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The Morning Dish – Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

The Big 12 displayed once again on Saturday how its depth from top to bottom the past few years has been peerless. Unfortunately, Saturday also showed how the league might be destined for yet another year of predominantly early exits from the NCAA Tournament.

On a Saturday where top 10 teams and favorites in general were getting knocked down left and right, the Big 12 was the biggest winner when it came to slaying giants. Three of its teams that appeared to be sitting on the NCAA Tournament fence now possessing big-time road wins with Kansas State stinging second-ranked Baylor 56-54, Iowa State winning at No. 3 Kansas 92-89 in overtime and Oklahoma State winning 82-75 at No. 7 West Virginia.

Kansas State burnished a mostly barren resume that included a deliberately poor non-conference schedule (something that should haunt the Wildcats in March if they’re right on the edge) and a recent three-game losing streak, while Iowa State bombed away from three to snap Kansas’s daunting 54-game home winning streak and get the type of win it needed badly. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, did what neither Baylor or Kansas could do even as they ascended to top 3 rankings: win at West Virginia, avenging an earlier loss to the Mountaineers and showing that Brad Underwood still has the touch against WVU after his Stephen F. Austin team knocked Bob Huggins and company out of the NCAA Tournament last year.

While it was unquestionably a good day for the Big 12’s chances of increasing its bid count in the NCAA Tournament, though, the vulnerability of its top teams also was on full display and has to raise some questions. Baylor, frankly, has been playing with fire all season, with nine of its wins by single digits, and very one of those (Louisville) over a bona fide top-25 team. Recent near escapes against teams like Mississippi and Texas Tech were concerning, and it’s not a team that is exactly an offensive juggernaut. While the Bears have been a wonderful story this year, it’s entirely possible when all is said and done they’ll shake out as a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and a team vulnerable to an early-round loss for the third straight year.

West Virginia and its press are as devastating as any team in the country when they’re rolling, but it also must be said that losses like Saturdays are now becoming a little too close to the norm. A team that has beaten Baylor and Kansas and won at Virginia also now has losses to Temple, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State-none of them in true road games-plus road losses to bubble-type teams K-State and Texas Tech. A team with a good point guard could well lead to another early exit in the NCAAs as well for a team that is so fun to watch.

As a college hoops blueblood, Kansas of course has the talent to work through more than most, but the fact is the Jayhawks are in some turmoil now. Injuries have shrunk the team’s depth, as has the indefinite suspension of Carlton Bragg, and the team also is dealing with star freshman Josh Jackson plus Lagerald Vick both being current persons of interest in vandalism case. That’s a lot of extra drama that can wear on any team, and combined with the lack of depth, the truth is this team must might be overachieving so far this year.

Side Dishes:

  • Saturday was loaded with an extravaganza of huge individual performances, and that was just in the Eastern Washington/Portland State game. The Eagles’ Bogdan Bliznyuk and Jacob Wiley both scored 45 points-EACH-in EWU’s eventual 130-124 triple-overtime classic win that set a Big Sky Conference record for scoring. Wiley was an incredible 18 of 23 from the field and also had 17 rebounds; Bliznyuk merely grabbed 10 boards and added nine assists for a near triple-double. Portland State’s De’Sean Parsons scored 35 (14 of 17 from the floor, though somehow just 7 of 13 from the foul line) and Deontae North added 30, both career highs. If anyone has a DVD of this game, send it here. Incredible.
  • Winthrop 5-foot-7 mighty mite guard Keon Johnson scored 39 points in the Eagles’ 76-62 win over Campbell to stay in a tie for first atop the Big South with UNC Asheville and Liberty.
  • Ohio University point guard Jaaron Simmons scored a career-best 38 and added 10 rebounds as the Bobcats pulled away in the final minute to snap Akron’s 12-game winning streak 85-70 in a game much closer than the final score (Ohio led by just four with less than a minute and a half left).
  • South Dakota State’s Mike Daum did it again, ringing the bell for 38 points and also yanking down 17 rebounds in the Jackrabbits’ 74-67 win over Oral Roberts.
  • Angel Delgado almost single-handedly lifted Seton Hall to a 68-66 overtime win at Georgetown, finishing with 26 points and 17 rebounds.

Today’s Menu:

  • It’s an exceptionally light day, with most schools ceding the day to the Super Bowl. Seven games are on tap-one more than originally scheduled, with Notre Dame-North Carolina (1 p.m. Eastern, ESPNews) rescheduled for today.
  • The day starts at noon Eastern with the Patriot League and Lafayette at Boston University on CBS Sports Network
  • Clemson tries to keep its resurgence going when it goes to Florida State (12:30 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Indiana could really use some good news, but it’s asking a lot for it to happen today-the Hoosiers have lost 14 straight at Wisconsin (1 p.m., CBS).
  • The only game not televised today is South Florida at Temple, not a bad thing with the young Owls hosting a Bulls team having a tough year.
  • Nebraska and Iowa get together in a battle of two up-and-down teams fighting for NIT positioning (2 p.m., Big Ten Network).
  • Colorado still has a big hole to dig out of after its bad start in the Pac-12, but the Buffaloes have a chance to make some more hay as they finish their Bay Area swing with California (4:30 p.m., ESPNU).

Enjoy your Super Bowl Sunday.

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