Big 12 M5: 12.17.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 17th, 2014

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  1. We lead with a thorough analysis from Bleacher Report‘s CJ Moore on how the mock draft culture impacts its key stakeholders from NBA prospects and their families to college coaches to pro scouts to the work of people such as ESPN’s Chad Ford and DraftExpress‘ Jonathan Givony. We recommend you read the entire article, which is couched in Kelly Oubre‘s scenario with Kansas, because Moore does a fantastic job of seeking out the most relevant angles, but it’s especially interesting to hear how head coach Bill Self feels about the mock draft dynamic; Some of his objections are valid, even though they can also be interpreted as self-serving. Ultimately, I think Givony’s response that it’s up to each individual to form their own opinion and that it’s not right for coaches to conflate one person’s thoughts with the community’s as a whole is fair as well.
  2. West Virginia‘s struggles in its first two seasons of Big 12 membership dimmed the national spotlight on the Mountaineers, which was unfortunate for many reasons. Of course, I wanted to see West Virginia be as competitive in their new home as they were in the Big East, but lower on the list, their diminished relevance provided fewer opportunities for a good-old-fashioned Bob Huggins rant to make the rounds. That ended Monday night and into Tuesday, though, when the 61-year-old vet sounded off on his radio show after Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni accused him of being “afraid” to play the Thundering Herd twice a year (D’Antoni’s comments were sparked by a close loss to the Mountaineers on Sunday). Huggins is right to be incensed at D’Antoni’s comments both as one of the most fearless head coaches in the game and as the leader of a West Virginia program that has much more to lose than they have to gain by repeatedly playing a mediocre team like Marshall. It isn’t very often that we see coaches react so emotionally and honestly, so when the opportunity presents itself, it’s definitely worth checking out.
  3. Every season, there’s a handful of players you swore have been in college forever. This season, that hypothetical roster includes guys like Oklahoma State forward Le’Bryan Nash, who was a highly-touted recruit expected to not be long for college, but is nonetheless still at it in Stillwater. Despite being the only top-15 recruit from the high school Class of 2011 still in college, Nash is at peace with his position as the leader of a talented Cowboy squad. In speaking to CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish, Nash admitted that he has flirted with declaring for the NBA Draft each offseason since his arrival. According to head coach Travis Ford, Nash chose to return for his senior season so he could take ownership of the Cowboys. So far, the decision has worked out for all parties involved, as Nash is currently the second-leading scorer in the Big 12 with an efficient 17.7 points per game on 11 shots per contest. There’s no doubt that his presence has given Oklahoma State someone to rally around and lead them to a bounceback season. Staying on campus for all four years isn’t what Nash had in mind, but to his credit, he’s adapted well, so it’s tough not to find yourself rooting for him.
  4. In a game that was never really a game, Oklahoma trounced in-state foe Oral Roberts 85-53 in front of a light home crowd. The Golden Eagles were simply no match for the Sooners’ attack, which was able to put up a high scoring total despite getting only three points from the free throw line. Buddy Hield led Oklahoma with 16 points, while Ryan Spangler dominated the glass and Jordan Woodard had eight assists — in other words, the Sooners stuck to their blueprint, though in fairness, Oral Roberts was playing its third game in four days. We may not have learned much about the Sooners in this one, but Saturday’s matchup against Washington in neutral Las Vegas should be more revealing.
  5. On a minor note, the end of the semester has come, and that means certain players concluding that their current schools aren’t doing the trick for them. To that end, we learned yesterday that former Texas guard Damarcus Croaker and former Iowa State guard Sherron Dorsey-Walker will look for new homes. Croaker, a two-guard, averaged 9.5 minutes per game this season, but failed to see any court time in the Longhorns’ biggest games. He’s looking to transfer closer to his native Orlando so he can be with his young son. Dorsey-Walker, most notably, was Fred Hoiberg’s first redshirt player, but struggled to gain a foothold in the Cyclone rotation in each of his two eligible seasons. With a more talented guard in Oregon State transfer Hallice Cook set to play next season, the writing appeared to be on the wall. Dorsey-Walker may have been an afterthought in Iowa State’s rotation, but had offers from Michigan and Indiana (among others) as a recruit, so it will be interesting to see who takes him in.
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Big 12 M5: 12.10.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 10th, 2014

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  1. On Monday’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference, the idea of pushing the start of the regular season to mid-December or even January in light of poor attendance in early season match-ups picked up some steam, at least among some of the conferences’ coaches. This silly notion seems to come up a few times every year, and each time, it’s shot down by the basic economics of the sport’s biggest media deal. Specifically, the NCAA’s TV partners (especially CBS and Turner) are reliant on hundreds of hours of valuable postseason coverage to fill their March and early April calendars. Despite some grievances by coaches and certain members of the media, a big part of the beauty of college basketball is that it has an untouchable stranglehold on three-plus weeks of the American sports calendar. While it can definitely be frustrating to see intriguing non-league match-ups shoved aside in the national spotlight in favor of football coverage, it would be nonsensical to reposition the season to force its crown jewel to compete with the NBA and NHL Playoffs.
  2. Texas is still the leading contender to unseat Kansas at the top of the Big 12 standings, but if you think a healthy Isaiah Taylor is all that’s missing, you need to study up. Big man Cameron Ridley‘s contributions have been lacking as of late, according to Jeff Haley of Burnt Orange Nation. Haley took a close look at both data and film on the junior center and concluded that a surprising number of turnovers, limited results on the offensive glass and the absence of a face-up move when positioned outside the lane, have held him back. Texas has been very good even with teams neutralizing Ridley, so if he can break out, the Longhorns could be on their way to bigger and better things than a moral victory against Kentucky.
  3. Bill Self maintains that Jamari Traylor‘s arrest and subsequent suspension will be a learning experience for Kansas as it prepares for tonight’s tilt against Josh Smith and Georgetown. As Big 12 microsite contributor Chris Stone noted on MondayCliff AlexanderLanden Lucas and potentially Hunter Mickelson figure to absorb Traylor’s minutes, which means it’s very likely that Kansas won’t be in any worse position than if Traylor had been available. The Jayhawks have won the last two battles against Smith’s teams (against Georgetown in Allen Fieldhouse last season and against his UCLA team in Lawrence in 2010), so they’ll look to continue that success at the Verizon Center.
  4. Bryce Dejean-Jones had a reputation as a wildcard in his time with UNLV. It was tough to tell when he was going to put up an efficient 15- or 20-point game and when he would go ice cold on his way to a less impressive output. With Iowa State, however, Dejean-Jones is enjoying tremendous success thanks to a trademark of Fred Hoiberg‘s offense: The abandonment of the long two-pointer. Travis Hines of The Ames Tribune has an interesting interview with the transfer guard in which he details the benefits of his newfound shooting tendencies. We’ll have more on Dejean-Jones’ emergence later today in our Big 12 revelations after the first month of the season piece.
  5. One under-the-radar team to watch out for in the Big 12 is the Baylor Bears, which handled Texas A&M Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center. Baylor’s frontcourt was the story, as they shut out an SEC team on the offensive glass, a feat which hadn’t been done in 19 years. Johnathan Motley paced the Bears’ attack with career highs of 22 points and 11 boards. Scott Drew‘s team now possesses three wins against SEC teams (the others being road wins over South Carolina and Vanderbilt), and are quietly looking more formidable than many expected.
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Evaluating the Kansas Backcourt a Month Into the Season

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 4th, 2014

It has now been 16 days since Kansas suffered its worst loss of the Bill Self era, a 72-40 clubbing at the hands of the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats. Luckily for Jayhawks fans, the team has rebounded about as nicely as you could expect, winning four straight, including an Orlando Classic title after a five-point victory of Michigan State on Sunday. Still, there are plenty of questions about this team. Will Perry Ellis continue his recent surge when faced with bigger frontcourts? Will Kelly Oubre impress Self enough to earn decent minutes? What exactly is wrong with Wayne Selden? There is one thing we know for certain, though: Sophomore point guard Frank Mason III looks like the guy who will lead this team going forward. Since a disastrous outing at the Champions Classic where he was 1-of-10 from the field and largely invisible in his 32 minutes, Mason has made a strong case to become Self’s starting point guard. He has a 134.5 offensive rating since the Kentucky game, a very good mark for someone who uses fewer than 20 percent of his team’s possessions.

Frank Mason looks like Bill Self's man at point guard. (USATSI)

Frank Mason III looks like Bill Self’s man at point guard. (USATSI)

I don’t want to discount the night against Kentucky out of hand, though, because maybe it was indicative of how Mason will perform against the highest level of Division I competition. But Mason has been miles ahead of Devonte’ Graham, a player who many thought could supplant Mason in the starting lineup at some point this season. Self doesn’t appear to see it that way, as Graham has only played 13.4 MPG thus far and is no realistic threat to take Mason’s job from him anytime soon. In Orlando last week, Mason looked nothing like the player who went barreling into the lane with no apparent plan against the Wildcats. Instead, he picked his spots for aggressiveness, shooting 11-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point range over three games. He also grabbed 10 rebounds in the match-up against Michigan State and averaged 5.6 APG. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.01.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 1st, 2014

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  1. Kansas defeated Michigan State 61-56 yesterday to win the Orlando Classic and improve to 5-1 on the season, thanks largely to 17 year-old Ukranian Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. The would-be junior in high school had 11 points in the win and is quickly becoming the Jayhawks’ best shooter. “He can really shoot the basketball,” Bill Self told the Kansas City Star‘s Rustin Dodd after the game. “But he’s really become a really good defender, and he understands what we’re trying to do for the most part.” Mykhailiuk started the last few games and might be starting to come into his own. He was 4-of-10 from the field and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.
  2. If you missed seventh-ranked Texas‘ last-second win over UConn yesterday morning, you missed a good one. Jonathan Holmes knocked down a corner three-pointer with two seconds left to give the Longhorns the 55-54 victory over the #24 Huskies in Storrs. The play was originally designed for freshman center Myles Turner, but when nothing developed it left Holmes with a good look from the corner. There is still plenty of improvements to be made, however, according to head coach Rick Barnes. “I told the team in the locker room that the only time they really listened and did what we asked was the last play,” Barnes told AP writer Pat Eaton-Robb. The 6-0 Longhorns take on No. 1 Kentucky on Friday in Lexington.
  3. Speaking of undefeated teams, the West Virginia Mountaineers have looked like a team that could surprise people when Big 12 play begins next month. Like Texas, The 7-0 Mountaineers also have a win over Uconn as well as wins over George Mason and Boston College. There is a decent chance Bob Huggins and Co. are undefeated heading into the conference season. Unknown players like Jonathan Holton, Jevon Carter, and Daxter Miles, Jr. have had their moments, but as Connor Murray points out, junior guard Jaysean Paige might be the most important piece to the puzzle. Paige is 10-22 from three-point range this season and is averaging 7.3 PPG.
  4. Yes, even TCU is undefeated this season as well. The 7-0 Horned Frogs aren’t expected to make much noise this season, and that is probably still the case. But they already have wins over power-5 teams Washington State and Mississippi State. If they can beat Ole Miss in Oxford on Thursday, they should have a good chance to go 13-0 out of conference. I don’t know if you had TCU and West Virginia facing off in the battle of the unbeatens on Jan. 3, but I certainly didn’t. Kyan Anderson leads the team in points (12.7 PPG) and assists (3.7 APG), and the Horned Frogs most recently claimed the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic championship over the weekend.
  5. Under head coach Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State has been known as a team that will bomb away from deep, getting hot enough to beat anyone in the country but with the potential to cool off and lose to just about anyone. But as Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune points out, the Cyclones are capable of having a legitimate presence down low this season. When 6’9″ forward Jameel McKay becomes eligible at the semester’s end, Iowa State might have someone who can compliment the bevy of perimeter talent. If that happens, the Cyclones should compete for the Big 12 title. If not, they should hope their perimeter-oriented ways will carry them through the grueling double round-robin of Big 12 play.
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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Orlando Classic

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 27th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, this time with Kansas in the Orlando Classic.

Catching Up: Bill Self claimed that his team would eventually forget all about that 32-point drubbing at the hands of Kentucky last week in the Champions Classic. An Orlando Classic championship would certainly help. So far, the Jayhawks have really only proved they can beat bad teams, defeating UC-Santa Barbara and Rider at home. Self has mixed up his starting lineup so far and its unclear if or when he will settle on the same five guys every night. Junior forward Perry Ellis leads the team with 11.3 PPG. Five-star freshman forward Cliff Alexander is second on the team with 5.3 RPG and had 10 points on 4-4 shooting in just 13 minutes earlier this week against Rider. Freshman point guard Devonte Graham sat out last game with a sprained shoulder, but he should be able to go this week in Orlando. Ukrainian freshman guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk received his first career start against Rider and did not disappoint, going 4-for-7 from the field with 10 points and five rebounds.

Bill Self is still trying to find the right rotation this year. (KUSports.com)

Bill Self is still trying to find the right rotation this year. (KUSports.com)

Opening Round Preview: The Jayhawks open up the tournament against Rhode Island, an undefeated Atlantic-10 club which most recently defeated #21 Nebraska. The Rams are 13th in the country with 45 RPG and are led in scoring by sophomore guard E.C Mathews, who is averaging 16.3 PPG. Mathews had 26 points in the win over Nebraska, but it took him 20 shots to get there. As a team the Rams are first in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (19.1) and their opponents have shot just 20.7 percent from three. They haven’t done much better themselves, however, shooting 21.9 percent from beyond the arc through three games. In the win over Nebraska, both teams combined to shoot 6-39 from three-point range. It’s hard to imagine Rhode Island staying in this game if Kansas can reach the 70-point mark. The Rams scored 72 against Umass-Lowell and 53 in regulation against Nebraska. They were able to win both games because of their defense, and they will have to play even better defensively to keep the Jayhawks in that neighborhood.

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Big 12 M5: 11.24.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2014

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  1. In an early but big game for Bob Huggins and West Virginia, the Mountaineers impressed by beating defending national champions Connecticut, 78-68, in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Sunday night. The victory was keyed by a 17-4 run midway through the first half, and big games from Juwan Staten (21 points) and the Mountaineer defense, which forced 19 Husky turnovers, were especially crucial. Without a slate full of formidable non-con opponents, the win was very important for WVU from a resume standpoint. West Virginia can breathe easy for now, as they should have little trouble passing their next two tests, which come against VMI and the College Of Charleston.
  2. Amid the fallout for Kansas from last week’s shellacking at the hands of Kentucky was a minor injury, as it was revealed that freshman Devonte’ Graham sprained his shoulder in the loss. The injury isn’t said to be serious and it sounds like Graham will be ready for this week’s Orlando Classic, but with point guard play continuing to be a question, any development that brings more uncertainty to the picture isn’t good. If Mason shows any lingering symptoms, it will be interesting to see what the Jayhawks can get from Frank Mason.
  3. Oklahoma State big man Michael Cobbins was welcomed back to the team with open arms and showed that he was ready to go with a very solid performance against Milwaukee Friday night. Cobbins was sidelined for the Cowboys’ first three games of the season due to an NCAA ruling, but chipped in 15 points to go along with six rebounds, three blocks and a steal in an 82-68 win in his season debut against the Panthers. Oklahoma State now has everyone available as they gear up for a semifinal match-up tonight against Oregon State in the MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas. They’ll play either Auburn or Tulsa in the final or consolation round on Wednesday.
  4. Obvious as it is, we’ve talked several times about how important it is for Kansas State to avoid the kind of non-con gaffes that sent them scrambling into February to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. As it turns out, Bruce Weber‘s team didn’t listen to us, as it took a 69-60 road loss to Long Beach State on Friday night. Beating Purdue in today’s opening round of the Maui Invitational now becomes more meaningful than it was before, not so much because it would restore confidence in the Wildcats, but because it would set up a likely second-round match-up with No. 2 Arizona, where a win would do wonders for their tournament resume.
  5. Just in time for Feast Week, Iowa State will get a pair of reinforcements back tonight as Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas are now eligible to play in games. Both Nader and Thomas sat out the Cyclones’ first two games after separate run-ins with the law resulted in alcohol-related citations. We will have a full breakdown on what to expect from Iowa State in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic this week, but at the very least, Nader and Thomas can bring some offense to the Cyclone bench, which has scored just nine points so far this season.
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Champions Classic Report Card: Grading Hoops’ Biggest Early-Season Event

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 19th, 2014

College basketball reentered the national consciousness on Tuesday night as familiar blue-bloods Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State squared off in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. Let’s examine, assess and grade a few of the event’s most interesting themes and outcomes.

Kentucky’s platoon system: B+

Kentucky vs. Kansas lacked drama, but the Champions Classic remains a great event. (Darron Cummings AP)

Kentucky vs. Kansas may have lacked drama, but the Champions Classic remains a great event. (Darron Cummings AP)

With the glut of talent on this year’s Kentucky roster (as if Kentucky ever doesn’t possess a glut of talent), John Calipari has taken to a ‘platoon’ system wherein he substitutes five guys at a time – two entirely different lineups – throughout each game. That approach, seldom seen at college hoops’ highest level, went swimmingly on Tuesday night as the ‘Blue Platoon’ (38 points, seven blocks) and ‘White Platoon’ (28 points, four blocks) each had an important hand in dominating Kansas from start to finish. Works like a charm, right? Well, maybe. While Calipari denies that his scheme amounts to ‘communism,’ one does have to wonder if the more inefficient or ineffectual players will end up receiving too much playing time as a result of this strategy in the future. Let’s say, for example, that Marcus Lee is consistently less effective than his Blue Platoon counterpart for a prolonged stretch – it wouldn’t make much sense to continue giving him equal or similar minutes each night. That said, the Wildcats drubbed the Jayhawks by 32 points, and – as the saying goes – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Early-season drama: D-

This event has generally produced very good, very tight contests,in the previous three iterations, with only a few points separating each team. Even last year’s 11-point Kansas win over Duke – the Jabari Parker vs. Andrew Wiggins game – was tied with under five minutes to play. That level of drama was nowhere to be found on Tuesday night, however, as Duke largely controlled things for the full 40 minutes against Michigan State, and Kentucky absolutely manhandled Kansas. We’ve been spoiled up to this point and were probably due for a couple blowouts (it’s a testament to the consistent excellence of each program that the first three years were so good), but it’s still a bummer. Hopefully the drama returns in 2015.

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Is Kentucky’s Platoon System Built to Last?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 19th, 2014

John Calipari has been known to indulge in a bit of hyperbole from time to time, which forced most of us to take the preseason news of his installment of a hockey-style, 5-for-5 substitution system at Kentucky with a grain of salt. Super cool that you have a roster deep enough to float an idea like this, Coach Cal, but lets talk when actual games begin, okay? Impediments to wholesale substitution patterns go well beyond having a short roster. Foul trouble, injuries and varying match-ups are all reasons to maintain the classic flexibility of free substitutions. Even with a Kentucky roster overflowing with ability, this mindless platoon system Calipari was espousing seemed suboptimal at best and viciously exploitable at worst.

Waves Of Wildcats Wore Down Kansas On Tuesday Night

Waves Of Wildcats Wore Down Kansas On Tuesday Night (USA Today)

Or so the thinking went. After Kentucky walloped Kansas by 32 points in Tuesday night’s Champions Classic, it is suddenly evident that Calipari’s decision to eschew convention has the potential to pay massive dividends. At least for a night, there were no complaints about playing time. Rhythm remained steady as the units exchanged places, and both blue and white platoons played with the sort of boundless energy that Calipari dreamed this arrangement could foster. You could pull any five guys out of the Kentucky 10-deep and field a sufficiently scary basketball team, but the relentlessness of a long, athletic Wildcats front line was significantly magnified by the five-in, five-out waves that Kansas had to fight through all night. The Wildcats not only looked like the best team in the country on Tuesday night, but also a potentially unbeatable best team in the country.

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What’s Trending: #TipOffMarathon Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on November 19th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Griffin Wong (@griffwong90) is your weekly host.

Kevin Pangos is Still in College

Believe me, when I turned on the Gonzaga vs. SMU game late Monday night, I was just as surprised as you were.

But I digress. Pangos was awesome, posting a cool 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds in Gonzaga’s 72-56 victory.

Bruce Pearl is Back…

And he’s sweatier than ever!

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Kentucky 72, #5 Kansas 40

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 19th, 2014

Tommy Lemoine (@hoopthink) is in Indianapolis for the Champions Classic games tonight.

Three Key Takeaways:

Kentucky was clicking on all cylinders against Kansas tonight. (Photo: AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kentucky was clicking on all cylinders against Kansas tonight. (Photo: AP Photo/James Crisp)

  1. Kentucky’s size is peerless. Kentucky ranks first in the nation in effective height, but it doesn’t take an advanced statistician to know that the Wildcats are really, really big. That size and length proved the difference against Kansas tonight, as Bill Self’s club was unable to find consistent looks near the basket and shot poorly from the outside – an obviously lethal combination. Altogether, Kentucky blocked 11 shots and held the Jayhawks to eight – yes, eight – two-point baskets on the night (19.5% 2FG). With five contributors standing 6’9’’ or taller, including two seven-footers, the Wildcats’ interior defense is seemingly impregnable. The only way to beat Calipari’s group may be from the outside, and even that remains to be seen.
  2. The platoon remains for now. After the game, Calipari noted, “we’ll figure it out as we go, as far as ‘are we going to be able to play this way?’” and suggested that a more conventional lineup – one based on performance – could develop over time. But after a 32-point thrashing, on a night filled with so much national attention and fanfare, the fact that postgame conversations seemed less about ‘egos’ and ‘one-and-dones’ and more about “just how good can this team be?” suggests that the platoon system will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Five guys in, five guys out.
  3. This is more about Kentucky and less about Kansas. Sure, the Jayhawks were dominated, but Bill Self’s club is and should remain a top-10 team and perceived Big 12 favorites. Fact is, Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Cliff Alexander will be far more productive against normal-sized front lines; the team won’t shoot 20 percent from behind the arc each night; and Frank Mason will develop into a more consistent point guard. Considering Kansas’ talent and Bill Self’s track record, there are numerous aspects about tonight’s game that his staff might be better off just ignoring, moving on from, and chalking up to the fact that Kentucky is just ridiculously talented. There are better days ahead in Lawrence.

Star of the Game: Karl-Anthony Towns. There are no stars in Calipari’s platoon system! Or, there are many stars in Calipari’s platoon system! Either way, freshman center Towns was excellent tonight, logging nine points, eight rebounds and four blocks in just 17 minutes and 34 seconds on the court. It’s all about efficiency for Kentucky this year, and efficient he was.

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Kentucky vs. Kansas: Previewing Tonight’s Champions Classic Battle

Posted by Kory Carpenter & David Changas on November 18th, 2014

When it was introduced in 2011, the Champions Classic quickly rose to become the crown jewel of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. The event was such a success that last November, all four teams – Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State – renewed the deal without hesitation. Tonight marks the start of the second rotation, and the nightcap will pit the two winningest college hoops programs of all-time (4,269 wins, at last count) against each other. Big 12 microsite writer Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) and SEC microsite writer David Changas (@dchangas) took some time to preview the matchup.

Kory Carpenter: Few coaches have a shared history like Bill Self and John Calipari. Each began his career as a Larry Brown disciple at Kansas in the 1980s, and they were famously reunited over 20 years later in the 2008 National Championship game, with Self (thanks to Mario Chalmers) taking the first championship match-up between the two. Calipari got even with Self four years later (thanks to Anthony Davis), beating Self and Kansas in the 2012 National Championship game. Aside from Coach K at Duke, there is nobody in the country recruiting like these two; and, depending on whom you ask, they could easily be considered the two best coaches in the country. In the first year of the Champions Classic in 2011, Kentucky cruised to a 75-65 win behind 17 points from Doron Lamb and seven blocks from future NPOY Anthony Davis. Kentucky is favored once again, thanks to a roster that includes more McDonald’s All-Americans than Calipari might know what to do with. Blue-blood problems, indeed.

In a battle of coaching titans, John Calipari and Bill Self enter tonight's contest looking to one-up each other once again. (AP)

In a battle of coaching titans, John Calipari and Bill Self enter tonight’s contest looking to one-up each other once again. (AP)

Both teams should contend for the National Championship this season, but there are always questions this early, especially when facing teams of this caliber. The biggest concern for Kansas has to be post play, specifically rebounding. Kentucky starts three guys as tall or taller than anyone in Kansas’ starting lineup. Then you have 6’9” Marcus Lee, 6’10” Trey Lyles, and 7’0″ Dakari Johnson coming off the bench. The Jayhawks started a pair of 6’8” guys — Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis — against UC Santa Barbara on Friday night. Beyond that, Landen Lucas (6’10”) and Cliff Alexander (6’8”) combined for 21 more minutes. As a result, UCSB forward Alan Williams had a field day against the Jayhawks’ frontcourt, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds on 50 percent shooting. But with all due respect to the future mid-major draft pick, he’s got nothing on players like Lyles, Johnson, and Towns. Kansas’ Ellis has struggled in the past against bigger, physical players, but that will have to change quickly if Kansas has a chance here, because Traylor doesn’t have a polished offensive game and Alexander looks like he will take some time to become a dominant player. Read the rest of this entry »

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Observations From The Big 12’s Opening Weekend

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 17th, 2014

The Big 12 got off to a running start this weekend. The competition wasn’t exactly stout, as the Big 12 faced just one KenPom top 100 opponent (Kansas, vs. UC Santa Barbara), but as of Monday afternoon, the conference sat at an unblemished 13-0 and is the only league other the Big East to sport an undefeated record. The quality of the opposition heats up this week, but before we look forward, it’s helpful to look back and make note of some relevant observations.

Newcomer Myles Turner made a huge impression with two strong performances over the weekend. (Jenna VonHofe/Daily Texan)

Newcomer Myles Turner made a huge impression with two strong performances over the weekend. (Jenna VonHofe/Daily Texan)

  • Kansas’ Freshmen Debut In Hot And Cold Fashions: The extremely early returns on Jayhawks freshmen Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are mixed. The former played just 12 minutes against UC Santa Barbara, but scored nine points and brought down four rebounds while Oubre barely played long enough to make a dent in the box score (zero points, two rebounds, an assist and a turnover in just four minutes). The limited minutes for both players are explainable. It was revealed that Alexander played through some wrist soreness after dunking particularly hard during one of Kansas’ prior exhibition games, and it’s well-known that Bill Self prefers experience over unpolished players in the early part of the season. Either way, it will be very interesting to see how both players are deployed tomorrow night against Kentucky, as their size and athleticism will be very important if the Jayhawks are to knock off the #1 team in the Champions Classic.
  • Myles Turner Hits The Ground Running: The Longhorns’ stud forward didn’t start Friday’s game against North Dakota State, but he entered at the 16:05 mark of the first half and nailed the first three shots of his career: a tough turnaround jumper from the baseline; a 17-foot jumper; and a beautiful step-back fadeaway. Turner went on to finish with 15 points, but he wasn’t done. On Sunday afternoon, he put up 10 points to go along with seven rebounds and a staggering six blocks in an 85-53 thrashing of Alcorn State. Despite the quality of the opposition, it’s very tough to hold back the excitement for this freshman. Turner will get a national audience on Thursday when the Longhorns head to Madison Square Garden to take on Iowa in the 2K Sports Classic.

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