Big 12 Conference Call: January 12 EditionPosted by Nate Kotisso on January 12th, 2013
Welcome to the first Conference Call of conference play! We are one full week into the Big 12 season and you can already put each team into one of four boxes: the you’ll-know-how-they-finish box (Kansas, TCU and Texas Tech), the disappointment box (Texas, West Virginia), the surprise box (Kansas State) and the don’t-know-where-to-put-them box (Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma). Today, we discuss the futures for some of these teams, some of the disappointing players and much more.
- Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?
- Iowa State was a bank shot three away from picking up a huge win vs Kansas in Lawrence. What do we make of the Cyclones this season?
- If you were to stop the season right now, which Big 12 coach would be the first to get fired?
- Which player has been the biggest disappointment this season?
- Divisional round of the NFL playoffs are Saturday and Sunday. Who ya got?
1. Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?
- KC: Both teams will hear their names called on Selection Sunday when the NIT picks the scraps off the table. Even if you assume Myck Kabongo will return to his old self immediately next month, the Longhorns will be lucky to be above .500 at that time and Kabongo isn’t good enough to change that ship’s course. And again, that’s assuming he will be great from the get-go, and I don’t think that will be the case. With no marquee wins on the schedule, West Virginia probably needs 12 more wins this season — giving them 20 — to make the dance. You have to jump through a few mathematical hoops to find 12 more wins on their schedule at this point.
- DS: I’d be surprised if either West Virginia or Texas even make the NIT. The first half of the season has been a disaster for both squads. It’s been so bad, in fact, that both teams are ranked outside of the top 100 in the RPI. I mentioned earlier this week that it’d be silly to even attempt to determine what Texas must do from this point forward to make the NCAA Tournament. That’s how far off the bubble the Longhorns are right now, and the same goes for West Virginia. Look at the Mountaineers’ “resume,” if you even want to call it that. There’s that one-point win against a Virginia Tech team that has lost four straight games by a combined 96 points. Oh, and Bob Huggins‘ team also beat a better-than-you-might-think Eastern Kentucky team at home. So there’s that, too. Texas, meanwhile, is hanging its hat on a home win over a North Carolina team that’s crumbling by the day, and Myck Kabongo won’t return from suspension until mid-February. There are Great West teams with more compelling CBI resumes than Texas and West Virginia right now. Well, almost.
- NK: Regardless of how this season was going to turn out for the Mountaineers, they weren’t going to be anything like last year’s team. That squad had Tournament-tested guys like Darryl “Truck” Bryant and Kevin Jones. Now with those players gone, Deniz Kilicli, Aaron Brown and Jabarie Hinds were supposed to assume bigger roles this season, but in turn, they are having worse seasons this year than last. For some reason, I can’t close the door completely on Texas. Javan Felix has proven he is more than just a back-up point guard in Kabongo’s absence. Though he needs to make shots at a higher percentage, Sheldon McClellan is a better number one option than anyone West Virginia has. I don’t think either team will make the Tournament now but I’d say Texas has better odds of making it than WVU.
2. Iowa State was a bank shot three away from picking up a huge win versus Kansas in Lawrence. What do we make of the Cyclones this season?
- KC: They are suddenly a legitimate contender for second place in the Big 12 alongside Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and possibly Oklahoma. They rebound about as well as any team in the country (fifth nationally with 54 RPG) and they are sixth in the country with 82.5 PPG. Outrebounding your opponent and putting a ton of points on the board will keep you in a lot of games, and that’s what I think we will see from Iowa State in Big 12 play.
- DS: Underrated. That’s what I make of Iowa State. The Cyclones haven’t beaten anybody outside of BYU, but all four of their losses came away from home — three against ranked opponents. Korie Lucious got off to a rough start in his first few games this year, but he’s starting to play better at the point. There’s no doubt in my mind this team can be as good as last year. It’s a different team without Royce White and even Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen, but Fred Hoiberg still has some shooters and a potential stud in Will Clyburn. Clyburn just needs to bring it every night and avoid catastrophes like he had in the Iowa loss (zero points in 24 minutes), but that consistency should come as the season progresses. And Tyrus McGee has quietly shot lights-out from three (48 percent). Sure, had Fred Hoiberg fouled on the final possession against Kansas, maybe we’re talking about an Iowa State upset, but the magic of Allen Fieldhouse has willed the Jayhawks to victory on more than one occasion. And sure, Iowa State could have made another free throw in the final minute, but Kansas made play after play in those final sequences, culminating in the “I swear I called bank” shot from Ben McLemore to send the game to overtime. Credit Kansas, and let’s see what Iowa State can do against an easy four-game stretch coming up: vs. Texas, vs. West Virginia, at TCU and at Texas Tech before the biggie against Kansas State on January 26 in Ames.
- NK: You may not find a bigger non-ISU attending fan outside of Ames than me. I was brave enough to pick the Cyclones to make the NCAA Tournament last season but I don’t have the same feeling about the team this year. They had a couple of chances to get good wins in November and December but came away empty-handed. That includes a loss to in-state rival/borderline bubble team Iowa. Are they a Tournament team at the moment? No, but there’s still time to build a solid resume for March. The danger in that is they could become a team that can only beat those they’re supposed to but not those that they absolutely need to. There was a team just like that last year: Northwestern. When you talk about teams trying to make the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats are the last team anybody wants to be compared to.
3. If you were to stop the season right now, which Big 12 coach would be the first to get fired?
- KC: Texas Tech head coach Chris Walker would probably be the guy, mostly because his interim tag makes him the easiest target and it’s hard to defend him while looking at his team this year. Also, he is about the only candidate — interim or not — with a chance to be fired. Trent Johnson and Bruce Weber are in their first years. Bob Huggins is close to untouchable at West Virginia. Fred Hoiberg has Iowa State on an uptick. Lon Kruger and Travis Ford are having good seasons. Rick Barnes deserves to be fired, in my opinion, considering the amount of underachieving he has done in Austin compared with the talent he has brought in, but I’m not sure anyone in Austin knows who Rick Barnes is. Scott Drew underachieves as well, but his recent NCAA Tournament runs are keeping him safe. And then there is Bill Self, who will be at Kansas as long as he wants to be.
- DS: I don’t think a single coach is in trouble in the Big 12 right now. Let’s look at the teams in the tank so far this season. Chris Walker at Texas Tech doesn’t really count since he’s an interim coach anyway. The other worst team in the league, TCU, has a first-year head coach in Trent Johnson, and you wouldn’t fire him just yet. You can’t fire Bob Huggins or Rick Barnes because of poor half-seasons. Every other team in the league is playing fairly close to expectations and doesn’t have a coach on the hot seat. If I need to pick the “first” to hypothetically get fired, though, it’s probably Barnes, but I don’t feel good about saying that after 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. I’ve long sympathized with Barnes and defended him against his critics, so let’s just say this is a momentarily lapse in judgment for me.
- NK: I agree with you guys on everyone else but gun to my head, I’d go with Barnes. From 2003 t0 2008, he led Texas to one Final Four, two Elite Eights and a Sweet Sixteen. Since that time, the Longhorns haven’t been able to get past the first weekend of the Tournament (and I’ll take a wild guess and say that this year’s team won’t either). This is a guy who put together a team that was the top ranked team in the country in January 2010 only to see its season end in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They pump out draft prospects like nobody’s business but unless you’re last name is Calipari, you probably can’t make deep March runs that way. If you’re Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, you are keeping a close eye on Barnes. Dodds oversees the wealthiest athletic department in all of college sports; he has a unique ability to dump Barnes and hand pick almost anyone he wants to succeed him.
4. Which player has been the biggest disappointment this season?
- KC: Le’Bryan Nash is averaging 13.7 PPG, but I was expecting more of a breakout year from the sophomore guard, especially with the arrival of freshman point guard Marcus Smart. Nash is virtually the same player he was a year ago. He is shooting a little better (42.8% compared to 39.4%), but everything else offensively is about the same.
- DS: I’ll go off the grid a little bit and say Matt Humphrey at West Virginia. Nobody thought he’d be a complete game-changer after transferring from Boston College, but he was supposed to bring some occasional outside shooting touch as well as the ability to defend multiple guard positions with his 6’6” frame. Instead, he’s shooting 31 percent from behind the arc and hardly even plays anymore — he’s dropped out of the rotation entirely. That’s a shame for a senior at his third school (Oregon, Boston College and now West Virginia) in his final year of eligibility.
- NK: Thanks to West Virginia’s season, there are lots to choose from! But I’m picking Steven Pledger. There were few better pure scorers in the league than Pledger last year. He was expected to have a senior season to remember but instead his minutes have been reduced and shooting percentages have gone down. Luckily for the Sooners, it hasn’t hurt them all that much on their way to a 10-3 start. A guy who very well could have made this list is K-State’s Rodney McGruder, who erupted for 28 points against Oklahoma State last Saturday. Turns out, Pledger and the Sooners host those same Cowboys today. We’ll see how he does.
5. Divisional round of the NFL playoffs are Saturday and Sunday. Who ya got?
- KC: Broncos 27, Ravens 20. Packers 27, 49ers 23. Seahawks 20, Falcons 17. Patriots 38, Texans 21.
- DS: Denver over Baltimore. Green Bay over San Fran. Seattle over Atlanta. And Arian Foster and the Texas over the cocky Patriots. That last one’s for you, Nate.
- NK: Bless you, Danny. It’s all Texans talk down here in Houston and I love every minute of it! Houston over New England, Denver over Baltimore (gonna miss you, Ray), Niners over the Pack and Atlanta’s birds over Seattle’s birds.