Poll Positions: Instant-Classic

January 17th, 2007
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Big 12 = Big Games

Oklahoma State Cowboys 105, Texas Longhorns 103 (3 OT). Tuesday night’s triple overtime thriller between Oklahoma State (# 11 AP / # 14 Coaches) and Texas (# 21 AP / # 23 Coaches) will go down as one of the greatest regular season games in recent memory. Long after Kevin Durant and Mario Boggan are making obscene amounts of money in the NBA, they will be replaying this game on ESPN Classic every time these two teams meet again.

Clutch shot after clutch shot by a tired-but-determined center and a so-called freshman who will be the #1 overall NBA Draft pick in June. Three overtimes brought on by game-tying shots with the clock winding down. And a ridiculous falling-away three that you have to see to believe. What a gem.

Think about it. Brandon Rush’s lay-up to beat Florida in Las Vegas. Chris Lofton’s prayer to beat Texas. Bobby Knight’s record-breaking win. The Kansas-Missouri rivalry game the other night was nothing to sneeze at either. What is it about Big 12 teams this year?

Of course there have been plenty of other great games as well, notably in the Pac 10 and Virginia Tech’s win in overtime at Duke. But the Big 12 has been very entertaining so far.

Circle March 3rd on your calendar. That’s when Kevin Durant will likely play his last regular season game against Kansas in Lawrence. If recent history is any guide, you won’t want to miss it.

Underrated Wildcats?

Just how good are the Kentucky Wildcats (# 25 AP)? Their only losses so far this season were to UCLA (#3 AP/ #2 Coaches) and Memphis (# 17 AP / # 18 Coaches) in the Maui Invitational and North Carolina (# 4 AP / Coaches). None of those can even remotely be defined as “bad” losses. However, outside of Indiana (# 21) and DePaul (# 50), they have also not beaten any team inside the current RPI Top 50, or Top 70 for that matter.

Randolph Morris has been coming into his own after the controversy surrounding his entry and withdrawal from the NBA Draft, leading the team in scoring and dominating in rebounding. Also, outside of freshman Perry Stevenson, he has more blocked shots than everyone else on the roster combined.

Joe Crawford has been playing well of late, as has the three-point shooting of Ramel Bradley who dropped 5 treys on South Carolina Tuesday. Together, this junior class has the potential to do some real damage come March, but whether or not they will is an open question.

We will know a lot more about Coach Tubby Smith’s Wildcats by the time the SEC Tournament rolls around. The remainder of their schedule includes a home and home with defending champ Florida (# 1 AP / Coaches), tough road tests against Arkansas, Tennessee (# 22 AP / # 24 Coaches), and Alabama (# 10 AP / # 9 Coaches), and a game at Rupp Arena against LSU (# 16 AP / # 19 Coaches). Should they emerge from this brutal slate relatively unscathed, the Wildcats will be on everyone’s radar come Selection Sunday.

How About Them Ducks?

You of course knew that, at this late point in the season, there would be a serious debate over the chances of the Oregon Ducks (# 9 AP / # 10 Coaches) being a #1 seed come March. You had no doubt that Coach Ernie Kent will have already seen his team defeat no less than three Top 10 teams, two of them on the road, with the other being the then #1 team in America. You accurately predicted that this Oregon squad would now be 16-1, one of just five one-loss ranked teams left, with their only loss coming in nail-biting fashion at the hands of an up-and-coming USC team. You told anyone that would listen that Aaron Brooks – who was not among the 50 preseason candidates for the Wooden Award - would emerge as a possible first-team All-American, and one of the best all-around players in the nation.

Sure you did.

Make no mistake, this is a team that is a legitimate threat to not only make it to Atlanta but go all the way. Outside of Air Force (# 13 AP / # 11 Coaches) Coach Jeff Bzdelik, I can’t think of any coach in America more deserving of Coach of the Year honors than Ernie Kent. He has done an incredible job.