At Oklahoma, Problems More Than Tiny
After upsetting the Texas Longhorns Feb. 6, freshmen Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald were cited for shoplifting and were subsequently suspended from the team. Friday, freshman center Tiny Gallon was suspended from the team for unspecified reasons and leading scorer Willie Warren came down with mononucleosis.
Gallon and Warren were both absent from Saturday's 97-76 loss at Oklahoma State as the Sooners fell to 13-11 and 4-6 in league play.
"I've never been a part of where things like this have happened. But it's a learning experience for us all," Capel said during Monday's Big 12 coaches conference call. "There is a quote Pat Riley says, 'Adversity introduces a man to himself' and that's something I've shared with our guys constantly.
"Some of the things we've done have been self-inflicted this year because of stupid decisions that our guys have made. Some of them have been things that you can't control, but that's life. That's what I've always felt my main job was is to help these guys grow and certainly you want to win doing that. It's frustrating not winning. We certainly are learning a lot of life lessons and it's painful as you go through it, but somewhere down the road this will make all of us better."
Some reports have Warren returning to the lineup for Wednesday's game against Colorado, but Capel said he was still awaiting official word on both Warren and Gallon.
"Unfortunately, I don't have any updates on either one of those guys right now," he said. "I'm waiting to hear myself."
Strength vs. Weakness
On the surface it seems pretty obviously what will happen Wednesday night when Missouri and its version of '40 Minutes of Hell' pressure defense meets turnover prone Texas.
The Tigers lead the nation and are first in the Big 12 by a margin in steals with 11.4 per game. Texas, the one-time No.1 team in the nation, is averaging 12.7 turnovers per game in league play.
This looks like it could ugly real fast on paper.
But what isn't taken into account is the Longhorns' trust in point guard Dogus Balbay, who leads the conference in assist-to-turnover margin. He has a 2.68 ratio with 4.1 assists per game compared to 1.5 turnovers. It's the other players who seem to have trouble hanging on to the ball.
So the easy answer Wednesday is to keep the ball in the hands of Balbay as much as possible, right?
"Dogus is obviously a guy that's important to our team, but it won't just be him," said UT coach Rick Barnes. "Not just one guy is going to break their pressure, it's going to be everyone understanding the importance of taking care of the basketball."
The Longhorns have struggled holding on to the ball, especially freshmen Avery Bradley and J'Covan Brown. Both will be instrumental in trying to break the Tigers' menacing press.
"The key will be how we do handle the basketball," Barnes said. "Everyone knows Missouri is going to come after you, they are going to grab you and make you play and handle the ball. Our guys have to be able to do that."
Hard Stringing Wins Together
While No. 1 Kansas has breezed through Big 12 play so far with 11 straight wins, most teams in the league are having trouble getting on any type of real run.
Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M have all taken their turns as the second-hottest team in the league. But none have been able to keep it rolling in Big 12 play.
The Aggies have the second-longest conference winning streak behind Kansas, winning four straight before losing at home to the Jayhawks on Monday night. Three straight wins is the most Kansas State, UT, Baylor and Oklahoma State has been able to put together.
"It's very difficult from the standpoint whenever your teams that are 106-1 [at home] in the non-conference, it's tough to win on the road and even every home game is going to be a battle," said Scott Drew, whose Bears are on a current three-game winning streak. "So it's tough to get that consistency and to be able to get a streak going because every night is a war and every night is a battle."
Self Believes Big 12 Is Attractive
News last week that the Big Ten might be interested in luring Texas away from the Big 12 in a couple years sent shock waves across the conference and opened up concerns the league may be crippled.
Some believe the loss of Texas could begin a ripple effect that might send Colorado seeking refuge in the Pac-10, or there is another train of thought that it could be the formation of super-conferences with the Big 12 and Pac-10 merging.
Count Kansas coach Bill Self among those who don't want to see things get too radical.
"There could be one team to leave or something, then I'm sure there is a very good replacement sitting out there if somebody chooses not to be in our league," said Self, who spent some time in the Big Ten as the head coach of Illinois before coming to Kansas. "I don't understand all the ins and outs but I would think the Big Ten with the Big Ten Network and the media markets that they have naturally would be more of money-generating league from a television aspect of it. But there is more to it than just the money.
"Having teams start new rivalries that would take 40 or 50 years to build, I'm sure wouldn't be a favorite of the fan base and there are so many things that go along with it that I don't think would be positive. But if the Big Ten would come after us, that would be something I would strongly try to fight. There are some things that are embedded with your fans over time that it makes it so special to play certain games.
"I do think there is a lot of flirting going on and you certainly understand why people listen but at the end of the day I think our league would be rock solid."
Penn Out at OSU
It has been determined Oklahoma State freshman point guard Ray Penn will sit out the remainder of the season due to continued problems with his right knee.
But instead of lamenting the loss, head coach Travis Ford has encouraged players like freshman Fred Gulley and sophomore Keiton Page to get ready to step up. The 'We're in trouble' speed will have to wait.
"It's given other guys an opportunity to really prove themselves without us talking a whole lot about it," Ford said. "If it had been a senior guard or something like that, I probably would have given our team a big speech about other guys needing to step up. But hey, it is what is, we've moved on."
Oscar Robertson Trophy
Four Big 12 Players were listed among the finalists for the 2010 Oscar Robertson Trophy when the list was released Tuesday.
Kansas duo Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich joined Texas' Damion James and Oklahoma State's James Anderson on the list.
The Oscar Robertson Trophy is given annually to the national player of the year recognized by the U.S. Basketball Writers' Association.