Quick Thoughts on the Big 12’s Draws

Posted by dnspewak on March 18th, 2013

There were no surprises on Selection Sunday in the Big 12 Conference. Kansas earned a #1 seed after winning the league tournament this weekend. Kansas State and Oklahoma State, the two other Top 25 teams in the conference, got top-five seeds. Oklahoma and Iowa State weren’t locks, but they had decent resumes heading into Sunday and both earned at-large bids without much debate. And Baylor, after bowing out in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament to the Cowboys, was relegated to the NIT. That’s what we thought would happen. So that’s five Big 12 teams in the NCAA Tournament, representative of a good-but-not-great year in the league. In the hours after Selection Sunday, here are a few quick reactions to each team’s respective draws:

  1. Kansas State gets Kansas City: We knew Kansas would return to the Sprint Center for the Second and Third Rounds. That was a given. But after Kansas State lost to the Jayhawks in the finals on Saturday, it certainly wasn’t a given that the committee would send the Wildcats there. Fortunately for Bruce Weber, it got a lucky draw and can now bus a few hours from Manhattan for its second round game against the winner of La Salle/Boise State. After the loss on Saturday, Weber recalled his Illinois team’s trip to nearby St. Louis for the 2005 Final Four and said he’d of course enjoy a similar home atmosphere on the first weekend of the Tournament this March. There will surely be Jayhawks blue in the stands rooting against the Wildcats, but if they make it to the Third Round, they’ll have a significant advantage against either Ole Miss or Wisconsin. There’s an argument that playing in front of a semi-home crowd adds more pressure — Weber also recalled this particular situation occurring during his days as an assistant at Purdue — but we’re not sure that holds much weight. Bottom line is, playing a few hours from home is a big deal. It matters. It changes the dynamics of the match-up. And for a #4 seed especially, it’s a really fortunate situation.

    Doesn't seem fair that the "reward" for the Cowboys is a date with the Pac-12 tournament champs.

    Doesn’t seem fair that the “reward” for the Cowboys is a date with the Pac-12 tournament champs.

  2. Oklahoma State and collateral damage: Everybody’s angry that Oregon received a #12 seed. It doesn’t seem to make any logical sense, but the lost storyline here is how it affects Oklahoma State. The Cowboys now have to play the Pac-12 Tournament champions in their first NCAA Tournament game — and they’re the #5 seed, for crying out loud! Travis Ford’s team could not have drawn a worse #12 seed. It’s criminal, really. Oregon won at UNLV, beat Arizona and knocked off UCLA twice. You could argue that Oregon’s almost as good a team as Oklahoma State, based on both pure talent and resume. Life ain’t fair, is it?
  3. No worries for Iowa State and Oklahoma: They did it. They got in, both as #10 seeds. The bubble wasn’t very strong this year (which seems to be a trend during the past five years or so, whatever that means for college basketball), but after the Big 12 Tournament, these two teams were far from locks. Oklahoma looked like it might be in trouble after completely imploding in a loss to the Cyclones in the quarterfinals, and then Iowa State went out and hardly competed with Kansas in the semifinals. The committee gave them difficult match-ups: Oklahoma faces San Diego State, and Iowa State will play Notre Dame. Both of those teams have been ranked in the Top 25 at some point this year and may be a little bit underseeded. But the important thing is that both ISU and OU got in. For the Sooners, it’s a notable accomplishment for Lon Kruger in just his second year. It’s been a quick rebuilding process, that’s for sure, but we’d expect nothing less from Kruger. And Fred Hoiberg did a nice job with this team after losing Royce White, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson. The Cyclones are a fun, high-octane team that could surprise some people if they knock down some threes (you know they love to shoot them). Read the rest of this entry »
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Kansas Wins Because It Guards, Plain and Simple

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this from the Big 12 Championship game in Kansas City.

Clank, clank, clank. In an arena jam-packed to the rafters and charged with as much emotion as any game in college basketball this season, the most prominent sound during the first half of the Big 12 Tournament title game at the Sprint Center was the sound of those clanks that Kansas State heaved repeatedly at the basket. After taking an 11-8 lead against Kansas with 11:55 to play in the half, the Wildcats did not make another field goal during the next 17 possessions. They were 0-of-11 from the field during that stretch. Five turnovers. Heroically, they trailed by just eight points at the break, but they were already buried. Once the Jayhawks found their groove offensively in the second half, Kansas State never kept pace and eventually fell, 70-54.

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

You don’t want to see the final statistics for Bruce Weber’s team. “The best thing we did was shoot free throws,” Angel Rodriguez said, “and we shot 50 percent. That says a lot.” Rodney McGruder had a simple diagnosis for the anemic offense. “It wasn’t really their defense,” McGruder said. “We missed easy baskets at the rim.” The second part of that statement is correct. Kansas State missed more open shots than an overweight, middle-aged man trying to play a game of H-O-R-S-E, especially during the drought in the first half. But McGruder is wrong about the first part — there’s another reason his team couldn’t score, and it wasn’t self-inflicted. “Our first shot defense was about as good as it’s been all year long,” coach Bill Self said. As always, it was a collective effort for Kansas. Jeff Withey, the Big 12’s leading shot blocker, finished with only one block, but he teamed with Kevin Young and Perry Ellis to bother the Wildcats’ on the interior with their length.

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Kansas State Advances, Sets Up Epic KC Showdown With KU

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 Microsite writer. He’s in Kansas City covering the Big 12 Tournament this weekend.

Kansas and Kansas State tied for the Big 12 regular season championship. Technically. “We’re conference co‑champs,” coach Bruce Weber said. Fair enough. Both teams finished 14-4 in league play. Identical record means co-champs. Awards all around, everybody gets a trophy, let’s all go get some pizza after the game. Still, co-champ label or not, any person with even the slightest bit of logical reasoning can figure out who really won this league. Kansas won the regular season title. It played Kansas State at home and won. It played Kansas State on the road and won. That’s two games, both at two different sites, and two victories for the Jayhawks. If ever there were a tiebreaker to crown a true champion, that’d be it. Of course, it allowed Kansas to seize the top seed in the Big 12 Tournament, so it’s not as though those two victories were meaningless.

It's Part Three of Jayhawks and Wildcats in KC Tomorrow Night

It’s Part Three of Jayhawks and Wildcats in KC Tomorrow Night

So it’s settled. The Kansas Jayhawks are the Big 12 champions. For now, at least. That could change on Saturday afternoon, when the two teams face each other in the Big 12 Tournament title game at the Sprint Center on national television. This is an unprecedented event for Kansas City. If you’re not from the area or not familiar with the makeup of the sports culture here, allow us to break it down for you. There’s Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State, all within two hours of driving distance from Kansas City. They all bitterly compete for media coverage, and it’s a rite of passage as a fan to complain about the lack of attention from the newspapers. Kansas fans call the Kansas City Star the “MU Star”. Missouri fans call it the “KU Star.” Those two teams don’t play each other anymore, but there’s been talk among fans that the programs should set up a series at the Sprint Center on an annual basis. Good luck with that, folks.

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Rushed Reactions: Kansas 88, Iowa State 73

Posted by dnspewak on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He’s in Kansas City this weekend for the Big 12 Tournament.

Iowa State Looked Dead and Buried Late In the Game

Iowa State Looked Dead and Buried Late In the Game

  1. Budding Rivalry: Kansas needed a rival when Missouri bolted to the SEC. Most figured it’d be Kansas State — and it is. A potential showdown with the Wildcats tomorrow night would make for an electric atmosphere in Kansas City. But there’s room for more than one rivalry, and if we’re in the business of anointing new conference feuds, we’ve got to think that Iowa State and Kansas will carry some bad blood into next year. For starters, there’s the sheer point differential of the two regular season games. The two teams needed overtime in both contests this season. First, in Lawrence, a miracle bank shot by Ben McLemore at the end of regulation helped the Jayhawks escape. In the rematch in Ames, an officiating controversy marred KU’s narrow win. That all led up to Round Three on Friday, and for much of the game, the intensity lived up to the hype. Kansas eventually ran away with the victory, but in the first half, you could tell this was more than just your run-of-the-mill semifinal between the top seed and five seed. Ben McLemore picked up a technical foul for jawing at Georges Niang on the bench after he knocked down a three-pointer, which then skyrocketed the tension in the arena. An irate Bill Self pranced up and down the sidelines, and minutes later, the officials then whistled his bench for a technical foul after they argued a no-call. Self seemed as fired up as ever. It seemed to spark his team after a competitive and highly entertaining first half.
  2. Defense and Rebounding: Iowa State’s inability to get a stop in the second half doomed the Cyclones. That’s not a new trend this season for Fred Hoiberg’s team. However, their poor effort on the boards was surprising. Kansas outrebounded ISU by 12, and at one point it grabbed five offensive rebounds on a single possession. Talk about demoralizing. In every way, the Jayhawks pulled away for the win by being the tougher team. It didn’t help that Iowa State’s shots weren’t falling from the perimeter, but Self had his team ready to punish the Cyclones in the second half. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this report after Oklahoma State’s 74-72 victory over Baylor in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Three Key Takeaways:

Tough, Tough Loss For the Bears; What Now?

Tough, Tough Loss For the Bears; What Now?

  1. So Close: It was a worst-case scenario for Oklahoma State. Pierre Jackson was wide open, and he was about to let it fly. For the win. “I wasn’t real excited about watching him run down the court wide open,” OSU coach Travis Ford said afterward. It seemed like fate. The shot would save Baylor’s NCAA Tournament at-large hopes. Jackson had already scored 31 points, most of which came during a frantic comeback from a 20-point deficit, and he was about to prove to the world how much of a travesty it was to leave the Big 12’s leading scorer and assists man off the all-Big 12 First Team. Except he missed. Pierre Jackson’s game-winning attempt, which he took on the move after splitting a few Oklahoma State defenders, did not fall, as fate would have it. “I feel like I let them down a little bit,” Jackson said. He didn’t. His performance was nothing short of legendary late in the second half, as he made tough shot after tough shot in crunch time. But the Cowboys survived, and the loss probably relegates the Bears to the NIT. Marcus Smart said he had one thought as he watched Jackson’s shot: “Oh crap.” Baylor was in that position after Phil Forte drained two controversial free throws, thanks to a foul call on Deuce Bello that may or may not have been legitimate. If you listen to Twitter, the whistle was an abomination. Regardless, Baylor got bounced from Kansas City, and it’s hard to imagine this team grabbing a bid on Sunday.
  2. Any Chance On Selection Sunday? Travis Ford said after the game that Baylor passed the “eye test.” It’s easy for an opposing coach to say that after a victory, though. Take a look at this team’s overall resume, and there’s just not enough there. Winning at Rupp, at least this year, won’t do it alone. Beating Kansas and Oklahoma State (in Waco) won’t do it alone, either. The Bears needed this, and they didn’t get it. “Of course it’s going to be very disappointing [if we don't get in],” Jackson said. “We can’t do anything about it.” After the game, Drew made his plea to the selection committee by pointing to an example from two years ago. “I think the perfect example is VCU. People were like, ‘why did they get in?’ Well, the committee knew they were a Final Four-type team,” Drew said. “I think we can beat anybody in the country. That means we can play in the Final Four.”
  3. Too Little, Too Late: Baylor nearly completed a thrilling comeback. That’s great and all, but the Bears could not have looked any worse in the first half. They trailed by double digits right out of the gate, got beaten to every loose ball and looked like they wanted to be anywhere but at the Sprint Center. It’s commendable that they fought back, yes, but this was a microcosm of Baylor’s season. It beat Kansas on the final day of the regular season, but it’s about an overall body of work. In a basketball game, it’s about how you play for 40 minutes, and the Bears just dug themselves in too deep of a hole.

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Rushed Reactions: Kansas State 66, Texas 49

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this report after the Kansas State-Texas game in Kansas City this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

  1. Rodney McGruder, aka The Zone Buster: Against Texas’ active 2-3 zone, McGruder was unstoppable. The Wildcats weren’t flawless, and they weren’t always able to get the ball inside, but they knocked down enough three-pointers to pull away from the Longhorns. Credit McGruder for that, as he made four threes and finished with 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Much like Kansas’ Ben McLemore in the earlier quarterfinal, McGruder had to make up for a relative lack of scoring production by his teammates. Angel Rodriguez helped, scoring 13 points and finding holes in the zone to finish with five assists, but this was McGruder’s game.
  2. Kansas City, Here We Come (Back): Following the Big 12 Tournament this weekend, the Sprint Center will host an NCAA Tournament pod next weekend. There’s no doubt Kansas State wants to make a trip back to Kansas City to play in these friendly confines in the second and third rounds, but it needed a strong showing this weekend to convince the selection committee it deserves the advantage. This quarterfinal victory was a start. Two more victories should all but lock up a return to Kansas City, but nothing’s guaranteed with the committee. Still, it’s hard to envision it sending KSU anywhere but KC if it wins the Big 12 title this weekend.
  3. Myck Kabongo Needs Help: Kabongo scored two points this evening. He missed all five shots he took from the field, turned the ball over five times and could not pull Texas out of a severe scoring drought late in the second half. In perhaps his final collegiate game, that’s something Kabongo will have to live with. In his defense, though, he’s simply under too much pressure to perform, considering the youth of his teammates and complete lack of scoring options around him. This team runs through him. He has the ball in his hands at all time, and even when he’s penetrating and creating, nobody can knock a shot down. He had seven assists, but he could have had 15. That has to take a toll on the sophomore point guard. This team has played drastically better with him in the lineup, so it’s hard to blame him for any of Texas’ woes tonight.

Star of the Game: Rodney McGruder led all scorers with 24. Rodriguez was the only other Wildcat in double figures. He shot the ball well, rebounded the ball well and scored from everywhere on the floor. Easy choice here for Star of the Game.

Sights and Sounds: Kabongo’s leadership is noticeable this season. His coaches praised his attitude during the suspension this year, and it’s obviously carried over to the court. On Thursday, all he did was talk. And we mean that in the best way possible. He talked on defense, got in his teammates faces and always had his mouth moving. He’s grown up, and he’s the clear leader of this team. The Longhorns don’t have the experience or personnel for it to matter, but credit Kabongo for growing as a person over the last year or so.

Wild Card: KSU’s D.J. Johnson played big tonight– in every sense of the word. He made all four of his field goals, scored eight points in 15 minutes and threw down a thunderous putback in the second half. On a night where Thomas Gipson struggled and even badly airballed a jumper, Johnson was a nice surprise for Bruce Weber.

What’s Next: Kansas State advances to play either Baylor or Oklahoma State in the semifinals on Friday.

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Rushed Reactions: Kansas 91, Texas Tech 63

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He’s covering the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City this weekend.

Three Thoughts:

  1. Big Day For Ben McLemore: The show began early for McLemore. The redshirt freshman threw down two of the nastier dunks you’ll ever get to see in person, all within the first five minutes of the game. He finished with 24 points — and didn’t even play during garbage time in the second half. It was another vintage performance for one of the best players in this league, and it came on a day where his teammates struggled offensively. The first half was ugly at times, as the Red Raiders recovered from an early 13-2 hole to at least make the game somewhat competitive. Thanks in large part to McLemore, though, the competition didn’t last long. By the first media timeout in the second half, the game was all but over.

    Ben McLemore threw down two incredible dunks against Texas Tech Thursday afternoon. (AP)

    Ben McLemore threw down two incredible dunks against Texas Tech Thursday afternoon. (AP)

  2. Good Job, Good Effort: You never want to belittle a team for “playing hard” when it loses in a blowout, but Texas Tech has a nice collection of young players. They appear motivated yet simply inexperienced, and freshman point guard Josh Gray might be the best example of that. He did not play particularly well on Thursday, but throughout the season, he’s exemplified that “flashes-of-brilliance” cliché in college basketball. As for his teammates, Dejan Kravic followed up his game-winning tip-in to beat West Virginia by leading his team in scoring against the Jayhawks with 20 points. The 6’11’’ center was the team’s most assertive offensive player. He’s a little lanky, sure, but he has a great blend of size and offensive skills. He finished the season scoring in double figures in three straight games, and he’s got that buzzer-beater to build off for next year, too. With the bulk of this team returning, including leading scorer Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert (the 2011-12 leading scorer), it’s a start for Texas Tech to have at least reached the quarterfinals in Kansas City.
  3. Chris Walker’s Future: That’s been the talk all week surrounding Texas Tech — will it retain Walker? He’s been tagged with that interim position after the departure of Billy Gillispie last summer. He’ll have a lot of continuity in his roster next year if he is indeed the head coach, and he’s earned praise from his peers for the difficult job he inherited this year. The Red Raiders won three Big 12 games and finished nine games below .500. That’s bad. But the effort has been a little better than last year, and it may be unfair to judge him based on this year’s results alone, considering the Gillispie disaster. It’s up the Red Raiders to figure out how they want to proceed.

Star of the Game: Ben McLemore takes this award, and it’s not even close. The thing that’s so impressive about him is how efficiently he works as an offensive player. He rarely takes bad shots, and he fits well within the framework of Bill Self’s offense. Kansas is lucky he was on his game today. Otherwise, with the lack of offensive support from other scorers, maybe things would have shaken out differently here at the Sprint Center. Or not. It was a 28-point win, after all. Either way, kudos to McLemore.

Wildcard: Kansas got to empty the bench in the second half, which apparently started a three-point barrage. Freshmen Andrew White and Rio Adams combined to knock down four three-pointers. You’d have thought they were McLemore. Tyler Self also got to play, but he turned the ball over twice. His father was not very pleased on the bench, reacting only by putting his hands in his face.

Quotable: “There’s a lot of controversy. It’ll be a fun game.” — Kansas’ Jeff Withey, regarding the semifinal matchup against Iowa State.

What’s Next: Part Three of the Iowa State vs. Kansas showdown in Friday’s semifinal round. No word on whom the officials will be.

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Rushed Reactions: Iowa State 73, Oklahoma 66

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He’s covering the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City this weekend.

Three Thoughts:

isu oklahoma

Did Iowa State Pop Oklahoma’s Bubble Thursday?

  1. Complete Implosion: For more than 30 minutes, Iowa State looked like it had just rolled out of bed and stumbled into the arena, still waiting for the Five Hour Energy to kick in. The Cyclones could not have played more poorly in the first half, and they didn’t make a three-pointer until the very end of the first half. Shots were clanking off the rim left and right, the Sooners were bullying them in the paint and on the boards, and and it appeared Fred Hoiberg’s team was about to make NIT travel plans. Midway through the second half, Oklahoma led 60-48. And then disaster struck for Lon Kruger. The Sooners did not make a field goal over  the final 8:10 of the game, and Iowa State’s vaunted perimeter shooting finally awoke. With Korie Lucious on the bench after shooting 0-of-8 from the field, Will Clyburn began to run the offense, and he knocked down a few key shots late. Chris Babb did too, and Tyrus McGee shook off a tough morning to finally make a tie-breaking three-pointer late in the second half. All in all, the Cyclones finished the game on a 25-6 run, and they’re right in the thick of the NCAA Tournament at-large hunt. This was more than a comeback — it was a life-saving performance. 
  2. Bubble Burst: We wrote yesterday that Iowa State probably had a little more of a sense of desperation in this game, but the Sooners really could have used this victory as well. They’re still in good shape with victories over Oklahoma State and Kansas — not to mention strong computer numbers — but this will not be an easy weekend for Kruger and his players. Either way, it’s been a heck of a turnaround for this program. Before the year, even an NIT berth seemed like somewhat of a reach. As for the Cyclones, they could probably seal a bid by knocking off Kansas in tomorrow’s semifinal. They’ll still be desperate, though, and that should make for an electric atmosphere at the Sprint Center. Speaking of that possible showdown…
  3. Rematch: Iowa State blew a late lead against Kansas in Lawrence and lost in overtime, thanks in part to a buzzer-beating, banked-in three by Ben McLemore at the end of regulation. In the second match-up in Ames, a controversial no-call on a, well, obvious charge by Elijah Johnson late in the game made national headlines. Dare we say there’s a budding rivalry? “I can’t wait for the opportunity if they win today,” Clyburn said. “I want some payback.” Careful, though. Kansas still needs to beat Texas Tech this afternoon.

Star of the Game: Melvin Ejim. He was huge. The league’s leading rebounder, Ejim’s pride must have taken a hit when Oklahoma came out punching in the first half and dominated the rebounding margin. At one point, the Sooners were +9 on the boards, and that’s just not acceptable for a team that normally rebounds as well as ISU. As the game progressed, though, Ejim started to do his thing. Georges Niang had a few important offensive rebounds, too, and by the end of the game, Iowa State had out-rebounded Oklahoma by 10. Ejim scored 23 points to lead all scorers, too, and finished with 12 rebounds individually. Another day, another double-double for Ejim.

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After a Wild Opening Night, the Meat of the Big 12 Tournament Set to Begin

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

Bob Huggins’ teams have always blocked out. Except for when there’s a game-winning shot attempt in the air, apparently. In a sequence that epitomized West Virginia’s season so much it seemed as though it had to have been some sort of sick joke, Texas Tech ended the Mountaineers’ brutal campaign with a tip-in by Dejan Kravic in the final milliseconds of regulation to win, 71-69. He was standing untouched in the paint after Josh Gray’s three-point attempt rimmed out. No body on him. No effort by the Mountaineers to hit the boards, as they were simply standing around as though time would expire before any potential rebound attempt. They guessed wrong, and the Red Raiders now advance to play top-seeded Kansas. There wasn’t as much drama in the nightcap, as Texas dispatched of TCU in an ugly 70-57 win. They’ll now play Kansas State this evening.

Bob Huggins Probably Had To Cry A Lot This Season

Bob Huggins Probably Had To Cry A Lot This Season

That’s where we stand after two play-in games in the Big 12 Tournament. No disrespect to the victors on Wednesday night, but now the real games begin. Remember to stay with the Big 12 microsite all weekend long, as microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will arrive in Kansas City this morning to cover the tournament through the championship game on Saturday. But today, there’s two games you really need to keep an eye on: Oklahoma vs. Iowa State early and Baylor vs. Oklahoma State this evening. There will be drama in this tournament across the board, especially if Kansas and Kansas State play each other in a conference tournament final, but these are by far the two most important games of the Big 12 Tournament. The top three teams in the league are playing for seeding. Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor are playing for their lives. Let’s take a look at the resumes for each three bubble teams and explain what they’ll need to do in this tournament to feel OK on Selection Sunday:

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The Big 12 Tournament, Broken Down

Posted by dnspewak on March 13th, 2013

The Big 12 Tournament begins this evening with a highly-anticipated, once-in-a-lifetime showdown between 13-18 West Virginia and 10-19 Texas Tech. That’s followed by Texas vs. TCU, another elite matchup that might force the people of Texas to actually tune away from spring football practice and watch basketball. Doubtful. Even though conference tournament play-in rounds are often painful, the rest of the Big 12 Tournament may be as entertaining as ever in 2013.

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Kansas won the league again, but it has company this year in the form of Kansas State, which technically shared the championship despite getting swept by the Jayhawks. Oklahoma State could win it. Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. There are several important storylines — like the potential of Kansas vs. Kansas State, Part III — and a lot of candidates to cut down the nets. Here’s a few of the reasons you need to tune in this weekend:

The Favorites Are All Vulnerable

The Big 12 is a simple conference this season. There are four bad teams. There are three decent teams on the bubble. Then, there are three ranked teams that make up the top of this league: Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The first two were “co-champs,” and the latter has the league Player of the Year in Marcus Smart. Bill Self told the Topeka Capitol-Journal that six teams in this league could win the tournament title, but realistically, these are the three teams you would want to put your money on. They’re all flawed in their own ways. Kansas, for example, sometimes forget how to score and looked bewildered in a 23-point loss at Baylor in the season finale. Read the rest of this entry »

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With Creighton on the Way Out, Arch Madness May Never be the Same

Posted by dnspewak on March 11th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is an RTC correspondent. He covered the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis over the weekend.

On the first weekend of every March, a mob of blue invades St. Louis. In this baseball-crazed city normally occupied by nothing but Cardinal red, these blue people seize the downtown area and take no prisoners. They are everywhere. At the Sheraton Hotel on 14th street. The bars. The restaurants. The Metrolink train. Some might call them obnoxious.

This Could Be The Last Year Creighton's Blue Mob Comes to St. Louis

This Could Be The Last Year Creighton’s Blue Mob Comes to St. Louis

Others might call them winners. This blue mob supports the Creighton Bluejays, who have claimed nine Missouri Valley Conference Tournament titles since the league moved the championship event to St. Louis in 1991 and effectively created the phenomenon known as “Arch Madness.” There are nine other teams in the Valley, of course, all of which fill the Scottrade Center with their own mobs of yellow, purple, red and even other shades of blue. But they’re not Creighton. Two months ago, for instance, the league released the pre-sale numbers for Arch Madness tickets sold before January 1. Drake, Bradley, Indiana State and Missouri State had sold 150. Evansville had sold 200. Southern Illinoishad sold 300. Illinois State and Northern Iowa had sold about 400. Wichita State finished in second place with a robust 1,019.

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Rushed Reactions: Creighton 68, Wichita State 65

Posted by dnspewak on March 10th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Scottrade Center following Sunday’s Missouri Valley championship game.

Three Key Takeaways.

Creighton Will Get To Strut Its Stuff In the NCAAs

Creighton Will Get To Strut Its Stuff In the NCAAs

  1. The Last Hurrah: Rumors have swirled all weekend about Creighton’s departure to the Big East, and there’s a widespread feeling here in St. Louis that the Bluejays will never make this pilgrimage to Arch Madness ever again. That’s sad for the nostalgic and sentimental folks in the Valley, but if it’s the last time Creighton ever competes in this tournament, it could not have exited in more memorable fashion. After Doug McDermott shook off a poor first half to help his team open up a double-digit lead late in the second half, Wichita State nearly erased a 13-point deficit with 4:21 remaining in regulation. Malcolm Armstead, the hero of the afternoon with a career-high 28 points for the Shockers, had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer but missed wide left off the rim with a hand in his face. “I didn’t get a good look like I should have,” Armstead said. And so the Creighton faithful stormed the floor, One Shining Moment played a few minutes later, and the Shockers once again walked away from St. Louis without an Arch Madness title — they’ve never won this championship in this city. The Bluejays, on the other hand, have owned this league, and they’ve now won two straight MVC Tournament titles. “It says a lot about how special a group of guys we have,” Creighton’s Gregory Echenique said. “I’m just glad we were able to accomplish this and prove a lot of people wrong.” Heck of a way to say goodbye.
  2. Defensive Battle: It’s the old chicken-or-the-egg argument: Was Sunday’s title game a display of good defense or bad offense? The two teams both shot just south of 35 percent from the floor, and the first five minutes of the game were nothing short of brutal on the offensive end. Creighton and Wichita State combined to start 0-of-14 from the field, even though they warmed up after releasing a little nervous energy. The physicality had to have taken a toll. The officials allowed the players to play what looked like a controlled brawl. “To me, it felt like we were Muhammad Ali out there, boxing the whole time,” Wichita’s Ron Baker said. “Went through all the rounds.” That’s a pretty accurate description of the game. Everybody got on the floor. Everybody hacked each other, call or no call. In the end, it facilitated a rough but entertaining basketball game. Read the rest of this entry »
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