Colorado Guard Alec Burks
Last night I started a post Power Ranking the Big XII, telling you who the best teams were, and who was going to win the conference. However, I got tired, I didn't finish it, and it was the best decision of my life. I would have absolutely butchered it going into the opening weekend of conference play. So here is a break down of the last, first weekend of the Big XII as we know it.
Eleven of the Twelve Big XII teams were active today, with the exception of the Kansas Jayhawks. Texas, however, did not play a Big XII opponent as they went up against the 9th-ranked Connecticut Huskies. The Huskies outlasted the Longhorns in overtime, winning 82-81 on a HUGE shot by Kemba Walker.
The Longhorns looked impressive in the first half, taking a five-point lead into the half, but in the second half learned that they had some serious issues closing. The Longhorns missed two shots, with the chance to go ahead at the end of regulation and a shot to win the game as overtime expired.
The Longhorns held Walker to just eight-of-27 shooting, and while doing that, they proved they'll be a matchup nightmare for some Big XII teams. Rick Barnes has a solid squad in Austin this year, and they'll definitely be near the top of the Big XII when the season ends.
The Missouri Tigers, ranked eighth in the nation, traveled to Boulder to take on a Colorado team expected to finish near the bottom half of the Big XII. The Tigers however were unable to contain Buff's guard Alec Burks as he exploded for 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting. While I didn't get to see the game, it seems as if Colorado has a team that stacks up perfectly against Missouri. The Buffs have two great guards, Burk and Senior Cory Higgins, who handle Mizzou's "40 Minutes of Hell" perfectly, limiting Colorado's turnover count to just 10 (Mizzou averages 10 STEALS per game).
Don't get too down on Mizzou, though; they have a solid defense and play at a speedy pace, scoring over 86 points per game. Missouri will be in contention for a top spot in the Big XII, and if Colorado plays like they did today, they, too, are capable of beating anybody.
Iowa State played Nebraska in Lincoln today, and based off of the score, it was a great game. Iowa State recovered from a 10 point halftime deficit, giving themselves a chance to win in the game's waning seconds. However, Nebraska came up with a big steal, got fouled on a layup, and senior guard Lance Jeter made the second of two free throws to give the Cornhuskers the victory 63-62.
Quite frankly, I'm not sure what this game showed us, as both of these Big XII North teams are very mysterious. Both of these teams have played a fairly weak schedule and padded their win column by doing so. While there isn't much to be drawn for this game, we do know that these two are very evenly matched.
Texas A&M kicked off conference play in Norman, beating the doormat of the Big XII South (Oklahoma) by 18 points. This game was really never close, and it reaffirmed the thought that the Oklahoma is going to struggle to compete in this tough conference. The Aggies, on the other hand, are looking like a very good basketball team, who surprisingly have a very good chance to compete for the Big XII championship.
Texas A&M is giving up 66 points per game, which includes only .86 points per possession. While they are somewhat challenged on the offensive end, the Aggies have proved they can win regardless, having already beat Temple and Washington. Don't expect these Aggies to get blown out of many games this season.
Texas Tech lost their opening Big XII game as the Baylor Bears came into town and kicked off their conference season the right way. Baylor jumped on the Red Raiders early and led for a large portion of the game by eight to 10 points. Tech made a game of it, though, momentarily taking the lead in what became a back-and-forth contest. However, LaceDarius Dunn led the Bears on a 15-0 run with just under five minutes remaining in the contest to put the game on ice.
Texas Tech proved they are a team that can compete in the Big XII, making a run to stay in this game. The Red Raiders shot just 35 percent from the field, and as much blame should be put on their shot making as is put on Baylor's defense. Tech had uncontested shot after uncontested shot and did a great job of finding the holes in the Baylor zone, but just couldn't put the ball in the ocean.
Baylor, on the other hand, did a great job of involving Perry Jones III (their star freshman) early in the game, as he scored the first six points on his way to a 20 point performance. Dunn will always be a force for the Bears, but their conference fate will lie largely on how Perry Jones and Anthony Jones score the ball, and how sophomore point guard A.J. Walton runs the show.
While based purely off of rankings, it looks as if Oklahoma States victory over Frank Martin and his Kansas States Wildcats was an upset, it actually wasn't. The Cowboys were a 1.5 point favorite, which actually makes sense, not only because the Wildcats are missing senior forward Curtis Kelly due to suspension, but also because historic Gallagher Iba arena is a very difficult place to play. Oklahoma State won the game 76-62, but the game was much closer than the score indicated.
With just over 10 minutes to play, the Cowboys defense turned it up a notch, not allowing a made field goal for nearly eight minutes. That defensive stretched allowed the Cowboys to turn an eight-point deficit into a 12 point lead that they would never relinquish.
The Wildcats are sorely missing Dennis Clemente, who took a lot of the ball-handling duties off of Jacob Pullen, freeing him up to score the basketball. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, rebounded nicely after losing to Gonzaga by 21 points just nine days ago, the Cowboys showed that they will be a competitive middle of the pack Big XII team, capable of knocking off anyone if the timing is right.
After a wild and crazy opening day of conference play in the Big XII, we really have no better idea of who is a contender than we did when the day started. The Big XII only has one sensational team this year (Kansas), but is 11 teams deep. So beware, fans, your team is never truly safe in conference play.