Big 12 M5: 12.18.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2014

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  1.  Iowa State‘s defense will get a lift this weekend from transfer Jameel McKay, who is finally eligible after transferring from Marquette and sitting out the last two semesters. A 6’9″ forward, McKay possesses a 7’4″ wingspan, which should come in handy for a Cyclone team that’s currently dead last in the conference in blocks percentage and offensive rebound percentage. Prior to his short stint with the Golden Eagles, McKay played alongside Cyclone forward Dustin Hogue at Indian Hills Community College. According to Fred Hoiberg, McKay will come off the bench, but even as a secondary member of Iowa State’s rotation, McKay’s ability to alter shots and preserve possessions with his offensive rebounding should give the Cyclones’ attack a new dimension.
  2. Perhaps the biggest name to hit the transfer market recently is former Duke forward Semi Ojeleye, who is now getting the full-court press from Kansas State. There are two major connections between Ojeleye and the Wildcat program: He hails from Ottawa (Kan.), which is just 80 miles from Manhattan, and his brother, Victor Ojeleye, was a walk-on from 2008 to 2012. There’s just one issue for Kansas State – They don’t have a scholarship available. The Wildcats inked three high school commits from the 2015 class to prepare for the loss of Thomas Gipson, Nino Williams and outgoing transfer Jack Karapetyan. Sometimes, these things have a way of working themselves out, but since Ojeleye and his AAU coach have also received inquiries from the likes of Wisconsin, Kansas and Wichita State, something would have to develop quickly for him to end up a Wildcat.
  3. Everyone is still getting used to the idea of TCU being a competitive team, including its local media. The Horned Frogs are one of just nine undefeated teams left in Division I, but they’ve partially arrived at that point by way of easy scheduling by head coach Trent Johnson. Still, these are games that previous TCU teams were losing, so credit is due. Their chances of making the NCAA Tournament will boil down to how they fare in conference play, and in that regard, their backs will be against the wall as they were in their first two seasons of Big 12 membership, but even this level of relevance can be nothing but a good thing for the conference.
  4. While Kansas‘ offensive struggles are a touch misplaced (they currently rank 14th in the country in adjusted offense), they could stand to improve, and as the Lawrence Journal-World‘s Tom Keegan writes, freshman big man Cliff Alexander could be the answer, or at least an answer as the Jayhawks look to get better over Winter Break. Alexander can be foul-prone, but it’s been frustrating to also see his minutes limited by Bill Self’s preference towards experience even though guys like Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas are less talented. We’re anticipating Alexander to get more chances with Kansas’ non-con schedule softening up as it nears its end, but it’s up to him to make the most of those opportunities.
  5. The Big 12 roars into the weekend on an absolute tear, having won its last 22 games by an average of 19.6 points. While some of the conference’s opponents in that time never stood a chance to be competitive, the streak also includes some impressive road wins over power conferences and victories over solid mid-major teams, too. There are three big threats tomorrow, though: Maryland pays a visit to Oklahoma State; A Washington team on the rise which will square off against Oklahoma in Las Vegas tomorrow, and a solid NC State team will take a crack at West Virginia at Madison Square Garden. Given the strength of the conference, everyone else should have no trouble taking care of business.
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Big 12 M5: 12.17.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 17th, 2014

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  1. We lead with a thorough analysis from Bleacher Report‘s CJ Moore on how the mock draft culture impacts its key stakeholders from NBA prospects and their families to college coaches to pro scouts to the work of people such as ESPN’s Chad Ford and DraftExpress‘ Jonathan Givony. We recommend you read the entire article, which is couched in Kelly Oubre‘s scenario with Kansas, because Moore does a fantastic job of seeking out the most relevant angles, but it’s especially interesting to hear how head coach Bill Self feels about the mock draft dynamic; Some of his objections are valid, even though they can also be interpreted as self-serving. Ultimately, I think Givony’s response that it’s up to each individual to form their own opinion and that it’s not right for coaches to conflate one person’s thoughts with the community’s as a whole is fair as well.
  2. West Virginia‘s struggles in its first two seasons of Big 12 membership dimmed the national spotlight on the Mountaineers, which was unfortunate for many reasons. Of course, I wanted to see West Virginia be as competitive in their new home as they were in the Big East, but lower on the list, their diminished relevance provided fewer opportunities for a good-old-fashioned Bob Huggins rant to make the rounds. That ended Monday night and into Tuesday, though, when the 61-year-old vet sounded off on his radio show after Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni accused him of being “afraid” to play the Thundering Herd twice a year (D’Antoni’s comments were sparked by a close loss to the Mountaineers on Sunday). Huggins is right to be incensed at D’Antoni’s comments both as one of the most fearless head coaches in the game and as the leader of a West Virginia program that has much more to lose than they have to gain by repeatedly playing a mediocre team like Marshall. It isn’t very often that we see coaches react so emotionally and honestly, so when the opportunity presents itself, it’s definitely worth checking out.
  3. Every season, there’s a handful of players you swore have been in college forever. This season, that hypothetical roster includes guys like Oklahoma State forward Le’Bryan Nash, who was a highly-touted recruit expected to not be long for college, but is nonetheless still at it in Stillwater. Despite being the only top-15 recruit from the high school Class of 2011 still in college, Nash is at peace with his position as the leader of a talented Cowboy squad. In speaking to CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish, Nash admitted that he has flirted with declaring for the NBA Draft each offseason since his arrival. According to head coach Travis Ford, Nash chose to return for his senior season so he could take ownership of the Cowboys. So far, the decision has worked out for all parties involved, as Nash is currently the second-leading scorer in the Big 12 with an efficient 17.7 points per game on 11 shots per contest. There’s no doubt that his presence has given Oklahoma State someone to rally around and lead them to a bounceback season. Staying on campus for all four years isn’t what Nash had in mind, but to his credit, he’s adapted well, so it’s tough not to find yourself rooting for him.
  4. In a game that was never really a game, Oklahoma trounced in-state foe Oral Roberts 85-53 in front of a light home crowd. The Golden Eagles were simply no match for the Sooners’ attack, which was able to put up a high scoring total despite getting only three points from the free throw line. Buddy Hield led Oklahoma with 16 points, while Ryan Spangler dominated the glass and Jordan Woodard had eight assists — in other words, the Sooners stuck to their blueprint, though in fairness, Oral Roberts was playing its third game in four days. We may not have learned much about the Sooners in this one, but Saturday’s matchup against Washington in neutral Las Vegas should be more revealing.
  5. On a minor note, the end of the semester has come, and that means certain players concluding that their current schools aren’t doing the trick for them. To that end, we learned yesterday that former Texas guard Damarcus Croaker and former Iowa State guard Sherron Dorsey-Walker will look for new homes. Croaker, a two-guard, averaged 9.5 minutes per game this season, but failed to see any court time in the Longhorns’ biggest games. He’s looking to transfer closer to his native Orlando so he can be with his young son. Dorsey-Walker, most notably, was Fred Hoiberg’s first redshirt player, but struggled to gain a foothold in the Cyclone rotation in each of his two eligible seasons. With a more talented guard in Oregon State transfer Hallice Cook set to play next season, the writing appeared to be on the wall. Dorsey-Walker may have been an afterthought in Iowa State’s rotation, but had offers from Michigan and Indiana (among others) as a recruit, so it will be interesting to see who takes him in.
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Big 12 M5: 12.15.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2014

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  1. The Big 12 enjoyed an exceptionally strong weekend as the conference went 10-0 with an average margin of victory of 15.6 points. Included were three blowouts on the road (Iowa State at Iowa, Oklahoma at Tulsa, and Oklahoma State at Memphis), and the highlight of the week was Kansas beating Utah in Kansas City despite blowing a 21-point lead and losing Devonte’ Graham to a toe injury. There are still a few teams that need to prove themselves — and even the good ones still have some things to sort out — but we saw the Big 12 continue to distance itself from the rest of the country with an impressive weekend performance.
  2. Meanwhile, it’s mid-December and we haven’t seen Kansas put two good halves together all season, but this is an instance where it helps to have context. The Jayhawks are one of just seven teams to rank in the KenPom top 15 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, and they’re doing so despite facing the what has been to this point the nation’s toughest schedule. Still, as Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star writes, the lack of an overpowering post presence is forcing Bill Self to get more creative than he’s ever had to, but those are college basketball first-world problems. One possible solution is to give Cliff Alexander a longer leash to learn on the fly. While the freshman big man isn’t yet very skilled, he appears to be the best answer to the question facing the Jayhawks.
  3. A few days after needing a late defensive stand to beat lowly Bradley, Kansas State cruised in a 20-point win over Savannah State yesterday. A groin injury to Stephen Hurt and early foul trouble for Thomas Gipson forced Bruce Weber to shuffle his lineup in a way that he probably didn’t intend, and the result was reserve forward Brandon Bolden receiving a career-high 16 minutes. We’ve talked about the Wildcats’ struggles to get key resume wins, so we won’t rehash them here, but they do have a couple of opportunities coming up in the form of a de facto home game this Saturday against Texas A&M and a New Year’s Eve tilt against Georgia.
  4. Without Marcus Smart and Markel Brown in the lineup, Oklahoma State has had to face a learning curve when it comes to establishing offense outside of Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte. But as John Helsley of NewsOK.com writes, a stingy defense has helped the Cowboys bide their time waiting for those threats to develop. Defense has been a strength of Travis Ford’s last few teams, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise to see the Cowboys defending well, but a fast start on defense has been paramount to the success of this squad.
  5. We’ll leave you with a couple of big Vines from the weekend’s action: Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins catching big air against Memphis, and Iowa State star Georges Niang kissing the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd goodnight as the Cyclones put the final touches on a rivalry win. Who do you think is going to produce the most share-worthy moment this week?
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Big 12 M5: 12.11.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2014

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  1. Thursday was a long day for Bryce Dejean-Jones and Iowa State. It began early in the morning when the UNLV transfer was arrested at his apartment on three minor drug-related charges. Later on, one of the charges was dismissed, but with the other charges still outstanding, Fred Hoiberg decided the best course of action was to hold Dejean-Jones out of tonight’s game against in-state rival Iowa. For all of Hoiberg’s work with transfers over the years, there’s a reason why Iowa State has been referred to as college hoops’ Island Of Misfit Toys. While Dejean-Jones’ indiscretions aren’t very egregious in the grand scheme of things, they do underscore some of the concerns that came with his departure from Dave Rice’s program. We’ll have more on the impact his suspension will have on Iowa State’s chances of scoring a big road win later today.
  2. Jesse Newell of The Topeka Capital-Journal has an interesting analysis of the impact of luck in close games played by Kansas through the years (upon closer examination, we should probably have a disclaimer advising Iowa State fans to skip today’s edition of the M5…). Newell’s study concludes that there isn’t a strong correlation between winning close games during the regular season and advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament, which isn’t very surprising, but it’s always good to have the data fleshed out when it comes to explaining the deciding factors in close games.
  3. Former Baylor standout Brady Heslip‘s name has resurfaced as something of an NBDL freak. Now with the Reno Bighorns, the Canadian sniper is regularly given at least 15 three-point attempts per game, and is connecting on a staggering 54.7 percent of those tries. Heslip spoke with Dan Patrick and touched on his time with the Bears. Recalling that part of his junior year was spent trying to learn the nuances of being a distributor, Heslip lamented that he could have been an even better shooter had he been given the freedom he’s currently enjoying in the NBDL. If called up to the Sacramento Kings, Heslip would definitely be one of the Big 12’s least likely pros, so we’ll be pulling for him.
  4. Speaking of Big 12 snipers, Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte talked about his expanding role with the Cowboys and the importance of tomorrow’s road against Memphis. The computers like the Cowboys to bounce back some after their tumultuous 2013-14 campaign, but they don’t have any especially impressive wins to date and took a shellacking last weekend at South Carolina. While Iowa State-Iowa and Kansas-Utah are getting most of the attention (deservedly so) this weekend, the most important game on the calendar for any one team may be tomorrow’s meeting between Travis Ford and Josh Pastner.
  5. We haven’t talked much about Texas Tech, but the good fortune up and down the Big 12 has applied to them as well. Wednesday, the Red Raiders took down Fresno State, 73-56, using a big second half and 17 points from Devauntagh Williams to move to 6-1 on the year. Granted, all of Tech’s wins have come against cupcakes, but they did take an admittedly disappointing LSU team to overtime on the road a few weeks ago before dropping that tilt to to the Tigers. Tubby Smith‘s team should be able to inflate its schedule with five mostly easy games before conference play revs up, but their bad offense isn’t likely to get it done come Big 12 play. Enjoy it while you can, Red Raiders fans.
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A Month Into the Season: Six Big 12 Revelations

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 10th, 2014

Nearly a month into the season, the Big 12 has enjoyed a standout non-conference campaign with several wins over Power Five opponents. For the most part, the conference’s best teams are living up to their hype, while the middle-tier teams are showing signs of  fulfilling their potential as well. While all eyes are on the title race between Kansas and Texas, here are six other storylines you might be missing.

Bryce Dejean-Jones has turned into a hyper-efficient shooter under Fred Hoiberg (sorry, UNLV fans). (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Bryce Dejean-Jones has turned into a hyper-efficient scorer under Fred Hoiberg (sorry, UNLV fans). (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

  1. Bryce Dejean-Jones could be Fred Hoiberg’s best transfer yet. The Mayor has taken many a flawed transfer and turned him into an All-Big 12 selection. On its own this isn’t exactly a revelation, but you probably didn’t expect Bryce Dejean-Jones to be such a white-hot scorer. Through seven games, he’s shooting 56.8 percent from the floor, 41.7 percent from the three-point line and 89.7 percent from the free throw stripe. He’s also pitching in on the glass, corralling 6.9 rebounds per game. As if that isn’t scary enough for the rest of the Big 12, Dejean-Jones is the second option in the Cyclones’ offense, as Georges Niang hasn’t had any trouble picking up where he left off after getting hurt in last season’s NCAA Tournament. Dejean-Jones’ latest excellent performance came against UMKC on Tuesday night, as he put up 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including a 2-of-4 effort from beyond the arc.
  2. We need to be patient with Myles Turner. It’s tempting to look at Texas freshman Myles Turner’s numbers on the year (11.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game) and conclude that he’s coming along just fine, but if you dig deeper into his games against high-major competition, he hasn’t been nearly that good — averaging just 5.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in games against Iowa, Cal, UConn and Kentucky. This is by no means a knock on the heralded freshman, who was a late bloomer on the recruiting circuit, but it’s become clear that when it comes to legitimate competition, Turner is going to need some time to develop into the rangy, efficient scorer who can lift Texas over Kansas in the Big 12 standings. He’s still in the process of realizing how good he can be, and with Texas’ surplus of big men on the roster, Rick Barnes is still figuring out how to best utilize his young phenom. On the plus side, you’ll be treated to a show if you have the means to watch any of the Longhorns’ next three games (vs. Texas State, Lipscomb and Long Beach State), as Turner hasn’t had any trouble showing off his tools and production against inferior competition. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 12.10.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 10th, 2014

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  1. On Monday’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference, the idea of pushing the start of the regular season to mid-December or even January in light of poor attendance in early season match-ups picked up some steam, at least among some of the conferences’ coaches. This silly notion seems to come up a few times every year, and each time, it’s shot down by the basic economics of the sport’s biggest media deal. Specifically, the NCAA’s TV partners (especially CBS and Turner) are reliant on hundreds of hours of valuable postseason coverage to fill their March and early April calendars. Despite some grievances by coaches and certain members of the media, a big part of the beauty of college basketball is that it has an untouchable stranglehold on three-plus weeks of the American sports calendar. While it can definitely be frustrating to see intriguing non-league match-ups shoved aside in the national spotlight in favor of football coverage, it would be nonsensical to reposition the season to force its crown jewel to compete with the NBA and NHL Playoffs.
  2. Texas is still the leading contender to unseat Kansas at the top of the Big 12 standings, but if you think a healthy Isaiah Taylor is all that’s missing, you need to study up. Big man Cameron Ridley‘s contributions have been lacking as of late, according to Jeff Haley of Burnt Orange Nation. Haley took a close look at both data and film on the junior center and concluded that a surprising number of turnovers, limited results on the offensive glass and the absence of a face-up move when positioned outside the lane, have held him back. Texas has been very good even with teams neutralizing Ridley, so if he can break out, the Longhorns could be on their way to bigger and better things than a moral victory against Kentucky.
  3. Bill Self maintains that Jamari Traylor‘s arrest and subsequent suspension will be a learning experience for Kansas as it prepares for tonight’s tilt against Josh Smith and Georgetown. As Big 12 microsite contributor Chris Stone noted on MondayCliff AlexanderLanden Lucas and potentially Hunter Mickelson figure to absorb Traylor’s minutes, which means it’s very likely that Kansas won’t be in any worse position than if Traylor had been available. The Jayhawks have won the last two battles against Smith’s teams (against Georgetown in Allen Fieldhouse last season and against his UCLA team in Lawrence in 2010), so they’ll look to continue that success at the Verizon Center.
  4. Bryce Dejean-Jones had a reputation as a wildcard in his time with UNLV. It was tough to tell when he was going to put up an efficient 15- or 20-point game and when he would go ice cold on his way to a less impressive output. With Iowa State, however, Dejean-Jones is enjoying tremendous success thanks to a trademark of Fred Hoiberg‘s offense: The abandonment of the long two-pointer. Travis Hines of The Ames Tribune has an interesting interview with the transfer guard in which he details the benefits of his newfound shooting tendencies. We’ll have more on Dejean-Jones’ emergence later today in our Big 12 revelations after the first month of the season piece.
  5. One under-the-radar team to watch out for in the Big 12 is the Baylor Bears, which handled Texas A&M Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center. Baylor’s frontcourt was the story, as they shut out an SEC team on the offensive glass, a feat which hadn’t been done in 19 years. Johnathan Motley paced the Bears’ attack with career highs of 22 points and 11 boards. Scott Drew‘s team now possesses three wins against SEC teams (the others being road wins over South Carolina and Vanderbilt), and are quietly looking more formidable than many expected.
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Big 12 M5: 12.08.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2014

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  1. Early Sunday morning, Kansas forward Jamari Traylor was arrested for interfering with the duties of a police officer as authorities responded to an incident at a Lawrence bar. While Traylor wasn’t a highly-regarded recruit when he arrived on campus, he hasn’t developed all that much and it should be noted that he has a history of less-than-great behavior. Still, with two games this week against prominent big men in Georgetown’s Joshua Smith and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl, this is an especially inopportune time to get into trouble. If Bill Self decides to hand Traylor a suspension, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson figure to be the most likely candidates to absorb his minutes, although Self may simply give a bigger workload to Cliff Alexander after the freshman logged an impressive game against Florida on Friday.
  2. Speaking of that Florida win, it wouldn’t have been possible without sophomore Wayne Selden snapping out of his season-long scoring funk. Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star thoroughly breaks down the myriad ways in which he turned the tables against the Gators, whether it was by attacking the rim or hitting his jumpers. As mentioned in the point above, the road doesn’t get easier for Kansas anytime soon, so it will be interesting to see if Selden can keep things rolling offensively.
  3. While Oklahoma has had a nice start to the season, the Sooners haven’t looked like the team many expected in the early going (us included). Last season’s potent offense wasn’t all there, but the defense appeared to be much improved. On Friday night, however, Oklahoma’s attack was much more balanced as they blew out a bad Missouri team at the Lloyd Noble Center. The Sooners have this week off for exams, but they have an interesting road test on tap Saturday, when they travel to play a Tulsa team that beat the same Creighton squad that dropped Oklahoma a few weeks ago.
  4. Through the first few weeks of the season, the Big 12 has gotten off to a great start (more on that in a minute), but if any team has been a disappointment, it’s been Kansas State. The Wildcats already have four losses, including one to Long Beach State and two others to average Pittsburgh and Tennessee squads. It’s worth pointing out that some of the team’s struggles have come under tough circumstances: The loss to the Panthers came in the consolation bracket of the Maui Invitational, when both teams were running on fumes and playing for the third straight day; and Saturday’s game against Tennessee wouldn’t have been scheduled at all had it not been fueled by ESPN’s presentation of the Big 12/SEC challenge. That’s not to excuse Kansas State’s lackluster body of work – those games are part of the deal of being in a big conference – but context always helps. The results are the results, though, so with their biggest non-conference tests now behind them, it will be important for Bruce Weber‘s team to maximize a Big 12 slate filled with opportunity to build a reasonable case for an at-large bid.
  5. Due to final exams, the slate is quiet this week, though road games for Kansas and Iowa State (at Georgetown and Iowa, respectively) will breathe some life into the schedule. That said, it’s a good time to evaluate the conference as a whole, and the Big 12 looks terrific through three and a half weeks. The conference has wins over Michigan State, UConn and Arkansas, with two of those wins coming away from campus. Additionally, the league has no truly inexcusable losses, and while that may not sound like much at first blush, it’s more than the other power conferences around the country can say. The Big 12’s success is also evident in the computer ratings, as seven of the conference’s ten teams rank in KenPom’s top 27, and five rank in Sagarin’s top 20. For the unlikely cherry on top, perennial doormat TCU will probably be undefeated when conference play revs up next month. Of course, it’s silly to expect the Horned Frogs to carry those results very far into conference play, but it is a sign that there will be very few off nights in the Big 12, which has a clear edge in the national picture over the bloated ACC and Big Ten.
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Two Burning Questions: Previewing Kansas vs. Florida

Posted by Brian Goodman & David Changas on December 5th, 2014

The Big 12/SEC Challenge will wrap up tonight at 9:00 ET as Kansas looks to exact revenge for a loss in Gainesville last year. Meanwhile, the Gators are in need of a signature non-conference win, and what better venue to get that win than in a raucous Allen Fieldhouse? RTC contributors Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and David Changas (@dchangas) are here to break down a tilt between two of the millennium’s best programs.

BG: The Jayhawks may finally have their answer at point guard after Frank Mason enjoyed a very successful Orlando Classic as freshman Devonte’ Graham continued to heal from a shoulder injury. The sophomore posted averages of 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game last week and has been the primary reason why Kansas has regained its footing despite Graham’s troubles, Wayne Selden‘s shooting slump, and Kelly Oubre‘s failure to find his way onto the court for more than a few minutes a night. In the other backcourt, Kasey Hill has come up big for a Florida team that has otherwise struggled out of the gate. How important is this match-up to the outcome of the game and how do you see it turning out?

Another steady game from Frank Mason would lend an added sense of security for a Kansas team that has occasionally struggled to find consistency in its backcourt. (AP)

Another steady game from Frank Mason would lend an added sense of security for a Kansas team that has occasionally struggled to find consistency in its backcourt. (AP)

DC: Mason was absolutely terrific in Orlando, and Kansas looked nothing like the team that Kentucky embarrassed two and a half weeks ago. On the other hand, Florida came away from the Battle 4 Atlantis with two losses and a mediocre win over UAB to show for it. Thus far, the Gators have a long way to go to become a good offensive team, shooting a highly inefficient 44.1 percent in effective field goal rate. With Eli Carter injured and likely to miss this game, Hill, who has finally begun to look more comfortable in his role as the team’s primary ball-handler, will need to have a big night for Florida. He showed some signs of offensive life with 20 points in Sunday’s loss to North Carolina, shooting the ball well and getting to the line 12 times (making 10) against the Tar Heels. If he can do the same against Mason while simultaneously taking care of the ball, Florida will have a chance at pulling off the big upset.

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Two Burning Questions: Previewing Texas vs. Kentucky

Posted by David Changas & Brian Goodman on December 5th, 2014

The slow build of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge will finally reach a crescendo tonight as the long-awaited battle between Kentucky and Texas tips off at 7:00 ET. RTC contributors Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and David Changas (@dchangas) are here to break down the showdown between two of the longest and strongest frontcourts in college basketball.

BG: One of the many things that makes this match-up so enticing is that Kentucky will finally go toe-to-toe with one of the few frontcourts around that can match its size down low. The Longhorns lead the nation in blocked shots, and for the tempo-inclined, own the country’s third-best block percentage, swatting 20.3 percent of their opponents’ shots. On offense, Jonathan Holmes, Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner haven’t always been the most efficient group, but collectively, they can score in virtually any way imaginable — shooting from deep, slashing to the rim, or posting up on the blocks. How do you think the Wildcats will look to contain that trio?

Myles Turner has feasted on inferior competition, but has yet to break out against a team with comparable talent. Will tonight be the night? (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Myles Turner has feasted on inferior competition, but has yet to break out against a team with comparable talent. Will tonight be the night? (Jim Rogash/Getty)

DC: It’s hard to imagine a better match-up of frontcourts in all of college basketball. The challenge the Longhorns will present Kentucky is one the Wildcats haven’t faced thus far, and likely won’t face again all year long. What makes Holmes and Turner so dangerous is how good they have been from the perimeter – the duo is a combined 18-of-39 from three-point range –  and it will be interesting to see how the Wildcats deal with players who can draw their big men outside. If they can hit some early shots, that should open things up for the Texas guards. Given the unique problems Holmes and Turner present, John Calipari might need to mix and match his lineups a bit more than he has thus far. As for Ridley, he needs to do a better job on the glass than he has done thus far, as Kentucky leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (48.1%). Of course, another major advantage the Wildcats have with so much interior depth is that Calipari does not have to worry about foul trouble, whereas Texas has to be quite careful to avoid it.

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Grading the Big 12’s Feast Week Performances

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2014

With much of the Big 12 participating in competitive, neutral-court tournaments last week, we were able to get a solid litmus test for most of the conference’s squads. All in all, the league had a good showing, but it wasn’t spectacular. Here are some grades relative to how each team was expected to perform during Feast Week:

  • Texas (wins vs. St. Francis and UConn): A. In the Longhorns’ first action since Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist (minus the game against Cal the following night at MSG), Rick Barnes’ team rolled over the Red Flash without a problem, as they were paced by Myles Turner’s 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. All they did was follow that up by handing UConn its first non-conference loss at Gampel Pavilion since 1993, when current Husky guard Sam Cassell, Jr.’s dad helped Florida State beat UConn in Storrs. Big ups go out to Jonathan Holmes, who, with this game-winner from Sunday, is now shooting an eye-popping 61.9% from distance.
Jonathan Holmes' late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated.

Jonathan Holmes’ late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated. (Getty)

  • Kansas (wins over Rhode Island, Tennessee and Michigan State in the Orlando Classic): A-. After the big Kentucky loss, Kansas’ last game against venerable competition before the holiday weekend, the Jayhawks had their fair share of unanswered questions. With this still being the first week in December, the rotation still has some kinks to iron out, but fans should be happy about Perry Ellis‘ improved rebounding to complement his scoring ability as well as Frank Mason‘s overall progress, though I’m still a little bearish because we’ve seen both these movies before and because I’m not sure Michigan State is all that good. The keys moving forward are whether Ellis and Mason can maintain that level of play, and whether Bill Self‘s leash on Cliff Alexander has truly lengthened. It would also be helpful if Wayne Selden could bust out of a big scoring funk (6.8 PPG on 24.1% shooting over his last four games).

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A Year After Texas’ Resuscitation, Maryland’s On Track as The Next Big Program Revival

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 26th, 2014

Coming into the season, one of the key storylines in the Big Ten was how Maryland would perform in a season as important for its pedigree as it is for its head coach’s job security. By now, Terrapin fans are all too familiar with the list,

Has Mark Turgeon's Program Turned the Corner?

Has Mark Turgeon’s Program Turned the Corner?

but for the uninitiated, Maryland lost five of its top eight scorers from last year to transfer. Then the school denied enrollment to would-be freshman Trayvon Reed after the four-star prospect was arrested for stealing candy from a convenience store and assaulting a plainclothes officer. As if that weren’t enough, they suffered yet another setback last month when senior Evan Smotrycz broke a bone in his foot, sidelining the former Michigan forward for the start of the season.

But in handling Big 12 power Iowa State, 72-63, behind a talented and quickly-developing crop of newcomers, Turgeon showed that his team is in a better position than many prognosticators believed, and while he didn’t explicitly acknowledge it, that could mean big things for the Maryland program.

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Five Takeaways From Monday Night at the CBE Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2014

Feast Week tipped off Monday night, and RTC contributor Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) dispatched this report from Kansas City, where Maryland pulled away late against Arizona State before Iowa State handled Alabama to win its fourth straight game in the Sprint Center.

Melo Trimble Broke Out Last Night in KC (KCStar.com)

Melo Trimble Broke Out Last Night in KC (KCStar.com)

  • Melo Trimble is going to be a load in the Big Ten. When Maryland’s attrition reached its apex over the summer (and arguably before then), it was easy to get down on their prospects for this season. Whether Mark Turgeon takes his remaining pieces to the NCAA Tournament is a question that won’t be answered for several weeks, but if they do, their freshman point guard will be a huge reason why. In just the fourth game of his career, Melo Trimble scored 31 points to nearly break a school freshman scoring record set by Joe Smith, but looked as poised and relaxed as a 31-point scorer could possibly look. While there’s a lot on the line for Maryland this year, the hope is that Trimble won’t need to be this good night and night out. Still, given shoddy performances by teams like Iowa and Indiana in the early going, there may be room for Maryland to ride its young star into the top half of the conference.
  • Arizona State lets a good offensive effort go to waste. The Sun Devils’ offense was stellar thanks to spacing and excellent execution, especially from deep. Arizona State rained in 14 threes, its highest total since November 12 of last year. Jonathan Gilling was white-hot, hitting seven of his ten three-pointers while Bo Barnes added on five on seven tries of his own. Arizona State’s undoing came in the final minutes as it missed several key rebounds and allowed Dez Wells to take over for Maryland. The game effectively ended on a possession where Barnes rushed a deep jumper with a bad angle. While ASU’s fiery 51.9% clip from distance Monday night is hardly sustainable, Herb Sendek’s team looked like it was much further along developmentally than most teams are at this point in the season, especially considering that they’re moving on without two huge pieces from last year. Unfortunately, they could find themselves wondering what might have been if they had managed to get just a few more stops.

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