With their 85-77 victory over Kansas last Saturday, Oklahoma State accomplished a number of things. They ended KU's chance at an undefeated Big 12 season. They ended any more discussions involving themselves and this allusive "bubble." And they almost shook up the top spots of G's power rankings for the first time all year.
But this is Big 12 basketball, not hand grenades. KU's 13-1 conference record still good for tops.
Be sure to check next Monday for my Power Rankings: Big 12 Tournament Edition
1. Kansas Jayhawks (27-2, 13-1) LW: 1
Despite their loss Saturday, the Jayhawks still clinched at least a share of the regular season Big 12 Crown last Monday with their victory over Oklahoma. KU remains safe at number one. For now.
KU must follow their loss at Oklahoma State with two rivalry-riddled games this week. The Jayhawks end conference play this week by hosting Kansas State on Wednesday before traveling to arch nemesis Missouri on Saturday.
Before Kansas starts that gauntlet this week, they must correct a few errors in order to avoid a pre-tournament slide. In both of their losses this year (Jan. 10 at Tennessee, Saturday at OSU), KU averaged 10 assists per game. While this is a modest number, its a far cry below their season average of 17.3. When KU fails to effectively dish out assists, too much one-on-one is going on and their offensive depth can not be fully utilized.
In addition, in both those losses senior guard Sherron Collins averaged five turnovers a game. This is more than double his 2.2 season average. When their top guard turning the ball over is coupled with decreased assists, that equals offensive ineptitude for KU, translating to Ls.
2. Kansas State Wildcats (24-4, 11-3) LW: 2
The Wildcats won both games last week fairly decisively, beating Texas Tech in Lubbock 83-64 and Missouri in Manhattan, 63-53.
Since dropping their conference opener at Missouri, K-State has ripped off six straight conference road wins by an average of almost 11 points. The Wildcats thrive on a business-like mentality on the road . This mindset has translated into higher shooting percentages away from Bramlage Coliseum.
K-State’s road successes bode well for them heading into March. They travel to KU on Wednesday (the ultimate road test) before ending at home against Iowa State. In a conference in where domination at home is standard, K-State proves to be the exception. A team this talented that can play equally, if not better, on the road looks poised to make a deep tournament run come mid-March.
3. Baylor Bears (22-6, 9-5) LW: 6
Baylor's solid week landed them in their highest ever position on G's power rankings. They beat A&M by four at home before giving Oklahoma only their third home loss this year with a 70-63 victory.
LaceDarrius Dunn had 23 points, including two clutch threes in 33 seconds, for Baylor in defeating A&M. Both three's came after an A&M three point bucket. The junior has scored double figures in all but one Big 12 conference game this year.
In a game that failed to see Baylor's two other double figure point scorers (Ekpe Udoh and Tweety Carter) combine for 13 points, Baylor showed their potential for a deep tournament run. Their well rounded and deep approach can carry the Bears in the NCAA just like it did against the Aggies. Jeff Lomers had 10 points while Quincey Acey also added nine to insure the victory.
Aside from its deep, talented roster, the Bears possess the ultra valuable tie breaker in a conference featuring three teams at 9-5 and two at 8-6. Despite the log jam after one and two, if the bears win out their remaining games they will enjoy the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament.
4. Texas A&M (20-8, 9-5) LW: 3
The Aggies split week ended on a high note, taking down in-state rival Texas last Saturday. A&M avenged a Jan. 16 OT loss with a convincing 74-58 win.
Although Donald Sloan poured in 22, this could not compensate for three other starters combining for 10 points. This reliance on Sloan may prove increasingly dangerous as Coach Mark Turgeon revealed yesterday guard BJ Holmes (9.1 ppg) would utilize a walking boot after spraining his right foot versus Texas.
With Derrick Roland already on the bench for the year, it will be up to sophomore Dash Harris (4.9 ppg, 26.5 mins) to shoulder the extra load of Holmes. Matched up with guard heavy and hot Oklahoma State tomorrow, and this injury looks to come at a critical time for the Aggies.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys (20-8, 8-6) LW: 5
Cowboy up, baby. The 'Boyz from Stillwater have become G's favorite and ultimate sleeper team in the Big 12. Since losing starting point guard Jan. 23 with a season ending injury, the Cowboys are 6-4, including two losses to Texas and one to Missouri (who was coming off its first home loss since 07-08).
In that time span, James "Stoplight" Anderson has gone off for 23 ppg, including 27 in last Saturday's victory over KU (and clincher for Big 12's POTY).
In wins over Baylor and KU, junior forward Matt Pilgrim averaged 14 points and eight rebounds (8.1 ppg/6.8 rpg). In those same games, sophomore guard Keiton Page averaged 16.5 pph while shooting 75 percent from three point land (10.8, 38 percent on the year).
With Anderson staking his claim for POTY and his cast coming up in crucial situations, the Cowboys look poised to make a deep conference tourney run. Different from a week ago, this will only lead to discussions of seeding instead of birthing.
6. Missouri Tigers (21-8, 9-5) LW: 4
Their 92-63 victory over Colorado last Wednesday saw them lose junior swing forward Justin Safford for the year with a torn ACL. Despite the Tigers' depth and run-and-sub style of play, Safford (6'8'', 230 lbs.) provided the Tigers with a versatile set of size and skill that Coach Mike Anderson will have to account for with a number of options.
Safford's most likely recipient of minutes, sophomore center Steve Moore, impressed Saturday night at K-State. Big Mo' played 19 minutes (his highest total besides Colorado a few days earlier) and while didn't score, collected three rebounds and blocked five Wildcats' shots.
This is exactly what the Tigers need from Moore. His prototypical big man, back to the basket approach, does not really fit into CMA's style of offense. But his big body and intimidating presence down low fills a much needed void for the Tigers.
However, with their loss Saturday, MU is 3-6 on the road this year without a quality win (lost at KU, KSU, Old Dominion, Baylor). Safford's injury, coupled with shaky road play, has at least one fan in Columbia worried about tournament time.
7. Texas Longhorns (22-7, 9-5) LW:
The Longhorns continue to be victims of their own advantages. Their insanely talented roster can not seem to bring it every night. But is that a player, or coach's, fault?
An article in the most recent ESPN The Magazine by Elena Bergeron detailed Texas's woes this year. It pointed heavily to the fact of so many different starting lineups and different people receiving minutes for their, at times, underachieving this year.
In the article, Dexter Pittman expressed confusion over seeing J'Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton flip flop time on the wing because of their different styles.
"I really wish one of them (Brown or Hamilton) would always start on the wing, because that would help me with spacing," said Pittman in the article.
Could this explain Big Dex's disappearing act for most of the year? Is Texas's depth an asset heading into March that will carry them deep, or a liability that Coach Rick Barnes needs to figure out before they drown in their own talent?
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