Watching the Winter X Games, I saw one of those “How did he not die?” crashes in what is called snowboard cross, where folks race downhill and go over lots of jumps while trying to avoid taking out each other. Kind of NASCAR on snowboards, and the wrecks can be similarly horrifying.
After one such “wreck” that involved everybody else in some capacity, somehow one snowboarder managed to get through unscathed. And it reminded me of how the Big 12 is looking after this weekend.
Undefeated Nebraska continues to be out front, but behind the Huskers there are all kinds of pileups. Those who-beat-who strings can often be head-scratchers in all conferences in certain seasons, but trying to get a firm grip on who’s really got it together behind Nebraska is difficult right now. It seems to be Oklahoma State and then … well who knows.
Here goes …
Kansas has beaten Missouri, which has beaten Baylor, which has beaten Oklahoma, which has beaten Texas A&M, which has beaten Texas Tech, which has beaten Colorado, which has beaten Kansas State, which has beaten Iowa State, which has beaten Texas, which has beaten Oklahoma State.
That loss to the Longhorns, on Jan. 20, is the only Big 12 defeat so far for the Cowgirls, who got another gigantic performance Sunday from senior point guard Andrea Riley. She had 27 of her 31 points in a 67-63 upset victory at Texas A&M on Sunday.
Sunday was just one of those days in the Big 12 … where you know certain coaches were tearing their hair out. Gary Blair, at A&M, for sure, but perhaps even more, Iowa State’s Bill Fennelly. The Cyclones were one of the hotter teams in the league, having just picked up a rare victory at Texas and a win over Oklahoma, both ranked teams.
Then the Cyclones went into Manhattan against a Kansas State team, which, if I haven’t mentioned if before, has only eight players, five of whom are freshmen or sophomores. The Wildcats had a mid-week bye, though, and Deb Patterson has been going against Fennelly since the Big 12 began. So they know everything each other does, but she had more time to prepare.
K-State played a terrific game, and won 73-67, led by Ashley Sweat with 31 points. There was one thing in the Associated Press recap that caught my eye, because I feel it must be a mistake of some sort. Patterson was quoted as saying, “Kari Kincaid really played great tonight, and it would be very easy to miss what she did and what she brought to the floor. There’s no question in my mind she is one of the top three players in this league. She’s just special.”
OK, I wasn’t there, but I find it nearly impossible to believe Patterson actually said those last two sentences about Kincaid. She is a hard working, good-cog, do-what-she’s-told senior …. who at very *best* might be considered to *possibly* crack a list of the top 25 players in the Big 12 in terms of how she’s filled a roll to help her team.
One assumes Patterson was actually talking about Sweat with the “top three” comment, and something was confused on the writing or editing side. Either that or Patterson got so caught up in the moment, she unleashed a galaxy-sized, absurd hyperbole.
Some folks may be wondering about Sweat’s WNBA potential, especially considering this isn’t exactly a senior class overloaded with talent. Having talked to a couple of scouts, what I’ve heard was about what I expected. They like her versatility and creativity on offense, but they question her ability to defend in the WNBA at either forward position. They don’t doubt, however, that she could play somewhere overseas.
But, as one WNBA coach told me, “I haven’t gotten the sense she really wants to keep playing. It seems to me she’s got other things in her life that she wants to do.”
If this is Sweat’s final season of organized basketball, she can look back fondly at games such as Sunday’s win over the Cyclones and the Big 12 opening win against Kansas. And at this point, with three league victories, I think K-State has already exceeded most peoples’ expectations.
*-MY VOTE: Speaking of Snowboard X wipeouts … there were so many losses by teams in the past week, I had no idea what to do with the poll. Once again, it’s a mess. Mississippi was on the verge of being in after winning five in a row, but then lost to South Carolina and Florida. Mississippi State beat Georgia on Thursday but lost to Kentucky on Sunday. I put Kentucky, which has won five in a row, into the rankings this week. Also on my ballot for the first time this season is St. John’s. Michigan State, which has been in the poll previously, is back.
1.Connecticut, 2. Stanford, 3. Nebraska, 4. Tennessee, 5. Notre Dame, 6. Duke, 7. Xavier, 8. North Carolina, 9. Oklahoma State, 10. West Virginia, 11. Ohio State, 12. Oklahoma, 13. Texas A&M, 14. Florida State, 15. Georgia, 16. Texas, 17. Baylor, 18. Georgia Tech, 19. Kentucky, 20. Georgetown, 21. Iowa State, 22. Virginia, 23. St. John’s, 24. Michigan State, 25. Vanderbilt