Big 12 basketball notes: Texas back in national discussion

Posted Monday, Feb. 03, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Big 12 Players of the Week

Player of the Week

Juwan Staten, West Virginia: The junior guard was an easy choice. He led the Mountaineers to consecutive wins, including a 35-point performance against Kansas State. He’s the school’s first player to earn Big 12 player of the week honors.

Newcomer of the Week

Isaiah Taylor, Texas: Another no-brainer. Taylor scored a game-high 23 points in the Longhorns’ upset victory over Kansas on Saturday. On the season, he’s averaging 12.2 points and 3.5 assists per game.

Telling number

1The Big 12’s ranking in the latest RPI standings. Five league teams are in the Top 25 and seven are in the top 55 — tied for the most of any conference.

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The resurgence of Texas is the hottest story in college basketball.

The Longhorns whipped Kansas on Saturday for their fourth consecutive victory over a ranked opponent and climbed to No. 15 in The Associated Press poll, a 10-spot jump.

But coach Rick Barnes couldn’t care less about rankings at this point in the season.

“It’s great that those guys know they’ve done some good things, but I’ll be disappointed if they get overexcited about it,” Barnes said. “We haven’t talked about [rankings] all year.”

Still, it’s been quite a stretch for Texas. Consider the following as the Longhorns face TCU at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum:

• Texas is only the second school since 1996-97 with four consecutive wins over ranked opponents. Kansas also did it earlier this year.

• UT tied a school record by winning its fourth consecutive game against a ranked opponent. The Longhorns won four straight (in a five-game span) against ranked opponents in 2010-11.

• This is the first time UT has defeated two top-10 teams at home, Iowa State and Kansas, in a season since its 2002-03 Final Four season.

Barnes, though, said his team isn’t “gloating” about their success, saying: “They understand that we’ve got work to do.”

Seeing Texas back in the national discussion may have surprised some, but not the coaches within the conference.

Kansas coach Bill Self called Texas one of the fastest teams in the country. That sheer speed by the Longhorns helped offset KU’s length.

And, Self said, it’s good for the conference that Texas is back to what it had been under Barnes. The Kansas-Texas games had long been among the best in the league, but that had faded the past few seasons with Texas’ struggles.

“Kansas and Texas, combined, have probably experienced more success than anybody else in the league,” Self said. “Some of the best games that have been played have been Kansas and Texas over time. Certainly Rick has a very good team this season, and they exposed us in a big way on Saturday.”

Tough road

Baylor showed why most felt it could contend for the league title on Saturday, winning convincingly at Oklahoma State.

It snapped the Bears’ five-game losing streak and could help them get back on track for an NCAA Tournament berth. But it will be difficult to get a winning streak going.

The Bears face Kansas on Tuesday, and then are at Oklahoma on Saturday.

“You wouldn’t look on paper and see a winning streak there, but that’s why you love sports and love playing in the Big 12,” coach Scott Drew said. “It’s a great opportunity each night to play against a Top 25 team.”

Drew went on to reflect on how things turned suddenly for his team. The Bears had a solid nonconference season, including wins over Colorado and Kentucky, but simply played uninspired ball once conference play began.

“If I could have gone back in time and done one thing different, I would have made sure I prepared us for the physicality of league play,” he said. “That’ll haunt me for many years and I’ll make sure I don’t make that mistake again.”

OSU cuts guard

Oklahoma State dismissed freshman guard Stevie Clark after he was arrested Sunday on suspicion of outraging public decency.

It was the second arrest for Clark this year. On Jan. 1, he was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana. Clark averaged 5.3 points and 2.7 assists in 16 games.

“We care about Stevie and wish nothing but the best for him,” coach Travis Ford said in a statement. “We want him to find success in his future.”

Tourney tickets

Tickets to the Big 12 tournament, March 12-15 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at SprintCenter.com.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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