Big 12 Insider
Competition can show us two sides of humanity. It can bring out the very best in us and the very worst.
We’ve all slept some since the Kansas-Iowa State classic in Ames, IA. this past Monday. But sometimes, a little distance can provide better perspective. Ok, you can label it as hindsight is 20-20.
Let’s start with the best from the Jayhawks’ come-from-behind 108-96 overtime victory. Senior guard Elijah Johnson hit for a career-high 39 including 12 in overtime. To call him “in the zone” is selling him short. Coach Bill Self called it one of the best individual performances in Kansas history. Who can dispute it?
Johnson was big on every possession in the final five minutes and hit baskets as the clock wound down including one 3-pointer that had no business going down. But when you saw him call for the ball, you just had that feeling he was going to make it.
The other was Iowa State from 3-point range. The Cyclones took 70 shots, 41 from beyond the arc and made 17. Tyrus McGee was 6-of-10. But then there was Kansas at 13-of-25.
But the worst was twofold. The call that the officiating crew did not make on a play from Johnson in the final seconds of regulation potentially influenced the outcome. What is bothersome is that ESPN put itself right in the middle of controversy.
Analyst Fran Franschilla became pretty adamant that the crew of Tom O’Neill, Mark Whitehead and Bert Smith needed to make a call as Johnson drove in and made contact with George Niang. A moment later a foul was called on Niang for something else. Johnson hit both free throws and sent the game into overtime, 90-90.
Fraschilla’s point was that a block or charge should have been called and didn’t accept the premise that the referees took the approach that the players should decide the game. He continued that the game should be called the same from opening tip to final horn.
Fraschilla is a good analyst and had a solid coaching career between Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico. But there’s a part of me that feels like his take was accepted than just observed. He knows what the crew was thinking?
Big 12 supervisor of officials Curtis Shaw ultimately made something public that should have remained private. Shaw admitted that errors were made and that appropriate action was taken on the crew. This should have never been known.
I don’t believe this was checks-and-balances. My problem is that someone representing ESPN got on a bully pulpit and claimed injustice. Human error is part of the game. Mistakes are made. This is a call that’s not reviewable and to presume the officials just swallowed the whistle is not accurate. If they were at a bad angle on the play and couldn’t judge if it was a block or charge, then you just don’t take a guess. Shaw reviews officials’ performance after every game(s).
Both Fraschilla and the network needed to play it straight and not tell everybody what needs to be done. It reminded me of a line from Albert Brooks from the 1987 film Broadcast News when he said, “Let’s never forget that we’re the real story. Not them.’’
That aside, it was awful sportsmanship from the Iowa State fans in the postgame when one fan tried to come after Self and others threw objects at the Jayhawks as they left the court. Johnson fueled their frustration with the meaningless dunk in the closing seconds. He admitted he shouldn’t have done it.
Unfortunately, we had to read a story Friday where Iowa State fans drafted an apology letter to Self for their actions.
Competition is a human drama. We react differently. Let the Kansas-Iowa State game serve as a lesson that it isn’t what happens that defines us but how we react to it.
BIG 12 WEEKEND
A look at Saturday’s games as the conference race continues to unfold. All times are central.
Iowa State (19-9, 9-6) at Oklahoma (18-9, 9-6)
12:30 p.m. Saturday (Big 12 Network)
The skinny: Both teams are coming off emotional losses earlier in the week, Iowa State against Kansas and Oklahoma at Texas. The teams are tied for fourth place. Each is in pretty good shape for the NCAA tournament. Iowa State needs the win for the tiebreaker.
West Virginia (13-15) at No. 6 Kansas (24-4, 12-3)
1:00 p.m. Saturday (CBS)
The skinny: The Mountaineers aren’t going anywhere after the Big 12 tournament because they are one of the worst shooting teams in the conference – 40.5 percent – and Kansas remains tied for the Big 12 lead but holds the tiebreaker over Kansas State because it won both meetings. Center Jeff Withey is the conference’s all-time blocks leader.
TCU (10-18, 1-4) at Texas Tech (9-17, 2-13)
3:00 p.m. Saturday (Big 12 Network)
The skinny:Hopefully, the Big 12 won’t look at the ratings numbers from this game because only die-hards will want to watch this matchup of the conference’s two worst teams. Tech won the conference opener Jan. 5 in Fort Worth, 62-53.
Texas (13-15, 5-10) at No. 15 Oklahoma State (21-6, 11-4)
3:00 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)
The skinny: Since the return of MyckKabongo, Texas is 2-2 and has two quality home wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma. Both were in overtime. He does make a difference. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford has recorded 20 wins in four of his five seasons. Markel Brown is third in the conference in scoring at 15.9.
No. 13 Kansas State (23-5, 12-3) at Baylor (17-11, 8-7)
6:00 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2)
The skinny:KSU sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez has been spectacular. He’s in the top 10 in steals (1.6), assists (5.1) and free throw percentage (83.9). The Wildcats forced 19 Baylor turnovers in the first meeting in Manhattan, KS., an 81-61 win. Baylor desperately needs this game to get back into the NCAA tournament picture. It isn’t one thing. The team just needs to be consistent everywhere.
NEWS & NOTES
- Kansas has won at least 23 games in 24 consecutive seasons and 29 of the last 30. With at least 11 conference wins, this marks 51 seasons in which this program has reached this total.
- TCU senior forward Garlon Green tied a school record when he appeared in his 124th game Wednesday against Oklahoma State. He’ll set a new mark Saturday at Texas Tech. He isone of 20 players in TCU history to score 1,000 points and collect 400 rebounds.
During the Big 12 conference basketball season, Rattle and Hum Sports unveils its power rankings. We also provide our postseason tournament projections.
1. Kansas – Picked up controversial win at Iowa State
2. Kansas State – Bruce Weber for coach of the year?
3. Oklahoma State – Only one loss in the last seven weeks
4. Iowa State – Cyclones couldn’t close out Jayhawks — twice
5. Oklahoma – Shocking how Sooners blew a 22-point lead in Austin
6. Baylor – Final three games: vs. KSU, at Texas, vs. KU
7. West Virginia – Bad shooting is the character of this team
8. Texas –Kabongo goes off for 32 in comeback win over OU
9. Texas Tech – AD Kirby Hocutt has a tough sell for the new coach
10. TCU – The nightmare debut season is almost over
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Kansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Iowa State
Projected NIT tournament team(s): Baylor