Checking In On… The Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 9th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Missouri played a relatively soft non-conference schedule, and got dominated in a tough road environment losing by 16 at Kansas State. All year long people, questioned whether the Tigers had the toughness inside to be one of the elite teams in the country. In Manhattan they grabbed only 21% of their available offensive rebounds and allowed the Wildcats an offensive rebounding rate north of 40%. What’s more, 6’3” Marcus Denmon was the team’s leading rebounder in the game.
  • Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners sprinted out to a 10-2 record outside of league play, but reality set in a bit for the Sooners as Big 12 play started, losing 87-49 at Missouri and 72-61 at home against Kansas. Oklahoma is getting 18 points per game from Steven Pledger but only have two other players scoring over 8.5 per contest. They are also struggling defensively, allowing just under a point per possession this year against a fairly soft schedule.
  • The Big 12 has been much better than expected this year as they are ranked second according to the Pomeroy rankings. The Big 12 has five teams in the top 30, which is second only to the Big 10 who has 6. Even the Big East, with 16 teams, has only five. It has been the five teams (Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Kansas State, and Texas) that I expected to carry the load, but it nonetheless has been impressive what the Big 12 has done this year.

McGruder & The Wildcats Took Down The Tigers After Losing At Allen Fieldhouse. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Baylor (15-0, 2-0): Baylor almost suffered a potential Big 12 title-killing defeat this weekend, beating Texas Tech by only 13 on Saturday, pulling away late. The Bears turned it over 14 times in a 64 possession game, which is right in line with their season average. If their turnover rate, which ranks 235th nationally, doesn’t improve, I can’t see them competing for the Big 12 title, especially because their quality of competition will increase.
  2. Kansas (12-3, 2-0): The Jayhawks jumped out to a big lead against rival Kansas State and, though it got close in the second half, they managed to win by 18 points, a win that looked even better after what Kansas State did to Missouri. Thomas Robinson continues to be fantastic, with a 15/14 effort against the Wildcats, but the Jayhawks’ best player has been someone most fans haven’t heard much from. More on him later. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • The Big 12’s feel-good story has to be Texas Tech freshman Luke Adams. Adams was born almost entirely deaf with only about 10% hearing in his left ear. Thanks to cochlear implants however, he is hearing nearly completely normally now. He has been effective in limited playing time as well, shooting 46% from three and 78% from the free throw line to go with a 24.4% assist rate. Although he was the leading scorer in Class 3A in Texas last year, his scholarship options were limited due to his size. He chose to walk on at Tech and based on his early performance, he could be a nice shooter off the bench for them in the coming years.
  • Thomas Robinson had the performance of the week in the Big 12 scoring 30 points and grabbing 21 rebounds against North Dakota. It was first 30 point 20 rebound game for a Kansas player since Wayne Hightower did it against Missouri 50 years ago, and it was just the sixth time in the history of the Big 12 a player has had a 30 and 20 game. Robinson joins elite company including Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Michael Beasley in the conference’s 30-20 club.
  • For the second week in a row, the two Big 12 unbeatens stayed that way by the narrowest of margins. Baylor beat Mississippi State in Dallas, despite what a cynic would call their best efforts to give it away, and Missouri picked up a nice true road win, going to Old Dominion and surviving, 75-68. Interestingly, they both had to fight the crowd a bit: Old Dominion was at home and has a nice atmosphere at the Constant Convocation Center, but the crowd in Dallas was pitiful for the Baylor-Mississippi State game. Playing in front of a stale crowd is probably good preparation for the NCAA Tournament, but it makes for some awful regular season basketball.

Cynics Will Be Quick To Point Out That It Came Against North Dakota, But Thomas Robinson Posted One Of The Top Single-Game Performances In Big 12 History Saturday. (Credit: Reed Hoffmann/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (13-0): Although their offense is fantastic, I think it is officially time to start worrying about Missouri’s defense. They have allowed over a point per possession in back-to -back games, and almost did earlier in the month to lowly Kennesaw State. Frank Haith has generally had good defenses considering the talent he had at Miami so I think they can get the ship righted but it still is a potential red flag for the Tigers if they want to win the Big 12.
  2. Baylor (13-0): I promised I would put Baylor at the number two slot if they beat Mississippi State, but yikes. After squeaking out a two-point win in Dallas in which they tried their hardest to let the Bulldogs get out of there with the win, it probably will be a one week stay at the 2 slot. All of Baylor nation seems to have Pierre Jackson fever, as last year’s highest ranking junior college player scored 14 points against Mississippi State and has a 63.5% eFG on the season. But to temper those expectations a bit, I don’t think you can win the Big 12 title with a point guard who has a turnover rate of 30.4%. It is true that he will get more comfortable with the offense as the season goes on, but he will also be playing much tougher opponents. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 2011

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Kansas Gets Exposed: For the second time in the last four years, Kansas suffered a surprising defeat to an overmatched team in Kansas City. This year’s victor was Davidson, who led nearly all game en route to an 80-74 upset over the Jayhawks. It was the third game this season where Kansas was held under a point per possession. This team might be the worst offensive team Bill Self has fielded at Kansas: there’s no real go-to guy like Marcus Morris, and the Jayhawks don’t have the three-point shooters to keep defenses from collapsing on Thomas Robinson in the middle. The turnovers are also an even bigger problem than last season, without the ability to score nearly at will to compensate.
  • Undefeated Squads Hold Serve: Both of the undefeated teams in the league narrowly retained that status, with Missouri trying valiantly to give Illinois the Braggin Rights game and Baylor doing the same with West Virginia. Frank Haith’s team won a rare close game, eking out a 78-74 win, and Baylor narrowly defeated West Virginia 83-81 in overtime, after which Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins had a rare instance of losing his cool.
  • Kansas State scored a tournament win over the weekend, downing Long Beach State on Christmas night to win the Diamond Head Classic. Angel Rodriguez was the star of the tournament, scoring 17 and 16 in the first two games. Rodney McGruder more than picked up his slack in the championship against Long Beach, scoring 28 on 10-11 shooting.  Kansas State now has a pair of good wins in the non-conference season and look like they will be in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Wildcats Have Plenty of Souvenirs To Bring Home After Winning The Diamond Head Classic. (AP)

Power Rankings

Because the marquee non conference games are virtually over, this week, I thought I’d grade the teams. I’m grading on a curve, so an A for Missouri isn’t the same as one for Kansas State.

  1. Missouri (12-0) – Grade: A. Missouri is 12-0 and while I am still not sure about Frank Haith for the long haul, he has to get credit for coming to Missouri and not changing anything. He recognized what he had in Marcus Denmon, Kim English, and Phil Pressey and let them be who they are. Haith’s Miami teams regularly played games where the pace lingered in the low-to-mid-60s , but this year Missouri is at 70.5 trips per game, basically right in line with where it has been the past three seasons.
  2. Kansas (8-3) – Grade: A-. Kansas sits only at 8-3, but actually are the highest-rated Big 12 team in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings at 8, one spot ahead of Missouri and two ahead of Baylor. Some of that is due to beating a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State, but a bigger factor has been Kansas’s stifling defense, which has held opponents to just 39.6% shooting from inside the arc. A year after losing two lottery picks and the very solid Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed, not to mention second-round pick Josh Selby, Bill Self is in the midst of maybe his best coaching job yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In on… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2011

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Denmon Scorching: The Big 12 Player of the Year race will come down to who does what in conference play, but at the midseason point I would be hard-pressed to pick anyone other than Missouri’s Marcus Denmon. The senior is averaging 19.6 points per game, and is doing it extremely efficiently, with a 52.8% eFG. He’s also getting to the line a decent amount, and shooting 91.7% once he gets there. Despite taking more shots than anyone on the team, and using his fair share of possessions, Denmon has been great at taking care of the ball as well: his 4.2% turnover rate is best in the entire country. Not only is he the best player in the league at this point, he might be the best in the country entering conference play.
  • Coaches Jockeying: Coach of the Year, on the other hand, is a much more muddled situation. At Kansas, Bill Self has taken a Kansas team savaged by graduations and early departures and led them to a 7-2 record, including a big win over Ohio State. There were some snickers when Missouri hired Frank Haith, but the Tigers are 11-0 and will likely be favored in their next month’s worth of games. Frank Martin has taken a Kansas State team without much offensive talent but has ridden defense to a 7-1 record, including a win over a good Alabama team. Their lone loss came in double overtime to future conference foe West Virginia.
  • Tolbert Under The Radar: While Quincy Miller, Deuce Bello, and LeBryan Nash have received more publicity and probably have brighter NBA futures, how about some love for Texas Tech’s Jordan Tolbert? He’s taking 34.1% of the team’s shots while on the floor, but has not wilted in the face of having to carry an offense as a freshman. Quite the opposite in fact as he’s shooting 63% and drawing an impressive five fouls per 40 minutes. Once at the line, he’s shooting 83.3%. He also leads the Red Raiders in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Texas Tech probably will finish last in the league this year, but it won’t be because of Tolbert.

Marcus Denmon Is Setting Nets Ablaze With His Shooting, But Will It Continue Into League Play?

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (10-0): The Tigers start 10-0 for the first time since joining the conference. They haven’t played the toughest of non-conference schedules, however, and will be trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s second half swoon when they lost eight of their final 14 games. I mentioned how great Marcus Denmon has been already, but don’t sleep on Kim English either: the senior is shooting 52.5% from three and has the tenth-best eFG in the country.
  2. Kansas (7-2): Kansas didn’t play last week due to pesky finals week, but while they will be hoping for good news off the court in the form of good grades, it looks like they will get a piece of good news on the court as senior guard Tyshawn Taylor, who had surgery on a torn meniscus and was expected to be out a minimum of two weeks, is now expected to play in Kansas’s game Monday against Davidson. Thomas Robinson had a similar procedure as Jayhawk with a comparable recovery time, for what it’s worth. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2011

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Kansas scored a huge win over Ohio State on Saturday. One big difference was accuracy behind the arc as the Jayhawks shot 53% from three while the Buckeyes shot just over 29%. The other key was the great defense Travis Releford displayed while guarding William Buford, limiting him to a paltry 8-23 from the field. Thomas Robinson scored 21 points on 77.8% shooting despite rumors that he was battling the flu, and Tyshawn Taylor had a career high 13 assists – against one of the best defenders in the country – all while playing with a torn meniscus.

Tyshawn Taylor Went Under The Knife Sunday, But With Finals Week And A Package Of Cupcakes On The Docket, Kansas Should Be Just Fine With Him On The Mend (Danny Medley, US Presswire)

  • Missouri keeps rolling, beating Villanova in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday and Navy on Saturday. They are currently favored by Ken Pomeroy in every game but two remaining on their schedule, and while I don’t think it will happen, there is at least a chance that they will be 22-0 on February 4 for perhaps the last border showdown ever with Kansas in Columbia. Entering this week, they are currently ranked in the top 15 nationally in the following offensive categories: adjusted efficiency, effective FG%, turnover rate, three-point percentage, two-point percentage and free throw percentage. There were a lot of questions aboutFrank Haith when he was hired, but for now, he seems to have passed the test.
  • Khris Middleton made his return to the Texas A&M lineup this weekend, scoring 24 points on 8-14 shooting (2-5 from three) and grabbing six rebounds. With Texas A&M struggling offensively despite starting the season 8-1, Middleton is just the medicine they need. And with the team being extremely effective defensively so far, perhaps the Aggies will prove to be Big 12 title contenders yet.

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (9-0) – The Tigers are fantastic offensively as I noted above, but they have struggled a bit lately on the defensive end. They allowed Villanova to score over a point per trip and they are down to 41st nationally in forcing turnovers (though if the season ended today, it would be right in line with their rate last year, when they finished ninth nationally). They’ll have two cupcakes to practice against before a big rivalry matchup with Illinois on December 22. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 5th, 2011

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9,

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • After blitzing Northwestern State on Friday, Missouri’s offense is now the fourth-best in the entire country. Oddly enough even though they have a general lack of big men, they have the second-best two point offense in the entire country (58.2%), though shooting a lot of lay-ups will do that for you. They don’t depend on just one guy either: four Tigers are averaging double digits in scoring, led by Marcus Denmon’s 20.3 ppg. Senior Kim English is also the fourth-most efficient shooter in the country.
  • From great offense to great defense. Kansas might have the worst offense of Bill Self’s tenure, but it might have the best defense. The 42 points the Jayhawks allowed to South Florida on Saturday were fewer than Kansas scored in the second half alone. They’ve gotten it done via a mixture of not letting opponents have many good looks (15th-best two-point defense) and not letting them have many second looks (22nd-best defensive rebounding).
  • This week’s most overrated yet maybe underrated team is Baylor. They’re ranked seventh in the coaches poll, but just 31st  in the KenPom ratings. The reasons why they are ranked so low there are obvious: barely scoring over a point per possession in their wins over San Diego State, South Carolina State, and UT-Arlington. It’s also why they were an underdog at Northwestern. But they also showed why they’re so easy to love: their unreal athleticism, which helped hand Northwestern its first loss via a 69-41 drubbing.
Kim English

Kim English And The Tigers Have Their Eyes On Villanova In One Of The Most Interesting Games Of The Week Monday. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (7-0): Missouri heads to the Jimmy V Classic this week to take on Villanova. Given the Wildcats’ inability to force turnovers and being not phenomenal at hanging onto it, we could get to see a lot of Tigers running up and down the floor. Both Marcus Denmon and Kim English have 22 or more threes made and English is shooting an incredible 57%. Still they seem to be the team’s only threats from beyond the arc something that bears attention.
  2. Kansas (5-2): Thomas Robinson is currently the second best defensive rebounder in the country, but hasn’t been shooting very efficiently, shooting just 46.3% from two. A match-up with Long Beach State, the team that upset Pittsburgh, on Tuesday plus a heavyweight match-up against Jared Sullinger and Ohio State on Saturday will give Robinson two big tests. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… The Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 28th, 2011

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was 

  • J’Covan Carrying Longhorns: In what could quickly turn into a weekly J’Covan Brown watch, the Texas guard had 17 in a loss to NC State and was dreadful in a closer-than-it-looked 56-40 win over Sam Houston State. Brown had exploded onto the scene early but some questions over his efficiency have cropped up again: Brown went just 3-12 from two-point range against Sam Houston State. With Texas currently ranked as the 34th best offense by Ken Pomeroy, the Longhorns need Brown, their best offensive player, to be a lot better if they want to be one of the top teams in the league this year.
  • Tigers Get ‘Em Talking: More ridiculous offense from Missouri. The Tigers played two 70-possession games this week and scored 87 and 92 points in them. That’s good against anyone. They currently have the fourth-best three point shooting team in the country and turn it over at a rate higher than just four teams. The same question – What will they do when having to play a team with some size? – will probably linger until conference play, but it’s clear over the first month of the year that their guards are as good as any backcourt in the country.
  • The Big Picture: For all the talk that the Big 12 might be down this year, it sure doesn’t seem that way, as they are 38-10 so far this year and two of those losses were Kansas’s defeats at the hands of Kentucky and Duke, both on neutral courts. The league’s two worst losses no doubt belong to Texas Tech, who has dropped games to both DePaul and Indiana State.

Marcus Denmon And The Tigers Can't Help But Give A Smirk, Considering The Buzz They've Generated So Far. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (6-0): The Missouri stat that surprised me the most this week is their rebounding numbers: The Tigers snatch just 28.4% of the available offensive rebounds, which is 270th nationally. It’s very strange that a team that thrives on pressuring opponents and forcing them to speed up would be so focused on getting back defensively rather than crashing the boards. Of course, it could be more that the team wants to set up its press, but it is something to watch for sure.
  2. Kansas (3-2): After senior Tyshawn Taylor had 11 turnovers in a hard fought Maui Invitational championship game, several Kansas fans took shots at the guard and he responded on Twitter. Thomas Robinson was named to the Maui all-tournament team after putting up double-doubles in each game, but his struggles facing double teams highlight a potential concern for the Jayhawks. If he’s not scoring efficiently, Kansas could find it extremely difficult to repeat as Big 12 champs. One possible answer is the emergence of junior Jeff Withey. Withey had 14 points and 10 rebounds against Duke and might find himself matched up with Jared Sullinger in a little over a week when the Buckeyes pay a visit to Allen Fieldhouse. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 21st, 2011

­­­­Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Texas A&M Plays Well Without Middleton: With star forward Khris Middleton out nursing a knee injury Texas A&M handled themselves well in New York, narrowly losing to Mississippi State and beating St. John’s. With Middleton out, defense has been the name of the game for the Aggies, who have not allowed an opponent to score a point per possession yet. Unfortunately for the Aggies, they only have scored more than a point per possession in two of their four games. Offensively the Aggies have rebounded reasonably well without Middleton, but have  been unable to score consistently. They had just a 46.7% eFG vs. St. John’s and a 46.3% against Mississippi State.
  • Top-Flight Tigers: Missouri has scored 83, 81, and 83 points in their first three games. Granted they have played Southeast Missouri State, Mercer, and Niagara, but with each of the games being around 70 possessions, the Tiger offense has been clicking in midseason form. They are still playing about as quickly as they did under Mike Anderson, and still are taking care of the ball extremely well (their 14.6% turnover rate is 15th-best nationally). They are only shooting 45.7% from two, however, so it will be interesting to see how well they can score when their 48.3% three point percentage regresses a bit.
  • Heavyweight Match-ups Approaching?: As I mentioned in the poll question, a number of Big 12 teams will be participating in holiday tournaments. Kansas faces Georgetown in the Maui Invitational, and with either UCLA or Chaminade waiting in the second round, a championship match-up with Duke (or perhaps a 2008 national title game rematch with Memphis) is a real possibility. Texas lost to Oregon State in the Legends Classic semifinals, but should be very encouraged by the play of J’Covan Brown, who is averaging almost 30 points per game on over 50% shooting so far this year.

Tyshawn Taylor Was KU's Top Performer In Its Loss To Kentucky Last Week.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (1-1): Despite having Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson, two enigmatic guards, as their primary ball handlers, the Jayhawks have turned it over fewer than all but four teams in the country. Oddly enough, though, they are getting their shots blocked more often than all but 15 teams in the country. Playing Kentucky will do that, but with Thomas Robinson and seven- footer Jeff Withey in the middle it should not be happening this much. The Jayhawks have been good defensively despite opponents shooting nearly 42% from three so once that regresses a bit the Jayhawks should be one of the stingiest defensive teams in America.
  2. Baylor (3-0): The Bears struggled to put San Diego State away, but with Perry Jones III suspended that is not that unexpected. Though Baylor is probably the most talented team in the conference, its ceiling is limited because of their lack of consistent guard play. Baylor is turning it over on 23.3% of their possessions so far, which is above the 20% teams generally strive to maintain. Baylor does have a lot of size and length inside though, which contributes to them allowing opponents to shoot only 34.2% from two. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2011

Steve Fetch of Rock Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can find him on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • This is of course the last year for Texas A&M to leave its mark on the Big 12, and it could be Missouri’s as well. Both teams enter the 2011-12 season with serious conference title hopes,  but each comes with some question marks. Missouri lost Laurence Bowers to an ACL injury, which really puts a strain on their interior depth. They didn’t rebound terribly well in the first place, ranking 317th nationally in defensive rebounding, and the loss of the 6’8” Bowers, who was their best returning player on the glass, won’t help. A&M meanwhile still has Khris Middleton, but do they have anyone to get him the ball? Dash Harris had a turnover rate of almost 30% last year and an assist rate of only 21%
  • Speaking of those two, the Big 12 has four new coaches this year, with Texas Tech and Oklahoma joining A&M and Missouri as teams with new head men. The Big 12 hasn’t had this many new coaches since 2007 when six of the twelve schools had first-year men on the job. I took a look at  how coaches in the Big 12 have done in their first year on the job and compared it with the historical performances of the programs who have new coaches at the helm this season, and it looks like all four could be in for rough times initially.
  • Kansas has won at least a share of the last seven Big 12 titles, but in order or the Jayhawks to make it eight, Bill Self will have to do his best coaching job yet. He lost both the Morris twins and Josh Selby to the NBA, as well as the underrated Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar to graduation. What’s more, incoming freshmen Ben McLemore, Jamari Traylor and Braeden Anderson were all deemed ineligible. Kansas still has some talent to work with, especially Thomas Robinson, who had a tremendous summer.

Even Bill Self Has Admitted That This Season Will Be A Challenge For The Perennial Blueblood

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Kansas (14-4)
  2. Baylor (13-5)
  3. Missouri (13-5)
  4. Texas A&M (12-6)
  5. Oklahoma State (10-8)
  6. Texas (9-9)
  7. Iowa State (7-11)
  8. Kansas State (5-13)
  9. Oklahoma (4-14)
  10. Texas Tech (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

This week in the Big 12 featured another upset on top along with a fair amount of jockeying in the middle as the tournament bubble becomes more and more crowded. Monday night, the Kansas Jayhawks squared off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in their last Big Monday appearance.  The news of the day surrounding the Jayhawks was the suspension of junior starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor.  Taylor remains with the team and the violation is viewed as minor, but the fact that Kansas is dealing with another player missing time down the stretch is a bit of a concern.  As for the game on the court, Kansas didn’t skip a beat and Taylor’s replacement, Elijah Johnson, scored 15 points including a perfect 4-4 performance from beyond the arc.

Tuesday featured the Iowa State Cyclones heading on the road to take on the Longhorns.  The game was never really in doubt, as Texas eventually won by 23 and got back on track following the loss to Nebraska.

Wednesday was a day that had the potential to separate those on the bubble and those slowly falling off.  Missouri faced off against Baylor in a game the Bears could have used in a big way.  However, the impressive run of the Tigers in Columbia continues and after keeping it close for a time Baylor fell apart.  For Mizzou, it was an 18-point win to move the Tigers into fourth place in the Big 12 standings.

Elsewhere, Colorado kept their slim hopes alive with a close win over Texas Tech in Lubbock.  The three-point road win moved the Buffaloes to 6-7 in the conference and 17-11 overall and while the win on its own wasn’t enough to put Colorado back in the conversation, what they would accomplish later in the week was.

The big matchup on the night featured a trip by the Kansas State Wildcats into Lincoln where Nebraska and Kansas State were both battling for more stable footing.  The Wildcats entered the game considered a team in pretty good position as far as a tournament bid, but Doc Sadler’s Husker team had a chance to boost their hopes in a big way with a win.  The game was close throughout but the Huskers could never get enough consistency on the offensive end as Kansas State would win by four.

Rounding out the Wednesday action was an easy win by Texas A&M over Oklahoma in College Station.  The Aggies have quietly separated themselves in the three spot in the league, but with two tough late season tests, Kansas State and Missouri could easily threaten that.

Saturday is always the premier day of the week in the Big 12, and just like last Saturday, the Texas Longhorns fell in an upset on the road.  Despite jumping out to a 22-point lead, the Longhorns couldn’t hold off a monster day from guard Alec Burks as Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes made their most convincing argument for the tournament bubble in a win.  As for the loss, it means that the Longhorns now sit tied with the Kansas Jayhawks on top of the league as Kansas handled Oklahoma on the road and both teams sit 12-2.

Outside of the Texas upset, there were two more minor upsets in the league when Texas A&M lost to Baylor in Waco and the Missouri Tigers fell in Manhattan.  The win by Kansas State doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as Frank Martin’s team is playing very well of late and looks like a team recovering from rock bottom in early January.

The three upsets mean that the three through seven spots in the conference are separated by just two games and all seven teams, including Colorado and Baylor, now have a very real opportunity to make a late push for another large Big 12 representation in the NCAA Tournament.

Power Rankings

Quick Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll.  They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

 1. Kansas (27-2, 12-2) – Kansas continues to be extremely efficient offensively and the door is now reopened for a seventh straight conference title.

2. Texas (24-5, 12-2) Texas loses for the second consecutive Saturday against a team in the league with a below .500 record.  The Longhorns have a few chinks in the armor of late, especially on the offensive end, but they still control their own destiny in terms of winning the league.

3. Kansas State (20-9, 8-6) One month ago, the Wildcats looked like they could very easily find themselves in the NIT.  In the last month, Jacob Pullen has started to play like the POY candidate that many expected and while Kansas State was probably overrated to start the year, they have fought their way back to reality and that puts them as a pretty good team that can make some noise in March.

4. Texas A&M (22-6, 9-5) – A&M has been flying under the radar of late and at the moment, they hold the third position in the standings, giving them that all important first day bye.  Overall though, they haven’t been as impressive as some so it drops them down a bit in the power rankings.

5. Missouri (22-7, 8-6) – Can a team win the tourney when they have been so bad away from home all year?  Honestly, Missouri does seem to sneak up on people in March so they are tough to count out, but the difference between at home and on the road is staggering.

6. Colorado (18-11, 7-7) – Colorado went from a team looking to be down for the count to a team firmly on the bubble with what amounts to a fairly impressive resume.

7. Baylor (18-10, 7-7) – Baylor continues to be as up and down as ever.  The win over Texas A&M keeps them in the hunt, but the team is definitely at risk of going from Elite 8 to NIT.

8. Nebraska (18-10, 6-8) – The loss to Kansas State is one that can be lived with, but losing to Iowa State all but ruins the Huskers hopes for a tournament bid.

9. Oklahoma State (17-11, 5-9) The Cowboys had a strong non-conference season, but they haven’t put together the conference resume to make a play.  The good news is that of the bottom four teams, the Cowboys might have the brightest future.

10. Texas Tech (12-17, 4-10) Tech didn’t win but they were close in both contests.  That’s just enough to keep them ahead of Oklahoma.  It’s still fairly amazing that Pat Knight’s name rarely comes up in any discussion of coaches on the hot seat.

11. Oklahoma (12-16, 4-10) – Another week, another two losses.  The common theme when you look at the two teams at the bottom of the Big 12 is a complete lack of depth.  The good news is that both OU and ISU look to have pieces in place to improve.

12. Iowa State (15-14, 2-12) – The Cyclones snag a second win this week and send the Huskers limping to the Big 10.

A Look Ahead

This week is HUGE for the Big 12, starting with the two teams battling it out up top.   The Texas Longhorns have games against red-hot Kansas State and a trip to Baylor remaining on the schedule.  After two consecutive Saturday losses, the confidence isn’t as high in Austin and a possible one-seed and the Big 12 title are very much at stake.

Meanwhile, the biggest competition for Texas, the Kansas Jayhawks, have two pretty tough matchups themselves.  First off the Texas A&M Aggies head into Lawrence for senior night where Kansas hasn’t lost in a very long time. The game that could be the do-or-die moment will come next Saturday when Kansas heads into Columbia where Missouri is a different team and the Tigers will be fired up as they look to keep their bitter rival from winning or sharing the league for a seventh straight season.

Tuesday night features a winnable game and really a must-win game for current bubble team Baylor.  The Bears head on the road to Stillwater and need to get a win over the Cowboys.

Wednesday night is huge for the Colorado Buffaloes as they head on the road to Ames in a game that could secure a .500 conference record.  Like Baylor, this is a must win for the Buffaloes as they currently sit on the bubble with the chance to close out strong.

Saturday, the league wraps up the regular season with Texas taking on Baylor and Kansas and Missouri locking horns, though a Nebraska/Colorado tilt could be just as big in the overall conference picture heading into March.

It’s been an incredibly balanced and unpredictable year across the Big 12 and the final week has storylines building for multiple teams.  Now it’s just a matter of who rises to the challenge.

Player of the Year Watch: One week left and the preseason pick has surged back to the front of the pack, a darkhorse candidate puts his name back in the mix and the two players on teams battling it out at the top continue to put forth a strong argument.

Marcus Morris, Kansas – (19 PPG, 7.6 RPG): Morris is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country and he has the chance to lead his team to a seventh consecutive league title and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

  1. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (21.8 PPG, 3.4 APG): Pullen is coming on strong at just the right time and might mean more to his team of late than anyone in the league.  If voting were today, Pullen would have to like his chances. How much should voters penalize him for his team’s slow start?
  2. Jordan Hamilton – (18 PPG, 7.9 RPG): Hamilton shoots just 7-24 in a loss to Colorado.  The game is another signal that as Jordan Hamilton goes offensively, so goes the fate of the entire Longhorn attack.
  3. Alec Burks, Colorado – (20.3 PPG): Burks is an impressive offensive player and without him, Colorado isn’t even close to the bubble.  He’s a big time talent and led his team to a big time win over #5 Texas.
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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

Last  week’s Big 12 schedule ended up riddled in upsets, and rather than the league providing some clarity as the NCAA Tournament approaches, the waters just got a little muddier.

The week started with a Valentine’s Day Big Monday matchup between the Kansas State Wildcats and the newly-anointed #1 Kansas Jayhawks in Manhattan.  Headed into the game, the Wildcats were in desperate need of a statement win headed toward the tourney, while the Jayhawks talked about embracing the target that comes with being named #1. The game turned out to be all Kansas State, as senior guard Jacob Pullen exploded for a career-high 38 points and the Wildcats dominated a Jayhawk team that looked complacent from the start.

Tuesday night went as expected as the Texas Tech Red Raiders lost in Columbia in a high-scoring affair against the Tigers.  The Tech effort actually provided one of the closer games for the Tigers at home this year, but the eight-point loss was just another bump in the road for a Tech team that hasn’t had much in the way of positive news this season.

On Wednesday, the Texas Longhorns took to the court knowing that taking care of business in two very winnable games during the week likely meant a top ranking to start the following week.  Against Oklahoma State in Austin, the Longhorns cruised and the Cowboys dropped to 4-7 in the conference likely dropping them off the bubble and into the group of Big 12 teams that will be NIT-bound come March.

Texas A&M turned away an Iowa State team still looking for win number two in conference play and Nebraska got a big road win in Norman over the Sooners. The win moved the Huskers to 5-6 in the conference and in the conversation with Kansas State and Colorado as a potential league representative in the tourney.  It’s definitely a bit of a reach, but in a year where college basketball is full of parity, it’s not out of the question.

Saturday tipped off with the Jayhawks rebounding from their loss to Kansas State with a blowout win over Colorado and Missouri getting their first conference road win in Ames over the Cyclones.  The big story in the early going, however, was the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  Doc Sadler and the Huskers pulled off the second big time upset of the week in conference play as they knocked off the Longhorns in a thriller in Lincoln.  The Huskers used a pesky defense and rode the energy of the home crowd to the upset and with a statement win put themselves firmly in the conversation as a fringe bubble team.

Kansas State continued their strong play of late with big win at home over the Sooners, while A&M continued to survive winning by one point over Oklahoma State in Stillwater.  Besides the Longhorn upset, another game provided a mild upset when Texas Tech went into Waco and knocked off the Baylor Bears.  Baylor now sits 6-6 in the conference with an identical record to Nebraska and Kansas State.  The biggest concern for Baylor has to be the lack of any quality wins.  In a little over a week, Baylor has gone from a team that looked to be improving and moving toward lock status, to a team sitting on the brink.  If the tourney started today Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Nebraska would be your top six teams with Baylor checking in at number seven.  That most likely doesn’t get them in.

Power Rankings

Quick Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll.  They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

  1. Texas (23-4, 11-1) – Texas dropped one on the road in Lincoln, but they retain the top spot because it was a game where they fought for 40 minutes and it just wasn’t their day.
  2. Kansas (25-2, 11-1) – Kansas was manhandled in Manhattan and didn’t put up much of a fight.  They looked great on Saturday at home against a mediocre opponent, but the manner of the loss on Monday keeps them at #2.
  3. Texas A&M (11-5, 8-4) – A&M continues to win albeit by a very slim margin.  Still the Aggies have won on the road more often than the Tigers and that puts them at #3 for now.
  4. Missouri Tigers (21-6, 7-5) – Two wins this week for the Tigers and their first conference road win against last place Iowa State.  That doesn’t necessarily change the concern over the Tigers’ play away from Columbia, but it’s a start.
  5. Kansas State (18-9, 6-6) – The Wildcats were on the ropes headed into the week, but after a win over # 1 Kansas, they now seem firmly in control of their NCAA Tournament hopes. K-State is #5 right now in the conference if the tournament selection show were today.
  6. Nebraska (18-8, 6-6) – A big win over Texas and the Huskers now sit 6-6 with a real chance to play themselves into the NCAA Tournament.  Doc Sadler plays a tough physical defensive game and it’s winning basketball games in Lincoln.
  7. Baylor (17-9, 6-6) – Baylor losing to Texas Tech at home is a pretty big blow at this point.  The Bears can’t claim any marquee wins and they have more “bad” losses than Kansas State and Nebraska.
  8. Colorado (16-11, 5-7 Big 12) – Colorado was in a position to make a play, but the schedule isn’t kind down the stretch.  Right now, they are probably a longshot tourney team, but they’ll have to run the table.
  9. Oklahoma State (16-10, 4-8) The Cowboys can’t seem to catch a break and continue to lose close games in tough situations.  Help is on the way in Stillwater, but this year has been a struggle.
  10. Texas Tech (12-15, 4-8) – Tech got a pretty nice win on the road in Waco this week and actually proved pretty competitive in Columbia which is no easy task.  One tick up in the power polls as a result.
  11. Oklahoma (12-14, 4-8) – Two losses for the Sooners this week and they drop from a potential middle tier Big 12 team back to the bottom.
  12. Iowa State (14-13, 1-11 Big 12) – Things just aren’t getting any better in Ames.  It’s a long season when you have such a lean bench.

A Look Ahead

  • Monday brings another Big Monday in Lawrence as Kansas welcomes the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  Bill Self has had his struggles against his alma mater, and at this point, the role of spoiler is all the Cowboys have to play for.
  • Tuesday night, Texas will play host to the Iowa State Cyclones in Austin in their first game since losing to the Huskers in Lincoln.  The Longhorns are still playing for the outright conference title and with four losses they are the team with the most losses that is still being mentioned in terms of a potential number one seed.
  • Wednesday night, Kansas State heads to Lincoln in a game that means a great deal for Nebraska, but  also has implications for the Wildcats as well.  While most believe Kansas State is fairly secure as a fifth Big 12 team in the tournament a win helps improve their seeding while a win for Nebraska is another big feather in the cap of Doc Sadler as he looks to take the Cornhuskers to the tourney in their final year in the Big 12.
  • Wednesday night games also include Oklahoma heading to Texas A&M, Colorado heading to Lubbock and the unpredictable but talented Baylor Bears traveling to Columbia where the Tigers are undefeated on the season.
  • Saturday once again sees all 12 teams in action with the Kansas Jayhawks and Texas Longhorns going on the road in games they are expected to win against Oklahoma and Colorado, respectively.  The Longhorn trip to Boulder is probably the more dangerous of the two as the Buffs have NBA talent.  The big question will be whether or not they can defend well enough to slow the Longhorns.
  • Missouri travels to Manhattan for a tough contest against K-State in a matchup that is slowly growing into a rivalry.  While neither team hates the other in the way they hate Kansas, this is a game that has become competitive and relevant in recent years.
  • Elsewhere, Texas A&M heads to Waco for a game against BaylorTexas Tech and Oklahoma State square off in Stillwater in a game that holds little significance.  And lastly Nebraska gets another chance to boost the resume when they travel to Iowa State with a chance at another conference road win against the Cyclones.

Player of the Year Watch

With two weeks to go, this is down to a three-man race.   Two players with teams at the top and one player who’s overcome his fair share of struggle and become a better player and leader for it.

Power Ranking Style and Based on Conference Play

  1. Jordan Hamilton – (17.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG): Not a great week for Hamilton, but he’s still the best player on the best team in the conference.
  2. Marcus Morris, Kansas – (18.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG): Statistically, Morris is still impressive, and he’s by far the most versatile.  But will the perception that he lacks leadership hurt his chances?
  3. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (21.2 PPG, 3.6 APG): Pullen exploded on Monday against Kansas with 38 points, but what was even more impressive is how he was able to step back and elevate others around him in the second half while Kansas State kept their foot firmly on the gas.  Pullen has put himself firmly back in the conversation for the postseason award.
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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 14th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

  • This week’s Big 12 play kicked off with a Big Monday matchup between Kansas and Missouri as part of ESPN’s Rivalry Week.  The Tigers and Jayhawks both entered the Monday night matchup ranked in the top 25 with Kansas checking in at #2 and the Tigers at #20.  As has been the case over the past few meetings between these two programs at Allen Fieldhouse, it was all Kansas in a game that saw plenty of offense and a final score of 103-86.
  • Wednesday night, Texas handled another Big 12 opponent with ease, beating Oklahoma by 16, while Nebraska gave Baylor all they could handle before the Bears would secure a four-point win and position themselves for a tournament bid.   In Boulder, the Colorado Buffaloes played with a lead for much of the game before losing by three in overtime to Mark Turgeon’s Texas A&M Aggies.  With the win, Turgeon gets the best of former teammate Tad Boyle in the first and last meeting between the two coaches as Big 12 foes.
  • Saturday paved the way for the Big 12 to have the #1 and #2 teams in the country following Ohio State’s loss to Wisconsin and both Kansas and Texas made their case.  The Jayhawks continued a hot stretch offensively in a dismantling of the Iowa State Cyclones while Texas fought off an upset bid by Baylor to win by nine and end a four-game losing streak to the in-state rival.
  • Missouri got back on track with a big win over Oklahoma at home.  The Tigers continue to look like a completely different team in Columbia than they are on the road.  The Aggies won their second close one this week on the road with a late win over Pat Knight’s Texas Tech squad.
  • Doc Sadler and Nebraska kept their slim postseason hopes alive with a win over Oklahoma State in Lincoln.  Both teams now sit at 4-6.  The other two teams in the conversation for a potential sixth Big 12 bid are Colorado and Kansas State.  The Wildcats made a last-second three pointer that was later determined to come after the buzzer, giving the Buffaloes a late win in the game in Boulder despite seeing very little in the way of production from star Alec Burks.

Power Rankings

Quick Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll.  They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

  1. Texas (22-3, 10-0) – Texas continues to cruise and the Longhorns have their eyes on an undefeated conference run.
  2. Kansas (24-1, 9-1) – Kansas remains on a hot stretch on the offensive end and might find themselves playing with the #1 ranking this week.
  3. Baylor (16-8, 6-5) – Baylor looks to be developing of late and with all that talent, they have a chance to be dangerous. It’s still a work in progress but a good showing against Texas in Austin helps the argument for the Bears.
  4. Texas A&M (19-5, 6-4) – A&M gets two tight wins on the road and turns the momentum back in the right direction heading down the stretch.
  5. Missouri (19-6, 5-5) – New week, same story.  The Tigers can’t win on the road.  The schedule becomes a little more forgiving over the next few games, and it might be a good opportunity for the Tigers to get that first road win and make a push for a first-day bye at the Big 12 tourney.
  6. Colorado (16-10, 5-6) – Colorado takes A&M to overtime and gets a nice win over Kansas State.  Right now they have an ever-so-slight edge in the race for sixth in the conference, which might also signal the last bid for the conference come NCAA Tournament time.
  7. Nebraska (16-8, 4-6) – The Huskers are a sleeper team in the four-way race for #6 and they currently hold wins over two of the other three teams, with victories over Colorado and Oklahoma State.
  8. Kansas State (16-9, 4-6) After a LONG week off, the Wildcats lose to Colorado in a heartbreaker on the road.  Rumors ran wild as to the status of senior Curtis Kelly, and the year that was supposed to be special is truly on the brink.  A big opportunity comes on Monday with Kansas coming to town.
  9. Oklahoma State (16-8, 4-6) The Cowboys dropped their only game on the week and have a bit of inner turmoil with some off-court issues.  It will be interesting to see how well Travis Ford can hold things together.
  10. Oklahoma (12-12, 4-6) – The Sooners lose to the Longhorns and the Tigers; no shame in that.  Jeff Capel has done better than expected but OU isn’t there yet.
  11. Texas Tech (11-14, 3-7) – Another almost for the Red Raiders as they take A&M to the wire but can’t squeak out a win.
  12. Iowa State (14-11, 1-9) – No depth and it’s finally caught up.  Fred Hoiberg’s team never quits, but they just don’t have the horses to keep up this season.

A Look Ahead

  • The week in the Big 12 kicks off with Kansas heading to Manhattan for a Big Monday matchup against Kansas State.  The Wildcats will be hungry for revenge after a recent blowout in Lawrence and the Jayhawks might head into this one as the top ranked team in the nation.
  • A rare set of Tuesday games keeps things going with Texas Tech heading on the road to face Missouri and Baylor playing a mid-year cupcake against Wayland Baptist.
  • If the Jayhawks aren’t number one, it could be the Texas Longhorns who carry that title.  Texas tips off Wednesday night at home against Oklahoma State, while Iowa State heads to College Station and the Cornhuskers look for another resume-building win on the road at Oklahoma.
  • Saturday sees all 12 teams in action once again and it’s a weekend that could provide some separation at the six spot.  Colorado has to travel to Lawrence while Nebraska hosts Texas.  A&M goes on the road to Oklahoma State while Kansas State hosts Oklahoma.  Again, OSU, KSU, Nebraska and Colorado could all by vying for a final NCAA bid and all four will be tested on Saturday.
  • Rounding out the action on Saturday is a trip by the Missouri Tigers into Ames, where they’ll look to get their first conference road win against the last place Cyclones.  If the Tigers can’t pull off a win in Hilton, they might have to start concerning themselves a little more with postseason seeding.   The last game on the day is between Texas Tech and Baylor in Waco, as the Bears look to further cement that #3 spot in the conference.

Player of the Year Watch

Power Ranking Style and Based on Conference Play

  1. Jordan Hamilton – (17.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG): Hamilton keeps plugging along on a great Texas team in the hunt for an undefeated conference season and a #1 seed come tourney time.
  2. Marcus Morris, Kansas – (18.7 PPG, 8 RPG): Morris and Kansas are hot right now, playing lights-out on the offensive end.  The Jayhawks could soon be the #1 team in the nation and Morris is a big reason why.
  3. Alec Burks, Colorado – (20.2, PPG, 7.9 RPG): Burks had an off night against Kansas State but Colorado pulled off a win anyway securing the season sweep of the Wildcats and keeping the Buffalo postseason hopes alive.
  4. LaceDarius Dunn – (18.7 PPG): Dunn is starting to assert himself and Baylor is playing better.  The Bears sit in the top 4 of the conference and are starting to look more like a tournament lock than a team lost.
  5. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (18.9 PPG, 3.5 APG): Pullen keeps fighting, but the Wildcats are facing the very real possibility of an NIT bid come March.
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