have been awful recently. Kansas is probably going to be a one seed, though the Big 12 tourney could affect that. UT and TAM will both get high seeds as well.

K-State played their way off the bubble the past two weeks, and can’t get back on it in my mind. They’ve got a number of quality wins, are white-hot, and probably will steal some more wins next week.

Probably in: Missouri

Despite their best efforts, Missouri doesn’t seem to be on the bubble. The Tigers’ issues on the road have been crippling, and they are going to finish .500 in conference, but mediocrity reigns this season. Missouri can probably win the first game in KC next week, and perhaps a second, which would erase any questions.

Should Missouri drop their first round game next week, I think it is very possible that the Tigers have to sweat it out on selection Sunday.

Riding the bubble: Baylor, Colorado

Despite an up and down season, Baylor looks like they are going to sneak in. The Bears are very talented, and could secure their position with a win against Texas on Saturday, but they have played very poorly quite often this season. In a normal season, Baylor would have to win the Big 12 tourney to make the NCAAs, but this season they might just have to make the second round.

Colorado blew it, plain and simple. Their loss to Iowa State probably knocked them out of the NCAA field. If they manage to make a run to the Big 12 finals, perhaps they can steal Baylor’s spot, but even then, it might not be enough. It’s a shame too, because the Buffaloes are a very entertaining team, one capable of playing with anybody, and they happen to have the best player in the conference.

Need to get the automatic big: Everyone else.

Nebraska and Oklahoma State might technically be on the bubble still, but they really aren’t. They need to win the Big 12 tournament, otherwise they are going to the NIT.

I’ll be sure to update this as the Big 12 tournament goes on. Missouri, Baylor, and Colorado have the most to gain/lose next week. I’d still bet on Kansas though, especially since there is a one seed on the line.

Setting up the Big 12 Tournament

March 2, 2011

It’s March. It’s time to start looking at how the Big 12 Tournament will shape up, and what implications those games will have on the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas is left with a difficult home game tonight at Texas A&M. With KU’s long basketball tradition coupled with the emotion of Senior Night and the usual success at Allen Fieldhouse, we expect a Jayhawk victory, but A&M is a solid team. Missouri is looking less solid week by week, and while the Tigers are a trendy upset pick Saturday in Columbia, they might not be a good one. With two wins, KANSAS will be the league’s No. 1 seed.

The No. 2 seed likely goes to TEXAS. Some folks are whispering about another “collapse” and pointing at Rick Barnes. The Horns certainly aren’t playing like an elite team, but the honest truth is Colorado is good enough to beat them at home. That was not a fluke. The Horns clinch this spot by beating reeling Baylor at home Saturday.

The Texas A&M Aggies had their 5-game win streak snapped by Baylor, and will obviously need to score more than 51 points to expect a win from here on out. Still, they have been far more consistent than Kansas State, Missouri, Colorado or Baylor this year. TEXAS A&M will be rewarded with the league’s No. 3 seed if they beat either Kansas OR Texas Tech, based on the head-to-head win over K-State on Jan. 22.

That would point to KANSAS STATE as team No. 4. This is the least exciting bye, because assuming no upset, it leads to a 4-5 matchup anyway. Had the Big 12 been as deep at the top as we expected, this ascent wouldn’t have been as manageable. Still, credit is due to Frank Martin and the Wildcats for putting themselves in this position when it looked very unrealistic. Seems Jacob Pullen won’t have to worry about the NIT after all.

That was easy, right? Well, even with just four days left in the regular season, the rest of the field is hard to predict.

Now, for some speculation.

Missouri is 8-7, courtesy of its abysmal road record. Colorado is 7-7 with a winnable game against I-State tonight. Both Baylor and Nebraska are 7-8.

Despite the game being played in Columbia, we’ll assume a Mizzou loss to Kansas. The Tigers would finish 8-8. Colorado plays Nebraska on Saturday. In Boulder, I like Colorado. We’ll also predict a Baylor loss to Texas. Oklahoma State hasn’t won a league road game this year, so we’ll say they get beat by OU in Norman.

^^^ (This is all speculation) ^^^

That would mean:

 – COLORADO gets the No. 5 seed. Props to coach Tad Boyle, as the Buffaloes have had almost no impact on the Big 12 standings for the last few years. They are closing their Big 12 participation with a great year, and might be the No. 3 team in the Pac-10 at this point. Amazing, and good for them.

 – MISSOURI gets the No. 6 seed. Makes sense really. Turns out when you always win at home, you never win on the road … You end up in the middle.

 – BAYLOR gets the No. 7 seed, because of a close home win over Nebraska on Feb. 9. A similar team made a run to the league finals two years ago. The Bears probably need to win out in KC to make the NCAA Tournament.

 – NEBRASKA gets the No. 8 seed. However, if the Huskers beat Colorado on Saturday, they’ll jump Baylor. They would NOT jump Mizzou, because a win over Colorado would make the Huskers 4-6 against the North. Mizzou would be 5-5 with a loss to KU, and would therefore claim the tiebreaker.

Moving on …

OKLAHOMA STATE could get the No. 9. Even if the ‘Pokes lose at OU, the Sooners have to play at Texas Tech. That’s a straight toss up in my opinion, so to make this easier to understand, I’ll just say they lose on the road. That’s 10 losses for OSU, 11 for OU.

TEXAS TECH is a candidate for No. 10. The Red Raiders had a horrible season already before the Big 12 started, but they’ve acquired four wins in league play. We’ll say a win over Oklahoma pushes them past the Sooners.

 – OKLAHOMA would then be the No. 11. Even if the Sooners lose out and Iowa State improbably wins out, they would be tied. And OU beat Iowa State earlier this year.

 – IOWA STATE is guaranteed to be No. 12. They would lose tiebreakers to both Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

So, what do you think of where your team might go, and whom they might play?

March(!) 2nd League Poll

March 2, 2011

As you know, last night K-State beat the OTHER elite team in the Big 12, winning at Texas on Big Monday. The Wildcats, who everyone (including us) assumed were doomed for a bad season, are now just about a lock for the NCAA tournament.

It’s a fresh start from there.

1. Kansas Craig: A tough week looms with Texas A&M and Missouri on tap, but the Jayhawks can grab a No. 1 seed with wins at the Big 12 tournament, where they’ve dominated in recent years. Along the way, they’ll likely claim a share of the league title for the 7th straight year. (24)

T2. Texas Craig: The Horns have suffered back to back losses for the first time all year, to Nebraska and Kansas State. But this isn’t another late season cave-in, this team is too good. Right? (21)

T2. Kansas State Justin: This is the team we thought we were going to see all season. Jacob Pullen can easily carry this team to the Sweet Sixteen. (21)

4. Texas A&M Justin: Kind of lost in the shuffle, but still plugging away. They have a great shot at going deep into March. (18)

5. Colorado Craig: Showed a lot of heart and ability in a furious rally at home against Texas. How will the Buffaloes look in their final Big 12 Tournament? (15)

6. Missouri Craig: Simply put, the Tigers looked horrible at Nebraska. Can they get their act together between now and Selection Sunday? (14)

7. Nebraska Craig: Lance Jeter saved the Huskers for a few minutes with a buzzer-beater at Iowa State, but the Cyclones prevailed in overtime. Not good for Nebraska’s NCAA hopes. (12)

8. Baylor Craig: Chance after chance has been blown, including Tuesday’s night’s game at Oklahoma State, an 11-point loss. Last year’s Elite Eight run ends up sandwiched between two disappointing seasons. (11)

9. Oklahoma State Justin: Wonder if they can make a little noise in the conference tournament. Wouldn’t shock me. (8)

T10. Oklahoma Justin: Schedule sets up so they can finish out with a win or two. (5)

T10. Texas Tech Justin: After looking like he saved his job, I’m guessing Pat Knight is winding down his Red Raiders career. (5)

12. Iowa State Justin: Hey, at least they try hard. Craig: Nice win against Nebraska. (2)

Craig’s Poll – Kansas, Texas, K-State, Texas A&M, Missouri, Colorado, Baylor, Nebraska, Ok. State, OU, Texas Tech, Iowa State

Justin’s Poll – Kansas, K-State, Texas, Texas A&M, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Baylor, Ok. State, Texas Tech, OU, Iowa State