Big 12 weekend preview: All about the bubble
By Brian Smith
The middle of March edges ever closer, and the time for teams to make their case for an NCAA tournament bid continues to slip away. No team in the country made a bigger statement this week than Kansas State, which drilled in-state power Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum on Monday night. It was a huge win for the Wildcats, who had just lost to Colorado by a tenth of a second (and two points) Saturday. Rodney McGruder drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer, but officials waved off the basket after determining the ball hadn’t left his hand before the clock hit all zeroes. That’s life on the bubble, where fractions of a second and victories in meaningless November tournaments can determine whether or not you play in the Big Dance.
While the Wildcats and the Baylor Bears both look like they’ve entered the good graces of bracketologists, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma State all need to do major work to even earn consideration. Of the three, the Huskers have the best chance to impress when they welcome in the mighty Texas Longhorns to Lincoln this Saturday. Will the Horns have trouble with Nebraska’s gargantuan front line? The better question: can Nebraska’s sometime anemic offense even break the 60-point barrier against the most efficient defense in the country?
The Buffs can also salvage the remnants of their busted bubble when they pay a visit to Allen Fieldhouse, while the Cowboys of Oklahoma State have a chance to claw their way closer to .500 with a home date against Texas A&M. Winning is the name of the game, and there’s no more crucial time to do it than right now.
Game of the Week: Texas A&M (20-5, 7-4) at Oklahoma State (16-9, 4-7)
This isn’t the sexiest game by any means, especially since it’s already taken place this season. The first contest ended in a blowout win for Texas A&M. The Pokes looked completely out of their element in rowdy Reed Arena, putting up just 48 points against the Aggies. However, with a change of venue comes a change of expectations for the game, and this one should be close.
The difference between home and road performances for OSU is simply startling. With the exception of Texas, which clobbered the Cowboys in both venues, Oklahoma State has done a tremendous job of protecting its home court. Gallagher-Iba Arena puts fans almost directly on top of the court, which gives a tremendous advantage to the Cowboys. The Pokes have already beaten Missouri and Kansas State at home, so winning against Texas A&M is certainly possible.
No player exemplifies the contrast in the Cowboys better than Jean-Paul Olukemi. The sophomore transfer is incredibly aggressive at home, but disappears when he steps foot out of Stillwater. In OSU’s last two games against Nebraska and Texas