The seventh week of Big 12 basketball action saw Baylor get a gift from ESPN, Oklahoma State honor its former coach and players and Texas coach Shaka Smart flirt with turning up the heat on his coaching seat. Here is this week’s Good, Bad and Ugly for Big 12 men’s basketball.
ESPN GAMEDAY IS HEADED FOR BAYLOR
Next Saturday’s game between Baylor and Kansas in Waco was already looking pretty big going into that showdown. Baylor protected its undefeated Big 12 season and its No. 1 ranking with a 2-0 week. Kansas kept itself within striking distance with wins over West Virginia and Oklahoma.
Now, both the Bears and the Jayhawks still have one more game to win — Kansas hosts Iowa State on Monday and Baylor has to go to Oklahoma on Tuesday. But, with wins on Monday and Tuesday that makes Saturday’s 11 a.m. showdown in Waco a de facto Big 12 regular-season title game.
And that made it an attractive location for ESPN College Gameday to be on Saturday to hold its pregame show. Baylor and ESPN announced it during Saturday’s game with West Virginia, and Baylor head coach Scott Drew spoke about the impending circus coming to town.
I’m going to try to be there for the game on Saturday, along with the pre-game hoopla. So fingers crossed on the credential request.
OKLAHOMA STATE’S PERFECT WEEK
Boy, Oklahoma State needed this.
The Cowboys went 2-0 this past week, defeating Kansas State on the road, 64-59. Then, on Saturday, the Cowboys defeated Texas Tech, 73-70, on a day that looked incredible in Stillwater.
The Cowboys honored their 1995 team, which reached the Final Four before losing to UCLA in the semifinals. That team, coached by Eddie Sutton, returned to Stillwater, along with their former head coach.
Oklahoma State wore throwbacks for the game. And both teams honored Sutton during pre-game with warm-up shirts that were a nod to Sutton’s all-time win total.
Sutton is now a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame, and we will find out whether he gets in during Final Four weekend. Unfortunately, another Big 12 coach, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, did not make the finalists this year.
As for OSU’s team this year, the Cowboys are starting to come around. With the 2-0 week the Cowboys have now won three of their last four games after starting 0-8. The win was a big one for the Cowboys. It got them back above .500 and if they can find a way to stay there by season’s end they could sneak into the NIT, which would be a great opportunity for player development for those that will be back in 2020-21.
SELF KEEPS ON MOVING UP THE COACHING LIST
I was there for Bill Self’s 700th career victory on Saturday in Fort Worth, and he kept rolling this week, netting No. 701 against West Virginia and No. 702 against Oklahoma. I wrote a piece on Bill Self hitting the 700-win mark last week. And then you can hit me up on Twitter @PostinsPostcard and tell me how much you hate him.
BIG 12 MOCK DRAFTING
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on the Big 12 players that were considered among the Top 100 NBA prospects, according to ESPN.com and CBSSports.com. Well, most sites are starting mock drafts now, and The Athletic’s Sam Vecinie did his third mock draft earlier this week. Four Big 12 players made the grade.
Two players were projected to be taken in the first round. Iowa State guard Tyrese Halliburton went at No. 10 to the Phoenix Suns and Texas Tech guard Jahmi’us Ramsey went at No. 29 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Two Jayhawks went in the second round — guard Devon Dotson to the New York Knicks at No. 36 and center Udoka Azubuike at No. 60 to New Orleans. Give the whole piece a read below. And note that Halliburton, Ramsey and Dotson are all underclassmen and would have to declare for the draft after the season ends.
NEW 2020 NBA MOCK DRAFT. 🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) February 13, 2020
No. 1 through No. 60, breaking down all the players as well as how the trade deadline and recent current NBA events have altered the landscape of the draft: https://t.co/X9Fd3eFsTk pic.twitter.com/hBTs9wMizi
THE MOUNTAINEERS STRUGGLE ON THE ROAD AGAIN
West Virginia’s loss to Baylor on Saturday represented their fourth straight Big 12 road loss and dropped them to 1-5 on the season. There’s no other way to say it — the Mountaineers are starkly different at home and on the road, and I explored that last week in our Good, Bad and Ugly (which you can read here). So, for now, here’s Bob Huggins talking about what went wrong against Baylor (it was a lot of things).
THE SOONERS FIND THEIR CEILING
The Oklahoma Sooners will probably make the NCAA Tournament. And when the Big 12 season ends they’ll likely be the No. 5 team in the conference. That’s their ceiling at this point. They’re a very good, but not great, team.
The win over Iowa State on Feb. 12 finally gave the Sooners back-to-back wins for the first since starting Big 12 play 2-0. But the Sooners have been unable to remain consistent, and it’s hard to see them grabbing back-to-back wins the rest of the way. Remaining on the schedule is Baylor, at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, at West Virginia, Texas and at TCU. The Sooners could go back-to-back with Texas and TCU. But I see them alternating wins and losses for at least the next couple of weeks.
But if the Sooners have 20 wins by the time they reach the Big 12 Tournament, I think they’re a lock for the NCAA Tournament, where I think they can win a game and, depending upon the draw, be an interesting Sweet 16 pick in your bracket. Remember — they’re one of the few teams in the NCAA with three players averaging at least 14 points per game — Kristian Doolittle, Brady Manek and Austin Reaves.
IOWA STATE LOSES HALLIBURTON, BUT WINS WITHOUT HIM
Last week I wrote about the impact of Iowa State losing guard Tyrese Haliburton to injury for the rest of the season. One of the pieces of the aftermath I was interested in was to see how the loss would impact how the Cyclones used their guards. So I took a look back at the two box scores from this week.
In Iowa State’s loss to Oklahoma, Prentiss Nixon moved into the starting lineup and played all 40 minutes. He scored 10 points, had 7 rebounds and dished out 6 assists. Tre Jackson started and played 15 minutes, but didn’t score a point. Meanwhile, off the bench, Terence Lewis and Caleb Grill each came off the bench to play more than 25 minutes. Lewis scored 17 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, while Grill scored 8 points.
Then, on Saturday, Iowa State hosted Texas and demolished the Longhorns. Nixon and Jackson each started again. Nixon scored 17 points, while Jackson ended up with 2 points. Meanwhile, Lewis and Grill played far fewer minutes against Texas than they did against Oklahoma. Grill scored 3 points and Lewis didn’t score at all.
Conclusions? Nixon is going to carry a much bigger load than I anticipated (he played all but three minutes in both games last week), while Jackson will continue to start and the Cyclones will ride out the inconsistent scoring. Lewis and Grill are going to get preference on bench minutes. Against Texas, at least, it worked.
TEXAS … UGH
While the Cyclones had a great game against Texas, well, Texas did not. And it was the end of a sorry week for the Longhorns, who lost to Baylor on Big Monday, 52-45. Texas’ 81-52 loss to Iowa State was, as I wrote on Twitter, worse than their most lopsided loss of the season to that point.
What's happening to #HookEm right now in Ames is worse than what happened in Morgantown. At least with the #HailWV loss you could rationalize it was to a ranked team. But getting destroyed like this by #cyclONEnation (with no Halliburton)? How do you explain that? #Big12MBB— Matthew Postins (@PostinsPostcard) February 15, 2020
Then, frankly, head coach Shaka Smart made things worse. Or perhaps his players made it worse for him and he was just acknowledging it.
Shaka Smart was asked if he thought his team competed for 40 minutes, his answer: "of course not".— Matt Belinson (@BelinsonMatt) February 15, 2020
I talked with our Pete Mundo on our HeartlandCollegeSports.com weekly radio show about Texas and Smart’s job security and I told him that going into the Iowa State game I felt it was a 50/50 proposition. It looks much worse after this loss. Iowa State had lost five of its last six going into the Texas game. Now the Cyclones have won two of their last three. You can listen to it here. Fast-forward to the 19 minute mark.
And don’t forget if you don’t get the radio show you can download the podcast version at iTunes and other outlets absolutely free. It’s one of the few radio shows and podcasts out there devoted entirely to the Big 12 Conference.
And Texas, once a team that beat ranked Purdue on the road in November, has lost seven of its last nine. And there are no injuries to blame. It’s just a tailspin that may lead to Smart finding new employment come March.
THE BOTTOM BELONGS TO KANSAS STATE
The past two seasons have been kind to Kansas State. An Elite Eight run two seasons ago and a shared Big 12 regular-season title last season. But now, after falling to Oklahoma State and to TCU, the Wildcats are now at the bottom of the Big 12 standings with just two conference wins against West Virginia and Oklahoma. With six conference games remaining, plus the Big 12 Tournament, the Wildcats are staring at their first losing season since going 15-17 in 2014-15. The good news? Bruce Weber built it back up quickly after that, with four straight winning seasons and three straight NCAA Tournaments. But for now, it’s a lost season in Manhattan.
BIG 12 NOW GAMES THIS WEEK
There are no Big 12 men’s basketball games on ESPN Plus this week. Some of you may be rejoicing. But, you know that ESPN Plus and Big 12 Now also has baseball, softball and women’s basketball streaming, right?. So, if you don’t have the subscription to ESPN Plus, here’s the link. We’ve made it really easy to sign up.
|BIG 12 STANDINGS||Conf.||All|
|Texas Tech (24)||7-5||16-9|
|West Virginia (14)||6-6||18-7|
Monday, Feb. 10
Baylor 52, Texas 45
Texas Tech 88, TCU 45
Tuesday, Feb. 11
Oklahoma State 64, Kansas State 59
Wednesday, Feb. 12
Kansas 58, West Virginia 49
Oklahoma 90, Iowa State 61
Saturday, Feb. 15
Kansas 87, Oklahoma 70
Oklahoma State 73, Texas Tech 70
Iowa State 81, Texas 52
Baylor 70, West Virginia 59
TCU 68, Kansas State 57
NEXT GAMES (all times CST unless noted)
Monday, Feb. 17
Iowa State at Kansas, 8 p.m., ESPN
Tuesday, Feb. 18
Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Baylor at Oklahoma, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Wednesday, Feb. 19
TCU at Texas, 7 p.m., LHN
Kansas State at Texas Tech, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Saturday, Feb. 22
Kansas at Baylor, 11 a.m., ESPN
West Virginia at TCU, 1 p.m., ESPNU
Texas at Kansas State, 1 p.m., CBS
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 3 p.m., ESPN2
Texas Tech at Iowa State, 5 p.m.
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