Morning Five: 03.07.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 7th, 2014


  1. Much of the next month will be spent with Doug McDermott collecting awards and by now you have heard almost everything about McDermott including his recruitment, how he got passed over despite every major program actively recruiting at his school. Still the piece by Elizabeth Merrill on McDermott is full of interesting anecdotes that might help you get to know him better. To us one of the more interesting things about McDermott is that despite the fact that he seems to have all of features you would expect from a player that the media would shove down everybody’s throat leading to a backlash we don’t get the sense that people are tired of McDermott.
  2. After coming into the season with plenty of buzz, Harvard has flown under the radar, but with the NCAA Tournament just around the corner the Crimson are on the verge of wrapping up the first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament tomorrow if they beat Yale. SB Nation has an excellent story on Tommy Amaker, the head coach and architect of Harvard’s basketball renaissance. As David Tannenwald points out Amaker’s time in Cambridge (they technically play their games in Allston) has not been without controversy, but what he has done to turn the program from an also-ran into a frequently-mentioned NCAA Tournament dark horse.
  3. Apparently some people actually thought that Andrew Wiggins might stick around Lawrence for more than one season because we heard some surprised voices when Wiggins essentially said goodbye to Kansas fans in what is widely expected to be his last home game as a Jayhawk. Wiggins might not have lived up to the ridiculous expectations heaped on him before the season (anything short of LeBron would have been a disappointment), but he still is a legitimate choice as Big 12 Player of the Year so we have a hard time calling his season a disappointment. Wiggins might never become the player that some projected him to be, but it is already clear that he should be a solid NBA player for a long time.
  4. In one of the weirder stories that we have mentioned in this space, Scott A. Weitzell, the director of basketball operations at  New Hampshire, was fired amid allegations that he videotaped his team’s players in the locker room during one of the team’s games in January. The school has already tried to scrub its site of Weitzell, but his old profile is still available thanks to the magic of Google cache. Unless this turns out to be something more widespread this is probably the last we will hear of this story on a national level, but it will probably be a big story for a while in New Hampshire.
  5. We have not seen much of it up close, but based on how popular college basketball is the fact that getting autographs from star players has become a big business should not be a surprise. As Jason King points out, this is a bigger deal at some campuses than others. It goes without saying that the autographs of future NBA All-Stars will be worth something, but even the autographs of players who are “only” regulars on top teams can be worth quite a bit of money. We always knew that basketball players and other elite athletes would frequently get stopped on campus. We just did not realize that it would be by adults looking for autographs.
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Redemption for Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State Last Night Against Kansas

Posted by Eli Linton on March 2nd, 2014

Eli Linton is a RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday night’s game between Kansas and Oklahoma State.

Before Saturday night’s critical matchup between Kansas and Oklahoma State, the two teams were headed in opposite directions. Oklahoma State, which had been touted as a preseason favorite for both the Big 12 championship and a Final Four run, collapsed in February. A seven-game losing streak and the suspension of Marcus Smart threatened to make this season one of the biggest disasters in school history. Kansas, on the other hand, was once again riding its sensational talent to its 10th straight conference title. While the Cowboys were simply hoping to be find a way into the last four in the Big Dance, Kansas had its sights set on the Final Four. But on Saturday night, it was Marcus Smart’s team that found redemption, just when it seemed they had let the season slip away.

A big second half was the difference for Marcus Smart and the Cowboys. (AP)

A big second half was the difference for Marcus Smart and the Cowboys. (AP)

A lot of deserving criticism has been leveled at Smart for the part he played in the Cowboys’ downfall, but on Saturday he was the best player on the floor, leading the Cowboys to a come-from-behind 72-65 win. After a one-point, 0-of-7 first half line, Smart put up 20 points, four assists, two steals and just a single turnover in the second stanza. “Our focus was different tonight,” said Smart. “Losing those seven straight games opened our eyes. We were extra-focused tonight.” It was the biggest win of the year in the most desperate time for the Cowboys. Already on the NCAA bubble, another loss would have been devastating, but this quality win over #5 Kansas will likely earn them a bid. I am sure bubble talk was a conversation they were hoping to avoid to start the year, but they will take it and move forward. In a stroke of irony, Kansas was still able to clinch the Big 12 title outright thanks to both Texas and Iowa State losing earlier, but according to Bill Self, there will be no celebration.

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Big 12 POY Race is Anyone’s Guess

Posted by Big 12 Microwriters on March 1st, 2014

With three games to go, the Big 12 race is over. Since Kansas clinched at least a share of the crown for the tenth straight year with a win over Oklahoma on Monday, the conversation in the conference has shifted to other things. Those topics chiefly include tournament positioning and what Bill Self thinks of Wichita State, but there’s another fascinating storyline to parse through as the regular season wraps up, and that is the Big 12 Player Of The Year race. There are several legitimate candidates running the gambit from a one-and-done sensation to a fifth-year senior to a guy who hadn’t even started playing basketball when that fifth-year senior began his college career. Our Big 12 microsite writers took some time to run down this season’s top candidates.

Andrew Wiggins (Taylor Erickson)

After All the Criticism, Is Wiggins the Big 12 POY? (Denny Medley/USA TODAY)

After All the Criticism, Is Wiggins the Big 12 POY? (Denny Medley/USA TODAY)

While there’s certainly no shortage of worthy Big 12 Player of the Year candidates, I believe the honor should go to Andrew Wiggins of Kansas. While Wiggins hasn’t put up the type of scoring numbers that others like Melvin Ejim of Iowa State and Juwan Staten of West Virginia have, he has been the best player on the team that holds a three game lead in the conference standings with three games to play. Some will be quick to claim that the freshman from Canada has failed to live up the expectations bestowed upon him before the season began, but those expectations were also unrealistic. Consider the fact that Wiggins has failed to score at least 14 points in a conference game just three times, and in some ways, his individual statistics are a victim of Kansas’ depth and ability to score from so many different positions on the floor, whether it be down low with Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis, or in the backcourt with guards like Wayne Selden and Naadir Tharpe. As good as Wiggins has been on the offensive end, his impact on the defensive end of the floor for Kansas may be even greater given the significant difference in the amount of points per possession Bill Self’s squad surrenders with him in the lineup. You can go ahead and make a case for several other players in this league and there’s a plethora of good ones, but for me, I’ll take Andrew Wiggins every time.

DeAndre Kane (Brian Goodman)

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Big 12 Week In Review and Look Ahead: Don’t Mistake League’s Competitiveness For Superiority

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2014

The Big 12 may be one of the most competitive conferences in the country, but this week hasn’t been the most glowing endorsement for the league’s case as the best conference in the country. Monday’s game between Baylor and Oklahoma State was supposed to be a battle of teams in the top half of the conference (if we go by preseason expectations), but instead was a fight for ninth place that only went to overtime because of a sequence that was, well, very fitting of a ninth-place battle:

The next day, Texas squared off against Iowa State in a game with major implications for the Longhorns’ Big 12 title chances, but they were able to lead only within the first five minutes. While Texas kept the game interesting with a run early in the second half, the Cyclones pulled away to hold serve at home.

Meanwhile, 925 miles south, Kansas needed another miracle from Andrew Wiggins at the end of regulation to get past a salty but mediocre Texas Tech team in Lubbock:

The only other game this week saw Kansas State quietly beat TCU by 12. The Wildcats’ two best players, Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson, paired up for 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but they also combined to shoot 34.6 percent from the floor and turned the ball over nine times. As a team, Kansas State had a staggering 18 turnovers at home against the worst power conference team in the country, needing a second half run to get away for good.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott is Simply Toying with the Competition

Posted by Jameson Fleming (@jamesonfleming) on February 21st, 2014


Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Several players and coaches dropped out of the rankings even though they probably deserve a spot on their respective lists. Arizona’s Sean Miller saw his team drop a road game against Arizona State, which is of course completely acceptable. For now, or at least until his squad figures out how to score again, Miller will remain sidelined from our top five. Jim Boeheim’s team also can’t score. The offensive issues for the Orange are more fixable than Arizona’s because the only player ‘Cuse is missing is Baye Keita — his face should be put on a milk carton for how little he contributes with the ball. On the NPOY side, both of Cincinnati’s Justin Jackson and Sean Kilpatrick deserve some love and one will likely find his way into the rankings with a win against Louisville this weekend.

Just weeks away from the end of the regular season, everyone is still chasing the guy on the left.

Just weeks away from the end of the regular season, everyone is still chasing the guy on the left.

Player of the Year

10. Kyle Anderson – UCLA. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 15.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 6.8 APG, 114.0 oRTG

At no point this season did UCLA ever look like it would struggle to make the NCAA Tournament, but rarely did the Bruins look they’d be a threat to make a deep run in March. That has changed. UCLA has won seven of eight games to easily move into second place in the Pac-12 thanks to a league-best offense. Who runs that attack? Kyle Anderson. He picks his spots to score, but he also puts an emphasis on being the distributor Steve Alford’s offense needs. He’s had three double-figure assist games in his last eight after recording just one previously.

9. Andrew Wiggins – Kansas. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 16.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 113.3 oRTG

The Big 12 is arguably the best conference in the country, and it’s loaded with very good players. For most of the season, various Big 12 players have popped in and out of the rankings, most notably Marcus Smart. With the Oklahoma State guard’s decline, however, the Big 12 is lacking a standout Player of the Year candidate. Joel Embiid looked like he might take over the race, but the Kansas freshman still hasn’t been able to consistently play major minutes. Queue Andrew Wiggins: He’s the top shot-taker and maker for the best team in the league (by far) and he can defend all over the court. With a stretch against Texas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and at West Virginia remaining, Wiggins could easily put the Big 12 POY award on lockdown with several strong performances.

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Four Takeaways from Kansas State’s Win over Kansas

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 11th, 2014

It seems rare when a team that comes back to force overtime in the manner that Kansas did ends up losing the game, but that’s exactly what happened in Manhattan against Kansas State last night. The Wildcats held a nine-point lead with under two minutes remaining (sound familiar, Kansas fans?) but some Jayhawks’ layups, putbacks, and a pair of costly Kansas State turnovers sent the game to overtime. No matter. The Wildcats continued to dominate the paint and won for only the fourth time in the series’ last 52 games, 85-82. Here are four takeaways from last night’s action in Bramlage Coliseum.

Marcus Foster has been a big reason for Kansas State's improved play as of late.

Marcus Foster has been a big reason for Kansas State’s improved play as of late.

  1. Kansas State is putting together a solid NCAA Tournament resume. After losing three out of five in the middle of January, the Wildcats now have back-to-back wins over top 15 teams. Their resume includes impressive victories over Gonzaga, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Last night’s win puts them at 17-7 and just two games back of Kansas in the Big 12 standings.
  2. Marcus Foster is legit. The Wildcat freshman guard had 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting and added a pair of late free throws in overtime to ice the game with 22 seconds left. He came into the game averaging 14.7 PPG but has been especially hot lately, scoring over 20 points in four of his last five games. He’s averaged 27 PPG over the last two games in wins over #7 Kansas and #15 Texas. Read the rest of this entry »
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Who Won the Week? Two Undefeated Teams, But Certainly Not The Third…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 7th, 2014


Who Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Wichita State

Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

Cleanthony Early was outstanding this week for the Shockers. (AP)

The nation’s winningest team cleared its toughest conference hurdle Wednesday night in defeating Indiana State in Terre Haute, led by senior forward Cleanthony Early’s 19 points. From here on, the Shockers have better than 50 percent odds to go undefeated in the regular season, according to, and about 35 percent odds to make it to the NCAA Tournament unblemished. Wichita State’s reign over the Missouri Valley has been so strong this year that only two teams – Missouri State and Indiana State – have even finished within 10 points of them. Tomorrow’s game at Northern Iowa is the toughest remaining tilt for the Shockers, which also sandblasted Evansville 81-67 last Saturday.

(Related winners: Gregg Marshall, whose stock will never be higher, even if he never wants to leave; the Missouri Valley, which is certain to get some more NCAA Tournament win shares, even without Creighton in the conference. Related losers: Indiana State, the MVC”s second-best team, which probably has to win Arch Madness to make the NCAAs; Evansville, perpetually anonymous in purple.)

LOSER: Arizona

Of the triumvirate of teams that came into last weekend undefeated, only two came out unscathed. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they weren’t one of them. Their road trip to California, the toughest game left on their schedule at that point, turned out to be undone by a last-second jumper from Golden Bears’ guard Justin Cobbs over center Kaleb Tarczewski, giving Cal a 60-58 win. That news was bad enough, but worse was what came after — that sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, a starter, had broken his foot during the game and would be out for the season. In Thursday’s 67-65 win over Oregon, Arizona looked disjointed offensively and saw star freshman Aaron Gordon injure his leg in a game in which he made just 2-of-11 free throws. The Wildcats actually trailed the disintegrating Ducks with just 90 seconds left before point guard T.J. McConnell made a three-pointer that gave them the lead for good. Sean Miller only played seven players, even accounting for Gordon’s injury, and its lack of depth could be problematic should more injuries arise or should fouls accumulate. It’s a shame to see this happen because a full-strength Arizona team looked to be head and shoulders above all but a few others around the country.

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Three Thoughts on Kansas’ Win Last Night at Baylor

Posted by Taylor Erickson on February 5th, 2014

After taking a drubbing from a Texas team in Austin on Saturday in a game that frankly looked like Kansas wanted to be anywhere but the Erwin Center, head coach Bill Self said it was important for his team to not let one loss turn into two or three as a result. Just a year ago, Kansas jumped out to an identical 7-0 record in league play before dropping three straight and inviting everyone back into the Big 12 title race. For those reasons, among others, last night’s match-up with a difficult-to-understand Baylor team that had beaten Oklahoma State in Stillwater was important for the Jayhawks to maintain their separation from the rest of the pack. After a back-and-forth first half, Kansas took an eight-point lead into the locker room after an Andrew Wiggins three-pointer from 50 feet, and eventually cruised in the second half to a 69-52 win in Waco. Here’s three takeaway thoughts from Tuesday night’s game.

Kansas point guard Naadir Tharpe had a huge game leading the Jayhawks with 22 points on a night that Kansas' big freshmen struggled.

Kansas point guard Naadir Tharpe had a huge game leading the Jayhawks with 22 points on a night that Kansas’ big freshmen struggled. (

  1. Has Naadir Tharpe been given enough credit for Kansas’ success in league play? The junior point guard has quietly operated under the radar while his freshman counterparts have generated most of the buzz in Lawrence this year. Before the season began, the biggest question surrounding the Jayhawks was whether they had the necessary point guard play to win six games in a row in March. After last night, Tharpe is now shooting 55 percent from behind the arc in Big 12 play while operating at a 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. It’s those statistics that suggests that he is certainly capable of leading Kansas to a national title. That said, consistency is still an aspect of Tharpe’s game that is the most maddening for Kansas fans. As a team leader, he has to find ways to bring a positive impact on the game when he’s not scoring — that is, getting talented teammates like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Perry Ellis involved in the offense. Tharpe’s development has followed a similar path of former Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who for three-plus seasons looked like he would never be able to put it all together, before flipping the switch and leading Kansas (along with Thomas Robinson) to the national title game in 2012. While the play of Wiggins and Embiid will be under the spotlight down the stretch, it’s likely that Tharpe’s play will have the biggest effect on Kansas’ ultimate success. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 5th, 2014


  1. Last night posed the opportunity for a letdown with Texas beating league-leading Kansas on Saturday and then turning around to face last-place TCU on the road. The Longhorns trailed by two points at the half and had committed their season average of 10 turnovers to that point, but the second 20 minutes were a completely different story. The Horns regrouped as Jonathan Holmes poured in 17 of his 20 points on their way to their seventh straight Big 12 win. The Horns did all of this without one of their better ball-handlers available, as Javan Felix was out of the lineup due to a concussion he suffered on Saturday. It looks like we’re seeing the young Longhorns grow up right before our eyes.
  2. Kansas’ win over Baylor last night might appear confusing on paper because the Jayhawks won easily despite Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden Jr. only combining for 23 points on 6-of-22 shooting. But the focus should be on point guard Naadir Tharpe, who had another good offensive game on the road. Oddly enough, Tharpe has had some of his better offensive performances away from Allen Fieldhouse. In the four Big 12 road games where he’s attempted at least one shot, Tharpe is averaging 16.2 points on 22-of-33 from the floor and 10-of-14 from downtown (71.4%). Statistical anomalies: Ya gotta love ’em.
  3. Oklahoma State‘s defeat to Iowa State on Monday night could not have come at a worse time. The school had dedicated the night to longtime head coach Eddie Sutton; Gallagher-Iba Arena was half-empty; and then there was the whole triple-overtime loss. Sutton took some thinly-veiled shots at the fan base and perhaps even the team while attending the game. “It’s easier to play here [at GIA] now than it was before,” Sutton told the Tulsa World. “It was a lot louder.” Gee, he may have a point there. It is a little embarrassing when the head coach of a team with several NBA Draft prospects has to urge students to come to their games. Guess the thermometer on Travis Ford’s seat is heating back up again.
  4. It seems as though most pundits have Kansas State pegged as NCAA Tournament-bound at this point in the year, but with so many holes in this team can we really be so sure of it? The Wildcats haven’t won any important road games; they are hard to watch on offense; and they also rank dead last in the Big 12 in free throw percentage (64.4%). For a team that beats opponents by keeping games in the 60s, making free throws is all the more vital in creating some late-game separation. If they don’t fix this problem somewhat soon, the Wildcats’ life on the bubble will be a short one and the NIT is where they’ll be headed.
  5. This isn’t news to anyone at all, but Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg is very much winning in life. He played in the NBA; he is currently coaching his alma mater (and doing well); and now he is putting up high scores on the Flappy Bird app. Now I’ve heard the Flappy Bird game is the thing kids are into these days but I have no clue how it’s played (how does one go about flapping the bird or does the bird flap you somehow?). In any case, Hoiberg scored a 123 which is apparently very hard to do. More power to him.
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Who Won The Week? Sean Kilpatrick and the Bearcats, Andrew Wiggins, and the Likely NPOY

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 31st, 2014

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill.

WINNER: Cincinnati

Sean Kilpatrick has been on a tear lately. (USA TODAY Sports)

Sean Kilpatrick has been on a tear lately. (USA TODAY Sports)

Maybe this should be “WINNER: Sean Kilpatrick.” But I don’t know if that’s fair to his teammates. Sure, offensively, the Bearcats were the Sean Kilpatrick Show this week, as they have been all season; the senior guard has led them in scoring in 19 of 22 games. But by more than just Kilpatrick’s accomplishments, Cincinnati has gotten to 20-2 this season, including back-to-back road wins against Temple and Louisville to go to 9-0 in the AAC. In Sunday’s 80-76 win against the Owls, Bearcats guard Troy Caupain had eight points and nine assists, and forward Shaquille Thomas had 15 points to complement Kilpatrick’s season-high 29 points and team-high eight rebounds. And in Thursday’s 69-66 win over the Cardinals, Thomas and fellow forward Justin Jackson both scored 11 points to complement Kilpatrick’s 28, which came with five rebounds. But what makes Cincinnati more than Kilpatrick and more than their secondary performances on offense, is its stingy defense. The Bearcats are in the top 10 nationally in steal rate, block rate and two-point field goal rate, and five players force steals on more than 2.5 percent of their possessions. The best ball thief is Jackson, who ranks in the top 50 nationally in steal rate, while also ranking in the top 50 in offensive rebounding rate and in the top 10 in block rate. Cincinnati’s only losses this season came on the road at New Mexico and to crosstown rival Xavier, and they’ve won 12 in a row, five of those on the road. Perhaps its time to treat them as a top-tier team nationally.

(Related winners: Kilpatrick; the American Athletic Conference, which has a surprisingly good number of teams that includes Cincinnati, Louisville, Connecticut, Memphis and Larry Brown’s SMU; Related losers: Louisville, which lost despite forcing 20 turnovers in a 65-possession game; Temple, which blew a 33-point performance from senior guard Dalton Pepper.)

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