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Big 12 Notebook

February 22, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments



Big 12 Notebook

The Big Dozen

With Selection Sunday just under 3 weeks away, it is
clear that the Big 12 will be well represented in the
Field of 65, as 5 members (Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas,
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech) figure to be amongst
those invited to the Big Dance. Missouri has
some work to do before they can expect to be included
in all of the fun, which would bring the total to 6.
The following will be a breakdown of those schools and
how they are faring as the conclusion of the regular
season rapidly approaches.

Kansas Jayhawks (24-2, 13-0)

With all due respect to Gary Williams and Maryland,
Roy Williams’ Jayhawks are the team to beat, bar none.
The No. 1 team in the nation also happens to be the
highest scoring team in the nation (92.6 ppg) as well
as the best shooting team in the nation (51.8%).
Not convinced? The Jayhawks are in the middle of an eleven-game winning streak and are coming off of a 102-66
dismantling of Iowa State Monday night, giving them at
least a tie for the conference crown.
“They are a real, real solid team and as well coached
as any team that I have seen in a long time,” said
Iowa State’s head coach Larry Eustachy.

The Low Down: Kansas is peaking at the right time of
year, having won on the road and winning ugly when
they had to. They are also making a run at becoming
the first team in Big 12 history to finsh undefeated
in league play. Barring injury, this Jayhawk team is
the stuff Final Four teams are made of.

Key Remaining Game: March 3rd at Missouri. The last time
these two teams faced off (Jan. 28), the Jayhawks ran the
Tigers right out of Allen Fieldhouse 105-73. Perfection will not come easy.

Oklahoma Sooners (20-4, 9-3)

With their 73-62 win over Kansas State, the Sooners
clinched their 5th straight 20-win season. Winners of
5 of their last 6, Oklahoma has been solid all year as
evidenced by their RPI ranking (6) and key
non-conference wins over Maryland and Connecticut.
Led by junior guard Hollis Price (16.5 ppg, 48% FG)
and senior forward Aaron McGhee (15.2 ppg, 7.2 rebs),
the Sooners have a reliable inside-outside tandem.

The Low Down: Despite their solid play, Oklahoma has
gotten into the habit of letting teams get back into
games instead of putting them away. Case in point:
leading 31-24 at the half against Oklahoma State
(without leading scorer Maurice Baker) last Wednesday,
OU failed to seal the deal and lost 79-72 in OT.

“Most of the stuff that’s not going right for us can be
corrected,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson.

Key Remaining Game: Saturday 2/23 vs. Texas. This
game figures to be a slugfest by virtue of their last
meeting, a 85-84 OT thriller won by OU in Austin.

Texas Longhorns (17-8, 8-4)

Speaking of the Longhorns, UT is playing inspired
basketball as of late. Although they are 4-3 over
their last 7 games, they could easily be 7-0 when you
consider that those 3 losses came by a combined 9
points, including 2 heartbreaking overtime losses
against Oklahoma (85-84 on Feb. 2) and Kansas (110-103
Feb. 11) at home.

After star forward Chris Owens went down with a season
ending knee injury on Dec. 29, UT’s salvation has been
it’s backcourt. Super frosh T.J. Ford has stepped into
the leading role and leads the nation in assists (8.8
apg). Ford is coming off one of his best games of the
season when he had 18 points, 12 assists and a
career-high 5 steals in Sunday’s 72-70 win in
Missouri.

“I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the
country,” said head coach Rick Barnes. The emergence
of sophomore guard Brandon Mouton (14.1 ppg, 40 percent 3-pt
FG) has complimented Ford nicely and has helped assume
some of the scoring during Owens’ absence.

The Low Down: As well as Texas has played lately, it
doesn’t get easier for the Longhorns. With an RPI
rating of 23, they look like a lock for the tournament
especially if they can get to 20 wins.

Key Remainng Game(s): vs. Oklahoma State, at
Oklahoma, vs. Texas Tech. Yikes!

Oklahoma State Cowboys (20-6, 7-5)

The trials and tribulations that the OSU basketball
program has gone through the last 12 months has been
well documented. So when the Cowboys raced out to that
13-0 start, it was hard not to root for Eddie Sutton’s
squad.

However, over their last 13 games OSU is just 7-6 in
and have struggled with injuries and inconsistent
play. Things began to go awry when star guard Maurice
Baker tweaked his groin in practice in late December.
And although he would play through that injury, he was
hardly himself.

Things began to look bleak on Feb. 6 vs. Texas Tech
when Baker suffered another injury, this time it was
his right ankle, with about 7 minutes remaining in the
second half and the Cowboys trailing 55-43.
But instead of laying down and playing dead, OSU
circled the wagons and pulled out the gutty 64-62
victory.

“It looked like we were really in trouble,”
said Sutton. “But the press got us back in the game
and we were able to hit some shots.”

Since then the Cowboys have won 3 of their last 4,
without Baker, including another huge 79-72 win in
overtime over intrastate rival Oklahoma last
Wednesday.

The Lowdown: With 20 wins and a RPI rating of 18, not
to mention their valiant play as of late, the Cowboys
are a cinch for the NCAA Tournamemt.

Key Game Remaining: at Missouri February 25th.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (18-6, 7-5)

Eureka! Bobby Knight has struck oil in Lubbock this
year as he has helped resurrect Texas Tech. He has doubled
their win total from last season, and has his team on
the verge of making their first NCAA tournament
appearance since 1996.

After winning 13 out of their first 14 games to start
the season, the Red Raiders have stumbled as of late
going 5-5 over their last 10 contests.
However, Tech has won their last 2 games with the Big
12 Player of the Week, sophomore guard Andre Emmett,
leading the way. Emmett (19.5 ppg, 6.9 rebs)
posted back to back 30-point efforts, including a
career-high 33 points at Colorado last Saturday.
The key to the Red Raiders’ season has been their
ability to pick up Knight’s vaughnted motion offense,
Tech is 7-0 this year when they score 90 points or
higher.

In addition to Emmett, senior center Andy Ellis and
junior forward Kasib Powell have also thrived in
Knight’s system. Ellis is second on the team in
scoring (16.7 ppg) and leads the team in rebounding
(7.1), whereas Powell is third in scoring (15.1 ppg),
third in rebounding (6.4 rpg) and the team leader in
assists (3.9 apg).

The Lowdown: The Red Raiders seem to be gaining steam
as they prepare to close out the season. They should finish with 20
wins and with an RPI
rating of 14, and should be a lock for the Field of 65. With
Emmett, Ellis and Powell, look for the Red Raiders to
make some noise come March.

Key Remaining Game: February 26th at Texas.

Missouri Tigers (18-8, 7-5)

Missouri is known as the Show Me State. Now it is up
to Mizzou’s men’s basketball team to live up to that
credo. After a sparkling 9-0 start, which included
wins against Alabama and on the road at Iowa, the
Tigers seemed well on their way to living up to the
preseason hype.

That was then, this is now. Inconsistency and
selfishness has plagued Mizzou resulting in their 9-8
record over their last 17 games including a critical
81-80 loss at Baylor on Feb. 9 and a heart breaking
72-70 home loss to Texas on Feb. 13. In that game., the team shot 38% from the
field and committed a season-high 22 turnovers against
the Longhorns, and was only their second home loss
of the season.

The Lowdown: The firepower is there with Rush, Gilbert
and Paulding for Mizzou to finish strong. However,
this brutal stretch run will make or break Missouri’s
tournament aspirations. If they can somehow get to 20
wins, they should be in good shape to be the 6th team
in the Big 12 dancing into March.

Key Remaining Game(s): Feb. 25 vs. No. 14 Oklahoma State and
March 3rd vs. No. 1 Kansas. Yikes!

Furious Finish

With 3 teams (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and
Missouri) tied for 4th and a game behind 3rd place
Texas (remember, the top 3 teams at the end of the
season receive a first-round bye in the conference
tournament), this has the makings of a terrific
prelude to the Madness.

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