Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 15

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 18th, 2013

We don’t have many of these rankings left this season, but the Big 12 isn’t getting any easier to decipher as we inch closer to March (less than four weeks until Selection Sunday). The Big 12 still has a good chance to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but Baylor and Iowa State don’t have much margin for error the last three weeks of the regular season. The Cyclones are a consensus #10 seed and the Bears are an #11 seed on the latest Bracket Matrix mock bracket. The top of the conference is more of a mess, though. Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Kansas State are 9-3 but it doesn’t mean there isn’t distinctness with each record. For instance, Kansas State is 1-2 against the other first place teams while Kansas is 2-1. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is 1-1 but plays host to the Kansas schools in the coming weeks. They are also fortunate in that two of their final three road games are against West Virginia and TCU. And that’s why the Cowboys are #1 this week.

Tier I:

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

1) Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 91-67 at Texas Tech, W (OT) 84-79 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Wednesday vs Kansas, 8:00 PM, Saturday at West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: After struggling around the turn of the year and dropping three out of four, the Cowboys began playing like their talent suggests and are winners of eight of their last nine games. They have an opportunity on Wednesday to become the first Big 12 team to sweep Bill Self in a season as the Jayhawks come into Gallagher-IBA Arena, where the Cowboys have won two out of three against the Jayhawks dating back to 2007-08.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Marcus Smart: Smart had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in the upset over Kansas on Feb. 2. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals against Texas a week later, and on Saturday against Oklahoma, Smart finished with 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the overtime victory.

2) Kansas (21-4. 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 83-62 vs Kansas State, W 73-47 vs Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Oklahoma State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs TCU, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: It doesn’t really matter that top-10 teams have been consistently falling the last few weeks, but it can give Kansas fans a small sense of relief knowing that every perceived top team in the country has its flaws as well as the Jayhawks, who rebounded nicely last Monday with a 21-point win over Kansas State when they desperately needed a 21-point win. Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State could decide the Big 12 championship.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Ben McLemore: McLemore had 30 points against Kansas State on 9-13 shooting, a cool 69.2%. In seven of his last ten games he shot over 50% from the floor. But he can still do more, attempting 10 or less shots in six of those games.  Shoot the ball, Ben.

3) Kansas State (20-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 83-62 at Kansas, W 81-61 vs Baylor

This Week: Tonight vs West Virginia, 8:00 PM, Saturday at Texas, 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: Monday’s loss at Kansas hurt, but it wasn’t all that unexpected. If they can take care of Baylor on the road on March 2, there’s still a chance the Wildcats could be 14-3 heading into the final regular season game at Oklahoma State on March 9. The remaining schedule sets up that well for K-State, with their next five games against the bottom five teams in the conference.
  • Player Stepping Up: Sophomore G Angel Rodriguez: He has a 2.5:1 Assist to Turnover Ratio on the season and is averaging an efficient 19.6 PPG his last three games. In that stretch, he is 46.3% from the floor and 41.6% from three-point range.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 11th, 2013

It’s not too early to call tonight’s game between Kansas and Kansas State the Game Of The Year in the Big 12. Not with first place on the line and a chance for K-State to put the Jayhawks two games back with only seven games remaining. As for our rankings, there was a big shakeup this week with teams #1-#6, as each squad in that group either moved up or down from last week’s list. Most notable was the ascent of the Wildcats, who take the top spot for the first time this season. I decided to hold off on the Bracket Matrix Projected NCAA Tournament Seeds this week because it hasn’t been updated since Saturday’s games.

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

1) Kansas State (19-4, 8-2 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-59 at Texas Tech, W 79-70 vs. Iowa State

This Week: Tonight at Kansas, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs. Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: They earned the split with Iowa State with a 79-70 win over the Cyclones on Saturday and have now won four in a row and 12 of their last 14. Rodney McGruder carried K-State with 22 points and five assists against Iowa State on Saturday and averaged 20 points per game this week. If he continues on that pace coupled with Kansas’ recent struggles, a road-team split with the Jayhawks isn’t out of the question.
  • Reason to be optimistic: They’re playing solid defense as of late, holding three of their last four opponents under 60 points, and any concerns with Frank Martin’s players not buying into Bruce Weber’s system are long gone at this point. Not only has McGruder stepped up offensively, but sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez averaged 16.5 PPG last week as well.

2) Oklahoma State (17-5, 7-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 69-67 (OT) vs. Baylor, W 72-59 at Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday vs. Oklahoma, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: The Cowboys have been a little unlucky in that their two biggest wins — vs. North Carolina State in November and at Kansas last week — were quickly watered down. North Carolina State, then #6 in the country, lost two games later to Michigan. Kansas dropped two more games in a row, including to dreadful TCU, after losing to OSU. Even so, the Cowboys have won six out of seven games thanks to junior guard Markel Brown, who has averaged 16.7 PPG in that stretch.
  • Reason to be optimistic: Oklahoma State has more NBA talent than any other team in the Big 12. Coupled with the confidence they undoubtedly have gained with their recent wins against Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor, the Cowboys could be quite dangerous in March.

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Big 12 M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 1st, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. The U.S. Basketball Writers Association announced the midseason watch list for college player of the year, otherwise known as the Oscar Robertson Trophy. There are only two players from the Big 12 and both play for Kansas. No one will dispute that Ben McLemore is unworthy of making the list, but I wonder, had McLemore been eligible last season, could KU have beaten Kentucky in the championship game? Jeff Withey is adding an offensive game but he’s also still locking the paint down on the defensive end. The two Kansas players outnumbered power leagues like the ACC, SEC and Pac-12 in total players chosen.
  2. It was a busy day at the USBWA as they also released its midseason watch list for the Wayman Tisdale Award, given to the top freshman in college basketball. Thankfully, the Big 12 had more diversity among the candidates. Baylor’s Isaiah Austin is one of the more versatile seven-footers in all of college basketball — how many guys that tall can shoot threes and pull down 20 boards like he did against Oklahoma? Speaking of versatility, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart is a point guard who wears many hats: those of a passer, a defender, and a leader. Those two along with Ben McLemore give the Big 12 three of the 12 candidates named for this award. The Pac-12 led all conferences with four representatives.
  3. When Frank Martin trotted out freshman Angel Rodriguez as a stater last season, I wasn’t so sure it was the best idea. Clearly he felt strongly enough to throw him into the fire and, wouldn’t you know it, he didn’t burn as the Wildcats ended up winning 22 games in 2011-12. Rodriguez’ Achilles heel last season was turnovers but that appears to be a thing of the past this time around. He’s averaging 6.3 assists and 1.6 turnovers per game in seven Big 12 games which amounts to nearly a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The point guard depth in this league is exceptional so being the third best one-guard behind Smart and Pierre Jackson is by no means an insult.
  4. We know Texas stinks this year but would it be the right decision to fire Rick Barnes after the season? Admittedly, my gut says no way because he’s had so much success (two Elite Eights and a Final Four) and a team in the tournament every year since he arrived at the Forty Acres. And then I think about the teams he had from 2009-11 who appeared destined for deep NCAA runs but in fact never made it to the second weekend. Yes it would be foolish to let go of Barnes after one bad season out of 15 years at the helm, but it wouldn’t be foolish to keep an eye on him if I’m athletic director DeLoss Dodds. If progress isn’t made soon, we’ll hear those grumblings get louder.
  5. Jordan Tolbert’s numbers are down from last year and now we know that this has played a role in it. Tolbert lost his father, James Tolbert, to a heart attack back in October — he was just 40 years old. “To wake up to that [learning of his dad's passing], I just couldn’t believe it,” the sophomore guard said. Learning of something like that can derail anyone’s season but Tolbert has turned things around this past week (15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds per game). His season isn’t quite over but, much like the healing process, it’s getting better by the day. Thoughts and prayers to the entire Tolbert family.
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Big 12 M5: 01.16.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 16th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. It can’t be a good feeling watching your season flash before your eyes, but that’s exactly how Bill Self must have felt when freshman guard Ben McLemore dropped to the floor late in Kansas’ 61-44 win over Baylor Monday night. Gary Bedore of the Lawrence-Journal World reported it was a grade one ankle sprain, and Self said he is hopeful that McLemore will only miss a few days, theoretically giving him enough rest before the Jayhawks’ next game against Texas on Saturday. The 6’5″ guard from St. Louis is averaging 16.4 PPG and 5.4 RPG this season and has shot up NBA Draft boards recently, even being discussed as the possible #1 overall pick in next June’s draft.
  2. Speaking of Bill Self, he will be inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in August, KUAthletics.com reported Monday. Self grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma, and later played at Oklahoma State from 1982-85. He was named the Oklahoma High School Player of the Year in 1981 and was named to the All-Big 8 Freshman team a year later. He worked under Eddie Sutton from 1986-93 and began his head coaching career in the same state, first at Oral Roberts and then at Tulsa until 2000. He recruited the bulk of the 2004-05 Illinois team that made the national championship game, won the 2008 national championship at Kansas, made another appearance in the title game last season, and is on his way to a ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season championship. Hall of Fame worthy? Yeah.
  3. It’s not as if a coach would ever admit to losing control of his team, but for what it’s worth, Rick Barnes refuted any such claims Monday. “We have a group of guys who want to be good,” Barnes told the Austin American-Statesmen. “They are willing to work. I’m not worried about ever losing them.” They may want to be good, but the Longhorns are far from a good team right now. Barring a big upset, they will be 0-4 in Big 12 play after Saturday’s game against Kansas. Myck Kabongo is still out for nearly another month, and leading scorer Sheldon McClellan played just one minute in Saturday’s 20-point loss to Iowa State.
  4. Kansas State senior guard Angel Rodriguez is good, but his coach just wishes he were more consistent. He is second on the team with 9.5 PPG and leads the Wildcats with 4.4 APG, but he is prone to boneheaded plays, like fouling out 90 feet away from the basket against Oklahoma State, as Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle points out. Bruce Weber insisted to Robinett that Rodriguez can’t play the game like he is by himself on the court. “He’s part of the team,” Weber said. “He’s got to keep it in the system.” Even with his inconsistent play at times, Rodriguez has helped lead the Wildcats to a 13-2 record and #16 overall ranking. They face TCU tonight and Oklahoma on Saturday before a big home game against Kansas next week.
  5. Korie Lucious had his two highest turnover games in the first six weeks of the season, committing seven TOs on opening night to Southern and seven more in a loss to intrastate rival Iowa on December 7. He also had six turnovers in a losing effort to Cincinnati on November 23. The senior guard has settled down since then, turning the ball over more than four times just once since that game against Iowa. Not surprisingly, the Cyclones are a banked three-pointer away from being 6-o since facing the Hawkeyes. “I like the way they flow,” Rick Barnes told the Des Moines Register last Saturday. “They share the ball. They do a lot of good things.” The Cyclones are sixth in the country with 82.5 PPG and 15th with 16.9 APG, both largely credited to improved play from Lucious.
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Seth Davis Plays “Stock Report”: Big 12 Reaction

Posted by dnspewak on January 3rd, 2013

Seth Davis is at it again. In the 2013 edition of his “Hoop Thoughts Stock Report” — which seems eerily similar to how Pardon the Interruption plays Buy or Sell — Davis included six teams from the Big 12 among his long list of schools across the country. There’s a reason Davis writes for Sports Illustrated and we, well, don’t write for SI, but regardless, no writer is off limits in the world of college basketball. Here’s are some excerpts of what Davis said about those Big 12 teams, and more importantly, here’s what we think about what Davis said about the Big 12 teams.

Pierre Jackson (#55) and Isaiah Austin (#21) Will Make or Break the Bears' Season. (Associated Press/Rod Aydelotte)

Pierre Jackson (#55) and Isaiah Austin (#21) Will Make or Break the Bears’ Season. (Associated Press/Rod Aydelotte)

BAYLOR (8-4): HOLD: This team is too soft defensively to buy, but it has too many good pieces to sell.

Hold? Agreed, to an extent. Baylor has looked marvelous at times and horrendous at others, so simply in terms of stock, let’s go ahead and even things out and call it a hold. You don’t want to buy a team that has already lost four games and was out-rebounded by College of Charleston and Northwestern, but you also don’t want to sell a team that made BYU look silly and won at Kentucky. There’s a chance this team could still wind up as good if not better than last year’s team, simply because Isaiah Austin is an animal, Pierre Jackson looks like the Big 12 Player of the Year contender we all thought he’d be and, as Davis mentions, there’s no chance Brady Heslip keeps misfiring from beyond the arc at this rate. Here’s where Davis is wrong, though: Baylor is not “too soft defensively.” The word “soft” is much too harsh. The Bears’ zone embarrassed and confused Kentucky at Rupp Arena, and they held BYU in check with a sub-40 percent percentage from the floor. Gonzaga lit them up, sure, but the word is “inconsistent.” Not necessarily “soft.”

KANSAS (11-1, No. 6): BUY It is rare to see a team have so many talented pieces that fit together so well. [...] We know the Jayhawks are going to win the Big 12 yet again, so they’re almost certain to go into the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed. I’d be surprised if their season does not end in the 404.

Easy pick here. Seth Davis, you’ve got no argument from us. In fact, you’ve likely got no argument from anybody on earth, save a few delusional Missouri fans. Bill Self has proven once again that he has no problem recovering after defections to the NBA and graduation. That’s because his bench can usually outplay the rest of the Big 12 in any given year. So now that it’s Jeff Withey‘s turn to be the star, he’s doing it. Now that it’s Ben McLemore‘s time to shine, he’s doing it, too. The question is not whether Kansas will win the Big 12. The question is whether the Jayhawks are good enough to win it all. Davis hits the nail on the head here, but you knew that already.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 14th, 2012

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s been a slow week in college basketball with students hitting the books and getting through finals week. However, things pick up quite a bit this weekend with some great non-conference action led by a marquee match-up in the desert. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend 

#5 Florida at #9 Arizona  10:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Patric Young's Offensive Rebounds Are One Way To Get Additional Touches (Getty)

Will Patric Young Dominate the Wildcats Again This Season? (Getty)

  • Florida won the match-up last season with Arizona in a tough overtime battle. The Gators’ Patric Young dominated the game with a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting. Coach Billy Donovan was disappointed the Gator guards did not get Young the ball more often. It will be interesting to see how Arizona responds this season to defending Young. The addition of 7’0″ freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski to the Wildcats line-up should make a significant difference for coach Sean Miller. His size will at least create problems at the basket for the 6’10” Young. Keep a close eye on Florida’s ability to create turnovers as well. It helped them win last season in Gainesville and will be a big factor again. Finally, three-point shooting will play a key role in the outcome of the game. Approximately 40% of Florida’s field goal attempts are from downtown and U of A gives up more treys than two-thirds of the teams in college hoops. You will want to keep an eye on Gator forward Erik Murphy from beyond the arc. He presents a tough match-up with his 6’10” frame and his ability to stroke the three. If Murphy is hitting from downtown, the Wildcats are in deep trouble.
  • Arizona and Florida are both in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage. We mentioned Tarczewski’s defense before, but his biggest contribution to this game may be on the offensive boards. He needs to clean up the glass on missed shots to give Arizona as many looks as possible. Miller’s squad got excellent production last year from it’s backcourt against the Gators and need the same from guards Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons this season. Lyon’s needs to be careful of turnovers as he has a sub-one assist-to-turnover ratio. If he isn’t protecting the ball, Arizona will have trouble again this year.
  • Arizona’s size will allow them to compete all game long with a very talented and good shooting Florida squad. Their ability to go big at guard with Kevin Parrom could be the difference in the game. While the jury is still out on the Wildcats, a home game against Florida will be a great barometer for what we can expect in the future. The team that wins the offensive rebounding battle will take this one.

More Great Hoops

#6 Louisville at Memphis  2:30 PM EST, Saturday on Fox College Sports (****)

  • Louisville won this match-up last season in a close eight-point ballgame. This season however they are without star center Gorgui Dieng due to his wrist injury. Dieng went for 14/14 last year and always makes a major impact on defense. Without Dieng manning the middle, Louisville actually lacks size. Duke took advantage of this size deficiency and was able to beat the Cardinals a few weeks ago as a result. Look for Memphis to try to do the same thing at home this Saturday. Memphis is tall on the inside and a good offensive rebounding team. They are not as good at getting to the free throw line, however, which is also how the Blue Devils beat the Cardinals. Memphis ranks #307 nationally in free throw rate. Guard play from the Tigers will be a key factor in this contest. They need to get to the line and not turn the ball over. In their blowout win against an Ohio team known for turning teams over, the Tigers only committed miscues on over 16% of their possessions. A lot has to go right for the Tigers to pull an upset here, but with Dieng out, this is their best opportunity.

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Is Kansas State the Best Offensive Rebounding Team in the Country?

Posted by IRenko on December 10th, 2012

I. Renko is a DC-based correspondent for Rush the Court. You can follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops. He filed this report after Saturday’s game between Kansas State and George Washington.

Kansas State improved to 7-1 on the season on Saturday, in a thrilling 65-62 win over George Washington that was not decided until Dwayne Smith missed a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer. The Wildcats overcame a poor shooting performance, in which they shot 35.7% from the field and 56.3% from the free throw line.  So how did they win? The way they’ve been doing it for the past six years: by dominating the offensive glass. “If you told me we were going to hold them to 35% shooting, I thought we could win the game, but the killer was offensive rebounds,” GW head coach Mike Lonergan explained afterwards. “We just gave them too many second chance opportunities.”

Kansas State Has Been The Most Consistently Outstanding Offensive Rebounding Team in the Country For The Past Six Years (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Wildcats set the tone early, scoring their first six points on second chance put-backs by forward Nino Williams.  They would go on to rebound almost as many of their misses as George Washington did, posting a remarkable 49% offensive rebounding percentage.  In fact, the Wildcats actually had more offensive than defensive rebounds in the game — 24 to 22.  As a result, they had 17 more field goal attempts than George Washington, an edge that mitigated their poor shooting.  If you keep throwing the ball up, sooner or later it’s gonna go in.  And the Wildcats’ rebounding performance was not the result of a weak opponent.  In the eight games they played before Saturday, the Colonials had not allowed an opponent to rebound more than a third of their misses.

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Big 12 Team Preview #4: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 9th, 2012

This week, we’re bringing you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Kansas State at the #4 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 22-11, 10-8
  • Key contributors lost: Jamar Samuels
  • Head coach: Bruce Weber, 1st season
  • Projected finish: 4th

Bruce Weber is an amazing example of a coach falling up. (AP)

Let’s remind ourselves how we got to this point.

March 8: Illinois loses its final game of the season, a 64-61 loss to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini finished the year 17-15 after starting off 15-3. By this time, Bruce Weber’s postgame press conferences were depressing to watch and listen to. He put everything in his job and even his opponents knew that, but you could sense his time in Champaign was coming to a close. The next day, Weber was relieved of his duties as head basketball coach of the University of Illinois. Fast forward to the 17th, amidst the madness of March, Kansas State lost in the third round to one-seeded Syracuse 75-59. They were without Jamar Samuels that day because he accepted an inpermissible benefit. Because their season was over, they were down but since they had a lot coming back next season, it wasn’t that bad.

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Texas Sneaks Into USA Today Poll; Kansas State Nowhere to be Found

Posted by dnspewak on October 17th, 2012

The preseason USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ poll released today slotted Kansas and Baylor at #7 and #18, respectively, unsurprising selections for the presumable top two contenders this season in the Big 12 Conference. We’ve got no argument there. The discussion begins with the final team in the Top 25: Texas. The Longhorns are the third and final Big 12 squad in the rankings, sneaking into the polls in a tie with Florida State’s 61 votes. For as much criticism as Rick Barnes takes for not elevating his program to another level — criticism we’ve actually worked hard to debunk at RTC’s Big 12 microsite time and time again — there’s no doubting his track record, and there’s no doubting an eligible Myck Kabongo could justify a spot in the Top 25. There’s a danger with ranking this Texas team, however. Kabongo’s a stud, sure, but this team is remaking itself after the loss of J’Covan Brown. It will rely almost exclusively on freshmen and sophomores, and it will bank on a big performance from freshman Cameron Ridely, the four-star center who will change the way the Longhorns play in the frontcourt. You’ve also got to remember that this was not a terrific Texas team a year ago, even though you need to credit Barnes for finding a way to qualify for the NCAA Tournament amidst a lot of youth and inconsistent play from Kabongo.

It’s Not a Travesty Texas Made The Top-25, But Where’s Kansas State

This is a good Texas squad. It defends, it has more size than a year ago and it has one of the nation’s fastest and most talented point guards in Kabongo. But we’d actually be more inclined to use that final top 25 spot on Kansas State, which received just 13 votes in today’s poll. That’s somewhat surprising, considering this team actually finished a game above Texas in 2011-12, advanced further in the NCAA Tournament and brings back its stud leading scorer in Rodney McGruder. Bruce Weber’s rocky finish at Illinois is cause for concern, but he’s a proven coach to an extent and seems like a solid replacement for Frank Martin in Manhattan. This team has a significant edge in experience over Texas and it is probably one of the league’s top defensive squads. There’s no Kabongo on this roster, but Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez and a handful of other guards in this deep backcourt are more than capable. Plus, Jordan Henriquez might be the most underrated defensive center in the nation. “On paper” — and, remember, that term means essentially nothing in sports — Kansas State looks like a better bet in the top 25.

We’re arguing about polls here, though. They are meaningless — interesting, but meaningless. So while Kansas State may seem like a better choice right now, by the time December rolls around, that might not be the case. Another team could emerge, too: No other team besides Kansas, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State or Oklahoma State received votes in this poll. There’s no Iowa State or West Virginia, both of which qualified for the NCAAs a year ago, but that could easily change depending on what happens this winter. The rankings are fluid, and we’ll surely have another debate when the Associated Press releases its preseason poll in the next couple of weeks. Can’t wait!

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Analyzing the Big 12 Early Season Tournaments: Kansas State Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 9th, 2012

We’re just four days away from the official opening to the 2012-13 college basketball season as schools will be able to start officially practicing Friday night. Before then, though, we’re going to take a look at the various pre-conference tournaments that have become synonymous with the first month of college basketball. Nearly every Big 12 school is competing in one of those tournaments this season and we’ll take time each day this week to preview each bracket, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico to New York City. On Tuesday we took a look at Texas and Kansas. Today, it’s Kansas State and new head coach Bruce Weber. 

NIT Season-Tip Off

Dates: November 12-13, November 21, November 23
Location: Campus sites and Madison Square Garden
Major Teams: Michigan, Cleveland State, Pittsburgh, Lehigh, Robert Morris, Kansas State, North Texas, Virginia, Delaware

Bruce Weber is Firmly on the Hot Seat; How Will his Team Respond? (AP Photo/M. Conroy)

There’s no acclimation period for Bruce Weber at Kansas State. No rebuilding project, no waiting game, and, most importantly, no excuses for the Wildcats not to reach Madison Square Garden in the NIT Season Tip-Off this November. Weber, whose Illinois program slowly crumbled and led to his eventual dismissal, found a terrific gig in Manhattan and inherits an experienced roster capable of immediate results. That’s both a blessing and a burden. With an All-Big 12 wing in Rodney McGruder, strong guards, good depth and a defensive mentality already instilled by Frank Martin, it would be a colossal disappointment not to reach at least the semifinals. That’s a tough expectation, though, since Tony Mitchell and North Texas presumably await the Wildcats after an opening round game against Lamar. Kansas State would play this “Midwest Championship” at Bramlage Coliseum, but the Mean Green have the best player on the floor and seem primed for a big year after underachieving a bit with its young talent a year ago.

If Kansas State can slip by North Texas, it’s not necessarily an underdog compared to the rest of the PNIT field. At the top of the bracket, Michigan will play the role of the heavy favorite, thanks to that star-laden backcourt and return of Trey Burke. The top-seeded Wolverines could potentially face Pittsburgh in the semifinals, a program looking to rebound from an unprecedented down season on the shoulders of Tray Woodall and notable transfer Trey Zeigler. At the bottom of the bracket, second-seeded Virginia’s defense should be light years ahead of everybody else, but Tony Bennett’s team may struggle to find its offensive identity in November after losing Mike Scott. That could be one heck of a drag-it-out slugfest between KSU and Virginia in the semifinals at the Garden.

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Big 12 Weekly Five: 08.23.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on August 23rd, 2012

  1. Uh oh. The only true point guard on Oklahoma State’s roster, Cezar Guerrero, announced this week of his intention to transfer closer to home. His mother is sick in Los Angeles, so the decision is perfectly reasonable. However, the point guard position continues to plague Travis Ford. He lost two point guards to transfer last winter, and Keiton Page — already playing out of position there a year ago — graduated. Although that article actually claims the coaching staff may have wanted to play Guerrero off the ball in 2012-13, he was the only player on the roster with true point guard skills. Freshman Marcus Smart will probably have the ball in his hands a lot, and Markel Brown might get a chance to run the point too. But they’re a lot more effective as scorers, and it would have been a whole lot easier for Guerrero to take the reins and facilitate the offense. Now that he’s gone, it’s also important for Ford to get JuCo point guard Kirby Gardner cleared. He’s entirely unknown at this point and his signing came out of nowhere, but he does seem like more of a natural point.
  2. Make that seven freshmen now for Bill Self. Less than a month after the NCAA cleared Milton Doyle to play for Kansas, the freshman decided to leave the school before ever playing a game, which cuts a dent in Self’s abnormally-sized 2012 recruiting class. Although Self and Doyle’s mother, Lisa Green, both spoke in vague terms about his departure, it appears as though Doyle wanted to earn more minutes and make more of a major impact right away instead of waiting his turn. Neither Self nor Green spoke ill of each other, though, so it’s now time for Doyle to find another school — it’ll be his third already after originally committing to Florida International before the firing of Isiah Thomas. From the Jayhawks’ standpoint, they’re already loaded, especially after learning of top-100 freshman guard Rio Adams’ eligibility for 2012-13 earlier this month.
  3. We’ve written at length about Cameron Clark on this microsite, odd considering he’s never even averaged double figures in scoring during his first two years at Oklahoma. But we’ve written about him because his potential is so obvious to the naked eye, and he’s the type of sleeping giant that could take the Sooners to the next level in Lon Kruger’s second year. Everything about Clark screams “big-time scorer.” He’s got the size and wing skills at 6’6”, and he’s simply the kind of guy that has the ability to get the ball in the bucket on any given night. That consistency has not yet materialized, which is why we’re often writing about Clark’s potential as opposed to his actual production. With Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye joining the team this year and the return of every key scorer from a year ago, there’s still not a ton of pressure solely on Clark. Still, his growth as a junior could be a critical piece of Kruger’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
  4. Poor Kansas State. Scheduling conflicts forced the Wildcats to return home early from their trip to Brazil, meaning its now back to reality after a vacation in South America. First-year coach Bruce Weber still got an early look at his new team, even if it wasn’t all that encouraging. Kansas State finished 2-2 on the trip, including a loss in which the referees ejected Weber from the game. It’s hardly the time to freak out about a few exhibition losses, but it’s at least encouraging that point guard Angel Rodriguez led the team in scoring on the trip. He was one of Frank Martin’s favorites last season, and he’ll likely earn that same sort of praise from Weber as long as he continues to progress.
  5. The legal process may have ended in the Darrell Williams rape case this summer, but the questions still linger about the former Oklahoma State forward. A jury convicted Williams based on the testimony of two women who said he groped them at a party, and he’ll now face serious prison time for the offense. As Mary Mitchell points out, though, prosecutors had no physical evidence to show the jury, and the identification was also troublesome because several other players had the same OSU warmup suit on at the party. The Huffington Post also called out the jury for convicting Williams, claiming 80 percent of errors in sexual assault cases happen because of misidentification. And there’s another aspect to this, too: “So let’s summarize. Williams, an honors student with an unblemished record, was convicted by a jury with no black people on it of an interracial crime that lacked independent witnesses or physical evidence and was based on a notoriously flawed method for identifying suspects.”
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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 21st, 2012

  1. After heckling Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez with racial slurs during the first round of the NCAA Tournament, five members of the Southern Mississippi band have lost their scholarships and will no longer participate in the band. This is refreshing news for Rodriguez, who deserves justice after facing taunts of “Where’s Your Green Card?” As Rodriguez mentions in the article, this slur was especially ridiculous because Rodriguez is from Puerto Rico– an American territory, knuckleheads. “Nonsense” is what Rodriguez calls it, and we agree. Both offensive and ignorant.
  2. Winning the Coach of the Year award won’t make Frank Haith feel better about getting Norfolked (yes, we did use that joke yesterday, too), but he has to be proud after all of the criticism he heard when he took the job. Now, it’ll be interesting to see how Haith does with his own roster next season, including several big name transfers. It worked for Fred Hoiberg, who now has his Iowa State program on the upswing. It’s up to guys like Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Jabari Brown to help the returning players continue the success of this Missouri program.
  3. There’s also another newcomer for the Tigers next year: Eric Moeller, a 6-foot-10 big man from St. Louis. He’s a preferred walk-on, but adding a center with this kind of size is never a bad thing. It should especially help in practice, and who knows? Moeller may push for a spot in the rotation eventually if he can add some weight. Right now, he’s just a shade over 200 pounds.
  4. Now that it’s over, it’s time to reflect on Kansas State’s 2011-12 season. Before the year, it was very difficult to gauge Frank Martin‘s team. Without Jacob Pullen, we knew Rodney McGruder would need to be the man. During non-conference play, McGruder embraced this role as his team cracked the top-25. Despite an up-and-down regular season, the Wildcats still overachieved by clamping down when they needed to, earning another NCAA Tournament appearance. It wasn’t easy, but with Martin, it’s always a grind. That’s a compliment, by the way: the guy simply wins, no matter how pretty it looks.
  5. Dick Vitale apparently forgot Baylor and Kentucky still need to win Sweet 16 games to face each other, but he says the Bears would be a stiff test for John Calipari‘s team in the regional final. The Wildcats would enter that contest as the obvious favorite, but watching Anthony Davis against Perry Jones, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy would be a dream matchup for CBS.
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