Winners and losers: Texas Tech evens Big 12 race, Michigan State falls again
The Big 12 is completely up for grabs after Saturday’s results produced a four-way tie for first place in the league standings.
No. 8 Texas Tech handed No 2 West Virginia its first conference loss in its first-ever top-10 showdown in Lubbock, Oklahoma held on to beat TCU to improve to 4-1, and victories for the Red Raiders and Kansas ensured the conference race is as tight as ever.
So to sort through the rubble after a busy Saturday winds down, it’s time to hand out winners and losers starting with the surging Red Raiders.
Winner: Texas Tech
Texas Tech suffered its first Big 12 loss of the season on Tuesday and became the last in a long line of Trae Young victims. But the Red Raiders responded admirably on Saturday to notch not only their biggest win of the season, but perhaps their biggest in program history over No. 2 West Virginia 72-71 prompting its .
With the win, Chris Beard’s team improved to 4-1 in Big 12 play — good for a four-way tie for first place which allows them to keep pace in the toughest league in the country. It also gives them momentum to build on as they face a daunting stretch away from Lubbock that features road tilts against Texas and Iowa State over the next week.
Loser: Michigan State
Michigan State suffered its second loss in three games. And while the troubling result is cause for concern — namely with the rate they— it’s still way too early to hit the panic button the preseason No. 2 Spartans.
Sparty was on the receiving end of a bludgeoning on Sunday, though that loss came in a tough road venue against an Ohio State team that’s surging in league play. But Saturday’s 82-72 loss to Michigan was purely inexplicable — not only were they at home, but they were favored by 9.5 points at full strength and lost by double digits.
The schedule sets up favorably for Michigan State to bounce back against a wounded Indiana team at home next Friday, but for a preseason Final Four pick by many (myself included), the baffling losses are piling up, and it’s fair to wonder if they can get off the mat soon.
Not only did Kansas get a needed win over cross-state rival Kansas State, it did so with an additional member of the team as true freshman Silvio De Sousa — a former four-star prospect — was and played on Saturday.
Granted, De Sousa played only four minutes and only only logged stats in turnovers and fouls (one each). But his clearance is still a boon for a Jayhawks team with a depleted frontcourt. The windfall came the same day they hung on to beat Kansas State 73-72, too. So after a shaky start in league play, the Jayhawks are again tied for first place in the league standings.
Duke won its 15th game of the season Saturday in rather convincing fashion over a mediocre Wake Forest team at home. The 89-71 win itself wasn’t impressive — the Blue Devils turned it over 13 times and shot only 44 percent from the floor — but to do so absolutely was.
Krzyzewski woke up Saturday with a virus which paved the way for Jeff Capel to take over coaching duties, and the Blue Devils didn’t miss a beat by leading the Demon Deacons more than 32 minutes in the 40 minute contest to notch their 11th double digit win of the season behind Marvin Bagley’s 30 point, 11 rebound outing.
Loser: Kansas State
Kansas State nearly pulled off the upset on the road over Kansas.
But down 1 point with possession of the ball, the Wildcats final play was too slow to develop, and instead of getting a bucket at the rim for the potential go-ahead, Barry Brown settled for a deep 3-pointer that clanked off the rim.
With no Kamau Stokes indefinitely, this was a game K-State will likely be begging to have back come March. The Cats had every chance to win the game but couldn’t close the deal late which dropped them to 2-3 in Big 12 conference play. Moving forward, there aren’t many better chances to win on the road this season for Bruce Weber’s team than the one they chucked up against the Jayhawks.
Purdue, now 6-0 in the Big Ten and the clear favorite to win the league after destroying Minnesota on its home floor … by 34 points. The 81-47 loss was the second worst home loss for the Gophers in school history, and yet as my colleague , it might somehow say more about the Boilermakers than it does about Minnesota.
“This could be the best team of Matt Painter’s impressive career, a team that we need to start talking about as a team that should be considered the Big Ten favorite – and should also be considered a contender for the national title,” he wrote.
Purdue’s no doubt for real, and with seven games upcoming against currently unranked teams, we’re staring at a real possibility of Boiler Ball heating up their 6-0 record to 13-0 before a pivotal Big Ten showdown on Feb. 10 against Michigan State.
Entering Dec. 30, TCU had the longest win streak in the entire country.
But fast forward two weeks and five games, and the Horned Frogs have fallen from the ranks of the unbeaten all the way to unranked and tied for last place in the Big 12 standings at 1-4. They nearly got off the mat with a massive bounceback win over Oklahoma on the road Saturday, but in overtime, they weren’t able to outlast the Trae Young-led Sooners offense and fell 102-97.
I still think TCU is a legitimate tournament team — perhaps a single digit seed, even — but their free fall has been noteworthy and concerning in league play, and proof of how tough the Big 12 has truly been this season.
In a day where West Virginia fell to its first loss of the Big 12 slate, Oklahoma did as Oklahoma does and won over TCU at home behind yet another record-breaking performance from superstar freshman Trae Young. He finished with 43 points, 11 rebounds and set the new OU assists record in the process after logging seven over the Horned Frogs.
While the next two games for the Sooners are both on the road, they are both very winnable at Kansas State and at Oklahoma State. So there’s a very real chance that 16-2 OU team might face a 16-3 Kansas team in Norman, Oklahoma on Jan. 23 for the catbird seat to the Big 12. As , no team in America currently has more wins over ranked teams than the Sooners from Oklahoma.
Loser: Texas A&M
Texas A&M might just be the most disappointing team in the country. The Aggies were one of the frontrunners to win the SEC entering the season, but a loss to Tennessee on Saturday dropped them to 0-5 in conference play and losers of five-straight.
Now there’s a legitimate chance that, somehow, this talent-rich team Billy Kennedy assembled might (and likely will) miss the NCAA Tournament.
It’s fair to say that Texas A&M is the surprise of the season … and in no way do I mean that as a form of flattery. This team looks stuck 10-foot in a mud pit with no winch in sight.
If there’s a polar opposite in the SEC as Texas A&M, it’s Auburn. The Tigers entered the season with relatively tempered expectations after losing Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy before the season, yet somehow, someway, Bruce Pearl’s got the Tigers overachieving as they sit at 16-1 and 4-0 in SEC play after a road win over Mississippi State on Saturday.
Even more impressive is their ability to dig out from nearly any hole. They were down 13 in the second half, and yet still found a way to win by 8 over the Bulldogs. Don’t sleep on Auburn —the preseason unranked SEC contender is now projected to win the conference according to KenPom.
On its surface, a 74-67 win over Vanderbilt is no major feat. But consider the fact that John Calipari didn’t have point guard Quade Green available for a second consecutive game and that the contest was played on the road, and the win has new meaning.
Add in that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to be a revelation for the young Wildcats, and it’s hard not to suddenly be optimistic that Kentucky might be slowly turning a corner and growing up quickly as it enters the heart of SEC play.
Loser: Oregon State
Oh, Beavers. You were so close to knocking off Arizona State. You had a 13 point lead with 11:32 left to play in the second half. You hit 11 of 26 3-point attempts. And yet somehow, you let the Sun Devils come back and win it 77-75 in regulation!
That’s a brutal way to go down. Arizona State had lost three of its last four games before Saturday, so it was as good a chance to beat a top-15 team as any, considering the Sund Devils have been in a tail spin. No matter the fact that ASU was favored, that’s a tough pill to swallow for a team that has been competitive but unable to get big wins this season.
Take a bow, Brad Brownell. The surprise of the ACC isn’t Duke or North Carolina or anyone else, it’s the 15-2 Clemson Tigers who notched a massive 72-63 win over No. 18 Miami on Saturday.
The Tigers stumbled against a surprisingly good NC State team earlier in the week, but barring that outcome, they’ve been flawless in league play and projected by KenPom.com to finish third in the league as things stand right now, which is good enough for a No. 3 seed in the Big Dance according to the latest projections from our own Jerry Palm.
So go right ahead, Brad Brownell. Take a big, much-deserved, bow.