Last Night in the Big 12

February 10, 2011

Three games last night, two real fun ones, and one involving Texas.

Texas 68 Oklahoma 52

OU has been better lately, but they never stood a chance in this game. Texas had control the entire time, and got one step closer to being unbeaten in conference play. All five Texas starters scored in double figures, led by Jordan Hamilton with 20. Dogus Balbay even scored 12, on 5-6 shooting.

Andrew Fitzgerald led the over matched Sooners with 16.

Baylor 74 Nebraska 70

One of the two really good games from last night, the Bears needed a last second block from Anthony Jones to keep Nebraska from pulling off the upset. The game was close throughout, and Baylor nearly gave it away with some sloppy play late, but Nebraska returned the favor, falling just short again.

LaceDarius Dunn hit a big lay-up to give Baylor a 71-67 lead, then Nebraska’s Toney McCray had his three pointer blocked by Anthony Jones, a sequence that sealed the game for the Bears and put them at 6-4 in conference play. Dunn finished the night with 24 points, mostly from the free throw line, to go with four rebounds and four assists.

This game summed up a lot of the Nebraska games this season, they fought hard the whole time, kept it close, but in the end they just didn’t have the raw talent to win the game. Watch the Anthony Jones play again, and it is literally the case of him being really long and athletic, something the Huskers just don’t have. Until Doc Sadler starts getting more talented recruits, Nebraska is going to continue being this team. Close, but not close enough.

Now Baylor is sitting in the driver’s seat towards the third seed in the conference tournament. They’ve been playing better lately, making the plays they need to make at the end of games. It will be very interesting to see if they can keep it up, since this isn’t the first time they’ve shown flashes of being a good team.

Texas A&M 73 Colorado 70 OT

The game of the night, and maybe the best Big 12 game I’ve seen in a few weeks. Colorado was in the control the entire game, but you could tell that TAM just needed a few extra minutes of basketball to take control. B.J. Holmes hit a three pointer with 1.4 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime, and TAM was able to escape with a big win.

Colorado just couldn’t score in overtime, running bad set after bad set, and TAM did a great job making sure Alec Burks took tough jumpers. It was very impressive that the Aggies were able to get the win, especially since they did their best to give it away with two dumb technical fouls in the second half (one of those was on Mark Turgeon, who doesn’t seem to time his technical fouls very well). Still, the Aggies overcame it, were able to keep the game close with good defense on Burks, and then set up Holmes for the big shot.

It was the Aggies ability to force Burks into contested jumpers that ultimately won them the game. He was getting to the foul line with ease, but the Aggies allowed him to catch the ball, then collapsed on him around the foul line. He made some moves, but still couldn’t get free.

The loss means Colorado is now 4-6 in the Big 12 and in need of some wins. The NCAA tourney is still in reach, they just need to start pulling out some of these close games. For TAM, they get the win the so desperately needed, and now have a soft schedule to finish out the year.


Last Night in the Big 12

January 26, 2011

Just one game last night, but what a game it was. Colorado tried as hard as they could to upset sixth ranked Kansas, but fell just short, 82-78.

Alec Burks was the star once again.

It was one of the best played games of the conference season, with a loud Colorado crowd, a ton of offense, and some great individual performances. Despite allowing Alec Burks to score 25 (a lot more on him in a moment) and Cory Higgins to add 19, Kansas pulled out a tough road win, thanks in part to shooting 51% from the field.

I thought Kansas would try to win this game by dominating inside with the Morris twins, but instead they simply bombed away from the three point line. Brady Morningstar and Josh Selby combined to hit seven threes, and KU hit 10 total threes as a team. Marcus Morris added 15 points, but did most of his work with screens and defense. His brother Markieff grabbed 11 rebounds to go along with six points.

Colorado stayed in the game despite Kansas’ great shooting, thanks entirely to Alec Burks. Cory Higgins scored a few points early, and added some big buckets late, but Burks was the star. With about eight minutes left in the game Colorado’s offense had basically turned to nothing, and that is when Burks took over. He started to attack the rim, making some impressive layups and getting to the foul line. With a lot of NBA scouts at the game, Burks showed his entire arsenal.

Both teams impressed me last night. Colorado proved that they really can play with any team in the conference, even though they didn’t pull out the win. Unfortunately they might not finish better than .500 in conference, even though they certainly have the chance to do a little better than that.

Kansas bounced back in a classic trap game situation. Dealing with the Thomas Robinson tragedy on top of playing in a hostile environment, I wouldn’t have been shocked if they lost. Add to that the fact that Tyrel Reed had a horrible night shooting, the Morris brothers were very average (for them), and it makes the win more impressive. Josh Selby showed he could still hit shots, and getting Brady Morningstar out of his season long slump might come in handy down the road.

Good win for Kansas, and a not that bad loss for Colorado. This was a great game, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see these two teams face off in the second round of the conference tournament. If only every Big 12 game could be this fun.

Kansas-Colorado Preview

January 25, 2011

Tuesday’s only Big 12 game features two teams coming off tough losses. The Kansas Jayhawks travel to Boulder, Colorado for the last time looking to rebound after losing their first game of the season. The Buffaloes are just trying to keep their heads above water, their 3-0 start in conference play quickly lost its luster after they lost both their games last week.

The long term implications of this game are simple. Colorado can prove that they aren’t a fluke, and that they can compete for a NCAA tourney birth with a win. Kansas just wants to get back on track, and not lose another game in the standings. They are still the favorites to win the conference title, and just need to avoid another letdown.

This one shouldn’t be that difficult for the Jayhawks. The key to beating Colorado is to pound them inside on offense, and keep Alec Burks out of the lane on defense. Kansas has always been more than capable defensively, though this season they aren’t quite as strong as they have been in the past. Their size on both ends should lead to plenty of points in the paint for the Morris twins, and a lack of them for Burks.

Key Player(s)

For Kansas, it’s all about the Morris twins. They will not face a player taller than 6-9 tonight, and should be able to score and rebound at will. Marcus Morris is the best post player in the conference, and Bill Self should be calling his number early and often tonight. The twins have to play well on defense too, because if they start fouling Alec Burks, this will be much more of a game than it should be.

Colorado will rely on Alec Burks as always, but tonight they really need their “bigs” to step up. Marcus Relphorde will probably get a lot of Morris duty tonight, and if he can help contain the Jayhawks inside game, that will go a long way. Same goes for Austin Dufault. If those two can play passable defense, and rebound well, this can become the perimeter oriented game Colorado wants it to be.

The outside match-up favors Colorado. Alec Burks is obviously the star, and Cory Higgins isn’t bad himself. Both rely on penetration to get to the foul line, rather than jump shots, so the Kansas guards will have to make them take jump shots. In the past, Kansas has tried to funnel opposing guards into the paint, but that is not a good strategy tonight. Allowing Burks and Higgins inside will just get them to the free throw line. It also sets up open shots for Levi Knutson, who is shooting almost 50% from the three point line this season.

I expect Kansas will win the game, their advantage inside is much greater than Colorado’s outside. As long as the Morris twins don’t get into foul trouble, both should have plenty of points tonight. If they let Colorado hand around though, anything could happen. Too many trips to the free throw line, and they next thing you know, Colorado has a five point lead with two minutes to go.

Kansas 85 Colorado 79

Yesterday in the Big 12

January 19, 2011

Nebraska hands out some humble pie, and Oklahoma gets by Texas Tech

Nebraska 79 Colorado 67

After two close calls against Missouri and Kansas, Nebraska returned home and got the win they’ve been so close to getting. They used 40 minutes on great defense, and some smart offensive play, to take down the previously unbeaten (in conference play) Buffaloes.

The Huskers defended Alec Burks perfectly, forcing him to take jump shots, and kept him off the foul line. Burks finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, but needed 17 shots to get to 22 points, and also committed seven turnovers. They kept the entire Colorado team out of the lane, and provided the rest of the conference with a solid blueprint on how to beat Tad Boyle’s team.

Nebraska also played smart of offense, using their considerable size advantage all night. They were hesitant at times to go inside to Jorge Brian-Diaz, but when they did Diaz scored with ease. He went 7-8 from the floor, and only committed one foul. Lance Jeter impressed at point guard, controlling the game the entire night. He scored just 10 points, but dished out nine assists and turned the ball over only twice. Toney McCray added 18.

Clearly Colorado isn’t quite the super team they played like the last three games. They were taken out of their game early, struggled to adjust, and let the refs get in their heads. Nebraska showed that they are a real tough team, and that winning in Lincoln this season isn’t going to be easy at all. Doc Sadler’s team is already playing like a Big 10 team, and that kind of defensive mentality goes a long way. They just need to be able to score, which wasn’t an issue tonight, but will continue to be their main issue all season.

Oklahoma 83 Texas Tech 74

I had no interest in watching this game, and not surprisingly very little happened. Notable for Texas Tech is that freshman center Robert Lewandowski, who has had some impressive games this season, scored just six points. He also had no rebounds, which is pretty much unacceptable from a big man.

Oklahoma was led by Cade Davis, who scored 25.

Previewing Tonight’s Big 12 Games

January 18, 2011

Not a ton going on tonight in the conference, though there will be some intrigue for me anytime Colorado plays this season. Two games, one that doesn’t matter at all, and the other with a surprising amount of importance.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma

Go ahead and just ignore this one, I sure will. At least we know that one of these teams will have a win in conference play this season. I think OU is slightly more capable than Tech, especially at home. I’ll give OU the edge in this one, putting Pat Knight in really hot water.

OU 70 Tech 61

Colorado at Nebraska

Colorado takes their show on the road, and to national TV. The co-leaders in the conference face a really tough Nebraska team that has been close in every game they’ve played in conference this season.

For Colorado the key will be getting Alec Burks’ shooting back on track. He’s had a bit of a rough go the last two games, though it hasn’t really hurt the team’s results. He still got 20 points against Oklahoma State, mostly on the foul line. Burks will be able to do whatever he wants on the floor again tonight, but another 4-13 effort could be a problem. Cory Higgins and Levi Knutson need to keep up their hot shooting, which shouldn’t be too hard since Burks will get them plenty of open looks.

For Nebraska, they just need to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Missouri and Kansas both had a lot of trouble beating them, despite the fact that the talent level isn’t comparable to either team. If they can force Burks to shoot outside, and resist the temptation to foul him when he drives to the lane, the Huskers will be in good shape. Higgins is a force to deal with as well, but he isn’t as capable of taking over a game the way Burks can.

I think the Buffaloes great run to start conference play ends tonight. The Huskers are at home, have a great defense capable of giving Burks a ton of problems, and will be able to do just enough on offense at the end. This promises to be one heck of a game though, probably the second best Big 12 game this week.

Nebraska 65 Colorado 61

Oklahoma State – Colorado Preview

January 14, 2011

Following a 23-point thrashing at the hands of Texas A&M, the Cowboys continue their road trip to Boulder. But unlike recent years, Boulder might not be a good place for a pick-me-up. The Buffaloes feel good. The Cowboys just got whipped. Their timing couldn’t be worse.

OKLAHOMA STATE: A few issues here. I mentioned earlier that the OSU backcourt is so undersized that they are susceptible to stronger players taking advantage sometimes. Justin wrote Thursday morning about how Keiton Page was having trouble keeping up with A&M’s players defensively. 

CU’s Alec Burks and Cory Higgins are more than a minor challenge. Despite only getting 12 points, late in the game Burks matched whatever K-State’s talented Jacob Pullen did offensively. Burks and Higgins bring some of the same matchup problems as the long, athletic Aggies.

Luckily for OSU, the Cowboys might have an advantage down low. I’m not sure how well anyone on Colorado can handle Marshall Moses by himself, and if he demands extra attention, Oklahoma State might get better shots than they generally did Wednesday night.

Being on the road is another issue, because you know Colorado is about as hyped as they’re going to be for basketball. If CU went 13 years without winning a conference opener, think how excited they’ll be for 2-0 (especially considering both K-State and Mizzou are ranked teams!).

COLORADO: We’ve said Colorado will have to get contributions from people other than their guard duo. They did Wednesday, most noticeably from Levi Knutson. (St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin seemed to particularly enjoy shouting his name after a three-pointer.)

Knutson hit 6 of 8 threes against the Wildcats and, naturally, that type of shooting opens up the middle for teammates to penetrate. If everyone keys on Burks, they’ll limit him, but Colorado must do enough as a team to discourage it. So far they have.

The crowd against Missouri was not overwhelming but definitely boisterous toward the end, as Colorado tried to pull away. Clearly they were energized by some of the best basketball they’ve seen from the Buffs in years. It should be an even better crowd Saturday.

Bottom Line

Tough pick. I don’t think Oklahoma State is as bad as their huge loss to Texas A&M might suggest. And I don’t think Colorado is the new Big 12 favorite. But where do the disadvantages jump out at you? Who needs to make more adjustments? I would say the Oklahoma State side. OSU needs to make Burks work harder to get buckets, and that can lead to turnovers if they’re successful.

I like Colorado in a very close game, probably in the 70s. A win gives the Buffaloes a great chance of facing Kansas on January 25 with a 5-0 conference record. I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.

Colorado – Kansas State preview

January 12, 2011

Believe it or not, the Buffaloes are the ones with a conference win and the Wildcats aren’t. CU plays KSU tonight in the Little Apple.

COLORADO: Amazing how much perception can change in just a week. Before the Buffs’ win over Mizzou, they were considered a bottom-feeder happily on their way out of the Big 12. For the moment, they look like more of a competitive team.

Alec Burks is an NBA-type player, which everyone knew already. But if Colorado plays a good game tonight against Kansas State, that will only solidify the Buffs as a team on the rise (or show how far K-State has fallen). As we mentioned following the Missouri game, the key for Colorado is to get contributions from everyone else besides Burks and Cory Higgins. Perhaps most impressive Saturday was CU’s ability and willingness to run with the Tigers. They were effective in transition and made plenty of tough shots.

Kansas State is a stronger, bigger team than Missouri but not as deep or as quick. Colorado has a big job keeping up with the Wildcats’ front line. Bramlage Coliseum is one of the toughest road sites in the conference.

KANSAS STATE: Well, if you’re a K-State fan, this is a game you have to be anxious to watch. I didn’t see their game against Oklahoma State, but Justin wrote here how vulnerable the Wildcat forwards have looked. Though it’s quite possible Colorado is better than we all thought earlier, it’s not an elite team, and at home this is a game K-State should certainly win.

Bob Knight was right when he said at the beginning of the year that Kansas State wouldn’t sneak up on anyone as they did last year. However, with their stock so low relative to where it was originally (when they were ranked Top 5), we still have to remember Kansas State is a good team with talent at guard and forward. Jacob Pullen can have a scoring spree just as easily as Burks can, so Colorado must watch him.

Those losses to Florida and UNLV will seem like distant memories if No. 21 Kansas State shows a good effort in these early conference games. After Saturday, the following four games are all very challenging, so Kansas State has a major opportunity over the next two and a half weeks to prove itself.

Bottom Line

For all the joking people do about Frank Martin and his death-stare, he really is a pretty good coach and I think he will have his Wildcats very prepared. Honestly, this game might be scarier if CU had lost Saturday, because now it’s clear what they are able to do.

Kansas State was picked to win the league. An 0-2 start would make that almost too much to ask.

K-State wins by about 12-15 points.