March 7, 2008

Big 12 crown goes down to last game

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UPCOMING GAMES
Saturday
Baylor at Texas Tech
Missouri at Oklahoma
Kansas State at Iowa State
Kansas at Texas A&M
Sunday
Colorado at Nebraska
Oklahoma State at Texas

Best matchup(s): Oklahoma State at Texas and Kansas at Texas A&M. The Longhorns and Jayhawks go into the final weekend of the regular season tied for the Big 12 lead, but any slip could cost either one the title. Texas plays host to Oklahoma State, which recovered from a terrible conference start and has won five of its past six - including wins over the Texas A&M and Kansas. Cowboys guard Byron Eaton has played as well as anyone in the conference during that span. Kansas has to be on upset alert as well, playing on the road in College Station. The Aggies recovered from a slump to win at Baylor on Wednesday.

The pressure is on: Baylor. The Bears' 71-57 loss at home Wednesday to Texas A&M puts them in a position to have to fight for a NCAA bid. The Bears must defeat Texas Tech on Saturday to avoid slipping to 8-8 in the league. Trouble is, the game is in Lubbock, where the Red Raiders are tough 13-2 overall and 6-1 in Big 12 play.

Upset alert: Iowa State over Kansas State. Kansas State's road woes the Wildcats have lost five in a row are well-documented. Why should the regular-season finale be any different? Kansas State is 1-3 against the Big 12 North on the road, with the only win coming against conference doormat Colorado.

RPI watch: RPI isn't the be-all, end-all for the selection committee. However, three Big 12 teams are living dangerously on the edge of the top 50 threshold No. 39 Baylor, No. 42 Texas A&M and No. 46 Kansas State. Texas Tech is ranked 49th and likely won't receive an NCAA invitation unless it wins the Big 12 Tournament.

Key stat: The Big 12 is ranked second in the RPI. The last time the Big 12 was ranked second in the RPI was in 2003, when the league sent Kansas and Texas to the Final Four.

Freshman to watch: Kansas State's Michael Beasley, because there are probably few opportunities remaining to see him play in a college game.

Who's hot: Beasley is on a tear, even by his high standards. He has averaged 36.5 points and 13.3 rebounds over the past four games. He has attempted at least 21 shots in each game during that span. Colorado guard Marcus Hall scored a combined 53 points in the past two games to go with 10 rebounds, 11 assists and eight steals. Nebraska has made at least 50 percent of its shots from the field in four of its past five games. Missouri forward DeMarre Carroll had 43 points and 14 rebounds in his past two games.

Who's not: The last time someone other than Beasley or Bill Walker scored in double-figures for Kansas State was when two other players did it in a 71-64 loss at Nebraska on Feb. 20. Texas Tech has set the school record for its most lopsided loss twice in less than a week. The Red Raiders lost by 44 to Texas A&M on Feb. 27 before losing by 58 to Kansas on Monday. No Baylor player scored in double-figures in Wednesday's 71-57 loss to Texas A&M.

Worth noting: Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin is expected to return in time for the Big 12 Tournament following arthroscopic knee surgery. Nebraska freshman point guard Cookie Miller (shoulder) is expected to return for the Big 12 Tournament after missing three games. Kansas State guard Clent Stewart proposed to his girlfriend, Kansas State student Stephanie Harwell, in front of the Bramlage Coliseum crowd on Senior Night. The Baylor crowd showered its home court with plastic soda bottles after Texas A&M's Donald Sloan sealed the Aggies' 71-57 win with an off-the-glass dunk in the final seconds.

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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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