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


  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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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


  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 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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