Who would have thought after the Maui Invitational that this Oklahoma team would have been on two game winning streak in conference? Capel and his squad are a team that all year has been plagued by an insane amount of turnovers, extremely poor free throw shooting, awful perimeter defense as well as shot selection, and constant foul trouble not to mention sub-par game time coaching. So far, OU has had a hard time winning, but it would seem as though the tides have changed. The recent shake up at the top and bottom of the conference are cause for all of the teams to be worried, but why you ask.
Coming into Saturday, the Sooners were 9-9 and 1-3 in conference facing a Colorado team that was 14-5 and 3-1 in conference who has shown they can hang with and even beat some of the best. OU has not played well against teams with winning records thus far but for the second game in a row the starting five (Cade Davis, Andrew Fitzgerald, Steven Pledger, Carl Blair Jr., and Cameron Clark) have shined, each putting up 11+ points and helping OU go on a 13-4 run to end the half with a 32-26 lead (OU lead by as much as 11 at one point). That's not to say CU was never in this game as they did come back to tie it at 52-52 with 3:25 remaining in the game. While TTU was an ugly game and probably the worst I have seen in a while, the CU game started and ended with defense, only allowing the 9th ranked offense in the nation to score 60 points, a far cry from their 83 ppg average. The OU defense also managed to hold the 10th best field goal percentage team to shooting 40.4% from the field. Oklahoma forced two (if memory serves me right) shot clock violations. However, free throw shooting for the Sooners continued to be terrible down the stretch (64% for the game) but Carl Blair went off for seven free throws made in a row to help put the game away. The loss marked the 24th straight for Colorado in Norman. This "below par" Oklahoma team is looking to dig itself out of the cellar and run in the middle of the pack and in doing so hoping to garner some respect. Let's keep our fingers crossed that they will be successful in doing so. Capel and his men seem to have gotten a good taste of what it's like to play in the Big XII and are now coming not only to compete, but to win and now see themselves above Iowa State, #24 Kansas State, and Texas Tech in the conference standings. I am predicting at least 4 wins in conference which speaks loads for this team. Looking back to last year, a team loaded with talent and 3 McDonald's All-Americans that managed to win only 4 conference games. We could see this team, far less talented but with more heart, reproduce those results and even better them (and not to toot my own horn, but I am predicting it). Oklahoma has its next game @ Iowa State next Saturday. I expect another win if OU plays the same tenacious defense from this Saturday and can penetrate to create contact and hit some free throws without settling for 3-point jumpers every time down the court.
Now that things have been shaken up at the bottom of the conference standings with surprises from OU and highly
touted over-rated Kansas State...let's jump to the top. #2 Kansas came into Saturday putting an unbeaten record of 18-0 and a 69-game home winning streak (the longest run in KU history) on the line against #11 Texas both unbeaten in conference. Kansas has never lost to Texas at the Phog since the inception of the Big XII, but all that would change in one fail swoop. Kansas started the game off with a scoring offense that seemed impossible to stop and went up 18-3 with 14:41 left in the first half and it would be the largest lead of the night. Normally when we see a team build this kind of lead they hardly ever relinquish it or hold on to just enough of a lead to win comfortably. Going into halftime Texas was down 35-23 and the gap seemed as if it wouldn't close hovering in the comfortably 7-10 range until the 13:06 mark. At this point the Texas defense really stepped up and ended up holding this KU team, who averages 83 ppg to a mere 63 on the night and from here on KU would have a tough time finding good shots. The defense gave a spark to the UT offense and the rest was history. Texas could be a tough team to stop down the road and has shown that they have the heart and guts to make a deep run into the tournament possible (assuming their money hole runs dry with officials and ESPN).
Where does that leave the Big XII? In shambles in my opinion. Kansas State who started the season ranked inside the top 5 and played well against Duke but faded in the end (that was when Kyrie Irving was still suiting up) in their pre-season tournament is now at the bottom of the Big XII with seven total losses and likely to see itself not ranked next week. Sounds like something Baylor would pull in pretty much all sports. Kansas, who always has good recruiting classes and is a big competitor coming out of the Big XII under Bill Self, finds itself barely winning games and letting teams close a Grand Canyon size gap on them to win by 11 in the Phog. And now we have Texas at the top, need I same more? The Big XII has gone from "second best" conference to possibly being lucky to see 6+ teams make the tournament! Colorado is a winning program this season and will likely see its tournament dreams crushed by the loss to Oklahoma. It seems to me that any team can beat any team (not counting TTU) at any moment so no team is safe at the moment. Who else is going to lose a season defining game and will it count them out when the selection committee makes its rounds? At least a few things in the Big XII have remained constant and that is that OU will dominate football yet again, Texas (and now OK-State) will continue to make titles up for themselves with an * out to the side (fact is every time I feel my cheeks go a flexin' I leave behind some tiny little Texans (not directed at people from Texas, just UT fans)), and it's noon somewhere and Texas...........