Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Eight

Posted by cwilliams on January 6th, 2012

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

Conference play is officially underway, and the Big 12 contender picture is becoming a bit less hazy. We know who is legitimate and we know who won’t be making much of a splash. Then, there are those murky teams, the middle-dwellers who appear to have the talent to skyrocket to the top, but have played poorly enough that you wouldn’t be surprised to see them hang out with Texas Tech the remainder of the season (sorry, Lubbock). The coming weeks will show us whether or not they can mature to make a run in the second half of the season, or if they will fizzle into mediocrity.

Alley-Oops

Robinson Has Been Crushing Lately

  • Thomas Robinson: In the last week, Robinson has been putting up some Dwight Howard-esque numbers. When hosting North Dakota, Robinson dropped 30 points while pulling down 21 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists. In the Jayhawks’ conference opener, Robinson kept up his hot start to the new year, dropping 15 points and 14 rebounds. If Robinson keeps this up, he will be the clear favorite for Big 12 Player of the Year.
  • Missouri’s Offense: We knew this Tiger team would be able to score, but this well? No way. The Tigers lead the nation in field goal percentage, while ranking second in the nation in points per game. Nobody could have predicted the Tigers would be scoring such numbers at such a great efficiency, especially under a first-year coach. If they keep the potency of their offense up, it won’t matter that they now only have seven scholarship players, due to the departure of Mr. Canada, Kadeem Green.
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Big 12 New Years Resolutions, Part Two

Posted by cwilliams on January 4th, 2012

Here is Part Two of the Big 12 New Years Resolutions: Check out Part One here. 

The ball has dropped, the champagne bottles have been emptied, and the black-eyed peas have been begrudgingly eaten. The resolutions have been made, and now it is time to meet your new goals. With 2011 ending, so too has the Big 12 non-conference season. Missouri and Baylor appear to be the favorites for conference supremacy, but the league is still so wide-open that there is a lot of work to be done for every team. So, I present to you my suggested new years resolutions for each team. If they attain these new goals, a conference crown will be in their sights.

How Many Times Will Rick Barnes Celebrate Like This In 2012? That'll Depend On How Quickly His Young Squad Grows Up (AP)

More New Year’s Resolutions…

  • Iowa State: “In 2012, I will strengthen my relationships.” Iowa State has an acceptable 10-3 record so far. However, the team lacks chemistry and seems to not play as a cohesive unit. If the Cyclones want to be dancing in March, they need to unite as a team, and not just watch Royce White pad his stats. 
  • Texas: “In 2012, I will act more mature.” Texas coach Rick Barnes said it best when he stated: “Young guys make it more complicated than it has to be.” Texas’ talented-but-young roster will need to show signs of maturity when they hit conference play, especially on the road in hostile environments.
  • Texas Tech: “In 2012, I will learn more.” Texas Tech’s season will not end in postseason glory. And that’s fine. Not every team can cut down nets. But what the Red Raiders do need to do in conference play is learn how to play as a team. Recognize their strengths, and hone in to identify their weaknesses. Tech is a young team, and in order for their future to be bright, they need to prepare now.
  • Oklahoma State: “In 2012, I will not think about 2011.” The Cowboys’ season has been quite the disappointment thus far. They have failed to meet expectations, and the team has not had many bright spots. However, there is a reason we thought this team could be dangerous, and the Cowboys need to cut their losses to focus on the now. Conference play is a blank slate for Oklahoma State, and they need to capitalize on this opportunity.
  • Texas A&M: “In 2012, I will go out and score more.” A&M has scored more than 70 points only three times this season. The Aggies are the first Big 12 team with a conference loss after Monday’s loss to Baylor, and it’s apparent they are lacking in offense. They dropped only 52 points on Baylor, and rank 262nd in the nation in points per game with an average of 63.8.
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Big 12 New Years Resolutions, Part One

Posted by cwilliams on January 2nd, 2012

The ball has dropped, the champagne bottles have been emptied, and the black-eyed peas have been begrudgingly eaten. The resolutions have been made, and now it is time to meet your new goals. With 2011 ending, so too has the Big 12 non-conference season. Missouri and Baylor appear to be the favorites for conference supremacy, but the league is still so wide-open that there is a lot of work to be done for every team. So, I present to you my suggested new years resolutions for each team. If they attain these new goals, a conference crown will be in their sights.

Kansas Celebrates the Fact That Thomas Robinson Plays For Them, and Nobody Else

Baylor: “In 2012, I will be more dominant.” Baylor has been impressive this season, entering conference play with a perfect 13-0 record. However, the Bears have not earned a dominant victory against a marquee opponent, sans Northwestern. To truly impress the nation, Baylor needs to beat good teams by big margins.

Missouri: “In 2012, I won’t be afraid to travel.” Missouri has been the surprise of the Big 12 season, if not the entire college basketball nation. But Missouri has played only one true road game, a game in which they barely scraped by an average Old Dominion team. If they want to avoid the collapse they encountered in the 2010-11 season, they will need to be able to earn victories on the road.

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Seven

Posted by cwilliams on December 29th, 2011

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

I like to think of the holidays as the eye of the storm that is the college basketball season. We have blown past the pre-season tournaments and early marquee match-ups. During the holidays, we have fewer games and fewer prestigious opponents. But now that the holiday season is coming to an end, we are thrown back into the storm. Gear up folks, conference play is almost here.

Alley-Oops

  • Pierre Jackson: On December 23, Pierre Jackson returned to his hometown of Las Vegas as Baylor battled West Virginia. Jackson made the most of his homecoming, dropping 23 on the Mountaineers and leading his team to an exciting overtime victory. That alone is enough to earn you an “alley-oop”. But Jackson wasn’t done. Last night, against Mississippi State, Jackson scored the game-winning bucket with 28 seconds left, securing Baylor’s 13-0 record, the best start in school history. While the preseason projections focused mostly on Perry Jones and Quincy Acy, Jackson is making his name known on a talented Baylor squad.
  • Oklahoma Sooners: Lon Kruger faced a daunting task this preseason, having the job of turning a depleted and underachieving Sooner squad into winners. Kruger has not blinked, however, and neither have the Sooners, as they are off to an impressive 9-1 record. The Sooners have beat Washington State, Arkansas, and Houston. Their lone loss came against a talented Saint Louis team. The key? Rebounding. The Sooners rank 4th in the nation in rebounds per game, with 42.2 per game, while gathering 44.3% of possible offensive rebounds (#3 in the nation) and holding opponents to only 29.7% of offensive rebounds. The Sooners will be tested in their game against Cincinnati tonight, and when they open conference play at Missouri.
  • Perfection: Four teams remain undefeated in the world of college basketball world. Two of them are in the Big 12, Baylor and Missouri. According to my calculations, that’s half of the teams. Not too shabby, Big 12.

Airballs

  • Texas A&M: The holiday season has not been kind to the Aggies. The Aggies fell hard against Florida losing by 20. Five days later, the Aggies hosted Rice, and were shocked by the Owls in a 65-58 loss, snapping A&M’s 67-game home nonconference win streak.
  • Le’Bryan Nash’s Homecoming: When Oklahoma State traveled to Dallas last night, Nash’s hometown, to take on Southern Methodist, expectations were high for Nash’s return home. Nash, however, was quiet all night, going 2-10, dropping only 4 points, and playing sparingly when the game got close. Yes, this is a bit unfair, as sometimes homecomings can be ruined by higher expectations. It didn’t help that SMU was triple-teaming Nash at one point, either.
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Considering the Big 12 Underachievers

Posted by cwilliams on December 27th, 2011

Last week I discussed the overachievers of this early Big 12 season. It was a cheery, sunshine-laced post, discussing players who are playing above and beyond their expectations so far this season. Today, we conquer the inevitable, and discuss the teams and players who have underperformed for their team so far this season. The good news? There is still plenty of time to make amends.

Oklahoma State: With the addition of freshmen sensation Le’Bryan Nash and Cezar Guerrero, plus the senior leadership of floor general Keiton Page, the Cowboys were expected to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid this season. So far, they have shown no signs of meeting those expectations. Eleven games into the season, the Cowboys already have five losses. While none of these losses have come against mid-majors, what is truly worrisome about the Cowboys is their abysmal team field goal percentage, 41.2%, which ranks 260th in the country. True, in some games, the shots just don’t fall. But to shoot this poorly in every game is troublesome, and with conference play looming, the Cowboys need to get their act together if they want any shot at postseason glory this year.

Tyshawn Taylor Has Must Get His TO Problem Under Control

Tyshawn Taylor’s Turnover Problem: It would be unfair to say Tyshawn is having a poor season. He’s averaging 15.3 points per game, and has gotten to the charity stripe more than anyone else in the Big 12. But his knack for turning the ball over was most recently apparent in Kansas’s loss last week to Davidson, a game where Taylor turned the ball over five times. He also miscued the ball seven times against Ohio State and 11 times against Duke earlier this season. What is even more surprising is that two years ago Taylor averaged just 1.7 turnovers per game, while this season, his turnover rate is at 4.2 per game. Taylor will need to reclaim his ball control before conference play starts in earnest if Kansas expects to make another deep run in March.

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Considering the Big 12 Overachievers and Pleasers

Posted by cwilliams on December 20th, 2011

Even though the 2011-12 college basketball season still has its youth, it is already easy to identify some of the individuals who have overachieved this season. Players who, for one reason or another, are not only meeting expectations but blasting through them. Overachievers are on every team and come in all shapes and sizes, but this group has shown through the first month-plus of the season that they will have a major impact on the Big 12 this season. The title of overachiever doesn’t stick with these players forever, though — they either become a star, or are considered an “almost-was.” Here we list the five Big 12 basketball players who are overachieving to this point in the season.

Nobody Likes the Overachievers in College. Except on the Hardwood. (Newson6.com)

  1. Steven Pledger, Oklahoma - While it is probably safe to consider the entire Sooner roster as overachievers due to their impressive 8-1 start, Pledger seems to be the backbone of their success. He has become a proven floor general this season and has almost doubled his points per game from last year, even while averaging fewer minutes.
  2. Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech – While Tolbert was expected to be one of the Red Raiders’ key freshmen on this team, nobody expected him to be the entire team. Tolbert is leading the Texas Tech in both points per game (14.0) and rebounds per game (6.2), and he dropped 22 against Grambling, 16 against DePaul, and 27 against future Big 12 member TCU. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Four

Posted by cwilliams on December 8th, 2011

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball. Scholastic obligations got the best of me last week, so there is no week three, but click here for Alley-Oops and Airballs Week One and Week Two. 

The Jedi. (draftexpress.com)

Alley-Oops
  • Return of Baylor’s Jedi: Perry Jones, III, is back, and his impact has been immediately noticeable. Jones is averaging a healthy 19.5 PPG and 6.0 RPG, but more importantly, his return means the completion of a starting five that many have picked to win Big 12 title. The sense of a complete team was apparent in Sunday’s Baylor-Northwestern game, which Baylor easily won 69-41. Scott Drew attributed the victory to his team’s “unselfishness.” If I told you five years ago that we could possibly see both the Heisman and the Naismith winner from Baylor, what would you say?
  • Missouri… Again: Yes, Missouri is yet again on the Alley-Oops list. While this probably irks many of the Jayhawk faithful, it’s hard to argue these Tigers don’t deserve it. After the Tigers shellacked its two opponents in the CBE Classic, they faced Villanova Tuesday at famed Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic. The Tigers won again on the national stage, defeating the Wildcats, 81-71, in convincing fashion.
  • Jimmy V’s Speech: Yes, it pertains to the Big 12. Because it pertains to all of college basketball, as it is arguably the greatest sports speech ever given. In a week where we celebrate the life of Jim Valvano, I urge you to check out the Jimmy V Foundation website, or at least watch his wonderful speech here. 
Airballs
  • Oklahoma State’s Scheduling: While the Cowboys are not the favorite to win the Big 12, they have enough talented pieces to stay competitive in conference play. That is, if they make it that far. The Cowboys have a brutal non-conference schedule leading up to conference play, including the likes of Missouri State, Pittsburgh, New Mexico, Alabama, SMU, and Virginia Tech. All those teams, in the span of a month. Yikes.
  • Sea Pond of Crimson and Cream: Attendance at Lloyd Noble Arena has decreased 33.9% since the 2008-09 season, and the athletic department is getting desperate. Not only have they dropped student pricing by $100, but now they are offering students a chance to win an iPad, free Pizza Hut food, and $100 dollars. My suggestion? Build a new stadium in Miami, and sign Jose Reyes. It works for some…
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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.05.11 Edition

Posted by cwilliams on December 5th, 2011

  1. A big weekend for Big 12 basketball. We’ll start with Friday’s marquee matchup, Missouri vs. Northwestern State, a game the Tigers won easily, 90-56. It was all Marcus Denmon, all night, as he cruised to a career-high 31 points. Denmon, however, says the Tigers want more, saying, “I feel that starting off 7-0 is good, but it’s something that we want to build on as a team. It’s not something that we’re satisfied with at all.”
  2. Normally a Top 25 matchup, the UCLA-Texas game lacked the national focus it usually carries. That doesn’t mean folks in attendance weren’t treated to a exciting game, though, one in which Texas rallied from an 11-point first half deficit to earn the 69-59 victory. J’Covan Brown dropped 22 points, but the real story was freshman guard Myck Kabongo filling out the stat sheet. Kabongo finished with 13 points, five rebounds, eight assists, and one steal. In a strange turn of events, the LA Sports Arena encountered a power outage early in the first half. After the lights came back on, Texas played at a different level, narrowing the halftime deficit to six before taking control in the second half.
  3. In another game that usually gathers more media attention, K-State defeated Virginia Tech on Sunday in Blacksburg with a narrow 69-61 victory. The Wildcats have encountered considerable doubt this season, with many pundits expecting them to have only an NIT-caliber season. However, the ‘Cats keep winning, and Frank Martin seems to have just as much faith in this team as he had in his previous teams.
  4. In a matchup of undefeated teams, Baylor easily defeated Northwestern in Evanston, 69-41. While Perry Jones didn’t have the kind of game he did in his season debut, the Bears received contributions from everybody and dominated the Wildcats from the get-go. Scott Drew has taken notice of his squad embracing the team concept, saying, “I’ve really been impressed with the unselfishness of the players.”
  5. While there were some solid matchups this past weekend, many Big 12 basketball eyes are on Tuesday night, when 13th-ranked Missouri will square off against Villanova in the Jimmy V Classic, played at Madison Square Garden. This will be the first time the Tigers have played in Madison Square Garden since 1988, a year before any of the Tiger players were born. Marcus Denmon stated, “the Garden obviously is one of the biggest basketball venues to play in in the world. It’s something that we’re looking forward to.”
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Big 12 and Blooming Onions, Part One

Posted by cwilliams on December 2nd, 2011

Society loves comparisons. A strange statement, yes, but one that is undoubtedly true. Whenever we see a dominating center, we say, “oh wow, that guy’s dominance in the paint reminds me of Cole Aldrich.” And it’s not just in sports. It’s in everyday life, too. “Oh, Steve from IT? That guy gives me the creeps, he reminds me of Norman Bates.” We are lost without comparisons. We need them, especially when something new comes along. Today, I thought it would be fun to compare each of the Big 12 basketball programs to something. I needed these comparisons to be something easily recognized, but not related to basketball. So, what did I come up with? Chain restaurants, of course.

Frank Martin Expresses His Displeasure With K-State's Association With Chipotle.

  • Baylor -> Chick-fil-A: Chick-fil-A is considered to be the Christian fast food restaurant. The owners make their faith well-known, and this chicken eatery is closed on Sundays. Baylor is both the only private and only Christian school in the Big 12, and it has a curriculum that includes faith-based studies. Chick-Fil-A has great chicken sandwiches, and OK waffle fries. That’s it. There’s no variety, it’s a one-trick pony. Baylor basketball has recently been the same. Yes, they’ve had their one Elite Eight run and some great players, but it lacks the impressive spread that many Big 12 basketball schools possess. Its arena attendance is weak, the student section is even weaker, and their women’s team is still on ESPN more than their men’s. Also, people don’t know Chick-Fil-A exists in some parts of the country. The same can be said about Baylor hoops.
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Big 12 Early Season Superlatives

Posted by cwilliams on November 29th, 2011

Ah, sports. Is there anything that has more premature assumptions and predictions? A few weeks ago, Illinois football fans thought they were Rose Bowl-bound. San Diego Chargers fans assumed this was the year Phillip Rivers would lead them to the Super Bowl. Kris Humphries had a wife, but no job. Now he has a job, but no wife. Premature assumptions and predictions are wrong more often than not. That being said, let’s dish out some premature awards and assumptions. Yes, I realize the season is very young, but this is what the first two weeks have told us. The remaining 15 weeks will tell us more.

English Has His Team On Top Early (AP/C. Riedel)

Best Team in the Big 12 - Missouri. The Tigers didn’t just beat Notre Dame and #18 California en route to a CBE Classic championship. They demolished them. The Tigers won those games by a combined 68 points. They rank eighth in the nation in field goal percentage, and ninth in the nation in points per game.

Worst Team in the Big 12 - Texas Tech. After three narrow victories over cupcake teams, the Red Raiders have lost their last three. They ranked #200 or worse in points per game, rebounds per game, and assists per game, three rather crucial aspects of basketball. The lone bright spot for Texas Tech has been freshman Jordan Tolbert, who is second in PPG for the Red Raiders, and first in rebounds per game. Most importantly, however, Tolbert went to All Saints Episcopal for high school, the same school famed Rush The Court writer Clark Williams attended.

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Two

Posted by cwilliams on November 24th, 2011

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball. Click here for Week One’s Alley-Oops and Airballs. 

Alley-Oops

  • Missouri Tigers: The Tigers are clicking on all cylinders after two easy victories over Notre Dame and 18th-ranked Cal, en route to the CBE Classic Championship. The team is playing as a cohesive unit, and while Marcus Denmon has settled in nicely in his role as the star of the team, Missouri has seven players who can go off at any time. Yes, this team will still have frontcourt issues, but as this juncture, Mizzou appears to be the Big 12 favorite.

Marcus Denmon has the Tigers Soaring

  • The Border War: This weekend, Missouri and Kansas will face off in football for the 120th time. This is an especially meaningful game, because, due to Missouri’s departure to the SEC, the rivalry might be at its end. Unfortunately, neither team is extraordinary this season. The Tigers are 6-5, and KU is 2-9. Fear not, Border War fans, because so far this season, Kansas and Missouri appear to be the best teams in Big 12 basketball. Missouri is off to a surprising 5-0 start, while Kansas, even at 3-2, has the look of a team that will once again be very good. Think the KU-Missouri hate will be high this weekend? Wait until February 4, when the talented teams go head-to-head in Columbia surrounded by the ESPN College Gameday crew.
  • New Coaches: Sure, it’s early, but the Big 12′s new coaches, Frank Haith of Missouri, Billy Kennedy of Texas A&M, Billy Gillispie of Texas Tech, and Lon Kruger of Oklahoma are a combined 13-1 so far. Not too shabby. All coaches seem to have their players buying into their system, and do not seem overwhelmed by their new positions.
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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week One

Posted by cwilliams on November 16th, 2011

The college basketball season is still young for the ten Big 12 schools. They have only played 19 games collectively, losing two of them. That being said, as college basketball nerds, it is never too early to start to analyze what we’ve seen thus far. So, I’d like to introduce a new weekly column, Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs. Every Wednesday I’ll examine which individuals and teams have been playing so well they fall under the “alley-oops” category, and which individuals and teams’ play has been so dismal that they fall under the “airball” category. Here’s the list for Week One.

J'Covan Brown Headlines Our "First Alley-Oops and Airballs".

Alley-Oops

  • J’Covan Brown: Coming into this season, all eyes of Texas were upon Brown, as he was expected to be the leader of this young Longhorn team. So far, Brown has done more than just lead on the court — he’s dominated on it. Brown is averaging 31.5 PPG, and leads the Big 12 in total points, field goals, and per-game average.
  • Kim English’s Three Ball: Missouri fans have openly worried about English’s three-pointer, as his three-point percentage has declined each year since his freshman season. So far, it appears that “Kimmeh” has worked out some of the kinks in his shot, as he has already drained nine from downtown this season, with a three-point percentage at 60%.
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