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January 19, 2007

Big 12 Breakdown: A&M defense will be tested

Weekly Big 12 Update
Team Conf. Overall
Texas A&M 3-0 15-2
Kansas 3-0 16-2
Texas 3-1 13-4
Oklahoma State 2-1 16-2
Texas Tech 2-1 13-5
Kansas State 2-2 12-6
Oklahoma 2-2 10-6
Iowa State 2-2 11-7
Baylor 1-3 11-6
Colorado 1-3 5-9
Nebraska 0-2 11-5
Missouri 0-4 11-6
Standings as of 1/18

Best matchup: No. 12 Oklahoma State (16-2, 2-1) bounced back from a 30-point loss to Kansas by dealing Texas its first conference loss in a triple overtime marathon. The Cowboys hope to start a winning streak when they travel to face No. 8 Texas A&M (15-2, 3-0), which has won eight in a row. Oklahoma State is the Big 12's second highest scoring team with an 84.4-point average. The Cowboys have two of the conference's four leading scorers in Mario Boggan (22.0) and JamesOn Curry (19.1). Acie Law (15.9) is the only Aggie among the conference's top 10 scorers, but the Aggies are the Big 12's best defensive team. A&M is allowing just 53.6 points per game.

Worst matchup: Nebraska and Colorado are a combined 1-5 in conference play, and that's after Colorado upset Iowa State on Wednesday night. Nebraska has lost its last four, but at least the Cornhuskers had shot 55.6 percent in their three games prior to falling to Oklahoma 70-53 on Wednesday. The Huskers shot just 34.9 percent in that game. Colorado's win over Iowa State ended a three-game losing streak.

The pressure is on: Protecting the home court is always vital, and that's particularly true against a top opponent in the South Division. That's the task facing Texas A&M, which faces Oklahoma State at Reed Arena. Although tied with Kansas atop the Big 12 standings, the Aggies are at a disadvantage because the South is the stronger division it has four teams in the upper half of the standings. A&M plays Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech twice, while Kansas only plays them once.

Upset alert: The last time No. 5 Kansas (15-2, 3-0) hit the road, the Jayhawks needed overtime to escape Iowa State unscathed. A trip to Lubbock might not be any easier. Texas Tech (13-5, 2-1) isn't a great scoring or rebounding team, but the Red Raiders don't make many mistakes and they have Bob Knight on the bench. Texas Tech is 8-1 at United Spirit Arena.

Who's hot: Oklahoma State's Mario Boggan became the first player in Big 12 history to score at least 30 points and grab at least 20 rebounds in the same game when he had 37 points and 20 boards in a 105-103 triple overtime victory over Texas. By the way, he also hit a game-winning 20-footer with 3.3 seconds remaining.

Who's not: On the road, the Baylor Bears are colder than the frigid weather that forced postponement of last week's Oklahoma State-Nebraska game. Upon blowing an 11-point lead in second half and losing 69-60 at Kansas State on Wednesday night, the Bears have fallen in 31 of their last 33 true road games and have lost 19 consecutive conference games away from Waco.

Must see TV: A matchup of two ranked teams is usually good viewing, although Oklahoma State's 87-57 loss to Kansas was definitely an exception. They responded with that 3OT win over Texas, and it will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can crank it up emotionally again against the Aggies. OSU is 3-1 against ranked opponents; A&M is 0-2 against ranked teams. Those two losses were to No. 16 LSU (74-62) and No. 3 UCLA (65-62) and both were on the road.

Key stat: It isn't hard to see why Texas A&M has been successful this season. The Aggies rank third nationally in scoring defense at 52.6 points per game and are fourth in the nation with a 51.2 shooting percentage. A&M has shot at least 50 percent in 11 games.

Bench bonus: Kansas freshman Sherron Collins has come off the bench to score in double figures in the last three games, including a career-high 23 points in an 80-77 victory over Missouri on Monday. He also equaled his career-high with four 3-point goals. The Jayhawks' bench outscored Missouri 37-23.

They said it: "It's a good thing I don't have any classes today." -- Oklahoma State guard Byron Eaton after making a Wednesday morning appearance on "Cold Pizza" following the Cowboys' 105-103 triple overtime victory over Texas.

Injury update: Oklahoma center Longar Longar has been suspended two games by the Big 12 after an elbowing incident that broke the eye socket of Texas Tech's Esmir Rizvic on Jan. 6. Rizvic's status is uncertain.

Worth noting: Baylor is 8-1 when sophomore guard Curtis Jerrells scores in double figures. Iowa State's 68-64 loss to Kansas last week was the Cyclones' third consecutive loss to Kansas at Hilton Coliseum. That marks the first time in Big 12 history an opponent has beaten Iowa State three consecutive times at home. Kansas junior center Sasha Kaun has shot 73.3 percent from the field (22 of 30) in the last five games. Oklahoma State's triple-overtime victory over Texas on Tuesday night was the Cowboys' longest game since a 96-91 win over Colorado in four overtimes on Feb. 5, 1983. It was the longest for Texas since the Longhorns lost in four overtime periods to TCU on Jan. 7, 1961.

Freshman to watch: This is getting monotonous, but Texas' Kevin Durant just keeps demanding attention. He scored 34 points in the loss to Oklahoma State, which marked the third time in four conference games he's scored exceeded 30 points. He had 28 in the other game. Durant leads the Big 12 in scoring (24.5) and rebounds (11.1) and appears on the way to being named the conference's player of the year. He has been named Rivals.com's national Freshman of the Week the past two weeks.

Something you may have missed: Kansas State missed their first 15 consecutive shots in the second half, which allowed Baylor to take an 11-point lead Wednesday night. However, the Wildcats - who shot 55 percent in the first half - hit six of their next seven and eventually were able to post a 69-60 victory.

RPI watch: Only Oklahoma State (8th) and Kansas (16th) are ranked among the top 20 by RPI.com, and strength of schedule is obviously the main reason. The Cowboys' schedule is ranked 33rd and Kansas' is 57th. The only other Big 12 teams ranked in the top 40 in the RPI according to Ken Pomeroy's daily RPI report are Texas A&M (26th) and Texas Tech (31st).

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



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