Big 12 Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals

Big 12 Tournament: Andrew Wiggins goes for 30, Kansas beats Oklahoma State

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Andrew Wiggins scored 30 points and Wayne Selden added 14 as No. 10 Kansas outlasted a furious rally from Oklahoma State to advance to the Big 12 tournament semifinals with a 76-70 win in overtime.

It was the second straight game that Wiggins absolutely took over with Joel Embiid out of the lineup, as hee had 41 points in a loss at West Virginia on Saturday. He has been aggressive attacking the basket off the dribble (29 free throws attempts in the two games) and is also hitting shots from the perimeter (5-for-11 from three), both of which he struggled to do at times earlier this season.

But perhaps more important is the fact that Wiggins is starting to get that ‘look’. You know the look I’m talking about. He’s taking games over. He’s starting to dominate on the offensive end of the floor. I’ve been saying all season long that the only thing that is really holding Wiggins back is his assertiveness and a seeming lack of confidence in his own ability.

That tide is turning, and it’s a scary proposition for opponents.

Remember, the Jayhawks just knocked off an Oklahoma State team that was finally playing like a preseason top ten team and they did it without a top three pick in the NBA Draft suiting up. Now, there is no guarantee that Embiid will make it back onto the court at any point this season, but if he does, just think about how good Kansas can be if they get this kind of dominating performance out of Wiggins?

That’s a scary proposition, right?

As far as the Cowboys are concerned, the biggest worry that they have moving forward is their extreme lack of depth. Between the injury to Michael Cobbins and the dismissal of Stevie Clark, Travis Ford essentially has a six-man team. Foul trouble seems like a constant problem for them, and if they were to suffer another serious injury, that could spell major, major trouble.

You can already see some nagging injuries popping up. Markel Brown is battling a calf issue and spent the last ten minutes on Thursday limping around. Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte both rolled ankles on Thursday as well. And that’s to say nothing of the toll playing such heavy minutes has taken on their legs. If Oklahoma State is going to make the Sweet 16, it means that they will have to win two games in three days. Will they have the energy to do it?

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.