2019-20 RTC16: Week 15

Posted by Walker Carey on March 2nd, 2020

In case you have not heard by now, “This is March.” With the calendar finally turning to college basketball’s premier month, the regular season is winding down. And continuing with the unexpected nature of this season, several ranked teams were once again tripped up by unranked foes over the weekend. #13 Duke was the week’s most notable victim. The Blue Devils’ first loss came last Tuesday at Wake Forest when they blew a nine-point lead with 1:21 to play in regulation and ended up losing by 12 in double-overtime. Mike Krzyzewski‘s group then suffered its second loss of the week on Saturday when it was unable to overcome Virginia’s stifling defense in a 52-50 defeat. #4 Baylor had developed a well-earned reputation as one of the surest things in the country this season, but that reputation took a hit Saturday when the Bears suffered their second defeat in three games at TCU. #8 Florida State and #11 Creighton also joined the party in suffering upset losses on the road with the Seminoles falling at Clemson and the Bluejays getting hit with a flurry of three-pointers in a 20-point loss at St. John’s. If the trend of ranked teams taking unexpected losses continues throughout the rest of this month, it is likely this March will go down as one to remember. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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What’s Trending: Shuffling Of The Top Five

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 24th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Prior to Saturday’s game in Waco, Kansas had won 11 consecutive contests since its loss to Baylor in Lawrence. The rematch between the Big 12’s two best teams also pitted the #1 and #3 ranked teams in the national polls against each other.

In the first match-up, Baylor held Udoka Azubuike to only six points on 3-of-6 shooting, and Devon Dotson to just nine points before he left the game with an injury. Kansas, however, was quick to establish both of its stars in the rematch. Azubuike contributed 13 first-half points on 6-of-7 shooting en route to a game-high 23 points, and, as a team, the Jayhawks scored 42 points in the paint — 16 more than they had in the first match-up.

https://twitter.com/KUHoops/status/1231619477189615616?s=20

After the impressive win, Kansas seemed to solidify itself as the “team to beat” in the eyes of many national media. A year removed from having its run of regular season Big 12 championships ended, Kansas is now in prime position to again finish at the top of the conference.

As dominant as Udoka Azubuike was down low against Baylor, there are still reservations in the one-game setting that is the NCAA Tournament. He remains a sub-50 percent free-throw shooter who has scored 12 or fewer points in 14 games this season. Hack-a-Doke will be present in the NCAA Tournament, so the question is whether he will let that impact his ability to alter a game defensively and on the glass?

While Azubuike and Dotson make all the difference on the floor, the other thing that few can argue with is the genius that is Bill Self on the sideline. According to Synergy Sports data, the Jayhawks rank in the 97th percentile in side out of bounds sets and in the 85th percentile in after time out efficiency. Self’s ability to tweak things can make all the difference for what is already an immensely talented team.

https://twitter.com/RobDauster/status/1231312239573061638?s=20

While Kansas was able to pass its road test on Saturday, Gonzaga did not have the same luck, falling in Provo against a hot BYU team. After shooting 62 percent on its two-point attempts in its first match-up against Gonzaga, BYU made another strong 63 percent of its shots from inside the arc in this match-up. With 11 made threes on 40.7 percent shooting from deep, BYU posted 1.25 points per possession total on its way to 91 points.

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2019-20 RTC16: Week 14

Posted by Walker Carey on February 24th, 2020

Saturday was among the most chaotic regular season days in recent college basketball history. It started with #1 Kansas going to #2 Baylor and using a dominant 23-point, 19-rebound effort from senior big man Udoka Azubuike to hand the Bears their first loss since November 8. The victory was extra sweet for the Jayhawks as it earned some revenge from a 67-55 home loss to Baylor back on January 11. #5 San Diego State then saw its dream of an undefeated season come to an end with a stunning 66-63 home upset loss to UNLV. What made the defeat even more surprising that the Aztecs only led once during the game at 2-0. It would be foolish to write off San Diego State now, however, as one loss should not define a team that started the season by winning its first 26 contests. The chaos concluded late night in Provo when #3 Gonzaga fell for the first time since November 29 in a convincing 91-78 loss to #14 BYU. The Cougars were electric offensively, hitting 53.2 percent of their field goals with senior forward Yoeli Childs acting as the best player on the court, contributing 28 points and 10 rebounds to a winning effort. If Saturday was any sign of things to come, we should be in for an exciting March packed with impressive performances and unexpected results. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Ten Questions To Consider: Resume Building, Season Saving, Slump Busting Weekend

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 14th, 2020

With Selection Sunday now just five weekends away, the importance of each and every game increases. This weekend some teams will look to solidify their spot on the right side of bubble, while others will look to keep their position at the top of their conference standings. Here are 10 questions I have for just some of the meaningful action to take place.

  1. Did the win at Illinois turn a corner for Michigan State or will it prove to be a bit of a mirage? (Maryland @ Michigan State, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) Michigan State played a tremendous opening half at Illinois on Tuesday night, as the Spartans led by 20 points early in the second half before falling apart and needing a Xavier Tillman putback to win in the final seconds. This is Michigan State’s first of five games remaining on the schedule against teams currently in the KenPom top 20.
  2. Can West Virginia dominate the glass and find a way to steal a win at Baylor? (West Virginia @ Baylor, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN+) Baylor and West Virginia each rank among the nation’s top 10 teams in offensive rebound rate. Rebounding has been a key factor for the Mountaineers all season, especially on the defensive glass. West Virginia has gone 13-1 when holding its opponent to an offensive rebounding rate below 28 percent. When that rate exceeds that mark, Bob Huggins’ team has gone just 5-5.
  3. How will the Louisville’s starting five respond to its lackluster performance against Georgia Tech? (Louisville @ Clemson, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ACC Network) In Louisville’s surprising loss Wednesday at Georgia Tech, the Cardinals’ starting five combined for just 18 points. Jordan Nwora logged a season-low two points while committing four turnovers. In Louisville’s win against Clemson on January 25, the same five starters combined to score 48 of Louisville’s 80 points.
  4. Can Stanford find a way to save its season? (Arizona @ Stanford, Saturday, 10:30 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) After starting the season 15-2 and 4-0 in Pac-12 play, Stanford has dropped five of its next six games since. While the Cardinal maintain a top 30 NET Ranking as of Thursday night, a pair of home losses to the Arizona schools would likely serve as a knockout punch to its lingering Tournament hopes.
  5. Will the Illini have Ayo Dosunmu to help end a three-game skid? (Illinois @ Rutgers, Saturday, 4:30 PN EST, Big Ten Network) The final seconds of the Illinois/Michigan State game were not kind to Brad Underwood’s squad — from the game-deciding basket of Xavier Tillman to an injury seconds later to Illinois’ leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu’s status is unclear heading into the weekend, but without him, Illinois is in great danger of picking up its fourth consecutive loss.
  6. If Boise State protects the ball, can they become the first team to knock off the Aztecs? (San Diego State @ Boise State, Sunday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) In the first match-up of the season between these two teams, Boise State made 60.7 percent of its two-point field-goal attempts, the highest percentage of any Aztecs opponent. Unfortunately for the Broncos, 18 turnovers (a season-high turnover rate of 26.3%) was far too much to overcome.
  7. Can the Hoosiers find a way to improve its offense away from Assembly Hall? (Indiana @ Michigan, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) The Indiana offense has looked vastly different on the road than at home this season. While the Hoosiers have scored north of 78 points per game at home, their road average sits at just 60.3 points per game. Archie Miller will need more from his four leading scorers this weekend, who average 50 points per game at home and just 36.1 points per game away from Bloomington.
  8. Will Colorado make it out of the state of Oregon with at least one win? (Colorado @ Oregon State, Saturday, 10 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Saturday’s game at Gill Coliseum will be an opportunity for Colorado salvage one win to remain on top of the Pac-12. The Buffaloes led Oregon State 63-52 with just under eight minutes to go in the first match-up before Colorado closed on a 24-5 run end the game.
  9. Can the Razorbacks end recent struggles and add a Quadrant 2 win to their resume? (Mississippi State @ Arkansas, Saturday, 1 PM EST, SEC Network) Arkansas sat at #28 in the NET Rankings on January 28, but since then, the Razorbacks have gone 1-4 with a pair of those losses coming in overtime and another by a mere two points. Their current NET Ranking is now just barely inside the top 50. With a 4-8 record against Quadrant 1 and 2 teams, Saturday could amount to a must-win game for the Razorbacks.
  10. Can Porter Moser’s Ramblers slow Northern Iowa from beyond the arc or will it grab a stranglehold on the MVC’s top spot? (Northern Iowa @ Loyola Chicago, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN2) On the season, Loyola ranks outside of the top 300 in opponents’ three-point percentage, making this a difficult match-up against a Northern Iowa squad that is among the five best three-point shooting teams. Northern Iowa has three player who have made 40 or more threes at a clip of 40 percent or better.

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Weekend Notebook: Big 12 Elite Hit the Road

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 17th, 2020

It’s been a strange year around college basketball, and in some ways, the Big 12 is no different. Yes, Baylor and Kansas are leading the league, as expected, but with the Bears and Jayhawks flanked by West Virginia, three teams rank among the top five of KenPom‘s overall adjusted efficiency rankings, which is definitely something new. Similarly, whereas we’re used to seeing depth and NCAA Tournament-caliber teams down to the seventh or eighth spot, this year the middle looks more hollow with Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma State really scuffling.

Are These the Best Two Teams in College Basketball? (USA Today Images)
  1. As it turns out, all three of those teams will be on the road this weekend, with Baylor paying a visit to Oklahoma State, Kansas flying down to Austin and West Virginia doing battle with Kansas State in Manhattan. All three are also expected to win, which probably says more about the quality of the league’s bottom half than anything else. If the season ended today and this were a normal year, you wouldn’t see seven or eight teams getting into the NCAA Tournament like usual. The Cowboys have been completely overmatched in league play with Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters underperforming and Isaac Likelele still limited after missing four games with an undisclosed illness. Texas is looking feisty, but while Kansas State was expected to have a down year, the Wildcats are still trying to find their way, and it doesn’t help that the team has no idea what to expect out of Cartier Diarra on a nightly basis. I expect the bottom of the league to get better as we get into February, but the top should maintain its stranglehold this weekend.
  2. Announcers have been quick to note it, as have many in the national media, but I continue to be fascinated by the two-way consistency of Udoka Azubuike. Oklahoma shot a paltry 1-for-8 on dunks and layups Tuesday night with the Jayhawks’ big man moving incredibly well to disrupt close looks. Not only is he blocking shots at a higher rate than last season, but he’s somehow found a way to be even more efficient on offense, putting up a shooting percentage (or let’s just be real – dunking percentage) of 76.9 percent. The next few games should provide some opportunities for him to do well on offense as the team continues to work without a fully healthy Devon Dotson.
  3. Iowa State is really going through it as the Cyclones have had a terrible time stringing together any semblance of consistency. Smart defenses have realized that Tyrese Haliburton can’t hit a jump shot to save his life and are hedging away on pick-and-rolls, daring him to connect. In Haliburton’s defense, other playmakers have been tough to come by on the Iowa State roster, which I suppose is what can happen when you lose two talents like Lindell Wigginton and Talen Horton-Tucker. But the rest of the team isn’t exactly young, and as much as some fans are ready to move on from the head coaching tenure of Steve Prohm, that’s not happening anytime soon (nor should it). The Cyclones just don’t have a lineup that works against quality opponents and things only appear to get tougher from here. Wednesday’s loss at Baylor marked the beginning of a stretch of five road games out of seven. My guess is that this time next month, the team will have dug itself too big a hole to return to the NCAA Tournament, but I do think there remains some untapped potential with this squad.
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2019-20 RTC16: Week Nine

Posted by Walker Carey on January 13th, 2020

Much of the narrative surrounding college basketball this season has been how any team can win on any night and how this uncertainty has allowed several non-traditional powers to become among the best in the country. #2 Baylor definitely fits the non-traditional mold, as the Bears are continuing to establish themselves as one of the nation’s top teams this season. The latest step happened Saturday afternoon when Scott Drew‘s squad went into Allen Fieldhouse and thoroughly dominated #7 Kansas throughout a 67-55 win. The Bears used incredible performances from guards Jared Butler and MaCio Teague to control the game and throw the Jayhawks completely off. The victory was Baylor’s first ever win in Lawrence, as the program had previously been 0-16 at Allen Fieldhouse. The Bears have now won 12 straight since a November 9 loss to Washington and, even before Saturday’s win, they had built quite an NCAA Tournament résumé with wins over #5 Butler, #14 Villanova, Arizona and Texas Tech. There is still a long way to go in Big 12 play, but Baylor’s 4-0 start in the league has already put itself in a solid position to earn the program’s first ever Big 12 regular season title. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis

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Ten Questions to Consider: A Weekend of Statement Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 6th, 2019

Over the next three days action on the hardwood includes conference games, battles among intrastate rivals, and teams looking to either snap skids or prove they are the real deal. Here are 10 questions I have for what’s to come over a busy college basketball weekend.

  1. Will Gonzaga be able to get out in transition? (Gonzaga @ Washington, Sunday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) Nearly a third of Gonzaga’s shots have come in transition this year, representing a top-20 rate on the season. The Zags will be up against a Washington zone defense that has only allowed three squads a lower rate of shots in transition.
  2. What will Cole Anthony vs. Virginia’s defense look like? (North Carolina @ Virginia, Sunday, 4 PM EST, ACC Network) The freshman star struggled against Ohio State earlier this week, going 0-for-7 from inside the arc. With Armando Bacot dealing with an injury, how will Anthony perform against the nation’s best defense?
  3. Can Vernon Carey, Jr. continue to mirror the freshman season had by Jahlil Okafor? (Duke @ Virginia Tech, Friday, 7 PM EST, ACC Network) Through Vernon Carey’s first nine games at Duke, he has scored 11 more points, grabbed six more rebounds and blocked seven more shots than former Duke great Jahlil Okafor. In Okafor’s first ACC game, he logged 28 points, eight rebounds and four blocks against Boston College — what will Carey do against Virginia Tech?
  4. How does Michigan respond from its lackluster Big Ten/ACC performance? (Iowa @ Michigan, Friday, 6:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) After making 33 three-pointers on 47 percent shooting in their three games at Atlantis, the Wolverines shot a season worst 15.8 percent from deep against Louisville. It led to Michigan posting its worst single-game offensive efficiency total since a Big Ten Tournament loss against Wisconsin in 2008.
  5. Will there be a home court advantage for this under the radar, mega-matchup? (Arizona @ Baylor, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPNU) Just as the basketball tips at the Ferrell Center on Saturday afternoon, Baylor’s football team will be kicking off in its Big 12 title game. The Bears are offering free tickets to anyone who wants to watch the match-up with Arizona, which includes a dazzling backcourt battle of Nico Mannion vs. Baylor’s plethora of guards.
  6. What will the Crosstown Shootout look like without Mick Cronin on the sidelines? (Cincinnati @ Xavier, Saturday, 5 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) For the first time in 13 years, the Cincinnati/Xavier rivalry will not include either Mick Cronin or Chris Mack. Can new Bearcats’ coach John Brannen do something that Cronin never did and win at Xavier? The Musketeers have won each of the past seven home match-ups.
  7. Quite simply, will the free throw line be the deciding factor in USC-TCU? (USC @ TCU, Friday, 9 PM EST, ESPN2) Entering play on Thursday, both USC and TCU ranked outside of the top 240 nationally in free throw percentage. In USC’s nine-point loss against Temple, the Trojans went 11-of-20 at the line. In TCU’s only loss — an overtime loss against Clemson — the Horned Frogs missed eight of their 15 free throw attempts.
  8. Can Wisconsin fix its troubles around the three-point line? (Indiana @ Wisconsin, Saturday, 4:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Greg Gard’s Badgers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak in which the Badgers have shot a measly 18.4 percent on 76 three-point attempts. Wisconsin’s three-point attempt rate is up nearly 10 percent from last season, while their success rate is down six points. They get an undefeated Indiana team which includes a red-hot Devonte Green from deep.
  9. Who will win the battle at the rim at Allen Fieldhouse? (Colorado @ Kansas, Saturday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) According to Hoop-Math, Kansas has logged 45.9 percent of its shots at the rim, a top-10 rate nationally. On those attempts, the Jayhawks are converting a robust 68.3 percent. Defensively, only a few teams in the nation allow more shots at the rim than the Colorado defense. That said, Tad Boyle’s squad holds opponents to a field goal percentage of just 46.3 percent at the rim — a top-20 ranking.
  10. Can DePaul continue to use turnovers its advantage? (Buffalo @ DePaul, Sunday, 5 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) DePaul looks to start a season 10-0 for the first time since the 1986-87 season (when it began 16-0). The Blue Demons own a top-50 defensive turnover rate, which has led to double-figure points off turnovers in each of its first nine games.

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Big 12 Key Questions: Will Kansas Return to the Top?

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 4th, 2019

You didn’t have to look at the standings last season to know that the Jayhawks weren’t their usual selves. You could throw a dart and hit a valid reason for Kansas missing out on a Big 12 15-peat: A disappointing backcourt outside of Devon Dotson; Udoka Azubuike missing 75 percent of the team’s games with a hand injury, and the frontcourt rotation behind him being terribly ill-equipped to pick up the slack; or the fact that eventual conference champion Texas Tech was flat-out better and Kansas State far more cohesive. With the page turning to 2019-20, though, the Jayhawks will look to avenge last season with a cast of bona fide challengers waiting for the league’s flagship program to stumble.

Bill Self No Longer Has the Pressure of The Streak to Worry About (USA Today Images)

Bill Self‘s team will be much deeper this season. Dedric Lawson is gone, but the Jayhawks return nearly everyone else of consequence. Though the head coach may not say so publicly, it’s tough to ignore the feeling that he isn’t all that heartbroken over losing Charlie Moore and K.J. Lawson, even if Quentin Grimes left Lawrence with a substantial amount of potential that Kelvin Sampson may tap at Houston. In their place, Isaiah Moss and Jalen Wilson should bring the scoring punch Kansas needs to put together the kinds of runs they struggled to assemble a season ago. Defensively, the Jayhawks will be deep and versatile up front. Self could surround Azubuike with another defense-first big like David McCormack or Silvio De Sousa, but with the way basketball has trended over the last few years, a small-ball option emerging among Marcus Garrett or Ochai Agbaji could be what tips the scales, provided of course that Self can keep the noise surrounding the program’s current entanglement with the NCAA from becoming a mitigating factor.

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16 Questions About Thursday’s First Round Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 20th, 2019

With tip-off of the First Round of the NCAA Tournament just around the corner, here are 16 questions to get you ready for all the action on Thursday.

Here We Go… (USA Today Images)
  • 1) Gonzaga vs. 16) Fairleigh Dickinson: Will Gonzaga spring back to life after its surprising loss to Saint Mary’s? The Zags shot 2-of-17 from beyond the arc in the WCC championship game, but a deep Tournament run will require better shooting from the likes of Zach Norvell, Josh Perkins, and Corey Kispert (collectively, 37.3 percent on the season).
  • 2) Kentucky vs. 15) Abilene Christian: When Kentucky misses shots, will Abilene Christian be able to keep the Wildcats off of the glass? Abilene Christian’s leading rebounder is 6’6″ Jaren Lewis, who averaged 6.2 boards per game. Kentucky’s duo of PJ Washington and Reid Travis could be in line for huge games on the interior for the Wildcats.
  • 2) Michigan vs. 15) Montana: Will Michigan’s size dominate this game? Even without leading scorer Jamar Akoh down the stretch, Montana went 10-2 behind a balanced attack which includes three other players who average at least 13 points per game. For the Grizzlies to win, though, the size of Ignas Brazdiekis and Jon Teske will be a lot to overcome.
  • 2) Michigan State vs. 15) Bradley: Will Michigan State avoid the early exit it took the last time it was a #2 Seed? Bradley managed to beat a Big Ten team (Penn State) earlier this year, but the Braves are going to have their hands full with Michigan State’s Nick Ward in the post.
  • 3) LSU vs. 14) Yale: How focused will LSU be with all the distractions surrounding the Will Wade situation? The Tigers will be without head coach Will Wade as they begin their NCAA Tournament run against a Yale team that likes to get up and down the floor. Each squad has four players who average double-figure points per game.
  • 3) Purdue vs. 14 Old Dominion: Which Carsen Edwards shows up for the Boilermakers? While Edwards shot 33.5 percent from behind the arc on the season, he’s shooting just 22.5 percent in Purdue’s last 11 games. Another shaky performance from the Boilermakers’ star guard could send Purdue home early.
  • 4) Kansas vs. 13) Northeastern: While Northeastern’s Vasa Pusica is grabbing the buzz, is Shawn Occeus the Huskies’ most important player? Occeus was the CAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2018, so if he can lock down the Jayhawks’ perimeter options tomorrow, a lot of pressure will fall on to the shoulders of Dedric Lawson.
  • 4) Florida State vs. 13) Vermont: In a one-game setting, does depth and size win over star power? The Seminoles leading scorer is the 6’10” Mfiondu Kabengele, who puts in 12.9 points per game. In addition, Leonard Hamilton’s team has seven other players who average six or more points per game. Vermont is led by the 21.4 points per game of unanimous America East Player of the Year, Anthony Lamb. The Catamounts only have three other players who average six or more points and just one player in the rotation who stands 6’7″ or taller.
  • 5) Auburn vs. 12) New Mexico State: Which strength brings the bigger advantage? Auburn’s defense leads the nation in turnover rate, while New Mexico State is among the nation’s best in grabbing offensive rebounds. This game could come down to which side is able to get the most out of those two areas.
  • 5) Marquette vs. 12) Murray State: Will Marquette’s sometimes porous transition defense be a deciding factor? The Golden Eagles’ defense sits in the bottom 20 percent in college basketball when it comes to the percentage of shots an opponent takes in transition. The Racers are one of the nation’s best at getting and finishing in transition, led by none other than All-American Ja Morant.
  • 6) Maryland vs. 11) Belmont: Can Belmont’s duo of Nick Muszynski and Dylan Windler hold up against the Maryland frontcourt of Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith? While Windler struggled against Temple offensively, he was a force on the glass. Muszynski returned to the court after missing the OVC championship game and chipped in 16 points. They will be tested against the large Terrapins’ tandem that can wreak havoc on opponents.
  • 6) Villanova vs. 11) Saint Mary’s: Who wins the battle of the three-point line: Villanova’s offense or Saint Mary’s defense? Only three teams took three-point attempts at a higher rate than Villanova this season, while the Gaels sat in the top 10 nationally in terms of running teams off of the three-point line.
  • 7) Louisville vs. 10) Minnesota: Can Minnesota find enough points to get the Pitino family revenge against Louisville? The Golden Gophers averaged 14.3 fewer points per game on the road than they did at home this year. Minnesota’s offense could find it difficult to score against the highly-efficient Louisville defense.
  • 7) Nevada vs. 10) Florida: Which senior will make the biggest impact? In a sport dominated by freshmen, this game will include a plethora of seniors on both sides including the likes of Nevada’s Caleb Martin, Jordan Caroline and Florida’s Ke’Vaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson.
  • 7) Wofford vs. 10) Seton Hall: Will this game come down to which star has a better game? If Ja Morant vs. Markus Howard is must-see matchup #1A, this game’s battle of Fletcher Magee and Myles Powell is must-see match-up #1B. Both players average more than 20 points per game and have taken nearly 500 field goal attempts on the season.
  • 8) Syracuse vs. 9) Baylor: Will the “Boeheim zone” reign supreme again? The Syracuse zone once again led to plenty of three-point attempts for opponents, so Baylor will need a better showing than the 34 percent it shot from distance on the year. Syracuse must also find ways to slow a Bears’ team that finished the year with the second best offensive rebounding rate in college basketball.
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Big 12 Tournament Storylines To Follow

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2019

This year’s Big 12 Tournament will have a different feel to it than those of recent memory. For the first time since 2005, Kansas will not enter the event as the regular season champion; and coincidentally enough, that year was also the last time that Texas Tech advanced to the championship game. The Red Raiders lost to Oklahoma State that year, but they are the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Kansas City this weekend. It’s easy to see The Streak ending as the biggest takeaway from this Big 12 season, but there’s still some conference intrigue left between now and Selection Sunday. Let’s get to it.

Jarrett Culver is licking his chops at the opportunity to deliver Texas Tech’s first Big 12 tournament championship. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Texas Tech looks to ride the wave. The Red Raiders are the clear favorite this week, and for plenty of reasons. Not only are they the conference’s best team with the nation’s best defense and the Big 12’s best player in Jarrett Culver, but they also have one of college basketball’s best coaches in Chris Beard. On top of all of that, they’ve won nine in a row and 11 of their last 12 with an offense that has significantly improved. Additionally, among the serious contenders to take home the trophy this weekend, Texas Tech is the only team that has its full complement of players healthy and available. So take your pick. Sure, anything can happen in a single-elimination setting on a neutral floor, but if you’re looking for a bold prediction about which team will cut down the Sprint Center nets, you won’t find it here.

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