Top Three Takeaways (Feb. 12 2024)

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

Here are three thoughts on the Big 12 Conference men’s and women’s basketball on Monday, as there were two men’s games on the schedule.

So what happened? Kansas and Texas Tech met on Big Monday, while WVU tried to steal one in Fort Worth against TCU. Meanwhile, I have some quibbles with the Oklahoma women’s national ranking.  

Here are three thoughts on the day.

 

Texas Tech’s Dominating Night

Texas Tech dominated Kansas on Monday, winning 79-50, and nothing underscored that more than Darrion Williams.

The sophomore guard from Sacramento, Calif., transferred in from Nevada before the season and in the past month has elevated his game to match life in the Big 12. But on Monday he was perfect.

Seriously. He was perfect.

He scored a season-high 30 points. He went 12-for-12 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. Yep, didn’t miss a shot. Throw in his 2-for-2 game at the free throw line and Williams attempted 14 shots and didn’t miss. That’s Christian Laettner vs. Kentucky stuff.

But it got better. Williams had a double-double with 11 rebounds. He even dished out three assists.

He was part of the reason the Red Raiders went 8-for-12 in the first half from the 3-point line to build a nine-point lead.

The Red Raiders did a terrific job of rendering Kansas center Hunter Dickinson inert for most of the game. He wasn’t effective in any way. The fact that Tech did it without consistently double-teaming him should tell you something.  

Texas Tech won the rebounding battle by a mile, created more points off turnovers and even scored more points in the paint. This was complete domination on Texas Tech’s part, and it came in a game where Pop Isaacs only scored seven points and shot 1-for-9.

But when you have a teammate that’s practically perfect in every way, for one night at least, you can live with your leading scorer struggling a bit.  

As for Kansas. I’ve covered the league for seven years now. That might be the worst game I’ve seen the Jayhawks play. The Jayhawks shot horribly. They defended poorly. They rebounded poorly. Frankly, Kansas looked almost disinterested from the opening tip of this game.

Don’t put it on Kevin McCullar Jr. not playing due to injury, either. Kansas has won games without him this season.

Five of Kansas’ league losses are on the road. Four are to unranked teams (thought to be fair Tech just fell out of the Top 25 on Monday). Unranked Big 12 teams are now 10-3 against Top 10 teams at home.

The loss was so bad that Kansas coach Bill Self so clearly and deliberately got tossed late in the second half it was comical. It might have been frustration. It might have been frustration with officiating.

Kansas needs McCullar to get right. The Jayhawks are already thin and his importance to this team is now undeniable.

This is a game you flush if you’re Kansas and a game you play on repeat if you’re Texas Tech. The Red Raiders remain a game behind Houston for the league lead and vaulted into a Top 4 seed for the Big 12 Tournament, which comes with a double bye.  

 

TCU Turns It Around

After scoring 59 points total against Oklahoma State on Saturday, TCU bounced back to roll West Virginia, 81-65.

WVU knew it could be an uphill battle. The Mountaineers had lost 21 of their last 23 Big 12 road games going into the contest. Still, they were sharp early, two days after Texas blew them out in Austin. RaeQuan Battle led that early surge and he finished with 21 points. Quinn Slazinski had 15 points and Kerr Kriisa added 13 points.

But TCU was just too much in the final 30 minutes of the game. Horned Frogs coach Jamie Dixon was after his team about their defense and they delivered 19 turnovers and scored 26 points off those turnovers.

One other factor? TCU dominated in the paint, even though they were outrebounded by one, 35-34. TCU outscored WVU in the paint, 44-18, and held WVU center Jesse Edwards to six points.

Emanuel Miller, Jameer Nelson Jr. and Trevian Tennyson each had 14 points. JaKobe Coles added 11 points. The Horned Frogs snapped a two-game losing streak and now get a few days off before going to Kansas State.

This just illustrates why it’s so important to win at home and to beat teams that, based on record, you should beat, even if records don’t mean that much in this conference these days.

 

Oklahoma Women Should Be Ranked Higher

I was curious to see where the Oklahoma women would end up in the Top 25 poll on Monday. After all, the Sooners have won seven straight and lead the Big 12 by a game over a Top 10 Kansas State team.

The Sooners moved from No. 24 last week to No. 23 this week. Hmmmm….

Yes, the Sooners are 17-6 overall. Only one team in the poll has more losses, which is Utah (18-7). But, Oklahoma has lost one game since Dec. 30, and that was to Kansas State, a loss the Sooners have since avenged. They also beat Texas on the road, which is No. 5 in the country. But it was only after beating Kansas State the second time around (with the Wildcats without Ayoka Lee) that the Sooners finally got in the Top 25.

OU is the victim of a stretch in December in which it lost five out of six games. Never mind the losses were to Princeton (in the top 25), Tennessee (was in the Top 25 at the time), UNLV (has been in the Top 25 at points this season), North Carolina (currently in the Top 25) and Southern (yeah, I can’t explain that one, though Southern is fourth in the SWAC).

OU’s NCAA Net ranking is No. 35 going into the week. That loss to Southern is probably dragging that ranking down a bit. But Oklahoma has clearly emerged as one of the best teams in the country, and the Sooners are surely better than No. 23. I don’t need analytic data to tell me that.

The top team in one of the best five conferences in the country should be ranked higher than No. 23 at this stage of the season.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.