Top Three Takeaways (March 5 2024)

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

Here are three takeaways from Big 12 Conference men’s basketball on Tuesday, with three games on the schedule as the regular season enters its final week.  

So what happened? Is Kansas back? Well, for one game it was. OU escaped at home, Tech dominated on the road and award finalists are starting to roll in.

Here are three thoughts on the day.

 

Kansas Blows Out Kansas State

It’s one game. You don’t want to overreact.

That’s what we tell ourselves in November. Not in March.

But it’ a good reminder after Kansas blew out Kansas State, 90-68, on Tuesday night.

The game was at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas tends to play well there, even when the Jayhawks are not playing well. And, lately, they haven’t been.

Kansas was 4-4 in its previous eight games and with seven losses in league action, it will have its worst Big 12 record ever, regardless of what it does against Houston on Saturday.

But, on Tuesday, everyone felt good — at least if you were wearing those crisp red Kansas uniforms.

Kevin McCullar Jr. played again and he looked like the player that was poised to win Big 12 Player of the Year in January — 19 points. Maybe all the Jayhawks needed was to get him back from injury. Now they have to keep him healthy because he is simply too important not to have.

Hunter Dickinson had 15 points and 20 rebounds. Kansas State had no answer for him.

Look — if THIS Kansas team shows up for the NCAA Tournament it has a chance to do something big, even with the limited depth. That 2018 Kansas team led by Devontae Graham had similar depth issues and got to the Final Four.

But Kansas has no margin for error now. Everything has to work. Everyone has to be healthy. Even if it’s a little off, the Jayhawks are in trouble.

Meanwhile, there was some ’crootin’ going on in Lawrence on Tuesday.

 

Remember earlier this season when Bill Self said Kansas wouldn’t have depth issues again? Take it seriously.

As for Kansas State, well, can we stop talking about the NCAA Tournament now? These Wildcats just aren’t good enough. For once, Tylor Perry didn’t rescue them with an incredible second half. He scored two points. Yes, there is definitely a “what might have been” vibe had Nae’Qwan Tomlin been able to stick around. Will McNair Jr. led with 17 points.

But you still have to get it done with the guys you have, especially down the stretch. Kansas State has now lost four of its last six. The NIT awaits.

An Okie Escape

Oklahoma hosted Cincinnati on Tuesday and it was a game that Oklahoma — which is in the NCAA Tournament field per ESPN Bracketology — really couldn’t afford to lose.

The Sooners did, but the Bearcats pushed it to overtime before the Sooners prevailed, 74-71.

Otega Oweh’s lay-up with 1:54 left gave the Sooners a one-point lead, and two free throws from Le’Tre Darthard pushed the lead to three points. Cincinnati’s Simas Lukosius missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it.

Darthard gave the Sooners a one-point lead with 15 seconds left in regulation on a 3-pointer. Cincinnati tied it on a free throw from Aziz Bandaogo. Oweh missed a shot that would have avoided overtime.

Darthard had a huge game for OU, scoring 18 points. The Sooners now have 20 wins for the season and that usually leads to an NCAA Tournament berth, if Big 12 history tell us anything.

For Cincinnati, it was yet another narrow loss. John Newman III had 15 points and Jizzle James had 16 off the bench. Man, if coach Wes Miller can keep this team together it can do some intriguing things next season.

But this season? The Bearcats will be in the NIT.

 

There wasn’t much drama in Stillwater, as Texas Tech handled Oklahoma State with ease, 75-58. Darrion Williams had 18 points, nine rebounds and five steals for the Red Raiders, who did have some turnover problems but kept their hope alive for a Top 4 seed at the Big 12 Tournament.

Eric Dailey Jr. had 12 points for the Cowboys, whose only path to the postseason would be a magical run in Kansas City and a championship in the Big 12 Tournament.

Award Finalists Filtering In

The top national position awards are starting to release their finalists, and Tuesday was a good day for the Big 12.

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. was one of the finalists for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year award. West Virginia guard JJ Quinerly was one of the finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard of the Year award.

Both are part of the set of awards sponsored by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

McCullar just returned from injury and should be pivotal if the Jayhawks are going to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Quinerly was just named to the All-Big 12 First Team and was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.

On Monday, Houston’s Jamal Shead learned he was a finalist for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.

The rest of the award finalists will be released this week.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.