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January 18, 2008

Texas A&M, K-State should battle inside

MORE BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC
UPCOMING GAMES
Saturday
Oklahoma State at Iowa State
Texas A&M at Kansas State
Texas Tech at Oklahoma
Baylor at Nebraska
Colorado at Texas
Kansas at Missouri
Monday
Texas at Oklahoma State
Wednesday
Iowa State at Kansas
Baylor at Texas A&M
Missouri at Texas Tech
Kansas State at Colorado

Best matchup: Texas A&M (15-2 overall, 1-1 in the Big 12) at Kansas State (11-4, 1-0). This will be the Aggies' first up-close-and-personal look at K-State wunderkind Michael Beasley. The Aggies have been winning with tough defense and domination of the boards (they have a plus-11.5 rebound margin). But Kansas State has scored at least 75 points in seven consecutive games. That's the first time the Wildcats have done that since the 1976-77 season. Beasley has helped K-State to a plus-9.4 rebound margin. A&M has to get a big game from Joseph Jones in the low post.

The pressure is on: Oklahoma. Freshman big man Blake Griffin, who is leading the Sooners in scoring and rebounding, is expected to miss at least a month with a knee injury. Plus, backup big man Keith Clark will miss the rest of the season because of academic ineligibility. Thus, a team that was nine deep now finds itself with depth issues. Any NCAA hopes likely will be determined in the next five games all losable. In the next two weeks, the Sooners play at Baylor and Texas A&M and get Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas at home.

Upset alert: Kansas (17-0, 2-0) at Missouri (11-6, 1-1). A visit from the hated Jayhawks always riles up the home folk in Columbia, and you can be sure the "Antlers" student cheering section will be in full throat. Mizzou beat Texas at home last Saturday, but a victory over the Jayhawks would be even more impressive. The Tigers have to get a big game from DeMarre Carroll, who is 27 of 41 (65.9 percent) from the floor in the past five games. Mizzou prefers a fast pace, but do the Tigers have enough weapons to win a shootout with the Jayhawks? Kansas won by 18 in Columbia last season, but Mizzou enters this one with a 13-game home-court winning streak.

RPI watch: The Big 12 ranks fourth among the conferences in RPI, with Kansas and Texas the only league schools in the top 25. Each league team was in the top 150, with Nebraska (149th) the lowest.

Key stat: Kansas leads the nation in victory margin, at 25.1 points per game. The Jayhawks also are in the top 10 nationally in scoring, field-goal percentage, blocks per game, steals per game, assists-to-turnover ratio and assists per game.

Freshman to watch: Kansas State forward Bill Walker is averaging 23.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in the past four games. He is shooting 59.6 percent from the floor in that span. Teammate Beasley has 14 double-doubles this season; that ranks third in the league for a career among active Big 12 players.

Who's hot: Baylor guard Henry Dugat is 9-for-14 (64.3 percent) from 3-point range in his past three games. He has helped the Bears to a 14-2 start overall, their best since 1945-46, and a 2-0 mark in the Big 12 for just the second time in league history (they started 5-0 in 1997-098). Kansas is 30 of 34 (88.2 percent) from the free-throw line in their first two league games. They were shooting just 63.8 percent from the line before conference play began. In his past nine games, Iowa State guard Bryan Petersen has a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (37 assists, nine turnovers). Texas sophomore forward Damion James is averaging 21.4 points, 13.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in his past five games. He has had at least 14 rebounds in six of his past eight games.

Who's not: Nebraska has started 0-2 in the league, and the Huskers have had their lowest point totals of the season in those two losses (58 and 51 points). Texas A&M guard Dominique Kirk has scored just 31 points in the past five games and a bit less than half of those (15) came in one game, vs. Colorado. In Texas' three losses this season, Longhorns reserves have combined to score 14 total points.

Worth noting: Texas Tech's Bob Knight became the first NCAA Division I coach to reach 900 career victories when the Red Raiders upset Texas A&M on Wednesday. The Big 12 has set a single-season record for non-conference victories, with 133. Colorado has nine wins under new coach Jeff Bzdelik; that's two more victories than the Buffs had last season.

MORE BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin.



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