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

tuesdayscribbles

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

morning5_big12

  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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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

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  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

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  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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