(Once again, day late. My apologies. Work on examiner.com, realsportsnet.com and, oh ya school prevented publishing last night. Is it spring break yet?)
With a dominating week, KU positioned itself to clinch its 10th Big 12 Regular Season title with a win tonight versus Oklahoma.
The rest of the conference featured streaky play once again from Baylor, Oklahoma State continuing their NCAA tournament run, and Iowa State being more annoying than that kid in class who talks because he likes the sound of his own voice.
Read on, followers of the Sports Schneez!!
1. Kansas Jayhawks (26-1, 12-0) LW: 1
Although their game against Texas A&M last Monday wasn't the flashiest of wins, it was a game that reminded you of a late tournament game. It had to be encouraging, for KU fans at least, to see their team scrape out a win against the red-hot Aggies.
KU overcame a 1-10 mark from behind the arc and allowing 18 offensive rebounds to A&M with sound, fundamental, and, as much as this pains me to write, also known as Kansas basketball.
The last four minutes saw Kansas go 5-8 from the free throw line while turning it over only once and missing only one shot from the field. In comparison, A&M missed seven shots, didn't make it to the free throw line and turned the ball over twice.
With a win tonight against Oklahoma, Kansas can not only claim their 10th conference title, but their 53rd since they affiliated themselves with any conference, dating back to their first, a 1908 Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship.
2. Kansas State Wildcats (22-4, 9-3) LW: 2
After squeaking by Nebraska 91-87 early in the week, K-State maintained its image of road warrior with an 83-68 victory at Oklahoma. Senior Dennis Clemente scored 27 on 11-18 shooting.
With that win in Norman, the Wildcats are now 7-1 on the road in the Big 12 including five straight wins. This bodes well for many reasons.
First, in their argument for a number two seed in the NCAA, a road record like that in the rugged Big 12 (Big 12 teams were 106-1 at home before conference play began) speaks volumes.
Second, it gives the Wildcats that special "it" feeling heading into tournament play. Sure, the Wildcats are talented. But plenty of talented teams do not win on the road, more or less in conference (see Texas, Wake Forest).
K-State's blend of talent, leadership and experience make them a dangerous draw come March.
Such is the opinion of Texas Tech head coach Pat Knight . With the intensity of coach Frank Martin and the leadership of seniors Clemente and Louis Colon, it's hard to disagree with the head Red Raider.
3. Texas A&M Aggies (19-7, 8-4) LW: 3
Couldn't drop the Aggies despite a 1-1 week that saw them give Kansas a tooth and nail game in College Station. A&M followed this close loss with a close victory of their own, a 60-56 victory at Iowa State.
After Donald Sloan produced all season, the forwards of A&M are starting to pick up the slack. Since their last loss at Oklahoma State on January 27th, Bryan Davis and David Loubeau combined to average 23.4 points and 17 rebounds a game. These two will have to maintain that production to stay put in the top three of the Big 12 as Texas A&M has one of the more challenging finishes to conference play.
They are at Baylor this week before hosting Texas. Next week they host Oklahoma State before wrapping up conference play at Oklahoma.
4. Missouri Tigers (20-7, 8-4) LW: 6
The Tigers enjoyed their first "power rankings sweep" (Wednesday and Saturday wins) since the first week of the season with a win versus Texas, 82-77, and a win at Nebraska, 74-59.
These two games have been a welcome shift for Tiger fans from the recent play of Missouri. The rebounding woes of the Tigers are no small secret this year. Stats could tell the story, but if you want those read any of my previous articles.
Sure, the Longhorns out-rebounded the Tigers by seven (Texas is 11th in the nation with a +7.2 rebounding margin) last Wednesday, but the Tigers showed fight. They showed they wanted to rebound. Guards did not sit idly by the three point arc, waiting for a forward to snare a board.
Guards JT Tiller, Zaire Taylor, Michael Dixon, and Kim English combined for 14 rebounds that night. Countless others were tipped or dislodged by the pesky Missouri guards.
Speaking of the guards, they finally seem to start understanding the difference between looking for a shot and finding one. Saturday in Lincoln, Missouri shot 58 percent from three. What's better?
Justin Safford and Laurence Bowers did not attempt a single three ball. While the forwards aren't terrible at shooting it (13-30, 10-20 respectively), the 6'8'' Safford and 6'9'' Bowers could do much more for Missouri underneath, like grab a rebound.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys (19-7, 7-5) LW: 7
Winners of their last three, the Cowboys have fans in Stillwater thinking NCAA tournament birth again. With wins at Iowa State and versus Baylor this week, Oklahoma State positioned itself for a run at an at-large bid.
Despite losing starting point guard Ray Penn for the remainder of the season, Oklahoma State has been able to climb into the top 30 of college RPI's latest rankings. To illustrate, this is better than conference foe Missouri and other seemingly tournament "locks" Ohio State and Clemson and only one back of Michigan State.
That RPI should continue to increase as the Baylor game marked the first of a four game stretch versus ranked opponents.
In being named co-Big 12 POTW, James Anderson averaged 25.5 points, 10 rebounds, and 57 marriage proposals this past week for the Cowboys.
6. Baylor Bears (20-6, 7-5) LW: 4
Yellowbook.com lists only one amusement park in the Waco, Texas area. Apparently, the Bears have taken it upon themselves to compensate for this.
They have provided thrill seekers in Waco with a season-long roller coaster that continued its up and down nature this week with a win versus Texas Tech before losing at Okalahoma State.
They ran into an Oklahoma State team who shot the ball extremely well while hanging with Baylor on the boards.
7. Texas Longhorns (21-6, 7-5) LW: 5
Texas didn't exactly parlay their 91-51 beatdown of Nebraska last week into momentum this week. They lost 82-77 at Missouri before getting by Texas Tech 71-67.
In many instances in the Missouri game, the Longhorns were within striking distance. Unfortunately, those times found Texas at the foul line in momentum-shifting situations. Texas responded by 52.6 percent from the charity stripe. Close games, tournament games, need clutch free throws to be won....
The Longhorns came back to beat Texas Tech Saturday, but lost starting guard Dogus Balbay for the year with a torn ACL. Couple that with the virtual disappearance of starting senior Dexter Pittman from the lineup (15.5 minutes over the last six games) and the Longhorns suddenly are scrambling for experience.
Despite flashes of brillance this year, fans in Austin may be hesitant to put so much stock in freshmen Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton, and J'Covan Brown to carry the Longhorns deep in March.
8. Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-10, 4-8) LW: 8
In their only action last week, Texas Tech lost at home 71-67 to Texas. John Roberson managed only two points (14.7 average) while Mike Singletary was pushed all forty minutes to tally 12.
The Red Raiders face Kansas State, Nebraska, Baylor and Colorado in their final push for a higher Big 12 tournament seed.
9. Colorado Buffaloes (12-14, 3-9) LW: 11
The Buffaloes earned their first win since January 27th when they beat Oklahoma 77-67 last Wednesday. Cory Higgins scored 14 of his 18 points to help Colorado build off a three point halftime lead.
Alec Burks currently leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage with a 52 percent success rate from the field. They then traveled to Allen Fieldhouse to give KU students an excuse to drink on a Saturday afternoon in mid-winter.
However, there's just not enough Higgins and Burks to go around. Of the six players that average 20+ minutes for the Buffs, only three (Higgins and Burks included) average double figure points.
10. Iowa State Cyclones (13-14, 2-10) LW: 9
Although losers of six straight, the Cyclones have lost two of those games by four, one by five, and one by nine. Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M were the opponents in these single digit affairs.
Not bad for a team that has three players averaging 30+ minutes.
11. Oklahoma Sooners (13-14, 4-9) LW: 10
The absence of Willie Warren continues to have the Sooners scrambling. The centerpiece of the team, and a potential lottery pick had he left with Blake Griffin, has been sidelined with mono for the past two weeks and his return to action this year is questionable.
In their last eight games, Warren has seen action in half of them and averaged 11 points in 27 minutes.
Oklahoma simply is not talented enough to have their go-to-guy be a gametime decision. To illustrate, in those four games Warren has played in, OU is 1-3 with a 4.75 average margin of defeat. When he's on the bench, OU is 1-3 with an average margin of defeat of 11.
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-14, 1-11) LW: 12
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