The Dagger - NCAAB

The prevailing sentiment entering the season in the Big 12 was that Colorado and Texas Tech had a good chance to buck recent history and emerge as surprise NCAA tournament contenders.

Turns out the only surprise has been the brutal early-season losses both have piled up.

A 16-point road loss to Harvard? That's you, Colorado. A nine-point road loss to North Texas? Take a bow, Texas Tech. An inexplicable loss at the hands of San Francisco? You again, Colorado. Back-to-back losses to Saint Mary's and South Florida? Both yours, Texas Tech.

It's awfully early to declare a team's at-large hopes dead, but it's not overstating it to say the Buffaloes (2-3) and Red Raiders (4-3) can't afford too many more bad losses. Either way, it will be a daunting challenge to get back into contention in Big 12 play considering five of the conference's 12 teams are ranked and Oklahoma State and Texas A&M have also acquitted themselves well so far. 

The optimism surrounding Colorado centered on high-scoring guards Alec Burks and Cory Higgins, both NBA prospects. While Burks and Higgins have done their part averaging 22.4 and 19.2 points respectively, the Buffaloes have been out-rebounded in all three of their losses and continue to struggle defensively the way they did a year ago when they finished last in the Big 12 in that area.

Moreover, players suggested an individualistic mentality was to blame for Sunday's ugly loss to Harvard.

"Right now they are the better team. We're not a team," Higgins told the Boulder Daily Camera. "At least we haven't been one yet. We have to figure that out or we're going to struggle."

And Texas Tech? Injuries to forward D'Walyn Roberts (back spasms) and center Paul Cooper (ankle surgery) have forced the Red Raiders to play small and short-circuited their rebounding and interior scoring.

In the weeks leading up to this season, Texas Tech coach Pat Knight acknowledged that another losing season in his third year would likely put his job into jeopardy. He has not backed off that statement despite the poor start.

"I don't care about the preseason record; I think this is a lot better team," Knight told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. "I still say we're going to the NCAA tournament. This team is getting better. I'd take this team over any of the teams I've had."

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