Eric Bailey's Big 12 Insider
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
1/22/13 at 5:27 AM
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Kansas: Are the Jayhawks possibly living on borrowed time? Kansas has won 15 consecutive games (which leads the nation) heading into Tuesday's showdown at Kansas State. In three of KU's last four games, the Jayhawks needed a last-second 3 (Iowa State), weathered an offensive drought (Texas Tech) and overcame an 11-point deficit at Texas. The good news for Kansas fans? The team continues to find ways to win.
Kansas State: Bruce Weber has won at least 15 games in his debut season at all three of his stops: Southern Illinois (15-12), Illinois (26-7) and Kansas State (15-2). His job at Kansas State is impressive. Sure, he inherited four starters from an NCAA Tournament team, including four-time Big 12 Conference player of the week Rodney McGruder. But the key to Weber's success has been getting his team to buy into his system.
West Virginia: Perhaps it's been the transition to the Big 12 Conference. Or maybe it's just been a tough shooting season compounded by an uncharacteristic lack of defense. Bob Huggins was asked about his team's troubles, and he admits he is still searching for answers. West Virginia has lost four of five games heading into Wednesday's game against visiting TCU.
Big game: With Kansas' basketball series with Missouri severed by conference realignment, the Jayhawks' full attention now turns to the Sunflower State Showdown.
The Jayhawks will travel to Kansas State for a 7 p.m. contest on Tuesday.
The teams are the Big 12 Conference's only ranked programs. Kansas is No. 2 in the USA Today coaches poll and tied for third in the Associated Press poll. Kansas State is No. 13 and 11, respectively.
KU coach Bill Self has been impressed by the job of first-year K-State coach Weber, who has guided the team to an eight-game winning streak.
"They're playing with the same type of intensity that Frank (Martin) demanded," Self said. "I also think they are understanding Bruce's motion (offense) and are hard to guard."
Added Weber: "We have to use (home-court) to our advantage and not get emotionally drunk. ... This is about first place at this point of the season. There's a long way to go. We're 4-0. We have home-court advantage the first time around. (Going 5-0) has to be our goal."
Kansas and Kansas State are 3-0 in road games this year. They are among nine schools nationally that are unbeaten away from home.
Tough run: West Virginia coach Huggins admitted he wasn't expecting his basketball team to struggle like it has this season.
"I never saw it coming," Huggins said. "I obviously thought we'd be more competitive."
The Mountaineers have dropped four of five games, including a 79-52 setback at Purdue last weekend.
"We find different ways to shoot ourselves in the foot," Huggins said. "If we shoot it OK from the field, we can't make a foul shot. We make foul shots, we can't shoot it from the field.
"I've never had teams that couldn't guard ... we haven't guarded very well."
Players of the week: Guards McGruder (Kansas State) and Ben McLemore (Kansas) were named as the player of the week and the rookie of the week, respectively, on Monday.
McGruder averaged 20.5 points in victories over TCU and Oklahoma last week, while McLemore averaged 16.5 points and seven rebounds in victories over Baylor and Texas.
The two will face each other in Tuesday's game.
(before Monday's games)
1. Kansas: Will the Jayhawks escape the Little Apple with their nation's-best winning streak intact? KU is searching for its 16th consecutive win.
2. Kansas State: There's plenty of balance on this team, with 11 players averaging 11-plus minutes a contest. Contributions have led to success.
3. Baylor: Talk about overmatched - the Bears' 69-point margin of victory over Hardin-Simmons was the largest in school history.
4. Oklahoma: The Sooners continue to find ways to win games. Does Lon Kruger get consideration for Big 12 coach of the year if the trend continues?
5. Iowa State: The Mayor (Fred Hoiberg) is getting it done. The Cyclones are 3-1 in Big 12 play, and the team is off to its best four-game league start in 14 seasons.
6. Oklahoma State: A glance of the standings shows a division among the top five and bottom five schools. OSU can't let the upper half pull away.
7. Texas: The Longhorns entered Monday's rivalry game at Oklahoma trying to avoid an 0-5 start in league play.
8. West Virginia: Yikes. Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said Purdue scored in 20 of its final 22 possessions against his team.
9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have won only two of their past 21 Big 12 games dating back to last season.
10. TCU: The transition from the Mountain West Conference to the Big 12 has been a rough one for the Horned Frogs.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Kansas at Kansas State, 7 p.m. Tuesday
Nibble on this statistic: Since Kansas State opened Bramlage Coliseum in the 1987-88 season, the Jayhawks are 22-2 in the Wildcats' arena. The fun matchup for fans to watch will be Kansas' super freshman Ben McLemore against K-State senior Rodney McGruder.
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber gestures to players on Saturday. CHARLIE RIEDEL / AP