One of the consequences of conference realignment has been the ending of some of the best rivalries in college sports. With #4 Missouri (20-2, 7-2) headed to the SEC after this season Saturday night's game with #8 Kansas (18-4, 8-1) could be the last time for a while these two teams meet in Columbia. But that's a mere subplot in this one as the Tigers are looking to move into a tie for first in the Big 12 while Kansas can strengthen their grip on the top spot with a win.
There are better college basketball conferences than the Big 12 in 2011-12.
But there are none more entertaining.
Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun knew heading into Wednesday's game that his struggling team, losers of three straight, needed some kind of spark to get things going. That meant shuffling the lineup, with Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi being replaced as starters by Ryan Boatright and Roscoe Smith, and for a short time on Wednesday night the move paid off. UConn got out to a 13-7 lead at the first media timeout and generally played better basketball on the offensive end, which was likely the desired effect of the move.
Tuesday's night matchup between #9 Michigan State and Illinois wasn't a pretty affair, as neither team could establish much of a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor. Whether it was due to good defense or just an inability to make shots on a consistent basis, neither the Spartans nor the Fighting Illini had much succes on that end of the floor. But when it's all said and done what matters is the result, which was a 42-41 Illinois victory as Brandon Paul made two free throws with 45 seconds remaining.
With the final month of the regular season on our door step, this is a good time to put together some all-conference teams. Enter CHN writer Jon Teitel, who not only picked his all-conference teams for each league but also provided a conference Player of the Year as well. Without further ado here are the all-conference teams, with the league POY in italics.
G Gerardo Suero (Albany)
G Darryl Partin (Boston University)
G Gerald McLemore (Maine)
F Chase Plummer (UMBC)
F Alasdair Fraser (Maine)
With the final month of regular season play just two days away, the focus turns to the resumes that teams have put together in hopes of being one of the 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament. While Frank Haith's Missouri (19-2, 6-2) has no such concerns at this point the team they visit on Monday night isn't in the same position. Rick Barnes' young Texas (13-8, 3-5) need to improve their resume and soon if they're to return to the NCAA Tournament.
To say that there were some complaints about the "quality" of Saturday's schedule would be an understatement as many felt that the college basketball slate wouldn't provide much intrigue. But once again college basketball didn't disappoint the fans, with the big result being Iowa State's 72-64 win over #5 Kansas. The Cyclones won despite turning the ball over 19 times by getting to the foul line and controlling the boards. ISU attempted 34 free throws (making 25) to just sixteen for the Jayhawks (who made ten) in handing the visitors their first Big 12 loss.