Friday, December 7, 2007

Big 12 Basketball Preview: Part II

The Colin Cowherd Division

As mentioned yesterday, this really isn’t an indictment of these teams as I think the conference is extraordinarily middle heavy this year. Much as their categorization indicates, the play of these teams is predominantly pitiful, frustrating and annoying, but they do have their moments.

10. Texas Tech Red Raiders

I don’t actually think they are the tenth best team in the conference, but by playing in the south, I think this is where they will finish. There are two kinds of people: those who like Bob Knight and those who don’t. I’m a fan. Hell, I’d probably even let him hunt on my property if I had some. But the fact of the matter is, in this day and age, he just isn’t going to be able to field a top tier team. Especially not in Lubbock.

Their non conference has been a bit of a roller coaster with inexcusable losses to Sam Houston and Centenary. They also fell to a good, albeit overrated Butler team. Mixed in with those losses are a bunch of nothing wins - including one over La Tech in which they went on a 46-1 run - and a good win over another overrated team, Gonzaga. They still have a couple tough games, going to New Mexico and getting Stanford as part of the Big 12/Pac 10 challenge. They get Stanford at home and I think they need to find a way to win this one. Not only would it be good for the conference, but it could be the difference between entering conference play at 9-5 or 10-4. Since this isn’t the NFL that isn’t a huge disparity, but for a team that could be fighting for wins, especially ones that have staying power, it would go a long way towards garnishing a postseason bid.

Within the conference, this team is tough to figure. I haven’t had much of a chance to watch how they play without Jackson to rely on. But with their motion offense, they always have the ability to be a very tough out, especially if a team isn’t patient enough to guard them through the whole shot clock. Furthermore, no one ever likes going to Lubbock, so they typically win more there than they should. I think 5 or 6 conference wins seems pretty reasonable.

Notable Players: Martin Zeno is without a doubt their most talented player, but he has some consistency issues. So far he is leading them in scoring, rebound and assists, averaging 17, 6 and 4. They have two others in double digits, Alan Voskull and frosh guard John Roberson. Voskull has shown a few signs of being something over the last two years, but I don’t know much about Roberson. I do know that if he’s going to play 30 minutes a game and continue to be 5-11, 165 he should try and average more than 3 assists per game. Burgess and White are the only two others that I remember showing me anything from last year, but they haven’t done a whole lot thus far.

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers
I like Doc Sadler. Just not enough to consider this a decent team. I consider them to be much less formidable than Tech, but they have an easier schedule. Having not seen them play yet, I don’t know a lot about them. I do know that watching Aleks Maric makes me wish I were seven feet tall. Then again, I could say the same thing about our own Sasha Kaun. But at least nobody thinks he’s good.

Out of conference, we thank you for the Arizona State win. The Western Kentucky game, not so much. Ditto: Creighton. Right now they sit at 5-2 with Rutgers and Oregon venturing to Lincoln. I’d like to think they can beat Rutgers, but I don’t hold out much hope for the game against Oregon. If that happens they will enter conference play at 9-3 having impressed absolutely no one.

From there it gets rough. They get Kansas twice in two weeks. Their other games are @ Colorado, @ Methzou and Baylor. I don’t think it’s inconceivable they could start 0-5 and not get their first win until ISU comes calling on Groundhog Day. If that happens, they could play well the rest of the way and only win 6. Any more than that will surprise me.

Notable Players: Aleks Maric is far and away their most effective player. Right now he is averaging 16 and 10. I would expect the 16 to hold solid, but the 10 may begin dipping once conference play gets going. Other than him, Ryan Anderson showed last year that despite being a jackass he has a pretty nice shot from the outside. Ade Dagunduro is a 6-5 junior who must have transferred because I would have remembered that name. As I said, I haven’t watched them but he is averaging 12 and 4, so he could be solid. And of course, where else would a guy with the name Cookie go other than Nebraska? Unfortunately, that's the only thing that makes him stand out.

8. Methzouri Tigers
I debated on this one for a while, as I have been mildly impressed with them so far. And I’m sure they will play some teams tough and even win some games they shouldn’t. But, I just don’t believe in the “forty minutes of heck” approach. With that said, there are a lot of players out there who would love to play this style and if they can evaluate talent well enough to find some of them and actually learn how to play when it’s not working, they have potential. It’s the latter of the two I’m more skeptical about.

Out of conference, they have done some nice things. Most notably, they have played a decent schedule with more to come. So far they have played Michigan State, Maryland, Arkansas and California. The only one they managed to win was against Maryland, but they have been competitive in all four. Before conference, they still have Purdue and Illinois on the slate. If they can split those two, they should be able to enter the conference at 11-4 with a win over a team from the SEC, ACC, and Big 11. Not bad.

I anticipate their conference season going much the same as that of Tech. They will win some games they shouldn’t because of the vaunted Paige Sports Arena and their UAB style of play. Texas, A&M, and OSU are their south home games, so 1-2 would be acceptable. I don’t see them winning any of their south road games. Say they go 5-5 against the north and that leaves them at around 6 wins. Sounds about right.

Notable Players: Despite his inability to spell his name, Stefhon Hannah is by far their best player. Right now he is averaging, 16, 2 and 5 and more than anything, he is the catalyst for their press. Demarre Carroll and Leo “The Lion” Lyons are their bigs and both have been solid so far. Carroll is actually averaging 16 and 7. Matt Lawrence is a good shooter coming off screens and absolutely nothing else. Keon Lawrence tries really hard. Butterfield assaults women. And Marshall Brown, thought to be one of their key cogs a year ago has turned out to be inept, averaging a dominant 4 and 2.

7. Oklahoma Sooners
After having a year to adjust to Capel, they should be a lot better this year. Plus they added Taylor Griffin’s better half, Blake. And so far, they have looked the part. They haven’t won anything, but they have played both Memphis and USC close and won all the games they should. Part of me thinks this will be a tournament team. But part of me knows Austin Johnson and Tony Crocker are their best guards. On another note, by adding Blake Griffin, they should be able to maintain their status as the ugliest team in the league.

As a whole, their out of conference schedule is pretty respectable. In addition to the two mentioned, they have games remaining against Arkansas, Gonzaga, and @West Virginia. I’m relatively confident they can win 2 out of those 3. Assuming that happens, they should come into conference play a solid 12-3.

Within the conference, their story is much the same as these other teams. The Noble Center can be a tough place to play so they’ll win the majority of their games there. Also, they play a slow-it-down ugly, physical style that can easily frustrate teams, so chalk up a couple wins by virtue of that. I’d say they should be very happy if they get to 8 wins.

Notable Players: Freshman Blake Griffin is huge and is definitely their best player, averaging 14 and 8. Longar Squared is their other inside threat. He’s 6-11 and pretty “long” and currently putting up 11 and 6. On the perimeter they rely on Austin Johnson, Tony Crocker and David Godbold, none of whom are all that good. They’ve also got Leary, Clark and the Griffin they had to take first, but none of them pose much of a threat either. In short, they are praying Willie Warren gets to campus before he realizes what a huge mistake he made.

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