Despite a conference season full of parody and an expected seven-team contingent heading to the NCAA tournament, there is still one clear-cut team to beat in the Big 12.
No. 1 Kansas (29-2, 15-1 Big 12) enters the 2010 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament as a likely lock for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament, even if they don’t emerge as the tourney’s victor.
That being said, it’s going to take a spectacular effort to knock off the Jayhawks, a team that could win its second national championship in three years.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys (21-9, 9-7 Big 12) did just that two and a half weeks ago, beating Kansas 85-77 in Stillwater, Okla., behind a 27-point, 8-rebound performance from Big 12 Player of the Year James Anderson.
The Cowboys’ junior guard is the player to look out for, averaging 22.9 points a game over the regular season, and assuming seventh seeded OSU gets past tenth-seeded Oklahoma, they should have a good chance of pulling an upset in the quarterfinals.
The team awaiting them would be second-seeded Kansas State (24-6, 11-5 Big 12) a team who, like their in-state rivals, was in-line for a number one seed until back-to-back losses to finish the season, including an 85-82 OT home loss to lowly Iowa State (15-16, 4-12 Big 12).
The Cyclones will look to pull off another upset in their first round game, when they face off against sixth-seeded Texas (23-8, 9-7 Big 12).
Defending Big 12 champion Missouri (22-9, 10-6 Big 12) is the fifth seed and will face twelfth seeded Nebraska (14-17, 2-14 Big 12) in their first round game.
And in the opening game of the first round, Colorado (15-15, 6-10 Big 12) will get a rematch with the Texas Tech (16-14, 4-12 Big 12) team they beat 101-90 in their regular season finale. The game tips off at 10:30 a.m., with the other first round games to follow.
Coach Jeff Bzdelik, who spent numerous seasons in the NBA before his move to the college game, drew comparisons to his preparation come playoff time.
“Immediately after the game, I’ll watch the Texas Tech game and I’ll make an edit,” he said. “And I’ll ask, ‘Can we do this differently? Maybe this will work better than it did today.’”
The question is: Does CU have to change anything from what they did on Saturday that was successful in netting them the win?
“You make adjustments; sometimes you make adjustments for the better and sometimes for the worse,” Bzdelik said. “Just have to evaluate the film and see perhaps what you can do better schematically that might help you. Sometimes you don’t do a thing.”
As for the players, they recognize both the advantages and disadvantages of playing the same opponent twice in five days.
Junior guard Cory Higgins, who dropped a team-high 30 in Saturday’s game, played the role of team leader in addressing his squad’s deficiencies.
“We have to stop somebody,” Higgins said. “ We gave up 90 points. They were getting too many easy buckets, and it’s the same old things; rebounds, we need to tighten up on the defensive end. We can’t let them score 90 points again and expect we are going to score 100 because that doesn’t happen.”
Junior forward Casey Crawford, who was held to two points (on two free throws) in his second start of the season after combining for 30 in his previous two games, epitomized his team’s new sense of confidence in the upcoming game plan.
“We know how they guard and their matchups, so we know how they are going to play us,” Crawford said. “They’re probably going to change some things a little bit because we beat them [on Saturday], but we have a good idea of how to stop them and how to beat them.”
If the Buffs can beat the Red Raiders for a second time, they get to face the top-seeded Jayhawks for a third time this season in the quarterfinals. And if they want to assure themselves a date in any postseason play, they may have to do what they couldn’t in Boulder on Feb. 3: finish the deal with a win.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer David Starcer at David.email@example.com.