January 11, 2008

Freshmen take center stage in Big 12

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Saturday, Jan. 12
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State
Texas at Missouri
Colorado at Texas A&M
Iowa State at Baylor
Kansas State at Oklahoma
Kansas at Nebraska
Monday, Jan. 14
Oklahoma at Kansas
Tuesday, Jan. 15
Oklahoma State at Baylor
Nebraska at Colorado
Wednesday, Jan. 16
Missouri at Iowa State
Texas A&M at Texas Tech

Best matchup: Michael Beasley vs. Blake Griffin. Saturday's game in Norman matches two freshman power forwards ranked in the top 25 of their class. The Wildcats' Beasley, ranked first in the class of 2007, has had a Kevin Durant-like effect on the stat sheet with 13 double-doubles in 14 games. He leads the nation in rebounding (13.5) and is fifth in scoring (24.2). Griffin is no slouch at 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. This is their only meeting this year and perhaps their college careers.

The pressure is on: Kansas State. The Wildcats entered the season with much fanfare because of the freshman duo of Beasley and Bill Walker. At 10-4, the Wildcats haven't done much to prove they are a tournament team. Their best win at this point is over Cal at home. A win over Oklahoma, which counts Arkansas, Gonzaga and West Virginia in its 12 wins, would go a long way to padding Kansas State's resume.

Upset alert: Nebraska over Kansas in Lincoln. Kansas rolled over Boston College 85-60 in its last non-conference road test, so this upset pick may be a tall task. However, all of the Cornhuskers' 11 wins have come at home, including victories over Arizona State and then-No. 16 Oregon.

RPI watch: Though the Big 12 was ranked first in the RPI rankings, the league has dipped to No. 4. Texas, ranked 10th, is the highest-ranked Big 12 team, followed by No. 12 Kansas.

Key stat: 900. Texas Tech coach Bob Knight's first chance for win No. 900 will come Saturday against Oklahoma State. Only Texas coach Jody Conradt and Tennessee's Pat Summitt have 900 wins in Division I.

Freshman to watch: Nebraska point guard Cookie Miller has 19 assists with one turnover in his last two games. Those games were against Alcorn State and Maryland-Eastern Shore. The Cornhuskers' next test will be a little tougher against Kansas.

Who's hot: Kansas forward Darnell Jackson is 44 of 60 (73.3 percent) from the field over the past eight games. He has averaged 17 points in his last four games. Oklahoma freshman Blake Griffin has scored in double digits in eight consecutive games including a career-high 26 points against Mount St. Mary's. Texas sophomore Damion James has had at least 14 rebounds in five of his last seven games.

Who's not: Texas is 53 of 90 (58.9 percent) from the free throw line in the last four games, including 15 of 28 against St. Mary's on Saturday. Oklahoma State committed 20 turnovers to eight assists in a 62-53 victory to Rogers State, a first-year NAIA program. Due to injuries, Colorado is down to a seven-man rotation. The fatigue led to an 81-68 loss at home to Tulsa on Monday in which the Golden Hurricane shot 60 percent from the floor.

Worth noting: With men's basketball ranked No. 3 and football ranked No. 7, Kansas is the only program with both teams ranked in the top 10. Kansas State set an NCAA record by holding Savannah State to 4.3 percent (1 of 23) shooting in the second half while holding Savannah State to a Big 12-record 25 points on Jan. 7. The previous low record for shooting in a half was 5.9 percent. Texas Tech coach Bob Knight was assessed his first technical foul of the season Jan. 5 when he kicked the front of the scorer's table and lost his right shoe after a disputed call. Oklahoma forward Keith Clark did not play Monday against Mount St. Mary's and did not practice during the portion open to the media this week. The reason for his absence has not been specified. Oklahoma State freshman forward Anthony Brown (knee) returned to play one minute against Rogers State on Monday after missing two games. Kansas guard Mario Chalmers (groin) did not play against Loyola (Md.) on Tuesday. Kansas is hopeful he will play Saturday against Nebraska. Colorado guard Dwight Thorne (knee) missed the last two games but could return this weekend.

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David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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