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Big 12 observations: Who's in, who's not; looking ahead to Monday: Texas or K-State?

It's going to be difficult to fill out my NCAA Tournament bracket this year.

Three more teams ranked in the top 5 of the Associated Press poll faltered over the weekend, leaving no overwhelming favorite presiding over the college basketball world. Top-ranked Duke, No. 4 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Texas were the latest victims to go down this week. The path to the Final Four in Houston should be filled with mystery, madness and Gus Johnson going berserk behind the microphone.

The Big 12 storyline of the weekend was the mayhem in Boulder, where Colorado stormed back from a 22-point deficit to take down Texas. The Longhorns dropped to 12-2 in the league, opening a massive door that Kansas gladly walked through with an 82-70 victory over Oklahoma. KU improved to 12-2 in the league, keeping its quest for a seventh consecutive Big 12 regular-season title well within reach.

KU's remaining schedule: vs. Texas A&M, at Missouri.

UT's remaining schedule: vs. Kansas State, at Baylor.

Advantage? KU has the tougher road game. It's probably close to a push, though.

Onto some Conference Chatter bullet-point observations after the weekend's action:

Have any plans Monday night? Hopefully not. Kansas State travels to Texas in what should be a thrilling matchup at 8 p.m. on ESPN. A month ago, this would not have been nearly as exciting. But K-State has won six of its past seven games. The Wildcats will face a ticked off Texas squad that will be ready to hit the court after the loss at CU.

I get the sense that most KU fans are rooting for K-State, despite the Sunflower rivalry. Winning the league title outright appears to be more important than simply rooting against the in-state rivals. If I'm off on this, let me know.

K-State senior Jacob Pullen probably doesn't have to worry about the NIT. The Cats, at 20-9 and 8-6 in the Big 12, appear to be headed to the NCAA Tournament.

Before the weekend, ESPN's Joe Lunardi had five Big 12 schools cracking the tournament field. I see six: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri, Kansas State, and either Baylor or Colorado. Baylor's remaining schedule: at Oklahoma State, vs. Texas. Colorado's remaining schedule: at Iowa State, vs. Nebraska. Advantage: Buffs.

Big 12 player of the year, to this point: Jordan Hamilton, Texas. Still in the running: Marcus Morris, Kansas.

Big 12 coach of the year, to this point: Rick Barnes, Texas. Still in the running: Tad Boyle, Colorado (if UT slips up again and CU wins out).

My early All-Big 12 first team hasn't changed from last week: Kansas State's Pullen, Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn, Colorado's Alec Burks, Texas' Hamilton, KU's Marcus Morris.

As good as Burks is — he erupted for 33 points against UT's elite defense — the sophomore could be even better with a more potent outside jump shot. On Saturday, Burks slashed his way to the rim, initiated contact and attempted 21 foul shots. It was a great game plan. But with the NBA hype surrounding Burks (11th overall on NBADraft.net, 19th overall on draftexpress.com), he will need to develop a steadier jump shot to have a lengthy career at the next level.

Kansas State has won its last two meetings against Texas in Austin.

Big Monday pick: Texas.

Much safer option. Big 12 teams have struggled mightily on the road this season. K-State is 2-5 on the road this season in Big 12 play, while UT has yet to lose a league game in Austin.

Texas opened as an 8.5-point favorite on Sunday night. I'll also take UT -8.5.

What I love about Kansas in a potential deep NCAA Tournament run: The offensive prowess.

From left, Markieff Morris, coach Bill Self, Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris and Elijah Johnson look on from the sidelines on Saturday against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla.

From left, Markieff Morris, coach Bill Self, Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris and Elijah Johnson look on from the sidelines on Saturday against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla. by Jesse Newell

This is one of the best offenses of the Bill Self era. The Jayhawks find the open man particularly well with free clinics on accurate ball movement, and punish teams that suffer mental lapses on defense. KU also takes good shots. Kansas has led the country for a while this season in kenpom.com's effective field goal percentage (58.8 percent currently).

The Jayhawks are also the best road team in the Big 12 (6-1 in league road games). They'll need to carry that over to the NCAA tourney.

What scares me about Kansas in a potential earlier-than-expected exit: Inconsistent point guard play. Tyshawn Taylor has his moments, but his turnovers are concerning. He had 10 (vs. six assists) in the two games before his suspension. Elijah Johnson appears to have the stats on his side — he's not had a game with more than two turnovers all season — but how much will his inexperience play a factor in the tournament? Josh Selby's stress reaction in his foot is clearly affecting his play. Since coming back from the injury after missing three games, he's yet to score in double figures. His field goal percentage since returning from injury is 25.9 percent in four games. Kansas will need a steady floor general in time for the tourney.

What I love about Texas in a potential deep NCAA Tournament run: defense. UT didn't show up on defense against a Burks-inspired Colorado comeback on Saturday, but the Longhorns have been steady for the majority of the season. Texas remains No. 1 in the country in kenpom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage defense rankings.

What scares me about Texas in a potential earlier-than-expected exit: Closing out games and foul shooting. Texas shoots only 64.2 percent from the free throw line, second-to-last in the Big 12. In close games, converting charities becomes vital. Texas led Colorado by 22 in the first half on Saturday. UT had 34 chances at the foul line and only made 20 (58.8 percent). The Longhorns could have weathered the massive CU rally and quieted the frenzied fans with a couple more made free throws. This could become a concern during the NCAA Tournament.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.

Comments

JayhawkRock 3 years, 8 months ago

This is a good entry...I agree with almost everything you say here but Im going to take KSU tomorrow night...They are really playing well and their confidence is through the roof right now...I look for them to ride the momentum into Austin against a UT team that really has to be questioning itself with two losses in two weeks. Yes UT is at home but KSU has had success there in recent years.

KU has work to do...Im thinking Taylor will be back on Wednesday but I could be wrong...We will definitely need Taylor against Mizzou...I love EJ and what he has given us but I would like Taylor for the game on the road at Mizzou to handle the pressure of bringing the ball up.

Joe Joseph 3 years, 8 months ago

Can't argue with Rick Barnes or Tad Boyle for COY, but Bill Self should get some love, considering the pieces KU lost from last season.

Joe Baker 3 years, 8 months ago

I have no problem with Self as COY.

I wouldn't have a problem with Boyle after the job he's done at CU. He's definitely a huge improvement over Bzedlik(sp).

kesmithstl1 3 years, 8 months ago

what concerns me about Texas making a long run in the tourney? Dogus Balbay!!! Great defender, but offensively, Texas is playing 4 on 5!

Steve Jacob 3 years, 8 months ago

KSU can lose the last three games and sweat on selection Sunday. Texas at home, easy win for them Monday night.

Oh, and it's been noted NBA teams are trading 1st round picks like crazy this year due to how bad the draft will be. Worst in 11 years said one.

KU_FanSince75 3 years, 8 months ago

I was watching the Indiana/Ohio State game today. Seth Davis is voting Ohio State #1 in the new poll. That's okay with me. The target will be off our back if we're #2. Gus Johnson was calling the IU/OSU game today, too. How can anyone not like Gus? The game was a blowout by the Buckeyes and he still made a great call. The guy is unreal. Hope he does a KU game in the Big Dance!

whitechocolate 3 years, 8 months ago

I hate Mizzou but their nearly-likable coach, lack of superstars, and our continued dominance of them makes them tough to really despise.

While K-State only has three victories over us in the past what, twenty years?, I can't stand the rise of their ignorant fanbase and the continued inane chatter of my purple-hued hick inlaws.

Rooting for Silo Tech is impossible, but a Texas loss means no sharing the last Big 12 title. As of the past few years, I've come to hate State more than Mizzou, and that's saying a lot.

KU_FanSince75 3 years, 8 months ago

I definitely don't want to share the crown with the "shorthorns."

Kye Clark 3 years, 8 months ago

Wasn't Texas picked 2nd in the preseason? How can any love be thrown to Rick Barnes over Bill Self? Tad Boyle is a solid pick, but he did inherit his whole team from the previous regime. I know the COY pick is always about exceeding expectations (that's why Self won it in '09, but rarely gets a mention any other year. Is he not doing as good a coaching job in every other year), but I'd vote for Self this year especially. Picked 3rd in the conference (by the coaches), who we lost, and what this team has overcome (injuries, suspensions, tragedies, not one game with his full complement of players)...every other coach in this league would have a crumbling shell of a team under those circumstances. Bill Self has us positioned for a 7th consecutive league title. In my opinion he is hands down the COY.

Eric Sorrentino 3 years, 8 months ago

Preseason: K-State was picked first, Kansas second, Texas third, Baylor fourth, Missouri fifth, Texas A&M sixth. Colorado, for reference, was picked ninth.

Should Texas slip up and KU win the league outright, then Self absolutely would be a great choice. If UT shares the league title, though, Barnes would still get my vote.

Kye Clark 3 years, 8 months ago

I stand corrected on my preseason recollections. That being said, I still think given all the things I'd mentioned that Bill Self is the clear choice. I think it's become such "old hat" for many people that they take the job Self has done this year for granted. Self has referred to "Kansas math" - subtract 2 NBA lottery picks and the all-time winningest player in school history and undisputed leader of your team, now go out and win a 7th league crown. It's kind of the same thing. KU is supposed to be win the league. Take any one of the incidents that Self has had to deal with and hand it to Rick Barnes and they could easily have an extra loss or two (especially considering the fact that Barnes has developed almost no depth, primarily playing 6-7 guys). The top 7 guys in minutes played for the Longhorns have played in every game.

And yes Colorado was picked 9th and Tad Boyle has done an excellent job this year. As a former Jayhawk I root for him and wish him nothing but the best. It would be hard to argue with that pick. However, as I said he inherited this team from the former staff, and so much of a college coach's job is recruiting. Certainly he should be commended for getting more out of these guys than Bdzelik (sp?) did, but they likely would have been better this year anyway, simply because their best player - Alec Burks - is in his second season. Last year they finished 8th in the league, right now they're tied for 6th. If they win out (which is a strong possibility, @ Iowa St and at home against Nebraska), I could live with him being the COY.

murph 3 years, 8 months ago

The cut line on the picture of Self and team members watching from the sideline needs serious work. Do you not see Brady Morningstar there in the middle? There are five people in the picture but you only have four names listed. Do you have any proofreaders on staff? Goodness!

Eric Dawson 3 years, 8 months ago

Count me in as one Jayhawk pulling for a Kansas State win tonight! I do love the irony that KState winning in Austin -- which they need for their NCAA resume -- would give KU the chance to win the regular season conference title outright, and would almost certainly guarantee no worse than a KU tie with the horns for the title.

My persuasion is compounded by the fact that I also have a degree from Texas A&M, so I'm always happy to see tu lose!

(As an aside -- One has to wonder if it has ever occurred to our in-state brethren to the west that "EMAW" leaves out almost 50% of the current KSU student body and a similar % of their alumni base? Not real smart as college yells go. Add in that saying it out loud sounds like you're imitating a donkey [I was going to use a different name for it, but I am trying to be polite in making my point here], and you've got reasonable people asking the question "What's the matter with Kansas State?" Just sayin'...)

Chris1955 3 years, 8 months ago

What do you mean? Can't both men and women be morons? EMAW= Every Moron A Wildcat?

hehehehehe

RockCaCO3 3 years, 8 months ago

"free clinics on accurate ball movement"

I love it!

Go UT, get beat by K-Suck. (prefer rooting for a team to lose, vs rooting for one to win).

slowplay 3 years, 8 months ago

I'll root for K-State until they show Martin going balistic on the sideline. Then I'll just turn off the TV. His antics are getting old.

Scott Smetana 3 years, 8 months ago

I think they have great entertainment value. I'd hate it if he were our coach, but sure adds color to the game. I hope he stays.

Go K-State! Their fans may not be that smart, but they have 1 million times the class as Mizzery fans.

John Myers 3 years, 8 months ago

Longhorn fans don't even like Barnes.. He is not a good coach, he's a lucky coach..

Michael Auchard 3 years, 8 months ago

I agree with you on everything except COY. I've always thought to win COY you have to impress beyond the results of your recruiting class. It is possible to win COY with the #1 recruiting class in the country, but not likely. You have to do something that shows you can develop talent, can squeeze something not visible to the fan's naked eye, out of your players.

Has Rick Barnes done this? No.

Has he ever done this, any year? No.

Is he considered a heck of a recruiter and joke of a coach by many fans around the league? Yes.

Your runner-up, however, shows all of the hallmarks of a COY. If Colorado can win out their Big XII schedule, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Tad Boyle win COY. This would be particularly impressive in his first year in the league. The fact that Colorado (COLORADO!!!) is in the top half of the league is simply amazing. They rank up there with Northwestern as one of the most play-dead opossum-looking teams of the modern era. Yeah, he's doing it with another guy's players, but that makes it almost more impressive to me.

Barnes? Well, the flame out I've kept expecting looks like it's finally begun. We really will have to see how the last 1/8th of conference play shakes out. Even if he wins out, though, what is surprising or spectacular about that? Like always, he has superior talent to most programs in the league, maybe all of them this year. So, for once, he's actually winning the games he should. Is that amazing coaching, or merely living up to modest expectations?

Steve Brown 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't want to carry a #1 ranking into Columbia this week, let it pass to others.

for tonight, "everyman a wildcat"

that tasted bad on the tongue.

okjhok 3 years, 8 months ago

You got your wish...Ohio St. jumped KU for #1 in the coaches poll

jaycard 3 years, 8 months ago

Eric, You're not asking this question to a bunch of "winter's bone" Fizzou fans, who would rather have the Hawks lose in the first round than win a national championship. (Really,a toothless misery fan actually said this on 610 last week). The Cats will be cheered loudly by me, as well as my ever suffering Cat fan friends. Go Cats, propel KU to 7 in a row. BTW, Congrats to Billl Self for his best actor award last night. Ever notice that he and Colin Firth are never seen together?

Danny Hernandez 3 years, 8 months ago

I disagree with Hamilton as POY.....Marcus is hands down the POY in the Big12

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