Big 12 Hoops Conference Call: February 15th

This week we tackle whether Baylor deserves be grouped with KU and Mizzou, the most surprising developments of the season, and who's going to the tournament — and what their Achilles' Heel might be.

The questions are:

1. Baylor had a terrible week with losses to Kansas and Mizzou, but bounced back with a win over Iowa State on Monday. Do they still deserve to be included in a national title contender conversation with Kansas and Mizzou?

2. What - or who - been the biggest surprise for you so far this season?

3. Texas Tech finally won a conference game. We always knew that this was going to be a serious rebuilding year for them, but what do you think next year looks like for the Red Raiders?

4. As of now, who do you think the Big 12 is sending to the tournament - and what is each team's Achilles' Heel?

5. Last week we asked who your favorite announcer and analyst was. This week: who's your favorite sportswriter?

Our answers, after the jump.

1. Baylor had a terrible week with losses to Kansas and Mizzou, but bounced back with a win over Iowa State on Monday. Do they still deserve to be included in a national title contender conversation with Kansas and Mizzou?

Evan Pfaff: Two things. First, I can't believe how bad Perry Jones III has been in the four games against Kansas and Missouri. The perennial all-conference forward has averaged a measly 8.8 ppg on 34% shooting (15 of 44) in the contests against the conference elite. Second, I can't believe how good Quincy Miller has been in those same four games, averaging 17.3 ppg on 25 of 43 shooting (58%) -- Despite 3 points in the last loss to KU. So to answer, I think that Baylor is only a national contender if both the big men play up to their abilities... and right now they're not BOTH playing well in the same game.

I also don't get Scott Drew. In that Mizzou game, Frank Haith made obvious halftime adjustments and got his Tigers to the boards in the second half. Drew played more of the same, not at al utilizing his size advantage.

Nathan Kotisso: If Duke with their home losses does, then Baylor does too. They've lost to two top-5 teams and there's no shame in that. They've been to tough places (BYU, K-State) and won as well as taking down good teams on neutral floors (West Virginia, Saint Mary's, Mississippi State). They have issues at the moment but they've won these many games because they are national title contenders

E. Carnes: I definitely think Mizzou and KU have distinguished themselves in a way that Baylor hasn't. The Bears are still the top tier of the Big 12 for sure, but I won't be betting on them in March. If Perry Jones III didn't have that habit of underperforming in big games like Evan mentioned above, I might change my tune on this. But maybe not — I've also been frustrated with Scott Drew this season (starting when I saw the ease of their non-con schedule). I'm curious to know how Baylor fans are viewing this team that has such incredible raw talent. Are they frustrated about Drew, too? Are they betting on a title in March? (If you're a Bear, let me know in the comments!).

2. What - or who - been the biggest surprise for you so far this season?

EP: Easy, A&M's fall from grace. Projected as conference co-champions and now they are 3-9 in conference and in the midst of a 4-game losing streak. With games against KU, K-State and Mizzou still on the docket, plus traveling to Stillwater, it is possible we might only see another two wins out of these guys. At the onset of the season I would have given anyone 100-to-1 odds they'd have finished closer to 13-5 than 5-13. Glad I didn't make that bet.

NK: Gotta go with my Cyclones. There were times in early December that I wanted to abandon them altogether but they pulled through and are playing Tournament worthy ball.

EC: A&M and Iowa State are on my list, too, but I'll go with some 'who's. There are several big men who have been very pleasant surprises this season for me. Jeff Withey at Kansas (did you know he only averaged about 6 minutes a game last year?), Clint Chapman at Texas (I said in the beginning of the season that I wasn't holding my breath for any significant contributions from him, but now I'm eating my words. And they taste delicious.), and I wasn't expecting Ricardo Ratliffe (who shot 57% last year) to be chasing Steve Johnson's field goal percentage record.

3. Texas Tech finally won a conference game. We always knew that this was going to be a serious rebuilding year for them, but what do you think next year looks like for the Red Raiders?

EP: Well, if anyone can rebuild it is Billy Clyde Gillispie. However outside of Jordan Tolbert, he might be better scraping the entire roster and starting from scratch.

NK: This has been an encouraging stretch of days for Red Raider fans. Tech has also received two commitments from the Greater Houston area in Wannah Bail, a Top-100 prospect according to CBSSports.com and 6-foot-5 point guard Michael Carey. They might hang around the bottom of the Big 12 next year but it won't be this bad. Hope springs eternal in Lubbock.

EC: I agree with Nathan — it definitely won't be this bad. I don't think they'll be conference title contenders, but with Jordan Tolbert, Jaye Crockett, and Javarez WIllis (plus the recruits) the goal will be a little higher than "please, please let us just win one."

4. As of now, who do you think the Big 12 is sending to the tournament - and what is each team's Achilles' Heel?

EP: I see the conference getting half its constituents into the dance: Mizzou, KU, Baylor, Iowa State and Texas. One could argue K-State might make it, but, even as the strongest conference in the country, I don't see 60% of them making it in.

Achilles' Heels
Mizzou: It's not size, they create a mismatch with speed that counteracts opponents size, but along those lines it is a lack of depth. If Ricardo Ratliffe or Steve Moore get into foul trouble or injured, it will be tough for Mizzou to defend the post.
KU: Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson are playing unbelievable ball right now, but take them out and KU is no better than slightly above average. If either of them are off or in foul trouble, they lose.
Baylor: Name another team with as much size that isn't dominate in the post. Don't worry, I'll give you some time...
ISU: You never know which Clone team you're going to get. One night it might be the team that held A&M to 46 points. The next night it might be the team that was dominated by Baylor. They need consistency.
Texas: Too many freshman that haven't seen the bright lights of March Madness before... and even when they had - possibly - the best freshman to ever lace them up they didn't make it out of the first weekend.

NK: For Missouri, it's depth. Looking at the two teams ranked above them in the latest polls, they have guys they can throw at you that aren't just bench players. It's like playing a new set of starters. Kansas' deal is the same every year: don't underestimate your opponent. Just remember Bucknell, VCU, Northern Iowa, and Bradley. (Yeesh.) Baylor has to play better defense against elite-level talent and if Iowa State wants to shock people in March, they've got to learn how to win when the three-pointers aren't falling. K-State needs Angel Rodriguez to be a stable point guard. It may be too much to ask from a freshman but they're 0-4 in Big 12 play when he turns the ball over four times or more.

EC: I think Kansas, Mizzou, Baylor, Iowa State, and Texas are all dancing. Fatal flaws are over-reliance on key personnel for Kansas and Mizzou, on-the-ground coaching adjustments for Baylor, consistency for Iowa State, and inexperience for Texas.

5. Last week we asked who your favorite announcer and analyst was. This week: who's your favorite sportswriter?

EP: Outside of Nathan, E. Carnes and Joe? I went to school with Wright Thompson and his exposes are about the best in the business. He's also written for Grantland and I hardly ever miss a Simmons article (though he has the voice of a sportswriter. Hey Bill, stick to print and stay off the TV... thanks).

NK: Collectively, I like the job CBSSports.com does with their college hoops coverage but I enjoy the work of Pat Forde over at Yahoo. His Forde-Yard Dash/Minutes pieces are weekly must reads for me.

EC: I like Pat Forde and Wright Thompson, too (his story about Jim Robinson stuck with me a while after I finished). John McPhee is the platonic ideal of a sportswriter and John Feinstein did the impossible and made me care about golf. Will Leitch's stuff makes me laugh — in a good way — pretty consistently.

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