After the first year of the Big 12 / Big East Battle, the Big 12 has lost the right to its claim as the best top-to-bottom basketball conference, something that might impact the Texas Tech basketball team on Selection Sunday.
College basketball is seeing an increase in conference vs. conference showdowns trumped up by television networks to try to manufacture ratings. The newest is the Big 12 / Big East Battle manufactured by Fox and in the first edition of this series, the Texas Tech basketball team and its conference brethren were humbled.
The Big East, traditionally one of the top basketball leagues in the nation, won eight of the 10 games in this event, something that has to be considered a surprise in that the domination was so thorough. But in actuality, this event was rather competitive.
Most of the individual games were extremely close making this event seem much more competitive than the 8-2 overall record for the Big East might appear. Of course, Texas Tech’s game in this event wen to OT in a 65-60 loss at DePaul.
That’s going to be one Tech fans continue to lament throughout the season because Davide Moretti, the nation’s best free-throw shooter, was on the line with a chance to put his team up four points in the closing seconds but he missed his first free-throw of the year and DePaul was able to tie the game with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Also that night, Oklahoma State fell to Georgetown in Stillwater, 81-74. That was the second win of the year over a Big 12 team for the Hoyas who took down Texas 82-66 at Madison Square Garden on November 21st.
In a matchup of former Big East rivals, on December 7th West Virginia fell to St. John’s 70-68 in New York City. Hitting two free-throws with just five seconds to play, Rasheen Dunn lifted his team to a win on a night that he went 3-11 from the floor but made seven free throws.
That same day, Kansas State lost at home to Marquette in a battle for midwest bragging rights. In the 73-65 game, the Golden Eagles led by 13 points at the break but saw Kansas State cut the lead to just three mid-way through the second quarter.
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A day later, Iowa State finally got the Big 12 on the board by beating Seaton Hall 76-66 in Ames. What made this game unusual was the fact that this was the second time these teams had met in the span of 10 days after the Pirates upended the Cyclones 84-76 in The Battle for Atlantis.
In a rare second meeting between non-conference opponents in the first two months of the year, Iowa State was just 4-19 from 3-point range but hit 26-33 free throws. Meanwhile, Seaton Hall made just 12 trips to the line, sinking only 8 as the home team followed a script similar to what the Red Raiders have used in recent home wins.
On December 10th, Baylor picked up the Big 12’s second win in this event by grinding out a 53-52 win over Butler in Waco. The Bears got a huge block by Mark Vital with just 1.5 seconds to play who turned away a potential game-winning runner in the lane and the ball glanced off of a Bulldog before going out of bounds to give the home team the ball and the win.
But the short-lived Big 12 winning-streak came to an end on December 17th when Creighton scored an 83-73 home win over Oklahoma. Despite a 9-minute field goal drought in the second half, the Blue Jays didn’t trail in the final 35 minutes of the game thanks in large part to 29 made free-throws. Of course, this was a second win over a Big 12 team for Creighton after they beat Tech in Las Vegas.
The event concluded this weekend with a pair of games including the marquee showdown of the battle, Kansas at Villanova. In a slugfest, No. 18 Nova clipped No. 1 KU 56-55 when Jermaine Samuels drilled a 3-pointer with 20 seconds to play. It marked the fourth time this year that the nation’s top team was upset.
To end the meeting between the two teams, Xavier went into Forth Worth and blew the doors off of TCU. In the 67-59 game, Xavier never trailed and jumped out to a 15-4 lead in the first five minutes.
That brings the overall record in this event to 8-2 in favor of the Big East. But does that really matter?
In the end, there’s no real question in the minds of college basketball fans and experts to the validity of the Big 12. However, seeing the conference taken apart by another major conference in a head-to-head event may impact the way teams from the two leagues are seeded in the NCAA Tournament, especially if a Big 12 and Big East team have similar resumes and are being debated by the selection committee.
Of course, the Big 12 can redeem itself in January when the Big 12 / SEC Challenge rolls around. That’s the event that will bring Kentucky to Lubbock on January 25.
Texas Tech fans have never been a group that has brimmed with conference pride the way SEC or Big 10 fans might, nor does any other fan base in this conference. Perhaps that’s because the Big 12 is the youngest major conference in the nation so there’s far less tradition or maybe it’s just because there seems to have been more infighting in recent years over revenue sharing and media rights than in other leagues.
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Of course, nothing that the rest of the conference does this year will matter if Tech handles its business in conference play. Still, the league that likes to consider itself the deepest basketball conference in the nation took its lumps at the hands of a conference that become famous for its members literally handing out bruises to their conference bunkmates for decades.