Iowa State made a strong statement Tuesday night that it is very happy where it is atop the Big 12 basketball standings and doesn’t plan on vacating that position anytime soon. The seventh-ranked Cyclones upped their season record to 14-0 and 2-0 in the Big 12 with an 87-72 win over Baylor, the No. 9 team in the land before Tuesday night.
In one other game Tuesday night, Kansas State, ranked 25th this week in the Associated Press poll, made it two in a row to open conference play, with a 65-47 road win at TCU
It’s not going to be just “Big Monday” in the Big 12 this season. The way things appear so far, it looks like there are going to be a number of night during the week when big games will be taking place in the conference. As a case in point, there are two more intriguing games on tap Wednesday night. Oklahoma entertains the Kansas Jayhawks and Texas and Oklahoma State both seek to rebound from conference-opening losses on Saturday when they go against each other at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater.
The Jayhawks (9-4) open defense of their nine consecutive Big 12 titles with their 2013-14 conference opener at Oklahoma (12-2). The Sooners won their conference opener Saturday with a three-point road win at Texas. Kansas is coming off its fourth nonconference loss of the season, a 61-57 loss at home on Sunday to then 19th-ranked San Diego State. Following the loss to the Aztecs, the Jayhawks fell three spots from 17th to 20th in this weeks USA Today Coaches Poll.
The last time Kansas visited Norman, in February last year, coach Bill Self’s team was in the midst of a highly atypical two-game losing streak, and the Sooners delighted in tacking on consective loss number three with a 72-66 victory. Prior to that time, however, the Jayhawks had handled Oklahoma in 10 straight games dating back to 2005. The Jayhawks own the overall series with OU, as they do with every other team in the league, 139-65, but KU is only 47-41 in games played at Oklahoma.
The Kansas starting lineup features three of the most highly recruited freshman in college basketball this season, including the No. 1 overall recruit, 6-8 Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is averaging 15.8 points of Kansas’ 78 points per game. Behind the super-talented freshman is sophomore Perry Ellis, averaging 13.2 points, and another freshman, 7-0 forward Joel Embiid, at 10.8 points per game.
The Sooners also field a young starting lineup of three sophomores, a junior and a senior. The lone senior, 6-7 Cameron Clark, leads the Sooners in scoring, averaging 17.7 points, third best in the conference. Oklahoma is averaging over 87 points a game as a team, which leads the Big 12 and ranks fifth in the contry.
Heading into conference games, Kansas is not playing as good of defense as has become characteristic of Bill Self-coached teams, but the Jayhawks are holding their opponents right at 40 percent shooting, which will win you a bunch of games. The Sooners have been averaging 46 percent shooting as a team this season. OU has been making a nice living this year behind the three-point line. The Sooners have already put up 109 three point shots, connecting on 38 percent of them, which is almost double the number of three pointers attempted by the Jayhawks this season.
Oklahoma likes to play up tempo this season, which accounts for their high point totals on offense. It will be interesting to see how that plays against a young Kansas bunch that also likes to get out and run, even though the Jayhawks generally are a little more disciplined on the offensive end. The Sooners’ one glaring weakness is they don’t play defense very well, which should work to Kansas’ advantage.
The young Jayhawks will be strongly tested early in their conference schedule. After Oklahoma, they return home to take on Kansas State (12-3), followed by games against the Big 12’a three other ranked teams, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor (12-2). “The first 12 days of our schedule…that’s probably about as you could play,” Self said on his weekly radio program on Monday.
It will be interesting to see how 12th-ranked Oklahoma State (12-2) and Texas (11-3) rebound from their somewhat surprising losses last weekend. Oklahoma State will be playing at home, where the Cowboys are always especially tough. Texas has fared well against OSU historically. The Longhorns lead the overall series 45-38 and have won eight of the 18 games played in Stillwater, including the one played last season. Oklahoma State is 13-4 in conference openers at home in the Big 12 era.
Texas has been the best rebounding team in the conference in 2013-14, averaging 42 per game, including over 14 a game on the offensive end. Oklahoma State has three players in the top 15 in the league in scoring, led by sophomore guard an Big 12 Player of the Year last season Marcus Smart (17.0). Forwards Markel Brown and Le”Bryan Nash also average in double figures.
Junior Jonathan Holmes leads the Longhorns in scoring, averaging 13.2 points a game. Sophomore 6-9 center Cameron Ridley has averaged 15 points in his last three games and is Texas leading rebounder and shot blocker.
Big 12 Game Predictions
Kansas @ Oklahoma – Kansas by six points
Texas @ Oklahoma State – Oklahoma State by 11 points