Hoops: No Room For Error On Road To Big 12 Title

Head coach <B>Rick Barnes</B> won't allow his team to look past last-place Texas A&amp;M, but we're going to anyway. His No. 11/12 Longhorns are facing a make-or-break four game stretch once they get past the Aggies (0-10 in Big 12) at the Erwin Center Wednesday (8 p.m. CST, Fox Sports Southwest).

With a win, Texas can get back to within one game of league-leading Oklahoma State (20-2, 10-10). But then Texas faces two trips north of the Red River (OU, OSU) and two home games against nationally ranked Kansas and Texas Tech during a critical 11-day gutcheck that will determine not only the Big 12 title but also its seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the loss at Iowa State, the good news is Texas still controls its own destiny. If (and that's a mighty big 'if') Texas wins out, the Horns will achieve no less than a first place tie for the Big 12 Conference championship.

Still, Barnes is expecting the Ags to leave nothing on the court as the visitors are looking for their first win since knocking off Long Island on January 6.

"Every time we play them, they play us hard," Barnes said, mindful that the Aggies managed an 80-74 win in Austin two years ago. "They've been as aggressive as any team in the conference since I've been here. We know what they're capable of. You talk about our close games, but they've been in just as many close games as anyone else and they had a chance to win those games. As many losses as they've had, you've got to respect the way they keep pounding you."

Eight of A&M's 10 conference losses this season have been by single-digits, including a two-point loss to Texas Tech and a six-point setback against Kansas. The Aggies have kept it close by hanging tough on the offensive board. Still, Texas is the Big 12's scoring leader (81.9 ppg) while A&M is ranked last in scoring defense (76.9 ppg). Texas has taken 20 of the past 21 against the Farmers, including a 69-59 win at College Station on January 31.

Winning at Oklahoma Saturday will be no cakewalk for Texas, despite the fact that the Horns handed the Sooners their worst loss in series history with that 66-37 shellacking on February 8. After that, Texas gets Texas Tech and Kansas at home before venturing north again for that critical showdown at Oklahoma State.

The remaining schedule favors Oklahoma State as the Cowboys play three of their five remaining games at home. The conference title will likely be at stake when the two hook up in Stillwater at 8 p.m. (CST) in an ESPN "Big Monday" telecast.

With four remaining games at Allen Field House, the only formidable matchup remaining for Kansas is when the Jayhawks visit Austin on February 23.

The scrappy Iowa State Cyclones stated their case for a NCAA at-large bid with upset wins over Texas and Kansas.

Missouri, a pre-season favorite to win the Big 12 and rated as high as No. 4 nationally this past December, may be NIT-bound with its current 11-10 mark. The Tigers, however, have a No. 47 RPI in their favor while ISU's RPI stands at No. 57 this week.

The following are the current standings and remaining Big 12 games for conference teams most likely to advance to the NCAA Tournament:


Oklahoma State (20-2,10-1) No. 11 Neb., at Mo., at BU, Texas, A&M

Texas (17-4, 8-2) No. 15 A&M, at OU, KU, TT, at OSU, at KSU

Kansas (15-6, 7-3) No. 19 BU, ISU, at Texas, OU, Neb., at Mo.

Texas Tech (18-6, 6-4) No. 20 at CU., A&M, at Neb., at Texas, Mo., ISU

Oklahoma (16-6, 6-5) No. 35 Texas, at CU, at KU, A&M, BU

Iowa State (14-7, 5-5) No. 57 at Mo., at KU, KSU, at Neb., CU, at TT

Missouri (11-10, 5-5) No. 47 ISU, at BU, OSU, at KSU, at TT, Kansas

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