Big XII Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals Preview

[ED - bumped from the diaries]

Big XII Tournament, Game 7 -- #7 Nebraska vs. #2 Kansas, 6:00 PM
Opponent's Blogs: Rock Chalk Talk, Phog Blog

Nebraska won a close, but sloppy game in what was an exciting opening round of the Big XII tournament, and now gets a quarterfinal matchup with Kansas.  The same Jayhawks who throttled Nebraska 79-58 in Lincoln and 84-49 in Lawrence.  The same Jayhawks who've beat Nebraska 11 straight times.  The same Jayhawks who always seem to bring their A+ game every time they play the Huskers.  Every factor you can think up makes this seem like an impassable obstacle.

But that doesn't mean you don't try.

I've always thought that Nebraska's problem against KU is less of a talent obstacle -- someone with less talent then Nebraska always manages to beat Kansas -- than it is a mental one.  When every KU game starts, the Huskers remember the previous blowout, and start playing not to get embarrassed.  The factors I named off are a reason why.  It's the same thing the Big 8 teams felt against Husker football for about 30 years.

{ED - click the full story link for the rest....]

But all streaks have to come to an end.  Nebraska has shown that it can play with anyone else in the conference this year.  Now, there's only one mountain to take on.  This would be the point in football season for a Lou Holtz pep talk (but we don't want that, because Lou's pep talks are the kiss of death).  Here's what I'd say (more or less):

"The pressure's on Kansas now.  Everyone expects them to win.  They're playing for a top seed, but they've got everything to lose.  We've got nothing to lose.  Our postseason is wrapped up.  That makes us very dangerous.  This is our last chance, together, to wrestle the bear.  Forget Kansas's tradition.  In the last 15 years, they haven't won any more national championships than we have.  They're just 12 guys in shorts and tank tops, just like us.  We've had to work hard, hustle, and take everything we've got; Kansas gets a lot just for being Kansas.  We're not going to lie down and let them have the game just because they're Kansas.  We're going to fight for every rebound, every shot attempt, every dribble.  If they win, we're going to make them earn every last point."

That all said, Nebraska's going to need to play a perfect game to beat Kansas (think 85 Villanova in the championship against Georgetown).  They won today despite some very sloppy play throughout the game against Missouri.  Kansas does everything well, and there's no one player you can take out of the game to shut them down.  They especially excel and causing opponents to make mistakes, and making the most of those mistakes.

Nebraska will have to hit its free throws, because Kansas doesn't get whistled for a lot of fouls, and free points are hard to come by.  Nebraska will have to stay out of foul trouble, because they don't have the depth to compete with Kansas's bench.

Unfortunately, I don't see that happening.  Ken Pomeroy has Kansas as the best team in the country.  Kansas has so many weapons.  Nebraska will have to fight for every scrap.  I think Nebraska will keep it closer than they did earlier in the year (because they are a MUCH better team now than in January), but Kansas will pull away down the stretch.

Kansas 77, Nebraska 64.

On to the other games:
All games on ESPN+ (KXVO in Omaha/Lincoln) with webcast on ESPN360.com.  First session games also on ESPNU.

Game 5 -- #1 Texas vs. #9 Oklahoma State, 11:30 AM
Team Blogs: Texas -- Burnt Orange Nation, Oklahoma State -- None.
Regular Season Meetings: Jan. 21 -- Texas 63, @OSU 61; Mar. 9 -- @Texas 62, OSU 57
Texas's biggest problem this year has been that they play to the level of their opponents.  This means that they don't blow any one out, and everyone knows they can play with them.  OSU just took Texas to the wire on Sunday, so they won't be intimidated.  Funny thing is, no matter how close Texas seems to keep it, they always seem to pull it out.
Prediction: Texas 65, OSU 61

Game 6 -- #4 Oklahoma vs. #12 Colorado, 2:00 PM (depending on end of previous game)
Team Blogs: Oklahoma -- Crimson and Cream Machine; Colorado -- None.
Regular Season Meeting: Feb. 9 -- @Colorado 72, Oklahoma 58
I certainly did not expect to see this matchup again.  I should have been paying attention, though -- Colorado is now 7-3 in Thursday Big XII tournament games.  But they've never won a quarterfinal game.  Oklahoma is playing much better since the debacle in Lincoln, and I'm sure they haven't forgot the embarrassment in Boulder.  Expect Oklahoma to roll.  One interesting note -- according to the announcers during the CU-Baylor game, Colorado's Richard Roby needs 13 points to become CU's all-time leading scorer.  He averages 16.5/game.
Prediction: Oklahoma 68, Colorado 60

Game 8 -- #3 Kansas State vs. #6 Texas A&M, 8:20 PM (depending on end of previous game)
Team Blogs: Kansas State -- Bring On the Cats; Texas A&M -- The 12th Manchild
Regular Season Meeting: Jan. 19 -- @Kansas St. 75, Texas A&M 54
A&M has been up and down lately.  Kansas St. has been up and down lately.  Both are 3-5 in their last 8 games.  Neither has been great away from home.  Kansas State is closer to home, and has Michael Beasley.  A&M does not.  A&M has won 2 Big XII tournament games -- ever -- including the first round game against Iowa State on Thursday.  A&M's best chance is to shut down everyone not named Beasley or Walker (only Nebraska has made the other way work).
Prediction: Kansas State 77, Texas A&M 68

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