The Big 12 Conference season is just a week old, but the league’s top team might already be apparent.
On Wednesday, No. 6 Kansas routed No. 10 Oklahoma State 87-57 in Lawrence. The Jayhawks (14-2, 1-0 Big 12) had four players score in double-digits and held Mario Boggan, Oklahoma State’s leading scorer, to eight points on 4-of-16 shooting. Kansas, who lost games early in the season to DePaul and Oral Roberts, appear to be playing like the team it was expected to be in the preseason, having won eight straight games.
“We’re getting better. (Wednesday) night was the best we’ve looked in a long time, but we were a lot better in South Carolina and our practice sessions have been a lot better,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Our second unit’s really done a great job of making life difficult on the first unit in practice, which is something we didn’t have in the first month and a half of when we started practicing.”
Kansas’ second unit, however, is unlike that of most other teams. Against the Cowboys (15-2, 1-1), Kansas had Darrell Arthur and Sherron Collins coming off the bench. Combined, those two average 19.7 points per game and 39.8 minutes per game. And Self said it was his team’s depth that allowed it to dominate Oklahoma State the way it did, taking a 17-point lead into halftime.
“We were able to fatigue Oklahoma State a lot, in large part, to our foul trouble that forced us to play more people,” Self said. “The bench played great, but that game is not indicative of how good Oklahoma State is, because we think they’re really good.”
What Self said may be true, but Cowboys coach Sean Sutton didn’t think his team competed with the Jayhawks.
“We got taken to the woodshed,” Sutton said. “I didn’t think our guys rose up and gave any resistance to Kansas. They let them do what they wanted to do. You do that in that building and you’re asking for problems.”
Oklahoma State came into Lawrence having won 15 of its first 16 games this season, including wins over Syracuse and Pittsburgh. And if their struggle against Kansas is any indication, it appears teams with lesser resumes might be in trouble against the Jayhawks.
Self, however, was unwilling to attach too much to Kansas’ win over Oklahoma State, saying it was “just one game where everything fell right.”
“I don’t know what it tells us, but it tells us we’ve got a chance to have a real good ball club if in fact we continue to improve,” Self said.
THEN THERE’S COLORADO: At the other end of the conference standings is the Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffaloes were the only team in the Big 12 to enter conference play with a losing record and have lost their first two conference games.
Upset at not receiving an offer for a contract extension, Colorado coach Ricardo Patton announced on Oct. 25 he was resigning at the end of the season. Since then, Colorado has gone 4-8 and lost nonconference games to Wyoming, UNC-Wilmington, Pepperdine, and Colorado State.
The Buffaloes have started their Big 12 season with losses to Texas and Oklahoma, both by 24 points.
Colorado’s schedule won’t help in its next two games. The Buffaloes host No. 19 Texas A&M (14-2, 2-0 Big 12) and Iowa State (11-5, 2-0 Big 12).
UP TO THE CHALLENGE?: The Big 12 and the Pac-10 announced an agreement Thursday to stage a four-year series between the two conferences. The series will include 12 games between the two leagues per season, with two teams from the Pac-10 playing twice. Missouri will play against California in Berkeley on Dec. 1, 2007.
The other games are Oregon at Kansas State and Oklahoma at USC on Nov. 29. On Nov. 30, Iowa State will visit Oregon State. Washington will visit Oklahoma State on Dec. 1. On Dec. 2, Arizona State will go to Lincoln to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Stanford will travel to Colorado. Also on that day, Texas will play at UCLA and Texas A&M will go to Tucson to play Arizona. In 2008, the games will be reversed.
Two neutral-site games that are outside the series are Arizona’s game against Kansas on Nov. 25 and Stanford’s game against Texas Tech on Dec. 22. The sites for those games have not been determined.
“This series of games with the Pac-10 will showcase some of the best college basketball in the country,” Big 12 Conference Commissioner Kevin Weiberg said. “Our two conferences annually produce highly rated teams and multiple NCAA Tournament teams. This series will provide quality matchups that will help to build the strength of our teams’ nonconference schedules. We are excited to have the opportunity to do this with the Pac-10 in a way that allows all of our teams to participate.”
One Big 12 coach, however, wasn’t as positive about the agreement.
“I’m not anxious in the middle of December to go to the Pacific coast,” Texas Tech coach Bob Knight said. “There are plenty of teams within an hour’s flight that we can play in the nonconference season. if the people in the conference office, who I think have done a really, really good job with this league feel that it’s something that’s worthwhile, let’s try it and see.
The name, corporate sponsorship, and television coverage of the event will be announced at a later date.