The Big 12 Conference is done with Week 9 of the 2021-22 men’s basketball season. So let’s dive in and check out our five takeaways for the week.
When Does Baylor Go Down?
I was asked in my mailbag last week how many losses the Big 12 champion would have. I wrote ‘two.’ Now, I don’t think anyone in this conference is naïve about how good Baylor is. But I also don’t believe the Bears can navigate this conference undefeated. Baylor came close last season, losing one game.
The last time a Big 12 men’s team went undefeated was Kansas during the 2001-02 season. Kansas went to the Final Four that season. So, if Baylor — now the Big 12’s only remaining undefeated team — pulled that off, that would be something.
But I don’t think the Bears will. This league is JUST TOO GOOD.
So, when to the Bears take their first Big 12 loss?
If you had asked me before the Big 12 season started, I might have said it would be Texas Tech, the team Baylor faces on Tuesday. The Red Raiders could still pull it off. But it’s not clear if the Red Raiders will have everyone back for that game (namely Terrence Shannon Jr. and Kevin McCullar). But, to be fair to Tech, it did just beat Kansas without the pair. So, who knows?
But I think Baylor pulls that out. If the Bears do, then I think they can get to that February 5 matchup at Kansas without a Big 12 blemish. And THAT’S where I think the Bears take their first loss of the season.
So, I would say get used to an undefeated Baylor for a few more weeks.
We had plenty of good questions for last week’s mailbag, our first of the season. So keep them coming. But we did have a set of questions that came in after I was done that I thought I would address here. So, from Stan Hollibaugh on Facebook:
What is your prediction for: Top teams, regular season and tournament; coach of the year; and player awards.
Well, we’re a few games in, but I’ll take a shot. I’m not providing context here, just how I see it in early January:
Top Teams: Regular season: Baylor; Big 12 Tournament: Kansas (because the regular-season champ is almost never the tournament champ.
Coach of the Year: T.J. Otzelberger, Iowa State.
Player Awards: Player of the Year: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas; Freshman of the Year: Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State; Newcomer of the Year: Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State.
Naturally, it’s all subject to change.
Stan had a couple of other questions that we’ll address on Friday. Plus, I’ll address these same questions for the Big 12 Women in our Tuesday Takes piece.
‘The Best Play Anyone Has Made This Year’
Kansas head coach Bill Self said it might have been. You can be the judge below.
“I have to go back and watch it, but the play that (Dajuan Harris) made may have been the best play anyone has made this year,” Self said after the Jayhawks defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Tuesday. “Maybe anywhere. I mean they take his ball, he falls down and then he steals it laying on the ground. That was a heckuva basketball play. So even though it was awful how we played late, he did have one heckuva play during that stretch.”
Kansas guard Dajuan Harris lost the ball, fell to the ground and then leapt off the floor to steal the ball during the waning moments of the game. At the time, it really meant nothing because Kansas had the game won. But it’s the effort that’s going to stick in your mind, especially after you see the photo below.
This is part of the reason Harris has remained in the starting lineup, even after the return of Jalen Wilson from his three-game suspension for DUI at the start of the season. Wilson hasn’t quite been the scorer that he was a year ago (though he finally seemed to get on track in the loss to Texas Tech). But Harris’ grit seems to be a better fit with the other starters in the Jayhawks’ lineup. Plays like that are exactly why.
West Virginia’s Inside Problem
Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins wanted more toughness inside and he’s gotten it from Gabe Osabuohein, and, frankly, from his other inside players, too. What he’s not getting is the offense, and that’s a problem he has to solve as best he can.
West Virginia knew replacing Derek Culver’s offense would be difficult. Offense is not Osabuohein’s strength. The hope was that between Isaiah Cottrell, Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan, the latter two being transfers, the Mountaineers could manufacture the offense they needed.
So far? The trio of Cottrell, Paulicap and Carrigan are averaging a combined 10.5 points per game. That’s less than what Culver averaged on his own last season (14.3). Throw in Osabuohein’s scoring at you get to 14.7 combined points per game from the four players.
Not exactly stellar. Now, surrounded by quality outside shooters like Sean McNeil, Taz Sherman and Jalen Bridges, there is a ceiling on what this quartet is going to produce regardless of how good they are. They just need to produce enough to ensure teams don’t ignore them so their defense can’t sell out on defending the perimeter.
Based on what I saw against Kansas State, the Mountaineers aren’t there yet. The good news? Huggins and his staff have two months to figure it out, because this is still an NCAA Tournament quality team. Honestly, I think Cottrell can be the answer here, and we should keep in mind he’s a year out from his Achilles injury.
Three Games That Intrigue Me This Week
Texas Tech at Baylor, Iowa State at Kansas, Oklahoma at Texas, Jan. 11: I’m going to be busy that night. Let’s just put it that way.
TCU at Kansas State, Jan. 12: If there are two coaches on the hot seat in this conference, it’s Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and TCU’s Jamie Dixon. And Weber’s seat gets warmer with an 0-4 start.
West Virginia at Kansas, Jan. 15: Did you know every time Bob Huggins beat Kansas his late mother’s cancer charity gets a $25,000 donation? It’s the college basketball equivalent of every time a Jayhawk loses an angel gets its wings.