1.24.14
Posted by Ryan Clark at 11:16AM
TEAM W L THIS WEEK NEXT WEEK
Kansas 5 0 W vs. Baylor, 78-68
Sat at TCU
Wed vs. Iowa State
Sat at Texas
Kansas State 4 2 L at Texas, 67-64
Sat at Iowa State
Tue vs. Texas Tech
Sat at West Virginia
Oklahoma 4 2 W vs. TCU, 77-69
Sat at Texas Tech
Mon vs. Oklahoma State
Sat at Iowa State
Texas 4 2 W vs. Kansas State, 67-64
Sat at Baylor
Sat vs. Kansas
Oklahoma State 3 2 Sat vs. West Virginia Mon at Oklahoma
Sat vs. Baylor
West Virginia 3 3 W vs. Texas Tech, 87-81
Sat at Oklahoma State
Tue at Baylor
Sat vs. Kansas State
Iowa State 2 3 Sat vs. Kansas State Wed at Kansas
Sat vs. Oklahoma
Texas Tech 2 4 L at West Virginia, 87-81
Sat vs. Oklahoma
Tue at Kansas State
Sat vs. TCU
Baylor 1 4 L at Kansas, 78-68
Sat vs. Texas
Tue vs. West Virginia
Sat at Oklahoma State
TCU 0 6 L at Oklahoma, 77-69
Sat vs. Kansas
Sat at Texas Tech

The big picture

Before conference play began, conventional wisdom held that Kansas was still the favorite in the Big 12, but that the Jayhawks could face stiff tests from Baylor and Oklahoma State. Even Iowa State emerged as a contender with its undefeated start, which included a win over Michigan and a road victory against BYU. With Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Texas all exceeding pre-season expectations, the league appeared to be deeper than ever, one in which the teams would beat each other up all season long.

The league certainly has proven to be a meat grinder, with every road win a valuable commodity. But while Oklahoma State and Baylor have both suffered losses in the first weeks of conference play, and Iowa State has stalled in a three-game losing streak, the Jayhawks have once again risen above the fray. With the teams now one-third of the way through the Big 12′s double round-robin, Kansas has a 1.5-game lead over its closest competitors, and Ken Pomeroy’s computers predict that KU will finish the season a full three games ahead of Oklahoma State.

At nearly this exact same point in last year’s conference race, I wrote about how Kansas had already turned it into a three-team battle. The Jayhawks were favored to win every game from that point on, and I even suggested that, “with odds like that, it’s hard to believe that KU could drop three games down the stretch.” Just four games later, I was already wrong, as the Jayhawks went on an unprecedented three-game skid that had Coach Bill Self saying his team that lost at TCU “was the worst team Kansas ever put on the floor, since Dr. Naismith was there.”

In the spirit of learning from past mistakes, I won’t go so far as to make any bold predictions about the Jayhawks in late January of this year. But, I will point out that any team that wants to catch Kansas will have to make up quite a bit of ground. Not only has Kansas already built a 1.5-game lead, but the Jayhawks have done it while also surviving two of the league’s tougher road tests at intimidating Hilton Coliseum and against a very OU team in Norman. The Jayhawks have also dispatched two of the presumed contenders at home, knocking off both Oklahoma State and Baylor in the last week. While road games in Manhattan, Austin, and Stillwater could still prove to be stumbling blocks, unless the Jayhawks trip up in all three of those games, somebody is going to have to defy the odds at Allen Fieldhouse.

Today’s games

Texas at Baylor; Saturday, 12:45 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN3)

LRT’s full preview of the Texas/Baylor game will be available on Saturday morning.

Kansas State at Iowa State; Saturday, 12:45 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN3)

On January 6th, Iowa State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin had a perfect combined record of 43-0. Over the following week, each of the teams finally fell from the ranks of the unbeatens….and they just kept losing. The three teams combined to lose 10 straight games once their unblemished marks disappeared, with Ohio State’s victory against Illinois on Thursday night finally breaking the group’s slide.

Since losing at Texas last Saturday, Iowa State has enjoyed an entire week off to refocus their efforts. Already in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Cyclones are about to embark on a very tough four-game stretch against ranked opponents. Fortunately Iowa State is at home for two of those games, in an arena where they have posted a 17-3 record in conference play over the last two-plus seasons.

On paper, Saturday’s matchup with Kansas State seems to favor the Cyclones. Kansas State struggles to score outside the paint, while Iowa State’s interior defense is one of the best in the country. The Wildcats get most of their points from offensive rebounds or dribble penetration by Jevon Thomas and Marcus Foster. Unfortunately for K-State, the Cyclones actually rebound very well on the defensive end, and their length on the perimeter allows them to play conservatively and stifle dribble penetration.

The Wildcats have kept themselves in games all season long with a tough defense that keeps scores low enough for their average offense to keep up. In Iowa State’s high-powered offense, KSU is going to find one of its toughest tests yet. The Wildcats have to eliminate transition opportunities for Iowa State and hope that Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams can reclaim enough missed shots on the other end to keep them in the game.

West Virginia at Oklahoma State; Saturday, 1 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

The Mountaineers have yet to beat a team that isn’t below them in the standings, but they did give the Cowboys a scare when these two teams met in Morgantown just a few weeks ago. Terry Henderson went crazy from behind the arc in that game, knocking down five of his seven three-point attempts. In the end, it was a last-second three from Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown that sealed the deal, keeping the Cowboys from a crippling 0-2 start.

Henderson wasn’t able to recapture the magic from that performance in West Virginia’s next two games, but he game back with a vengeance earlier this week. In a sharpshooter’s battle with Texas Tech’s Dusty Hannahs, Henderson drilled 5-of-6 from long range in an 87-81 WVU win on Wednesday. The Mountaineers will need another solid performance from their X-factor to win in Stillwater, and they must maintain their Top 10 turnover percentage against an OSU team that repeatedly forces mistakes by visiting teams.

Oklahoma at Texas Tech; Saturday, 3 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)

The Baylor Bears were given a reminder just how hard it can be to win on the High Plains when they fell victim to Texas Tech in Lubbock last week. Although United Spirit Arena hasn’t been full in years, the students still show up for big games and that energy has proven useful in some massive upsets over the last few seasons. Add in the experience of new coach Tubby Smith, and the road trip to Tech is going to be a much dicier proposition for Big 12 opponents this year. The fans are planning a “White Out” to greet Oklahoma in this one, but the Sooners have already proven to be road warriors in victories at Texas and Baylor.

The Sooners will have to prevent Tech from dominating the offensive glass and they will have to lock down Hannahs, who is 9-for-9 on threes in his last two games. The Red Raiders, meanwhile, will have a hard time slowing down an OU offense that seems to have a different hero step up every night. Cameron Clark gets most of the pub, but it’s been Buddy Hield who has emerged as the Robin to his Batman in Big 12 play. The sophomore from the Bahamas is averaging more than 18 points per game against Big 12 opponents and posted offensive ratings over 118 in four of the six contests.

Kansas at TCU; Saturday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPNU)

Kansas fans remember the team’s most recent visit to TCU all too well. The Horned Frog victory in 2013 was probably the most unexpected upset of the year in college hoops, and it became the second defeat of a three-game losing streak, something that had not been seen in Lawrence since 2005. You can be sure that Coach Self and the upperclassmen will have the Jayhawk freshmen ready for this one.

That’s an unfortunate thing for a TCU team that is already slogging through a terrible Big 12 campaign. The Horned Frog offense is ranked 292nd out of 351 Division I teams in adjusted efficiency, and it’s only been worse since stepping up to face conference foes. TCU ranks dead last in league games for offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage, and they rank seventh in offensive rebounding percentage. The only offensive mark that even puts them in the top half is their free-throw rate, which measures how frequently they get to the line. Unfortunately, even though TCU is fourth-best in conference play when it comes to earning free throws, they are again dead last in actual free-throw percentage, making less than 60% of their attempts.

If one paragraph of awful stats wasn’t enough, I leave you with one final number regarding TCU’s nightmare season. With 12 games still left to go, Pomeroy already gives the Horned Frogs a 20% chance to finish winless in the Big 12. Their best opportunities to steal a victory come in home games against Baylor, Texas, and Oklahoma, all contests in which TCU still only has a 23% chance to win.

1.13.14
Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:04PM
TEAM W L LAST WEEK THIS WEEK
Kansas 2 0 W at Oklahoma, 90-83
W vs. Kansas State, 86-60
Mon at Iowa State
Sat vs. Oklahoma State
Iowa State 2 1 W vs. Baylor, 87-72
L at Oklahoma, 87-82
Mon vs. Kansas
Sat at Texas
Kansas State 2 1 W at TCU, 65-47
L at Kansas, 86-60
Tue vs. Oklahoma
Sat vs. West Virginia
West Virginia 2 1 W at Texas Tech, 89-86 (OT)
L vs. Oklahoma State, 73-72
Mon vs. Texas
Sat at Kansas State
Oklahoma 2 1 L vs. Kansas, 90-83
W vs. Iowa State, 87-82
Tue at Kansas State
Sat at Baylor
Oklahoma State 2 1 W vs. Texas, 87-74
W at West Virginia, 73-72
Wed vs. TCU
Sat at Kansas
Baylor 1 1 L at Iowa State, 87-72
W vs. TCU, 88-62
Wed at Texas Tech
Sat vs. Oklahoma
Texas 1 2 L at Oklahoma State, 87-74
W vs. Texas Tech, 67-64
Mon at West Virginia
Sat vs. Iowa State
TCU 0 3 L vs. Kansas State, 65-47
L at Baylor, 88-62
Wed at Oklahoma State
Sat vs Texas Tech
Texas Tech 0 3 L vs. West Virginia, 89-86 (OT)
L at Texas, 67-64
Wed vs. Baylor
Sat at TCU

The big picture

The Kansas Jayhawks took care of one challenger to the throne in convincing fashion on Saturday, walloping their in-state rivals by 26 points. Although the victory sent a clear message as to who reigns supreme in the Sunflower State, Kansas will have to survive a tough eight-day stretch to claim the same dominance in the Big 12. Over their next three games, the Jayhawks will travel to Iowa State before hosting Oklahoma State and Baylor at raucous Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma remained just a half-game behind the Jayhawks by posting big wins in their Saturday games. The Cowboys needed a last-second three from Markel Brown to escape Morgantown with a victory, yet another reminder that every road win will be precious in a loaded Big 12 this season.

Oklahoma gave Iowa State the same memo in Norman, knocking the Cyclones from the ranks of the national unbeatens with an 87-82 win. The Sooners were given a dangerous five-game stretch to open conference play, but have so far navigated the minefields to a 2-1 start. Two tough road tests await OU at Kansas State and Baylor this week; survive those, and the Sooners will have proven to be legitimate contenders for a conference crown.

Weekday games

Texas at West Virginia; Monday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPNU)

LRT’s full preview of the Texas/West Virginia game is available here.

Kansas at Iowa State; Monday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN)

Tonight, fans at Hilton Coliseum will have revenge on their minds as the Kansas Jayhawks visit the Iowa State Cyclones. Last year, the teams played a thrilling overtime classic that was ultimately won by KU, but the victory was overshadowed by a late game no-call that Cyclone fans won’t soon forget. With Iowa State ahead by two and just five seconds left in the game, Elijah Johnson collided with ISU’s Georges Niang while trying to drive to the hoop for a tying bucket. The play didn’t result in a whistle, although fans wanted a charge call. Instead it was Niang who was whistled when he held Johnson while trying to rebound the missed shot, and EJ sunk the ensuing free throws to force an extra period.

Two days later, the conference office “acknowledge[d] that officiating errors were made at the end of regulation.” The damage was obviously done by that point, and Kansas went on to share the league crown with Kansas State. Even though the result didn’t prevent Iowa State from competing for the title — they finished three games behind the Jayhawks and Wildcats — the memory still stings the Ames faithful. With Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane reportedly ready to play after injuring his ankle at the end of Saturday’s loss to OU, the Cyclones should give KU and the scorching-hot Wayne Selden quite a battle.

Oklahoma at Kansas State; Tuesday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

The Sooners were one of the surprise teams in the Big 12 during non-conference play, and they’ve continued to surprise in league play. Although OU couldn’t pull off the home upset against Kansas, they were able to hold serve against Iowa State and are now right in the middle of a very deep Big 12 pack.

Buddy Hield has emerged as an unstoppable force for the Sooners as Oklahoma’s opponents focus their energy on containing senior Cameron Clark. The sophomore from the Bahamas went medieval on Iowa State from long range, knocking down 6-of-12 during a 22-point performance. In three Big 12 contests, he’s averaging 20.7 points per game and finished just shy of a 62% effective field goal mark.

With Hield on fire and the Sooner offense clicking along at 1.177 adjusted points per possession, the stout Kansas State defense will have its hands full. The Wildcats currently boast the 13th-best defense in terms of adjusted efficiency, but their offense has lagged behind for much of the year. With newly-eligible freshman Jevon Thomas injecting a spark from the bench and Marcus Foster slicing through opposing defenses, Kansas State might finally be putting it together on that end of the court.

TCU at Oklahoma State; Wednesday, 7 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)

Teams often have to avoid falling into the trap of looking ahead to huge games, but that probably won’t be a problem for Oklahoma State against TCU on Wednesday night. The Cowboys will face a massive test when they travel to Lawrence on Saturday, but should first get a chance to rest their small core rotation in an easy home game against TCU.

Baylor at Texas Tech; Wednesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPNU)

While TCU is still the league doormat, Texas Tech is much improved, despite returning almost all of the team that went 3-15 in the Big 12 last year. Baylor still shouldn’t have major problems against the Red Raiders, but many league foes have been surprised in Lubbock over the last few years.

Tech has done very well on the offensive glass this season, but could find that difficult against a formidable Baylor front line. However, if the Red Raiders can manage to hold their own and extend some possessions with offensive boards, they might be able to keep things close enough to make it interesting down the stretch. With Baylor playing at a glacial pace of just 64.1 possessions per game, it certainly increases the odds that lesser teams can hang around for longer than expected.

1.11.14
Posted by Ryan Clark at 8:32AM
TEAM W L THIS WEEK NEXT WEEK
Iowa State 2 0 W vs. Baylor, 87-72
Sat at Oklahoma
Mon vs. Kansas
Sat at Texas
Kansas State 2 0 W at TCU, 65-47
Sat at Kansas
Tue vs. Oklahoma
Sat vs. West Virginia
West Virginia 2 0 W at Texas Tech, 89-86 (OT)
Sat vs. Oklahoma State
Mon vs. Texas
Sat at Kansas State
Kansas 1 0 W at Oklahoma, 90-83
Sat vs. Kansas State
Mon at Iowa State
Sat vs. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma 1 1 L vs. Kansas, 90-83
Sat vs. Iowa State
Tue at Kansas State
Sat at Baylor
Oklahoma State 1 1 W vs. Texas, 87-74
Sat at West Virginia
Wed vs. TCU
Sat at Kansas
Baylor 0 1 L at Iowa State, 87-72
Sat vs. TCU
Wed at Texas Tech
Sat vs. Oklahoma
TCU 0 2 L vs. Kansas State, 65-47
Sat at Baylor
Wed at Oklahoma State
Sat vs Texas Tech
Texas 0 2 L at Oklahoma State, 87-74
Sat vs. Texas Tech
Mon at West Virginia
Sat vs. Iowa State
Texas Tech 0 2 L vs. West Virginia, 89-86 (OT)
Sat at Texas
Wed vs. Baylor
Sat at TCU

The big picture

There were no shocking results in the midweek games to shake up the standings, although Iowa State made an emphatic statement to those who doubted their undefeated start. The Cyclones thumped Baylor, 87-72, to keep the Bears winless at Hilton Coliseum through 12 all-time visits. DeAndre Kane had a historic performance, scoring 30 points while dishing out nine dimes, swiping five steals, and grabbing eight boards. Kane was just the fourth Division I player to achieve those numbers in a single game.

Today’s games

Iowa State at Oklahoma; Saturday, 11 A.M. CT (ESPNU)

The Cyclones have a dangerous game this morning as they take on the Sooners in Norman. If both teams can actually wake up for the early tip, it’s going to be an exciting, high-scoring affair. Oklahoma’s 74.3 adjusted possessions per game is the 10th-quickest pace in D-I hoops, while Iowa State is currently the 27th-fastest team with 72.2 adjusted possessions per game, according to Ken Pomeroy. The two teams are also both in the Top 11 nationally when it comes to adjusted offensive efficiency, so the scoreboard operator at Lloyd-Noble will likely have a sore finger in the morning. Pomeroy predicts a 91-86 final score in favor of Iowa State.

With that many points expected, the game could come down to who can get a few stops late in the game. For Oklahoma, the challenge will be figuring out how to limit the damage from a pair of matchup nightmares in Kane and Georges Niang. The Sooners do match up better with Iowa State than most teams, mirroring their smaller lineup that lacks a true center.

Cameron Clark will presumably draw the tough cover of Niang, as Spangler lacks the footspeed to keep up with a forward that can stretch the floor. Even if Clark can handle that challenge, though, the Sooner backcourt will have a very tough time with the big, strong point guard. Look for Coach Hoiberg to exploit that advantage by posting up Kane and letting him work on the smaller OU guards.

TCU at Baylor; Saturday, 12:30 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)

The Bears have a prime opportunity to bounce back from their conference-opening loss to the Cyclones as they host TCU this afternoon before traveling to Lubbock on Wednesday night. Although the game is a mismatch on paper, Baylor has to take better care of the basketball if it hopes to avoid a catastrophic upset at home. The Bears have struggled all year with turnovers, but are coming off a horrible performance in Ames where they coughed it up on nearly 26% of their possessions. With Baylor averaging only 64 possessions per game — an adjusted tempo that ranks 329th out of 351 D-I teams — making mistakes that often could keep an overmatched TCU team in the game.

The Frogs, meanwhile, have shown improvement following the return of forward Amric Fields. After missing the first three games of the season recovering from knee surgery, Fields broke his hand in the Great Alaska Shootout and missed another four contests. Since his return, the junior has averaged more than 17 points and nearly seven boards in three games. If TCU wants to have any kind of a shot this afternoon, they’ll need a monster game from Fields and freshman center Karviar Shepherd against the huge Baylor front line.

Kansas State at Kansas; Saturday, 1 P.M. CT (ESPN)

The Wildcats quietly took care of business in Fort Worth on Tuesday night, avoiding a letdown performance against TCU just two days after their big upset of Oklahoma State. The defending co-champs of the Big 12 now boast a 10-game winning streak as they head to Lawrence to square off against their most-hated rivals and the squad with whom they shared last year’s title. History is against the Wildcats, however, as they have won only twice in the last 18 meetings of the Sunflower State rivalry, and have not won at Phog Allen since 2006.

Although the Jayhawks faced one of the nation’s toughest non-conference slates, the four losses they have endured are unacceptable in the eyes of demanding KU fans. Kansas certainly has some issues to work on, namely finding someone who will step up in crunch time, and learning how to hang on to the basketball. Bill Self teams always improve from November to March, and this year’s Jayhawk team is one that nobody will want to face in the field of 68. Just don’t try telling that to the Jayhawk faithful if they happen to lose this afternoon.

Oklahoma State at West Virginia; Saturday, 3 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)

West Virginia comes into this game with the nation’s 26th-best three-point percentage, having knocked down almost 40% of their looks this season. That long-range attack will certainly be tested this afternoon against an Oklahoma State team that uses a ton of pressure on the perimeter and has frustrated opponents to the tune of a 28.8% mark beyond the arc. Although the Cowboys are clearly the better team on paper, road wins are always tough to earn in conference, so this one could come down to who imposes their will on the perimeter.

It’s also worth noting that Oklahoma State is coming off a win against Texas in which the team posted a free-throw rate of 102%, meaning that they actually tried more free throws than field goals. Their guards are quick and have earned a ton of free throws all year thanks to their aggressive play and the new rules emphasis, but they can’t get frustrated this afternoon if they don’t get the calls they are used to. Most refs tend to enjoy living, and if they whistle a physical West Virginia defense for every touch foul, it might be tough for the three-man crew to make it out of the mountains intact.

Texas Tech at Texas; Saturday, 7 P.M. CT (LHN)

LRT’s full preview of the Texas Tech/Texas game will be available later today.

1.06.14
Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:42PM
TEAM W L LAST WEEK THIS WEEK
Iowa State 1 0 W vs Northern Illinois, 99-63
W at Texas Tech, 73-62
Tue vs. Baylor
Sat at Oklahoma
Kansas State 1 0 W vs. George Washington, 72-55
W vs. Oklahoma State, 74-71
Tue at TCU
Sat at Kansas
Oklahoma 1 0 L vs. Louisiana Tech, 102-98 (OT)
W at Texas, 88-85
Wed vs. Kansas
Sat vs. Iowa State
West Virginia 1 0 W at TCU, 74-69 Mon at Texas Tech
Sat vs. Oklahoma State
Baylor 0 0 W vs. Oral Roberts, 81-55
W vs. Savannah State, 80-50
Tue at Iowa State
Sat vs. TCU
Kansas 0 0 W vs. Toledo, 93-83
L vs. San Diego State, 61-57
Wed at Oklahoma
Sat vs. Kansas State
Oklahoma State 0 1 W vs. Robert Morris, 92-66
L at Kansas State, 74-71
Wed vs. Texas
Sat at West Virginia
TCU 0 1 L vs. West Virginia, 74-69 Tue vs. Kansas State
Sat at Baylor
Texas 0 1 W vs. Rice, 66-44
L vs. Oklahoma, 88-85
Wed at Oklahoma State
Sat vs. Texas Tech
Texas Tech 0 1 W vs. Mount St. Mary’s, 100-69
L vs. Iowa State, 73-62
Mon vs. West Virginia
Sat at Texas

The big picture

The league’s two preseason favorites both suffered losses over the weekend, but only one will have an impact on the 2014 Big 12 race. Kansas dropped one at home to San Diego State, snapping its non-conference home winning streak at 68 games. With the Jayhawks not opening conference play until their trip to Norman on Wednesday, the early January stumble won’t hurt them as they try to extend their nine-year streak of winning or sharing the Big 12 title.

Oklahoma State, however, quickly went off-track in their efforts to break that Jayhawk streak. The Cowboys fell in their league opener at the Octagon of Doom on Saturday, becoming the second big scalp for a Kansas State team that also knocked off Gonzaga in mid-December. While the loss hurt OSU in the standings, their biggest loss of the week came when Michael Cobbins ruptured his left Achilles in a game against Robert Morris. He underwent surgery days later and is out for the year.

OSU may have also lost another key piece when Stevie Clark was arrested for marijuana possession on Wednesday. He was previously suspended for four games in late November and December, reportedly also for marijuana issues. Although the Cowboys have one of the nation’s best point guards in Marcus Smart, Clark was averaging more than 16 minutes per game in his nine appearances as Smart’s backup. He did not play in Saturday’s loss to KSU.

It’s also worth noting that for the first time in their short Big 12 history, the Mountaineers of West Virginia are over .500 in league play. Last year’s team reached the break-even mark after two, ten, and 12 league games, but could never quite get to a winning record.

Weekday games

West Virginia at Texas Tech; Monday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)

One frequent complaint from Huggins after his team’s move to the Big 12 was the excessive amount of travel required for a school that is essentially marooned from the rest of the conference. West Virginia’s closest conference-mate is Iowa State, which is more than 750 miles away by air. With most of the league even futher away in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, the conference office helped WVU out by scheduling short weekend road swings. After Saturday’s game in Fort Worth, the ‘Eers only had to travel up to Lubbock for tonight’s game, and they will also enjoy a Stillwater-Waco road pairing later in the season.

The travel arrangement should — in theory — keep the West Virginia players more fresh by cutting down on the travel fatigue, something that may actually matter against a Texas Tech program that is already making progress under new coach Tubby Smith. For the first time in what seems like eons, the Red Raiders avoided any baffling losses to terrible teams in non-con play and look like they might not be a doormat in the Big 12 this year. Although Tech didn’t pull off any non-conference upsets, the team did take care of business against bottom-feeders, and competed well against LSU in a mid-December home game. Pomeroy calls this one a toss-up, giving West Virginia a 54% chance to win and predicting a one-point game.

Baylor at Iowa State; Tuesday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

I don’t have the time to see where this game ranks for the season in terms of tempo disparity, but it’s certainly one that has to be near the top. Iowa State is plugging along at 71.4 adjusted possessions per game, the 39th-quickest pace in D-I hoops to date. Baylor, meanwhile, has been more than content to slow it down while posting a 12-1 mark in non-conference play. The Bears average just 63.3 possessions per game, making them the 13th-slowest squad out of 351 Division I teams.

It’s always easier for a slow team to try to impact the pace of a game, but the Bears will still have to overcome Hilton Magic if they want to start their conference campaign with a win. In the two seasons of full round-robin Big 12 play, Iowa State is 16-2 at home. Baylor has also yet to win at Hilton Coliseum since the formation of the Big 12, going 0-10 in Ames.

Kansas State at TCU; Tuesday, 7 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN Full Court/ESPN3)

The Wildcats have certainly turned things around since losing to Northern Colorado in the season opener. Saturday’s win over Oklahoma State was the team’s second victory against a Top 25 in the last three weeks, and it was their ninth-straight win overall. The Wildcats have one of the nation’s stingiest perimeter defenses, limiting opponents to just a 26% success rate behind the arc. That ranks the team fourth-best in Division I, a fact that Oklahoma State can surely attest to after going just 3-for-14 at Bramlage on Saturday.

Conveniently enough, Kansas State now faces a TCU team that is coming off its best three-point performance of the year. The Horned Frogs knocked down 9-of-19 from behind the arc in their loss to West Virginia, well above the 33.5% season average they brought into the contest. Kansas State does an excellent job limiting looks by their opponents’ best long-range threats, meaning that freshman swingman Brandon Parrish and point guard Kyan Anderson might not find much room on the perimeter at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum on Tuesday night.

Kansas at Oklahoma; Wednesday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

The Sooners have been treated to a brutal five-game stretch to open their Big 12 campaign this year, but they tipped things off with a win in Austin on Saturay night. If Oklahoma can steal a road win against Kansas or Iowa State this week, they will certainly announce their presence as a top-flight team in a very deep Big 12. The Jayhawks are 0-2 in true road games this season, although those losses came against Top 25 competition in Colorado and Florida. Oklahoma managed to pick off KU at Lloyd-Noble last season, so Kansas should be on high alert when they arrive in Norman on Wednesday.

The biggest challenge for Kansas will likely be simply keeping pace with the Oklahoma offense. The Jayhawks are coming off of a loss to SDSU in which they posted an eFG of only 25% in the first half and Perry Ellis shot 1-for-8 from the floor. OU’s defense is nothing to write home about, but Kansas still has to get out of their funk on the offensive end if they want to keep up with a Sooner team that has the nation’s 14th-most efficent offense.

Texas at Oklahoma State; Wednesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPNU)

LRT’s full preview of the Texas/Oklahoma State game will be available on Wednesday.

2.11.13
Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:00PM
TEAM W L LAST WEEK THIS WEEK
Kansas State 8 2 W at Texas Tech, 68-59
W vs. Iowa State, 79-70
Mon at Kansas
Sat vs. Baylor
Kansas 7 3 L at TCU, 62-55
L at Oklahoma, 72-66
Mon vs. Kansas State
Sat vs. Texas
Oklahoma State 7 3 W vs. Baylor, 69-67 (OT)
W at Texas, 72-59
Wed at Texas Tech
Sat vs. Oklahoma
Baylor 6 4 L at Oklahoma State, 69-67 (OT)
W vs. Texas Tech, 75-48
Wed vs. West Virginia
Sat at Kansas State
Iowa State 6 4 W vs. Oklahoma, 83-64
L at Kansas State, 79-70
Wed at Texas
Sat vs. TCU
Oklahoma 6 4 L at Iowa State, 83-64
W vs. Kansas, 72-66
Mon vs. TCU
Sat at Oklahoma State
West Virginia 5 5 W vs. Texas, 60-58
W at TCU, 63-50
Wed at Baylor
Sat vs. Texas Tech
Texas 2 8 L at West Virginia, 60-58
L vs. Oklahoma State, 72-59
Wed vs. Iowa State
Sat at Kansas
Texas Tech 2 8 L vs. Kansas State, 68-59
L at Baylor, 75-48
Wed vs. Oklahoma State
Sat at West Virginia
TCU 1 9 W vs. Kansas, 62-55
L vs. West Virginia, 63-50
Mon at Oklahoma
Sat at Iowa State

The big picture

There are hits and there are misses. And then, there are misses.

Two weeks ago, in this very space, I posited that the loser of the Kansas State/Oklahoma game on February 2nd could essentially be eliminated from the conference race, even though they mathematically would remain alive for weeks. “The Jayhawks are favored to win in every game they have left,” I wrote, crediting the number-crunching skills of Ken Pomeroy. “With odds like that, it’s hard to believe that KU could drop three games down the stretch.”

Here we are, four games later, and I’ve been exposed as having the predictive skills of the Titanic’s engineers. The Jayhawks have lost three straight games for the first time in nearly eight years, and still have hostile road games left against Oklahoma State and Iowa State, plus a trip to face Baylor in Waco. And as for the loser of that Kansas State/Oklahoma game on February 2nd? The Sooners find themselves just a game behind KU and two games off the league lead, with the title race still wide open.

While it’s fun to laugh at how quickly my words were made to look foolish, it’s certainly worth noting just how shocking Kansas’ tailspin is. Not only were the Jayhawks favored by Pomeroy in each of those three games, but the cumulative probability of the team losing all three games was 0.196%. Not 19 percent, but 19 hundredths of a percent. If some Missouri fan had a bit too much to drink in Vegas and put down a few bucks on that moneyline parlay ten days ago, Allen Fieldhouse would probably have been turned into the world’s biggest Braum’s by now.

Even with the Jayhawks reeling, it’s tough to bet against Bill Self. Kansas has won or shared eight consecutive Big 12 titles, and the team still sits just a game out of first with a chance to knock off the league leaders tonight at Allen Fieldhouse. With four weeks to go, there’s certainly more than enough time for Kansas to get back on track and extend that conference-title streak to a ninth season. The road to the Big 12 title could still very well run through Lawrence, but now there are at least some viable contenders hoping to put in a detour.

Weekday games

TCU at Oklahoma; Monday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPNU)
Kansas at Kansas State; Monday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN)

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech; Wednesday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPNU)
Iowa State at Texas; Wednesday, 7 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN3.com)
West Virginia at Baylor; Wednesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

1.28.13
Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:41PM
TEAM W L LAST WEEK THIS WEEK
Kansas 6 0 W at Kansas State, 59-55
W vs. Oklahoma, 67-54
Mon at West Virginia
Sat vs. Oklahoma State
Baylor 5 1 W vs. Oklahoma State, 64-54
W at TCU, 82-56
Wed vs. Oklahoma
Sat at Iowa State
Kansas State 4 2 L vs. Kansas, 59-55
L at Iowa State, 73-67
Wed vs. Texas
Sat at Oklahoma
Iowa State 4 2 L at Texas Tech, 56-51
W vs. Kansas State, 73-67
Wed at Oklahoma State
Sat vs. Baylor
Oklahoma 4 2 W vs. Texas, 73-67
L at Kansas, 67-54
Wed at Baylor
Sat vs. Kansas State
Oklahoma State 3 3 L at Baylor, 64-54
W vs. West Virginia, 80-66
Wed vs. Iowa State
Sat at Kansas
West Virginia 2 4 W vs. TCU, 71-50
L at Oklahoma State, 80-66
Mon vs. Kansas
Sat at Texas Tech
Texas Tech 2 5 W vs. Iowa State, 56-51
L at Texas, 73-57
Sat vs. West Virginia
Texas 1 5 L at Oklahoma, 73-67
W vs. Texas Tech, 73-57
Wed at Kansas State
Sat vs. TCU
TCU 0 7 L at West Virginia, 71-50
L vs. Baylor, 82-56
Sat at Texas

The big picture

The Iowa State Cyclones were on both ends of an upset last week, inexplicably dropping a game at Texas Tech before rebounding with a win over Kansas State at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday. Of course, astute sports fans will point out that Iowa State’s win over the Wildcats was only an upset if you pay attention to pollsters, as the Cyclones were four-point favorites despite being unranked.

The loss at Hilton was the second for Kansas State last week, as the Wildcats fell short against KU at home on Tuesday night. They slid from a first-place tie into a three-way tie for third, with a big game coming up at Oklahoma on Saturday. Both teams are 4-2, and although we are not even halfway through the conference schedule, it’s hard to imagine that the loser still has a hope to even tie for the league title. The Jayhawks are favored to win in every game they have left, according to Ken Pomeroy. With odds like that, it’s hard to believe that KU could drop three games down the stretch.

The only team that is still a game behind the unblemished Jayhawks are the Baylor Bears, but it’s hard to tell how much of their record is a result of their easy opening schedule. Baylor has four wins against the bottom three teams in the conference, with two of those victories coming against cellar-dwelling TCU. Baylor’s other win came at home against an Oklahoma State team that has won only one Big 12 road game in its last 22 trips. This week’s games against Oklahoma and at Iowa State should clarify where the Bears truly belong in the league pecking order.

Weekday games

Kansas at West Virginia; Monday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN)

West Virginia makes its first Big Monday appearance as a member of the Big 12, and will also be facing Kansas for the first time in school history. The Jayhawks are riding a 17-game winning streak and ascended to the top spot in this week’s USA Today Coaches Poll, having dispatched both Kansas State and Oklahoma last week.

Kansas has been easily handling most opponents, leading by double-digits at some point in every game except for the loss to Michigan State and the comeback win at Texas. It’s likely they will do the same against West Virginia tonight, as the Mountaineers make less than 30% of their threes and will also have a tough time scoring inside against block-machine Jeff Withey.

Oklahoma at Baylor; Wednesday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPNU)

Oklahoma has been a pleasant surprise in Lon Kruger‘s second season at the helm. Senior Romero Osby is peaking at just the right time, averaging 18 points and seven boards in Big 12 play. The frontcourt battle between OU’s Osby and Amath M’Baye and Baylor’s Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson should be a blast to watch. All four love to stretch the floor and should open things up for their shot-creating guards.

The other interesting matchup will be on the perimeter, where Oklahoma is limiting opponents to just 31% accuracy on three-point attempts. The Bears are one of the nation’s better long-range teams, knocking down 35.5% of their threes against D-I opponents. If Oklahoma can manage that kind of defensive success against the likes of Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip, the Sooners have to like their chances with a much more experienced frontcourt.

Texas at Kansas State; Wednesday, 7 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

The Texas/Kansas State preview will be available on Wednesday.

Iowa State at Oklahoma State; Wednesday, 7 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN3.com)

Without looking it up, can you guess what year it was when the Cyclones last won at Gallagher-Iba Arena? If you picked sometime this century, you need to go a little further back. Don’t name a year during the Clinton administration, either. As hard as it is to believe, Iowa State has not won a game at Oklahoma State since March of 1988. Although Iowa State only traveled to Stillwater every other season during the 12-team era of the Big 12 Conference, they did make annual trips during the Big 8 days. All told, that’s 17 consecutive road losses over 24 years for ISU at Gallagher-Iba. To put it another way, Fred Hoiberg was still just a pimply-faced teenager at Ames High School when the Cyclones last tasted victory in Stillwater.

Historical context aside, this is a huge game for both teams. Oklahoma State has continued their struggles on the road in conference play, making their defense of home-court advantage even more important if they want to finish near the top of the standings. Iowa State, on the other hand, sacrificed what should have been essentially a gimme-game at Texas Tech. To make up that lost ground, they now have to steal a road game or two against tougher competition.

1.21.13
Posted by Ryan Clark at 8:26AM
TEAM W L LAST WEEK THIS WEEK
Kansas 4 0 W vs. Baylor, 61-44
W at Texas, 64-59
Tue at Kansas State
Sat vs. Oklahoma
Kansas State 4 0 W at TCU, 67-54
W vs. Oklahoma, 69-60
Tue vs. Kansas
Sat at Iowa State
Baylor 3 1 L at Kansas, 61-44
W vs. Hardin Simmons, 107-38
Mon vs. Oklahoma State
Sat at TCU
Iowa State 3 1 W vs. West Virginia, 69-67
W at TCU, 63-50
Wed at Texas Tech
Sat vs. Kansas State
Oklahoma 3 1 W vs. Texas Tech, 81-63
L at Kansas State, 69-60
Mon vs. Texas
Sat at Kansas
Oklahoma State 2 2 W vs. Texas Tech, 79-45 Mon at Baylor
Sat vs. West Virginia
West Virginia 1 3 L at Iowa State, 69-67
L at Purdue, 79-52
Wed vs. TCU
Sat at Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 1 4 L at Oklahoma, 81-63
L at Oklahoma State, 79-45
Wed vs. Iowa State
Sat at Texas
Texas 0 4 L vs. Kansas, 64-59 Mon at Oklahoma
Sat vs. Texas Tech
TCU 0 5 L vs. Kansas State, 67-54
L vs. Iowa State, 63-50
Wed at West Virginia
Sat vs. Baylor

The big picture

Kansas and Kansas State emerged unscathed at the top of the league standings after a week in which both knocked off other undefeated contenders. The Jayhawks suffocated Baylor on Big Monday, holding the Bears to 23.2% shooting from the field en route to a 61-44 victory. On Saturday, Kansas State took care of Oklahoma at Bramlage Coliseum, setting up a battle for first place in the Sunflower State showdown on Tuesday night.

While the Jayhawks looked dominant throughout December, they have survived some close calls in Big 12 play, needing a Ben McLemore three to force overtime against Iowa State and a furious second-half comeback to escape Austin with a win. The Octagon of Doom has tripped up Kansas in recent years, with the Wildcats snagging two victories against their hated rivals in the last five meetings at Bramlage.

Iowa State continued to take care of business, but the Cyclones certainly made it interesting. They led West Virginia by as many as 18 points in the second half on Wednesday night, but once again gave up a game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation. If the Cyclones were having flashbacks to the McLemore heroics, they definitely didn’t show it. Will Clyburn raced up the court and hit Georges Niang under the basket for the game-winner with 2.3 seconds to go.

The Cyclones followed that exciting victory with an easy road win against league doormat TCU, keeping them just a game behind the league leaders. With another winnable road game against Texas Tech up next on Wednesday night, the Cyclones should be sitting at 4-1 in conference when they host Kansas State for a huge game on Saurday.

The bottom half of the league held steady last week as the league’s top teams added victories against the second division. Although Texas put a scare into the Jayhawks and West Virginia charged back at Iowa State, the league’s two worst squads scuttled through another week of action. TCU slid to 0-5 after losses to both Kansas State and Iowa State. The Horned Frogs logged only 0.827 points per possession against the Cyclones, but that futility was nothing in comparison to Tech’s. After losing by 18 to Oklahoma, the Red Raiders were blown out by 34 in Stillwater on Saturday, managing just 0.686 points per possession against the Pokes.

Weekday games

Oklahoma State at Baylor; Monday, 4:30 P.M. CT (ESPN)

Until they can get the monkey off their collective back, the Oklahoma State Cowboys will always be the team that can’t win on the road. Under Coach Travis Ford, OSU is 6-29 in Big 12 road games, with only one win in their last 21 conference games away from Gallagher-Iba. Last season, the team’s trip to Waco was a nightmare, with Baylor coasting to a 106-65 win at the Ferrell Center.

While it will be interesting to see if Philip Jurick and Michael Cobbins can handle unorthodox big men Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, the key matchup could be on the perimeter. Baylor has allowed opponents to hit more than 34% of their threes on the year, a mark that is in the bottom half of D-I. OSU has a dead-eye shooter in Phil Forte that could propel his team to a road upset if he’s left unchecked behind the arc.

Both of these teams were considered preseason contenders who could challenge Kansas at the top of the Big 12. Neither has looked like a championship-caliber team so far in conference play, but the winner could make a statement in this nationally-televised game.

Texas at Oklahoma; Monday, 8:30 P.M. CT (ESPN)

LRT’s preview of the Texas/Oklahoma game will be available later this morning.

Kansas at Kansas State; Tuesday, 7 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN3.com)

There will be a ton of experience on the court when the Big 12′s biggest rivalry heats back up on Tuesday night, with first place on the line. The Jayhawks start four seniors, while nearly everyone is back for a K-State squad that has three upperclassmen in the starting lineup. Although this is a Top 15 matchup, basketball fans across the country will have to get to their laptops to see the action. The game is on the Big 12 Network, so folks who are not in a market with an affiliate will have to use ESPN3 if they don’t pony up for the Full Court package.

All eyes will be on Elijah Johnson Tuesday night as he looks to bounce back from a very disappointing showing in Austin. Wildcat guard Angel Rodriguez has very quick hands on the perimeter, and the K-State defense forces opponents to turn it over on nearly 23% of their possessions. When the Jayhawks dug an 11-point hole against the Longhorns, turnovers were the catalyst. If EJ and the ‘Hawks have the same kind of issues in a very hostile road environment, that 15-game KU winning streak could be in jeopardy.

TCU at West Virginia; Wednesday, 6:30 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

West Virginia has lost three times by a combined total of 13 points in its inaugural Big 12 season. In the team’s one league win, they needed a last-minute rally and overtime to knock off Texas. While all of those tight games have likely turned some stomachs into knots in Morgantown, there’s little chance that any Pepto Bismol will be needed on Wednesday night. West Virginia should cruise to a victory over a depleted TCU team that struggles to score, hopefully building some confidence and momentum for the ‘Eers. With a road game against Oklahoma State and a visit from KU looming on the horizon, they will certainly need it.

Iowa State at Texas Tech; Wednesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPNU)

While Iowa State proved it can play with the league’s best in a heartbreaking loss at Allen Fieldhouse, the team has yet to face any other true contenders. The Cyclones have marched through the easy part of their schedule, reeling off three consecutive wins against the league’s bottom four teams.

Although teams have been known to stumble when visiting Lubbock, Wednesday night should offer ISU another chance to log an effortless victory before the competition toughens up. As long as the Cyclones don’t get caught looking ahead, they should be sitting comfortably in second place before a key eight-day stretch pits them against K-State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State.

1.14.13
Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:07PM
TEAM W L LAST WEEK NEXT WEEK
Baylor 3 0 W at Texas Tech, 82-48
W vs. TCU, 51-40
Mon at Kansas
Sat vs. Hardin Simmons
Kansas 2 0 W vs. Iowa State, 97-89 (OT)
W at Texas Tech, 60-46
Mon vs. Baylor
Sat at Texas
Kansas State 2 0 W at West Virginia, 65-64 Wed at TCU
Sat vs. Oklahoma
Oklahoma 2 0 W vs. Oklahoma State, 77-68 Wed vs. Texas Tech
Sat at Kansas State
Iowa State 1 1 L at Kansas, 97-89 (OT)
W vs. Texas, 82-62
Wed vs. West Virginia
Sat at TCU
Oklahoma State 1 2 W vs. TCU, 63-45
L at Oklahoma, 77-68
Sat vs. Texas Tech
Texas Tech 1 2 L vs. Baylor, 82-48
L vs. Kansas, 60-46
Wed at Oklahoma
Sat at Oklahoma State
West Virginia 1 2 W at Texas, 57-53 (OT)
L vs. Kansas State, 65-64
Wed at Iowa State
Sat at Purdue
TCU 0 3 L at Oklahoma State, 63-45
L at Baylor, 51-40
Wed vs. Kansas State
Sat vs. Iowa State
Texas 0 3 L vs. West Virginia, 57-53 (OT)
L at Iowa State, 82-62
Sat vs. Kansas

The big picture

Baylor and Kansas both got out to slow starts against league doormats TCU and Texas Tech on Saturday afternoon, with the Bears trailing the Horned Frogs by one at the break and the Jayhawks holding just a two-point lead heading to the locker room in Lubbock. Both teams woke up in the second twenty minutes, however, and cruised to victories in advance of their showdown tonight. As expected, both teams are undefeated as Allen Fieldhouse hosts the first Big Monday match-up of the Big 12 season. Most league observers figured that only Baylor had a shot to compete with the Jayhawks at the top of the standings, and this long-awaited battle is the first opportunity to see if the Bears can provide much of a threat.

Kansas State and Oklahoma also remained undefeated on Saturday, picking up their second league wins against West Virginia and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats won by the narrowest of margins, thanks to late-game heroics by Shane Southwell and poor free-throw shooting by the Mountaineers. The Sooners had four different starters score in double figures as they won the first round of the Bedlam series. Foul trouble limited Marcus Smart to just 27 minutes for the Cowboys, who are now 1-20 in their last 21 conference road games.

In Ames, Iowa State bounced back quickly from a stunning overtime loss to Kansas by pulling away in the second half for an easy 20-point win over Texas. The Cyclones knocked down more than 42% of their three-point attempts and held Texas to just four points in the last 7:20 of the game. Iowa State now gets to give West Virginia its first taste of Hilton Magic before traveling to Fort Worth and Lubbock for very winnable road games. If the Cyclones can take care of business against the Mountaineers, the team picked eighth in the Big 12 preseason poll should easily be 4-1 heading into a home date with Kansas State on January 26th.

Mid-week games

Baylor at Kansas; Monday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN)

The Kansas Jayhawks have won 100 out of their last 101 games at Allen Fieldhouse, with the lone loss coming to Texas in January of 2011. Before that, the Texas A&M Aggies were the last visiting team to escape the Phog with a victory, all the way back in February of 2007. While history holds that Baylor doesn’t stand much of a chance to win at Kansas tonight, they at least have geography on their side, as the state of Texas is the only one that has found even a modicum of success in Lawrence over the last half-decade.

The Bears also have Isaiah Austin on their side, a 7-foot, 1-inch freshman who is going to make tonight’s match-up very interesting. Iowa State managed to limit the effectiveness of defensive stopper Jeff Withey on Wednesday by using Georges Niang to stretch the floor and draw KU’s big man out of the paint. On Saturday, Texas Tech tried to neutralize Withey on the offensive end, doubling him and forcing Kevin Young to step up. It took a half of basketball, but Young found his stride and poured in 14 to lead all scorers and propel Kansas to their 13th-consecutive win.

Austin provides an interesting match-up, because he brings the floor stretching ability of Niang and the driving ability of a small forward. Taking Withey out of the lane makes it harder for the KU guards to apply their usual ball pressure, perhaps opening things up for Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip. Defensively, Austin can battle Withey one-on-one and allow Cory Jefferson to handle Young and the frontcourt reserves.

With the home crowd behind them and Bill Self making adjustments from the bench, it’s hard to pick against the Jayhawks. But, if anybody in the Big 12 has a good shot to end Kansas’ home dominance this season, it’s these Baylor Bears.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma; Wednesday, 7 P.M. CT (Big 12 Network/ESPN Full Court)

Oklahoma earned an impressive victory at home over in-state rival Oklahoma State on Saturday, keeping the Sooners just a half game behind Baylor in the standings. Wednesday’s game against Texas Tech shouldn’t provide too much of a threat for OU, which could set up another battle of undefeateds on Saturday, when the Sooners travel to Bramlage Coliseum to take on K-State. Romery Osby has led the way in Oklahoma’s first two conference games, averaging 19 points and six rebounds.

Kansas State at TCU; Wednesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPNU)

Stats guru Ken Pomeroy gives TCU a 17.8% chance of going winless through league play, and it’s unlikely they will avoid that distinction by snagging a win over K-State on Wednesday night. Per Pomeroy, the Horned Frogs have a 12% chance to knock off the Wildcats, who are really clicking under first-year head coach Bruce Weber. With the Wildcats limiting opponents to an adjusted 0.889 points per possession and TCU scoring only 0.869 each time down the court, the final score could resemble those of the peach-basket era.

In an early-season loss to Northwestern, TCU scored just 31 points, with only 14 of them coming in the first half. If you’re into torture movies like Saw and Hostel or enjoy painfully-awkward Ricky Gervais sitcoms, watching this game could be the perfect way to spend your Wednesday night.

West Virginia at Iowa State; Wednesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

The battle of wills continues between point guard Juwan Staten and coach Bob Huggins in Morgantown. Staten did not play in the second half or overtime of WVU’s win at Texas, and after the game, Huggins told reporters, “It’s my team. It’s not his. We talk about being on the same page…well, I wrote the book.”

On Twitter, Staten appeared to have received the message loud and clear. “Moral of the story: Listen to the man that makes the decisions. I understand and I’m smart enough to make the adjustment.” Staten’s adjustment must not have been enough for the head coach, however, as the Dayton transfer did not play against Kansas State on Saturday. Coach Huggins has confirmed that the point guard will travel to Ames, but has not decided if he will play on Wednesday night.

That power struggle will only make it more difficult for the Mountaineers to pull off a big road win. The Cyclones have looked like one of the league’s best teams in its first two conference games, and they have won 22 out of their last 23 at Hilton Coliseum. The Mountaineers finally appeared to be playing the Huggins brand of basketball on Saturday, but it’s still tough to imagine they can steal a win against a highly-efficient Cyclone squad.

1.08.13
Posted by Ryan Clark at 3:17PM
TEAM W L LAST WEEK THIS WEEK
Baylor 1 0 W vs. UT, 86-79 (OT) Tue at TTU; Sat vs. TCU
Kansas State 1 0 W vs. S Dakota, 70-50; W vs. OSU, 73-67 Sat at WVU
Oklahoma 1 0 W vs. TAMU-CC, 72-42; W at WVU, 67-57 Sat vs. OSU
Texas Tech 1 0 W vs. FL A&M, 70-56; W at TCU, 62-53 Tue vs. BU; Sat vs. KU
Iowa State 0 0 W vs. Yale, 80-70 Wed at KU; Sat vs. UT
Kansas 0 0 W vs. Temple, 69-62 Wed vs. ISU; Sat at TTU
Oklahoma State 0 1 L vs. Gonzaga 69-68, L at KSU, 73-67 Wed vs. TCU; Sat at OU
TCU 0 1 W vs. MVSU, 67-64; L vs. TTU, 62-53 Wed at OSU; Sat at BU
Texas 0 1 L at BU, 86-79 (OT) Wed vs. WVU; Sat at ISU
West Virginia 0 1 W vs. Eastern KY, 74-67; L vs. OU, 67-57 Wed at UT; Sat vs. KSU

The big picture

In October, the Big 12 coaches unanimously selected Kansas as their preseason favorite in the league. Baylor earned one first-place vote, which came from Bill Self, who could not vote for his own team to win the crown. But even with such a clear-cut frontrunner in the league, the coaches predicted a contentious battle in slots two through five, with the Bears, Cowboys, Longhorns, and Wildcats all within nine points of each other in the poll.

Without Myck Kabongo, Texas has failed to live up to those expectations. The Bears also disappointed, but to a much lesser degree. Inconsistent play and shaky defense caused Baylor to drop home games to both the College of Charleston and Northwestern, overshadowing impressive efforts in the hostile road gyms of Kentucky and Gonzaga.

The Cowboys had question marks coming into the season, mostly surrounding their head coach. Travis Ford had earned high expectations in the past, but had failed to live up to them since arriving in Stillwater. A broken wrist sidelined Brian Williams in the preseason, while a season-ending knee injury once again took Jéan-Paul Olukemi out of commission for the year. Oklahoma State is currently on a two-game losing streak, but looked dominant in winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and still boasts one of the most talented rosters in the league.

Kansas State has lived up to its buzz as an upper-tier team in the Big 12, and has shown some flashes that might mean the team can give their in-state rivals some trouble this season. With most of Frank Martin‘s old team back under new coach Bruce Webber, the Wildcats have their old coach’s toughness meshing with the new guy’s offensive influence.

KSU was whipped in meetings with Top 10 foes Michigan and Gonzaga, but took care of a very good Florida team in a game at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. In the conference opener, an unbelievable 26-point second-half from Rodney McGruder carried the Wildcats to a statement win over Oklahoma State. We might not really know how good this KSU team is until the first Sunflower Showdown on January 22nd, but early indications are that the Wildcats should make some noise in the Big 12.

The surprise teams from the bottom half of the poll have been the Oklahoma Sooners and Iowa State Cyclones, who are both 10-3 on the year. Lon Kruger has his rebuilding project ahead of schedule in only his second season, but the Sooners have yet to prove themselves against a quality opponent. A home loss to Stephen F. Austin raises eyebrows, while narrow wins against Northwestern State and at UT-Arlington are also cause for concern.

Iowa State’s schedule also leaves room for doubt. The Cyclones have fattened up the win column against a bunch of terrible teams, while losing three of their four tough games. It should be noted that the losses to Cincinnati, UNLV, and Iowa all came away from the friendly confines of Hilton Coliseum, but it’s still clear that this team has to prove it belongs in the second tier of the Big 12. Simply defending home court won’t be enough to push Iowa State towards the top of the standings.

Mid-week games

Baylor at Texas Tech; Tuesday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

The first full week of Big 12 play kicks off with this battle for first place. Yes, friends, you read that correctly. Texas Tech is at the top of the standings thanks to a conveniently-scheduled opening game against fellow doormat TCU. As a result, the Red Raiders are above .500 in league play for the first time since March of 2007 and are tied for first until at least 7:45 tonight.

Baylor was taken to overtime by Texas on Saturday, but should be able to regroup this week. If they take care of business in Lubbock tonight, the Bears can move to 3-0 with a home win over a very bad TCU team on Saturday. That would set up a true battle for first place, as Baylor opens up Big Monday with a January 14th visit to the Jayhwaks at Allen Fieldhouse.

Iowa State at Kansas; Wednesday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPNU)

Kansas has looked downright dominant this season, losing only a very competitive game to Michigan State in the Champions Classic way back on November 13th. They destroyed Saint Louis at the Sprint Center, crushed a very good Colorado team at home, and stormed into Ohio State’s Value City Arena to beat the Buckeyes for a third time in the last 13 months. The Jayhawks can score inside and out, have an intimidating defensive presence in senior Jeff Withey, and have their eyes on a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

So, we may have to wait a little while to answer those questions we have about Iowa State. If the Cyclones can march into Allen Fieldhouse and actually pull off a win, those doubts will be laid to rest immediately. But, if Fred Hoiberg‘s bunch loses by 10 to 15 points in a game that’s never in doubt, we probably still won’t know what to make of the ‘Clones. Saturday’s game against a similarly enigmatic Texas squad might not provide much clarity, either.

TCU at Oklahoma State; Wednesday, 7 P.M. CT (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)

The Horned Frogs squandered their best chance at an early league victory when they dropped Saturday’s home game to Texas Tech. This week, the league’s newcomers have to travel to Gallagher-Iba Arena and then to Waco, a pair of games that would be tough for any squad, much less one expected to finish at the bottom of the table.

The Horned Frogs are without starting center Aaron Durley and last year’s leading scorer Amric Fields, and they won’t have starting forward Jarvis Ray back from a broken foot until sometime next month. With so many missing pieces, TCU’s adjusted offensive efficiency is currently ranked 313th according to Ken Pomeroy. Facing the nation’s 12th-most efficient defense in Oklahoma State could have the Horned Frogs challenging records for offensive futility.

West Virginia at Texas; Wednesday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN2)

LRT’s preview of the West Virginia/Texas game will be available on Wednesday.

2.06.12
Posted by Ryan Clark at 11:20AM
TEAM W L LAST WEEK THIS WEEK
Missouri 8 2 W at UT, 67-66; W vs. KU, 74-71 Mon at OU; Sat vs. BU
Kansas 8 2 W vs. OU, 84-62; L at Miz, 74-71 Wed at BU; Sat vs. OSU
Baylor 8 2 W at A&M, 63-60; W at OSU, 64-60 Wed vs. KU; Sat at Miz
Iowa State 7 3 W vs. KSU, 72-70; W at OU, 77-70 Tue at OSU; Sat vs. A&M
Kansas State 5 5 L at ISU, 72-70; W vs. A&M, 64-53 Tue vs. Tech; Sat at UT
Texas 4 6 L vs. Miz, 67-66; W vs. Tech, 75-57 Mon at A&M; Sat vs. KSU
Oklahoma State 4 6 W at Tech, 80-63; L vs. BU, 64-60 Tue vs. ISU; Sat at KU
Texas A&M 3 7 L vs. BU, 63-60; L at KSU, 64-53 Mon vs. UT; Sat at ISU
Oklahoma 3 7 L at KU, 84-62; L vs. ISU, 77-70 Mon vs. Miz; Sat at Tech
Texas Tech 0 10 L vs. OSU, 80-63; L at UT, 74-57 Tue at KSU; Sat vs. OU

The big picture

The Iowa State Cyclones continued to keep themselves in the running for an improbable conference title, taking care of Kansas State at home before knocking off OU on the road. The home victory against Kansas State came after the ‘Clones had trailed by as much as 14 early in the second half. Royce White hit the game-winner at the last second after pump-faking Rodney McGruder out of his shoes, giving the sophomore the most important two points of his 22 that night. Saturday’s win was equally impressive, as Iowa State used a barrage of threes to make up for the fact that White only took — and made — one shot. Now just one game out of first place, the Cyclones have to avoid stumbling on the road against lesser foes if they want to keep their hopes of a miracle title intact.

One team that Iowa State could catch over the next week is Baylor. The Bears have a tough week ahead, as they host Kansas on Wednesday before traveling to Missouri on Saturday. Those two teams are the only ones to have knocked off Baylor so far this season, and the Bears looked rather vulnerable over the last week. As has been the case all season, Baylor made things interesting against both A&M and Oklahoma State, but emerged victorious in both road tests. The Bears defeated the Aggies and Cowboys by a combined seven points, pushing their record in two-possession games to 7-1 on the year.

At the bottom of the standings, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech all went 0-for-2 on the week, increasing the odds that they will all be playing on the first day of the Big 12 Championship. The Red Raiders are now eight games away from the dreaded 0-for-conference mark, something that hasn’t happened in the Big 12 since Melvin Watkins and the Aggies went 0-16 in the 2003-04 season, followed by a first-round exit in the conference tournament. Tech still has home games remaining against both A&M and Oklahoma, which provide the team’s best chances to avoid history. “Best” is a relative term in this case, as Ken Pomeroy still only gives the Red Raiders less than a 30% chance to win each game.

Mid-week games

Missouri at Oklahoma; Monday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPNU)
The Tigers are coming off of an emotionally-charged victory over hated rival Kansas on Saturday, and have another big home game against Baylor coming up this Saturday. If there were ever a game that Missouri might get caught overlooking, this would be it. Unfortunately, Lon Kruger and the Sooners are far too good for anyone to take a night off when facing them. Oklahoma hung tough with Kansas in the first half of both of their meetings this season, and kept things close with Baylor until late in the game. If the Tigers aren’t ready from the opening tip, they could go 0-2 in their visits to the state of Oklahoma this season.

Fortunately for Missouri, star Marcus Denmon seems to have broken out of his slump. After shooting 11-for-43 (25.6%) from the field against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas, the senior guard carried the Tigers to victory in the final minutes against Kansas. Denmon shot 62.5% from the floor en route to a 29-point performance, his second-best scoring output of the season, eclipsed only by a 31-point game in an early December win over Northwestern State.

Texas at Texas A&M; Monday, 8 P.M. CT (ESPN)
The LRT preview of the Texas/Texas A&M game will be available later today.

Iowa State at Oklahoma State; Tuesday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPN2)
The Cyclones of Transfer U, led by Fred Hoiberg, have made quite an impression in Big 12 play. After early-season losses to Drake and Northern Iowa, the Cyclones seemed destined for another season near the cellar of the conference. Instead, all of the new faces in the red and gold have finally gelled, and Iowa State is now firmly situated on the right side of the bubble discussion. Iowa State is 4-1 at home in conference play, with their only road losses coming against Texas and Kansas. If the Cyclones can continue to take care of business on the road in games like this one, their home-court advantage will keep them right in the mix with the Jayhawks, Bears, and Tigers at the top of the standings.

Of course, the Cowboys have looked quite intimidating at home lately. The Pokes notched a big upset over Missouri nearly two weeks ago, and had Baylor in danger on Saturday. The emergence of Markel Brown coupled with Le’Bryan Nash finally living up to the hype has made Oklahoma State a scary team to face, even with their depth concerns. The Cyclones aren’t built to take advantage of OSU’s thin frontcourt, so this one will likely be a dogfight until the final buzzer. Brown and Nash have combined to average 32.8 points over the team’s last four games. If they can keep up that kind of output down the stretch, OSU is going to be a tough out in every single game.

Texas Tech at Kansas State; Tuesday, 7 P.M. CT (ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com)
Texas Tech could not have come to town at a better time for Frank Martin and the Wildcats. K-State has dropped two of its last three games, with road trips to Texas, Baylor, and Missouri coming over the next two weeks, sandwiched around a home date against Kansas. The Wildcats have slipped from the top four in the league standings to sole possession of fifth, two games behind the Cyclones and just one ahead of the Longhorns and Cowboys. Kansas State has a strong profile to make its case for the NCAAs, but a dive-bomb over the final few weeks of the season could make things dicey. A dominating win on Tuesday night against an overmatched Texas Tech squad should do wonders for rebuilding the confidence of the KSU players before they face a very tough stretch of the schedule.

Kansas at Baylor; Wednesday, 6 P.M. CT (ESPN)
The first of two huge games for Baylor and the Big 12 comes on Wednesday night at the Ferrell Center in Waco. Last year, these two teams met with just as much fanfare in a Big Monday showdown in Waco. Kansas quickly put any questions of league supremacy to rest with an 85-65 blowout win, perhaps the turning point in a season that quickly went downhill for Baylor.

This year, the situation was similar, although the location had changed. Baylor came into Allen Fieldhouse on MLK Day with an unblemished record and a gaudy national ranking. The first half of the game was what everyone had hoped for, but an incredible performance by Tyshawn Taylor fueled the rowdy home crowd and propelled the Jayhawks to an 18-point victory. The Bears have been tested by many of the league’s middle-tier and lower-tier teams. The real question is whether Baylor plays to the level of its competition, or if this supremely talented bunch just lacks a killer instinct to put games away. Against a team like Kansas, the Bears have to hope it’s the former.

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