Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Kansas Takes Clear Lead In Big 12

#15 Kansas 90, #8 Missouri 65
I don't think anybody was surprised to see Kansas win here. Missouri was overrated at 8th in the polls, and Kansas is always tough at home, so I figured Kansas would win this one fairly convincingly. But it's hard not to be shocked with the way that Kansas ran all over the Missouri press, turning the game into a layup line and a blowout for the Jayhawks. Bill Self also did a great job of taking advantage of his biggest advantage: his team's size. Cole Adrich's 19 points and 14 rebounds probably represented the best performance of any player in this game. With the win Kansas now has a clear path to the Big 12 title. They are now two games ahead of Missouri, and one game ahead of a slightly reeling Oklahoma team. And they have a pretty easy final two games, playing on the road at Texas Tech (as I type this), and then a home finale against a Texas team that isn't nearly as good as they've been most of the last few years. Kansas has to be the heavy favorite at this point. As for Missouri, they just have to put this game behind them and look ahead. Their Big 12 regular season title hopes are now over, for all intents and purposes, but they can still earn a great Tournament seed (in the 3-5 range) if they can finish well.

#9 Michigan State 74, #20 Illinois 66
Michigan State reminds me a lot of UCLA in the way that they seem to let inferior teams hang around. They are too confident in their own ability to close out games late. Unlike UCLA, however, Michigan State has proved that they can win close games. They have now won the Big Ten regular season title outright, and are still very much in the discussion for a 1 seed. They're going to have to win the Big Ten tournament title, though. As for Illinois, they need to win their regular season finale at Penn State tomorrow night to wrap up one of the top three seeds in the Big Ten tournament. You have to think they'd love to avoid Michigan State until the Big Ten finals. They've already wrapped up their NCAA Tournament bid, but their Big Ten tournament performance could be the difference between a 4 seed and an 8 seed.

Oklahoma State 77, Kansas State 71
I always say that the team that needs a win more has a huge advantage in a game, and Kansas State did need this game more, but the difference was small. These teams entered the game with Oklahoma State probably in the Tournament and Kansas State probably out, but both teams were on the bubble. And when you throw in an emotional Senior Night for a group of Seniors desperate to not be the first Senior Oklahoma State class to not make a Tournament in two decades, that was the difference that put the Cowboys over the top in the final minutes. Oklahoma State is actually now in pretty good shape for a Tournament bid. This was their 20th win, and they're now 9-6 in the Big 12 with a reasonable 8-9 record against the RPI Top 100 and an RPI of 27th. They have no bad losses, and they have wins over Texas and Texas A&M. And they needed this little cushion, because they close the regular season on the road at Oklahoma, and I just can't see any way that this tiny Oklahoma State team can handle the size of the Sooners. It's looking likely that Oklahoma State will end up in a tie for fourth in the Big 12, but with all of the possibilities and all of the tiebreaks it's hard to tell exactly who they'll play in their first Big 12 tournament game. I think that they're in the NCAA Tournament for certain if they can make the Big 12 semifinals, even assuming that they will lose to Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon. As for Kansas State, they now face a must win home game against Colorado on Saturday. Assuming that they win that game they're going to have to make the Big 12 tournament semifinals or they won't make the NCAA Tournament. If they make that game then they'll be a serious bubble team, and I'll have to re-evaluate them based on how the rest of the conference tournaments play out.

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