Two Burning Questions: Previewing Texas vs. Kentucky

Posted by David Changas & Brian Goodman on December 5th, 2014

The slow build of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge will finally reach a crescendo tonight as the long-awaited battle between Kentucky and Texas tips off at 7:00 ET. RTC contributors Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and David Changas (@dchangas) are here to break down the showdown between two of the longest and strongest frontcourts in college basketball.

BG: One of the many things that makes this match-up so enticing is that Kentucky will finally go toe-to-toe with one of the few frontcourts around that can match its size down low. The Longhorns lead the nation in blocked shots, and for the tempo-inclined, own the country’s third-best block percentage, swatting 20.3 percent of their opponents’ shots. On offense, Jonathan Holmes, Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner haven’t always been the most efficient group, but collectively, they can score in virtually any way imaginable — shooting from deep, slashing to the rim, or posting up on the blocks. How do you think the Wildcats will look to contain that trio?

Myles Turner has feasted on inferior competition, but has yet to break out against a team with comparable talent. Will tonight be the night? (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Myles Turner has feasted on inferior competition, but has yet to break out against a team with comparable talent. Will tonight be the night? (Jim Rogash/Getty)

DC: It’s hard to imagine a better match-up of frontcourts in all of college basketball. The challenge the Longhorns will present Kentucky is one the Wildcats haven’t faced thus far, and likely won’t face again all year long. What makes Holmes and Turner so dangerous is how good they have been from the perimeter – the duo is a combined 18-of-39 from three-point range –  and it will be interesting to see how the Wildcats deal with players who can draw their big men outside. If they can hit some early shots, that should open things up for the Texas guards. Given the unique problems Holmes and Turner present, John Calipari might need to mix and match his lineups a bit more than he has thus far. As for Ridley, he needs to do a better job on the glass than he has done thus far, as Kentucky leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (48.1%). Of course, another major advantage the Wildcats have with so much interior depth is that Calipari does not have to worry about foul trouble, whereas Texas has to be quite careful to avoid it.

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Big 12 M5: 12.05.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 5th, 2014

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  1. The Naismith Trophy Top 50 watch list was released on Wednesday, and the Big 12 had nine players make the cut. They are: Kansas’ Cliff Alexander, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, Iowa State’s Georges Niang, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, and Texas’ Isaiah Taylor and Myles Turner. Some of these guys have better chances of winning the trophy than others; for example, it’s hard to imagine Selden or Hield doing so after poor shooting starts this season, but the freshman Turner could very well win this award. Turner is seventh in the nation in block percentage (16%) and has blocked at least five shots in three games already. Ellis hasn’t been too bad, either, as the senior is averaging 15.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG and ranks eighth on Ken Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year watch list.
  2. Gary Parrish over at CSBSports.com updated his Top 25 (And One) yesterday (like he does every morning) and Kansas (#8) and Texas (#9) each jumped up a spot in his daily rankings. West Virginia (#18) and Oklahoma (#19) were the other two Big 12 schools on his list, but all this will change soon. Kansas takes on Florida tonight in Allen Fieldhouse; Texas takes on No. 1 Kentucky in Lexington; and West Virginia lost at home to LSU last night. Oklahoma should take care of Missouri tonight in Norman, and Kansas will probably win a close one against the Gators. Texas is the team I’m most intrigued about, though — if the Longhorns play Kentucky close or somehow manage to win the game, they might be reasonably considered the favorites to win the Big 12 this season.
  3. Will the Big 12 win the SEC/Big 12 Challenge? ESPN‘s Andy Katz thinks so, and he doesn’t think it will be close. Texas Tech started things off with an ugly 46-44 win over Auburn on Wednesday night, and the Big 12 went 3-1 last night: TCU beat Ole Miss; Baylor beat Vanderbilt; and Iowa State beat Arkansas. LSU was the lone SEC school to pick up a win after beating West Virginia in Morgantown. Things pick up tonight, with the elite programs battling it out. I think Kansas and Oklahoma help improve the Big 12’s lead while Kentucky beats Texas by 10 points.
  4. There was always a distinct possibility that Iowa State would run Arkansas out of the gym last night. The Razorbacks play as quickly as almost anybody (12th in the country in adjusted tempo) and rely on turnovers via their full-court press to fuel their offense. If that doesn’t happen, though, a team like Iowa State can thrive. That’s exactly what happened as the Cyclones dropped 95 points on the Hawgs in a 95-77 win. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Georges Niang combined for 53 points in one of the fastest games of the season, and the Cyclones improved to 5-1.
  5. Last night was definitely a big setback for a rising West Virginia team. The Mountaineers came into their meeting with LSU undefeated, were up five points at halftime, and led by as many as 14 points in the second half. However, a layup by Josh Gray with 7.3 seconds left gave the Tigers the 74-73 win. West Virginia was ranked #16 going into the game but they will probably drop significantly next week as a result. Depending on what happens with LSU, this could end up being a costly loss for the Mountaineers down the road. LSU’s best win before last night came against UMass earlier this week, and they have already dropped games to Old Dominion and Clemson.

 

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Evaluating the Kansas Backcourt a Month Into the Season

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 4th, 2014

It has now been 16 days since Kansas suffered its worst loss of the Bill Self era, a 72-40 clubbing at the hands of the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats. Luckily for Jayhawks fans, the team has rebounded about as nicely as you could expect, winning four straight, including an Orlando Classic title after a five-point victory of Michigan State on Sunday. Still, there are plenty of questions about this team. Will Perry Ellis continue his recent surge when faced with bigger frontcourts? Will Kelly Oubre impress Self enough to earn decent minutes? What exactly is wrong with Wayne Selden? There is one thing we know for certain, though: Sophomore point guard Frank Mason III looks like the guy who will lead this team going forward. Since a disastrous outing at the Champions Classic where he was 1-of-10 from the field and largely invisible in his 32 minutes, Mason has made a strong case to become Self’s starting point guard. He has a 134.5 offensive rating since the Kentucky game, a very good mark for someone who uses fewer than 20 percent of his team’s possessions.

Frank Mason looks like Bill Self's man at point guard. (USATSI)

Frank Mason III looks like Bill Self’s man at point guard. (USATSI)

I don’t want to discount the night against Kentucky out of hand, though, because maybe it was indicative of how Mason will perform against the highest level of Division I competition. But Mason has been miles ahead of Devonte’ Graham, a player who many thought could supplant Mason in the starting lineup at some point this season. Self doesn’t appear to see it that way, as Graham has only played 13.4 MPG thus far and is no realistic threat to take Mason’s job from him anytime soon. In Orlando last week, Mason looked nothing like the player who went barreling into the lane with no apparent plan against the Wildcats. Instead, he picked his spots for aggressiveness, shooting 11-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point range over three games. He also grabbed 10 rebounds in the match-up against Michigan State and averaged 5.6 APG. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.03.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 3rd, 2014

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  1. A surprise to few after his big weekend in the Orlando Classic, Kansas forward Perry Ellis was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday. Ellis scored at least 17 points in all four games last week, which was capped off with a win over Michigan State on Sunday. Ellis, who is now averaging 18.8 PPG and 7.5 RPG on the season, is also ninth in Ken Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year rankings. While in Orlando, Ellis shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and was named tournament MVP. He had a pretty good Feast Week.
  2. West Virginia forward Jonathan Holton also received honors from the Big 12, being named conference Newcomer of the Week. The junior college transfer already has two double-doubles on the season and is a big reason why the Mountaineers have raised quite a few eyebrows around the Big 12 with their 7-0 start. Last week Holton averaged 17.5 PPG and 8.0 RPG in a pair of West Virginia wins, and he is averaging 12.9 PPG on the season. West Virginia hosts LSU Thursday night in Morgantown.
  3. Iowa State was a sexy pick to compete and potentially win the Big 12 this season, and so long as Fred Hoiberg and Georges Niang are still in Ames, it is not a terrible prediction. But after losing to Maryland last week, the Cyclones slipped quite a bit in the weekly polls. “Guys really forgot how much hard work it was to be how good we were last year,” Niang told Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. The Cyclones rebounded nicely last night, dropping 96 points in a 37-point beat down of Lamar, and are set to face Arkansas tomorrow night in what should be one of the more exciting non-conference games around the Big 12.
  4. Brian Spaen over at ClonesConfidential.com has a fair Big 12 Power Rankings heading into this week. Undefeated Texas tops the list, while Kansas follows the Longhorns in second place. We should have a somewhat good idea of where both teams stand after Texas travels to Lexington to take on Kentucky on Friday night. If (when) the Longhorns don’t lose by 32 to the Wildcats, it won’t mean they are the difference better than Kansas; but how the Texas front line handles Kentucky’s size could tell us how they might fare against Kansas in their two (possibly three) upcoming meetings this season.
  5. Kansas State didn’t have the best trip to Maui last week. The Wildcats played Arizona tough in the semifinals, but ended up losing their last two games on the island. They are now 3-3 on the year and have a few potentially tough non-conference games remaining, beginning at Tennessee on Saturday. “We’ve just got to keep moving forward,” senior forward Thomas Gipson told Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star on Monday. The four-point loss to Arizona was followed by a 23-point blowout against Pittsburgh, before they got back in the win column in Manhattan against Nebraska-Omaha last night. The Wildcats don’t look like a team capable of winning the Big 12 championship, but they have several more opportunities to pile up solid wins before heading into conference play.
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Grading the Big 12’s Feast Week Performances

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2014

With much of the Big 12 participating in competitive, neutral-court tournaments last week, we were able to get a solid litmus test for most of the conference’s squads. All in all, the league had a good showing, but it wasn’t spectacular. Here are some grades relative to how each team was expected to perform during Feast Week:

  • Texas (wins vs. St. Francis and UConn): A. In the Longhorns’ first action since Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist (minus the game against Cal the following night at MSG), Rick Barnes’ team rolled over the Red Flash without a problem, as they were paced by Myles Turner’s 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. All they did was follow that up by handing UConn its first non-conference loss at Gampel Pavilion since 1993, when current Husky guard Sam Cassell, Jr.’s dad helped Florida State beat UConn in Storrs. Big ups go out to Jonathan Holmes, who, with this game-winner from Sunday, is now shooting an eye-popping 61.9% from distance.
Jonathan Holmes' late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated.

Jonathan Holmes’ late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated. (Getty)

  • Kansas (wins over Rhode Island, Tennessee and Michigan State in the Orlando Classic): A-. After the big Kentucky loss, Kansas’ last game against venerable competition before the holiday weekend, the Jayhawks had their fair share of unanswered questions. With this still being the first week in December, the rotation still has some kinks to iron out, but fans should be happy about Perry Ellis‘ improved rebounding to complement his scoring ability as well as Frank Mason‘s overall progress, though I’m still a little bearish because we’ve seen both these movies before and because I’m not sure Michigan State is all that good. The keys moving forward are whether Ellis and Mason can maintain that level of play, and whether Bill Self‘s leash on Cliff Alexander has truly lengthened. It would also be helpful if Wayne Selden could bust out of a big scoring funk (6.8 PPG on 24.1% shooting over his last four games).

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Big 12 M5: 12.01.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 1st, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas defeated Michigan State 61-56 yesterday to win the Orlando Classic and improve to 5-1 on the season, thanks largely to 17 year-old Ukranian Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. The would-be junior in high school had 11 points in the win and is quickly becoming the Jayhawks’ best shooter. “He can really shoot the basketball,” Bill Self told the Kansas City Star‘s Rustin Dodd after the game. “But he’s really become a really good defender, and he understands what we’re trying to do for the most part.” Mykhailiuk started the last few games and might be starting to come into his own. He was 4-of-10 from the field and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.
  2. If you missed seventh-ranked Texas‘ last-second win over UConn yesterday morning, you missed a good one. Jonathan Holmes knocked down a corner three-pointer with two seconds left to give the Longhorns the 55-54 victory over the #24 Huskies in Storrs. The play was originally designed for freshman center Myles Turner, but when nothing developed it left Holmes with a good look from the corner. There is still plenty of improvements to be made, however, according to head coach Rick Barnes. “I told the team in the locker room that the only time they really listened and did what we asked was the last play,” Barnes told AP writer Pat Eaton-Robb. The 6-0 Longhorns take on No. 1 Kentucky on Friday in Lexington.
  3. Speaking of undefeated teams, the West Virginia Mountaineers have looked like a team that could surprise people when Big 12 play begins next month. Like Texas, The 7-0 Mountaineers also have a win over Uconn as well as wins over George Mason and Boston College. There is a decent chance Bob Huggins and Co. are undefeated heading into the conference season. Unknown players like Jonathan Holton, Jevon Carter, and Daxter Miles, Jr. have had their moments, but as Connor Murray points out, junior guard Jaysean Paige might be the most important piece to the puzzle. Paige is 10-22 from three-point range this season and is averaging 7.3 PPG.
  4. Yes, even TCU is undefeated this season as well. The 7-0 Horned Frogs aren’t expected to make much noise this season, and that is probably still the case. But they already have wins over power-5 teams Washington State and Mississippi State. If they can beat Ole Miss in Oxford on Thursday, they should have a good chance to go 13-0 out of conference. I don’t know if you had TCU and West Virginia facing off in the battle of the unbeatens on Jan. 3, but I certainly didn’t. Kyan Anderson leads the team in points (12.7 PPG) and assists (3.7 APG), and the Horned Frogs most recently claimed the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic championship over the weekend.
  5. Under head coach Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State has been known as a team that will bomb away from deep, getting hot enough to beat anyone in the country but with the potential to cool off and lose to just about anyone. But as Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune points out, the Cyclones are capable of having a legitimate presence down low this season. When 6’9″ forward Jameel McKay becomes eligible at the semester’s end, Iowa State might have someone who can compliment the bevy of perimeter talent. If that happens, the Cyclones should compete for the Big 12 title. If not, they should hope their perimeter-oriented ways will carry them through the grueling double round-robin of Big 12 play.
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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Orlando Classic

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 27th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, this time with Kansas in the Orlando Classic.

Catching Up: Bill Self claimed that his team would eventually forget all about that 32-point drubbing at the hands of Kentucky last week in the Champions Classic. An Orlando Classic championship would certainly help. So far, the Jayhawks have really only proved they can beat bad teams, defeating UC-Santa Barbara and Rider at home. Self has mixed up his starting lineup so far and its unclear if or when he will settle on the same five guys every night. Junior forward Perry Ellis leads the team with 11.3 PPG. Five-star freshman forward Cliff Alexander is second on the team with 5.3 RPG and had 10 points on 4-4 shooting in just 13 minutes earlier this week against Rider. Freshman point guard Devonte Graham sat out last game with a sprained shoulder, but he should be able to go this week in Orlando. Ukrainian freshman guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk received his first career start against Rider and did not disappoint, going 4-for-7 from the field with 10 points and five rebounds.

Bill Self is still trying to find the right rotation this year. (KUSports.com)

Bill Self is still trying to find the right rotation this year. (KUSports.com)

Opening Round Preview: The Jayhawks open up the tournament against Rhode Island, an undefeated Atlantic-10 club which most recently defeated #21 Nebraska. The Rams are 13th in the country with 45 RPG and are led in scoring by sophomore guard E.C Mathews, who is averaging 16.3 PPG. Mathews had 26 points in the win over Nebraska, but it took him 20 shots to get there. As a team the Rams are first in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (19.1) and their opponents have shot just 20.7 percent from three. They haven’t done much better themselves, however, shooting 21.9 percent from beyond the arc through three games. In the win over Nebraska, both teams combined to shoot 6-39 from three-point range. It’s hard to imagine Rhode Island staying in this game if Kansas can reach the 70-point mark. The Rams scored 72 against Umass-Lowell and 53 in regulation against Nebraska. They were able to win both games because of their defense, and they will have to play even better defensively to keep the Jayhawks in that neighborhood.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Oklahoma in the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Chris Stone on November 26th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, this time with Oklahoma in the Bahamas.  

Catching Up: Oklahoma opened its season led by an impressive performance from junior Buddy Hield. Hield, a likely All-Big 12 first teamer, scored 25 points and hit seven 3-pointers in the Sooners’ 25 point win over Southeastern Louisiana. However, Oklahoma stumbled on the road against Creighton in their second game when they gave up an 18 point lead in the second half and fell to the Bluejays in Omaha. OU bounced back against Northwestern State behind 20 points from junior Isaiah Cousins. The addition of TaShawn Thomas gave the Sooners one of the best starting fives in the Big 12 and although Thomas hasn’t lived up to the expectations yet (averaging just 8.0 points 4.3 rebounds per game), expect him to get acclimated to coach Lon Kruger’s system in the near future.

Buddy Hield will lead Oklahoma into the Battle 4 Atlantis

Buddy Hield will lead Oklahoma into the Battle 4 Atlantis

Opening Round Preview: Oklahoma opens the tournament on Wednesday afternoon when they square off with Steve Alford’s UCLA squad.  Alford has his team playing well and ranked in both of the top 25 polls. The Bruins have started the season with one of the top 10 offenses in the country according to KenPom with five players averaging double figure points through four games. Two of those players, Bryce Alford and Norman Powell, are scoring over 20 points per game. The good news for Oklahoma is that the Bruins have played one of the worst schedules in Division I so far. UCLA’s first four games rank 328th in strength of schedule according to KenPom. On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma should be able to challenge the perimeter players of UCLA with the likes of Hield, Cousins, and Jordan Woodard. The Sooners possess the outside shooting (40.9 percent on 3-pointers) to challenge the Bruins should Steve Alford choose to play zone and are balanced enough with the addition of Thomas against a man-to-man defense. With two high powered offenses, this contest will likely be a fan-pleasing, high-scoring affair. A win would bolster the resume of either team and, in particular, would be a great way for the Sooners to bounce back from their defeat at Creighton.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Iowa State in the CBE Hall Of Fame Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, continuing with Iowa State in Kansas City. 

Outlook: The Cyclones are one of a handful of power conference teams that have only played two games, but we still have a pretty good read on what they’re all about: spacing the floor in halfcourt sets, offensive rebounding and scoring in transition. In that regard, they’re off to a very good start, scoring 1.08 points per possession through two fast-paced games. Monte Morris has had an especially nice start to the season, averaging 16.5 points and six assists per game against just two total turnovers, What’s especially interesting about Iowa State’s offense so far is that its bench has scored only nine points, but with Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader returning from suspension on Monday in Kansas City, Fred Hoiberg‘s core of reserves should get a lift.

Georges Niang and the Cyclones look to boost their case a Big 12 contender this week in Kansas City. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Georges Niang and the Cyclones look to boost their case a Big 12 contender this week in Kansas City. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Opening Round Preview: Iowa State is the clear favorite in this event, and they’ll start off against Alabama. Anthony Grant needs a big season to ward off criticism, and a win over Iowa State in a venue where the Cyclones have won their last three games would definitely help towards that end. The Crimson Tide have taken care of business against some lowly competition, but defensive rebounding and two-point field goal defense have been problematic. The first issue shouldn’t pose a huge matchup problem for ISU, but Georges NiangBryce Dejean-Jones and Morris should definitely be able to exploit the holes in Alabama’s defense to get buckets. Defensively, the Cyclones will need to beware of a potent Alabama offense, but the Crimson Tide aren’t so good that they can match Iowa State in a track meet. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kansas State Feast Week Assignment: Maui Invitational

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 24th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, beginning with Kansas State in Maui. 

Catching Up: Kansas State travels to the Maui Invitational with plenty of questions still unanswered. The Wildcats beat up on Southern Utah, played UMKC closer than fans probably expected (winning by 10), and lost on the road at Long Beach State, 69-60, on Friday. The Wildcats have a solid core of Marcus Foster, Thomas Gipson, Nino Williams, Stephen Hurt and Nigel Johnson, and are good (but not great) in most offensive categories. Thomas Gipson leads the team with 17.0 PPG and 6.7 RPG.

Marcus Foster will need a few big games to give Kansas State a Maui Invitational championship.

Marcus Foster will need a few big games to give Kansas State a Maui Invitational championship.

Opening Game Preview: The Wildcats will face Purdue today and if they win they will face the winner of the Missouri/Arizona game tomorrow. Purdue is 3-0 but hasn’t been tested, with wins over Samford, IUPUI, and Grambling State. The Boilermakers are led by a trio of players averaging double-figures, center Isaac Haas (11.3 PPG), forward Kendall Stephens (13.3 PPG), and guard Vince Edwards (13.7 PPG). KenPom, however, shows us that sophomore guard Bryson Scott is the focal point of Purdue’s offense. He leads the team with a usage rate of 29.8 percent, meaning that nearly a third of Purdue’s possessions have ended because of Scott’s activity. Expect to see the ball in Scott’s hands more than anyone else today — through three games, he is averaging 6.7 PPG with a 35.7 shooting percentage.

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Big 12 M5: 11.24.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2014

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  1. In an early but big game for Bob Huggins and West Virginia, the Mountaineers impressed by beating defending national champions Connecticut, 78-68, in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Sunday night. The victory was keyed by a 17-4 run midway through the first half, and big games from Juwan Staten (21 points) and the Mountaineer defense, which forced 19 Husky turnovers, were especially crucial. Without a slate full of formidable non-con opponents, the win was very important for WVU from a resume standpoint. West Virginia can breathe easy for now, as they should have little trouble passing their next two tests, which come against VMI and the College Of Charleston.
  2. Amid the fallout for Kansas from last week’s shellacking at the hands of Kentucky was a minor injury, as it was revealed that freshman Devonte’ Graham sprained his shoulder in the loss. The injury isn’t said to be serious and it sounds like Graham will be ready for this week’s Orlando Classic, but with point guard play continuing to be a question, any development that brings more uncertainty to the picture isn’t good. If Mason shows any lingering symptoms, it will be interesting to see what the Jayhawks can get from Frank Mason.
  3. Oklahoma State big man Michael Cobbins was welcomed back to the team with open arms and showed that he was ready to go with a very solid performance against Milwaukee Friday night. Cobbins was sidelined for the Cowboys’ first three games of the season due to an NCAA ruling, but chipped in 15 points to go along with six rebounds, three blocks and a steal in an 82-68 win in his season debut against the Panthers. Oklahoma State now has everyone available as they gear up for a semifinal match-up tonight against Oregon State in the MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas. They’ll play either Auburn or Tulsa in the final or consolation round on Wednesday.
  4. Obvious as it is, we’ve talked several times about how important it is for Kansas State to avoid the kind of non-con gaffes that sent them scrambling into February to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. As it turns out, Bruce Weber‘s team didn’t listen to us, as it took a 69-60 road loss to Long Beach State on Friday night. Beating Purdue in today’s opening round of the Maui Invitational now becomes more meaningful than it was before, not so much because it would restore confidence in the Wildcats, but because it would set up a likely second-round match-up with No. 2 Arizona, where a win would do wonders for their tournament resume.
  5. Just in time for Feast Week, Iowa State will get a pair of reinforcements back tonight as Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas are now eligible to play in games. Both Nader and Thomas sat out the Cyclones’ first two games after separate run-ins with the law resulted in alcohol-related citations. We will have a full breakdown on what to expect from Iowa State in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic this week, but at the very least, Nader and Thomas can bring some offense to the Cyclone bench, which has scored just nine points so far this season.
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Texas Makes Its Case For Best Defensive Team in the Country

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 22nd, 2014

Fresh off an underdog Sweet Sixteen run at Tennessee, California head coach Cuonzo Martin got a different taste of the national spotlight with his new program by beating Syracuse in its home away from home, Madison Square Garden. The Golden Bears, led by a trio of guards who accounted for 48 of the team’s 73 points, relentlessly attacked and picked apart the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense with quick passing and sharp shooting. While many spent the next 24 hours attributing the win to Syracuse’s disappointing performance rather than Cal’s own doing, there was no denying the host of talented players Martin had in his hands. The plan was to take this newfound momentum and showcase the shooting prowess of Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird.

Texas Looked Very Impressive in NYC This Week (USA Today)

Texas Looked Very Impressive in NYC This Week (USA Today)

Texas was having none of it. And neither was senior forward Jonathan Holmes. Head coach Rick Barnes made his game plan clear from the start: Attack the middle and force Cal’s guards off the perimeter. This meant more interior passes to the Bears’ less talented forwards, and unlike Syracuse, whose big men were mostly inexperienced or physically soft, Texas has a wealth of size and talent in the frontcourt. As a team, Texas recorded 16 blocks in the two preceding games, and for a California team with just two players over 6’6″ receiving meaningful minutes, that meant trouble.

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