Big 12 Tournament Preview

March 11th, 2009

This is one in a series of conference tournament previews, in which I run down all the teams involved, give a brief statistical review and present the log5 projections, using in-conference offensive and defensive efficiency. The basic log5 methodology comes from Bill James, and this is an area Ken Pomeroy has looked at in the past as well. I claim nothing new in the application, but obviously with slightly different methodologies, these numbers may differ from others you find.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any particular conference, and I’m sure there are some mis-characterizations on some players I’ve seen sparingly at best, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:


Big 12 Tournament

Oklahoma City stages the Big 12 Tournament, in which the top 4 teams get byes to the quarterfinals.



























Kansas St.












Texas A&M






Oklahoma St.


















Iowa St.






Texas Tech












Kansas has a great shot at the title, while Missouri is somewhat ahead of Oklahoma, as it has been for some time in the efficiency rankings. Kansas St. is a 4 seed that should be sent home early by #5 Texas, while only A&M and OK St. look  to cause havoc from outside the top five.


#1 – Kansas Jayhawks (25-6, 14-2) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.155

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (National Champion)


Kansas has one of the country’s youngest teams, but that hasn’t stopped the defending national champs from getting to the top of the Big 12 and building one of the country’s more impressive  resumes. The Jayhawks have had the conference’s best defense, mostly due to their strength inside, where they allow opponents only 42% of shots and dominate the defensive glass. Their own shooting has also been impressive; they hit 40% of attempts from behind the arc. The one thing that separates them from the national elite offenses is their propensity for turnovers, giving it up far too often. Overall, though, this is a team that should be favored for the title, and will really benefit from only needing to face one of Missouri and Oklahoma.


Players to watch:

6-11 SO Cole Aldrich, 14.8 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.5 BPG, 60.1 eFG% - There may not be a lot of talk nationally about big men in the Big 12 beyond Griffin, but Aldrich has really stepped up in his sophomore season, and probably been the conference’s second best player. A 60% shooter who hits 80% at the free throw line, Aldrich is a dominant rebounder and the Big 12’s best shot-blocker.


5-11 JR Sherron Collins, 18.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.9 APG, 50.1 eFG% - The main returning player from the national championship team, Collins has been a very good three-point shooter, and distributed the ball well to team-mates.


#2 – Oklahoma Sooners (27-4, 13-3) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.111

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (2nd Round)


Oklahoma started the conference season 11-0, but benefited from avoiding the top two teams in the conference until the final weeks,, when it lost three of its last five games. The Sooners are a good team, but have ranked third in the Big 12, and while they could easily win the conference tournament, losing a semifinal to Missouri wouldn’t be a surprise. They have had the conference’s best offense, dominating the inside as well as any team in the country and getting to the free-throw line a lot, though they aren’t great shooters once there. It’s Oklahoma’s defense that has held it back from the top of the conference; they defend shots well, but give opponents too many chances, forcing few turnovers and not doing that well on the glass.


Players to watch:

6-10 SO Blake Griffin, 22.1 PPG, 14.2 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 63.6 eFG% - It’s easy to see why Griffin is the favorite for the national player of the year award, as he’s been the conference’s top scorer while leading the country in rebounding, and can rather easily put up 20-and-15. He’s a force on the defensive glass, but his 59% free-throw shooting can be an Achilles Heel.


6-4 FR Willie Warren, 14.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 56.9 eFG% - The Big 12’s best freshman, Warren has been an excellent outside complement to Griffin,  a very good three-point shooter who can also score inside.   



#3 – Missouri Tigers (25-6, 12-4) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.133

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2003 (2nd Round)


Missouri is the third of the three elite Big 12 teams, but has had some spotty performances on the road, while dominating its home court, and it’ll be interesting to see how it does in Oklahoma City. Few teams in the country are as ferocious at forcing turnovers as the Tigers, and they also cause opponents problems from behind the arc, but have had foul problems. Their offense is highly ranked nationally, but is just behind the leading Big 12 teams. It doesn’t turn it over much, and scores pretty well inside the arc.


Players to watch:

6-8 SR DeMarre Carroll, 17.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 58.5 eFG% - Carroll is one of the Big 12’s most efficient players, leading Missouri in both scoring and rebounding. He shoots 57% from the field, rarely turns the ball over, and has put up good rates on the glass and in steals.


6-9 SR Leo Lyons, 14.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 50.7 eFG% - Lyons is second on the team in points and rebounds, and while he hasn’t been as efficient as Carroll, he’s still a quality inside option.



#4 – Kansas St. Wildcats (21-10, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.031

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1998 (2nd Round)


It’s a good show of how shallow the Big 12 has been beyond the leading three teams that the #4 seed has actually been outscored by its conference opponents over the season. The Wildcats have struggled to make shots, taking most attempts from inside the arc, but hitting just 44%. They have gotten a lot of attempts, as they are one of the country’s best teams on the offensive glass. Their defensive problems have been on the perimeter, as teams have made nearly 40% of threes against Kansas St. It also has committed a lot of fouls, which has offset its decent interior defense.


Players to watch:

6-1 JR Denis Clemente, 15.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 50.3 eFG% - Clemente can be as dynamic a scorer as there is in the league, including dropping 44 on Texas and 33 on Missouri. He’s a solid three-point shooter who can also dish out assists well.


6-0 SO Jacob Pullen, 13.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 47.1 eFG% - Pullen takes about the same number of shots as Clemente, but is much less efficient, as he’s only average from behind the arc.


#5 – Texas Longhorns (20-10, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.019

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (Elite Eight)


Texas was ranked in the national polls for much of the early part of the season, but couldn’t string together victories in Big 12 play, and has been well behind the three leading teams. The Longhorns have a couple of areas where they are very strong, but on both sides of the ball they have glaring weaknesses that have caused them trouble. They rarely turn the ball over and are good on the offensive boards, but they haven’t shot well with the extra possessions, hitting under 30% from behind the arc. Defensively, they’ve also struggled on the perimeter, as their good defense of inside shots has been nullified by opponents shooting 39% from long distance.


Players to watch:

6-7 JR Damion James, 15.9 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 50.4 eFG% -James is a solid rebounder, but doesn’t shoot a particularly good percentage for an inside player.  


5-11 SR A.J. Abrams, 16.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 49.3 eFG% - Abrams plays more minutes than anyone in the Big 12, and while he’s a good shooter from three, his inside scoring has struggled, as he’s shot a lower percentage inside the arc than outside. His biggest strength is a very low turnover rate.



#6 – Texas A&M Aggies (23-8, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.041

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (2nd Round)


The Aggies are one of the most intriguing teams entering the tournament, as they come in on a six-game winning streak, and have put together the best EM record of any team outside the leading group. They haven’t been great scoring inside, but shoot well from three and get to the free throw line really often, though a 67% rate at the stripe manes they can’t get as much value out of those attempts as they should. Texas A&M has been good defending the inside, solid rebounders and holding opponents’ shooting percentage down, but are very vulnerable on the perimeter, not stopping the three well and rarely getting their hands on the ball.


Players to watch:

6-7 SR Josh Carter, 14.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 56.6 eFG% - Carter leads the Aggies in scoring, and is a very efficient player who rarely turns the ball over, and shoots good percentages form both inside and outside the arc.


6-10 JR Chinemelu Elonu, 10.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 65.9 eFG% - Elonu doesn’t typically have a large offensive role, but he occasionally explodes for big games , and is a huge force inside; a 66% shooter who is one of the conference’s best rebounders and shot-blockers.



#7 – Oklahoma St. Cowboys (20-10, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.027

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2005 (Sweet Sixteen)


A six-game winning streak towards the end of the season bailed the Cowboys out after a tough start that saw them at 3-6. They’ve had one of the league’s best offenses, despite the fact that their three-point shooting has regressed from its spectacular non-conference percentage. In Big 12 play, they’ve been better, if not as frequent,  shooters inside and have rarely turned the ball over. Oklahoma St. has struggled on the defensive end, the worst team outside the bottom four; it just hasn’t been able to stop opponents from making shots.


Players to watch:

6-6 SO James Anderson, 18.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 59.5 eFG% - On a team of good shooters, at 43% Anderson is the best of the group, and leads the team in scoring. He rarely turns the ball over and is a very good free-throw shooter.


5-11 SR Byron Eaton, 14.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.1 SPG, 46.5 eFG% - Eaton isn’t the team’s leading scorer, but is its most important player, as he does a lot of things besides offense to help the team. He has a great assist rate, and generates a lot of steals, among the best in the Big 12 in both categories. He’s not a great shooter from the field, but gets to the free-throw line as well as any player in the country, and hits 77% of attempts from there.



#8 – Nebraska Cornhuskers (18-11, 8-8) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.017

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1998 (1st Round)


Nebraska has gotten up to .500 in the conference for the first time in a decade, thanks to a ferocious defense that has is one of the Big 12’s best. The Huskers don’t stop opponents from making shots, but are one of the nation’s best teams at forcing turnovers, despite a fairly slow pace of play. Their offense has struggled, though, as they’ve been good outside, rarely turning it over and making a decent percentage of threes, but disastrous inside the arc; they’ve shot just 45% from two-point range and been one of the nation’s worst on the offensive boards.


Players to watch:

6-5 SR Ade Dagunduro, 13.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 55.4 eFG% - Dagunduro is the Cornhuskers’ most important player, a good inside scorer who does well on the offensive glass, and can chip in effectively  on the defensive end.


5-7 SO Cookie Miller, 7.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 49.7 eFG% - Miller doesn’t score a lot, but distributes the ball really well, and is a good perimeter shooter. He does have some problems with turnovers that have hampered his effectiveness.



#9 – Baylor Bears (17-13, 5-11) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.069

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008  (1st Round)


A team that’s got more talent than its performance would indicate, the Bears have won just two of their last 12 games, thanks to some horrific defensive play. They haven’t gotten many stops inside, and haven’t managed to easily end possessions with a turnover or rebound, while also fouling quite often, so opponents’ possessions usually tend to end with some kind of good offensive chance. Baylor’s vaunted three-point scorers have also gone south in Big 12 play, as it’s hit just over a third of attempts, and with most of its shots coming from behind the arc, the offense hasn’t been able to cover for the defensive problems. Still, as a former nationally ranked team, Baylor has the ability to make some noise in the tournament.


Players to watch:

6-1 SR Curtis Jerrells, 16.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 49.6 eFG% - Jerrells is an excellent shooter who has increased his three-point percentage in his senior season, and also distributes the ball pretty well.


6-9 SR Kevin Rogers, 12.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 53.9 eFG% - Rogers leads the team in rebounding, and is a pretty good inside scorer who’s one of Baylor’s only options down low.  



#10 – Iowa St. Cyclones (15-16, 4-12) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.118

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2005 (2nd Round)


The Big 12 has an upper tier of three top teams, but also a bottom tier of three teams, which starts with the bottom seed, Iowa St. The Cyclones haven’t made a lot of shots, and have compounded that problem by rarely getting to the free-throw line and getting back very few offensive rebounds. Their defense has been better, rarely fouling and dominating the glass, but hasn’t been too good defending shots and been the Big 12’s worst at forcing turnovers.


Players to watch:

6-10 SO Craig Brackins, 20.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 49.4 eFG% - Brackins is one of the conference’s best players, an excellent scorer and rebounder who is a dominant force for the Cyclones, and shoots a decent percentage considering how many of his team’s shots go through him.


6-1 SR Bryan Petersen, 6.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 57.6 eFG% - Peterson doesn’t have high averages, but is the team’s best shooter, especially from behind the arc, where he shoots 39%.  



#11 – Texas Tech Red Raiders (13-18, 3-13) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.104

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (1st Round)


Texas Tech made national headlines by putting up 167 points against a non-D1 team early in the year, and while they managed to keep up a pretty solid offensive performance in the Big 12, the more telling stat in that game may have been giving up 116 points, as it has been the conference’s worst defensive team. The Red Raiders play at a fast pace, but don’t force a lot of turnovers, and get burned pretty badly both inside and out. They are decent at making threes, but despite their pace don’t get a high percentage of shots inside, and are very weak on the offensive boards.


Players to watch:

6-3 SR Alan Voskuil, 14.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 59.4 eFG% - Voskuil is a deadly three-point shooter, having hit 45% of attempts from behind the arc, including a 9-of-14  performance in beating Kansas last week. He doesn’t take a lot of shots, but is so effective that he’s the team’s second leading scorer.


5-11 SO John Roberson, 14.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.5 APG, 48.6 eFG% - Roberson isn’t a great shooter, but leads the Raiders in scoring, though his real strength is his assist rate, one of the country’s best.



#12 –Colorado Buffaloes (9-21, 1-15) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.170

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2003 (1st Round)


Colorado won just one conference game, against Iowa St., but twice lost in overtime, and played a number of other games in single digits. They’ve had a lot of trouble scoring, hitting a decent percentage, but not able to get many attempts, turning it over often and getting beaten out on the offensive boards. They’ve also allowed opponents to make shots pretty easily, giving up conference-worst percentages from two and three, and their only redeeming factor is an ability to force turnovers.


Players to watch:

6-5 SO Cory Higgins, 17.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 53.6 eFG% - Higgins has improved quite a bit for Colorado, and been one of the conference’s top scorers. He’s a very good inside shooter who can hit threes as well, and does a lot of good work at the free throw line, where he shoots 83%. His ability on the defensive glass and in picking up steals has made him one of the Big 12’s better players overall.


6-3 SR Dwight Thorne, 11.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 57.1 eFG% - Thorne had a very strong scoring run in mid-January, but has dropped off since then, and while he’s an excellent percentage shooter, he tends to run fairly hot-and-cold.


My statistical all-Big 12 team:

Oklahoma St. SO G James Anderson, 18.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 59.5 eFG%

Colorado SO G Cory Higgins, 17.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 53.6 eFG%

Oklahoma SO F Blake Griffin, 22.1 PPG, 14.2 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 63.6 eFG%

Missouri SR F DeMarre Carroll, 17.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 58.5 eFG%

Kansas SO C Cole Aldrich, 14.8 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.5 BPG, 60.1 eFG%



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