Oklahoma State and Texas were the biggest risers on Saturday, here are three thoughts from Saturday’s action.
The first games of 2021 in Big 12 play started with a bang on Saturday, and I am not just referencing the clanking of the rim from Kansas’ 20 missed threes at home. Here are three thoughts I had after digesting a full slate of games on Saturday.
1. Will Texas finish in the top 3 in the Big 12?
Kansas lost at home to Texas by 25 on Saturday, matching the largest defeat of the Jayhawks in the 65-year storied lifetime of Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks and Longhorns were both playing for the first time in weeks thanks to the pandemic and rust was evident early on for both teams. Kansas was without their top bench-threat in Bryce Williams due to a practice injury, but this loss was more than just rust and missing a player for KU.
Texas routed the Jayhawks by showing consistent pressure and moving the ball to create open shots. Shooting 12-26 from deep isn’t anything you can count on every time out, but when the shots are falling for Shaka Smart’s team, they look unstoppable. What impressed me most is that Texas didn’t just have one player carry them to the victory on Saturday; they had five players with at least 10 points and Freshman standout Greg Brown only had 5 points in the game for UT. I’ve seen enough of Texas in the past to know you shouldn’t jump ahead too far, but the Longhorns appear like a real contender at the top of the league.
2. Oklahoma State is closer to the top of the Big 12 than the bottom
Oklahoma State traveled to Lubbock and walked away with their first conference win of the season, an 82-77 win over #13 Texas Tech. Before the game, TTU head coach Chris Beard said “Oklahoma State is one rebound and one field goal away from being at the top of the league and in the top 10” and I would agree with that assessment. The season can’t be played on “what if’s” but the Pokes let an 8 point lead escape them against TCU at home with 2:30 left and had a chance to beat #8 Texas in their building with a late shot after leading by double digits in the game.
OSU showed that even if you stop Cade Cunningham or force him to give the ball up, the Pokes still can win with the talent surrounding him. Beating Texas Tech is a great resume win, and proves that Oklahoma State will be dancing in March should they stay healthy and injury-free. The Pokes will have a great opportunity to get another ranked win when they welcome the Mountaineers to Stillwater on Monday night. With the turmoil that Bob Huggins’ group has endured this week, it’s a toss-up on what kind of effort we will see from WVU and if they will just have their minds’ on getting back to West Virginia after an extended road trip.
3. Bob Huggins & WVU must figure out what their team is before it’s too late
As aforementioned, the biggest loss of the week for West Virginia was not on the court to the Sooners on Saturday, as Huggins announced on Friday that Oscar Tshiebwe is no longer with the program. Tshiebwe was an anchor inside for the Mountaineers, averaging 8.5 ppg and 7.8 rpg this year and the loss of that inside threat will certainly hurt WVU’s chances of making a run in March. Bob Huggins will figure out how to overcome the loss of Oscar, but how long that will take is up in the air. Before the loss today at Oklahoma, the Mountaineers were ranked #9 in the nation and with another tough contest on short rest in Stillwater, WVU will look to stop the bleeding quickly.
WVU shot 14-24 from deep on Saturday in Norman, so it will be interesting to see if West Virginia leans into becoming a three point shooting team even more than they were going forward. One thing is for certain however; having four players score 64 of your team’s 71 points is not a method for prolonged success in the Big 12. The schedule is brutal for WVU starting Monday with Oklahoma State, following that the Mountaineers will play back-to-back games against top-10 teams in Texas & Baylor.
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