What’s on the Mind of the 15 ACC Programs Right Now

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 17th, 2014

With the start of the ACC college basketball season rapidly approaching, allow us to put on our psychoanalyst’s hat to determine what’s on the mind of each of its 15 member programs right now. Some are of the optimistic variety, while others are fearful at what they see lying ahead. All of them, though, are hoping to contribute to discussions lauding the ACC as the nation’s preeminent college basketball conference this year. Let’s jump into each program alphabetically.

  • Boston College: Blind optimism. The reality is that the Eagles, even with an all-ACC caliber star in Olivier Hanlan, are likely one of the three worst teams in the conference. But there’s a new coach around in Jim Christian, and thanks to the usual roster turnover, few remaining pieces to recall the 8-24 debacle of a year ago. Buying in to a new coach and system may not be a problem, but production on the court will continue to be.
  • Clemson: Loss. That loss is a huge one, in the departure of NBA draft pick K.J. McDaniels, who was their best player on both sides of the ball last year and led the team in four statistical categories. A 10-win improvement from the year before earned Brad Brownell a six-year contract extension, but how will this team score enough to win even if it replicates its defensive success of a year ago?
Jim Christian's hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC's fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

Jim Christian hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC’s fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

  • Duke: Motivation. Not just because of a stellar recruiting class that includes their first dominant center in some time in Jahlil Okafor and the overall potential to be in the mix for a championship. There’s also the internal motivation for Quinn Cook to keep a hold on the starting point guard role in light of the arrival of stud freshman Tyus Jones, and Rasheed Sulaimon’s motivation to show that an early-season slump last year (temporarily earning him a place in Coach K’s doghouse) was an aberration. Oh, and that first round NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer could light a fire of some sort, too.

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Kansas State’s Early Struggles Possible Sign of Things to Come

Posted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on November 29th, 2013

Not much has gone right for Kansas State since capturing a share of the Big 12 regular season championship last season. The Wildcats advanced to the Big 12 Tournament championship game, was beateen by Kansas for the third time, then lost to #13 seed La Salle in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Leading scorers Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez graduated and transferred, respectively, and now, eight months later, K-State opened the season with a 60-58 loss to Northern Colorado, the same Northern Colorado team that was picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference this season.

Bruce Weber Can't Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

Bruce Weber Can’t Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

The Wildcats are 3-3 thanks to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off guaranteeing all teams three games, and that allowed them to grab another win over Long Beach State, a team which is #297 in the RPI and #230 on KenPom. The problems have been mostly on the offensive end for Kansas State. The Wildcats have yet to crack 72 points and are showing how dependent they were on McGruder and Rodriguez last season. Through six games, here are the key offensive metrics:

  • 62.7 PPG (#326 nationally)
  • 40.7% shooting (#293)
  • 12.8 APG (#179)

Head coach Bruce Weber returned four players who averaged at least 10 MPG last season, but only junior forward Thomas Gipson has shown signs of improvement early this season. His minutes per game are about the same as last but his scoring is up from a couple of points per game and he is shooting over 55 percent from the floor, up from 51.7% last season. The other three players – Will Spradling, Nino Williams, and Shane Southwell – have either gotten worse or plateaued. On the surface, Southwell’s stat line of 7.8 PPG/5.3 RPG/3.2 APG looks just fine. But the senior guard has been an albatross offensively. He is taking over eight shots per game and shooting a paltry 33.3 percent from the field. His three-point percentage is even worse at 16.7 percent, but it hasn’t stopped him from taking three attempts a game. It became clear some time ago that senior guard Will Spradling isn’t a 30 MPG-type of player at the Big 12 level, but that’s about where he has been the last three seasons. With guards like McGruder, Rodriguez, and Jacob Pullen next to him, he can play as a serviceable third guard or sixth man in a pinch. But more offensive responsibility this season hasn’t led to better results. His 35 percent shooting is the worst of his career, as is his 24 percent from three-point range.

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Big 12 M5: 10.14.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 14th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. A big part of Iowa State‘s rise under Fred Hoiberg has come from the Cyclones’ ability to trump expectations and get the most out of its talent. After ISU outperformed predictions in the last two seasons, the league’s coaches are done sleeping on them.  Big 12 coaches pegged Iowa State to finish fourth in Thursday’s preseason poll after being tabbed eighth in 2011 and 2012. The Cyclones enter this season hoping to do something they haven’t done since 1997: make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight time. With the transfers that made up the core of Hoiberg’s teams the last two seasons now graduated, the vast majority of ISU’s roster will consist of players “The Mayor” recruited out of high school. Fourth place in the conference is definitely a reasonable goal for Iowa State this season, and it’s not difficult to see them finishing ahead of preseason third-place pick Baylor if things break just right.
  2. Yahoo! Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg compiled a list of 10 freshmen capable of making big impacts in 2013-14 and you’ll never guess which Kansas newcomer topped the list (OK, you probably will). It’s worth noting that no other Big 12 freshman cracked Eisenberg’s rankings, but we like to think of that as a testament to just how good the freshman class is nationwide. Still, just because they didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on other young Big 12 rising talents like Joel EmbiidAllerik FreemanElijah Macon, Wayne Selden and Ishmail Wainwright. Still, Andrew Wiggins is the gem of the league’s incoming class and is just another reason why we can’t wait for the opening tip.
  3. It was announced late last week that two Big 12 teams, Kansas and Kansas State, will hold open scrimmages for their fans. The Jayhawks will open the Allen Fieldhouse doors this Saturday, giving fans who were shut out of “Late Night In The Phog” earlier this month a second chance to see the 2013-14 squad. Kansas State, which didn’t hold a late night event of its own, will also host an open scrimmage on Saturday. The Wildcats aren’t quite looking at a full-on rebuild, but losing Angel Rodriguez, Jordan Henriquez and Rodney McGruder will hurt the defending co-Big 12 champions. Still, with the official start of practice coming earlier this season, the wait until the first regular season games lengthens so public practices are a great opportunity for teams to inject some extra anticipation into their devoted fan bases.
  4. If all goes according to plan this season for Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Travis Ford (and even if it doesn’t), Oklahoma State will need to rebuild in a hurry to stay in the conversation atop the Big 12 moving forward. The Cowboys took one step toward that goal on Saturday when they received a verbal commitment from recruit Mitch Solomon, a 6’9″ power forward who is considered the best 2014 prospect in Oklahoma. Solomon, along with shooting guard commitment Jared Terrell, gives the Cowboys a very solid foundation from which to reload. In 2014, we’d expect Le’Bryan Nash, Michael Cobbins and Phil Forte to be the leaders, allowing the incoming freshmen to be eased into supporting roles and gradually move up from there.
  5. Late last week, UNLV announced that it will partner with Kansas for a home-and-home series beginning in Lawrence in the 2014-15 season, with a return trip to Las Vegas planned for the 2016-17 campaign. Neither Dave Rice nor Bill Self have ever been shy about assembling tough non-conference schedules, so while we aren’t too surprised at this development, we’re nevertheless thrilled to pencil in a pair of must-watch games for the future. The Runnin’ Rebels have more to gain from ambitious scheduling than the Jayhawks due to the difference in competition their respective leagues provide, although Kansas will benefit as well. It’s also worth noting that a trip to Las Vegas gives the Jayhawk coaching staff a convenient opportunity to check out some of the recruits at nearby Findlay Prep, which churns out blue-chip prospects on an annual basis. We’re still waiting on the announcement of that annual Kansas-Missouri series, by the way…
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Morning Five: 10.01.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. After initially indicating that they would seek a family hardship waiver for Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez, Miami announced that they no longer intended to seek such a waiver for the upcoming season. The school did not specify why exactly they decided to withdraw their application for a waiver–they cited Rodriguez’s nagging injuries–because although Rodriguez’s hardship seems questionable at best–moving to Miami to be closer to his native Puerto Rico–with the way that the NCAA has been granting hardship waivers we would not have been shocked to see the NCAA approve it. What the decision means for the Hurricanes is that they will most likely be in the bottom half of the ACC this season, but will have Rodriguez available for two seasons to play with Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan, who will also sit out this season and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining when he comes back for the 2014-15 season.
  2. In contrast to Miami, Florida followed through on their request for a hardship waiver for Rutgers transfer Eli Carter, who left the school in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal, and yesterday the NCAA granted Carter a hardship waiver enabling him to play for the Gators this coming season. Although we have been critical of how easily the NCAA has been granting hardship waivers, Carter’s seemed certain given the public reaction following the release of videotapes showing Rice physically and verbally abusing his players in practice. As for Carter’s role on the Gator team, there is no question that he can score (averaging 14.9 points per game last season), but it remains to be seen how well he can play within the Gators system as he was a high-volume, low-percentage shooter (38.4% FG and 32% 3-point) at Rutgers. If Billy Donovan can find a way to rein him in and utilize his scoring ability in a more efficient manner, he could be a significant addition to the Gators lineup, but that could be a big “if”.
  3. We normally do not pay much attention to minor preseason injuries, but the report of a “stress reaction” in Jahii Carson‘s right tibia caught our eye. As the article mentions the injury is reportedly a low-grade one, but given the quickness that Carson relies on it would be a major issue going forward if it continues to linger. According to both Carson and Arizona State, Carson could play on it if necessary, but that does not mean that he would be able to play through it for the entire season. It seems like an issue that most likely will resolve, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
  4. Larry Krystkowiak might have a way to go before he turns around a floundering Utah program, but at least he is making a difference in his community. According to reports, the 6’9″ second-year Utah coach apprehended a local bike thief, who did not appear to put up much resistance. After catching him, Krystkowiak called campus police, who subsequently discovered five stolen cell phones on the thief. After his weekend adventure, Krystkowiak tweeted about the incident comparing himself to Barney Fife although we assume that Krystkowiak is significantly more imposing than Don Knotts ever was.
  5. Following their surprise run to the CAA Conference Tournament title and First Four victory, James Madison was looking at a rebuilding year as they only had one returning starter: Andre Nation. Unfortunately for the Dukes they will be without Nation for the first 15 games of this season after he was suspended for a violation of an unspecified athletic department policy. The sophomore guard, who averaged 9.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season, showed signs of his potential in the team’s First Four victory against LIU-Brooklyn as he went for 14 points, seven rebounds, five blocked shots, and four assists. Now the team will have to adjust to playing with five new starters to begin the season as Nation is not scheduled to return until a January 7 game against the College of Charleston.
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Morning Five: 05.02.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 2nd, 2013

morning5

  1. Over the past five years or so, the college basketball puppet-masters have made heroic if not completely successful attempts to spice up the early November opening of the season. Between the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon, the Champions Classic, the Armed Forces Classic and the various aircraft carrier games, there have been some hits and some misses, but if nothing else these events suck a small percentage of the oxygen out of a sports media universe dominated by the pigskin at the time. According to ESPN.com‘s Jason King, there may be another entry into a crowded opening week on the horizon. bd Global is reportedly putting together the final touches on a multi-game event that would take place in Dallas’ American Airlines Arena, just 20 minutes away from Cowboys Stadium, the site of next year’s Final Four. The concept, of course, is that this event — which would include some prominent semi-local Big 12 schools and other national programs — would bookend the 2013-14 season in exciting fashion, while calling attention to the site of next year’s (and future years’) championship weekend. We’re all for it, but is it too much to ask that the event organizers hold this on the actual opening day of college basketball?
  2. There were a couple of prominent transfers Wednesday, with the announcements that Kansas State’s Angel Rodriguez will land at Miami (FL), and Arizona’s Angelo Chol is leaving Sean Miller’s program. There was some speculation originally that Rodriguez may follow his former coach Frank Martin to Columbia, South Carolina, but because of a family health issue, he sought a location relatively close to his home in Puerto Rico and Miami is about as close as he can get. Rodriguez also played his prep basketball in South Florida, so he’s already familiar with the area. If he manages to receive an NCAA family health waiver to suit up next season, he can step right in at the point guard slot vacated by Shane Larkin and would immediately become the team’s best player. Chol found himself in a big man logjam last season in Tucson, averaging a couple points and rebounds per game in only about nine minutes per outing. Even with Grant Jerrett’s decision to leave for the pros factored into next year’s playing time calculus, the addition of top five prospect Aaron Gordon meant that things were unlikely to improve much for Chol in that regard. The San Diego native is likely to give San Diego State a good, hard look as a possible destination.
  3. With everyone providing their post-draft deadline Top 25s for next season, CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman went one step further with their predictions of how the preseason All-America teams are likely to look in November. Keeping in mind that players who are consensus locks in the preseason sometimes have a tendency to fall completely off the list by March, their selections generally make good sense at this time. Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott and Russ Smith are easy selections, and Mitch McGary probably is a good choice for a fourth. Their wildcard selection, however, is where you just never know… Andrew Wiggins is everyone’s rising superstar du jour, but it wasn’t that long ago that Harrison Barnes was a two-time lock for First Team All-American (he made zero major AA teams at UNC) and Anthony Davis was on a clear track to become the next Bill Russell (Damian Lillard instead was the NBA’s consensus Rookie of the Year). We say this not to point out specific mistakes because everyone makes them, but really to highlight the extreme fallibility of predictions such as these (by anyone).
  4. If that’s not enough to get you hyped for next season, ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil backs these guys up with her argument that the 2013-14 season, with a tremendous group of returnees buttressed by an equally impressive group of newcomers, is shaping up to be something special. Frankly, it’s a really tough argument to make. The 2011-12 season trotted out the same argument with the returns of rising stars Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones and Terrence Jones, to name a few, but that season was mostly marked by a clear delineation that Kentucky and North Carolina, when fully healthy, were the best two teams in America. For our money, a season like 2012-13 was actually more exciting simply because there were more legitimate contenders to the crown — Indiana, Gonzaga, Michigan, Duke, Kansas, Florida and even Miami (FL) looked like they had the chops at one time or another — before Louisville crowned an exciting NCAA Tournament with a storybook run to the title with a likable group of players. Hey, we’re ready for next season right now — let’s tip it off regardless of who is around to play the games — but we for one don’t think parity in college hoops is at all a bad thing. It works for the NFL, why not us?
  5. When RTC was just getting started several years ago, we had a somewhat quaint notion that if we asked nicely and didn’t show up looking like Russell Brand on a 72-hour bender, we might be able to convince a few schools to allow us to cover games as members of the credentialed media. The first school that gave us such an opportunity was Boston College, and the SID who allowed it to occur was Dick Kelley. This week SI.com‘s Pete Thamel wrote a tremendous story describing the unbelievable depth of positive impact that Kelley has had on a school’s athletic department in so many more ways than simply handling media requests. For the last two years, Kelley has been battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and at the time of Thamel’s piece, he has lost the use of both his arms and legs and can no longer speak. Yet he still attended basketball practices and all but one of BC’s home games this season. The story is an inspirational one, and sometimes it’s difficult to get emotionally attached to someone most readers have never met. But for us, not only was he willing to give a couple of part-time bloggers a chance to become legit, he also helped open the door for RTC (and so many others in our wake) to cover high-level Division I games in a professional way. Literally hundreds of games, dozens of conference tourneys, and three full NCAA Tournaments later, we will always remember how we were initially treated by a class act in every sense of the phrase. Take care, Dick.
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Angel Rodriguez Transfer Puts Bruce Weber in a Tough Spot

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 24th, 2013

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

As puzzling as Frank Martin’s decision to leave Kansas State for longtime SEC doormat South Carolina looked last season, and however easily the abrupt departure of an energetic and charismatic sideline presence like Martin could have sent Kansas State into a major funk, the Wildcats wasted no time avoiding any such doomsday scenario by filling the vacancy with deposed Illinois coach Bruce Weber. Whatever the hire lacked in glitz and glamour – and sure, Weber was no one’s idea of a “sexy” coaching commodity – it made up for in stylistic fit. Weber preaches good, hard, physical half-court defense. Kansas State played good, hard, half-court defense under Martin. The disciplined approach at that end of the floor was an assumed feature of the coaching transition: Weber would advance Martin’s defensive ambitions with Martin’s players. Everything would fall into place, Weber would stoke massive excitement among a rabid Little Manhattan fan base in his first year and the Wildcats would keep on going on with nary a concern for their since-defected laser-eyed head coach.

Losing Rodriguez makes another Big 12-contending season a huge ask for Weber (Getty Images).

Losing Rodriguez makes another Big 12-contending season a huge ask for Weber (Getty Images).

The formula wasn’t predictively ideal – Kansas State played top-25-level offense in 2012, per KenPom’s per-possession ranks, but finished 63rd in defensive efficiency – but the Wildcats did, as envisioned, win big in Weber’s first year on the job. Rodney McGruder led a better-than-expected offense, Jordan Henriquez protected the rim and the Wildcats finished the regular season with a share of the Big 12 title. The transition was complete. Weber had smoothed over a nasty divorce with a high-win season, a favorable NCAA Tournament seed and Self-era-unprecedented Big 12 hardware to boot. It was almost perfect.

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Morning Five: 04.23.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. There have already been plenty of transfers in a little over a month since the season ended, but few transfers will hurt their teams as much as Angel Rodriguez, who announced that he was transferring from Kansas State with two years of eligibility remaining. Rodriguez, who averaged 11.4 points, 5.2 assists, and 2.1 rebounds on his way to an All-Big 12 Second Team selection, stated that his reason for transferring was a desire to be closer to his family in Puerto Rico. We are not sure if this means he plans on going back to Puerto Rico or trying to find a program that was just a shorter trip (possibly Miami, but even that is not a quick trip to get home for Rodriguez). In any event Rodriguez will have to sit out a year (unless there is a family health reason driving his decision), but there should be no shortage of suitors for the services of Rodriguez who appeared to be developing into one of the top point guards in the country.
  2. With conference realignment continuing to change the landscape of college sports at least one conference–the ACC–is trying to protect itself from outside interests. Yesterday, the ACC announced that its 15 member institutions had agreed to a Grant of Rights through the 2026-27 season that gives the ACC the television rights for those schools during that period. In theory this would still allow schools to transfer during that period, but with those schools unable to generate any money for their new conference we cannot imagine many schools being interested in poaching ACC schools. We were unaware of these policies before the ACC’s announcement yesterday, but apparently several of the major conferences already have them in place. We are not sure if this would actually hold up in court, but so far nobody has challenged it. Of course there is a first time for everything, but we hope that something can slow down the ridiculousness that is conference realignment.
  3. For all of the negative publicity that the NCAA gets the one thing that constantly amazes us is how reluctant schools are to fight back against it. As Andy Staples points out there is a movement in that direction, but as you would expect schools are hesitant to do so publicly for fear of retribution from the NCAA. As several administrators have note the NCAA appears to have moved in a direction that may run contrary to what the member institutions, a charge that even Mark Emmert admits to. The question is whether the administrators are willing to actually take a stand and whether they can get enough support behind them to create the type of meaningful change that is needed. We are less than optimistic that it will happen any time soon given the nature of bureaucratic inertia, but it will happen eventually.
  4. Yesterday we mentioned the possible move by the NCAA to move up the start of practice by two weeks, but they may be looking at a more significant move–changing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. Andy Katz polled 37 Division I coaches about the proposed changed and 28 of the 37 favor a shorter shot clock although there are some notable exceptions. The big question is whether or not it would increase scoring and frankly the answer is not that clear. When Ken Pomeroy took a look at the subject in a 2012 post he noted that over time offenses have become more efficient, but have fewer possessions. Still Pomeroy did not necessarily come out in favor of a shorter shot clock, which he addressed directly saying “scoring would remain unchanged and we’d just hear the shot clock buzzer go off more often”. For his part Andy Glockner is also not convinced that shortening the shot clock will lead to any meaningful improvement in the college game. While we would not be opposed to a shorter shot clock we would like to see the NCAA address issues with the flow of the game before jumping to the shot clock.
  5. In terms of first Division I jobs Chris Casey appears to have landed a pretty good one as the new head coach at Niagara. Casey, who left Division II Long Island University, inherits a program that won the MAAC regular season last year with the youngest roster in the conference and returns all, but one rotation player after former coach Joe Minalich left to take over at Hofstra. While Casey has some impressive credentials including a 62-25 record in his three seasons as a head coach and various accolades as an assistant at St. John’s and Central Connecticut State. We do not expect MAAC teams to get much attention, but Niagara should be favored to win the MAAC next season so Casey does have a decent amount of pressure to produce early.
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Kansas Wins Because It Guards, Plain and Simple

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this from the Big 12 Championship game in Kansas City.

Clank, clank, clank. In an arena jam-packed to the rafters and charged with as much emotion as any game in college basketball this season, the most prominent sound during the first half of the Big 12 Tournament title game at the Sprint Center was the sound of those clanks that Kansas State heaved repeatedly at the basket. After taking an 11-8 lead against Kansas with 11:55 to play in the half, the Wildcats did not make another field goal during the next 17 possessions. They were 0-of-11 from the field during that stretch. Five turnovers. Heroically, they trailed by just eight points at the break, but they were already buried. Once the Jayhawks found their groove offensively in the second half, Kansas State never kept pace and eventually fell, 70-54.

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

You don’t want to see the final statistics for Bruce Weber’s team. “The best thing we did was shoot free throws,” Angel Rodriguez said, “and we shot 50 percent. That says a lot.” Rodney McGruder had a simple diagnosis for the anemic offense. “It wasn’t really their defense,” McGruder said. “We missed easy baskets at the rim.” The second part of that statement is correct. Kansas State missed more open shots than an overweight, middle-aged man trying to play a game of H-O-R-S-E, especially during the drought in the first half. But McGruder is wrong about the first part — there’s another reason his team couldn’t score, and it wasn’t self-inflicted. “Our first shot defense was about as good as it’s been all year long,” coach Bill Self said. As always, it was a collective effort for Kansas. Jeff Withey, the Big 12’s leading shot blocker, finished with only one block, but he teamed with Kevin Young and Perry Ellis to bother the Wildcats’ on the interior with their length.

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Kansas State Is Primed For a Deep Run in March, So Start Paying Attention

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 6th, 2013

What more does Kansas State have to do to get people to care about them this season? It seems nothing about this Wildcats’ team screams elite. They are tied for first in a down Big 12, they hired a then-unpopular coach last March, they don’t score a bunch of points like Oklahoma State, and they don’t even have the best player in their league. Yet here they are, currently ranked in the top-10 of both polls.

Kansas State is a sleeper. With that said, everybody's still sleeping on them. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Kansas State is a sleeper. With that said, everybody’s still sleeping on them. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

This season didn’t get off to the start K-State would have liked. Yes, the Wildcats ran through their first few games with ease but star Rodney McGruder initially struggled to find his place in Bruce Weber’s motion offense. In the first five games, McGruder averaged just 10 PPG while shooting 39 percent from the field and 13 percent from behind the arc. He didn’t have his best game until the Wildcats played USC Upstate on December 2. Only then did McGruder begin to find his place: 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. Since then, the talented senior has had some big games (28 points vs Oklahoma State), but he doesn’t need to carry the offensive load (seven points in a win at Oklahoma) to ensure a Wildcat victory.

Kansas State’s rise also coincides with the coming of age of point guard Angel Rodriguez. Not only has he cut down on turnovers and become one of the more underrated passers in college basketball, he is also becoming a viable second offensive option, averaging 11 points per contest. Another reason for their rise could be Weber’s decision to bring Thomas Gipson off the bench. Gipson averaged 6.8 PPG in the first 19 games of the season as a starter; coming in as a sub, Gipson has averaged 10.3 PPG in the last 11 games.

Everyone knew how relentless Frank Martin was with his teams defensively. Last year’s team that lost in the Third Round of the NCAAs gave up 64.1 points per game. That’s a nice, low number isn’t it? Going into last night’s game against TCU, Weber had this group giving up 62.7 points per game. To put that in perspective, K-State’s Elite Eight team in 2009-10 gave up a surprising 70.8 points per game. Is Weber doing Frank Martin better than Frank Martin? It sure looks that way.

None of this has surprised me and it shouldn’t have surprised anyone else either. With Jamar Samuels gone, the Wildcats had 10 scholarship players returning with a new head coach who had once led his team to a national championship game. Four of their five losses have come against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 10 — twice to Kansas (#4), as well as Michigan (#7) and Gonzaga (#1). They have wins over Florida and Oklahoma State but what separates them from other teams is that their best player doesn’t necessarily have to perform his best for them to win. Plus, in a season where the national title race is an open field, a veteran, defensive-oriented team like Kansas State’s chances of a Sweet Sixteen or more is likely to occur.

tried to warn folks back in November but it hasn’t really resonated with America yet. That’s ok. I’m sure K-State prefers the life of being a sleeper anyway.

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Big 12 M5: 02.22.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 22nd, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas is good. It doesn’t take much to see that. They went through their longest losing streak in eight years and since that time, they’ve collected wins against the other two challengers for the Big 12 title, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Now armed with a three-game winning streak, is it time to enter the Jayhawks back into the national title conversation? I say why not? The writer of this piece believes Bill Self will have the KU offense humming come Tournament time but I’m of the opinion that if you’re not a prolific offense already, that’s who you are and nothing can change that. But that’s OK. Self’s teams win on defense anyway. They have a shot to make a run to Atlanta but if they run into a team like Indiana, Michigan or Gonzaga along the way, I’m not sure they can match them blow-for-blow on the offensive end.
  2. The Big 12 is a league filled with talented point guards. Oklahoma State has Marcus Smart, Baylor has Pierre Jackson and Kansas State has Angel Rodriguez. Like Jackson, he stands at 5’11” but is far from the scorer and super athletic player that the Baylor guard is. Last season, Rodriguez nearly averaged a one to one assist-to-turnover ratio (3.2 assists/2.7 turnovers) while starting as a true freshman. Now a year older, he leads the Big 12 in that category (5.1 assists/2.2 turnovers). If there was a most improved player award, Rodriguez would be most deserving of this distinction.
  3. Is this it for Oklahoma State? The winning streak that launched them into the top-15 in both polls is now over. They’re no longer tied for first in the Big 12. Despite this, the Cowboys players are showing great resolve. Here’s Michael Cobbins’ thoughts: “We’re still going to go into practice like we’re the No. 1 team in this league. We’re still fighting for the No. 1 spot. It’s not too late.” Markel Brown echoed those sentiments: “You can’t sit and just sulk about it, but you don’t want to forget it either. Let it be in the back of your mind to fuel you for the next game.” Everything they’re saying is 100% true. Kansas has a couple road games left against Iowa State and Baylor, two teams desperate to boost their NCAA Tournament profiles. They lose those games and the Cowboys win out, their wish is granted.
  4. I previously wrote about how if West Virginia was able to turn their season around, it would have been the biggest “sike” in Big 12 history. Well it appears reality has finally set in Morgantown: (likely) no NCAA Tournament for the 2012-13 season. The Charleston Gazette breaks down which postseason tournament the Mountaineers will get a bid to. Since the CollegeInsider.com Tournament doesn’t invite members from power conferences, that eliminates WVU off the bat. The humor in this is that tournaments like the College Basketball Invitational and the CIT weren’t even around in 2007, the last time West Virginia missed out on the NCAA Tournament and ended up winning the NIT. Nice to know college basketball now has its own version of pointless bowl games.
  5. Texas has had a miserable year so what is their reward? How about this article from the Austin Chronicle that took the Longhorns to the woodshed and beat them like they owed something! It’s a lost season, the first in 15 years, and that’s not a bad thing. Weird part of it is there might be some truth, yes, even the hyperbole. Hook ‘em, I guess.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On the Big East Race, Duke, Michigan and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 19th, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. As we hit the stretch run of the college basketball season, tight conference races begin to captivate the nation. There are terrific regular season title races going on in a bunch of conferences, including the Atlantic 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten but the best race is happening in the Big East. In the conference’s final season as we have come to know it, three teams are tied atop the league standings at 9-3 heading into Tuesday’s action with three more nipping at their heels. It’s only fitting that two of the Big East’s heavyweight rivals, Syracuse and Georgetown, are among the group at 9-3. Joining them is an upstart Marquette team, picked seventh in the 15-team conference. Right behind the leaders is a team some seem to have forgotten about at 9-4, the Louisville Cardinals. Notre Dame at 9-5 after an important win at Pittsburgh last night and 7-5 Connecticut round out the teams within two games in the loss column. The great thing about this race is the best games are still to come. Syracuse and Georgetown hook up twice down the stretch, including on the final day of the regular season. The Orange have the toughest schedule with the aforementioned games against the Hoyas plus a trip to Marquette and a visit to the Carrier Dome from Louisville still on tap. Marquette plays four of its final six games on the road beginning this evening but gets Syracuse and Notre Dame at home where the Golden Eagles have won 23-straight games since a loss to Vanderbilt last season. Luckily for Marquette, its four road games are against a hit-and-miss Villanova team, St. John’s and two of the teams near the bottom of the league standings. It’s never easy to win on the road but Marquette has a somewhat favorable schedule. In the end, my money would be on a 13-5 logjam between Syracuse, Georgetown and Louisville with tiebreakers determining the team that gets the top seed at Madison Square Garden next month.

    Otto Porter and Georgetown will have a say in the Big East title race (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

    Otto Porter and Georgetown will have a say in the Big East title race (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

  2. For the final time this Saturday, ESPN’s BracketBusters event will pit non-power league teams against one another, some in major need of a resume-building win as the regular season begins to wind down. Denver against Northern Iowa and Ohio at Belmont are solid matchups but the best game by far is Creighton visiting St. Mary’s on Saturday.The Bluejays have lost five of their past nine games heading into tonight’s game with Southern Illinois, one they should win, after a 17-1 start to the season. Quality non-conference wins against Wisconsin, Arizona State and California (all away from Omaha), plus a good home win over a solid Akron club, have Creighton in a pretty good spot for a bid relative to other teams in the mix. The problem for Greg McDermott’s squad is that it hasn’t done much of anything in calendar year 2013. The good news for Creighton is the NCAA Selection Committee says wins in November and December mean just as much as February and March. As long as Creighton splits its upcoming games with St. Mary’s and Wichita State, I feel that should be good enough to merit an NCAA berth no matter what happens in the Missouri Valley Tournament. As for St. Mary’s, it is even more desperate. The only semblance of a quality win on the Gaels’ resume are wins at BYU and Santa Clara, the former coming thanks to Matthew Dellavedova’s miracle buzzer beater in Provo. To have a chance at the NCAA’s I feel St. Mary’s has to beat Creighton and run the West Coast table while making the finals of the conference tournament. There just isn’t enough meat on its resume to justify a bid despite having one of the nation’s strongest offensive attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 02.19.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 19th, 2013

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  1. Kansas State took down West Virginia on Big Monday and for the second consecutive game, another power forward made an important contribution on the offensive end. Nino Williams came into the game averaging a little over four points per game but managed to score 13 points and pull down five boards off the bench in his best game in over a month. Williams was one of five Wildcats and the second  forward off the pine to score in double figures for K-State last night. Now the Wildcats are in sole possession of first place in the Big 12… possibly for just one more day.
  2. Of course the team at the other end of the spectrum was West Virginia, headlined by the return of former coach Bob Huggins to Manhattan for the first time. The Wildcats may have won by 10 points but it wasn’t much of a game at all; K-State grabbed the opening tip and never looked back. And as is the custom following a Mountaineer defeat (sorta), it’s time to check in on what the always quotable Huggins had to say at the postgame presser: “I thought the really frustrating thing was we couldn’t make a damn shot.” Simple, crisp, to the point. That’s why we love ya, Huggs.
  3. Speaking of Huggins, Saturday’s game against TCU was marked down as the 1,000th game of his head coaching career. WVU Athletics takes us behind the scenes of this historic day for the coach, who when you consider that he hasn’t reached his 60s yet, is remarkable. In it you’ll find players and coaches going through game film, a healthy Da’Sean Butler (now a graduate assistant at WVU) and even Huggins cracked a smile, I think (though he could have been grinding his teeth for all I know). Congrats coach, here’s to a 1,000 more!
  4. We had some unexpected drama in the player and rookie of the week race this time around. Let’s start with the ROTW award, which from now on should be named after Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart. This is the second straight week he’s won the award and represents his fourth victory overall this season. He was huge in Oklahoma State’s win over intrastate rival Oklahoma in overtime while averaging a combined 19 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals last week. POTW honors went to two players: Jeff Withey, now a two-time winner, and Angel Rodriguez,who is now the second Wildcat to capture the award this season. Withey averaged 16 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in KU’s two wins while A-Rod put up 19.5 points, 8.0 assists and 3.5 steals per game in K-State’s split week. How convenient for the Big 12 to hand out its latest honors to players from teams all in contention to win the league.
  5. Oklahoma State is playing their best basketball at the perfect time. They’ve now won seven games in a row and look to make it eight as big, bad Kansas marches into Gallagher-Iba Arena tomorrow night. Dating back to the 1990-91 season, the Jayhawks have lost twice to a team in non-tournament play only four times. The Cowboys are in position to be the first school since the 2000-01 Iowa State Cyclones to sweep a two-game regular season series with Kansas. And OSU will have the advantage of playing at home. Can’t wait for Wednesday.
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