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February 16, 2007
Best matchup: No. 6 Texas A&M (22-4, 9-2) still has the inside track at the top seed in the Big 12 tournament. The Oklahoma Sooners (15-9, 6-5) are trying to move off the bubble and solidify their chances at a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Each team is coming off a disappointing loss. A&M fell at the buzzer to Texas Tech, and OU had its four-game winning streak snapped by Iowa State. Maybe the Sooners were looking ahead to this game. Oklahoma lost to A&M 70-61 in the first meeting, but that was on the road. This game features the Big 12's top two defensive teams. A few individual matchups to watch include A&M's 6-foot-9 forward/center Joseph Jones (13.2 ppg., 6.4 rpg) versus 6-foot-11 Longar Longar (12.1 ppg., 7.6 rpg.) and A&M's Josh Carter (12.5) against OU's Nate Carter (11 ppg.).
Worst matchup: The first time Kansas (22-4, 9-2) faced Nebraska (15-9, 4-6), the Jayhawks prevailed by 20 points in Lincoln, Neb. A rematch at Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks are 13-2, doesn't figure to be much closer. Nebraska owns a sub-par 2-5 road record. The Cornhuskers will have trouble matching up against Kansas. That was evident in the first game, when Jayhawks Julian Wright, Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur combined for 49 points and 56.7 percent shooting. The Jayhawks, who have won six of seven, control their destiny in the conference championship race because Texas A&M lost to Texas Tech.
The pressure is on: Missouri (15-9, 4-7) hasn't participated in the NCAA Tournament the last four years. Unless the Tigers make a late rally, they won't be in the field again. Eleven of Missouri's victories have come against teams with an RPI ranking of No. 123 or worse, and that won't impress the selection committee. However, the Tigers' remaining schedule includes Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M. Mizzou could gain favor with an upset win or two. If not, there's always the NIT. Maybe.
Upset alert: Though barely over the break-even point and tied for ninth place in the Big 12, Iowa State (13-12, 4-7) seems to be making strides. The Cyclones could pose a problem for Kansas State (18-8, 7-4), which has lost two of its last three. The Cyclones lost at home to the Wildcats on Jan. 20, but last week rallied from a 20-point deficit for a respectable 77-68 loss at Texas on Feb. 10. Iowa State followed that with a 58-51 upset of Oklahoma on Tuesday. The Cyclones' 6-foot-11 center Jiri Hubalek has scored 44 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the last two games, and Iowa State limited OU to just 38.5 percent shooting from the field. Alas, the Cyclones have lost their last four road games.
Who's hot: Jarrius Jackson capped a 31-point performance with a buzzer-beating jumper on Tuesday to lift Texas Tech (16-10, 5-6) to a crucial 77-75 victory over Texas A&M. The victory halted a five-game Red Raiders losing streak. Jackson has scored at least 24 points in four of the last five games and exceeded 30 twice.
Who's not: A factor in the Big 12 championship race just two weeks ago, Oklahoma State (19-6, 5-5) appears to be limping down the stretch. The Cowboys have lost three of their last four, but most alarming was their defenseless showing on Monday night in an 83-54 loss to Texas (18-7, 8-3). The Longhorns shot 56.1 percent from the field against OSU. Depth is a big problem for Oklahoma State. The depleted Cowboys bench provided just two points against Texas. Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry have been forced to carry a big load that figures to get heavier with Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Kansas State remaining on the schedule.
Must see TV: Good games are played every week, but opportunities to witness history are rare. That's why Texas A&M-Oklahoma is recommended viewing. The Aggies have never won in Norman. However, this has been a historical season for them. Earlier this year they posted the first victory ever for a South Division team at Kansas' Allen Fieldhouse. On Jan. 27 the Aggies defeated the Sooners 70-61 in College Station, which was only the second time A&M had ever beaten OU.
Key stat: Missouri's Stefhon Hannah snatched three more steals in Wednesday's victory over Baylor, which gives him 65 for the season. That moved him into third place on the school's single-season chart. He needs 12 more steals to set the single-season record.
Bench bonus: Junior forward Darnell Jackson has made a significant contribution in each of Kansas' last three victories. Jackson, who averages 5.8 points and 5.2 rebounds on the season, has averaged nine points and nine boards in that three-game stretch. He posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in a victory over Kansas State. Jackson followed that up with 10 points and six rebounds against Missouri and four points and 11 rebounds against Colorado. He played no more than 20 minutes in any of those games.
They said it: "There's a chance he would come back to Texas next year. There's not a rush for him to go to the NBA. Right now, we're not even talking about that. We're talking about winning the Big 12, and Kevin continuing to progress academically."
- Wayne Pratt, Kevin Durant's father, on whether his son will enter the NBA Draft after this season.
Worth noting: Coach Rick Barnes notched his 209th victory at Texas in the Longhorns' 83-54 win over Oklahoma State to become the winningest coach in school history. ? Baylor sophomore forward Kevin Rogers has averaged 19.3 points and nine rebounds while shooting 57.9 percent from the field in the last four games. ? Colorado's Richard Roby did not start Wednesday's game against Kansas, marking only the third time in 81 career games Roby did not start. ? Kansas State needs one more conference victory to establish its highest win total (eight) in Big 12 Conference play. ? Nebraska junior center Aleks Maric set a Big 12 record with 25 free-throw attempts in a 74-63 victory over Kansas State. He converted 15 of them. ? Oklahoma center Longar Longar has shot at least 54.5 percent from the field in the last eight games. ? Oklahoma State is 4-0 in overtime games. ? With five conference games remaining, Texas' Kevin Durant has already established Big 12 freshman records for scoring (623 points) and rebounds (285). ? Texas A&M's Josh Carter has scored in double-figures in four of the last five games and has converted at least half of his 3-point attempts 15 times. ? Texas Tech shot 51.9 percent in its 77-75 victory over Texas A&M to become the first opponent to shoot better than 50 percent against the Aggies. ? Tech coach Bob Knight received a public reprimand from the Big 12 for criticizing an official's call in a Feb. 10 game against Oklahoma State.
Freshman to watch: D.J. Augustin has been largely overlooked this season because of the excellence of fellow Texas freshman Kevin Durant. However, in the last three games Augustin has been as good as anyone, anywhere. In that span he has averaged 24.3 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 58.8 percent from the field. His latest outing was a 19-point, eight-assist performance in a 83-54 victory over Oklahoma State.
Something you may have missed: Former Texas A&M coach Shelby Metcalf, the most successful basketball coach in the history of the old Southwest Conference with 438 victories, died of cancer last week. He was 76.
RPI watch: Kansas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State rank among the top 24 in the kenpom.com RPI rankings, while Texas Tech moved up to No. 35 on the strength of its last-second upset of A&M. Texas sits at No. 49, and Kansas State isn't far back at No. 54. After that, the Big 12 teams plunge with Oklahoma at No. 74, Nebraska No. 78 and Missouri No. 92.