Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Nine

Posted by cwilliams on January 13th, 2012

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

Another week of Big 12 college hoops is in the books, and the contenders are separating themselves in the standings from the pretenders. Still, there are a few middle-dwellers that I cannot figure out. Iowa State has a great coach, a star player, and a winning conference record. However, they lack a marquee win, and have still not shown they can defeat a better team. J’Covan Brown continues to lead Texas to an impressive record, but is relied upon too heavily. The youngsters in burnt orange need to mature, and fast, if they want to make a run at the conference crown.

Royce White Enjoying the Hilton Magic. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


  • Kansas: The Jayhawks are hot, and getting hotter. Kansas recently cracked the Top 10, and judging by their schedule, Kansas might not leave it the rest of the season. They are undefeated in conference play, Thomas Robinson is playing some of the nation’s best basketball, and even Tyshawn Taylor has found a way to reduce his amount of turnovers in recent games.
  • Frank Martin: While it’s easy to argue Frank Martin’s placement in this category due to the Wildcats 1-2 record in conference play, Martin might be doing his best coaching job yet this season. After a frustrating loss to Kansas, Martin fired up his boys and executed a perfect game plan against Missouri, handing the Tigers their first loss. Three days later, Kansas State continued their brutal conference start by hosting Baylor. Martin and the Wildcats gave the Bears their toughest test of the season, and narrowly lost by two. There’s no such thing as a good loss, but the way Kansas State played against the undefeated Bears, there was a lot of good to take from the game.
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Bringin’ in the Hardware: Examining The Two-Man Battle for Big 12 POY

Posted by cwilliams on January 10th, 2012

I have a confession. College basketball is not my favorite sport. Baseball is buried the deepest in my heart, and my passion for America’s pastime will never be challenged by any other game. Today, one of my favorite parts of the baseball offseason occurred, the Hall of Fame voting. Former Cincinnati Red great Barry Larkin was elected to Cooperstown today. Why am I telling you this? Because it made me ponder who will go down in Big 12 history after this season as the best college basketball player of the 2011-12 season. Awards like this solidify one’s spot in college basketball history. The opportunity to leave your name on a piece of hardware that will last much longer than your college basketball career is alluring to these athletes, to say the least. Let’s examine the favorites thus far for the Big 12 Player of the Year. It is a two-person race at this point, with candidates from two bitter rivals. Baylor’s phenomenal team play has led them astray in this individual award category, but I think Scott Drew is somehow ok with that.

Marcus Denmon Smirks at the Idea of Being Big 12 Player of the Year. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

  • Thomas Robinson, Kansas: After being a media darling during the offseason, Robinson entered the season with big shoes to fill. And fill those shoes he has. Robinson is easily averaging a double-double, with 17.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game this season. Perhaps most importantly, Robinson has been consistent, even when the Jayhawks have not. Robinson has scored double figures in all but one game this year, a game in which he only played 22 minutes. He has also put up some individual game numbers that are jaw-dropping. Robinson dropped 16/15 against Duke, 21/18 against Davidson, and an amazing 30/21 against North Dakota.
  • Marcus Denmon, Missouri. While the hot start of the Tigers has been somewhat surprising, the impressive play of Marcus Denmon has not been. Denmon is leading the Big 12 in a number of categories. He is first in points per game, total points, free throw percentage, and three-pointers. While charismatic Kim English is the vocal leader of the Tigers, Denmon is the quiet leader. He can drop 15 points in the first half, and unless you’re filling out the score card, you won’t even notice.

So, who will get the nod as the Big 12 player of the Year? It’s tough to say, especially without knowing the final record of each team and the final statistics of the players. Both players mean a great deal to their team, and have put the entire roster on their back at times and carried them to victory. However, as of now, I’d give the trophy to Kansas’s Thomas Robinson. Robinson has put up some absolutely stellar numbers in certain games, yet has been more consistently good in every game. While Denmon has been brilliant this season, I think Robinson’s output and leadership means more to his team. The season is still young, though, and there will be many more games ahead where one of the two Big 12 stars can separate himself from the other.

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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.


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.


  • 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.


  • 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. (

  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. (

  • 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. 
  • 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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