Big 12 M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 18th, 2012

morning5_big12

  1. The Big 12 announced the weekly winners for Big 12 player and rookie of the week. POTW honors went to Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim. Though he only played one game last week, Ejim filled up the stat sheet against Drake with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals in 31 minutes. It was Ejim’s 11th career double-double and he has already registered four of them on the young season. This week’s ROTW is now a repeat winner. Baylor freshman Isaiah Austin won the award with his dominant performance in the Bears’ 85-68 win over Lamar on December 12. All the seven-footer did was put up season highs in points (23) and rebounds (17) against a helpless Cardinals’ front line. I have a feeling Austin will win another ROTW honor before season’s end.
  2. Back on March 2, Chris Lowery was fired as head coach at Southern Illinois, and just seven days later, his former boss Bruce Weber was fired at Illinois. So when Weber landed feet first in Manhattan, Kansas, during the offseason, Lowery was on the short list of possible assistants to call. Even though the season is young, I’ll go ahead and call this a home run hire. In his first three seasons at SIU, Weber had just one NIT appearance but once Lowery came on staff in 2001, the Salukis made the NCAA Tournament twice including a run to the Sweet Sixteen. He even joined Weber at Illinois for a year to help guide another Sweet Sixteen team. Now if only he and Weber could sign a lifetime deal at K-State…
  3. Burnt Orange Nation gives us a recap of the first month of basketball for Big 12 teams. I can’t remember a season when the Big 12 has had so many teams show signs of incompetence. West Virginia was supposed to succeed the role of Missouri with a solid history and recent success, yet they find themselves at 4-5. Texas‘ crop of talented young guys can’t put the ball in the hoop; Baylor has been a vulnerable team at home; and then a collection of teams (Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas State) have solid records but haven’t been able to get wins against significant opponents yet. Hopefully, next month’s recap will be more flattering for the Big 12.
  4. We know Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger is into trying new things, seeing how he changes jobs every five years (I kid) but Saturday’s win over Texas A&M saw Kruger add what The Norman Transcript calls a “new wrinkle” to another possible lineup. The Sooners went with a four-guard set with 6’6″ forward Cameron Clark at the center position for a large part of the second half. Clark went on to score 12 of his 17 points in that half and, while his team searches for an identity, Kruger left the door open for the Sooners to experiment with that lineup in the future.
  5. To borrow a line from Houston Rockets radio voice Craig Ackerman, Baylor very nearly pooped their big boy pants again last night to USC Upstate but rebounded in the second half to beat the Spartans 73-57. Cory Jefferson ruled the paint going 6-of-8 from the field for 17 points to lead all scorers. Fresh off his second ROTW award, Isaiah Austin recorded his second consecutive double-double (12 points, 10 boards) while the best all-around game went to A.J. Walton who threw in 10 points, four rebounds, eight dimes and five steals. It’s another tally in the win column for Scott Drew, but the uneasy feeling about the Bears playing at the Ferrell Center isn’t going away just yet.
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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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Set Your TiVo: 01.20 – 01.22

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will look to keep rolling but a Big 12 clash highlights Saturday’s slate.

#5 Missouri @ #3 Baylor – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

This Clash Between Big 12 Powers Offers a Contrast in Strengths

  • This game could really come down to which team imposes its will. For Missouri, it would love nothing more than to speed the game up, force turnovers and not let Baylor get set in its half court defense. Missouri’s strength is its guard play. Frank Haith employs a four-guard lineup and it has worked wonders this season. The Tigers have shot the ball very well this season and that’s going to have to continue on the road in Waco. Missouri has struggled against teams with bigger front lines so its guards must shoot well if penetration is cut off and Ricardo Ratliffe is limited inside by Baylor’s trees. Kim English, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon can flat out shoot the basketball and Haith will need all three contributing in order to beat Baylor. It will be a bonus if Ratliffe can get anything going inside but Mizzou’s guards must continue to make shots in a tough environment.
  • Baylor is the stronger team inside and Scott Drew knows it. Getting Perry Jones III to assert himself in the paint along with Quincy Acy could be the key for the Bears in this game. Baylor will have the home crowd and energy behind itself and capitalizing on that is going to be very important against a team that loves to speed you up and force turnovers. In order for Jones and Acy to get the ball, Baylor’s guard play must be up to the task. Missouri will pressure Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton all game because the Tigers need to run up the turnovers and transition points in order to offset what should be a significant Baylor edge on the glass. If Baylor can slow the game down a bit, limit turnovers and get the ball inside, it should be on its way to a win. If Jones III and Acy are hot in the paint, that will open up Brady Heslip and Jackson from deep. Jackson does so much for this team with penetration, passing and shooting ability but Heslip is great spotting up or coming off a screen. Baylor has multiple weapons of varying height, something Missouri may have a very hard time dealing with.
  • As we said, Missouri must speed the game up and create turnovers against the turnover-prone Bears. Ratliffe is a very good post player but we’re not sure if he’s going to be able to score consistently as the only Mizzou big man against Baylor’s immense height in the paint. If Missouri can’t get anything inside it must knock down deep shots and get to the free throw line. The Tigers shoot 77.6% from the charity stripe and that could end up being their most efficient way of scoring against Baylor aside from the three ball. Baylor didn’t defend well against Kansas but Missouri was exposed in a tough environment at Kansas State. If Baylor is physical and sticks to the game plan of good half court offense, the Bears should win. Missouri should play better in its second time on the road against a very good team but you have to favor Baylor at home given the size mismatch.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia – 3:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPNU (****)

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Night Line: Baylor Becoming a Complete, Elite Team Before Our Eyes

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

When Kansas State walloped previously undefeated Missouri last weekend, it looked like the Big 12 was shaping up as a jumbled mess of strong teams, without a clear favorite. K-State had a chance to stake its own claim atop the conference ladder with another home game on Tuesday night, but the Baylor Bears came through Bramlage Coliseum and had other ideas. Baylor remained undefeated by surviving the road test, 75-73, and in the process perhaps established itself as one of the top teams in the country and clear Big 12 front-runners. At 16-0 with several good road wins (BYU, Northwestern, and now K-State), neutral court victories (St. Mary’s, West Virginia), and the talent to match any team in the country, Baylor needs to be considered an elite team along with the likes of Syracuse and Kentucky.

Pierre Jackson Helps Complete Baylor and Make Them an Elite Team (US Presswire)

We’ve all known that Baylor has some of the best athletes in college basketball, led by the talented underclassmen forward combination of Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller. Jones (13.4 PPG), Miller (11.1 PPG), and senior leader Quincy Acy (12.1 PPG) have all performed admirably offensively this season to match their expected high-level contributions on the defensive end. But the emergence of point guard Pierre Jackson has completely changed the look of Scott Drew’s team. Jackson, who is still not in the starting lineup, came off the bench and recorded a double-double in Tuesday’s win over Kansas State, going for 10 points and 11 assists in 33 minutes, while also chipping in five boards and two steals. Jackson was playing at the junior college level last year, and the transfer is now on the Bob Cousy Award list as one of the 20 best points guards in America. While not the greatest ball-handler or passer in the traditional sense, he’s become the strong guard that the Bears lacked last season and most pundits feared they would again this year. Jackson upped his season averages to 11.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.8 SPG, and 51% field goal shooting after the crucial win on Tuesday. With depth in both the frontcourt and backcourt as well, Baylor has become a complete team right before our eyes.

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Ten For Ten: Impressions of Each Big 12 Team From Its Opener

Posted by dnspewak on January 5th, 2012

Congratulations, Big 12 teams. You’ve all now played one-eighteenth of your conference schedule. For the next two months, you will suffer through hard-fought battles week after week until this wild league sorts itself out. After one game, it’s impossible to tell what exactly will happen from now until the first weekend in March. But each Big 12 opener at least gave us a little insight into this crazy conference. In alphabetical order, here’s what you need to know about Opening Week:

  1. Baylor has not played flawless basketball this season, but don’t exactly take that as a criticism. The Bears are undefeated and off to the best start in school history, and yet they still have a lot of room for improvement. Although it handled Texas A&M from start to finish in Waco on Monday, Scott Drew’s team still finished with 16 turnovers and shot just 2-12 from beyond the arc. Guard play in particular was a problem: Pierre Jackson finished with seven turnovers, and Brady Heslip did not score. And yet the Bears’ 61-52 victory was hardly in doubt until a modest comeback by the Aggies at the very end of the game. Perry Jones, who did not play well in a win over Mississippi State on national television last week, redeemed himself with a double-double as BU’s frontcourt overpowered the normally physical Aggies. The guards will make the difference this season for Drew, and though they struggled in the Big 12 opener, that trend should not continue. Jackson, Heslip, A.J. Walton and Gary Franklin are an underrated group.
  2. Iowa State is not a pushover this season. These guys can really shoot the heck out of the basketball, and they won their first Big 12 opener in five seasons by knocking off Texas 77-71 on Wednesday night. Yes, the Longhorns have problems of their own– more on that later– but Fred Hoiberg‘s team defended well, played with outstanding energy and got every shot it wanted on the offensive end. Iowa State made 10-of-21 three-pointers, and not a single trey came from Scott Christopherson, one of the top three-point shooters in Big 12 history from a percentage standpoint. Chris Babb and Anthony Booker combined to make eight of those shots, but forward Royce White controlled this game by getting to the free throw line and posing a matchup problem for UT. The Longhorns are small on the front line, and White exploited them by using his quickness. He announced to the Big 12 that he will not be easy to defend this winter.

    Bill Self's Team Made a Statement On Wednesday Night

  3. Kansas looked like a Big 12 champion again by spanking Kansas State at the Phog on Wednesday night. Sure, the Jayhawks cooled off after building an early 18-point lead, and the Wildcats jumped back into the game in the second half. By the end of the contest, though, KU had run away with this rivalry by beating Frank Martin at his own game. Kansas State thought it could rattle the Jayhawks with its high-pressure style and tenacious rebounding, but Thomas Robinson proved once again that he’s not afraid of anybody. Forget the loss to Davidson. Tyshawn Taylor may turn the ball over too much, and the offense may not always look crisp, but Bill Self‘s team will defend and it will not back down from a challenge. 17 offensive rebounds and a +24 margin on the boards against a Frank Martin team is proof of that. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 12.16.11 to 12.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 16th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With Dead Week mercifully over, we finally have some good games to enjoy this Saturday despite Sunday being a very slow day in the hoops world.

#6 Baylor @ BYU – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on BYU TV (****)

Perry Jones Leads Baylor into Provo Saturday (AP)

  • The Bears have had difficulty on the road in past seasons but they already passed one important test, demolishing Northwestern in Chicago a couple weeks ago. This game, however, will be an even better measure to see where the highly-rated Bears are really at. The Marriott Center is a notoriously difficult place to play but Baylor has a clear talent edge in this game. BU welcomes Gary Franklin, now eligible after the first semester, to an already highly skilled roster. Franklin didn’t play all that well at California last season but he was a four star recruit out of high school. He should help the Bears out at the point guard position, a place where turnovers are still an issue. Baylor averages 16 turnovers a game and that will be dangerous playing on the road against a team like BYU that likes to push the pace. 5.8 of those 16 turnovers come from the point guard position so Scott Drew is hoping that Franklin can help handle the ball. How Franklin will fit in alongside Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton remains a question mark.
  • BYU’s top six scorers are all 6’5” or taller, an important factor against the length and athleticism of Baylor’s front line. Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo do the bulk of the damage for Dave Rose, as those three are his top scorers and rebounders. Hartsock in particular has been outstanding, scoring in double figures in every game thus far. All three will have to play well in order for BYU to pull the upset because Baylor’s front court is strong, deep and talented. With Quincy Acy blocking 3.3 shots a game, BYU’s big men should find it more difficult to score inside on Saturday. The Cougars have to get their outside game going as well. Baylor’s defense is very average against the three and BYU has three big deep threats, Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Brock Zylstra. Going up against the top-ranked interior defense in the nation, BYU needs its outside shots to fall in order to win. However, the Cougars can’t afford to settle for threes if they aren’t falling. They must get something going in the paint, even against such a strong defense, in order to balance out their offense.
  • This is an important game for both clubs. Baylor has played only two teams of note so far while BYU’s best win is over a mediocre Oregon team. Baylor shoots well (49.1% FG) but the biggest difference this season has been its defense. The Bears allow only 33.3% shooting inside the arc and their defensive efficiency has been terrific. Both teams get most of their offense from their respective front courts but Baylor may have the ultimate edge with Cory Jefferson off the bench. He adds some scoring punch and, more importantly, rebounding and depth for the Bears. For the Cougars to win, they’ll have to force turnovers to get points in transition because it’ll be awfully tough to score inside in the half court. In addition to making its threes, BYU must rebound well and get to the line while putting the Baylor big men in foul trouble. However, BYU ranks #295 in free throw rate and Baylor doesn’t foul too often. Although BYU rarely loses at home, this is a game Baylor can win. There are some who still doubt the Bears but a win here would put them on their way towards legitimate national recognition.

Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida (at Sunrise, FL) – 2:30 PM EST Saturday on FSN (***)

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Unselfish Play Represents a Fresh Start For Baylor

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

Bill Hupp is a freelance sports writer and proud Missouri alumnus living in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on college and pro hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life. He filed this report from Sunday’s game between Baylor and Northwestern.

With five of the nine players in their rotation standing 6’7″ or taller, it’s understandable why Baylor’s imposing interior garnered most of the preseason attention. The unknown element coming into 2011-12 was the Bears’ backcourt. It’s still early, but Baylor’s solid guard play thus far has helped vault them from a Top 25 team to their highest ranking in school history (No. 7) and the favorite to win the Big 12. Playing their first non-conference true road game in nearly two seasons against a solid Northwestern squad on Sunday, Baylor used a 19-5 run to end the first half as they coasted to a 69-41 win.

Baylor's Athletic Size and Length Confounded Northwestern (AP Photo/C. Cherney)

Baylor (7-0) spent nearly all game in an extended 2-3 match-up zone with 6’9″ Quincy Miller and 6’11” Perry Jones III on the wings.  Their length and athleticism clearly bothered the Wildcats, who shot an abysmal 24 percent from the field and had long droughts of 5:45, 6:21 and 6:37 between field goals during the game. When NU did get into the lane, 6’7″ Quincy Acy was usually waiting, swatting six of Baylor’s nine total blocked shots. That shot blocking-prowess allowed their guards to extend their zone pressure out onto the perimeter. As expected, Baylor also dominated down low on offense, outscoring the ‘Cats 46-12 in the paint.  When point guard AJ Walton wasn’t driving into the lane and tossing lobs for Acy to throw down, Pierre Jackson was getting to the basket off the bounce and scoring. The diminutive 2011 National JUCO Player of the Year has poured in at least 16 points in each of the past three games and seems to be hitting his stride in Waco.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.02.11 – 12.04.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 2nd, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

As we move into December, the first big Saturday of the year (highlighted by the battle in Lexington) is now upon us. Not to mention we get a nice preview of things to come on Friday evening.

#6 Florida @ #3 Syracuse – 7 PM EST Friday on ESPN (*****)

  • Syracuse has three distinct advantages in this game despite playing a top ten opponent. One is home court, two is height, and three is depth. The Orange have taller players at every position, one through five, and Jim Boeheim can go a legitimate ten deep into his bench. Against a Florida team that will be without forward Erik Murphy, Syracuse may be able to overwhelm the guard-heavy Gators. The key for the Orange will be defense. The 2-3 zone creates a fantastic match-up given Florida’s preferred style of offense, shooting lots of threes. If the Orange can be active and extend the perimeter of the zone, Florida will have a tough time.
  • The key for Florida is simple: make threes. To do that however, the Gators must establish Patric Young early and often. Playing without Murphy, Young is Florida’s only reliable post player. If he can’t get going, Syracuse won’t have to worry about extending the zone and leaving holes in the middle. If Young gets off to a fast start, the Orange will have to respect his presence by packing its defense in a bit more inside the arc. That will give Florida’s dynamic guards the opportunity to make shots. With Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario both shooting almost 50% from deep and two other Gators lurking as potential snipers, Syracuse doesn’t want to be forced to do that.

Can UF Establish Patric Young Inside To Give Its Shooters Room?

  • It’s always fun when a team that relies heavily on guards and the three point shot gets together with a team that plays almost exclusively zone. The Syracuse defense will tempt Florida to shoot the deep ball all night but Florida must work for open shots by establishing Young and some sort of an inside-out game. Keeping the zone off balance and moving the ball effectively are always keys to finding open shots. Defensively, Florida has to do better. Syracuse is much more efficient on that end of the floor while the Gators rank a pedestrian 52nd in the nation. Although three point shooting is the big key in this game, Florida’s defense could cost them in a tight game.
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RTC Summer Updates: Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 10th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big 12 correspondent, Evan Pfaff.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Round Robin Scheduling – For the first time since the Big 12 was formed, the conference will implement full round-robin scheduling, meaning each school will play a home-and-home with each of the other nine schools in the conference.  In the past, schools played the teams in their division in a home-and-home, but only played schools in the other division once per season, switching home courts every year.  That meant the epic battles between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks happened only once per regular season, and whichever school hosted the game had a monumental advantage over the other.  With a full round-robin format, not only will each school play two additional conference games, but seeding will be based more on outcomes on the floor than the scheduling fates.
  • Reloading Talent – The Big 12 is used to replacing an enormous amount of talent. In 2010, ten Big 12 players were taken in the NBA Draft.  Two months ago, the Big 12 cupboards were once again raided, as seven players heard their names called. The conference should again be stacked and we might hear as many as ten names called on draft day 2012. From incoming freshmen like Baylor’s Quincy Miller, Texas’ Myck Kabongo and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash, to returning stars like Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, the Big 12 should again be a breeding ground for NBA rosters.
  • New Coaches… EVERYWHERE.  Change is inevitable in college athletics, but stability at the top usually translates into success on the floor. So it is eye opening that from Mike Anderson and Mark Turgeon leaving to Pat Knight and Jeff Capel being shown the door, the Big 12 had a 40% coaching turnover this summer. Now with Frank Haith, Billy Kennedy, Billy Gillispie and Lon Kruger roaming Big 12 sidelines, the conference has some questions to answer. Can Missouri conform to a set offense? Can A&M meet high preseason expectations under new management? Do Billy Clyde Gillispie and Lon Kruger have another run left in them?

Kansas head coach Bill Self has a tall task in front of him after losing most of the punch from last season's potent lineup.

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Ten Offseason Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on June 1st, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

It was easy to get energized about Vanderbilt’s chances next season once the somewhat surprising news was announced that versatile swingman Jeffery Taylor would return for his senior campaign. Taylor joining forces with an experienced and talented guard tandem of John Jenkins and Brad Tinsley, along with efficient big man Festus Ezeli and quite a bit of depth, immediately gave folks in Nashville reason to believe they could contend with the powerhouse roster Kentucky assembled in the SEC. While those are four legitimate reasons for excitement – it’s awfully rare a team without a brand name like Duke, Carolina, Kentucky or UCLA returns their top four scorers (including three possible first round picks) from a top-15 efficient offense in the one-and-done era – I won’t be completely sold on Vanderbilt’s chances to usurp the Wildcats, or even fend off Florida, if their team defense doesn’t improve dramatically. The ‘Dores ranked a meager 88th in the nation in defensive efficiency last season, a mark good for tenth in the SEC, well behind the likes of both Kentucky and Florida. Their inadequacies on defense were a major reason why those of us tantalized by Vandy’s talent last season was so dumbfounded when they couldn’t quite put it all together on a sustained basis and why they ultimately dropped their final two games of the season to Florida and to #12 seed Richmond. The most confusing part: Vandy seemingly has the ancillary parts to be a strong defensive club. Taylor is regarded by NBA scouts as a premier stopper on the perimeter and Ezeli ranked 16th in block percentage in 2010-11.

Taylor needs to coax his teammates into playing stronger defense

The near-unanimous reaction following the NBA Draft declaration deadline was that Texas was the big loser. This isn’t necessarily false, but were we all that surprised Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson bolted for the pros, especially once it was known Thompson would be a lottery selection? Playing with a fellow Canadian in Myck Kabongo may seem enticing until millions of dollars are staring you in the face. Hamilton was never suited for a structured college game, either, and could really take off in the pros as a polished, explosive scorer capable of putting up points in bunches. The most shocking decision was that of Cory Joseph, who opted to leave school primarily on the basis of one workout just prior to the deadline, a decision that very few saw coming from an undersized point guard without mature floor instincts. Joseph likely saw the writing on the wall – that he’d be playing primarily as a two-guard opposite Kabongo and this move would devastate his draft stock even more – and ditched while he had a chance at the first round. Ben Howland must have been even more crushed than Rick Barnes, though. With Derrick Williams and Momo Jones out in Tucson, the opportunity was there to re-establish UCLA’s status as the premier Pac-10 representative after two tumultuous seasons. Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee are far from locks to have their name called in the first round, yet both made the abrupt decision to forgo their remaining eligibility and take their talents to the NBA. With Honeycutt and Lee joining forces with Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith, Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb and incoming two-guard Norman Powell in the fray, UCLA had a top-10 roster had the parts stayed together. It’s a shame, really.

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Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011


 

 

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on February 22nd, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

- I deemed Saturday’s Washington-Arizona game appointment viewing with the specific intent of watching Derrick Williams for 40 minutes. I had seen Williams play multiple times this season, but mostly for small snippets against weaker competition in the Pac-10. Williams is an absolutely outstanding collegiate player that flashes moments of brilliance on the basketball court. He attacks the glass with ferocity, can face up or back an opponent down and is outstanding in isolation situations. I’m not sure Williams has the personality or the attitude to completely take over long stretches of a game like Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette or Nolan Smith, but nobody utilizes his possessions with more proficiency than Williams. When he chooses to enter another gear, as he did for the majority of the final five minutes of an Arizona win that effectively clinched the Pac-10 regular season title, he’s impossible to contain. If I were the Cavaliers GM – although I shouldn’t assume they’ll win the lottery based on that city’s tortured sports past – I’d snag Williams #1 overall over the likes of Kyrie Irving, Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger or any other entry. You think Williams is a special prospect now, just wait until he’s playing with an NBA-caliber pass-first point guard. His all-around excellence in isolation situations and ability to knock down shots anywhere on the floor are tailor made for the pros. I see him developing into a better David West. The only area Williams needs to shore up is avoiding foul trouble. Arizona must have their superstar on the floor for more than 29.2 PPG in the NCAA Tournament if the Wildcats want to advance. Williams has picked up four or more personals in eight Pac-10 games this year.

Derrick Williams clutch block clinched Saturday's win over Washington

- Duke shouldn’t be #1 in the nation. I think most of us agree with that sentiment. Thankfully, we adore a sport where these kinds of things are irrelevant, especially in late February. What bothers me is that most have Duke pegged as a #1 seed over Kansas and BYU, two candidates much more deserving of this honor than the Blue Devils. The Cougars resume is actually incredibly impressive, more so than their MWC brethren San Diego State. The Fightin Jimmers have five wins vs. the RPI top-30 and Duke has two. BYU beat San Diego State, Arizona, Utah State, Saint Mary’s and swept UNLV. Duke’s best win after North Carolina is Kansas State followed by UAB (currently out) and Michigan State (bubble). The Blue Devils have yet to beat an NCAA Tournament team on the road. Sure, this has plenty to do with the fragile state of the ACC, but don’t overlook Duke’s annual resistance to play true road games out of conference. Plus, since when do we provide Duke a scheduling excuse over a MWC team? The overall records are identical. The reason Duke is first in the polls is basically because they didn’t lose during a week they played Virginia and Georgia Tech. Vaulting Duke on the back of those  two wins over the entire body of work of, say, Ohio State and Pittsburgh, is ridiculous enough in itself. Handing them an undeserving #1 seed at this stage in the season is an even worse idea (luckily we still have 20 days till Selection Sunday, so this is largely irrelevant as well, but it sure is fun to debate, no?).

I’m hearing plenty of candidates thrown out there for National Coach of the Year, and none of them are egregious. Coaches like Mike Brey, Steve Fisher, Matt Painter, Jim Calhoun, Steve Lavin and Sean Miller have all done outstanding jobs this season leading their teams to unforeseen heights. To me, the coach of the year is a runaway and his name hasn’t been mentioned: Rick Pitino. I was initially hesitant to buy into the Cardinals, especially after they won all their non-conference games in the comfort of the KFC Yum Center and both Butler and UNLV underachieved relative to expectations. Now that I’ve watched Louisville sweep Connecticut, edge Syracuse and West Virginia, pull off an epic comeback against Marquette and down St. John’s, the magic act Pitino has pulled in the face of tremendous adversity is becoming more and more evident. All five starters from last year’s #9 seed squad left. His top freshman didn’t qualify. His leading returning scorer hasn’t played a minute. Still, by pulling out his old tricks of a relentless full-court press, switching defenses and an abundance of threes, the ‘Ville has jumped from likely NIT team to a #4 seed in my latest bracket. Say what you want about his forays into the back of Italian restaurants or his failed NBA coaching stints, but in case anyone forgot, this season was a definite reminder: Rick Pitino can motivate, prepare and instruct college athletes better than anyone in the business. Read the rest of this entry »

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