Big 12 Hoops Conference Call

This week we tackle individual performances, NBA draft stock, the conference's best basketball rivalry and, of course, the Super Bowl.

Now the questions....

1. We've seen Le'Bryan Nash shoot lights out (12-18 against Mizzou) and shoot like the lights were out (5-15 against A&M). Also in a five game stretch recently he went for 21, 6, 21, 4, 27. Will we ever be able to go into a game knowing we'll get a solid performance out of LBN?

2. Let's answer E. Carnes' question from yesterday's Power Rankings: Are the Aggies playing better without Khris Middleton? They only lost by 10 to Kansas and had a decisive win over OK State in College Station.

3. Each year we have a "The Biggest Game EVER." Put the Mizzou-KU Saturday night Mizzou-going-to-the-SEC, College-GameDay-gonna-be-there, national-audience rivalry game into context.

4. Iowa State started the season with early losses to Drake and Northern Iowa. They have since beaten Kansas and are 5-3 in conference. Obviously the transfers are meshing. They are a tournament team, right?

5. Super Bowl predictions: Winner, score, MVP

Our answers after The Jump...

1. We've seen Le'Bryan Nash shoot lights out (12-18 against Mizzou) and shoot like the lights were out (5-15 against A&M). Also in a five game stretch recently he went for 21, 6, 21, 4, 27. Will we ever be able to go into a game knowing we'll get a solid performance out of LBN?

E. Carnes: I think we will. But not this season. He's clearly got the raw talent, but he's not quite there with the stamina and mental focus. I think it's only a few kids, like Kevin or Carmelo, who are able to make the adjustment to college ball right away. Consistency will come with experience.

Joe Loyd: I would agree with Ellen but I really don't think he will be back next season for Oklahoma State as I would guess he will jump to the NBA. He shouldn't go probably from a pure basketball standpoint but I would guess he is still a first rounder if draft was held today since sometimes actual play on court doesn't mean everything. I remember not thinking that super high of Avery Bradley following his freshman season but he ended up in the 1st round still. As for this year I don't think you will ever know what gonna get out of Nash.

Evan Pfaff: As a basketball fan, you want to see this kid perform day in and day out, because when he's good and feeling it... he's as good as we have in the conference. I would like to agree with Ellen, but think I'm siding more along the lines of Joe. LBN probably won't be back next year. A lot of what the NBA pays big bucks for is ability, and Nash has ability. They often times take a flyer on talent, rather than what they've actually seen on the floor (see Josh Selby or Cory Joseph for examples). I do, however, think that LBN would benefit most by staying at least another year. He'll gain experience that he won't get riding the pine in the NBA, which will pay tenfold in future dividends.

2. Let's answer E. Carnes' question from yesterday's Power Rankings: Are the Aggies playing better without Khris Middleton? They only lost by 10 to Kansas and had a decisive win over OK State in College Station.

EC: They really seem to be. Elston Turner and David Loubeau stepped up against Kansas and OK State (during which Dash Harris had to sit out, too). I don't know if this is finally giving the team some fire and fight or if this is result of not relying on a player who isn't 100% healthy. But if A&M has a good showing against Baylor, I'd say it's Elston Turner's team now.

JL: I think it's one of those cases where people can step up their games in the short term but are they better long term without Middleton? Of course not, he is an NBA prospect who can carry the team at times and the Aggies need to get him back the sooner the better.

EP: No team is better without an NBA prospect, but I can't explain what's going on in College Station. I have seen Middleton take halves off before, and the team still survived, so maybe they are better. Maybe there is something in his game that detracts his teammates, or maybe his teammates rely too much on his ability, and step up when he's not around. Like LBN, I also thought that Middleton would be gone at the end of this year, but now think the SEC will get to see his talents next season.

3. Each year we have a "The Biggest Game EVER." Put the Mizzou-KU Saturday night Mizzou-going-to-the-SEC, College-GameDay-gonna-be-there, national-audience rivalry game into context.

EC: It's Michigan vs. Ohio State. It's Edison vs. Tesla. It's Mothra vs. Godzilla. It will be awesome. It will be epic. (It will also be penultimate, so I'm saving the really big rivalry metaphors for February 25).

JL: I would just say it's a ticket brokers dream in the Kansas City/Lawrence/Columbia area. From a personal standpoint I can't wait to watch the game and as a person who grew up in the State of Kansas and always followed the Big 12 conference I would like nothing more than to see a Jayhawk victory in the last game in Columbia before Missourah scurries off to the SEC. Sorry I am biased and fully admit it.

EP: In 1990 the teams met in Lawrence with KU #1 in the country and Mizzou #2. Mizzou won that game 77-71, in what is probably the most hyped game of the 265 that the two teams have played.... until Saturday. With all the off-court drama, and two teams ranked in the top 10, this one has the potential to be to the basketball rivalry what the 2007 football game at Arrowhead was to that sport. Ellen is right though, with only half the conference games played, the Feb 25 game in Lawrence might be bigger in stature, and have more on the line than an early Feb gae, even with everything surrounding the game.

4. Iowa State started the season with early losses to Drake and Northern Iowa. They have since beaten Kansas and are 5-3 in conference. Obviously the transfers are meshing. They are a tournament team, right?

EC: They're certainly looking like one, aren't they? But I think the only locks are Mizzou, Baylor, and Kansas. There's still enough season left for things to shake up in the second tier of the conference. Texas could figure out how to close a game, Pledger could shoot lights out from now until the end of March, etc.

JL: Right now I think they are a definitely a tournament team since they should win a fair amount more Big 12 games this season. I like watching the Cyclones play but at times I am glad I am not a die hard Iowa State fan because some of their players (Chris Allen) can make some absolutely bone headed dumb plays that are super frustrating. Now I would love to have Royce White on my team of course (except when he is attempting free throws).

EP: They are a tourney team today, but lots can change. With two games against Baylor and games at Mizzou and K-State, plus a total of five road games remaining, anything can happen. Their RealtimeRPI is 50, which puts them squarely on the bubble, but another solid win or two and the selection committee will overlook their losses to Drake and Northern Iowa.

5. Super Bowl predictions: Winner, score, MVP.

EC: Giants! 24-20! Eli! (says this former New Yorker). The losers will be the Pats and people who hate to see their favorite John Hughes movie used to sell cars.

JL: Just because I can't stand Tom Brady and the Pats, I will say the Patriots will win with Brady of course being the MVP. I will go with a score of like 20-13.

EP: Growing up in Ohio I was bred to hate all things Michigan, so I can't pull for Brady either. Giants win in another nail bitter, though I think it'll be higher scoring than the other two. 31-24 with Eli leading a late game-winning drive, and securing MVP honors for Victor Cruz.

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