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January 26, 2007

Big 12 Breakdown: Sooners heating up

Weekly Big 12 Update
Team Conf. Overall
Kansas 4-1 17-3
Texas A&M 4-1 16-3
Texas Tech 4-1 15-5
Texas 4-1 14-5
Oklahoma State 3-2 17-3
Kansas State 3-2 14-6
Oklahoma 3-3 11-7
Iowa State 2-3 11-8
Nebraska 1-3 12-6
Missouri 1-4 12-6
Baylor 1-5 11-8
Colorado 1-5 5-11
Standings as of 1/25

Best matchup: By winning two of its last three handily and taking Oklahoma State down to the wire in a 66-61 loss at Stillwater, Oklahoma (11-7, 3-3) has suddenly become one of the hottest teams in the Big 12. Sooners guards Nate Carter and Michael Neal have led the way of late. Meanwhile, Texas A&M senior guard Acie Law is averaging 20.2 points in Big 12 competition. The Aggies are coming off a 70-68 upset loss to Texas Tech, which snapped the Aggies' nine-game winning streak. The Aggies (16-3, 4-1) will try to snap a dubious streak against OU. The Sooners lead the all-time series 25-1 and have posted 14 consecutive victories over A&M, including last season's 45-44 victory in College Station. Another low-scoring game should be anticipated because this game matches the Big 12's top two defensive teams. A&M is allowing 54.2 points, while OU allows an average of 57.4.

Worst matchup: The most inaccurate team in the Big 12 is Colorado, which is shooting just 40.3 percent from the field this season. The Buffaloes are facing Kansas, which has held every opponent under 50 percent shooting this season. The Jayhawks are coming off an 82-56 victory in which they held Baylor to 30.3 percent shooting. The Bears converted just one of their first 16 attempts.

The pressure is on: Mired in a three-game losing streak and with its RPI ranking plummeting to 152, Iowa State (11-8, 2-4) is in dire need of a signature victory. The Cyclones desperately need a win over a good team to enhance their fading postseason possibilities. A victory over Oklahoma State (17-3, 3-2) would more than suffice, but that won't come easy. Iowa State has lost seven of its last eight against the Cowboys, and the Cyclones have lost 13 consecutive games at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Upset alert: Although tied for the Big 12 lead with a 4-1 conference record, Texas Tech faces a treacherous trip to Missouri. The Raiders must beware of an emotional letdown after consecutive victories over then-No. 5 Kansas and No. 6 Texas A&M. Also, four of the Red Raiders' losses have come away from Lubbock, including a loss to Baylor in Waco, Texas, two weeks ago. In contrast, Missouri (12-6) is 11-2 in Columbia and the losses have come by a combined five points. Furthermore, the Tigers got a confidence boost with a three-point loss at Kansas on Jan. 15. They followed that up with a blowout of Colorado. Missouri junior Marshall Brown has scored in double figures in four of his last five conference games and is shooting 56 percent against Big 12 competition.

Who's hot: Oklahoma senior forward Nate Carter averaged just 4.4 points in non-conference games, but has been a scoring machine against Big 12 foes. Carter has posted a season-high point total in each of the last six games, including 23 in a 66-61 loss to Oklahoma State last Monday. Carter has scored 110 points in six Big 12 games (18.3 average) and has raised his season scoring average to 9.1 points per game.

Who's not: Baylor's 3-point shooters have apparently gone into hibernation for the winter. Outside shooting is vital to the Bears' success, which was evident in their 73-70 upset of Texas Tech on Jan. 13. Baylor made 10 3-pointers against the Red Raiders. In three games since all losses the Bears have shot just 20.8 percent (16 of 77) from 3-point range. Henry Dugat, who has hit 30 three-pointers, is 2-for-11 in that span. Curtis Jerrells, who has 26 treys this season, is 3-for-14 in the last three games.

Must see TV: If you like extreme matchups, Texas Tech at Missouri is your game to watch this weekend. Texas Tech (15-5, 4-1) tries to remain among the Big 12 leaders, while Missouri (12-6, 1-4) can greatly enhance its RPI ranking with a victory. Also, Missouri is the Big 12's third-highest scoring team in conference play with a 74.0 average. On the other hand, Texas Tech ranks third in scoring defense with a 62.2 point average in conference action. Overall, Missouri has forced 379 turnovers this season more than any other team in the Big 12. By comparison, Texas Tech has committed just 243 turnovers, the fewest among Big 12 teams. And if the statistical matchups aren't intriguing enough, there is always the allure of watching Tech coach Bob Knight on the sideline.

Key stat: Kansas is 10-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 60 points. The Jayhawks are 8-0 when shooting 50 percent or better.

Bench bonus: J.T. Tiller had 12 points and Keon Lawrence had 10 for Missouri in its 79-65 victory over Colorado. The Tigers had a whopping 38-8 advantage in bench scoring.

They said it: "People don't get it nationally. Our league is really good. It's by far the best it's been since I've been here. When you look at the four teams that are tied (for first place) and then throw Oklahoma State in there how many leagues in America have five teams that good?" - Kansas coach Bill Self.

Injury update: Texas freshman Matt Hill (foot) missed Wednesday's game against Nebraska, but could play Saturday against Baylor.

Worth noting: Baylor sophomore forward Kevin Rogers posted a career-high with 16 rebounds against Kansas. . Junior guard Richard Roby has scored at least 20 points in seven games this season and has moved into 14th place on Colorado's all-time scoring list with 1,257 points. Iowa State freshman Wesley Johnson has grabbed 80 rebounds in the last seven games and has at least 10 boards in eight of the Cyclones' last 10 games. Kansas State's Jason Bennett has set a school freshman record with 39 blocked shots. Missouri's 79-65 victory over Colorado on Wednesday marked its first victory away from Mizzou Arena since winning 71-69 at Oklahoma on Jan. 10, 2006. Nebraska senior guard Charles Richardson is now 10th on the school's all-time assists list with 328. Oklahoma State senior JamesOn Curry has scored at least 20 points in six of his last eight games. The Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game drew a Gallagher-Iba Arena record 14,042 fans. It was Oklahoma State's fourth sellout this season. Texas sophomore A.J. Abrams has yet to miss a free throw in conference play. He is 14 of 14 from the line. Texas A&M senior guard Acie Law has scored in double figures in 11 consecutive games and has shot 60 percent or better in the last three games. Texas Tech posted consecutive victories over top-10 teams for the first time since Jan. 2002 when the Red Raiders, in their first season under coach Bob Knight, defeated Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Tech junior guard Martin Zeno has averaged 16.7 points over the last three games and has scored at least 11 points in 14 consecutive games. . Three first-year coaches Missouri's Mike Anderson, Oklahoma's Jeff Capel and Nebraska's Doc Sadler have all picked up their first Big 12 victory against Colorado.

Freshman to watch: Guard Xavier Silas has given Colorado hope for the future. He has led the Buffaloes in scoring in each of the last three games and has averaged 16 points in that span. Silas, who has reached double figures in five of the last six games, has shot 51.5 percent (17 of 33) from the field in the last three games.

Something you may have missed: Baylor coach Scott Drew was more than a little subdued on the bench Wednesday, and not just because his Bears were blasted by Kansas. Drew had an emergency appendectomy on Tuesday and let assistant Matt Driscoll do most of the coaching.

RPI watch: Oklahoma State (12th) and Kansas (13th) are climbing in the latest NCAA men's RPI rankings. Texas Tech is No. 18 and Texas A&M is 25th.

More Conference Breakdowns: ACC | Big Ten | Big East | SEC | Pac-10

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