Diagnosing the West Virginia Fiasco

Posted by dnspewak on January 28th, 2013

Tonight, it really begins. West Virginia will find out what the Big 12 is really all about when it steps into the national spotlight on Big Monday, facing none other than the program that has won the league every year since the dawn of time (or at least seems to have). The Mountaineers saw teams like Kansas in the Big East, sure. They are ready for the level of competition, but tonight’s match-up will truly indoctrinate the Mountaineeres into the Big 12 Conference. Since Day One, it hasn’t been an easy transition for Bob Huggins‘ team. West Virginia embarrassed itself in its season opener by losing big to Gonzaga to kick off ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. It then finished 1-2 in the Old Spice Classic, lost at Duquesne (currently 7-13 and 0-6 in the A-10) and has now started 2-4 in the Big 12, with the only victories coming against Texas and TCU. Oh, and the Mountaineers played a CBS game against Purdue a few weekends ago where they lost by 27 points. So that’s where the Mountaineers stand heading into Big Monday: 9-10 overall, 2-4 Big 12, and with an angry Huggins, who seems to rip his team a new one after every single loss.

Bob Huggins and Deniz Kilicli Aren't Happy Campers

Bob Huggins and Deniz Kilicli Aren’t Happy Campers

You can’t blame him. Over Huggins’ storied career, he has become accustomed to coaching and developing hard-nosed players who don’t back down from challenges and fight on each and every possession. His teams are usually famous for their toughness, defense, and ferocious rebounding. That’s why it was stunning to see this team bow out so pathetically in a blowout loss to Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. With transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten joining a promising sophomore class, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion that Huggins would find a way to regain that tenacity. With his track record, he deserved the benefit of the doubt. Instead, disaster has struck.

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Big 12 M5: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 17th, 2012

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas whipped another non-conference opponent at home Saturday, beating Belmont 89-60. While the Jayhawks’ top three scorers in Ben McLemore (17 points), Travis Releford (17) and Jeff Withey (14) all got theirs, it was seldom-used guard Andrew White III who made the most of his playing time. White III hit a trio of three-pointers, six shots total, and scored 15 points in just 10 minutes of action. Just one game earlier versus Colorado, White scored eight points in eight minutes. So I guess the question is, will Bill Self carve out consistent minutes for the freshman guard? I’m all for seeing players put up crazy points-to-minutes played ratios. Do it, coach.
  2. As for that other school in the state, Kansas State fell to Gonzaga Saturday in the normally exciting Battle in Seattle. The Wildcats found themselves down one point at the half but it was only a matter of time before the Bulldogs were going to get rolling offensively. But second-half flameouts are becoming a trend against quality opponents like Michigan and the Zags. They were down 29-24 to the Wolverines before folding in the second half as well. After a home tilt against Texas Southern on Monday, the Cats will play another top five team in Florida on Saturday. I blame scheduling for all of this. We knew this Wildcats team is essentially the same as last year and will probably finish in the top four of the Big 12 but their non-conference schedule is either against top flight teams or scrubs. Why aren’t there more games against consistent mid-majors like Gonzaga or other power conference schools? No one can properly evaluate the Cats when all their losses are to ranked teams and their best win is probably against South Carolina Upstate.
  3. I’m giving up on West Virginia. I thought their win over Virginia Tech (who is responsible for Oklahoma State’s one loss) was a sign that the Mountaineers were possibly turning the corner… but no. WVU predictably lost to a deeper, athletic and more talented Michigan team coached by ex-’Eers coach John Beilein. They lost without Aaric Murray, who didn’t even make the trip to New York for committing a violation of some sort. What did Bob Huggins have to say about Murray not being with the team? “I’ve left guys home way, way, way better than Aaric Murray.” And his team’s performance on Saturday? “I’m sick of watching guys stand around. I’m sick of watching guys not compete. I’m sick of guys missing shot after shot after shot but never coming early, never staying late, don’t think about coming in on an off-day and then telling me they care? I haven’t had guys like that before. I want some guys that care.” It’s going to be that kind of year in Morgantown.
  4. Iowa State‘s breakthrough 2011-12 season was welcomed with open arms to the college basketball world but its return to prominence was perfect except for one thing: The Cyclones lived with the sting of an early season loss to in-state rival Drake (ok, it’s probably not that serious). But ISU did get their revenge on the Bulldogs Saturday with an 86-77 win. Melvin Ejim poured in 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way. Ejim continues to be a fantastic rebounder (9.3 per game) for his 6’6″ frame. The last thing the Cyclones want to be seen as is a one-hit wonder.
  5. Texas head coach Rick Barnes earned his 550th win as a college coach in Saturday’s 75-63 win over Texas State. While winning 550 games in any sport isn’t easy, Barnes’ teams have tended to be disappointments. Touted recruits have come to Austin and left quickly enough to not make a big impact on teams. As for Saturday’s game, the Longhorns’ 75 points were a season-high. They might need to score a little more than that if they want to give themselves a chance against North Carolina’s scorers (84 PPG) on Wednesday night.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Five

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 10th, 2012

Kansas State jumps into the third spot in this week’s ranking and the top three teams remain at one loss for the year. Texas continues its free fall without Myck Kabongo, the middle of the pack teams played like middle of the pack teams this week, and Texas Tech and TCU are still looking up at the rest of the Big 12 from a deep, deep hole.

1) Kansas (7-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week:  W 90-54 vs. Colorado

This Week: Saturday vs. Belmont, 6:00 PM CST

Bill Self’s Jayhawks are Atop the Big 12 Power Rankings for the Second Straight Week. (AP)

  • Rundown: The loss to Michigan State is getting further into the rear view as the Jayhawks have now won six in a row. They struggled 10 days ago against Oregon State but a week of practice seemed to help, and they ran Colorado out of the gym Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse. Finals are over this week, and these next few weeks of winter break are usually when Bill Self implements most of his offense and prepares his teams for their annual Big 12 title runs.
  • They Could Use Help From: Freshman F Perry Ellis: Ellis is averaging 5.9 PPG and 3.6 RPG. He’s only a true freshman and expectations aren’t high this season, but another reliable scorer next to Jeff Withey would be a boost for a Kansas offense that has struggled at times.

2) Oklahoma State (7-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 61-49 vs. South Florida, W 62-42 vs. Missouri State

This Week: Sunday vs. Central Arkansas, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: Oklahoma State rebounded from its loss to Virginia Tech to beat South Florida and Missouri State last week, but the loss to the Hokies is a bit of a head-scratcher. Junior guard Markel Brown continues to impress, though, averaging 14.0 PPG and 4.9 RPG. The Cowboys should clean up with their next three games: Central Arkansas, Texas-San Antonio, and Tennessee Tech.
  • They Could Use Help From: Senior G Jean-Paul Olukemi: With the additions of Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart the last two seasons, it’s not shocking that Olukemi’s offensive numbers have dipped. But he’s capable of scoring at a better clip, and the Cowboy offense (158th in the country with 69.4 PPG) could certainly benefit from.
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Big 12 M5: 12.06.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 6th, 2012

  1. As a five-star recruit, Oklahoma State freshman point guard Marcus Smart received plenty of fanfare before beginning his college career last month. But as Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News points out, Oklahoma State’s 20-point win over then No. 6 North Carolina State last month in the Puerto Rico Tip-off is when Smart’s name really became known across the country. Last night, he helped the Cowboys improve to 6-1 with a win over South Florida in Stillwater, a game in which Smart had 15 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals, and two blocks. In just six short weeks, all of the “potential” is gone. Smart is great. He’s one of the best, if not the best, freshmen in the country and one of the best point guards, too. And with an easy schedule the rest of December leading up to a New Year’s Eve home game against No. 10 Gonzaga, Smart may soon be leading a top 10 team when Big 12 play begins in January.
  2. For every Marcus Smart, there are usually about 10 Perry Ellises. Ellis won four consecutive Kansas state titles in high school and was a McDonald’s All-American last year, but he has been lost in the shuffle of the Jayhawks’ lineup a bit early on this season. It’s not a surprise that senior forward Kevin Young is starting at the four spot ahead of him, not in Bill Self’s system. Self loves having experience on the floor, and Ellis as a young first-year player is still adjusting to the college game. He’s playing 16 MPG this season and averaging 6.4 PPG and 4.0 RPG, and he reminds me of former Jayhawk forward Wayne Simien, a great four-year player at Kansas. Ellis and Simien’s freshmen numbers aren’t far off each other right now, either. Simien averaged 15.3 MPG, 8.1 PPG, and 5.3 RPG as a freshman in 2001-02.
  3. Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com unveiled another 2013 NBA mock draft, and four Big 12 players made his first round predictions: Baylor forward Isaiah Austin (7th), Kansas guard Ben McLemore (15th), Oklahoma State guard Le’Bryan Nash (16th), and Kansas center Jeff Withey (21st). Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson led off the second round at 31st, followed by West Virginia center Aaric Murrary (41st), Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart (47th), and Texas guard Myck Kabongo (53rd). It’s hard to imagine Murray leaving a year early if he is indeed projected that low, but a year struggling in a new system could sway his decision. I don’t see a scenario where two underclassmen like Smart and Kabongo leave to be picked in the second round, not with the potential to climb up these sort of lists in the next few years. Isaiah Austin looks like a bust at No. 7, and Jeff Withey and Pierre Jackson are NBA wildcards in my mind. But McLemore and Nash both look like solid picks, especially in the middle of the first round. Both players have the size and speed to excel at the next level.
  4. Jeff Eisenberg at Yahoo! Sports made a list of teams who have failed to live up to expectations this season, and not surprisingly, two Big 12 teams are mentioned: West Virginia and Texas. Making its debut in a new conference, it was hard to judge just how much of an impact the Mountaineers would have this season, but I didn’t think they’d be this bad. Losing on the road to Gonzaga isn’t terrible. Getting ripped by 34 to Gonzaga, or anyone, for that matter, is terrible. And as Eisenberg writes, that still isn’t as bad as losing to Davidson and Oklahoma. For Texas, at least they have somewhat of an excuse while awaiting the return of sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo. But if the Longhorns want an NCAA Tournament invitation, they better hope Kabongo is really, really good this season, because he has a lot of holes to fill. Teams who are only missing a single piece typically don’t put up 41 points against Georgetown.
  5. If you like second-level stats, Sport’s Illustrated‘s Luke Winn is your guy. Yesterday, Winn updated his weekly power rankings. Unfortunately for every Big 12 school not named Kansas, Winn only discusses his 16 best teams in the country, in which Kansas stayed at No. 9 on his list. Wynn rounds out his top 32 at the bottom of the column, however, and Oklahoma State and Kansas State come in at 25th and 26th. I’m not sold on Kansas State, but with Oklahoma State’s schedule this month, they should climb in every poll until that meeting with Gonzaga, with a win in that game vaulting the Cowboys to the top 10 early in 2013.
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Big 12 M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 5th, 2012

  1. Here’s to hoping Oklahoma State will make things interesting with Kansas in the conference race this season, because Baylor and Texas don’t appear to be up to the task. Texas lost to Chaminade and USC in the Maui Invitational and scored a whopping 41 points in last night’s loss to Georgetown. Getting Myck Kabongo back from his suspension will certainly help, but he’s not that good — he won’t cover up all of the holes in this Longhorns team in time for Big 12 play, and that’s assuming he even returns for Big 12 play. Baylor had a nice win over an (overrated) Kentucky team in Rupp Arena, but the losses to the College of Charleston then Northwestern last night at home more than cancel that win out.
  2. Speaking of Myck Kabongo, the Austin American-Statesmen was told by sources that they believe Kabongo will receive a 10-game suspension stemming from his trip to Cleveland last spring which may have been paid for by an agent. It would be similar to the Josh Selby situation at Kansas a few years ago, who was suspended until mid-December before finally stepping on the court for Bill Self. If their sources are correct, Kabongo would be eligible on December 19 against North Carolina at home.
  3. West Virginia center Aaric Murray isn’t playing up to his potential right now and it is hurting West Virginia through five games as the team sits at 2-3. He called himself a “6″ on a scale of 1-10, which sounds about right. He’s averaging 10.2 PPG and 7.0 RPG for the Mountaineers, which isn’t bad at all, but it’s not quite the numbers most people (including myself) thought he would put up this season after transferring over from La Salle. From what appears to be a stamina problem, he hasn’t been able to regularly stay on the court. He has played over 25 minutes just once this season, which came in the opening night loss to Gonzaga last month.
  4. Iowa State is rebounding the ball better than any team in the country, but the Cyclones are having trouble holding onto the ball after grabbing those rebounds. Fred Hoiberg’s team is second to last in the conference in turnover margin (-0.29) and they have committed 130 turnovers through nice games. In their two losses to Cincinnati and UNLV, they averaged 15 turnovers, but even in victories over small schools they’ve also struggled to protect the ball. Last night, they committed 19 turnovers in their 83-72 win over Florida Gulf Coast. With the talent, depth, and rebounding ability in place at Iowa State, they have the potential to finish in the upper half of the Big 12 and make the NCAA Tournament — but not if they continue to turn the ball over at this alarming pace.
  5. Yesterday, Jesse Newell of the Lawrence Journal-World delved deeply into the effect Jeff Withey‘s shot blocking prowess has had on the Kansas defense. If you like second-level stats, it’s a great piece to read. In short, Kansas is holding opponents to the worst field goal percentage on layup attempts (40%) in the country. 31% of opponents’ layup attempts have been blocked, also first in the country. It’s stats like these which are probably behind Bill Self’s current frustrations with his perimeter defense. When you have an All-American shot-blocker behind you, you can take more chances on the perimeter. You can play up tight on your man knowing there’s a good chance a guy like Withey will stop him if you can’t. Now they just have to do it.
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Is West Virginia This Bad, Or Is Its 1-3 Record a Product of Scheduling?

Posted by dnspewak on November 27th, 2012

West Virginia is not the worst team in the Big 12. Far from it. And yet there’s no team in the league right now with a worse record than the Mountaineers, who have lost three of their first four games and own a sole victory against Marist in the Old Spice Classic’s consolation bracket (hey, that’s more than Vanderbilt can brag about). If not for that one win, it’d have been fair to call the tournament in Orlando a Thanksgiving disaster for Bob Huggins‘ team, especially on the heels of that embarrassing season-opening loss to Gonzaga by, what was it, 700 points?

West Virginia Is Enduring an Early Losing Skid

With three transfers playing major minutes and a remade roster after losing Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant, nobody expected November and December to be easy for West Virginia. You’ll also hardly see a power-conference team play a schedule like this in the opening weeks of the season. It’s no secret how good Gonzaga or Davidson are, and Oklahoma’s no slouch this season either. Still, we expected to see Huggins’ team embody a completely different mentality. He openly admitted after bowing out early in last season’s NCAA Tournament that he had never coached such a poor defensive team. That was after a blowout loss to those same Zags — and sure enough, seven months later, it happened again in the 2012-13 season opener. Different team, but more of the same issues (GU hit 52% from the floor including nine threes).

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West Virginia’s New Season Begins How the Old One Ended

Posted by dnspewak on November 13th, 2012

Well, that seemed oddly familiar. Seven months after Gonzaga ended West Virginia‘s 2011-12 season in the most embarrassing of fashions in a 77-54 NCAA Tournament beatdown, the new-look Mountaineers hardly looked new at all. They unraveled in the first few minutes of their season opener — also the first game on ESPN’s 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon slate — and wallowed to an 84-50 loss Monday night (or was it Tuesday morning)?

Gonzaga Took It Right to the Mountaineers… Again (Jed Conklin — AP)

It was bad. Real bad, across the board. Before anybody hopped up on coffee and Five Hour Energy could blink an eye, Gonzaga led 17-2. That lead got to 27 at halftime, and, as Billy Packer once said a little bit prematurely in a certain Final Four game, “this game is ovah” at that point. Players were visibly frustrated, body language was poor and coach Bob Huggins seemed to have no answers. Offensively, his team was a mess. That’s understandable after losing Kevin Jones and, probably more evidently on Monday night, point guard Truck Bryant. Dayton transfer Juwan Staten and Jabarie Hinds combined for just two assists against five turnovers, and the team totaled only eight overall assists. Aaric Murray, a newcomer from La Salle with major pro potential, scored 14 points in his debut, but that hardly mattered. The Mountaineers couldn’t initiate any open looks, and they missed everything. We mean everything. Three-of-26 from three-point land is not very pretty to open the year. Boston College transfer Matt Humphrey, known for his perimeter shooting, finished 1-of-7. Hinds was 1-of-6. It didn’t help that the Bulldogs executed very well offensively after a rather sluggish start, as four Gonzaga starters finished in double figures.

And that’s all you really need to know about West Virginia’s season opener. Playing in unfamiliar territory in the state of Washington, the Mountaineers looked about as culturally shocked as humanly possible in The Kennel. The crowd was fierce, the place was amped and Huggins’ team did not respond well. It’s clear his reclamation project will take time. He has new guards to break in, a new centerpiece on offense in Murray and a lot of sophomores trying to adjust to new roles. You know Huggins will have this team in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament by February. Unfortunately, after this debacle, it’s fair to wonder whether Huggins’ program will ever get that swagger back on the defensive end and on the boards. It lost that identity a bit a year ago — especially against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament — and it certainly did not return today.

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Big 12 Team Preview #5: West Virginia Mountaineers

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 8th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team previews here at the Big 12 microsite. West Virginia at the #5 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

2011-12 record: 19-14, 9-9 Big East

Key Contributors Gone: F Kevin Jones, G Darryl “Truck” Bryant

Head Coach: Bob Huggins, 6th season

Projected Finish: 5th

Huggy Bear is Back (AP)

Bob Huggins is back in the Big 12, and that’s nothing but good news for the conference. The former Kansas State head coach bolted for West Virginia in 2007 and is back after the Mountaineers joined the conference along with TCU this summer. His one year stint in the Big 12 in 2006-07 could help his team’s transition. Or not. “I don’t know,” Huggins said when asked about his familiarity in the league. “I know where to eat.” Huggins is just funny enough and just somber enough that you never quite know if he’s being serious or cracking a joke, like when he talked about the new round-robin schedule that will take him to every Big 12 campus this season. “I didn’t get to go to Lubbock,” he said of his 2006-07 season at Kansas State. “I almost wanted to stay so I cold get to go to Lubbock the next year.”

Huggins’ acrimonious remark towards the West Texas town was dead on to anyone who has been there, and it’s a reminder to Big 12 fans that the conference has personality again, like the days when Norm Stewart and Johnny Orr and Billy Tubbs roamed the sidelines and wrote writer’s stories with their quotes. Huggins might not be so familiar with Big 12 locales, but he is familiar with a tough basketball league. He battled Louisville, UConn, and Syracuse for conference titles in the Big East. Now he’s faced with Kansas, Baylor, and Texas. Getting to those schools won’t be easy, either. “They asked me who our rivalry in the conference was going to be,” Huggins said. “I said it’s probably Iowa State, they’re only 853 air miles away.” Travel nightmares notwithstanding, the Mountaineers seem equipped to battle the Big 12′s top teams on a yearly basis. They’ve won 24 games a season every year Huggins as been in Morgantown. But like a lot of programs in the conference, they face a fair amount of roster turnover in their opening season, losing the top two scorers off last year’s team.

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Big 12 M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 8th, 2012

  1. With the election now in the rear-view mirror, Matt Norlander over at CBSSports.com wondered if the presidential race was decided by states with the best basketball programs. Norlander’s sample size is comprised of his site’s preseason top 26 because he felt it wouldn’t be as compelling if states like Alaska, Hawaii or Wyoming were put on a level playing field with say, Indiana and Kentucky. It was a close “race” between the number of red states and blue states but the electoral vote count will remind you of the results from Tuesday. It is also worth noting that each of the Big 12 teams in their top 26 are in red states. I’m just saying.
  2. USA Today Sports‘ Eric Prisbell and Nicole Auerbach give us a list of coaches with the most to prove this season and two of them are Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford. While these coaches do have some work to do this year to justify their positions, they’re at different levels on the totem pole. Weber is in his first year of a new job while Ford is a bad season away from losing his job. The article also lists UConn’s Kevin Ollie as another coach with a lot of pressure this year, so if you’re going to list guys who have limited head coaching experience with limited time with which to work, Chris Walker of Texas Tech would be as good a candidate as any.
  3. We now know how long Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins will be sidelined. Travis Ford announced he’ll be out “about a month” after suffering an injury in Monday’s exhibition victory versus Ottawa University. Le’Bryan Nash threw an alley-oop pass to Cobbins but the pass went over his head and he fell on an Ottawa player. This, of course, is bad news for a coach already without two key pieces in his rotation – Phillip Jurick who is still recovering from an Achilles injury and J.P. Olukemi who is dealing with a knee injury. Guard Brian Williams, of course, is also out for the season. Get well, Cowboys.
  4. Tuesday night West Virginia dominated its exhibition game like any good program, beating Glenville State, 95-53, and head coach Bob Huggins isn’t happy. As a team the Mountaineers shot 50% from the floor, Deniz Kilicli dropped 19 in an efficient 8-for-10 shooting night, Aaric Murray had 13 points, nine boards, and two blocked shots, while Juwan Staten had 16 points, six dimes and zero turnovers. So what does Huggins think? “We’re going to look at how we didn’t run any offense.” Riiiight, coach. I see what you did there.
  5. Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale are two of ESPN’s most visible college basketball personalities and while they have had moments of disagreement over the years, they have finally agreed on one thing: Oklahoma and Lon Kruger are on the rise this season. I don’t like the fact that Kruger doesn’t stay at places very long but what Vitale says is true: He can flat-out coach. Take a good coach like Kruger, the returns of Steven Pledger and Romero Osby, the arrival of Amath M’Baye, an emerging point guard in Sam Grooms, and I believe they will hear Greg Gumbel call their name out on Selection Sunday.
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Big 12 M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 26th, 2012

  1. Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2014 out of Huntington Prep (WV) has decided to graduate early and reclassify to the 2013 class, Rivals.com announced Thursday. Wiggins is good enough that he’s already assumed the No. 1 spot in the class of 2013, supplanting Julius Randle or Jabari Parker, depending on whom you ask. Kentucky and Florida State remain in the lead for Wiggins’ services, but North Carolina and Kansas recently checked in on the 6’7″ Canadian as well. Kentucky seems like the obvious favorite at the time but the Wildcats already have five commitments in the class — three in the top 10 — leading to some serious competition for playing time. Wiggins’ father, Mitchell Wiggins, played for Florida State in the early 80s, which has obviously helped the Seminoles in his ongoing recruitment. Kansas and North Carolina sent assistants to Huntington earlier this week, but the interest between the two schools and Wiggins is still largely unknown.
  2. Speaking of the Jayhawks, Kansas announced Thursday the installment of a four-year series with Georgetown to begin next December in Allen Fieldhouse. The two teams will meet in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. during the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons with another trip to Kansas in 2015-16. The Hoyas are another quality non-conference opponent for Bill Self in a long line of quality non-conference opponents, from Duke and Kentucky to Michigan State and Ohio State in recent years. The primary incentive of this interesting Big 12/Big East match-up is to benefit KU’s east coast recruiting. Assistant coach Joe Dooley is an east coast native and has helped land a number of local recruits for the Jayhawks, such as the Morris twins (Philadelphia), Tyshawn Taylor (New Jersey) and Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C.).
  3. Baylor opened up its exhibition season with a 103-75 victory over Abilene Christian Thursday night in Waco. Junior guard Brady Heslip hit six three-pointers and finished with 18 points on the night. That Baylor gave up 75 points is a whole lot of scoring to give up to a Division II team, but the game was only an exhibition after all. There was nothing of note to take from the box score, obviously, but it was nice seeing one of those again after a six-month hiatus. Only two weeks until the real games begin.
  4. Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com ranked the top 30 freshman on Thursday, and put Kentucky center Nerlens Noel on top. The Big 12 had four freshmen on the list including three of the top 10. Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart was second on the list, and his versatility will give him plenty of opportunities to score this season while also racking up plenty of assists alongside scorer Le’Bryan Nash. The Big 12 rounded out its choices with Baylor center Isaiah Austin (#7), Kansas guard Ben McLemore (#9), and Texas center Cameron Ridley (#18).
  5. Yes, it’s another CBSSports.com list. They’ve been on fire this week with these preseason lists of players and Jeff Goodman added another quality piece on Thursday, ranking the top 30 transfers this season. Not surprisingly, former Xavier standout Mark Lyons — now at Arizona — topped the list, but not far behind Lyons was Iowa State forward Will Clyburn (#4), who averaged 17.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG for Utah two seasons ago, both team highs. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg seems to love Clyburn, another solid transfer to venture to Ames the last few years. The Cyclones were represented again with former Michigan State guard Korie Lucious coming in at No. 17. Big 12 newcomer West Virginia had two players on the list as well, center Aaric Murray (#5) and point guard Juwan Staten (#13). Oklahoma junior forward Amath M’Baye was the fifth Big 12 player on the list (#23), and was recently named a team captain.
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Big 12 M5: 10.24.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 24th, 2012

  1. It seems the Houston Rockets and former Iowa State forward Royce White have figured out the rookie’s fear of flying. White, who has struggled with anxiety issues most of his life, missed parts of Houston’s training camp while trying to figure out the travel issue. White will be allowed to travel by bus to as many road games as he can this season. He’ll obviously have to fly in certain situations, like long trips up either coast or for back-to-back road games that occur throughout the season, but allowing him to drive when possible should keep him in a good frame of mind and protect the Rockets’ nearly $3 million investment. FoxSportsSouthwest‘s Tully Corcoran had a great column on the situation earlier this month. It’s in the Rockets’ best interest to accommodate White for the two years they have to pay him. After that, we’ll find out if all the extra effort is worth it to the team.
  2. The CBSSports.com basketball staff unveiled their top 50 big men on Tuesday, and not surprisingly, Indiana’s Cody Zeller topped the list. The Big 12 didn’t fare as well as on Monday’s point guard rankings, landing just four players on this list. Kansas center Jeff Withey came in at No. 8 and Matt Norlander predicted “another huge season from a big white guy in Lawrence.” Newcomer Aaric Murray of West Virginia was next in line at No. 18, followed by freshmen Isaiah Austin of Baylor (#21) and Cameron Ridley of Texas (#43). It’s hard to argue against Zeller at No. 1, seeing he’s the best player on the preseason No. 1 team in the country, but I would have put Creighton’s Doug McDermott (#2) in that spot. Semantics, I know. Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel (#3) received the Anthony Davis treatment and was overrated at No. 3 ahead of proven college players like Mike Moser, Tony Mitchell, and C.J. Leslie, but that’s what the UK hype machine does to otherwise reasonable people.
  3. Last season, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger allowed fans into the Lloyd Noble Center to watch practices from the stands. Now there’s no excuse for the diehard Sooner basketball fan not to catch a glimpse of practice, as he has decided to live stream every preseason practice online for fans to watch. It looks to be the first time a Division I team has tried this, and while watching every minute of every practice would bore even the most loyal fan to tears, it’s cool that Kruger is looking into other avenues to excite his football school’s fan base. He doesn’t have anything to lose.
  4. Jeff Goodman has an in-depth list of the “secret scrimmages” that are happening all across the country in the next week. According to Andy Katz of ESPN, teams can play two exhibitions with non-Division I teams or scrimmage fellow Division I opponents. Looking at Goodman’s list, a lot of teams prefer to scrimmage a similar opponent rather than pay a Little Sisters of the Poor to come in and lose by 50 points in front of a few dozen fans. Somewhere in the NCAA wording of the rule, though, it states that scrimmages can’t be open to the public or media and they can’t be advertised. Whatever the case, this Saturday TCU is playing at Texas A&M, Texas is hosting Davidson, Texas Tech is playing at Texas Southern, and Xavier is playing at West Virginia. Sunday, Iowa State is hosting Nebraska. Allegedly.
  5. The odds are stacked against Texas Tech interim head coach Chris Walker, but he’s handling his situation — at least so far — as well as anyone. He was surprisingly upbeat at last week’s Big 12 Media Day and had some of the best quotes of the day. My personal favorite: “I tell the guys all the time that 85% of the people don’t care what’s going on, and the other 15% are glad you’re going through it.” The Red Raiders are looking up at every team in the Big 12 except TCU this season, and how Walker handles the struggles might determine if the interim tag is removed and he returns next season. Either way, Tech fans could have had done much worse than having Walker on board to guide this team this year.
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Considering the Highest Impact Transfers in 2012-13

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 23rd, 2012

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

There were few topics more thoroughly dissected and debated this offseason than transfers. The discourse began not one month after the coronation of last season’s National Champion Kentucky Wildcats with Jared Uthoff’s highly-publicized transfer tug-of-war with Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. It continued when the NCAA released word (via ESPN’s Outside the Lines program) of its intentions to review transfer guidelines as part of a larger concern over a the growing frequency of player movement, much of which – as quantified  by SI.com’s Luke Winn – is characterized by a nontraditional upward flow, whereby players seek to improve their competitive situations by jumping to better teams in high-major conferences. There is a growing fear, one that bears out in Winn’s numerical analysis, that coaches are using the pool of dissatisfied players in lesser conferences as a secondary recruiting market, that mid-major teams will increasingly suffer the possibility of having their players lost to a “poaching culture” of high-major powers plucking the lower ranks’ top talents.

After being overtaken by Kendall Marshall, Drew left UNC to reignite his career in Los Angeles (photo credit: US Presswire)

This is a legitimate concern. The NCAA will likely implement policies to cut down on the various loopholes and pathways in which players are allowed to relinquish their initial commitments in favor of joining a new program, or at least skew the cost-benefit analysis of making such a move towards staying put, but those changes may not come to bear for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, we’re left with a college hoops landscape where established players with proven track records can pack their bags for greener pastures. This year’s batch includes several players who could alter their new teams’ seasons in important ways. The list of newly-eligible transfers is long and varied, so I highlighted 10 newcomers whose first seasons in new locales should find immediate success. As is the case with all of these preseason lists, the qualifications for inclusion are at best fuzzy, and at worst, flawed. There are a lot of transfers, so narrowing the list wasn’t easy. So before you rage against your favorite team’s new hot shooting guard being left out of the group, remember to take into account the sheer numerical backdrop from which any selective transfer-based analysis is grounded.

Herewith, in random order, the list:

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