It's Kansas Jayhawks, but not without road blocks

Mar 4, 2014 3:05 AM

Tournament play is on the horizon! It’s the start of a wild few weeks with conference tourneys helping to whittle the field.

In the Big 12, Kansas has been dominant and consistent but there is a logjam of schools vying for the spots below the Jayhawks. Here’s a look at some of the top teams of the Big 12.

KU: The Jayhawks have been a powerhouse team, tops in scoring (81 ppg) in the conference and a +10 scoring margin that is double that of anyone else. Freshman sensation 6-8 Andrew Wiggins (16 ppg) has led the way on a team that shoots over 50% – second in the nation.

He’s not alone, of course, with 6-8 senior Perry Ellis (13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and 7-foot freshman Joel Embid (11 ppg, 7.8 rpg) blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. Kansas has been great in Big 10 play.

Note: KU lost to No. 19 Florida (67-61) and No. 21 San Diego State (61-57).

Texas: The Longhorns are a young team for Rick Barnes, not a great shooting unit from the field (.437%), but they compete with a dynamite frontcourt behind 6-9 sophomore, 285-lb Cameron Ridley (10.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and 6-8 junior Jonathon Holmes (13 ppg, 7.4 rpg). Texas is tops in the Big 12 in rebounds and tough to score on. They are fourth in the conference in points allowed and second in field goal shooting (41%) behind Kansas State.

Texas has a win over North Carolina (86-83) and during a four-game Big 12 stretch against Top 25 teams the Longhorns went 4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS, including an 81-69 rout of Kansas (leading 38-23 at the half). The Longhorns thumped the Jayhawks with suffocating defense that held the Big 12’s best shooting team to 39 percent from the floor.

Note: The Longhorns held Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, who averaged 24 points over the previous three games, to 7 before fouling out late.

Iowa State: The Cyclones are not big up front or especially strong on defense. Yet despite a short bench, Iowa State is deadly on offense that ranks in the top 10. This is an experienced group led by 6-6 senior Melvin Ejim (19 ppg, 8.6 rpg), 6-4 senior DeAndre Kane (16 ppg, 7 rpg and 6-6 junior Dustin Hogue.

This group leads the country in assists. Iowa State is on a 36-14-1 run OVER the total. Following a mid-season skid losing 4 of 5, the Cyclones turned around and won 5 of 6, including wins over Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State.

Note: Something to keep in mind come Big 12 tourney time: Iowa State is 38-22-1 ATS against the Big 12.

Oklahoma: Coach Lon Kruger has a run-and-gun Sooners squad that is tough, 13th in the nation in scoring led by 6-7 senior Cameron Clark (15 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and 6-4 soph Buddy Hield (16.7 ppg). They can be relied on at the free throw line in close games at 76% (No. 1 in the Big 12).

The Sooners are terrific on offense, but the defense is a concern – No. 7 in the Big 12 in points allowed and second to last at defending the three-pointer allowing .367% shooting. Oklahoma is last in blocked shots, not matching up well against Kansas though they did win at Texas by hitting 13-28 threes (46%).

Note: Texas outscored OU 42-20 in the paint. The Sooners are 16-5-1 ATS in their last 22 Saturday games.

Kansas State: The Wildcats aren’t fancy. They won’t run with anyone, preferring a slow pace while focusing on defense (19-8 run UNDER the total). K-State is tops in the Big 12 in three-point defense, field goals defense and second in points allowed.

It’s not a big frontcourt with 6-7 junior, 265-lb Thomas Gipson (12.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and 6-7 senior Shane Southwell (11.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg). K-State’s 6-2 freshman Marcus Foster (15 ppg) leads in scoring but they are not a good shooting team and awful from the free throw line (66%, 9th in Big 12).

Note: The Wildcats beat Kansas in OT (85-82), plus topped Oklahoma and Gonzaga.

Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at [email protected]

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