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Big 12 Notebook

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

It’s hard to believe how soon March, and more importantly Championship Week, rolls around. All over the country, people like me are glued to ESPN and CBS, trying to get work done while really just trying to figure out whether it will be Troy State or Central Florida, Stony Brook or Maine that will be first-round fodder in two short weeks. Things are a little different in the Big 12, where seven different teams have a chance to dance.

Seedings for Big 12 Tournament in Dallas are set

It took until the last week to figure anything out as far as who plays when and where in the Big 12 Tournament in Dallas next week. It finally started to come together on Monday in Stillwater, where Oklahoma State wrapped up the first seed and a tie for the conference championship with a 76-67 win over Texas. Joey Graham and John Lucas controlled the game for OSU, which found itself in a fourth straight close game down the stretch but never trailed in the second half. The Cowboys broke open a tied game at halftime with a 15-3 run that ended up being the difference. The win gave Eddie Sutton’s team, picked fifth in the conference by the media and coaches before the season, the No. 1 seed in Dallas this week. Texas secured the No. 2 position.

The next step of deciding conference seeds came Wednesday. Kansas used a 26-4 run wrapped around halftime to beat Nebraska with ease. The final score was 78-67 and the Jayhawks clinched the No. 3 spot in the tournament. Texas Tech beat Missouri 87-76 but Colorado failed to capitalize in Ames, falling to Iowa State 83-77. However, by some strange twist of tiebreakers, CU was assured of no lower than the No. 5 seed in the tourney, meaning the Buffs would have a first-round bye.

Saturday, Texas Tech beat Iowa State to keep the pressure on Missouri for a bye. The ISU loss also locked the Cyclones into the No. 8 seed and Oklahoma into the No. 7 seed. Nebraska came up three points short at Colorado, but Kansas State upset Texas in one of the ugliest games of the year. Translation: K-State gets the No. 9 seed and Nebraska is left to the No. 10. Texas A&M, 0-16 in the Big 12, will be the No. 11 seed because Baylor is ineligible for postseason play.

That left the fates of Missouri and Texas Tech all that was left to decide. Mizzou came up short in a heartbreaker in the Hearnes Center, losing 84-82 to Kansas when David Padgett hit a short jumper with two seconds left. That negated the play of Arthur Johnson, who scored 37 points on 9-of-13 shooting for the Tigers. The MU loss allowed Texas Tech to get a bye and pushed Colorado to the No. 4 seed. The Tigers slipped to a Thursday date with Texas A&M.

So here’s what all of this madness means:

Big 12 Tournament (All times Central)

Thursday:
No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 8 Iowa State, 2 p.m.
No. 10 Nebraska vs. No. 7 Oklahoma, 6 p.m.
No. 11 Texas A&M vs. No. 6 Missouri, 8:20 p.m.

Friday:
No. 1 Oklahoma State vs. KSU/ISU, noon
No. 5 Texas Tech vs. No. 4 Colorado, 2:20 p.m.
No. 2 Texas vs. OU/NU, 6 p.m.
No. 3 Kansas vs. MU/TAMU, 8:20 p.m.

Saturday: Semifinals, 1 p.m. and 3:20 p.m.

Sunday: Championship, 2 p.m.

Check Hoopville later this week for Big 12 Tournament coverage, live from Dallas

Everybody wants to dance

It was an up-and-down week for Big 12 bubble teams. Texas Tech, which had lost five of seven games before this week to fall back on the bubble, beat Missouri and Iowa State by double digits at home. This should assuage any doubts the Red Raiders are in the Big Dance, with a 21-9 record, 9-7 in the Big 12 and an RPI of 33.

Missouri continued a fairly high level of play this week but came up short in both of its games. Mizzou lost games to Texas Tech and Kansas in its two games, giving up a total of 171 points in the two games. It’s hard to imagine a 15-12 team dancing, even with a top-ten strength of schedule. MU needs to beat Texas A&M, Kansas and probably even its semifinal game to make the tournament.

The Oklahoma Sooners are still perhaps a few wins short of dancing, but they did what they had to this week. OU looked as good as it has since January in crushing Texas A&M 86-60 on Wednesday and then survived against a Baylor team playing its last game with a 46-41 win Saturday. OU though will need to beat Nebraska and perhaps Texas too in order to punch a ticket to the madness.

Colorado blew a second-half lead against Iowa State on Wednesday, leaving serious doubts as to this team’s ability to win on the road. Wins at Nebraska, Kansas State and Texas A&M aren’t especially impressive. Nonetheless, the Buffaloes were able to sneak past Nebraska 78-75 on Saturday. A win against Texas Tech on Friday and CU is probably safely in.

Simien: I’ll be back

All this talk about this year is starting to make my head spin, so let’s take a step into the future. KU fans are particularly interested in next season after junior stud Wayne Simien said he would be back for his senior campaign. Simien seemed persuaded by the Senior Day ceremonies at Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday, and his return would make the Jayhawks a force in 2004-05. He averages 17.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, and would have a supporting cast of Aaron Miles, Keith Langford, J.R. Giddens and David Padgett. That’s pretty scary for everybody else in the country, much less the Big 12.

Senior Day equals don’t mess with the home team day

Nine teams in the Big 12 had their last home game of the season this week, a day normally reserved as Senior Day to honor all of the team’s graduating seniors. It’s probably not such a coincidence that seven of those nine teams won that game. Even Kansas State was able to send Tim Ellis, Jarrett Hart, Frank Richards and Josh Eilert off in the right way with a 58-48 upset of Texas. But in Columbia, it was more than just Senior Day, but there would be no storybook ending. It wasn’t just the end of an era for seniors Rickey Paulding, Arthur Johnson, Travon Bryant and Josh Kroenke, but also the last basketball game to be played in the Hearnes Center. The Tigers fought back from a late 10-point deficit but lost a heartbreaker 84-82.

A non-Big 12 note…

Yes, the Atlantic Coast Conference is the best conference in America this year and one of the best, top to bottom, in a long time. And yes, Duke-North Carolina is a great rivalry between two very good teams this year. But if I hear one more thing from a certain cable network or Dick Vitale about how great Duke is or how great the rivalry is, I’m going to advocate an official name change: from ESPN to the ACC Public Relations Network. Duke and Carolina will continue to get more than their fair share of blue-chip recruits if the Devils and Heels get on national TV 25 times every season. Spread the wealth, guys.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Hoopville All-Big 12 team:

John Lucas, junior point guard, Oklahoma State
Andre Emmett, senior forward, Texas Tech
Wayne Simien, junior forward, Kansas
Tony Allen, junior forward, Oklahoma State
David Harrison, senior center, Colorado

Honorable Mention:

Arthur Johnson, Missouri; Curtis Stinson, Iowa State; Michel Morandais, Colorado; Brandon Mouton, Texas; Rickey Paulding, Missouri

Big 12 Player of the Year:

John Lucas, Oklahoma State – if you get a chance to see this guy play, don’t pass it up. Yes, he can drain impossible threes and knife to the basket like nobody’s business. But more than anything, he can go get Cowboy victories.

All-Big 12 Freshman team:

Curtis Stinson, point guard, Iowa State
J.R. Giddens, guard, Kansas
P.J. Tucker, forward, Texas
Drew Lavender, point guard, Oklahoma
Thomas Gardner, guard, Missouri

Honorable Mention:

Jarrius Jackson, Texas Tech; Will Blalock, Iowa State; David Padgett, Kansas; Linas Kleiza, Missouri

Big 12 Freshman of the Year:

Curtis Stinson, Iowa State – The New York kid came in with an attitude and led ISU to a 7-9 Big 12 finish, beating Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Colorado. Good things ahead in Ames.

Around the Big 12

Baylor Bears (3-13 Big 12, 8-21 overall)

Big 12 Tournament: ineligible

What was supposed to be a tough campaign for the Bears was, but with a few exceptions. BU recorded three Big 12 wins, including one over Iowa State. But a Senior Day win would have been even sweeter for Terrance Thomas, R.T. Guinn and Matt Sayman. Baylor nearly got it, but fell 64-62 to surging Kansas State. Guinn had his chance to win it after BU fought back from being down 56-37. A 12-1 run narrowed the lead to 57-49, and Thomas banked home a three-pointer with 41 seconds left to make it 64-62. K-State missed two front ends on one-and-one free throws, and Guinn got open for a three-pointer late. It hit off the back glass, and Baylor lost its chance for the upset.

The Bears had a chance to ruin Oklahoma’s tournament at-large chances Saturday in a low-scoring affair, 46-41. But Baylor’s 18th and final turnover, an OU steal on the last Bear possession, gave Oklahoma the win. A 14-2 Baylor run to open the second half put the Bears on top 32-22, but OU was able to chip away and BU couldn’t slow the pace quite enough.

Colorado Buffaloes (10-6, 18-9)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 4 seed, play at 2:20 p.m. Friday vs. No. 5 Texas Tech

Usually, getting double digit wins in one of the four best conferences in America is enough to get you a NCAA bid, but the Buffs may need to beat Texas Tech on Friday to be sure. That’s because CU blew a 13-point lead and lost at Iowa State on Wednesday 83-77. Colorado certainly looked like it would get the big win in the first half, shooting 62 percent in the first half and taking a 47-41 lead to the locker room. The Buffs hit their first 8 three-pointers. In the second half, Colorado extended the lead to 56-43 in the early-going, but Iowa State was able to turn the tide with full-court pressure and ever-loudening crowd. Michel Morandais had 17 points and David Harrison finished with 16, but Cyclone runs of 19-5 and 9-1 were too much.

Colorado saved its season on Saturday with a 78-75 victory at home against Nebraska. It didn’t seem like CU wanted the win very badly, though: the Buffaloes missed five free throws in the game’s final minute. But they went to the line six times in the final 5.2 seconds and hit three shots for the final margin. David Harrison was magnificent, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting and Michel Morandais had 23 points.

Iowa State Cyclones (7-9, 16-11)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 8 seed, play at 2 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 9 Kansas State

I can’t imagine a Cyclone team that’s 0-10 outside the state of Iowa doing much damage in Dallas. But when ISU is in Hilton Coliseum, it’s nearly unstoppable. Such was the case Wednesday, when the Cyclones came back to beat Colorado 83-77. Curtis Stinson and Jackson Vroman led the charge with 19 points each. Stinson gave Iowa State its first lead at 62-61, and with the score 80-77, Vroman drew a charge on CU’s Chris Copeland to secure the win.

Lubbock is a long way from Iowa and the Cyclones fell to 0-2 in Texas this year with a 72-58 loss at Texas Tech on Saturday. Stinson scored 17 more points, but Iowa State couldn’t stop Tech defensively and never got closer than eight points down in the second half. The Red Raiders shot 51 percent.

Kansas Jayhawks (12-4, 20-7)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 3 seed, play at 8:20 p.m. Friday vs. MU/TAMU winner

Here’s another team that has had a bit of trouble winning away from home. Earlier this month, Kansas lost by 19 to Nebraska in the Husker State, but when the venue was changed to Allen Fieldhouse, it was an easy Jayhawk win, 78-67. Things went pretty much as expected for the crowd on Senior Day: Wayne Simien had 22 points, Aaron Miles dished out 7 assists, and the Jayhawks used crowd momentum to go on several big runs late in the first half and early in the second half. As an added bonus, Simien, a junior, announced he has no plans to leave for NBA after this season.

It was hard to pick a hero for KU on Sunday as the Jayhawks prevented Missouri from one final Hearnes Center win with an 84-82 victory. As usual, the list starts with Simien. After a slow first half, he put Kansas on his back in the second and finished with 22 points and 7 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a late 77-67 lead. But maybe the hero was Aaron Miles, with his 15 points, 8 rebounds and one huge three-pointer to put KU on top 82-80 with less than a minute to play. J.R. Giddens could also have been considered a hero: 4-of-7 from long range for 14 points. And, of course, there was freshman David Padgett, who took a pass from Keith Langford and nailed a baseline jumper with two seconds left to give Kansas victory.

Kansas State Wildcats (6-10, 14-13)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 9 seed, play at 2 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 8 Iowa State

A few bounces here or there, and K-State easily could have slipped below Baylor in the final Big 12 standings. Instead, the Wildcats finished with two straight wins, a 6-10 record and the conference tournament’s No. 9 seed. Wednesday against the Bears, Jeremiah Massey scored 21 points and K-State won 64-62. But KSU nearly blew a 19-point lead late. Jarrett Hart and Marques Hayden both missed important free throws down the stretch, and K-State only survived because Baylor didn’t have any points left in their final possession.

The free-throw shooting certainly didn’t improve for the Wildcats on Saturday against Texas, but the result stayed the same against a much better team. K-State was only 19-of-31 from the charity stripe and 17-of-50 from the floor, but Texas was equally as miserable and KSU won 58-48. Massey had 14 points and 10 rebounds and K-State scored the game’s last eight points and out-rebounded the bigger Longhorns 42-32.

Missouri Tigers (9-7, 15-12)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 6 seed, play at 8:20 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 11 Texas A&M

Thanks to two lackluster defensive efforts, Mizzou went from being the talk of the league to back on the bubble, and almost off of it. First, Wednesday, Texas Tech beat the Tigers 87-76. MU led 44-41 at halftime, but came out flat in the second half defensively and allowed the Raiders to build a 72-56 lead. MU fought back to within 78-74, but could get no closer. Arthur Johnson was great with 24 points and Jimmy McKinney had 14, but Rickey Paulding was held to 13 points with only 4 field goals.

Everything was set up for a storybook ending at the Hearnes Center on Sunday: last game in the arena against Kansas, last game at home for the highly successful duo of Arthur Johnson and Rickey Paulding, and an NCAA Tournament bid to lock up. But somebody forgot to ask the Kansas Jayhawks to cooperate, and MU lost 84-82. Johnson had one of the best games of the year in a losing effort. He scored 37 points on 13-of-17 shooting, pulled down 8 rebounds and made 4 steals without turning the ball over. Johnson and Jason Conley led the Tigers on a late 13-2 run that culminated when Conley stole an inbounds pass, streaked down the court and dunked to give MU an 80-79 lead with 47 seconds left. But Aaron Miles three-pointer put KU up two. Conley hit two free throws with 15 seconds to go, but David Padgett won the game for the Jayhawks. Free-throw shooting cost the Tigers dearly. They started the game 2-of-8 and shot a total of only 59 percent.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-10, 14-13)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 10 seed, play at 6 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 7 Oklahoma

The Huskers fell behind Kansas late in the first half, came back with an early second-half 10-0 run, but couldn’t fight KU’s wave of momentum and fell subject to a 10-0 Jayhawk run. Five Huskers scored in double figures, led by Brian Conklin with 14. But KU led by as many as 22 points in a laugher of a second half, and won 78-67.

Nebraska lost its chance to play Iowa State in Dallas when the Huskers lost 78-75 to Colorado on Saturday and Kansas State beat Texas later in the day. Instead, NU will have to play Oklahoma, and the winner will have to play the Longhorns. Conklin drilled a three-pointer to tie the game at 75 with 20.6 seconds to play, but couldn’t stop fouling CU in the last 10 seconds. John Turek led the Huskers with 19 points and 11 rebounds off the bench and fought back from nine points down, but NU had no answer for David Harrison inside and Michel Morandais outside.

Oklahoma Sooners (8-8, 18-9)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 7 seed, play at 6 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 10 Nebraska

With their backs against the wall, the Sooners did what was necessary in order to stay alive for the NCAA Tournament. It started Wednesday with an 86-60 trashing of Texas A&M. OU led 21-2, 33-9 and by as much as 30 in a game it controlled from the outset. The Sooners held the Aggies to 17 percent shooting in the first half. Drew Lavender scored 14 points and had 8 assists and De’Angelo Alexander scored 17 points. Five Sooners scored in double figures, quite a feat for a normally offense-challenged team.

It wasn’t nearly as pretty on Saturday when OU beat Baylor 46-41, but the Sooners got the win, and that’s what they needed. Only one Oklahoma player got into double digits in scoring, Lavender with 10. The Sooners enjoyed a big edge on the boards and forced 18 turnovers, but needed two Lawrence McKenzie free throws in the final minute and a steal by Jaison Williams to hang on for the victory. Center Jabahri Brown sat out both of last week’s wins, suspended after being charged with possession of marijuana. That could spell trouble for the Sooners in Dallas, even if they can get past Nebraska.

Oklahoma is 7-0 against teams below it in the standings and 1-8 against the teams in front of it. Texas waits in the second round.

Oklahoma State Cowboys (14-2, 24-3)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 1 seed, play at noon Friday vs. ISU/KSU winner

A big second-half run gave Oklahoma State a working margin, and the Cowboys hung on to beat Texas 76-67 in what amounted to the Big 12 regular-season championship Monday. OSU started the second stanza with a 15-3 run to take a 50-38 lead. Texas fought back to within 62-61 behind the play of Jason Klotz, but Oklahoma State played composed at home down the stretch and won its 13th game in 14 tries. Tony Allen took over the hero role from John Lucas for the game, keeping OSU with UT early. He finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds and held Texas’ number one offensive threat, Brandon Mouton, to 6 points on 3-of-11 shooting. He also came up with a number of big plays down the stretch. Joey Graham added 20 points and 9 rebounds and Lucas had 14 points and 7 assists.

No heroics were needed Saturday when OK State crushed Texas A&M 70-41 Saturday. The Cowboys clinched the regular-season title outright with the win, and Eddie Sutton got his first outright conference championship as OSU coach. Lucas led the Cowboys with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting. This one was never close; the Aggies were able to keep from getting completely blown away by running the shot clock down on nearly every possession.

Texas Longhorns (12-4, 21-6)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 2 seed, play Friday at 6 p.m. vs. OU/NU winner

If Texas had been able to come back against OSU on Monday, the entire conference would be talking about Jason Klotz. The little-known big man had a career-high 19 points for Texas. In fact, the Longhorns made Klotz their first option in a 23-12 run that brought Texas back within one point with less than four minutes to play. But with hardly any help from the perimeter, UT lost 76-67 and fell to second place.

Klotz went from potential hero to goat after Texas lost 58-48 to Kansas State on the road Saturday. With both teams shooting a horrendous percentage, Kenny Taylor finally got a couple of three-pointers to sink late in the game to tie the contest at 45. But about a minute later, with KSU up by a single score, Klotz missed a point-blank, wide-open lay-up. Kansas State scored again, and Texas had trouble hitting the broad side of a barn in the final minutes. The Wildcats finally found their stroke from the free-throw line and hung on for the upset.

Texas A&M Aggies (0-16, 7-20)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 11 seed, play Thursday at 8:20 p.m. vs. No. 6 Missouri

Let’s get this statistic out of the way right up front: A&M is only the second Big 12 team to go winless in a season and the first since Baylor did it in 1999. And now for some equally unpleasant business: Melvin Watkins, I hope you have an enjoyable time losing to Missouri on Thursday, because it will be your last game at the helm of the Aggies.

A&M didn’t even bother to show up for either of its games this week. Oklahoma, desperate for a win, got out to a 21-2 lead on Texas A&M, desperate for the season to be finished. A&M trailed 35-20 at halftime and never got closer than 13 points down in the second half.

While Oklahoma State was celebrating a rare conference championship with a 70-41 victory on Saturday, the visiting team was getting through the second-to-last game of a miserable season. The Aggies seemingly wanted the clock to run out faster, letting time roll down on every possession. The result was a 29-point loss, when it could have been much worse, but only 41 A&M points and no individual player with more than 12 points for the Aggies. This team didn’t have a ton of talent coming into the season, but with Antoine Wright in the line-up, it should have done better than this. What happened?

Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-7, 21-9)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 5 seed, play at 2:20 p.m. Friday vs. No. 4 Colorado

Bob Knight’s squad didn’t much like being on the bubble and responded with two of its best performances of the conference season last week with wins over Missouri and Iowa State. Against the Tigers, Texas Tech never really found an answer for Arthur Johnson on the defensive end, but out-scored MU 87-76 behind 28 points from Andre Emmett, 19 from freshman Jarrius Jackson and 16 from Ronald Ross. Even when Robert Tomaszek fouled out and MU got back to within four at 78-74, Tech kept its composure and won a fight between bubble teams that locked up an NCAA bid.

When Iowa State came to town on Saturday, Texas Tech continued its string of good play and cemented a bid with a 72-58 win against Iowa State. Ross had 23 points and Jackson added 17. Knight got his 830th career win, tying him for third place on the all-time list with Jim Phelan. Knight is now behind only Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp on that list. This one wasn’t too tough for Knight, as his Red Raiders got out to a 40-24 lead with first-half runs of 20-6 and 11-2.

     

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