Big 12 M5: 01.29.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 29th, 2016

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  1. Some breaking news hit our timeline last night as West Virginia big man/key to “Press Virginia” Jonathan Holton has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Rumors of a suspension have been floated around Twitter on Thursday but it was officially confirmed by Mike Casazza of the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Casazza went on to say that the team knew about the suspension as early as Wednesday and even held practice on Thursday. Holton’s potential three-game suspension comes at a suboptimal time for the Mountaineers – in the next eight days, Bob Huggins’ team will play games at Florida and Iowa State and home against Baylor.
  2. Also yesterday, 2016 blue chip center Udoka Azubuike announced he will be playing basketball for Kansas next fall. Two days ago, the Jacksonville, Florida native said he wanted to make his college decision “really soon” and, well, he did. Azubuike, a five-star recruit according to Rivals and ESPN, chose the Jayhawks over North Carolina and Florida State. He was also named to the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games. KU appears to have itself another pretty good big man.
  3. It turns out Iowa State will indeed have Jameel McKay available for Saturday’s game at Texas A&M. McKay left the Kansas game on Monday night with a knee injury and did not return. Doctors did not detect any structural damage, but did find some tendinitis in his left knee. It’d make sense to expect McKay to play limited minutes, but at the same time, the Cyclones are going to be decidedly shorthanded whether McKay is in or out of the game. The thing Cyclones will need a healthy McKay in the long run.
  4. Oklahoma president David Boren continued his crusade, spreading forth his desire of Big 12 expansion. Boren, who serves on the Big 12’s expansion committee, has also expressed a desire to roll off the Longhorn Network and turn it into a Big 12 Network (good luck with that). Expansion is almost always football-driven, but nonetheless will have ramifications in basketball and other sports. If the likes of Boren have their way, the hope is the Big 12 will end up a better league. It’s up to them if they want to make a move.
  5. Tomorrow’s third annual Big 12-SEC Challenge will feature the second Ole Miss-Kansas State tilt since the series began during the 2013-14 season. “It’s a chance for us to put an exclamation point on our non-conference record as a league,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “For us, it’s a huge game. We have a chance to beat a good, solid team in Mississippi and end up with a very good record.” I mean, sure, I guess? Weber is right. It is a huge game for confidence purposes, the protecting-your-homecourt agenda and the Wildcats’ fading at-large hopes. But I’m not sure a win over an inconsistent team in Ole Miss is going to make much of a huge difference in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Still, he’s right. They need this one.
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Big 12 M5: 01.27.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 27th, 2016

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  1. Fresh off another huge home win, this time against Kansas, Iowa State has another test in front of them when they face Texas A&M in College Station on Saturday. The Big 12-SEC Challenge has people, namely coaches, voicing their “excitement” about the event before ending their thought with an “is what it is.” Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register is not a fan of the Challenge coming smack dab in the middle of Big 12 play and would much rather have the games played in December. The main problem here is television, namely ESPN. After the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series and SEC-Big East Challenge died, the Big 12-SEC Challenge became the baby they decided to make as a compliment to the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. As we know, the week of the B1G-ACC Challenge took up the Monday-Wednesday of the first full week of December while the Big 12-SEC Challenge took the Thursday-Saturday slots later that week. No matter the matchup, putting those games at the end of the week negatively impacted TV ratings. Now, with the advent of the Big Ten and Big East’s Gavitt Tipoff Games shared with FS1, scheduling the Big 12-SEC Challenge became even more of an issue. The idea of getting all the games on one day is a nice change, but cramming it in to the middle of league play has left coaches and writers alike scratching their collective heads. We’ll see how it all plays out on Saturday.
  2. Iowa State big man Jameel McKay remains a question mark for the A&M game this weekend. McKay had his left knee examined on Tuesday after leaving the Kansas game and did not return. “We’ll see,” McKay said after the game. “It’s something I’ve got to get over. I’ve got to start thinking about myself personally so I don’t know how much more I’ve got in me.” Coincidentally enough, the Aggies are dealing with an injured big man of their own, as freshman Tyler Davis has a lingering foot injury. As deep as the Aggies are, having a healthy McKay in the lineup will give the Cyclones more than a fighting chance in a difficult true road game.
  3. In our last M5, it seemed safe to say that Kansas was going through a bit of a rough patch. Now, it’s time to start freaking out. As the road losses have mounted, so has the lackluster play. On Bill Self‘s most talented team, littered with both young and veteran talent, who are the leaders of the team? That’s the question the Lawrence World-Journal is seeking to answer. The Jayhawks quest to win another Big 12 title is in doubt, perhaps more so than it ever has been under Self. Still, it’s not over. Sitting only a game back, KU still has time to right its wrongs.
  4. The Oscar Robertson Trophy is awarded annually to the top player in college basketball. Well guess what? Your favorite basketball conference, the Big 12, has four of the best 20 players in college basketball. Predictably, those players are Wayne Selden Jr., Buddy Hield, Georges Niang and Monte Morris. All have had special season to this point, as have the other 16 players on this list. The four players from the Big 12 was the most players from one conference, tied with the ACC and Big Ten.
  5. Texas took care of TCU again last night, 71-54, to join the four-team cluster at 5-3 in the Big 12. Before the game, Hookem.com compiled a list of the top five Texas-TCU tussles to remember. Yes, this is a serious list. Yes, this series had a few memorable moments.  Yes, reading up on this likely supplies you with trivia you might not need. But then again, you might need it. So read up.
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What Happened To Kansas’ Depth?

Posted by Chris Stone on January 27th, 2016

When Kansas was regularly discussed among a handful of national title contenders early on in the season, one aspect of the Jayhawks’ roster stuck out more than anything else: its depth. Even head coach Bill Self acknowledged the fact that his talent pool contained 10 or 11 potential rotation players. Given that wealth of talent, a reasonable roster development plan would have looked something like this: Freshman Cheick Diallo receives clearance from the NCAA and becomes the Jayhawks’ motor, a rim protector and rebounding machine that would fill Kansas’s biggest hole in the front court. Fellow freshman Carlton Bragg grows into an offensive threat that could help spread the floor as a sort of Diet Perry Ellis off the bench. Together, Bragg and Diallo would displace many of the minutes devoted to the Jayhawks’ other solid, but unexciting front line options – guys like Hunter Mickelson, Jamari Traylor, and Landen Lucas. Meanwhile, guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk would begin to fulfill some of his potential as a possible NBA lottery pick by turning into a dangerous scoring option off the Kansas bench.

Kansas suffered its third straight road loss on Monday night. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

Kansas suffered its third straight road loss on Monday night. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for Self and the Jayhawks. Last Friday, Self met with his four co-captains to help sort out the team’s rotation going forward. The results have been hard to miss. Over the Jayhawks’ past two games, Self has shrunk his rotation down to basically seven players–Ellis, Lucas, and Traylor in the front court along with Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, Wayne Selden, and Brannen Greene. The trio of youngsters expected to help Kansas reach its peak have combined to play just 16 of the 400 available minutes in those two contests. Bragg is the only one of the three to see the floor in both games.

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Rushed Reactions: #14 Iowa State 85, #4 Kansas 72

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 26th, 2016

It seems like since the minute Missouri bolted for the SEC, Iowa State has stepped into the role of Kansas’ biggest rival in the conference. The Jayhawks and Cyclones have matched up for some memorable high-stakes battles over the last few seasons, and Monday night was no different. #14 Iowa State laid the wood to #4 Kansas in the second half en route to an 85-72 victory in Ames. Monte’ Morris was equal parts poise and electricity, leading the Cyclones with 20 points, nine assists and zero turnovers. Here are three key takeaways from what was a huge win for Iowa State, and perhaps more importantly in a crowded Big 12 race, the Jayhawks’ third straight loss on the road.

Georges Niang And The Cyclones Delivered An Inspired Second Half Performance Monday Night (Photo: USAT Sports)

Georges Niang And The Cyclones Delivered An Inspired Second Half Performance Monday Night (Photo: USAT Sports)

The Big 12 race opens up for Oklahoma. While one can’t easily pick against Kansas winning the Big 12 until someone else knocks them from its perch, the Jayhawks’ margin for error is thinning by the game. They’re just one game behind Oklahoma, West Virginia and Baylor in the loss column, but they still have trips to Norman and Waco left on the docket. The Sooners continue to be the biggest threat to end The Streak not just because of the strength of their team, but also because they’re 5-2 and have already paid visits to Kansas, Iowa State and Baylor. Meanwhile, Kansas still has to make those trips to Oklahoma and Baylor. The Jayhawks are still one of the best teams in the conference, but unless they get some help in the form of an underdog or two beating Oklahoma, their quest for a 12th straight conference title could hinge on their February 13 trip to the Lloyd Noble Center. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 01.25.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 25th, 2016

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  1. Kansas is struggling a bit right now. I don’t think that’s a large statement to make. Traveling to traditionally noisy road environments (West Virginia, Oklahoma State) only to come away with losses isn’t the biggest deal but when an undermanned-yet-solid Texas team had a real chance of pulling the upset at home, there might be something more to this recent rough patch. Accordingly, Bill Self tinkered with his lineup and rotation on Saturday after tinkering with it Tuesday against the Cowboys. Still, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they dropped another road contest to a really good Iowa State team later tonight but I’d like to think Kansas fans would sound the alarms if they laid another egg.
  2. Speaking of the Cyclones, Iowa State will host Kansas tonight in a match-up that has become the Big 12’s premier tussle over the past four years. As a line of tents wrap around Hilton ColiseumSteve Prohm has finally been able to build trust and encouragement with his veteran-laden team. It’s more intimidating than it is easy when you think about it. A situation where the players are good, have a years-long way of doing things and then all of a sudden, a new guy is hired from the outside. The players weren’t likely to revolt or be outright disrespectful to Prohm but there did remain a possibility that, while they knew he was successful at his previous stop, Cyclone players could have ran things they way were accustomed to for years under Fred Hoiberg. At last, the coach and his players are mentally one. The implications of this fact now radiate throughout the Big 12.
  3. My main complaint, well the nation’s main complaint, with West Virginia is that they shoot the ball like a 30-second shot isn’t sufficient for their kind of offense. And then a game like Saturday’s comes along. The Mountaineers were already shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from the perimeter and still trailed Texas Tech by four with under a minute to go. Then, the (TarikPhillip-ing occurred. The junior guard owned the last minute of play when he nailed a three-pointer, converted an old-fashioned three point play, made a dunk and tacked on two of his final three steals on the day. Most bench players don’t get that much activity playing 20 minutes and Phillip did all that — and still finished with 20 points. Because of his effort, West Virginia maintained their four-way tie for first place in the Big 12.
  4. Texas Tech was feisty in their home loss to West Virginia despite learning that sophomore big man Norense Odiase broke his fourth metatarsal bone in his right foot following Tech’s win over TCU and will be in a cast for the next three weeks according to Tubby Smith. Odiase had been growing as a more consistent low-post threat while also adding a jump shot to his arsenal. He was averaging 9 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 19.5 minutes per game. With Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State as Tech’s three of their next five games, a presence like Odiase’s will be sorely missed in games that will determine their worthiness of an at-large berth.
  5. As Oklahoma‘s dream season rolls on, the athletics department announced late last week one of its faces of the program is coming home. On March 1, Blake Griffin will ride into Norman, as the Sooners take on Baylor, where his No. 23 jersey will be retired. March 1 will almost assuredly be even more emotional as the jersey ceremony coincides with Senior Night where Sooner fans will say goodbye to Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler and the rest of the senior class. I have a strange feeling the Lloyd Noble Center will be filled to capacity that night.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: This League Is (Still) Off Its Rocker Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 22nd, 2016

We’re almost four weeks into league play, which typically means a select group of contenders have asserted themselves and are heading for the summit they call “Conference Champion Mountain.” It’s a grueling hike to the top, but totally worth it once you get up there. You get to look out at the rest of your conference mates with the knowledge that your better was better than their better. You think about that banner you get to hang in your arena’s rafters that will forever stamp just how good your regular season was. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that you’re up really high. You struggle to breathe. Now, you can’t breathe AT ALL. After fighting for breath, you fall off the mountain, not because of the altitude. No. You fall off the mountain because a scrappy No. 14 seed has ended your quest for a national championship before you had a chance to get out of the Tournament’s first weekend.

Or, at least that’s usually how it goes in the Big 12. This season, though, has brought a special kind of craziness – one none of us could have imagined even a few short weeks ago.

Womp womp. (Screengrab via ESPN.com)

Womp womp. (Screengrab via ESPN.com)

This is where we are now, so expect a wild and crazy edition of our Big 12 Power Rankings. Here we go.

Power Rankings

1. Oklahoma — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “The Sooners have two losses in Big 12 play, but both of them came on the road against upper echelon competition. Buddy Hield is continuing to play like a National Player of the Year and he has Oklahoma in position to be KenPom’s favorite in the Big 12.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)

2. Kansas — 6 points (All voted 2nd). Comment: “Defensive struggles were at the heart of Tuesday’s upset at the hands of Oklahoma State, but the Jayhawks have been in a bit of a rut offensively, too, averaging only an even 1.00 point per possession over their last four games. One of the biggest factors has been the regression of Wayne Selden, who is scoring just 9.5 points per contest on 37.8% shooting since opening conference play with 24 and 21-point outbursts. The Jayhawk’s depth, along with Bill Self‘s coaching ability, is strong enough that I trust Kansas to get back on track sooner rather than later.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) Read the rest of this entry »

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Anatomy Of An Upset: How Jawun Evans Led Oklahoma State Past Kansas

Posted by Chris Stone on January 22nd, 2016

Oklahoma State freshman point guard Jawun Evans is the highest rated recruit in the Big 12 from the 2015 class not named Carlton Bragg or Cheick Diallo. In 32 minutes of action on Tuesday, Evans starred for the Cowboys in a shocking 86-67 upset over then third-ranked Kansas as Bragg and Diallo spent much of the game watching from the bench. With senior Phil Forte out of the lineup, Evans has developed into a go-to option for Travis Ford and the 22 points, eight assists, and six rebounds he tallied against the Jayhawks are just the latest evidence supporting his case to be the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year.

On Tuesday, Evans assisted on or scored 45 of the Cowboys’ 86 points with seven of his eight assists resulting in makes from behind the three-point line. Interestingly, Evans found the majority of his success against Kansas using various pick-and-roll situations to create space both for himself and for his teammates. The freshman entered the contest averaging a middling 0.783 points per possession as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll according to Synergy, but against the Jayhawks’ poor pick-and-roll defense, he excelled. In particular, Evans regularly took advantage of Kansas helping off of ball-side shooters, a strategic choice the Jayhawks made because Oklahoma State entered the contest shooting 33.6 percent on three-point attempts. In this example, Evans receives a screen, but ultimately turns it down before driving to the help. As soon as Svi Mykhailiuk helps off his man in the corner, Evans rockets a pass out for the open three:

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Big 12 M5: 01.22.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 22nd, 2016

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  1. It’s no secret that Kansas has struggled to contain driving guards like Jaysean Tate and Jawun Evans in recent games, and it might not get any easier tomorrow as the Jayhawks welcome Isaiah Taylor and Texas to Allen Fieldhouse. While Texas is merely average when it comes to finishing at the rim, it’s still worth wondering if Taylor, Javan Felix, and Kerwin Roach will test Kansas’ ability to stop penetration early. Saturday’s matchup in Lawrence will also mark Shaka Smart‘s first game against Kansas since that fateful day in San Antonio, so it’s also natural to think about whether both coaches will be a little more amped up than usual for this one.
  2. Two of the Big 12’s three most efficient offenses square off tomorrow when Oklahoma pays a visit to first-place Baylor. While the Bears currently sit alone atop the Big 12 standings, there’s still some skepticism of their record due to their relative lack of marquee wins and the fact that they have had close calls against two of the league’s worst teams. One of the great things about the Big 12’s perennial depth is that there are always opportunities to make statements, and the Bears will have a big shot to quiet their doubters with a win over a top-five team.
  3. Luke Winn of SI.com released his weekly Power Rankings (stay tuned for ours), and his insight into Oklahoma has to do with the performance of the frontcourt core of Ryan Spangler and Kadeem Lattin. The Sooners’ efficiency takes a dive when Spangler and Lattin don’t share the floor, but Spangler has played a whopping 88.6 percent of available minutes in conference play, so effectively, the concerns for Lon Kruger are finding ways to keep Lattin in games and finding the right lineup for those times when the sophomore big man needs to catch a breather.
  4. Iowa State sophomore Hallice Cooke recently put himself in Steve Prohm‘s doghouse by being late to practice one day after Prohm instituted tighter policies for player conduct, but he is hoping to get back at it tomorrow against TCU. With Prohm shortening up his rotation, it may be tough for Cooke to find more than a handful of minutes per game moving forward, but he can start by playing well against the worst team in the conference.
  5. Oklahoma State is flying high after its big win over Kansas, which prompted Tulsa World columnist Darnell Mayberry to compile a list of Travis Ford‘s ten biggest wins in Stillwater. While the Pokes have mostly been an afterthought since the departure of Marcus Smart, one doesn’t have to dig too deep to find some truly impressive wins in Ford’s eight seasons at the helm.
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Big 12 M5: 01.20.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 20th, 2016

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  1. It’s tough enough to win on the road, but it’s even tougher when the home team makes 52.4 percent of its three-pointers. Kansas learned this fact in its 86-67 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater Tuesday night, but this was more than just a fluky shooting performance from the Pokes. Oklahoma State outscored Kansas in the paint 22-12 and outrebounded them 38-31, marking the upset as a true team effort. Freshman Jawun Evans continued his quest for conference Freshman Of The Year Honors, turning in his third straight solid performance with 22 points, six rebounds and eight assists to lead the Cowboys. The highly-touted recruit on the other side, Cheick Diallo, made his first career start, but was part of the largely ineffective Jayhawk back line. The victory marked the Cowboys’ third consecutive home win over Bill Self’s team, whose struggles continue to leave the door open for a team like Oklahoma or West Virginia to end their Big 12 title streak.
  2. To that point, the 4-1 Mountaineers will look to avoid falling back into a tie with Kansas and Oklahoma tonight when they host Texas. As successful as West Virginia has been with its pressure defense, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s more familiar with that style of play than Longhorn coach Shaka Smart. We all know about Smart’s success with VCU, but on top of that, he actually consulted West Virginia during last season’s NCAA Tournament when the Mountaineers prepped for their Round of 32 tilt against Maryland (which they won 69-59). West Virginia is favored by a comfortable 12 points tonight, but Texas’ stingy offense, which currently sports the Big 12’s lowest turnover percentage in league play, could make this one closer than Vegas thinks.
  3. Don’t look now, but the roller coaster that is Baylor basketball is on the rise entering tonight’s home game against Kansas State. While the Bears aren’t typically mentioned among the squads with a shot at ending Kansas’ regular season conference title streak (nor should they be, necessarily), they’re tied with West Virginia for first place thanks to some excellent recent shooting and its great rebounding, which has been consistent all season. Meanwhile, Bruce Weber‘s team is still looking for dependability on the offensive end, especially when it comes to shooting. They’ll carry a frosty 47.3 percent team eFG% into the Ferrell Center tonight.
  4. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish spent some time learning how Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm has managed during Prohm’s up-and-down debut season in Ames. The progression of Iowa State’s campaign to this point has been a little wilder than most expected. Prohm faced some tough criticism after the team’s 1-3 start to conference play, but wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma have put him and the team back on track. While Prohm knew the fierce expectations of the job going in, he’s learning firsthand that following a local icon with a team built to win now is no easy task when it comes to pleasing a die-hard fanbase.
  5. CJ Moore of Bleacher Report took an in-depth look at the rise in the number of one-and-done players entering the NBA Draft and wonders if the 2016 Draft (along with other factors, including but not limited to the NCAA’s recent extension of the declaration window) could turn the tide back towards more players returning to school. While age is still a key factor in the minds of evaluators, at least one pro scout told Moore that there’s still some good value in being able to project a player with four years of college experience under his belt (like Buddy Hield), as opposed to raw freshmen who may have higher upsides but also bring with them a wider swath of possible outcomes.
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Big 12 M5: 01.18.16 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 18th, 2016

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  1. After two straight losses in which Iowa State gave up more than 90 points, the Cyclones picked up a 76-63 road win over Kansas State on Saturday. The lower point total was the product of both the Wildcats’ slower pace of play and a change in Steve Prohm‘s philosophy. After a slow start to conference play, Prohm explained that the Cyclones need to manage games in a way that limits the time they spend on defense. His theory is that Iowa State is so good on offense that the Cyclones would be better off spending a bit more of the game with the ball in their hands. The key, though, will still be for Iowa State to slow down opposing offenses. The Cyclones currently rank 114th in adjusted defensive efficiency–a stat which accounts for the quality of opponent and pace of play–and will be put to the test when Oklahoma comes to Ames tonight.
  2. Speaking of the Sooners, their 70-68 victory over West Virginia reopened the Big 12 race as four teams now sit at 4-1 in the conference. More importantly, though, the win may be a boon for the confidence of sophomore Khadeem Lattin. After missing the front end of a one-and-one that would have given Oklahoma a victory in Allen Fieldhouse two weeks ago, Lattin scored the game-winning bucket against the Mountaineers on a tip-in. “It was like a redemption,” Lattin told the media.
  3. Meanwhile at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas bounced back from their loss in Morgantown on Tuesday with a 70-63 win over TCU. The Jayhawks’ two freshman big men, Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo, both got extended looks against the Horned Frogs. Bragg scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in 16 minutes, but it was Diallo’s performance that turned heads. After being featured only sparingly so far this year, Diallo played a season-high 21 minutes against TCU. His nine points, nine rebounds, and five blocks gave fans a taste of what Diallo can offer Kansas going forward. The improvement of the Jayhawks’ two freshman will be a critical component come March and it’s the reason Kansas is viewed as the title contender with the most upside going forward.
  4. Baylor‘s Lester Medford continues to come up big in key moments for the Bears. The senior point guard delivered a huge second half in Baylor’s win over Vanderbilt earlier this season, and on Saturday, he knocked down the game-winning three-pointer against Texas Tech. While most of the focus has been on Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, the Bears victory quietly pushed them into a four-way tie for first in the Big 12.
  5. Our final note comes from the recruiting world. Last week, four-star center Udoka Azubuike declared his intention to announce his college choice at the Hoop Hall Classic this weekend. Azubuike, who is choosing between Florida State, Kansas, and North Carolina, appeared to be leaning towards the ‘Noles, but by Sunday rumors were swirling that Florida State was out of the picture altogether. As Kansas and North Carolina picked up predictions in 247Sports’ Crystal Ball, Azubuike’s guardian announced that the high school senior would be pushing back his decision. Just the latest in a long line of strange recruiting stories, it looks like this recruiting battle will continue for a while longer.
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Big 12 M5: 01.15.16 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 15th, 2016

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  1. There will be a full slate of Big 12 action on Saturday, but the biggest game of the weekend will come between West Virginia and Oklahoma in Norman. After defeating #1 Kansas earlier this week, the Mountaineers will now have a chance to pick up a victory against the #2 team in the country and create some separation atop the Big 12 in the process. Road wins are tough to come by, but West Virginia’s high-pressure defense will put the Sooners to the test, especially if the Mountaineers can create transition opportunities from turnovers and avoid their very good half-court defense. Oklahoma has been decent in protecting the ball this season, though, and the Sooners have home court advantage. KenPom likes the Sooners to win by five.
  2. In the Cyclones’ four Big 12 games this season, Iowa State’s Monte Morris has played 98.2 percent of the team’s available minutes. As a result, the Ames Tribune’s Travis Hines asked Morris how he’s holding up. The junior point guard told the reporter that he’s “perfectly fine,” and as the article notes, his statistics reflect that. Morris ranks fifth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio after leading the country the last two seasons; his assist rate is also up and he’s converting a higher percentage of his two-point looks. The real question is how he will hold up later this season. At that thought, even he admits, “I know it’s going to take a toll on my body probably later in the season, but as of right now I’m fine.”
  3. Morris and 10 other Big 12 players received recognition from CBS Sports‘ Sam Vecenie in his Top 100 (and 1) college hoops players so far this season. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield snagged the top spot in large part because of his 50/50/90 shooting percentages, one that Vecenie notes is “basically something I can only imagine Stephen Curry doing.” That’s some pretty good company for the Sooners’ senior and clear NPOY candidate.
  4. Baseball historian and statistician Bill James received his undergraduate degree from Kansas in the 1970s and is an avid basketball fan. On Thursday, he wrote about his experience attending the Jayhawks’ instant classic against Oklahoma the week before. The piece is largely focused on the atmosphere inside of Allen Fieldhouse (outside of a paragraph-long rant on Perry Ellis) and the experience the atmosphere produced. James writes, “There are just moments in life when everything is what it can be, when the energies of nearly violent opposing forces align by accident with the balance and precision of a symphony. We were there to see one of them.”
  5. To that point, home court advantage might be more valuable in college basketball than it is in any other sport. Whether it’s the raucous environments’ effect on opposing players or officials, there are few sports where teams regularly rack up 30-game winning streaks on their home floors. For that reason, Ken Pomeroy has decided to update his scheduling page to reflect the importance of home court advantage in college basketball. In the process, he produced a critique of the much-maligned RPI. The RPI doesn’t include home court advantage in its calculations when determining the quality of a win, so Monmouth, for example, will not get credit for a top 50 win for its victory over UCLA when, in reality, that road win is the equivalent of one. Although Pomeroy doesn’t discuss it directly, perhaps factoring home court advantage into the RPI would be one way to encourage more true road games during non-conference play as those losses would no longer look as bad on a a team’s resume.
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Big 12 M5: 01.14.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2016

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  1. In a close call, Oklahoma escaped intrastate rival Oklahoma State with a 74-72 win in Stillwater Wednesday night. The Cowboys actually had a chance to win the game, but Jeffrey Carroll‘s buzzer-beating three off the glass was just a bit long. Buddy Hield did his thing in the first half, scoring 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, but his second half was a completely different story. The Pokes pressured him into just six points and six turnovers after intermission, and he finished with a career-worst ten, which allowed Oklahoma State to climb back in it after being down by as much as 16 points. Another big story for Oklahoma State was the play of Jawun Evans. The 2015 McDonald’s All-American shattered the school’s single-game freshman scoring record with 42 points, showing that he may be a guy around whom the Cowboys can build.
  2. Cheick Diallo‘s struggles to find consistent playing time for Kansas has SB Nation‘s Ricky O’Donnell wondering if Bill Self‘s focus on individual wins over long-term player development is hampering the team’s ceiling in more ways than one. The highly-touted freshman played just four minutes in Tuesday’s loss to West Virginia and hasn’t played more than six minutes in a game since December 29. As we’ve mentioned in this space, improved play from Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson, along with Diallo’s NCAA-mandated suspension, have made it a challenge for Self to find opportunities for his big man from Mali. It’s also important to bear in mind that with more chances, Diallo may yet develop into the rim protector the Jayhawks need to make a deep run in March, but it’s no certainty. With Kansas’ next two games coming against two of the conference’s least competitive teams in TCU and Oklahoma State, though, one would think Diallo will get the audition he needs.
  3. Iowa State is in a spot no one thought it would be in at any point this season: last place in the Big 12 with a 1-3 record. While the Cyclones certainly miss the punch injured guard Naz Mitrou-Long provided from the perimeter, their porous defense has been the bigger issue. Travis Hines of The Ames Tribune took a closer look at why Steve Prohm’s team is sporting such dismal defensive numbers, and one of his key takeaways is that opposing offenses are exposing Iowa State’s shaky pick-and-roll defense. Hines also notes that consistency has also been a challenge, as the Cyclones have played long stretches of solid defense against some of the conference’s more potent offensive teams in Oklahoma and Baylor, only to unravel later on. Iowa State doesn’t need to become a defensive force to maximize its potential, but it does need to allow significantly fewer than its current 1.14 points per possession in conference play.
  4. Baylor made easy work of TCU, using another backbreaking run to cruise past the Horned Frogs, 82-54. A 13-0 spurt late in the first half gave the Bears all they needed to feel comfortable, and things just snowballed from there. Baylor sophomore Terry Maston led all scorers with a career-high 17 points off the bench, while Lester Medford continued his solid play at the point, dishing out 11 assists against just three turnovers.
  5. The NCAA on Wednesday afternoon made a few moves to widen the window of opportunity for NBA Draft hopefuls, which should in turn allow those players to make more informed decisions about their futures. The primary move was to extend the early entry deadline by 10 days, but another important change is that players can again test the draft waters multiple times and return to school (provided they don’t sign with an agent). Coaches have historically resisted these changes because of the uncertainty they bring to rosters entering the spring recruiting period, but the best coaches will continue to find ways to haul in the best talent available regardless of their situations.
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