January 4, 2008

Jayhawks looking to remain perfect

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Upcoming Big 12 Games
Maryland-Eastern Shore at Nebraska
SMU at Colorado
Kansas at Boston College
UTEP at Texas Tech
Rice at Oklahoma
Saint Mary's at Texas
LSU at Texas A&M
North Dakota at Iowa State
Baylor at Arkansas
Tulsa at Colorado
Savannah State at Kansas State
Mount St. Mary's at Oklahoma
Rogers State at Oklahoma State
Brown at Baylor
Loyola College at Kansas
UMKC at Missouri

Best matchup: Kansas at Boston College. Kansas (13-0) goes to Chestnut Hill for its last major non-conference test. The guard play will be critical as dynamic defenders Russell Robinson and Brandon Rush face Boston College guard Tyrese Rice (19.7 points per game). Kansas passed its last two non-conference road tests with a 59-55 win over USC and 71-66 victory over Georgia Tech.

The pressure is on: Kansas State. The Wildcats get one more non-conference warmup against Savannah State before a challenging opening to the Big 12 season. The Wildcats go to Oklahoma, then face No. 10 Texas A&M. One of the troubling signs in the 103-77 loss at Xavier on Dec. 31 was a career-low five points from star freshman Michael Beasley. However, freshmen Bill Walker (31 points) and Fred Brown (25 points) had career highs in the 26-point loss.

Upset alert: Saint Mary's over Texas. After a 12-1 start, Saint Mary's is ranked 24th in the nation and fourth in the RPI. Texas will be its last major test before the Gaels' home-and-home series with Gonzaga. Texas rebounded from consecutive losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin with a win over TCU. However, Longhorns coach Rick Barnes has been displeased with the play of point guard D.J. Augustin over the last three games. Fellow guard A.J. Abrams might not play against Saint Mary's because of a foot injury.

RPI watch: Kansas, ranked third in the AP and coaches' poll, is ranked ninth in the RPI. The Big 12 is the second-ranked conference behind the ACC.

Key stat: Kansas has held seven of 13 opponents - and three of the last four - to fewer than 60 points.

Freshmen to watch: With one more game before conference play begins, Texas Tech guard John Roberson is on a tear. Roberson finished with a career-high 28 points against Northwestern State on Dec. 29 and 21 points in the next game against Lamar. He also had 12 assists over the two games.

Who's hot: Texas forward Damion James has averaged 21.7 points and 15 rebounds in his last three games. Oklahoma freshman Blake Griffin has had consecutive double-doubles against ranked opponents West Virginia and Gonzaga. He had career highs with 18 points and 16 rebounds in an 88-82 double overtime win over West Virginia on Dec. 29. Since losing 66-62 to Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 8, Oklahoma has defeated Arkansas, No. 20 Gonzaga and No. 23 West Virginia. Baylor guard Henry Dugat has scored at least 20 points in his last two games

Who's not: Kansas State forward Michael Beasley, who averages 24.2 points per game, scored a career-low five points in a 103-77 loss to Xavier on New Year's Eve. The nation's leading rebounder still had 12 boards. Kansas guard Sherron Collins has turned the ball over 11 times and has just nine assists in five games since returning from foot surgery. After committing only one turnover in six games, Iowa State freshman point guard Bryan Petersen turned the ball over four times against South Carolina Upstate on Wednesday.

Worth noting: Texas freshman forward Gary Johnson made his debut against TCU, scoring five points and grabbing five rebounds. He only recently was cleared to play because of an unspecified heart condition. ... Longhorns guard A.J. Abrams missed the TCU game with a foot injury. It is unclear if he will play against Saint Mary's. The Big 12 is the only conference in the country with all of its teams above .500. Colorado (7-5) is in last place in the league. Kansas guard Mario Chalmers became the second Jayhawk this season to top 1,000 career points. Brandon Rush was the other. Texas A&M guard Dominique Kirk set a Big 12 record by starting in all 110 games in his career. He broke the record of 109 consecutive starts held by Kansas' Aaron Miles from 2001-05. Colorado backup guard Dwight Thorne will not play Friday against SMU because of a deep bone bruise on his right knee. In defeating West Virginia 88-82 in double overtime on Dec. 29, Oklahoma beat a team despite trailing at halftime for the first time under Jeff Capel. Capel's Sooners were 0-15 when trailing at the half. Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton did not start guard Byron Eaton against Texas-San Antonio after he was late to a film session this week.

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