My top basketball matchups in the Big 12 this week, and my Big 12 player of the week.
Top Matchups in the Big 12 This Week
Kansas State (7-1) vs #14 Gonzaga (9-1) | (Saturday, Dec. 15) Kansas State has quietly been off to a good start this season having won seven games and losing only one. The only problem is that the one challenging opponent they faced was Michigan (9-0) who is ranked #3 right now, and K-State was defeated 71-57. All the other opponents the Wildcats faced were mediocre teams that should have been beat by a better K-State team. Similar to Tech, K-State likes to have fresh legs on the court to not slow down the pace of the play. I think K-State is a good team but on Saturday they will be put up against a pissed-off #14 Gonzaga squad that recently got whipped by #10 Illinois (10-0). Gonzaga has four guys that average points per game in the double figures. But the two to be careful with are the Bulldogs forwards combo of senior Elias Harris (16.6 ppg, 8 rpg) & seven-footer junior Kelly Olynyk (14.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg). Gonzaga is a really great team that can hit any shot on the floor better than any other college basketball team, they are #1 in the nation in field goal percentage hitting 52.7% of their shots. K-State does have senior leader Rodney McGruder who averages 12.9 ppg, and he has been averaging double digit points since his sophomore year. The Wildcats are #6 on the boards in the nation with 44.6 rebounds per game. But, overall Gonzaga is the better team in this matchup and K-State will have their hands full from the beginning tip. Kansas State will try hard and the game will begin with excitement in this neutral site matchup called the "Battle in Seattle," but I have to pick Gonzaga coming out and winning. If K-State can surprise everyone and pull out the upset, they should go right into the top 25. Predicted Winner - Gonzaga
Oklahoma (6-2) vs Texas A&M (7-1) | (Saturday, Dec. 15) The 77th annual Oklahoma City All College Classic will be a fantastic one. Oklahoma has fallen to now ranked #14 Gonzaga who was previewed above, so you already know how good the bulldogs are. The other Sooner loss was by three points to a pesky Arkansas (4-4) group. Oklahoma has three players with scoring averages of 10+, but senior forward Romero Osby (transfer from Mississippi State) is the star of this team with 12.5 ppg & 6.9 rpg. Texas A&M hasn’t played any stellar competition so far in the season, with their one loss to Saint Louis (5-3). A&M has two players that score double figures per game, but the Aggie star is senior guard Elston Turner (transfer from Washington). Aggies are #171 in scoring averaging 68.6, and Sooners are #170 at 68.8 ppg. The Aggies matchup with the Sooners eerily similar with both team scoring about the same number of buckets and having 2 senior star players that were high-profile transfers. I have a feeling that Oklahoma is going to be a decent team this year in the Big 12, and A&M will slow down on their winning when the SEC big boys start spanking them in conference play. I think this will be a close game and it will be a rough game, with the last group standing coming out with the win. It will be a fun game to watch. Oklahoma should have the power to outlast the Aggies, and it’s pretty much a home game for the Sooners. Predicted Winner - Oklahoma
Big 12 Player of the Week
Kevin Noreen (West Virginia)| The Mountaineers had a miserable start to the season, but this last week they managed 2 wins to get to a 4-3 winning record. Noreen did not have a good game last week against Marshall, hacking for 3 fouls with 3 points and 5 rebounds. This entire season he had only scored 8 points in the previous six games before then undefeated in-state rival Virginia Tech (7-1) went to Morgantown on Saturday. In that game the sophomore forward 6’-10’’ Noreen hit for 14 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks to help WVU pull off the upset by one point. I like when something unexpected happens from a player, especially against his in-state rival.