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Big XII Standings and the Week Ahead: January 18-24

Team Record Week Ahead
1. Texas

3 - 0

at Kansas St. (Mon); at UConn (Sat)
1. Kansas

2 - 0

vs. Baylor (Wed); at Iowa State (Sat)
3. Kansas St

2 - 1

vs. Texas (Mon); vs. Oklahoma State (Sat)
3. Baylor

2 - 1

at Kansas (Wed); vs. UMass (Sat)
3. Missouri

2 - 1

vs. Nebraska (Sat)
3. Oklahoma

2 - 1

at Texas A&M (Tue); at Texas Tech (Sat)
7. Iowa State

1 - 1

at Texas Tech (Wed); vs. Kansas (Sat)
8. Oklahoma St

1 - 2

vs. Colorado (Wed); at Kansas St (Sat)
8. Texas A&M

1 - 2

vs. Oklahoma (Tue); vs. Colorado (Sat)
8. Colorado

1 - 2

at Oklahoma State (Wed); at Texas A&M (Sat)
11. Texas Tech

0 - 3

vs. Iowa State (Wed); vs. Oklahoma (Sat)
11. Nebraska

0 - 3

at Missouri (Sat)


Biggest Surprise from Last Week: Kansas losing at Tennessee. At the time, Kansas was the top ranked team in the country. Yes, it was only their third true road game and Tennessee was also ranked, but the Vols had four players suspended, including their best player, Tyler Smith, and were forced to use walk-ons for considerable portions of the game. When Bruce Pearl’s son is getting 10 minutes, the opponent is usually in pretty good position. However, the Jayhawks played flat and uninspired ball. They forgot about Cole Aldrich, and spent most of the time watching Sherron Collins pound the ball at the top of the key. I was most surprised that Kansas played a soft 2-3 zone for most of the game. Bill Self’s club had an advantage in talent and athleticism at every position, but allowed Tennessee to play patient and unpressured half-court basketball for most of the contest. The lack of defensive pressure and the fact that Aldrich took just five shots from the floor proved to be the difference.

Team with Most Favorable Schedule: Texas A&M. Two of the Aggies first three conference games were at Kansas State and at Texas. Even with senior Derrick Roland, this would have been a difficult stretch. Without him, a 1-2 Big XII start was almost inevitable. As PB said in the review, though, give credit to Texas A&M. They played their brand of basketball in Austin and almost slugged their way to a huge upset win. This week the Aggies are rewarded with two winnable home games: Oklahoma and Colorado. Aggie fans should be counting their way to nine conference wins to have a good shot at the NCAAs. In order to get above .500 in the league, A&M must protect their home court this week.

More thoughts on the week ahead after the jump.

Team with Least Favorable Schedule: Texas. The Longhorns play one conference road game and one non-conference road game this week. In addition to the trip to UConn being tough, the game also eliminates the week in which Texas would play just one game. Because this game was added, Texas plays two games every week for the rest of the regular season. There is no time to rest, get healthy, or take a few practices to work on problem areas – like, oh, I don’t know free throw shooting, high screen defense, or perimeter shot selection.

Team with Most to Prove: Oklahoma. If you watched the Sooners two Saturdays in Waco, you saw a team without an identity, with a lead guard unsure of his role, and a coach who appeared on the verge of losing his team. While OU still may have problems, a week later, things look a lot better in Norman. Oklahoma followed their blowout loss to Baylor with home wins over Oklahoma State and Missouri. Challenges await this week in Lubbock and College Station, though. Jeff Capel’s club is more talented than either of their opponents this week, but winning on the road is never going to be easy. If OU can find a rhythm this week and execute like the team that was picked third in pre-season polls, they can easily split this week and could even stumble into a four game winning streak.

Post-season Outlook: The Big XII conference dominated November and December and should be regarded as one of the best leagues in the country this year. In my mind, only the ACC is as strong top to bottom. If the season ended today, Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri would all be locks for the NCAA tourney. We’ll call those four Tier I. Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M would all be bubble teams. Let’s call those three Tier II. Based on talent, not results, I’d put OU in this category as well. The bottom four are Tier III—Iowa State, Texas Tech, Colorado, and Nebraska. If the season ended today, these teams would be done playing. (I’m going to try to write a post about the Tiers and how we can predict winners based on them later. If you’ve ever been to the now defunct Phog Blog, you know what I’m talking about.)

Game of the Week: Monday Texas at Kansas St 8 pm ESPN This is by far the most intriguing game of the week. ‘Horns fans are still haunted by Denis Clemente’s 44 point performance at the Drum last season. That was the beginning of a three game losing streak that sent the Longhorns from conference favorites to fighting for their NCAA tournament lives. Unlike the A&M game, this should be a higher scoring and faster paced basketball game. To pull off the upset win (yes, it would be an upset to win in Manhattan), Texas must keep K State off the offensive glass, must limit turnovers, and must keep Jacob Pullen and Clemente out of the lane. All three of those things are easier said than done.