RTC Live: Big 12 Semifinals

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 11th, 2011

Games #195-196. The Big 12’s Final Four square off in Kansas City tonight, with a couple of surprises joining a couple of stalwarts.

7 pm. Kansas vs. Colorado. After its third win over Kansas State this season, Colorado should feel safe about its tournament chances, but a win over #2 Kansas would remove any remaining doubt. Alec Burks and Cory Higgins have been outstanding in the Buffs’ two crucial victories, but need help from its supporting cast, especially in the frontcourt. The Jayhawks squeaked by Oklahoma State on Thursday thanks to a big three-point play from Mario Little in the final minute, but like Colorado, needs a more complete effort on the offensive end to rectify a three-game dip in production. Will fatigue set in for Colorado after playing two straight days, or will it ride momentum to an upset on the shoulders of its two stars?

9:30 pm. Texas vs. Texas A&M.The second semifinal will feature Mark Turgeon’s Aggies against the Longhorns. Texas A&M rolled to a comfortable win on Thursday night, bouncing Missouri from the conference tournament, but its next challenge is to beat a Texas team that blew out the Aggies in both regular season meetings. Rick Barnes’ team slammed on the gas against Oklahoma in the first half thanks to a 62% shooting clip before shifting things into cruise control in the second half. With a win, Texas would return to the Big 12 Tournament final for the first time since 2008. Join us as we find out who advances!

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Conference Tournament Daily Diary: Thursday

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 11th, 2011

RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West.  Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site.  Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week.  Today’s coverage:  ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West & Pac-10.

ACC Tournament – by Kellen Carpenter

  • Miami-Virginia.  This was a truly bizarre game that I’m still not sure makes any sense.  Greensboro Coliseum was surprisingly packed for a 12 pm game between the 8 and 9 seed. Both teams boasted sizable and vocal fanbases who were each treated to a game of runs. Miami jumped out ahead, leading by six at the half, and then one of the weirdest second halves I have ever seen happened. Miami only scored eight points over the first 18 minutes of the second half. Virginia, rallying strongly, jumped out to a 50-39 lead with 2:15 left on the clock. Then Miami went nuts.  No, really. I’m still not sure what happened. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy by a series of weird, truly improbably events. Miami cut the eleven point deficit and forced an overtime which the Hurricanes suddenly dominated and walked away with a truly unexpected win. For a the first game of the ACC Tournament, it was not just a dinger, but a hum-dinger. Whenever you can get a crowd of Floridians and Virginians to scream their heads off in the early afternoon in North Carolina, you’ve put on quite a show. Beyond that, nothing about this game mattered.
  • Wake-BC.  After the drama of the Miami and Virginia game, any game with a team that had only managed to win one ACC game over the course of the season was bound to be a letdown. What was surprising to me, was the letdown in crowd energy. Winston-Salem, home of Wake’s campus, is a mere 20 minutes away, yet it seemed like the Demon Deacons had fewer fans present than Miami. Boston College had a very small and quiet contingent who seemed happy to quietly watch as the Eagles just took apart Wake. It really wasn’t much of a game, with the hyper-efficient Boston College offense firing on all cylinders (well, excepting the Raji cylinder). Reggie Jackson scored 27 points on 13 shots. Joe Trapani scored 22 points on 12 shots.  Nicholas Biko scored 21 points on 12 shots. Wake Forest’s porous defense could do little to stop them, and their impotence on the offensive end doomed them. Freshman Travis McKie was a bright spot, going 6-8 in the first half while the rest of his team struggled. But, for some stupefying reason, McKie only got two shots in the second half, one of these being a put-back dunk of his own manufacture. If there is a silver lining to that second half, it’s the fact that Wake actually managed to outscore BC, 36-34. Sadly, this was clearly not enough to make up for the 16 point deficit incurred in the first half. My favorite part of this game, was clearly the few, loud Wake Forest fans sitting directly behind me. One woman seemed particularly keen on trying to coach Travis McKie’s admittedly poor free throw shooting (2-5). Every time he got to the line she would yell “Bend your knees! Follow through!” If only he had listened? The season is mercifully over for Wake, and BC will get it’s chance at tougher competition tomorrow when they take on Clemson.
  • NC State-Maryland.  There were, as you might expect, an alarming number of loud, red-wearing people at this game. Maryland jumped out to an early lead which energized/enraged these loud, red-wearing fans. In response, the N.C. State band played Cee-Lo’s “Eff You,” which, when you think about it, is a perfect pep band song: catchy and insulting to the other team, while the lack of singing effectively makes it family friendly. Well-played, Wolf Pack band. That said, the pep band arrangement of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song was pretty excellent as well. And if the bands played with flair, the teams did too. There was more speed, athleticism, and acrobatic drives on display in this game than in the first two games combined. Cross-overs, spin moves, and behind the back dribbles on the fast break had the crowd frequently on its collective feet. Does Tracy Smith have the MVB (Most Valuable Beard) of this tournament? It’s hard to see anyone overtaking him. Maryland looked in command the whole game, but since Miami’s Miracle, there was a palpable nervousness in the crowd until the buzzer finally went off.
  • Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech controlled this game from the start and once it became clear that Georgia Tech could never catch up, the crowd that had gathered for the previous game started to vanish. Virginia Tech’s fans were consistently loud and even when the Hokies’ lead exceeded twenty, the fans took every call against them as if the game depended on it. Meanwhile, the Georgia Tech fans seemed resigned to his fate. Georgia Tech never managed to score more than a point per minute in the first half. It was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen in a tournament setting, and remember, I watched the Wake Forest game earlier today. Virginia Tech played well enough, but I couldn’t help but be concerned about the minutes that the starters were playing. Malcolm Delaney played 39 minutes despite the massive lead VT held throughout. He only sat for the final minute of the game and that was after he had taken a needless hard foul. You have to wonder how such long minutes on consecutive days are going to affect the Hokies hopes of going deep into this tournament. Well, you don’t have to worry, but I would.

Big East Tournament – by Rob Dauster

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RTC Live: Big 12 Quarterfinals

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

Games #179-180.  The Jayhawks and Wildcats hit the hardwood in Kansas City to take on two winners of Wednesday’s opening round matchups.

12:30 pm – Kansas vs. Oklahoma State. After winning the Big 12 for the seventh straight season, the Kansas Jayhawks received a first-round bye in the conference tournament and now draws the Oklahoma State Cowboys. OSU ended any realistic chance of Nebraska making the NCAA Tournament with a 53-52 victory on Wednesday. Bill Self’s team is a sure thing for a number one seed, but must keep up its momentum if it wants the tournament’s top overall spot. KU won the first meeting in blowout fashion, 92-65, in Lawrence two weeks ago, but Travis Ford’s team is eager to play spoiler.

3:00 pm – Kansas State vs. Colorado. The second game will pit Kansas State against Colorado. The Wildcats have used a month-long surge to return to its preseason status as a team that no one wants to play in a tournament situation. The Buffaloes need a high-profile win to strengthen their case for a tournament bid, and while Kansas State is hot, Colorado beat them in both regular season meetings. We’ll also be treated to a matchup of high-level individual scorers with Jacob Pullen and Alec Burks sharing the court.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.10.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 10th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The power conferences take center stage on Thursday with quarterfinal matchups from New York to Kansas City to Los Angeles on the schedule. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Big East Quarterfinals (at New York, NY): #3 Pittsburgh vs. #18 Connecticut – 12 pm on ESPN (****)

Dixon Will Have To Knock Off a Hot UConn Squad To Avoid Last Year's Fate

The double-bye was not kind to Pittsburgh last year, as they fell victim to Notre Dame on Thursday of last season’s conference tournament. They’ll look to avoid a similar fate today against a hot Connecticut team coming off two convincing wins in the first two rounds. These teams played way back on December 27 in the first Big East game of the year, a contest won by Pittsburgh, 78-63.

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Conference Tournament Daily Diaries – Wednesday

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West.  Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site.  Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week.  Today’s coverage:  Big East and Big 12.

Big East Tournament – by Rob Dauster

  • Georgetown cannot win without Chris Wright. Simply put, they are a different team without him in the lineup. The offensive creativity is not there, obviously, but the Hoyas seems to lack leadership, composure, and intensity. UConn didn’t just outplay the Hoyas tonight. They outworked them. They beat them up in the paint. They got to the offensive glass. They got all the loose balls. That, as much as anything, is why Georgetown lost this game by halftime.
  • In the press conference after the game, Jim Calhoun was asked about why Kemba Walker wasn’t a unanimous first team all-Big East selection, and he responded “I think someone took a five month vacation and forgot to tell us.” I can get on board with Kemba Walker not being the player of the year. I thought Ben Hansbrough deserved it. But to say that this kid wasn’t one of the six best players (yes, the Big East has a six-person first team) is just ludicrous.
  • The referees did a piss-poor job at the end of the Rutgers-St. John’s game. They missed an over the back that allowed DJ Kennedy to get another shot at shooting free throws  with five seconds left. They missed a foul on the inbounds pass to Gil Biruta at mid court. And they missed a travel and an out of bounds call on Justin Brownlee before the game was actually over. That said, the refs didn’t cost Rutgers the game. They cost the Scarlett Knights a shot at a prayer to win the game. Its still inexcusable, but there is a big difference.
  • Seeing St. John’s, a team that beat Georgetown, Pitt, Notre Dame, Duke, and UConn at the Garden, struggle with Rutgers was worrisome. The Johnnies played terrific basketball in the month of February, winning seven of their last eight games. What people forget is that this team also lost five of six right before that. Today, at least, it appeared as if the Johnnies were regressing to the mean.
  • Yancy Gates was a top 25 recruit coming out of high school. He hasn’t put up the numbers that you generally expect from a 6’10, 260-lb kid that is a top 25 recruit. That is more an issue of effort than of talent. When Gates plays like he did tonight — scoring 25 points against a good front line of Jarrid Famous and Gus Gilchrist, he is as good as any big man in the Big East.
  • I will freely admit that this game struggled to hold my attention. It was not pretty. It was over before the half was over. The South Florida and Cincinnati cheerleaders were quite attractive, and the internet at MSG is strong enough this season that I can stream games online, which means that I spent quite a bit of time watching the exciting LIU-Robert Morris NEC title game. That said, I did look up for long enough to see a Cincinnati male cheerleader drop one of the female cheerleaders during one of their maneuvers. She was fine. I laughed.
  • Marquette locked up a tournament bid with this win tonight, if they hadn’t already done so. And I, for one, am glad.  This is a fun team to watch. They play hard, they run the floor, they get out and defend, and they have a number of versatile options offensively.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom will get the credit for this win, as he hit two enormous threes down the stretch to win the game. But Junior Cadougan was the hero, finishing with 15 points, five assists and just one turnover. His stats don’t represent his influence, either. Every play that was made, he seemed to be a part of, whether it was the defense forcing a steal, the offense getting a rebound, or the Golden Eagles coming up with a loose ball.
  • I cannot figure West Virginia out. This is team is just too inconsistent, and I get the feeling that there are internal issues. Casey Mitchell and Deniz Kilicli played just 29 minutes tonight, combined, despite the Mountaineers playing like garbage on the offensive end in the second half. Just a game removed from Kevin Jones getting 11 offensive rebounds on his own, WVU managed just nine as a team. Pick them at your own risk next week.

Big 12 Tournament – by Brian Goodman

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Big 12 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 9th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference. With tournament action set to tip from Kansas City on Thursday, get set with RTC’s postseason preview and regular season recap.

Postseason Preview

  • Headed into the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas State is widely considered the hottest team in the conference and is looking square in the face of a semifinal matchup against the Kansas Jayhawks that could be the game of the tournament.   That of course assumes the Wildcats get past potential quarterfinal opponent Colorado, who recorded a regular season sweep of Kansas State.
  • On the bottom half of the bracket, the Longhorns might have to take another shot from Baylor, TexasA&M and/or Missouri in order to play on Saturday.  The Longhorns are a collective 5-0 against these teams during the regular season and all four teams, including Texas, are playing to improve their tourney seed.
  • The reality is that the NCAA Tournament impacts some, but really doesn’t mean much to others.  Barring a minor miracle, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, OklahomaState and Iowa State are teams whose fans will be done following this weekend, unless you consider the NIT or CBI worth watching.
  • The Kansas Jayhawks are a lock for a #1 seed and even a quarterfinal upset wouldn’t change that.  The Jayhawks aren’t likely to pack up and leave without a fight, but the results this weekend just aren’t that important for anything more than bragging rights.
  • Baylor and Nebraska are two teams that need a deep run to jump back on the bubble and the two teams that cannot afford a first or even second round loss if they want to be considered.  A semifinal run by either and they can start making their case to the committee.
  • For the rest, it’s playing for seed.  Colorado probably needs to avoid a first round upset, but beyond that, wins by the Buffs, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas State all serve as arguments for a higher seed in the NCAA tournament.  For Texas, it’s probably a two-seed if they play well, a three if they do not.  A&M probably falls in the 4-6 range.  Missouri probably goes as high as a #6 and as low as a #10.  Colorado is looking at something in the 10-12 range while Kansas State could jump quite a bit if they win the tournament and possibly work their way back to a #5 or six seed looking most likely at this point.
  • The Big 12 Tournament has different meanings for different teams, but it’s a weekend that definitely holds March ramifications for many, considering the parity across college basketball in 2010-2011.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.05.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The final Saturday of the regular season is also the best of the year. Epic would be one way to describe the schedule today. Bids will be clinched, bubbles will burst and conference titles will be decided. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#2 Kansas @ #21 Missouri in progress on CBS (****)

It's Title Time (Again) For Markieff and KU, Though We Don't Expect the Tigers To Go Quietly

The Jayhawks can clinch the Big 12 title with a win here or a Texas loss at Baylor this evening. Through Texas’ surge and preseason projections brandishing Kansas State and Baylor, we learned one thing in this conference in 2010-11: the conference title goes through Lawrence until proven otherwise. Missouri will be in the NCAA Tournament win or lose, but a win here would really improve their seeding and give them confidence heading into the postseason. The Tigers are a different team at home and should give KU all they’ve have in front of their raucous crowd and a national television audience, looking to complete their home slate undefeated. Kansas will need to protect the ball and dominate in the paint and on the glass in order to win on the road. Missouri’s preference for a quick pace means rebounding is a vulnerability, and the Morris twins should be able to pull down a lot of missed shots assuming they stay out of foul trouble.

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ATB: Panic in Provo?

Posted by nvr1983 on March 3rd, 2011


The Lede. The obvious story here is BYU falling apart at home against New Mexico in the aftermath of the suspension of Brandon Davies for the season. While most of the Twitter-verse if flipping out over the game and many are questioning the wisdom of BYU in suspending Davies for violating the Honor Code for what appears to be consensual premarital sex with his girlfriend, there are two things worth pointing out from this game: (1) It wasn’t just that the Cougars got dominated on the inside. They got dominated everywhere on the court. (2) The Lobos appear to be the perfect foil for the Cougars as BYU is 0-4 against them in the past two seasons and 26-1 against the rest of the Mountain West Conference. While the loss of Davies obviously hurts the Cougars — who were paper thin on the inside before his suspension — their play tonight revealed a team that was sloppy and distracted rather than one that was just short-handed. The loss may drop the Cougars out of contention for a #1 seed, but if they can regain their focus, which will be difficult with the coming media circus, they should be in good shape for the NCAA Tournament.

Jimmer needs to rally the troops

UNC and Duke win to set up the biggest game ever! Ok. Not really, but we all know that ESPN and CBS will be hyping up Saturday’s prime time match-up as if it was. To be fair, it is for the ACC regular season title, which nobody thought would be up for grabs at the start of December. Since that time, a lot has changed. Duke lost Kyrie Irving, the heart and soul of its team, no matter what Coach K tries to tell you. UNC has seen the emergence of Harrison Barnes, who might not be quite the player that he was expected to be when he was named the first AP Preseason freshman All-American ever, but in the past month he has played solid basketball and you would be hard-pressed to another player who has hit as many clutch shots this season, freshman or otherwise. His latest addition to the resume was a cold-blooded three in the closing moments against FSU in Tallahassee that proved to be the game-winner when the Seminoles were unable to get off a shot at the end. While neither team was particularly impressive today –particularly the Blue Devils, who struggled to wake up against Clemson after the traditional Senior Night festivities honoring Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler – it’s an intriguing match-up, as UNC will hold an edge on the inside, particularly with the recent solid play of John Henson (double-doubles in seven of the last 10 games) and the continued development of Kendall Marshall (eight assists tonight), while the Blue Devils have the stars (Smith and Singler) and the experience.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

This week in the Big 12 featured another upset on top along with a fair amount of jockeying in the middle as the tournament bubble becomes more and more crowded. Monday night, the Kansas Jayhawks squared off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in their last Big Monday appearance.  The news of the day surrounding the Jayhawks was the suspension of junior starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor.  Taylor remains with the team and the violation is viewed as minor, but the fact that Kansas is dealing with another player missing time down the stretch is a bit of a concern.  As for the game on the court, Kansas didn’t skip a beat and Taylor’s replacement, Elijah Johnson, scored 15 points including a perfect 4-4 performance from beyond the arc.

Tuesday featured the Iowa State Cyclones heading on the road to take on the Longhorns.  The game was never really in doubt, as Texas eventually won by 23 and got back on track following the loss to Nebraska.

Wednesday was a day that had the potential to separate those on the bubble and those slowly falling off.  Missouri faced off against Baylor in a game the Bears could have used in a big way.  However, the impressive run of the Tigers in Columbia continues and after keeping it close for a time Baylor fell apart.  For Mizzou, it was an 18-point win to move the Tigers into fourth place in the Big 12 standings.

Elsewhere, Colorado kept their slim hopes alive with a close win over Texas Tech in Lubbock.  The three-point road win moved the Buffaloes to 6-7 in the conference and 17-11 overall and while the win on its own wasn’t enough to put Colorado back in the conversation, what they would accomplish later in the week was.

The big matchup on the night featured a trip by the Kansas State Wildcats into Lincoln where Nebraska and Kansas State were both battling for more stable footing.  The Wildcats entered the game considered a team in pretty good position as far as a tournament bid, but Doc Sadler’s Husker team had a chance to boost their hopes in a big way with a win.  The game was close throughout but the Huskers could never get enough consistency on the offensive end as Kansas State would win by four.

Rounding out the Wednesday action was an easy win by Texas A&M over Oklahoma in College Station.  The Aggies have quietly separated themselves in the three spot in the league, but with two tough late season tests, Kansas State and Missouri could easily threaten that.

Saturday is always the premier day of the week in the Big 12, and just like last Saturday, the Texas Longhorns fell in an upset on the road.  Despite jumping out to a 22-point lead, the Longhorns couldn’t hold off a monster day from guard Alec Burks as Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes made their most convincing argument for the tournament bubble in a win.  As for the loss, it means that the Longhorns now sit tied with the Kansas Jayhawks on top of the league as Kansas handled Oklahoma on the road and both teams sit 12-2.

Outside of the Texas upset, there were two more minor upsets in the league when Texas A&M lost to Baylor in Waco and the Missouri Tigers fell in Manhattan.  The win by Kansas State doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as Frank Martin’s team is playing very well of late and looks like a team recovering from rock bottom in early January.

The three upsets mean that the three through seven spots in the conference are separated by just two games and all seven teams, including Colorado and Baylor, now have a very real opportunity to make a late push for another large Big 12 representation in the NCAA Tournament.

Power Rankings

Quick Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll.  They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

 1. Kansas (27-2, 12-2) – Kansas continues to be extremely efficient offensively and the door is now reopened for a seventh straight conference title.

2. Texas (24-5, 12-2) Texas loses for the second consecutive Saturday against a team in the league with a below .500 record.  The Longhorns have a few chinks in the armor of late, especially on the offensive end, but they still control their own destiny in terms of winning the league.

3. Kansas State (20-9, 8-6) One month ago, the Wildcats looked like they could very easily find themselves in the NIT.  In the last month, Jacob Pullen has started to play like the POY candidate that many expected and while Kansas State was probably overrated to start the year, they have fought their way back to reality and that puts them as a pretty good team that can make some noise in March.

4. Texas A&M (22-6, 9-5) – A&M has been flying under the radar of late and at the moment, they hold the third position in the standings, giving them that all important first day bye.  Overall though, they haven’t been as impressive as some so it drops them down a bit in the power rankings.

5. Missouri (22-7, 8-6) – Can a team win the tourney when they have been so bad away from home all year?  Honestly, Missouri does seem to sneak up on people in March so they are tough to count out, but the difference between at home and on the road is staggering.

6. Colorado (18-11, 7-7) – Colorado went from a team looking to be down for the count to a team firmly on the bubble with what amounts to a fairly impressive resume.

7. Baylor (18-10, 7-7) – Baylor continues to be as up and down as ever.  The win over Texas A&M keeps them in the hunt, but the team is definitely at risk of going from Elite 8 to NIT.

8. Nebraska (18-10, 6-8) – The loss to Kansas State is one that can be lived with, but losing to Iowa State all but ruins the Huskers hopes for a tournament bid.

9. Oklahoma State (17-11, 5-9) The Cowboys had a strong non-conference season, but they haven’t put together the conference resume to make a play.  The good news is that of the bottom four teams, the Cowboys might have the brightest future.

10. Texas Tech (12-17, 4-10) Tech didn’t win but they were close in both contests.  That’s just enough to keep them ahead of Oklahoma.  It’s still fairly amazing that Pat Knight’s name rarely comes up in any discussion of coaches on the hot seat.

11. Oklahoma (12-16, 4-10) – Another week, another two losses.  The common theme when you look at the two teams at the bottom of the Big 12 is a complete lack of depth.  The good news is that both OU and ISU look to have pieces in place to improve.

12. Iowa State (15-14, 2-12) – The Cyclones snag a second win this week and send the Huskers limping to the Big 10.

A Look Ahead

This week is HUGE for the Big 12, starting with the two teams battling it out up top.   The Texas Longhorns have games against red-hot Kansas State and a trip to Baylor remaining on the schedule.  After two consecutive Saturday losses, the confidence isn’t as high in Austin and a possible one-seed and the Big 12 title are very much at stake.

Meanwhile, the biggest competition for Texas, the Kansas Jayhawks, have two pretty tough matchups themselves.  First off the Texas A&M Aggies head into Lawrence for senior night where Kansas hasn’t lost in a very long time. The game that could be the do-or-die moment will come next Saturday when Kansas heads into Columbia where Missouri is a different team and the Tigers will be fired up as they look to keep their bitter rival from winning or sharing the league for a seventh straight season.

Tuesday night features a winnable game and really a must-win game for current bubble team Baylor.  The Bears head on the road to Stillwater and need to get a win over the Cowboys.

Wednesday night is huge for the Colorado Buffaloes as they head on the road to Ames in a game that could secure a .500 conference record.  Like Baylor, this is a must win for the Buffaloes as they currently sit on the bubble with the chance to close out strong.

Saturday, the league wraps up the regular season with Texas taking on Baylor and Kansas and Missouri locking horns, though a Nebraska/Colorado tilt could be just as big in the overall conference picture heading into March.

It’s been an incredibly balanced and unpredictable year across the Big 12 and the final week has storylines building for multiple teams.  Now it’s just a matter of who rises to the challenge.

Player of the Year Watch: One week left and the preseason pick has surged back to the front of the pack, a darkhorse candidate puts his name back in the mix and the two players on teams battling it out at the top continue to put forth a strong argument.

Marcus Morris, Kansas – (19 PPG, 7.6 RPG): Morris is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country and he has the chance to lead his team to a seventh consecutive league title and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

  1. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (21.8 PPG, 3.4 APG): Pullen is coming on strong at just the right time and might mean more to his team of late than anyone in the league.  If voting were today, Pullen would have to like his chances. How much should voters penalize him for his team’s slow start?
  2. Jordan Hamilton – (18 PPG, 7.9 RPG): Hamilton shoots just 7-24 in a loss to Colorado.  The game is another signal that as Jordan Hamilton goes offensively, so goes the fate of the entire Longhorn attack.
  3. Alec Burks, Colorado – (20.3 PPG): Burks is an impressive offensive player and without him, Colorado isn’t even close to the bubble.  He’s a big time talent and led his team to a big time win over #5 Texas.
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BGTD: Late Afternoon/Evening Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on February 26th, 2011

It’s been a great late February Saturday of college basketball, with some high-quality action that you’d hope and expect to see this time of year.  Let’s take a look at a few of the key storylines from the second half of today’s coverage.

  • Colorado Second Half Bombards Texas Defense.  It was one of those games where we were barely keeping an eye on the gametracker because it appeared quite early on that this would become another UT blowout led by their defensive mastery.  As it turned out, a 48-33 halftime lead in Boulder didn’t mean much, because the Buffs shredded the vaunted Longhorn D in a way that nobody else in the Big 12 (or America) has been able to this season.  Consider this: in fourteen conference games, the Longhorns had not given up more than 58 points in eight of them — today, Colorado put up that number in the second half in coming from as many as 22 down to win, 91-89.  CU’s Alec Burks had a monstrous 33/10 game, and it appears that the Colorado team that many suspected was in Boulder before the season began is finally hitting its stride.  Having now won three of four, with two more winnable games (@ Iowa State; vs. Nebraska), the Buffs could be in position to finish at 9-7 in the conference and even make a run at a first round bye in the Big 12 Championship.
  • So, About Texas? It’s cliched to point out that Rick Barnes’ teams at Texas have by and large not finished up strong, but with road wins in consecutive weekends at places not named Lawrence, Columbia or even College Station, there need to be some alarm bells going off in Austin.  With the loss today, the Longhorns’ fifth of the season, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where UT has a reasonable shot at a #1 seed — and they certainly would need some help regardless.  The question is whether this is just a blip or if teams have started to figure them out — two of the Horns worst four defensive showings this season (as measured by points per possession) occurred today and against NU.  In order to prove to us (and the nation) that this UT team is in fact different than some of the others in recent vintage, they really need to clobber surging K-State and Baylor in their last two regular season games.
  • Kentucky’s Home vs. Away Quandary.  After today’s 76-68 win over Florida, one of the nation’s most schizophrenic teams has moved to 7-0 in the SEC at home and 1-6 on the road.  How and why is this happenening?  It’s pretty simple, actually.  The two legitimate NBA talents that John Calipari has at his disposal — guard Brandon Knight and forward Terrence Jones — are almost equally effective no matter where they play.  The problem is that their less-talented teammates such as DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb, drop off considerably away from Rupp Arena.  Lamb, for example, averages 15.8 PPG on 57% shooting in Lexington (today: 14 pts on 6-9 FG); away from home he’s at 12.4 PPG and 47%.  DeAndre Liggins is even more volatile: 11.0 PPG on 47% shooting at home, and  6.0 PPG on 32% away.  A general tenet of March basketball is to never trust teams who can’t win away from home — something to remember when filling out brackets in just two short weeks.
  • Miserable SoCal Trip For Arizona. After last weekend’s big win over Washington in Tucson, the last thing Sean Miller wanted to see was a two-loss trip to Southern California.  That’s what he got, though, as his team dropped a close one to USC on Thursday night before getting run out of the closing-for-renovations Pauley Pavilion today.  A 22-2 run blew the thing open, rendering the second half a showcase for the ever-improving Reeves Nelson (27/16) and ending in a fitting way, with John Wooden’s great-grandson, Tyler Trapani, scoring the final points in the old barn before it becomes closes to become modernized.  We’re still not sure if Ben Howland’s team is any kind of postseason threat, but we thought Arizona was; it’ll be interesting to watch how the Wildcats recover from a lost opportunity this weekend next week at home in addition to seeing if UCLA can steal one or two on the road at the Washingtons.  
  • Did Virginia Tech Finally Get Over the NCAA Hump? Of course, it’s hard to say for certain with these guys.  After vanquishing #1 Duke for its most important win in years, the Hokies will probably turn around and lose to Boston College at home on Tuesday.  Let’s hope not.  When he’s not whining about being left out of the Tournament in March, Seth Greenberg strikes us as a nice fellow, and for a school that has had a number of ups and downs in its basketball program this year, we’re hoping that the Hokies don’t blow the good will and RPI boost that this win engenders.  As for Duke, this loss may have cost the Devils a #1 seed.  They still have to travel to Chapel Hill (a team that gave them all kinds of hell in Durham) and win the ACC Tournament.  One more slip-up and we’re not sure they’ll have the overall profile needed to earn it outright.  Their profile honestly doesn’t look significantly different than BYU’s, for example.
  • Bubbling Up: Colorado, Baylor and Kansas State in the Big 12; Butler in the Horizon; Clemson and Virginia Tech in the ACC; Michigan in the Big Ten; UAB in CUSA.
  • Bubbling Down: Wichita State in the Valley; Alabama in the SEC; Memphis and Southern Miss in CUSA; Minnesota in the Big Ten; Colorado State in the Mountain West.
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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 14th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

  • This week’s Big 12 play kicked off with a Big Monday matchup between Kansas and Missouri as part of ESPN’s Rivalry Week.  The Tigers and Jayhawks both entered the Monday night matchup ranked in the top 25 with Kansas checking in at #2 and the Tigers at #20.  As has been the case over the past few meetings between these two programs at Allen Fieldhouse, it was all Kansas in a game that saw plenty of offense and a final score of 103-86.
  • Wednesday night, Texas handled another Big 12 opponent with ease, beating Oklahoma by 16, while Nebraska gave Baylor all they could handle before the Bears would secure a four-point win and position themselves for a tournament bid.   In Boulder, the Colorado Buffaloes played with a lead for much of the game before losing by three in overtime to Mark Turgeon’s Texas A&M Aggies.  With the win, Turgeon gets the best of former teammate Tad Boyle in the first and last meeting between the two coaches as Big 12 foes.
  • Saturday paved the way for the Big 12 to have the #1 and #2 teams in the country following Ohio State’s loss to Wisconsin and both Kansas and Texas made their case.  The Jayhawks continued a hot stretch offensively in a dismantling of the Iowa State Cyclones while Texas fought off an upset bid by Baylor to win by nine and end a four-game losing streak to the in-state rival.
  • Missouri got back on track with a big win over Oklahoma at home.  The Tigers continue to look like a completely different team in Columbia than they are on the road.  The Aggies won their second close one this week on the road with a late win over Pat Knight’s Texas Tech squad.
  • Doc Sadler and Nebraska kept their slim postseason hopes alive with a win over Oklahoma State in Lincoln.  Both teams now sit at 4-6.  The other two teams in the conversation for a potential sixth Big 12 bid are Colorado and Kansas State.  The Wildcats made a last-second three pointer that was later determined to come after the buzzer, giving the Buffaloes a late win in the game in Boulder despite seeing very little in the way of production from star Alec Burks.

Power Rankings

Quick Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll.  They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

  1. Texas (22-3, 10-0) – Texas continues to cruise and the Longhorns have their eyes on an undefeated conference run.
  2. Kansas (24-1, 9-1) – Kansas remains on a hot stretch on the offensive end and might find themselves playing with the #1 ranking this week.
  3. Baylor (16-8, 6-5) – Baylor looks to be developing of late and with all that talent, they have a chance to be dangerous. It’s still a work in progress but a good showing against Texas in Austin helps the argument for the Bears.
  4. Texas A&M (19-5, 6-4) – A&M gets two tight wins on the road and turns the momentum back in the right direction heading down the stretch.
  5. Missouri (19-6, 5-5) – New week, same story.  The Tigers can’t win on the road.  The schedule becomes a little more forgiving over the next few games, and it might be a good opportunity for the Tigers to get that first road win and make a push for a first-day bye at the Big 12 tourney.
  6. Colorado (16-10, 5-6) – Colorado takes A&M to overtime and gets a nice win over Kansas State.  Right now they have an ever-so-slight edge in the race for sixth in the conference, which might also signal the last bid for the conference come NCAA Tournament time.
  7. Nebraska (16-8, 4-6) – The Huskers are a sleeper team in the four-way race for #6 and they currently hold wins over two of the other three teams, with victories over Colorado and Oklahoma State.
  8. Kansas State (16-9, 4-6) After a LONG week off, the Wildcats lose to Colorado in a heartbreaker on the road.  Rumors ran wild as to the status of senior Curtis Kelly, and the year that was supposed to be special is truly on the brink.  A big opportunity comes on Monday with Kansas coming to town.
  9. Oklahoma State (16-8, 4-6) The Cowboys dropped their only game on the week and have a bit of inner turmoil with some off-court issues.  It will be interesting to see how well Travis Ford can hold things together.
  10. Oklahoma (12-12, 4-6) – The Sooners lose to the Longhorns and the Tigers; no shame in that.  Jeff Capel has done better than expected but OU isn’t there yet.
  11. Texas Tech (11-14, 3-7) – Another almost for the Red Raiders as they take A&M to the wire but can’t squeak out a win.
  12. Iowa State (14-11, 1-9) – No depth and it’s finally caught up.  Fred Hoiberg’s team never quits, but they just don’t have the horses to keep up this season.

A Look Ahead

  • The week in the Big 12 kicks off with Kansas heading to Manhattan for a Big Monday matchup against Kansas State.  The Wildcats will be hungry for revenge after a recent blowout in Lawrence and the Jayhawks might head into this one as the top ranked team in the nation.
  • A rare set of Tuesday games keeps things going with Texas Tech heading on the road to face Missouri and Baylor playing a mid-year cupcake against Wayland Baptist.
  • If the Jayhawks aren’t number one, it could be the Texas Longhorns who carry that title.  Texas tips off Wednesday night at home against Oklahoma State, while Iowa State heads to College Station and the Cornhuskers look for another resume-building win on the road at Oklahoma.
  • Saturday sees all 12 teams in action once again and it’s a weekend that could provide some separation at the six spot.  Colorado has to travel to Lawrence while Nebraska hosts Texas.  A&M goes on the road to Oklahoma State while Kansas State hosts Oklahoma.  Again, OSU, KSU, Nebraska and Colorado could all by vying for a final NCAA bid and all four will be tested on Saturday.
  • Rounding out the action on Saturday is a trip by the Missouri Tigers into Ames, where they’ll look to get their first conference road win against the last place Cyclones.  If the Tigers can’t pull off a win in Hilton, they might have to start concerning themselves a little more with postseason seeding.   The last game on the day is between Texas Tech and Baylor in Waco, as the Bears look to further cement that #3 spot in the conference.

Player of the Year Watch

Power Ranking Style and Based on Conference Play

  1. Jordan Hamilton – (17.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG): Hamilton keeps plugging along on a great Texas team in the hunt for an undefeated conference season and a #1 seed come tourney time.
  2. Marcus Morris, Kansas – (18.7 PPG, 8 RPG): Morris and Kansas are hot right now, playing lights-out on the offensive end.  The Jayhawks could soon be the #1 team in the nation and Morris is a big reason why.
  3. Alec Burks, Colorado – (20.2, PPG, 7.9 RPG): Burks had an off night against Kansas State but Colorado pulled off a win anyway securing the season sweep of the Wildcats and keeping the Buffalo postseason hopes alive.
  4. LaceDarius Dunn – (18.7 PPG): Dunn is starting to assert himself and Baylor is playing better.  The Bears sit in the top 4 of the conference and are starting to look more like a tournament lock than a team lost.
  5. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (18.9 PPG, 3.5 APG): Pullen keeps fighting, but the Wildcats are facing the very real possibility of an NIT bid come March.
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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 7th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

  • Last week in the Big 12 seemed to be a bit of a slow week in the grand scheme of things.  Not in the sense that games weren’t being played, but simply from the standpoint of few high-stakes games being played.  As the league has turned into a two-team race, it’s become more apparent that the Big 12 may only have four teams playing in the NCAA Tournament, league play has taken a bit of a different tone on a day-to-day basis.
  • Still, there was plenty of action, and it kicked off last Monday with a Big Monday showdown between Texas A&M and Texas in College Station.  The matchup was highly anticipated, as the Longhorns had just recently dispatched the Aggies in Austin with relative ease and this was a game that figured to be a potential stumbling block for Texas. At the end of the day, however, Texas ran away with this one in a 20-point victory, further staking their claim atop the conference.
  • Tuesday saw a Kansas Jayhawk team that continues to look better head into Lubbock and manage an easy victory over Texas Tech while Colorado won by a wide margin over the Iowa State Cyclones in Boulder.
  • Wednesday did provide the league’s primary upset for the week, as Missouri went into Stillwater and dropped their fourth league game, all but eliminating the Tigers from conference title contention.
  • Saturday saw all 12 teams in action and another upset of sorts.  Baylor, a team with tremendous talent, finally put together a solid win in a two-point overtime victory over Texas A&M.  The loss dropped A&M back to the pack in the Big 12 and the conference is now a two-team battle between Kansas and Texas, while a logjam in the middle exists with eight teams having either four or five losses in conference play.

Power Rankings

Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be interpreted as a poll, but are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

  1. Texas (20-3, 8-0) – At this point, there isn’t an argument otherwise.  The Longhorns are running through the Big 12 with ease and the hold the head-to-head advantage over the only real challenger in Kansas.
  2. Kansas (22-1, 7-1) – Kansas has looked like a team that might have finally found its chemistry over the last few games.  The offense has been efficient, the defense has stepped up, now it’s just a matter of whether or not Texas ever loses and gives the Jayhawks a chance pull even.
  3. Baylor (15-7, 5-4) – The three spot is a tough call right now in the Big 12.  After #2, you have eight teams with 4 or 5 losses.  Right now, Baylor is coming off a nice win over A&M, and they look to be creeping a little bit closer to putting things in place and scraping together a workable conference record.
  4. Missouri (18-5, 4-4) – Missouri is a different team at home and on the road. In Columbia, they are every bit the top-15 ranking they’ve held for much of the year.  The margin of victory is typically big and the Tigers look dangerous.  On the road, they look pedestrian offensively and the pressure doesn’t seem to cause near the problem for opponents that Missouri is accustomed to.   They’re a tourney team, no doubt, now they just need to play for a better seed.
  5.  Texas A&M (17-5, 4-4) – A&M has gone 1-4 in the last two weeks with two losses to Texas, one to Baylor and one to Nebraska.  The Aggies are still a tournament-caliber team but Mark Turgeon needs to right the ship in a hurry.
  6. Oklahoma(12-10, 4-4 Big 12) – The Sooners have won four of their last five in the conference to reach a surprising 4-4 record and currently sit tied for fourth in the conference.  The schedule gets tougher here in a hurry, but for now, Jeff Capel has his team exceeding expectations.
  7. Oklahoma State (16-7, 4-5) Oklahoma State put together two solid wins in the past week to get things back on track after a tough start in the conference.  At 4-5 they definitely have work to do, but the Cowboys have shown the ability to pull off an upset this year.
  8. Kansas State (16-8, 4-5) – K-State has won three of their last four, and minus the buzzsaw that they ran into in Lawrence, the Wildcats have looked better of late.  The departure of Wally Judge is another blow to their thin hopes at the NCAA Tournament, but it might still be a bit early to write of the Wildcats just yet.
  9. Colorado (15-9, 4-5) – Colorado continues to slide.  They did pick up one win this week, but they still sit 1-5 in their last six games and the early season NCAA Tourney hopes have faded away rather quickly in Boulder.
  10. Nebraska (15-7, 3-5) – Nebraska continues their farewell tour, and as usual, they seem to come up just a bit short.   The Cornhuskers definitely look like a better team this year under Doc Sadler, but it’s still not enough to push it over the top and make a serious play at a tournament bid.
  11. Texas Tech (11-13, 3-6) – Tech has a record almost equal to that of the Huskers, but if you asked yourself which place you’d be more nervous about traveling to it would be Lincoln and not Lubbock.
  12. Iowa State (14-10, 1-8) – Reality has set in completely in Ames.  The Cyclones’ best talent is probably sitting on the bench awaiting eligibility.  This year looked like it had some potential, but Fred Hoiberg has a serious depth problem and a rebuilding project on his hands.

 

A Look Ahead

  • The week in the Big 12 kicks off with another solid Big Monday matchup as nationally ranked Missouri will head into Lawrence to take on #2 Kansas.  The Tigers and the Jayhawks have one of college basketball’s most bitter rivalries, and the game should provide a solid kickoff to the week.
  • Wednesday night, the Longhorns head into Norman to take on an Oklahoma team that has surprisingly put together a 4-4 record halfway through league play.  Jeff Capel has managed to take a team left for dead early and put them in a position to compete in the middle of the Big 12 pack.  It won’t be enough to talk tournament, but it’s something to build on in Norman.
  • Other Wednesday games include Nebraska heading into Waco to take on Baylor, and Texas A&M heads to Boulder, where both the Aggies and the Buffs are looking to gain an edge for a first day Big 12 tourney bye with a win.
  • Fast forward to Saturday and the Baylor Bears head to Austin.  The Longhorns have taken on all comers and won with relative ease in the conference, but the Bears are a team with the talent to compete.  Baylor hasn’t been able to put the pieces together, but if they can, it’s one of the few games left on the Longhorn schedule that could prove a bit tricky.
  • Other games include Iowa State at Kansas, Oklahoma at Missouri, Oklahoma State at Nebraska, A&M at Tech and Kansas State heads to Boulder looking to get a little revenge for the early season loss in Manhattan.

Player of the Year Watch

Power Ranking Style and Based on Conference Play

  1. Jordan Hamilton – (17.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG): Hamilton is the leader on the best team in the conference.  That’s a big part of the resume when selecting a player of the year.
  2. Marcus Morris, Kansas – (18.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG): Marcus has looked unstoppable at times in the last two weeks but statistically his numbers have dipped as others have stepped up as well and at this point Kansas still sits one game back of Texas. Morris is definitely in the conversation for the POY but right now he has taken a backseat to Hamilton much like Kansas has taken a back seat to Texas.
  3. Alec Burks, Colorado – (21.6, PPG, 8 RPG): First in scoring, third in rebounding.  Those are Burks conference rankings in two key statistical categories.  Usually, a player of the year is going to come from a team in contention, but Burks might be one of the few players that still have a chance despite being on a middle of the pack team.
  4. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (19.7 PPG, 3.44 APG): Pullen is still a pretty good player, but his team has been one of the most disappointing stories in college basketball.  That’s not a likely recipe for a player of the year nod, but Pullen received preseason mention and has still been a statistically solid contributor.  Tough to say how serious of an option he really is.
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