Three Thoughts on Baylor’s Blowout Win Over Texas

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 14th, 2014

The match-up for the Big 12 Tournament final was set in Friday’s nightcap, which saw Baylor dismantle Texas 86-69 in Kansas City. The Bears continued their strong play of late after their midseason struggles, and as a result, they’ll attempt to become the first team to take the Big 12 Tournament crown by winning four straight games. Oddly enough, Baylor was the last team to attempt to pull off that feat in 2009, but the Bears fell to Missouri.

Baylor Outraced Texas on This Night

Baylor Outraced Texas on This Night

  1. Baylor continues to add strength to its resume. In early February, Baylor’s resume was falling apart. Wins over Kentucky and Colorado were neutralized by losses to Texas Tech and West Virginia, and a cloud of panic and disappointment started to settle above Waco when the Bears lost eight of their first 10 conference games. Now, though, Baylor has reeled off 10 wins in its last 11 games to silence the skeptics (of which there are certainly many). Not only is Baylor firmly off the bubble, but the team’s stock is rising rather quick. It isn’t difficult to picture enough things breaking for them to enter NCAA Tournament play as a #5 seed, provided they take care of business against Iowa State in the final. So what’s been the difference?
  2. The Bears’ offense is clicking. On Friday night, the Bears’ offense registered 1.37 points per possession, its highest mark since a 1.42 PPP showing at West Virginia on February 22. All told, Baylor’s offense has tallied at least 1.04 points per possession in each of its last 12 outings, while their defense has been steady if unspectacular. Cory Jefferson has come on especially strong and was fantastic tonight, notching a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds against Texas’ strong interior defense. Combine Jefferson with Isaiah Austin, one of the country’s top three-point shooters in Brady Heslip, and a highly capable supporting cast, and the result is a combination that is good enough to beat any team in the country. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Three Thoughts on Iowa State’s Win Over Kansas

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 14th, 2014

The Big 12 Tournament’s first semifinal saw Iowa State turn Kansas away after two unsuccessful tries earlier this season. For all the talk of the Big East Tournament having a different look than years’ past, the Jayhawks’ loss ensured a Big 12 Tournament final that won’t feature either of Kansas or Missouri for the first time since 2005. For the fifth straight time against tournament-level competition, Kansas looked especially vulnerable, and tonight, the Cyclones were able to take advantage with yet another strong showing from their Big Three.

Georges Niang Feasted on the Kansas Interior Tonight (AP)

Georges Niang Feasted on the Kansas Interior Tonight (AP)

  1. Iowa State throws a paint party with Embiid out. In Kansas’ first two games against Iowa State (both wins), Joel Embiid was a complete menace, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, so it wasn’t hard to see Georges Niang‘s eyes light up as he went to work on inferior defenders like Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor. The Cyclones scored 38 points in the paint, and a ton of credit is due to Iowa State’s versatile bigs who make defending them a nightmare for the vast majority of opponents. Niang emptied the toolbox on Kansas’ historically passive defense on his way to a team-high 25 points. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Niang’s eight turnovers, but very few of them were careless.
  2. Andrew Wiggins’ shot goes flat while Perry Ellis has a career game. Andrew Wiggins played all 45 minutes of Kansas’ overtime win over Oklahoma State on Thursday night, and on Friday, his fatigue showed as he struggled to get any kind of momentum going until it was too late. Wiggins missed his first six shots, many of them close to the rim, and finished his night 7-of-21 from the floor. The star freshman flashed a couple explosive moves near the end of the game, but he wasn’t his usual effective self. He finished with 22 points, but he did so on a very inefficient 21 shots. While Wiggins may not be forced to shoulder such big a load should Embiid return, he may not get a chance if he’s so ineffective again. Meanwhile, while the loss was bad enough, it would have been much worse if Perry Ellis didn’t have perhaps the best half of his career. The Wichita native scored 19 first half points on his way to 30 total, with many of those coming in the space of a torrid 23-5 run midway through the first half.
  3. Cyclone bench runs thin: If there was anything to be concerned about regarding Iowa State’s attack tonight, it was their thin bench when it comes to the offensive end. Iowa State’s reserves scored just seven of their 94 total points, and while that was good enough to do the job against a familiar opponent, it’s fair to question what might happen if one of the Cyclones’ big three of NiangMelvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane has an off night, runs into foul trouble, or is matched up against tougher interior defenses. While this isn’t anything new for Fred Hoiberg’s team, it will be something to keep an eye on as we move deeper into March.
Share this story

Big 12 M5: 03.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 14th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas State went one-and-done in the Big 12 Tournament, but they’re still headed for the Big Dance in what was supposed to be a down year. As much as yesterday’s loss to Iowa State hurts, that’s a pretty good situation to be in as a program, writes Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star. On Sunday, the Wildcats will crack the field for the fifth consecutive season, establishing a new program record for sustained success. Cynics may point to the fact that only two of those five bids belong to Bruce Weber, but to focus on that would be to lose sight of the mediocrity in which the program toiled until the last seven or eight seasons. Don’t hang your heads, Wildcats fans.
  2. ESPN‘s Myron Medcalf writes that everyone who keeps harping on Andrew Wiggins to show some emotion might be better served just calming down and appreciating the star freshman for what he is. It’s tough to disagree. There are plenty of guys playing this week and next who will gladly pop their collar after hitting a big shot, stare down their opponent or give a primal “AND-ONE” scream when driving to the bucket, but there aren’t many guys who will put up 71 points on 35 shots in the space of two games with his team’s game-changing center glued to the bench with a bad back. There are no more than eight chances left to see Wiggins do his thing at this level, so my advice is to sit back and enjoy it.
  3. Oklahoma was also sent home packing Thursday when the Sooners fell 78-73 to Baylor. Oklahoma simply dug themselves too big hole, falling behind by as many as 21 points. They would go on to mount a comeback, but came no closer than four points from tying the Bears in Kansas City. The Sooners should settle into the bracket around the five-seed line, while the Bears added a little more juice to their resume.
  4. The night ended with Texas snuffing out whatever fire was left from West Virginia’s upset win over Kansas last Saturday by blowing out the Mountaineers, 66-49. The game started with Texas racing out to a 12-0 start and nothing went right for the Mountaineers on either end. While West Virginia was a longshot for a bid coming into last night’s game, it was highly disappointing to see them come out as flat as they did with their season on the line.
  5. The best way to sum up Thursday’s action is that for the most part, the cream rose to the top. For all the talk about this being a wide-open tournament, three of the top four teams in the standings will play in tonight’s semifinals and even though Baylor was seeded seventh, the Bears have been playing much better lately than that seed suggests. Tonight should be another exciting slate of hoops: The teams with the league’s two best resumes square off at 6:00 CST, and in the nightcap, we’ll see a battle between two coaches in Rick Barnes and Scott Drew who have fought through multiple rounds of criticism (some deserved, some not) and have their squads playing some pretty good ball right now.
Share this story

Big 12 M5: 03.13.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Season accolades continued to roll in on Tuesday, as Andrew Wiggins was named as a second team All-American by the United States Basketball Writers Association. Wiggins is joined by fellow Big 12 member and countryman Melvin Ejim as well as Cleanthony Early, C.J. Fair and Sean Kilpatrick. Wiggins carries season averages of 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game into the Big 12 Tournament, and he may have to bump that production even higher if Kansas is to overcome the loss of Joel Embiid this weekend and beyond.
  2. More reports continue to swirl around the back of Embiid. It was revealed yesterday that the big man dealt with similar (though not identical) back problems this time last year as a senior at The Rock School in Gainesville, Florida. While every situation is different, it’s worth pointing out that Emeka Okafor went through a similar pattern of rest and rehab to how the Jayhawks are treating Embiid and returned in time to lead Connecticut to the 2004 national championship. We wouldn’t expect Kansas’ situation to pan out the same way, but would it be that big a surprise if it did?
  3. Yesterday, we brought up the under-the-radar status of Marcus Foster, who has thrived even without the spotlight of Wiggins, Embiid or any of the rest of the country’s top freshmen. While Foster could break out nationally with a big postseason, it’s also worth bearing in mind that as a freshman, he isn’t used to his season running this long. Foster has learned what the college grind is all about, largely thanks to having upperclassmen like Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Omari Lawrence along for the ride. You may remember that Foster was once a highly sought-after recruit, but conditioning problems led many prolific programs to pull back in their pursuit. Foster rewarded Bruce Weber’s loyalty by shedding some weight, and he’s enjoyed a great first year.
  4. Marcus Smart tends to get the majority of attention for Oklahoma, and most of the time, it’s well-deserved. However, there’s a very good argument to be made that it’s actually Markel Brown who is the leader of the Cowboys. The shooting guard endured two straight seasons where Oklahoma State missed the NCAA Tournament, and has improved every year he’s been on campus. After the Cowboys fell into an early 8-0 hole against the Red Raiders last night, Brown snapped his teammates out of the funk with long-range bombs, defensive stops and a highlight-reel dunk, just as he has most of the last two seasons. A much bigger test comes this afternoon in Oklahoma State’s rubber match against Kansas.
  5. With Oklahoma State’s win over Texas Tech last night, we bid farewell to the Red Raiders. At the time, Tubby Smith‘s acceptance of the job last spring was a head-scratching move, and we will still need a couple of years to see if he can recruit and develop enough talent to crack the occasional NCAA Tournament field, but this season, Tech was a much tougher out than many expected. The Red Raiders delivered upset wins over Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas, and were competitive in losses to Kansas and Kansas State.
Share this story

Burning Questions Going into the Big 12 Tournament

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2014

The 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship is finally here, and the action begins at 6:00 CST tonight from Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. To get you up to speed, our microsite team runs down the most important storylines around the conference.

Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman): We begin with Oklahoma State and Baylor as they look to take the final steps toward redemption. It’s been a longer road for both teams than we expected at the start of the season. The Cowboys endured a seven-game losing streak earlier this season, punctuated by Marcus Smart‘s three-game suspension for shoving a fan, and looked dead to rights just three weeks ago. Since then, not only has Smart returned, but he’s playing perhaps his best ball of the season, and the Pokes are riding high, having won four of their last five contests. In the other game tipping off tonight, Baylor will aim to remove any remaining doubt regarding their bubble status. After a 10-1 start to the season, the Bears went on to drop eight of their first ten conference games. The roller coaster went back up, though, with a 7-1 stretch to end the regular season (including a sweep of Kansas State). Considering their current resumes, Oklahoma State and Baylor may some wiggle room should they be forced to head back early to their respective campuses, but at the same time, it would be unwise of them to extend the bubble conversation by going one-and-done. Do the Cowboys and Bears take care of business? What happens on Selection Sunday if either team gets bounced before Friday’s semifinals?

Baylor guard Kenny Chery has provided a calming presence at the point. (Getty)

Baylor guard Kenny Chery has provided a calming presence at the point. (Getty)

Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso): It’s safe to assume that Baylor and Oklahoma State are firmly in the field of 68. Baylor saved their season just in time to finish 9-9 in the league and own eight RPI Top 50 wins, four of them coming on road or neutral floors. Normally, I would say the Bears could get away with losing their first game in the Big 12 tournament, but when the opponent is TCU, the last thing you want your resume to have is an “L” to a team with an RPI in the 200s. Oklahoma State is in a similar spot playing Texas Tech tonight. Could they get in with a loss? It depends, but they should take care of the Red Raiders to rid themselves of any nerves on Selection Sunday.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 M5: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Over the years, the Big 12 Tournament has seen its share of jaw-dropping individual performers: Paul Pierce, Marcus Fizer, Kevin Durant, Mike Singletary, and Alec Burks, just to name a few. While we’re excited to see whether Andrew Wiggins steps up for Kansas and joins that list, you may also want to buy stock in Kansas State guard Marcus Foster. The freshman has come on strong lately, pouring in six 20-point games over his last 12 outings. Earlier this week, he joined Michael Beasley as the only freshmen in Kansas State history to be named to an All-Big 12 Team (Foster was selected to this season’s second team). His first test this week should be a fun one, as he will be matched up against DeAndre Kane and the Iowa State Cyclones tomorrow.
  2. The periphery of the NCAA Tournament bubble is not where West Virginia pictured itself at the beginning of the season, but November and December losses have come back to haunt the Mountaineers. Bob Huggins’ team won eight games in non-con play, but it’s the five losses outside of the league (to Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Missouri, Gonzaga and Purdue) that are wearing heavy for the Mountaineers as they face the latest in a string of must-win games, Thursday’s Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal. At minimum, they need to get to Saturday’s final to warrant legitimate conversation. It’s do-or-die time for the ‘Eers.
  3. Last Saturday, Oklahoma State faced a textbook foul-or-defend scenario at the end of regulation against Iowa State. Cowboys head coach Travis Ford opted not to foul, and he ended up paying the price, as Cyclone Naz Long hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime. As postseason play gears up, we may get the chance to find out if Ford learned his lesson. If Oklahoma State gets past Texas Tech tonight, it won’t be difficult to picture a quarterfinal meeting against Kansas coming down to a last-second tactical call. As the eight-seed, Oklahoma State is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but what will happen when the pressure’s on?
  4. In all sports, including college basketball, the thought process behind Coach Of The Year awards can be a polarizing one. It’s usually reserved as a mea culpa for those who underestimated the winner at the start of the season even though there are times when picking a winner should be much simpler than that. While Rick Barnes and Lon Kruger brought home the hardware (depending on if you look at the Big 12 coaches’ vote or the AP vote), Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com contends that a case can be made rather easily for Bill Self even though everyone knew he had the most talent in the league coming into the season. It’s tough to deny Parrish’s arguments. After all, if winning the conference with the league’s best talent was so easy, why hasn’t Kentucky done it the last two years?
  5. Oklahoma was one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12, finishing in second place behind Kansas with a workmanlike season. With a brief lull between the end of the regular season and the Sooners’ quarterfinal game tomorrow, The Crimson and Cream Machine took a quick look at Oklahoma’s personnel for next season. The biggest thing that comes to mind is that sophomore Ryan Spangler is going to get some help down low. Lon Kruger is bringing three forwards into the fold, and all of them weigh at least 200 pounds. Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal may be on their way out, but Oklahoma should be even better next year thanks to some incoming reinforcements in the paint.
Share this story

Celebrating The Big 12 Top Performances and Most Improved Player

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 11th, 2014

Yesterday, we went around the Big 12 and named an All-Conference First team and tabbed our Player Of The Year and Coach Of The Year selections. Today, we’ll narrow our focus to the best individual game of the conference season, both by team performance and by individual player performance, but we’ll also take a moment to recognize the league’s most improved player. For a nice cherry on top, we’ll also honor the single enduring play of the 2013-14 season.

Game Of The Year

Iowa State 98, Oklahoma State 97 (3OT), February 3 at Gallagher-Iba Arena

With such little difference in quality between the second-place team and the eighth-best team, we were treated to intense, close games on a regular basis. Big 12 microsite contributor Taylor Erickson (tc_erickson) breaks down why he went with this thriller.

TE: In a year where arguably the most difficult conference in all of college basketball provided a handful of memorable contests, none was more compelling than the triple-overtime thriller that took place in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in early February between Iowa State and Oklahoma State. This one was back-and-forth for most of the night, and looked for a brief moment that it would end in double-overtime with an Oklahoma State victory before a DeAndre Kane rebound and kick-out to Naz Long led to a game-tying three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left. In the third overtime, Marcus Smart missed a fadeaway jumper in the final seconds that could have pushed the Cowboys in front, but instead saw the visiting Cyclones celebrate with a win in Gallagher Iba Area for the first time since 1988. The individual performances were equally as impressive as the game itself with Kane finishing just one assist shy of a triple double with 26 points, ten rebounds, and nine assists. Iowa State’s big three of Kane, Melvin Ejim, and Georges Niang combined to score 65 points in the winning effort. Oklahoma State was lead by the trio of Smart, Markel Brown, and Le’Bryan Nash who also dropped in 65 points. This setback for Travis Ford and company was the third straight loss in a streak that eventually stretched to seven games, and took place five days before the infamous Marcus Smart shoving incident at Texas Tech. And as if this wasn’t all enough, when these two teams hooked up again this past weekend in Ames, Iowa, they left us one hell of an encore that featured another Naz Long three-pointer as time expired to send the game to overtime. This conference has delivered so many awesome performances this season, and you can bet we’re likely to see more of the same later this week at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 M5: 03.11.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 11th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. When it was reported late Sunday that Kansas center Joel Embiid would seek out a second opinion on his ongoing back injury, it appeared that his diagnosis would be worse than what fans were hoping for. There’s an update on his status and it isn’t good. According to a statement released by Bill Self, Embiid will miss the entirety of the Big 12 Tournament this week and is a “longshot” to play in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The big man’s injury throws a big wrench into the Jayhawks’ postseason aspirations. It will be tough for Kansas to replace Embiid’s presence as a rim protector, and while the hole he leaves is in the frontcourt, the pressure will be on erratic point guard Naadir Tharpe to deliver consecutive strong outings, which is a dicey proposition. In any case, it’s always unfortunate to see an injury create a roadblock for a national title contender (fans of the 2012 North Carolina Tar Heels, 2010 Syracuse Orange and 2000 Cincinnati Bearcats know what I’m talking about), so it will be interesting to see how Kansas gameplans for life without its star center.
  2. Four months ago, you could make the case that Texas head coach Rick Barnes was coaching for his job this season. Twenty-two wins, a Big 12 COY honor, one probable NCAA Tournament berth and one photo with Justin Bieber later (okay, so maybe that last one isn’t such a big factor), Texas AD Steve Patterson announced that Barnes will return to lead the Longhorns next season. Texas’ turnaround has been one of the biggest stories around college hoops after their preseason projections looked tenuous, and Barnes will remain the longest-tenured head coach in the Big 12.
  3. In the weekly Big 12 coaches’ teleconference, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins voiced his opinion that his Mountaineers would be in “great shape” to secure an NCAA Tournament bid if they were to win two games in Kansas City this week. To that, I say not so fast. As big as last Saturday’s win over Kansas was, it doesn’t wipe out West Virginia’s batch of non-conference losses and mediocre record in Big 12 play. It’s easy to understand Huggins wanting to defend his team, and two more wins would be very helpful to West Virginia’s resume, but they will likely need some breaks on top of that to get off the bubble.
  4. For college hoops purists, the Big 12’s double round-robin schedule is one of the last vestiges of utilitarian competition in a world of swelling conferences driven by that weird other sport – you know, the one with the “ball” that isn’t even spherical. The opportunity to play each team twice is one that hasn’t been lost on the league’s coaches, and it’s a big reason why they believe the Big 12 has been the toughest conference in the country this season. With the conference catapulting at least five teams and probably more into the NCAA Tournament, it’s tough to make a counterargument. No matter who cracks the bracket from the Big 12, we’ll know that they’ll have been battle-tested and ready for the challenges that await.
  5. As Iowa State gets ready to be at its best at the Sprint Center this week, it was announced that the Cyclones will headline the venue’s November event, the CBE Classic, next season. Fred Hoiberg’s team will join Maryland, Alabama, and Arizona State on November 24-25 alongside the College Basketball Hall Of Fame’s annual inductions. The two-day tournament has hosted some of the country’s best teams, most recently the undefeated Wichita State Shockers, and while it’s tough to think about next season at a time like this, it’s reassuring to know that there will be a highly competitive Feast Week event in Big 12 Country next season.
Share this story

Handing Out Hardware: Big 12 Season Superlatives

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2014

From the Andrew Wiggins hype (and exchanges of backlash) to the rise, fall and rise again of Oklahoma State and everywhere in between, it’s been a dramatic season in the Big 12. The conference has been and always will be an exciting one to follow, but it’s tough to remember a year with as many storylines as there have been throughout this season. As we get ready for what figures to be an incredibly competitive conference tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, it’s time for the Big 12 microsite writers to remember the good, look back, and hand out some season accolades.

All-Big 12 First Team

For the sake of transparency, we’ve included each of the four Microwriters’ selections below, with asterisks denoting our picks for Big 12 Player Of The Year:

Untitled

Player Of The Year

Melvin EjimDeAndre Kane and Andrew Wiggins are your consensus All-Big 12 First Team members, with other votes going to a variety of players who were fantastic as well. There were legitimate cases for a handful of honorees this season, but in the end, the freshman Wiggins took the honors. Taylor Erickson explains why:

Among a stable of worthy candidates, Andrew Wiggins emerged to take RTC Big 12 POY honors.(AP/Andrew Ferguson)

Among a stable of worthy candidates, Andrew Wiggins emerged to take RTC Big 12 POY honors.(AP/Andrew Ferguson)

“Wiggins didn’t put up the type of scoring numbers that others like Melvin Ejim of Iowa State and Juwan Staten of West Virginia did, but he was the best player on the team that won the conference with room to spare. Some will be quick to claim that the freshman from Canada has failed to live up to the expectations bestowed upon him before the season began, but those expectations were unrealistic. Consider the fact that Wiggins failed to score at least 14 points in a conference game just three times, and in some ways, his individual statistics are a victim of Kansas’ depth and ability to score from so many different positions on the floor — whether down low with Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis, or in the backcourt with Wayne Selden and Naadir Tharpe. As good as Wiggins has been on the offensive end, his impact on the defensive end of the floor may be even greater given the significant difference in the number of points per possession Bill Self’s squad surrenders with him in the lineup. You can go ahead and make a case for several other players in this league, and there’s a plethora of good ones, but for me, I’ll take Andrew Wiggins every time.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 M5: 03.10.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. The Kansas City Star reported that Kansas center Joel Embiid is in California getting a second opinion on his lingering back problems. Embiid has already missed three games due to back ailments and has been hampered in others, and his status for the Big 12 Tournament and beyond is in significant doubt. It would be a shame for the freshman to miss out on the most important games of his collegiate career, but it looks like Bill Self will have to hope for the best and plan for the worst as the Jayhawks look to get their postseason house in order.
  2. Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim has enjoyed a terrific season to this point, and his efforts were rewarded on Sunday by the league’s coaches, who tabbed him with the Big 12 Player Of The Year honor. Ejim finished the season ranked second in the conference in scoring (18.2 PPG) as well as rebounding (8.6 RPG), and his regular season campaign was highlighted by a 48-point outburst against TCU back on February 8. He’s a very deserving candidate, and there are legitimate cases for several other players as well. The RTC Big 12 Microsite contributors will have more on Ejim, Andrew Wiggins, DeAndre Kane and several other top performers later today.
  3. Whether you roll your eyes at Marcus Smart‘s flopping or embrace it as just one more thing by which to remember the season, there’s no doubt that the Oklahoma State point guard has garnered his share of headlines. When the Cowboys paid a visit to Hilton Coliseum on Saturday, Iowa State students mocked Smart in a coordinated effort to try to distract him at the free throw line by dramatically falling into their seats. They had instructions printed out and everything. Cyclone fans have earned a deserving reputation as some of the most hostile and passionate ones in the conference, so while Smart or Travis Ford may not have appreciated their idea of fun, it’s another reminder of how it’s not just the players and coaches that make college basketball worth following.
  4. There are zombies descending on Kansas City. No, The Walking Dead hasn’t suddenly changed locations, but the resurrected versions of Oklahoma State and Baylor are on the prowl and looking to do some damage this week, as detailed by USA Today’s Nicole Auerbach. After miserable starts to conference play, the Cowboys and Bears revived their NCAA Tournament chances with strong finishes to the regular season. Both teams are good bets to lock down bids regardless of what happens at the Sprint Center this week, but losing their first games and putting their fate in the hands of the selection committee would not be advisable for either squad.
  5. It’s been a rough go for Trent Johnson and TCU this season. A laundry list of injuries has hampered Johnson’s rebuilding effort, and despite fielding a promising big man in freshman Karviar Shepherd, the Horned Frogs couldn’t avoid becoming the first Big 12 team in 10 years to go winless in conference play. TCU dropped to 0-18 in league action, ending the regular season with a 30-point shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma. Johnson’s team will look to play spoiler when it faces a Baylor squad looking to cement an NCAA Tournament bid Wednesday night in Kansas City.
Share this story

Big 12 Weekend Preview: Conference Flirting With History

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 7th, 2014

Even without a clear national title contender beyond Kansas, it’s impossible to deny that this season has been hugely successful for the Big 12. No matter what you value, the conference has it.

  • Top-shelf NBA Draft talent (Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart)
  • Fantastic upperclassmen (Melvin Ejim, Markel Brown, Juwan Staten, Cory Jefferson, Cameron Clark)
  • Impact transfers (DeAndre Kane, Ryan Spangler, Tarik Black)
  • Coaches who have done remarkable jobs getting their teams to buy in (Bill SelfRick BarnesFred Hoiberg and Lon Kruger)
The Big 12 is trending towards history, and we're not talking about Kansas' vice grip on the crown. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

The Big 12 is trending towards history, and we’re not talking about Kansas’ vice grip on the crown. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

That’s not to say that the season hasn’t had its low points (Marcus Smart getting popped for three games after shoving a fan; West Virginia shooting itself in the foot with early season losses; TCU’s continued struggle to make any discernible noise), but all in all, it’s been a fantastic year for the Big 12. The most impressive thing about the conference, however, doesn’t have as much to do with the here and now as it does with what could be on Selection Sunday: A league record-tying seven NCAA Tournament bids.

At the beginning of the season, most prognosticators pegged the Big 12 as a five-bid league. Granted, at the time, Oklahoma State and Baylor weren’t believed to be the teams that would need wins at the end of the regular season to earn bids, but that’s how things have shaken out as Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma have overachieved as the Cowboys and Bears struggled. But with Travis Ford and Scott Drew’s teams now clicking again, the odds of the conference squeezing not five, not six, but seven teams into the NCAA Tournament, are rising. If seven bids come to pass, it would tie a league record set in 2010, but if we’re nitpicking, seven bids in 2014 would be even more impressive than seven bids in 2010, and I’ll explain why.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

No Letdown: Oklahoma State Continues Its Mad Dash for an NCAA Bid Tonight

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 3rd, 2014

As the final seconds of Oklahoma State’s upset win over Kansas ticked down Saturday night, fans rushed the floor, and with good reason. The Cowboys had a great second half, overcoming a late 10-point deficit to beat the Big 12 champions. It was the kind of night the Cowboys and their fans drew up back when the season started, with Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash doing the majority of the damage and Smart taking over when the team needed him to do so. Granted, back at the beginning of the season, a win over Kansas was supposed to be more relevant to the Cowboys’ Big 12 title hopes than their NCAA Tournament status, but it was a huge victory nonetheless, as our very own Eli Linton broke down. It also didn’t reduce the moment when Smart (misguidedly) insinuated after the game that had Kansas won, head coach Bill Self would have cut down the nets in Stillwater.

Will Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State have another win to celebrate tonight? (USA Today)

Will Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State have another win to celebrate tonight? (USA Today)

As huge as Saturday’s win was, Oklahoma State doesn’t have much time to bask in the glow, as Kansas State makes the trip to Gallagher-Iba Arena tonight. The Wildcats are coming off a big win themselves, having put away Iowa State on Saturday to remove any realistic doubt about their postseason prospects. Kansas State won the first meeting against the Cowboys back on January 4, and while slightly less than two months doesn’t seem like that long ago, here’s where both teams were at that point:

  • Oklahoma State was ranked sixth in the country.
  • Kansas State had its work cut out, needing to counteract early season losses to Northern Colorado, Charlotte and Georgetown.
  • The Cowboys were playing their first game without big man Michael Cobbins.

So it’s been a while. Here are three things that Oklahoma State needs to focus on tonight if the Cowboys want to win their fourth straight game and inch ahead of the rest of the NCAA Tournament bubble: Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story