Tramel's ScissorTales: Big 12 basketball thriving with defense, at OU's and OSU's expense

·16 min read

OSU’s basketball team scored 51 points. So did OU’s.

The Sooners went scoreless the first 5½ minutes of the game and trailed Baylor 10-0. The Cowboys went scoreless the first four minutes of the game and trailed Texas 13-0.

But don’t despair. OSU and OU don’t have the corner on Big 12 offensive futility. They might not even have offensive futility.

Big 12 defenses rule, and Big 12 teams have ridden defense to national supremacy. Four teams among the top 17 in the vaunted kenpom.com rankings, with all 10 teams ranked among the top 55.

ESPN’s most recent bracketology has eight Big 12 teams in the 68-team NCAA Tournament. One of the teams out of the projections is OSU, which is banned from March Madness, and the other (Kansas State) is listed as among the top eight teams just out of the field.

OU men's basketball schedule: How to watch the Sooners in 2021-22 NCAA season

Oklahoma's Elijah Harkless (55) passes the ball as Baylor's Kendall Brown (2), Flo Thamba (0) and Matthew Mayer (24) defedn in the second half during the men's college game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Baylor Bears at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
Oklahoma's Elijah Harkless (55) passes the ball as Baylor's Kendall Brown (2), Flo Thamba (0) and Matthew Mayer (24) defedn in the second half during the men's college game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Baylor Bears at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.

Oklahoma State men's basketball schedule: How to watch the Cowboys in 2021-22 NCAA season

So Big 12 basketball is thriving, and defense is the reason.

In 14 of the 66 conference games so far, the winner has failed to reach 70 points. Twenty times in those games, a team has failed to reach 60.

Only KU (72.2) and Baylor (70.7) are averaging more than 70 points in conference games.

TCU (59.6) and OSU (59.0) are averaging less than 60, and neither is in the three-way tie for last place.

Only West Virginia (73.7) is allowing more than 70 points per conference game. TCU is averaging 58.4, and Texas Tech (60.6), Texas (61.1) and OSU (62.7) aren’t far behind.

Watching Big 12 basketball can be frustrating. If points are your thing, Big 12 hoops might not be for you. But the conference is soaring with defense.

Here are my weekly Big 12 power rankings:

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1. Kansas (5-1 Big 12, 16-2 overall)

How good is the Big 12? The Jayhawks are the cream of the conference, and they are coming off skin-of-their-teeth wins over OU and K-State, who are at the bottom of these rankings.

2. Baylor (5-2, 17-2)

The Bears lost back-to-back home games a week ago but remain the chief threat to the Jayhawks. KU and Baylor play on the first and fourth Saturdays of February.

3. Texas Tech (5-2, 15-4)

The Red Raiders’ two road losses are at Ames and Manhattan; ISU and KSU are at the bottom of the Big 12.

4. Texas Christian (3-2, 13-3)

Surprise, surprise. The Horned Frogs won at Iowa State on Saturday and came within a whisker of winning in Stillwater a few nights earlier.

5. Texas (4-3, 14-5)

The Longhorns’ home loss to Kansas State will be a sore spot all season for UT.

6. Oklahoma State (3-4, 10-8)

Give the Cowboys credit. They seemed headed for a massively disappointing season. But the disappointment might return to being the ban from the NCAA Tournament.

7. West Virginia (2-4, 13-5)

The Mountaineers have yet to win a road game in conference.

8. Iowa State (2-5, 14-5)

ISU’s 12-0 start seems a long time ago.

9. Oklahoma (2-5, 12-7)

The Sooners somehow drew the Big 12’s toughest assignment in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. At No. 1-ranked Auburn.

10. Kansas State (2-5, 10-8)

If the Wildcats had not squandered a late lead against Kansas on Saturday, K-State could have changed their season and made the Big 12 standings incredibly tight.

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A solution to the NFL overtime dilemma

A wild weekend of National Football League playoff games ended with a game for the ages: the Chiefs’ 42-36 overtime survival of Buffalo. KC led 26-21 at the two-minute warning; the teams combined for 25 points in the final 1:56, not counting overtime.

Chiefs-Bills somehow overshadowed the first three games of the weekend, which all ended with walkoff field goals after frantic drives in the final seconds of a tie game.

KC-Buffalo was best. It also was the least satisfying, because of overtime. The Chiefs won the toss, took the ball and promptly scored a touchdown on an eight-play, 75-yard drive. Incredible Buffalo QB Josh Allen never got a chance to take the field in overtime.

And yes, that sucks.

But before we lambast the NFL for its overtime system, remember that no one has offered up a better idea.

The college game? Don’t be silly. College football overtime is awful. Like ending a basketball game by playing horse. College football overtime is designed to extend the game, rather than determine a winner.

The NFL’s overtime system has tilted toward unfair since the offensive revolution of 30 years ago. Getting the ball first in a 13-13 tie is of marginal value. Getting the ball first in a 31-31 tie is huge.

By the end of KC-Buffalo, with Patrick Mahomes and Allen putting on a quarterback clinic that will go down in NFL history, both defenses were gassed and almost without fight.

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Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates the win against the Buffalo Bills in overtime Sunday night in Kansas City.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates the win against the Buffalo Bills in overtime Sunday night in Kansas City.

A few years ago, the overtime rule was massaged to prevent teams from winning with a field goal on the first possession of overtime. Kick a field goal, and the opponent gets a crack at the ball. Score a touchdown, and the game’s over.

Since then, teams that win the overtime coin flip are 86-67-10. Which means a winning percentage of .558, and the coin-flip winner has won just 52.8 percent of the games.

That doesn’t seem terribly one-sided.

However, in the playoffs, the coin-flipper winner is 10-1, and seven of those 10 wins came via first-possession touchdowns. So the coin flip seems to mean more in the playoffs, where the quarterbacks tend to be fantastic.

The NFL easily could adjust the overtime rule to guarantee both teams a possession.

Would that make a difference? The Buffalo-Kansas City game is raw and recent, but it seems likely that the Bills would have scored, too. So then how do we proceed? A Chiefs field goal could have won it? A KC touchdown? Or should Buffalo get a second chance if Kansas City got one?

NFL games are physically brutal. Sixty minutes takes it out of a team. Chasing Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen beyond 60 minutes is incredibly taxing. Could either quarterback have been stopped?

How’s this for a compromise? Each team is guaranteed a possession, but no kicks to tie in overtime. If the Chiefs kick a field goal to open overtime, the Bills have to score a touchdown. If the Chiefs score a touchdown and kick an extra point, the Bills have to counter with a touchdown and two-point conversion.

Heck, it seems so fair, I’m not sure whether teams would choose to kick off or receiver.

Such a system would give each team an equal chance, without a potential tennis match breaking out. And maybe an epic football game wouldn’t end with such unsatisfying thrills.

More: Here are the OU football players in the transfer portal & those declared for the 2022 NFL Draft

Mailbag: Lincoln Riley’s strange season

Lincoln Riley’s departure to Southern Cal still has fans bewildered over what really happened.

Tony: “First off, please forgive me for rehashing a topic I'm sure you're ready to move on from. Secondly, I'm almost as certain that you've already given the two items below some thought, but just in case you haven't ... 1. Will we ever know where Lincoln Riley was on November 9, the day he strangely skipped an in-season weekly news conference? I'm sure that in retrospect, most Sooners fans who've given it thought quickly surmised his absence was related to the USC job. Maybe it was his first official contact with USC or with his agent about USC. It raises all sorts of questions. Did Castiglione suspect/fear at the time that it might be related to some other opening, perhaps LSU or a pro job? After all, his absence came roughly three weeks after Ed Orgeron and LSU announced he would step down at the end of the season. 2. Brent Venables' apparent openness, in contrast to Lincoln Riley's constant shroud of secrecy, makes me rethink the major development from October 12, the Tuesday after the Texas game, when the OU Daily reported Caleb Williams' ascension to the starting QB job. How does their reporting look in hindsight, and what role, if any, did it play in Riley's decision to leave -- not their story, per se, but what it exposed: his own inability to fully control access to the areas surrounding the practice field. Castiglione and Harroz came off as the villains of that story. How do they now feel about being put in that position, especially by a coach who would betrayed them a few weeks later?”

Tramel: The Riley absence has been a subject of mystery since it happened, but to me, it was a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Riley was at practice that day, 9-11 a.m., then chose not to go to the press conference. The word was that he was sick. And I can believe it. For this reason. If something happened that day that was overtly USC driven, the last thing Riley would do is bring attention to it. He would go through the motions of a press conference. He's a smart guy. He knows how to deflect attention. If something was brewing with the Trojans, the last thing Riley would do is set off fire alarms with the media.

It's much more likely that the USC deal already was in the works, perhaps even settled. And Riley gets under the weather, coaches on a Tuesday morning, then says screw it. He could have been mentally checking out by then. Knowing we’re in a pandemic, people wouldn’t get too inquisitive about a guy claiming to not feel well and needing to skip a crowd. He's not any different than a lot of us. Many of us would be all committed on a job, until we take another one. Then our work ethic would change, even as a lame duck in anonymity. And we would let things slide.

As for the Daily, first off, we'll see how open Venables is. He's more comfortable in public. That's as far as I'm going in any comparisons. Does that mean he’ll be less paranoid? We’ll see.

Riley did not go to USC so that he could have media control. USC has a long tradition of open access to reporters; Riley will butt heads quickly if he tries to impart OU-style restrictions, and he would be butting heads with some reporters who can legitimately tell him that USC football is not that big of a deal.

Everyone made way too much of the Daily flap. Everyone knew Caleb Williams was starting the next week. Riley knew that everyone knew. He didn’t like anyone watching his practices, and yes, Joe C. played the heavy. But I can’t imagine that Castiglione liked it much more than did Riley.

If you're asking if Riley was frustrated that the university had constructed a landscape that made practice viewable from public buildings, the answer is sure. Is that enough reason to leave? Seems like a flimsy reason to me, but if so, good luck with the Los Angeles Times and TMZ.

More: Here are the OSU football players in the transfer portal & those declared for the 2022 NFL Draft

The List: Hawaii-bred quarterbacks

Central Florida transfer Dillon Gabriel is headed to OU and helps spotlight the recent trend of high-profile quarterbacks who played high school football in Hawaii, which is not a traditionally-strong recruiting ground. But there have been other Hawaii-bred quarterbacks, too. Here are 13 QBs from Hawaii high schools, ranked by performance at the highest levels:

1. Marcus Mariota, Honolulu Saint Louis: The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner at Oregon has started 61 NFL games.

2. Tua Tagovailoa, Honolulu Saint Louis: The Heisman runner-up in 2018 has made 21 starts for the Miami Dolphins the last two seasons.

3. Joe Francis, Honolulu Kamehamea: Oregon State’s quarterback in 1956 and 1957 was the 51st overall pick in the 1958 NFL Draft. Francis threw 49 passes in two seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

4. Honolulu Hughes, Honolulu Punahou: Went to Oregon State, then joined the NFL’s 1932 Boston Braves, an expansion team that later moved to Washington and became the Redskins. Hughes played just one NFL season. He completed 11 of 57 passes, with one touchdown and nine interceptions.

5. Timmy Chang, Honolulu Saint Louis: Named over the weekend as the University of Hawaii’s head coach, Chang quarterbacked the Rainbow Warriors for 4½ seasons and threw for 117 touchdowns and an NCAA-record 17,072 yards.

6. McKenzie Milton, Mililani: A three-yar star at Central Florida, where from 2016-18 he threw for 8,683 yards, 72 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, Milton suffered a catastrophic knee injury late in the 2018 season. He sat out two seasons, then transferred to Florida State, where last year he played sporadically.

More: Five things you should know about Dillon Gabriel, OU football's newest quarterback

Quarterback Dillon Gabriel is transferring to Oklahoma after three seasons at Central Florida.
Quarterback Dillon Gabriel is transferring to Oklahoma after three seasons at Central Florida.

7. Dillon Gabriel, Mililani: Gabriel had two big years, following Milton as the UCF quarterback, throwing for 7,223 yards and 61 touchdowns in 2019-20. But Gabriel suffered a major injury early in the 2021 and has transferred to OU.

8. Jason Gesser, Honolulu Saint Louis: A three-year starting QB at Washington State (2000-02), Gesser threw for 70 college touchdowns. He quarterbacked the 2002 Cougars against OU in the Rose Bowl.

9. Jeremiah Masoli, Honolulu Saint Louis: Quarterbacked Oregon in 2008 (leading the Ducks to a Holiday Bowl victory over OSU) and 2009, then was suspended for the season by Oregon coach Chip Kelly. Masoli transferred to Ole Miss and started for the Rebels in 2010. Over three seasons, Masoli threw for 5,930 yards, 42 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. He’s made 51 starts in the Canadian Football League.

10. Jordan Ta‘amu, Pearl City: Ole Miss’ quarterback for 19 games over the 2017-18 seasons, Ta’amu threw for 5,600 yards, 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

11. Darnell Arceneaux, Honolulu Saint Louis: A two-year starter at Utah (1999-00), Arceneaux played four years for the Utes and threw for 4,020 yards and ran for 738.

12. Jayden de Laura, Honolulu Saint Louis: Washington State’s quarterback in 2021, de Laura threw for 2,802 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has transferred to Arizona.

13. Chevan Cordeiro, Honolulu Saint Louis: Started 22 games the previous four seasons at Hawaii, throwing for 45 touchdowns and scoring 13. He has transferred to San Jose State.

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Mikal or Miles: Which Bridges is better?

The Thunder played at Charlotte on Friday night, which meant a full game of watching Miles Bridges. We don’t get to see the Hornets much. And Charlotte hasn’t made a deep playoff run in like ever.

So unless you’re an NBA stat geek, which I am only rarely, you don’t study the development of a player like Bridges. And you probably have a hard time keeping Miles Bridges separate from Mikal Bridges.

I love crazy coincidences like this. In the history of the NBA, only one player named Bridges appeared in a game. The great Bill Bridges, a rugged power forward from Hobbs, New Mexico, who starred at Kansas in the early 1960s, then spent 13 years in the NBA, mostly with the Hawks. Bill Bridges averaged 11.9 points and 11.9 rebounds a game over that time.

Then Mikal Bridges and Miles Bridges were taken two picks apart in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft. Two 6-foot-6 small forwards from traditional college powers.

Can you tell them apart?

Mikal went to Villanova, Miles to Michigan State.

Mikal is right-handed, Miles is left-handed.

Mikal is thin, Miles is husky.

Mikal was picked by the 76ers 10th overall, then traded on draft night to Phoenix. Miles was picked by the Clippers 12th overall, then traded on draft night to Charlotte.

And for almost a decade, these Bridges have been volleying over who’s the better basketball player.

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Jan 22, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Suns' Mikal Bridges enters the court before a game against the Pacers at the Footprint Center.
Jan 22, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Suns' Mikal Bridges enters the court before a game against the Pacers at the Footprint Center.

2014: Mikal. He was the 96th-ranked prospect in the high school class of ‘14. Miles was a high school sophomore at famed Huntington Prep in West Virginia, averaging 9.8 points a game.

2016: Miles. He was the 10th-ranked prospect in the high school class of ‘16. Mikal was coming off the bench for Villanova’s NCAA championship team, after having redshirted the previous year.

2018: Mikal. He was a Villanova star, having led the Wildcats to another NCAA title, averaging 17.7 points a game and shooting .435 from 3-point range. Miles was a star, too, having averaged 17.0 points a game in two years at Michigan State. But Mikal went two spots ahead of Miles in the NBA Draft.

2019: Miles. His rookie player efficiency rating of 13.1 trumped Mikal’s 10.8. Both played extensively as rookies, but Miles shot better, rebounded better and committed fewer turnovers.

2021: Mikal. His all-around game blossomed, notably his defense and his outside shot (40.1 percent from 3-point range over his second and third NBA seasons). Chris Paul arrived in Phoenix, the Suns became a contender and Bridges went all the way to the NBA Finals, making a name for himself. Meanwhile, Charlotte continued its historic mediocrity, and Miles languished in anonymity, despite playing reasonably well. Just not as well as Mikal.

2022: Miles. He’s in the running for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, averaging 20.1 points a game for the Hornets, who are 26-21 and firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Meanwhile, Mikal’s production has slipped, though the Suns still are winning big.

It’s a remarkable back-and-forth between similarly-named and similarly-tracked players.

I have no clue which of the Bridges will turn out to be better. They just seem to be staging a spirited battle for the crown.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Big 12 power rankings: Kansas basketball stays on top of league

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