Eric Bailey's Big 12 Insider
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
3/05/13 at 3:33 AM
Kansas: The Jayhawks bid farewell to seniors Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey and Kevin Young during Monday's game against Texas Tech. The four are trying to help KU win its ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season title. KU coach Bill Self complimented all. "Not any of them has scored 1,000 points in their career, which is very rare to see from seniors starting in your program," Self said. "But they've all been contributors and paid their dues. This will be a special group that I will remember forever."
Oklahoma State: At one point, the Cowboys were 2-3 in the Big 12. Since then, OSU has won 10 of its past 11 contests. The only setback was a 68-67 double-overtime setback to Kansas. The Cowboys have put together a great run this season, but coach Travis Ford reminds all that finishing strong is important. "These are all Big 12 Tournament/NCAA Tournament games coming up this week," Ford said. "It's a great opportunity for our team to really compete and prepare one game at a time. You're going to be in a hostile environment on Senior Night on Wednesday night ... we just have to get in there and hang in there and keep getting better."
Baylor: The Bears go from two Elite Eight appearances in the past three seasons to sweating out making the NCAA Tournament field this season. They have dropped seven of their past 10 games and four of the last five. After Monday's game at Texas, Baylor will host Kansas on Saturday. "You have to win this time of the year, and the big thing for us is we have opportunities," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "As long as you have opportunities, you have to take advantage of it. We can't do anything about the past."
Setting it up: The four schools that will play on the opening day of the Big 12 Tournament have been set.
West Virginia, Texas, Texas Tech and TCU will play on March 13. Their opponents are to be determined. TCU is locked into the No. 10 seed.
The championship game will be at 5 p.m. March 16.
Tasting victory: Texas Tech snapped its nine-game losing streak with Saturday's 72-63 victory over TCU.
"It was a really good feeling to see all of the hard work come to fruition," Red Raiders coach Chris Walker said.
Deep in the heart of Texas: Baylor has trumpeted its winning streak against in-state opponents this season and did the same about its 17-game string heading into Monday's game at Texas.
But, in Big 12 play, how boastful is that claim?
Five of the in-state wins came in league play against Texas Tech and TCU (two wins each) and a Jan. 5 win against the Longhorns.
Those three schools are at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.
In fact, the state of Texas has struggled this year as Baylor isn't among the top tier in the league standings.
Rolling down the RPIs: The NCAA released its weekly RPI ratings on Monday.
A rundown of the Big 12 teams with their respective RPIs - Kansas (No. 4), Kansas State (18), Oklahoma (22), Oklahoma State (25), Iowa State (53), Baylor (61), West Virginia (113), Texas (126), Texas Tech (224) and TCU (242).
Weekly honors: Kansas teammates Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore were named the Big 12 Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively, on Monday.
Johnson, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, averaged 25.5 points, five rebounds and 8.5 assists in an overtime win over Iowa State and home victory against West Virginia. He had a career-high 39 points against the Cyclones and dished a personal-best 10 assists versus West Virginia.
McLemore, a 6-5 freshman guard, averaged 21.5 points and five rebounds in the Jayhawks' two victories. He set a Kansas freshman record with 36 points against West Virginia.
1. Kansas: The Jayhawks have won six consecutive contests since that three-game losing skid at mid-season.
2. Oklahoma State: Cowboys are playing for a tournament seed at this point; better than being part of the "last four in" crowd.
3. Kansas State: The Wildcats have won five consecutive games, the latest thanks to late heroics by Rodney McGruder.
4. Oklahoma: Win out and it will help ease the pain of the meltdown loss at Texas last week.
5. Iowa State: The Cyclones are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. A stat that hurts: A 2-7 record against teams in the RPI's top 50.6. Baylor: The Bears are 1-7 in games decided by five or fewer points, including Saturday's stunning setback against Kansas State.
7. West Virginia: Five of the Mountaineers' six conference victories have been against the league's bottom three schools in the standings.
8. Texas: Rick Barnes has led his past 14 basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament. A miracle will have to happen to continue that string.
9. Texas Tech: The nine-game losing streak finally ended following a visit from - who else? - TCU.
10. TCU: The Horned Frogs' highlight video from their inaugural season in the Big 12 will be filled with clips from the Kansas victory.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Kansas State at OSU, 12:30 p.m., Saturday
There's a chance that one or both teams could be playing for a share of the Big 12 Conference regular season title on this afternoon in Stillwater. Jockeying for NCAA Tournament seeds also could come into play as the teams enter the final week peaking at the right time.