Rushed Reactions: #16 Cal Poly 81, #16 Texas Southern 69

Posted by Chris Nguon on March 19th, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion, @RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways in Cal Poly’s First Four win.

Cal Poly supports had plenty to cheer about Wednesday night as the program earned its first ever NCAA Tournament victory. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Cal Poly supports had plenty to cheer about Wednesday night as the program earned its first ever NCAA Tournament victory. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

  1. Throw regular season records out of the window. If Cal Poly’s week so far is any indication of what is to come, then this is going to be a memorable NCAA Tournament. The Mustangs might have ended the season six games under the .500-mark, but that did not matter on Wednesday evening. Cal Poly played with poise, aggression, and above all an inner confidence that showed in its play on the court.  With what eventually amounted to a virtual wall-to-wall lead on the scoreboard, the Mustangs were able to make school history, becoming the first team in their highly successful athletic program to win a game in the Big Dance.
  2. Aaric Murray was tremendous, but… Wednesday showed once again why its so important to have depth in the NCAA Tournament. The Texas Southern big man was as productive as ever, notching 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting and exhibiting a vast array of three-pointers, interior toughness, and just general moxie. Unfortunately for Murray, his battle-mates just couldn’t quite find their groove on either end of the court.
  3. It is rare that the first couple of minutes decide the game. In Cal Poly’s case, however, the opening 10 minutes of the first half allowed the Mustangs to catch their breath and realize that “hey, we are good enough to win this game.” Cal Poly faced an early deficit in a contest that started and ended fast offensively, but the ability to hang with Texas Southern (even though Cal Poly proved to be better) is paramount for a program that was making its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Wednesday Night

Posted by Walker Carey on March 19th, 2014

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The First Round/Opening Round/Play-In Games/Mild Annoyance of the NCAA Tournament continues tonight, getting under way at 6:40 PM tonight on truTV (go ahead, try to remember where that channel is again). From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the next two games this evening.

#16 Cal Poly vs. #16 Texas Southern — Midwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.

Losing Record, No Problem: Cal Poly is Dancing

Losing Record, No Problem: Cal Poly is Dancing

Battling for the right to face one-seed Wichita State in St. Louis on Friday are Big West Tournament champion, Cal Poly, and SWAC Tournament champion, Texas Southern. Cal Poly enters Wednesday evening’s action with an uninspiring 13-19 record, but it should be noted that five of those 19 setbacks came on the road against fellow NCAA Tournament teams (at Arizona, at Oregon, at Pittsburgh, at Stanford, and at Delaware). The team caught fire in the Big West Tournament and won three games in three days to punch its ticket to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament. The Mustangs are led by senior forward Chris Eversley, who averages a team-best 13.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. While the Mustangs are 327th in the country in scoring average, their defense is fairly stout, as the opposition only averages 63.4 points per contest – good for 36th nationally. Texas Southern is nearly the polar opposite of Cal Poly, as it has scored well all season but has failed to defend with any regularity. The well-traveled Aaric Murray (formerly of La Salle and West Virginia) leads the way for the similarly well-traveled Mike Davis (formerly of Indiana and UAB) and the Tigers. Murray averages 21.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and will create a significant match-up problem for the Mustangs on the interior. Look for Murray to lead the way for Texas Southern, as it will advance to battle #1 seed Wichita State on Friday.

The RTC Certified Pick: Texas Southern

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Bracket Prep: Albany, Tulsa, Texas Southern

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 16th, 2014

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As we move through the final stages of Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners. 

Albany

For the second straight season, Albany surprised the America East and is going dancing. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

For the second straight season, Albany surprised the America East and is going dancing. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • America East Champion (18-14, 12-7)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #210/#195/#199
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +0.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. For the second straight year, Albany capitalized on its home court advantage in the America East non-championship rounds before pulling off a road upset in the title game. That means the Great Danes – instead of league champion Vermont or preseason favorite Stony Brook – will represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament. The Catamounts or Seawolves would probably have been more serious upset threats (especially Vermont, once projected in the 13-seed range), but Albany is among the more experienced teams in the country and did go dancing last season, which never hurts.
  2. The Danes’ identity lies on the defensive end, where they held opponents to under one point per possession in conference play. Will Brown’s club switches between man defense and a stout 2-3 zone that gave Stony Brook all kinds of issues on Saturday, including a six minute stretch where the Seawolves failed to make a single field goal early in the second half. Albany is anchored inside by 6’10’’ center John Puk, whose defense against America East Player of the Year Jameel Warney showed he’s capable of holding his own against skilled big men – the kind he’ll surely face in the NCAA Tournament. Offensively, the team is led by Australian shooting guard Peter Hooley, who averages nearly 16 points per game and shoots 40 percent from behind the arc. Fellow Aussie Sam Rowley is the team’s leading rebounder and was the go-to scorer on Saturday – he averages 11 per night – while speedy point guard DJ Evans and small forward Gary Johnson also score in double figures.
  3. With an adjusted tempo of 63.3 possessions per game and an average offensive possession length of 19.3 seconds, the Danes look to methodically execute in the half-court and control the pace. The vast majority of their shots are taken from inside the arc – besides Hooley and Evans, no player has attempted more than 50 threes on the season – and they are proficient both at drawing fouls and making their free throws; Hooley ranked second in the conference at 86 percent from the stripe. Ultimately, though, Albany wins with its defense, preventing opponents from getting easy looks and cleaning up misses at a high rate. In their upset of Vermont, the Danes allowed the Catamounts to corral just 20 percent of their misses.

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Conference Tournament Primer: SWAC

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 12th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with yet 10 more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the final push of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the O26 tourneys starting are the Southland, SWAC, Mountain West and Atlantic 10.

Dates: March 12-15
Site: Toyota Center (Houston)

2014 swac bracket

What to expect: The most bizarre conference tournament you’ve ever seen. Four of the league’s 10 teams are ineligible for postseason play due to low APR scores yet the SWAC is allowing that quartet to compete in the conference tourney. That means that the eligible team that advances the furthest in the bracket will win the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. In case of a tie — multiple eligible teams advancing to the same round but no further — the highest-seeded team — second-seeded Texas Southern is the leader in the clubhouse — would advance to the Big Dance. Crazy, right? Just imagine how weird it will feel if a team loses in the tournament championship game and still gets to celebrate an NCAA Tournament bid. The SWAC hasn’t won a non-play-in game in the NCAA Tournament since Southern beat Georgia Tech in 1993.

Favorite: Texas Southern. I guess I’ll go with the favorite to make the NCAA Tournament. This is all so confusing. Top-seeded Southern, the team that won a game by 104 points earlier this year, should actually win the SWAC Tournament. But thanks to APR issues, the Jaguars aren’t eligible for the Big Dance. So Texas Southern is the favorite to go dancing.

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O26 Superlatives, Part III: Big Sky, Big West, Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt & WAC…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 12th, 2014

In Part III of our three-part series (click here for Part I and Part II), we pass out 2013-14 superlatives to the best teams, performers and performances from six different O26 conferences: Big Sky, Big West, Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt and WAC. In alphabetical order: 

Big Sky

Davion Berry and Weber State finally edged Montana and won the Big Sky. (Photo by Weber State)

Davion Berry and Weber State finally edged Montana and won the Big Sky. (Photo by Weber State)

  • Team of the Year – Weber State (17-11, 14-6). After winning 55 games in the previous two seasons, this was the year – the most parity-driven in recent memory – that Weber State outlasted Montana and won the Big Sky. The Wildcats now host the conference tournament, which could mean a return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007.
  • Player of the Year – Davion Berry – Weber State. Narrowly edging out Montana’s Kareem Jamar and North Dakota’s Troy Huff for our Player of the Year, Berry averaged 19 points per contest, distributed the ball effectively, shot almost 40 percent from long range, and led his team to a title.
  • Coach of the Year – Tyler Geving – Portland State. Portland State was picked to finish ninth in the conference, an outlook that became even worse when senior Aaron Moore, averaging nearly 12 points per game, was dismissed from the team in early January. After the Vikings lost four straight close games in the middle of the Big Sky season, Geving deserves credit for leading his guys to a 5-1 finish and a fifth-place tie in the league.
  • Upset of the Year – Northern Colorado over Kansas State, 60-58. Until last Saturday, Kansas State was pretty much unbeatable at home this season: Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Iowa State, and George Washington — all these teams left Manhattan without a win. But you know who did manage to leave Manhattan with a win (aside from Baylor)? BJ Hill’s Bears. Gotta love early November.
  • Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Jaron Nash – North Dakota. Nash goes baseline, emphatically stuffs it with one hand, then salutes the home crowd. Great stuff.

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Big 12 M5: 02.04.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 4th, 2014

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  1. That was some game, eh? Naz Long’s three with 1.4 seconds left in the second overtime helped Iowa State force a third overtime with Oklahoma State last night. There the Cyclones got another clutch trey from Monte Morris and were able to walk out with a 98-97 victory, the program’s first win at Gallagher-Iba Arena in 19 opportunities. Lately it feels like there’s a different Big 12 team every week that needs to start worrying about its NCAA at-large chances. A few weeks ago it was the Cyclones; last week it was Baylor; and this week it looks like it is Oklahoma State’s turn because…
  2. Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford announced Monday that freshman point guard Stevie Clark has been kicked off the team in the wake of his second arrest since the New Year. Ford released a statement through the university which said: “We care about Stevie and wish nothing but the best for him. We want him to find success in his future, wherever that may be.” Not counting last night’s game, the Cowboys were without Clark’s services during five games this season. The important thing for him now is to find a school where he can focus on his studies, basketball and perhaps most importantly, himself. I hope Clark can do all those things and more when he finds his new home.
  3. Like Clark, Aaric Murray was kicked off of a Big 12 team. But the ex-Mountaineer appears to now have his life in order after transferring to Texas Southern in Houston. Murray told KTRK-TV that he “wanted to quit basketball” after his dismissal, but ex-Indiana and current head coach Mike Davis was willing to take on the senior center to help him get back on track. This season, Murray is averaging 23.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game for the Tigers and some consider the embattled big man as a possible NBA Draft pick. How does Murray deal with the distractions today? “I just stay out of trouble now,” Murray said. “Yeah this is my last go around, I can’t mess this one up.” This could be Stevie Clark’s story someday.
  4. West Virginia’s 5-4 record halfway through conference play has finally grabbed the attention of the Big 12 offices. Juwan Staten (25.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 TOPG) took home Big 12 Player of the Week honors by spearheading the Mountaineers’ recent wins over Baylor and Kansas State. Texas frosh Isaiah Taylor earned the Newcomer of the Week award for his outstanding effort against Kansas. Since the Horns didn’t play a game midway through last week, I thought it’d be fair to include averages from the Baylor and KU games (25.0 PPG, 2.0 SPG, 17-of-32 shooting). Who woulda thunk that the Big 12 had good players besides Marcus Smart in November? I’d hate to have to pick between these two.
  5. Did you think we forgot about youTexas Tech? The Red Raiders logged another conference win on Saturday with a 60-54 win over TCU. Dejan Kravic had his best offensive game of the season, going 7-of-10 for 18 points along with six rebounds and two blocks. The win helped the Red Raiders reach the .500 mark for the year (11-11) and also tied last year’s mark for Big 12 wins (three). It’s a slow build to the top but seeing what Tubby Smith has done with other programs, there’s (finally) reason for some optimism in Lubbock. And no, we’d never forget you, Tech. You still matter to us.
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Big 12 M5: 10.17.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 17th, 2013

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  1. As we mentioned earlier this week, Kansas will hold an open scrimmage this Saturday, but one new development is that the Jayhawks will have a couple VIPs in attendance. According to The Kansas City Star’s Rustin DoddJahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, two of the top five prospects in the class of 2014, will check out the scrimmage as part of their official visits. Okafor, a center, wowed scouts and writers over the summer with his advanced footwork and fundamentals, while Jones is considered among the top point guards in the class by several recruiting services. The two have long been rumored to be a package deal, and when one of the nation’s best coaches schedules an open scrimmage that just so happens to fall during your visit, you know things are getting serious. The event will also be a nice chance for the many KU fans who were shut out of “Late Night At The Phog” to get a look at their favorite team.
  2. West Virginia will also debut its squad in front of a home crowd this weekend. The Mountaineers may not be a factor in this year’s Big 12 race, but with many new faces coming in, fans will have a chance to get acquainted tomorrow night. This season’s team figures to be very perimeter-oriented, although not to the extremes of Huggins’ 2006-08 WVU squads. Eron Harris and Terry Henderson combined to shoot 37% from distance on 231 attempts last season, Gary Browne will look to improve on his frosty 20.4% clip from last season, and 6’10” Kevin Noreen will also step out from time to time.
  3. The Big 12 coaches slotted Kansas State fifth in their preseason poll last week, and while that’s a respectable goal after losing three core players from a conference championship team, the Wildcats will need seniors Will Spradling and Shane Southwell to become vocal leaders if they are to realize their potential. Both Spradling and Southwell held supporting roles in the past, opting to let their play speak for itself, but their performance will be especially important on a team that’s lacking in post depth and bringing in five freshmen.
  4. CBS Sports contributor and friend of RTC Jon Rothstein spent some time with Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg on Wednesday. The Cyclones will pester opposing defenses with big, versatile shooters like Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim, but the piecemeal backcourt of Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, freshman Monte’ Morris and JuCo transfer K.J. Bluford shouldn’t be trifled with, either. We’re not sure if the Cyclones’ offensive production will match last season’s performance, which landed them sixth in the country in offensive efficiency, but we can’t rule it out, either. This unit will score, but improvement on defense is imperative if Iowa State is to crash Kansas and Oklahoma State’s party at the top of the standings.
  5. While we’ll be keeping very close watch on Marcus Smart, it can be easy to lose sight of the benefits his presence will bring to Oklahoma State‘s future. The attention Smart has brought the OSU program has already yielded one ESPN Top 100 recruit in Jared Terrell, and recent commitment Mitch Solomon could find himself on that list with a good senior season. Additionally, Oklahoma State remains in the hunt for big fish such as Myles Turner and Devin Robinson. There are certainly other factors at work, but it’s nearly impossible to argue that Smart’s play last season and his surprising decision to stay in Stillwater have given the program a level of exposure it wouldn’t otherwise have seen.
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Morning Five: 08.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. The biggest news of the weekend was the announcement by Emmanuel Mudiay that he was committing to Southern Methodist. Outside of being a shock to the fans of the top schools–Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State–that were reportedly in the running for his services, it is also surprising that he would choose SMU and may validate to a degree the decision by the school to hire Larry Brown, who may not even be there when Mudiay arrives on campus. Many in Big Blue Nation are still in shock that a second top recruit in a few months would spurn them (Andrew Wiggins being the other) as Mudiay had reportedly narrowed his choices down to SMU and Kentucky, but for us the bigger story (outside of the fact a top-5 recruit in the class of 2014 is headed to SMU) was the fact that Texas was not even a consideration for a top Texas recruit and it speaks volumes about the state of Rick Barnes’ program.
  2. For all of Gonzaga‘s success over the past 14 years they have often remained off the radar for many elite recruits for a variety of reasons (location, offers from bigger names, etc) so when Josh Perkins, a class of 2014 point guard who is ranked in the top 25 overall in his class, commits to Gonzaga it is pretty big news. Perkins, who was also seriously considering UCLA and Minnesota, has been Mark Few’s #1 target for this coming season and should fit in well when Kevin Pangos is ready to leave Spokane. Although there have been some other Gonzaga commits over the years who have been as highly sought after (Austin Daye comes to mind), but it is still quite a coup for Few.
  3. We are just a few weeks from the start of the college basketball season, but Texas Southern has managed to pick up one of the best available transfers on the market as the school announced that  Aaric Murray will be headed there. Texas Southern will be Murray’s third school as he transferred from La Salle, where he averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during the 2010-11 season, to West Virginia, where he averaged 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season, but battled disciplinary issues as he was arrested in December 2011 for marijuana possession and was suspended in a separate incident for an undisclosed disciplinary violation. Murray, who is eligible to play immediately as he graduated from West Virginia this past spring, should make Texas Southern, which went 16-2 last season, but was barred from postseason play, a strong contender for the SWAC’s automatic bid.
  4. Dave Rice’s job of keeping UNLV competitive this season despite the loss of several key players just got a little tougher as the school announced that Savon Goodman will not play this season after news surfaced that he was facing two felony charges of first-degree burglary and grand larceny. Despite Goodman’s paltry production last season–3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game–he was expected to be a much bigger part of the team’s game plan with the departures of Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser. Now Rice and the UNLV staff will have to scramble to find a replacement for Goodman, who would have been the team’s starting power forward. That role will probably fall to Jamal Aytes, a three-star recruit who committed to the school just one week ago.
  5. We are not sure how D.J. Haley, who averaged 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game at VCU last season, will fit in with “Dunk City West” after it was announced that he will be transferring to USC, but we guess playing in the Havoc defensive scheme should be good preparation for a frantic style of play. The 7-footer will be eligible to play immediately after graduating early from VCU and will be enrolling in USC’s engineering school. Despite his limited production last season Haley does have quite a bit of experience and actually started for the Rams during their run to the 2011 NCAA Final Four and his experience should help a Trojan frontcourt that is not very deep and lacks experience.
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Aaric Murray is Slippery Ground For Interested Coaches

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 16th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The details surrounding the departure of former West Virginia forward Aaric Murray were encapsulated in two words by Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins: “mutual agreement.” Seems simple enough, only it’s really not – not when you look back at the marijuana charge Murray was assessed with while sitting out the 2011-12 season following his transfer from La Salle, or the disciplinary issues Murray ran into that forced him to miss a game in December 2012. There is a clear history of crossing the line with college hoops’ now-most high profile free agent forward, and while the offenses themselves don’t condemn Murray’s future in college (or even professional) basketball, the more important question is, will any team be willing to take a chance on him?

Coaches must proceed cautiously before bringing Hairston in (AP).

Coaches must proceed cautiously before bringing Hairston in (AP).

This question wouldn’t be as pressing as it is, were Murray not already graduated from and finished with his coursework at WVU, checkpoints that will allow Murray to play for another school this fall per the NCAA’s graduate transfer exemption (provided Murray enrolls in a graduate program not offered at WVU). West Virginia was brutal to watch last season. This was surprising for a couple of reasons: 1) Bob Huggins almost never coaches bad teams; 2012-13 was a glaring exception. 2) And this is more comedic than surprising, but as the Mountaineers toiled away in the lower half of the Big 12 last season, I kept coming back to the comments Huggins made after learning his team had been picked to finish sixth in the Big 12’s preseason coaches poll. “If we’re the sixth-best team in that league then it’s a hell of a league,” the head coach said in October. Part of the reason that placement baffled Huggins, and came off as a slightly pessimistic evaluation for most other observers, was because Murray promised to give WVU some of the hard-nosed Hugginsian grit his teams so routinely infuse into their collective DNA – the stuff that typically makes his teams so physically demanding and brutal to match up with. At La Salle, Murray was a force on both ends: His 106.1 offensive rating on 26.2 percent usage, 11.0 offensive rebounding percentage, 19.0 defensive rebounding percentage and 7.6 block rate in 2011 underscore that basic description.

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Morning Five: 07.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 16th, 2013

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  1. We do not need to tell you that Butler is one of the premier programs in college basketball, but we have to admit we were pretty surprised to hear that Chris Holtmann was leaving his position as head coach at Gardner-Webb to become an assistant coach at Butler. Holtmann, who was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year as he led Gardner-Webb to 21 wins last season and signed an extension through 2018 in April, is just 41 so we are assuming this is a move that will eventually get him a higher level mid-major job. We do not have the contract information for Holtmann at either location, but it also would not be unreasonable to assume that his salary as an assistant at Butler might equal or even exceed his salary as a head coach at Gardner-Webb.
  2. With his dismissal from West Virginia yesterday Aaric Murray has now been kicked two teams in his college career. Murray, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game at La Salle in 2011, averaged 8.8 points per game at West Virginia last season. Despite his fall off in production last season and his arrest for marijuana possession during the year he sat out, Murray should find a home soon as he graduated this spring and will be eligible to play this coming season. While Murray’s production (particularly at La Salle) will draw interest from many teams they should be weary of whatever issues have led him to be dismissed from two teams despite his considerable skill.
  3. It took over a month, but Roy Williams finally issued a statement about P.J. Hairston saying that Hairston “has made serious mistakes and there will be serious consequences as a result”. That statement may seem pretty strong, but Williams did not go so far as to say that Hairston would even be suspended instead pointing out that Hairston is only loosely affiliated with the school (not taking classes) or team (not practicing with the team) right now and is instead giving the legal system time to work itself out. This seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do and realistically Roy has until November before he has to make a decision. Given Roy’s statements and Hairston’s actions we have a tough time envisioning Hairston in the Tar Heel lineup to start the season.
  4. With the summer here some college basketball sites are taking some time off and others are focusing in on recruiting, but no site is doing what Big Apple Buckets did analyzing 32 of Jon Rothstein’s predictions from last season. The analysis is not particularly rigid in that it does not necessarily call Rothstein’s predictions right or wrong as there can be some grey area in interpretation, which you can see in the comments section where the author and reader debate Rothstein’s record. Personally we think making bold random predictions are essentially worthless, but it is nice to see someone called out for those predictions even if the outcome is not as bad as one might expect.
  5. Finally, we bring you this amazing video courtesy of the Wilt Chamberlain Archive featuring Wilt Chamberlain playing in the 1957 NCAA Tournament. We will let the video speak for itself, but should point out how amazingly athletic Chamberlain looks against opposition that he physically dominates. Looking at this footage should give you an idea of why Chamberlain was so dominant and put up such huge individual numbers.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 15

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 18th, 2013

We don’t have many of these rankings left this season, but the Big 12 isn’t getting any easier to decipher as we inch closer to March (less than four weeks until Selection Sunday). The Big 12 still has a good chance to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but Baylor and Iowa State don’t have much margin for error the last three weeks of the regular season. The Cyclones are a consensus #10 seed and the Bears are an #11 seed on the latest Bracket Matrix mock bracket. The top of the conference is more of a mess, though. Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Kansas State are 9-3 but it doesn’t mean there isn’t distinctness with each record. For instance, Kansas State is 1-2 against the other first place teams while Kansas is 2-1. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is 1-1 but plays host to the Kansas schools in the coming weeks. They are also fortunate in that two of their final three road games are against West Virginia and TCU. And that’s why the Cowboys are #1 this week.

Tier I:

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

1) Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 91-67 at Texas Tech, W (OT) 84-79 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Wednesday vs Kansas, 8:00 PM, Saturday at West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: After struggling around the turn of the year and dropping three out of four, the Cowboys began playing like their talent suggests and are winners of eight of their last nine games. They have an opportunity on Wednesday to become the first Big 12 team to sweep Bill Self in a season as the Jayhawks come into Gallagher-IBA Arena, where the Cowboys have won two out of three against the Jayhawks dating back to 2007-08.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Marcus Smart: Smart had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in the upset over Kansas on Feb. 2. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals against Texas a week later, and on Saturday against Oklahoma, Smart finished with 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the overtime victory.

2) Kansas (21-4. 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 83-62 vs Kansas State, W 73-47 vs Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Oklahoma State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs TCU, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: It doesn’t really matter that top-10 teams have been consistently falling the last few weeks, but it can give Kansas fans a small sense of relief knowing that every perceived top team in the country has its flaws as well as the Jayhawks, who rebounded nicely last Monday with a 21-point win over Kansas State when they desperately needed a 21-point win. Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State could decide the Big 12 championship.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Ben McLemore: McLemore had 30 points against Kansas State on 9-13 shooting, a cool 69.2%. In seven of his last ten games he shot over 50% from the floor. But he can still do more, attempting 10 or less shots in six of those games.  Shoot the ball, Ben.

3) Kansas State (20-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 83-62 at Kansas, W 81-61 vs Baylor

This Week: Tonight vs West Virginia, 8:00 PM, Saturday at Texas, 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: Monday’s loss at Kansas hurt, but it wasn’t all that unexpected. If they can take care of Baylor on the road on March 2, there’s still a chance the Wildcats could be 14-3 heading into the final regular season game at Oklahoma State on March 9. The remaining schedule sets up that well for K-State, with their next five games against the bottom five teams in the conference.
  • Player Stepping Up: Sophomore G Angel Rodriguez: He has a 2.5:1 Assist to Turnover Ratio on the season and is averaging an efficient 19.6 PPG his last three games. In that stretch, he is 46.3% from the floor and 41.6% from three-point range.

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Big 12 M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 30th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. We have seen the best (Puerto Rico Tip-Off) and the average (currently 3-3 in the Big 12) from Oklahoma State, but with a team as talented as the Cowboys are, why haven’t they been able to stake a claim as one of the top teams in this league? What’s keeping this team from flourishing? CowboysRideForFree has an idea of what it could be: the three-quarter court trapping press. The article cites this as a catalyst for making a comeback in the Oklahoma game even though they ultimately lost. And as recently as Saturday, the Cowboys fell behind 13 points to West Virginia before Travis Ford implemented a combination of the press and 2-3 zone to turn that game into a 14-point victory. Maybe it has something to do with the press but there’s much more to Oklahoma State’s inconsistencies than that. Not knowing what you’ll get from Le’Bryan Nash is part of the problem too. They better fix their issues fast because the last thing the Cowboys want is their bubble to burst come Selection Sunday.
  2. Wednesday could be an important day in the history of Iowa State basketball. Dating back to 1988, the Cyclones have made the trip to Gallagher-Iba Arena 17 times and 17 times they have left Stillwater empty-handed. That also means head coach Fred Hoiberg never saw a Cyclone victory there as a player either. Iowa State already knows the Kansas State win was a step in the right direction but now it’s time to really make a statement. Are they able to go on the road, to one of the toughest arenas in the Big 12, and beat a fellow bubble team? It’s a big game for both clubs but it would mean so much for the Cyclones to get this one without the help of “Hilton Magic.”
  3. Will Spradling is one of the more prolific shooters in the league but at just 35% from three on the year, the Kansas State junior is, ahem, shooting for more consistency from outside. Spradling says he’s going back to an old routine he used to do with his dad where he makes 50 threes during practice… with one hand. “I’ll do that at least once a day,” Spradling said. “That has my shot feeling great right now. Two of the last three games I’ve shot it well and played well. I feel like I’m getting better.” That’s about the worst thing you could hear if you’re an opposing coach.
  4. How bad has Texas been this season? Here is their season-in-review in a neat 257-word layout. The Horns scored their two season highs in points against North Carolina and Baylor, both games I happened to see take place live. But they have the tougher task of matching up against Kansas State in Manhattan tonight. Texas hasn’t won a game at the Octagon of Doom since 2008 and I will go ahead and say Kansas State will have their way with Longhorns. For the first time in the Rick Barnes era, they will be looking towards next season while still in the middle of their current season.
  5. History has told us that when a coach like Bob Huggins talks/yells/face turns bright red, players listen and respond in the way he would like. There hasn’t been a whole of that this season but in Monday’s game against Kansas, at last, someone finally listened. Aaric Murray explained how to appropriately listen to coach when he’s yelling: “You’ve got to listen to the message and not how he’s saying it. I think I was listening to how he said it instead of what he was saying. When I stopped worrying about him [Huggins], everything was fine.” 17 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals later, hopefully Murray is a success story. Now about the rest of his teammates…
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