Will Defensive Issues Spell Doom for Kansas?

Posted by Taylor Erickson on March 19th, 2014

The biggest question surrounding Kansas as it begins the 2014 NCAA Tournament later this week is whether standout center Joel Embiid will be available sometime in the next few weeks, and if so, when his availability might occur. When news about the stress fracture in his lower back came to light early last week, Self indicated that the first weekend of the tournament was a “long shot” but the Jayhawks were hopeful he could return later in the tournament if they were fortunate enough to advance. While we continue to remain in the dark over Embiid’s status, the next biggest question now becomes what can keep Kansas from surviving this weekend’s trip to St. Louis?

With Joel Embiid out of the lineup, Kansas has been left searching for answers defensively.

With Joel Embiid out of the lineup, Kansas has been left searching for answers defensively. (Photo: KUSports.com)

If you’ve spent any time at all watching Kansas over the last few weeks without the services of their center from Cameroon, the answer to this question is the stark inability of Kansas to lock down the defensive end of the floor. Even typing that last sentence feels odd, given Self’s track record of defensive excellence throughout his tenure as the head coach in Lawrence. Consider that every year from 2006 to last season, the Jayhawks have finished #3, #1, #1, #9, #9, #11, #3, and #5 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ranking. This season, Kansas currently sits 45th in Pomeroy’s defensive rankings, illustrating just how much this team has struggled on that end of the floor.

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Bracket Prep: South Region Analysis

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on March 17th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Bennet breaking down the South Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

South Region

Favorite: #1 Florida (32-2, 21-0 SEC). The Gators are the clear front-runner to win the South region, and after winning their last 26 games, should also be the presumptive favorite to cut down the nets in Dallas. Winning four games in a row to reach the Final Four is never an easy chore, but the field’s #1 overall seed has all the necessary ingredients to make a fourth final four run under Billy Donovan.

Billy Donovan And Scottie Wilbekin Are Both Huge Reasons Why Florida Enters The NCAA Tournament As The #1 Overall Seed

Billy Donovan And Scottie Wilbekin Are Both Huge Reasons Why Florida Enters The NCAA Tournament As The #1 Overall Seed

Should They Falter: #2 Kansas (24-9, 15-5 Big 12). The Jayhawks’ case is a tricky one. With Joel Embiid, Kansas is easily the scariest #2 seed in the field and a serious threat to win it all; but the Jayhawks are far more difficult to quantify without their gifted freshman big man. Nothing is definite with Embiid’s prognosis, but if healthy and able to play, Kansas would only be the slightest of underdogs in an Elite Eight rematch with Florida. The outlook gets a little gloomier if the future trumps the present for the potential #1 overall pick in April’s NBA Draft (the one named Joel), but Andrew Wiggins’ recent offensive explosions still make Kansas a threat to run deep in this Tournament. Don’t forget that they will have a nice home court advantage in St. Louis for rounds two and three, and that crutch could help the Jayhawks advance to the second weekend without too much fuss – with or without Embiid. It’s still Bill Self and KU; don’t make the mistake of believing Joel Embiid’s health will be the sole determinant of the Jayhawk’s fate.

Grossly Overseeded: #8 Colorado (23-11, 12-9 Pac-12). There are no egregious examples of overseeding in this region, but Colorado stands out as the South’s most overvalued team. #3 Syracuse and #5 VCU may also have been generously awarded an extra seed line, but as currently constructed, the Buffs deserved to be closer to the cut-line than their #8 seed would suggest they actually were. Since Spencer Dinwiddie went down on January 12, Colorado managed only a .500 record in the Pac-12 and rarely looked competitive in outings against the upper echelon of the league. They are just 64th in KenPom’s rankings (only NC State is worse among at-large selections), and each of their three wins since February 19 was earned by the narrowest of margins (quirky note: all had final scores of 59-56). Askia Booker has remade himself in Dinwiddie’s absence and Tad Boyle deserves a ton of credit for navigating CU through the storm and into this field, but Colorado is just not one of the 32 best teams in college basketball.

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Big 12 M5: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Over the years, the Big 12 Tournament has seen its share of jaw-dropping individual performers: Paul Pierce, Marcus Fizer, Kevin Durant, Mike Singletary, and Alec Burks, just to name a few. While we’re excited to see whether Andrew Wiggins steps up for Kansas and joins that list, you may also want to buy stock in Kansas State guard Marcus Foster. The freshman has come on strong lately, pouring in six 20-point games over his last 12 outings. Earlier this week, he joined Michael Beasley as the only freshmen in Kansas State history to be named to an All-Big 12 Team (Foster was selected to this season’s second team). His first test this week should be a fun one, as he will be matched up against DeAndre Kane and the Iowa State Cyclones tomorrow.
  2. The periphery of the NCAA Tournament bubble is not where West Virginia pictured itself at the beginning of the season, but November and December losses have come back to haunt the Mountaineers. Bob Huggins’ team won eight games in non-con play, but it’s the five losses outside of the league (to Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Missouri, Gonzaga and Purdue) that are wearing heavy for the Mountaineers as they face the latest in a string of must-win games, Thursday’s Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal. At minimum, they need to get to Saturday’s final to warrant legitimate conversation. It’s do-or-die time for the ‘Eers.
  3. Last Saturday, Oklahoma State faced a textbook foul-or-defend scenario at the end of regulation against Iowa State. Cowboys head coach Travis Ford opted not to foul, and he ended up paying the price, as Cyclone Naz Long hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime. As postseason play gears up, we may get the chance to find out if Ford learned his lesson. If Oklahoma State gets past Texas Tech tonight, it won’t be difficult to picture a quarterfinal meeting against Kansas coming down to a last-second tactical call. As the eight-seed, Oklahoma State is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but what will happen when the pressure’s on?
  4. In all sports, including college basketball, the thought process behind Coach Of The Year awards can be a polarizing one. It’s usually reserved as a mea culpa for those who underestimated the winner at the start of the season even though there are times when picking a winner should be much simpler than that. While Rick Barnes and Lon Kruger brought home the hardware (depending on if you look at the Big 12 coaches’ vote or the AP vote), Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com contends that a case can be made rather easily for Bill Self even though everyone knew he had the most talent in the league coming into the season. It’s tough to deny Parrish’s arguments. After all, if winning the conference with the league’s best talent was so easy, why hasn’t Kentucky done it the last two years?
  5. Oklahoma was one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12, finishing in second place behind Kansas with a workmanlike season. With a brief lull between the end of the regular season and the Sooners’ quarterfinal game tomorrow, The Crimson and Cream Machine took a quick look at Oklahoma’s personnel for next season. The biggest thing that comes to mind is that sophomore Ryan Spangler is going to get some help down low. Lon Kruger is bringing three forwards into the fold, and all of them weigh at least 200 pounds. Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal may be on their way out, but Oklahoma should be even better next year thanks to some incoming reinforcements in the paint.
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Joel Embiid’s Prolonged Absence Leaves Kansas At A Crossroads

Posted by Kory Carpenter & Taylor Erickson on March 11th, 2014

Unless you live under a rock, chances are you’ve heard that Kansas center Joel Embiid will miss this weekend’s Big 12 tournament, and his participation in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament at this point is considered to be a “long shot,” according to head coach Bill Self. While it remains a possibility that Embiid could be available for the later rounds of the NCAA tournament if Kansas advances, for the time being, this news certainly rocks the college basketball landscape and has serious implications for the Jayhawks’ chances of winning it all in early April. Big 12 microsite writers Taylor Erickson and Kory Carpenter break down the challenges that Embiid’s updated prognosis brings to Kansas’ national title aspirations:

TE: The silver lining for Bill Self and company lies in the fact that Embiid isn’t the only NBA lottery pick roaming the sidewalks in Lawrence this season. There’s another ridiculously talented athlete wearing a Kansas jersey that has the ability to completely take over a college basketball game. It’s your move, Andrew Wiggins.

Can Andrew Wiggins put Kansas on his back while Joel Embiid is out with a back injury? (KUSports.com)

Can Andrew Wiggins carry the load while Joel Embiid is out with a back injury? (KUSports.com)

You all know the story by now. Wiggins came to Kansas as one of the most heralded recruits of all time. He had that “best since” clause attached to his name. For the most part, there’s been no shortage of college basketball fans and media alike that would tell you that Wiggins has underachieved this year. But the beauty of college basketball is that heroes in this sport are made in March, and for Andrew Wiggins, the opportunity to leave a lasting impression on college basketball is still right out in front of him, waiting to be capitalized on. We’ve seen it in stretches, and his 41-point outburst at West Virginia, albeit in a loss, was the most recent example of how dominant the 6’8″ guard from Canada can be. In a year where there’s clearly no bulletproof team in the nation, is it really that far-fetched to believe Wiggins could lead Kansas on a Kemba Walker-like run?

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Handing Out Hardware: Big 12 Season Superlatives

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2014

From the Andrew Wiggins hype (and exchanges of backlash) to the rise, fall and rise again of Oklahoma State and everywhere in between, it’s been a dramatic season in the Big 12. The conference has been and always will be an exciting one to follow, but it’s tough to remember a year with as many storylines as there have been throughout this season. As we get ready for what figures to be an incredibly competitive conference tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, it’s time for the Big 12 microsite writers to remember the good, look back, and hand out some season accolades.

All-Big 12 First Team

For the sake of transparency, we’ve included each of the four Microwriters’ selections below, with asterisks denoting our picks for Big 12 Player Of The Year:

Untitled

Player Of The Year

Melvin EjimDeAndre Kane and Andrew Wiggins are your consensus All-Big 12 First Team members, with other votes going to a variety of players who were fantastic as well. There were legitimate cases for a handful of honorees this season, but in the end, the freshman Wiggins took the honors. Taylor Erickson explains why:

Among a stable of worthy candidates, Andrew Wiggins emerged to take RTC Big 12 POY honors.(AP/Andrew Ferguson)

Among a stable of worthy candidates, Andrew Wiggins emerged to take RTC Big 12 POY honors.(AP/Andrew Ferguson)

“Wiggins didn’t put up the type of scoring numbers that others like Melvin Ejim of Iowa State and Juwan Staten of West Virginia did, but he was the best player on the team that won the conference with room to spare. Some will be quick to claim that the freshman from Canada has failed to live up to the expectations bestowed upon him before the season began, but those expectations were unrealistic. Consider the fact that Wiggins failed to score at least 14 points in a conference game just three times, and in some ways, his individual statistics are a victim of Kansas’ depth and ability to score from so many different positions on the floor — whether down low with Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis, or in the backcourt with Wayne Selden and Naadir Tharpe. As good as Wiggins has been on the offensive end, his impact on the defensive end of the floor may be even greater given the significant difference in the number of points per possession Bill Self’s squad surrenders with him in the lineup. You can go ahead and make a case for several other players in this league, and there’s a plethora of good ones, but for me, I’ll take Andrew Wiggins every time.”

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode XV, Player and Coach of the Year Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 6th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

As the college basketball regular season wraps up, I thought this would be a good time to run down my Coaches of the Year and Players of the Year in each of the major conferences. Here goes…

ACC

  • POY: T.J. Warren, NC State (24.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG). Warren has been a tremendous bright spot on an otherwise mediocre Wolfpack squad. Since a rough four-point game against Virginia on January 11, Warren has scored at least 20 points in every game he has played (he missed one game due to injury). At 6’8” and an athletic 215 pounds, Warren is a match-up problem for nearly every opponent. He has had eight 30+ point games (only one fewer than Doug McDermott), including Monday’s 41-point explosion in a road win at Pittsburgh. Some may disagree because NC State is not at the top of the ACC, but a season like this where Warren brought it night after night deserves special recognition.
Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

  • COY: Tony Bennett, Virginia (25-5, 16-1 ACC). Bennett’s teams have always been terrific defensively and this one is no exception. Ranked third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, Virginia has allowed only four ACC opponents to score 60 or more points this season. Even in a league with a tempo as slow as this year’s ACC, that is a remarkable statistic. Virginia was a trendy surprise pick but I am not sure anyone thought it would turn out to be this good. The Cavaliers were picked fourth in the preseason ACC poll but currently hold a three-game lead over Syracuse and North Carolina with just one game to play.

American

  • POY: Russ Smith, Louisville (18.0 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 SPG). This was a really close call between Smith and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick but I am giving Smith the slightest of edges. Both mean so much to their respective teams but Smith’s decision to return to Louisville for his senior year has proven to be a wise one. Smith is enjoying the best shooting season of his career (46.8 percent) and has matured greatly. He is playing smarter and has led this Louisville team to a 25-5 overall record. The Cardinals again have the look of a Final Four contender and Smith is the primary reason why.

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Big 12 M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 5th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Through the first 16 games conference play, Baylor amazingly played themselves out of and back into contention for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now it appears their at-large candidacy is all but sewn up by beating Iowa State 74-61 on Senior Night in Waco. Fittingly, Baylor seniors Brady Heslip (18 points, 5-for-8 from three) and Cory Jefferson (21 points, seven boards and two blocks) led the way and helped the Bears improve to 8-9 in the Big 12. How’s this for patterns: Baylor has made every even-numbered tournament year since 2008. Why mess with happy?
  2. On the heels of Senior Night, the Waco Tribune dove in to the story of fifth-year senior Cory Jefferson. It might sound hard to believe but Jefferson was a freshman on the 2010 Elite Eight team with guys like LaceDarius Dunn (!!) and Tweety Carter (!!!). You can tell Jefferson is a patient guy: he was willing to redshirt his sophomore season, stay on the team despite playing ten minutes per game in 2011-12 and then decided to put the NBA on hold to complete his college career in 2013. Now with a likely tournament bid and potential NBA career nearing, Jefferson is reaping the benefits of making the decision to stay in Waco.
  3. BREAKING: Bill Self is happy about something for once. The Kansas coach is looking forward to tonight’s Senior Night festivities when his Jayhawks take on Texas Tech in Lawrence. KU plans to honor Tarik Black, Justin Wesley and Niko Roberts and here Self is quite vivid about his feelings for these players. For whatever reason, folks have negatively chimed in about the team not properly “celebrating” the program’s tenth straight Big 12 title last week. At least on this night, something worth celebrating will be celebrated. Congrats to the Jayhawk seniors.
  4. Quietly, Oklahoma is after some valuable real estate on the final week of the regular season. The Sooners sit in second at 10-6 in the Big 12, tied with Texas but OU owns the tiebreak over UT by virtue of their season sweep. They will host West Virginia tonight and wrap-up the schedule against winless TCU on Saturday. It’s amazing to think that the coaches picked Oklahoma to tie for fifth in the preseason poll with Kansas State but are now on the verge of finishing right behind Kansas. It would mark the first time that had happened since Blake Griffin’s sophomore season in 2009. It’s looking more and more like Lon Kruger emerging as the favorite for conference COY.
  5. It’s now or never time for West Virginia. What WVU need to show the NCAA Selection Committee in the next ten days is that a) they can win games consistently, b) win games against quality opponents and c) win games against quality opponents away from home. They’ll get a chance to do all three starting in Norman tonight, Kansas at home Saturday and during next week’s Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. But all of that starts with the type of effort the team gets from leading scorer Eron Harris. Harris is a statistical oddity for a team’s top scorer: the Mountaineers are a surprising 3-7 when Harris scores 20 or more and just 2-4 in Big 12 games. Simply put WVU will need all hands to squeeze in an eighth Big 12 squad into the Big Dance.
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Big 12 M5: 03.04.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 4th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Senior Night did not disappoint the Oklahoma State faithful on Monday. The Cowboys added another RPI top-50 win, defeating Kansas State 77-61 in Stillwater. Markel Brown had a stat-sheet stuffer kind of night with 15 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Fellow “senior” Marcus Smart scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half. This comes roughly 48 hours after Smart poured in 20 in the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s win against Kansas. Despite Gallagher-Iba Arena’s full capacity being 13,611, the estimated attendance for last night’s game was just 9,500. And that was with the help of OSU students getting in free with student IDs. Come on, y’all could have done better than that.
  2. Smart’s big second half against the Jayhawks propelled the Pokes to a huge win Saturday and now his third Big 12 POTW award of the season. We also can’t argue with Smart’s performance versus TCU last Monday, nailing five threes on his way to 17 points. With the year Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane is also having, it feels like he’s taking some kind of hardware every week. Kane averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 rebounds per game to win Big 12 NOTW while recording his sixth double-double of the season in a win over West Virginia. This marks the sixth week in which Kane has won player or newcomer of the week honors this season. I hope we can see both these guys play professionally.
  3. We have an update in our continuing coverage of Backgate 2014: Kansas coach Bill Self announced that center Joel Embiid will not play in the last two regular season games as he rests a back injury he re-aggravated in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State. Self said an MRI was done on Embiid’s lower back and the staff came to the conclusion that “rest is the best remedy.” They plan on evaluating Embiid again before the Big 12 Tournament, and are open to sitting him longer if he’s still feeling tightness, but Self doesn’t see it getting to that point. Now we’ll likely get a look at senior Tarik Black, whose starting spot was taken by Embiid earlier in the season. Let’s see if he’s got any more Mozgov dunks left in him.
  4. It’s been a nice comeback season for Rick Barnes and Texas basketball but since a 9-3 start in Big 12 play, the Horns have dropped three of their last four games. Granted, all of those were roadies against likely NCAA Tournament teams but it’s not exactly encouraging if you weren’t competitive in two of those games. “I thought our guards were too tentative,” Barnes said. Even with the emergence of sophomore Cameron Ridley as a consistent contributor, Barnes expected more from his guards. “I told those guys [the guards], you should be out there playing H-O-R-S-E, because everyone is guarding him.” Barnes knows that this is just one of the many speed bumps you reach when you’re coaching an inexperienced yet hungry basketball team. Mistakes will be made but so will the corrections.
  5. It seemed like the bubble talk around West Virginia has cooled in the last 10 days or so but the West Virginia Gazette is still holding out hope for an at-large bid. The reality is the Big 12 likely has six teams that make good cases for at-larges and may have seven if Baylor takes care of business this week. Despite an 8-8 conference record, WVU lacks quality road wins in Big 12 play; have a mix of missed opportunities in non-conference play (vs. Gonzaga, Wisconsin, at Missouri); bad losses (at Virginia Tech, vs. Purdue) and not-so-hot computer numbers (RPI: #89, SOS: #55). An eighth bid from West Virginia probably won’t come unless the Mountaineers were to win out this week and make it to the final of the Big 12 championship game. But hey, stranger things have happened…
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Big 12 M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 3rd, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Oklahoma State fans were asking this question following the Cowboys’ win over Kansas on Saturday: “Is it safe to come back out?” It appears to be, fans. After everything the team dealt with since the start of 2014, OSU notched a Paunch Burger-sized victory over the Big 12 leading Kansas Jayhawks 72-65. The three-headed monster of Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown combined to shoot 15-for-30 from the floor, 23-for-29 from the line, 58 points, seven steals and seven blocks. While this was a major boost to a tournament profile that sorely needed one, they aren’t out of the woods just yet. They have Kansas State coming into Gallagher-Iba Arena on Big Monday. One would think a win tonight locks up an at-large bid for good.
  2. Should we/Kansas fans/NBA scouts begin worrying about the health of Joel Embiid? Last month, he missed a week and a game with nagging back and knee injuries suffered in the West Virginia win on February 8. Embiid left Saturday’s game holding his back and after some stretching checked back into the game. Bill Self addressed Embiid’s injury in his postgame press conference, saying he “only tweaked his back” and has “no idea” how it will affect him going forward. Ultimately Embiid’s back could be much ado about nothing but at the same token, it was a problem weeks ago and it’s a problem right now. Stay tuned. You know lottery teams will be.
  3. While Kansas State’s tournament resume lacks any quality wins outside of Kansas state lines, you gotta hand it to them for taking care of business on their home court (and Wichita). Iowa State was the latest club to enter the “Octagon” and leave doomed, falling 80-73 on Saturday. The ISU win all but clinched an at-large bid for the Cats who now sport victories over George Washington, Gonzaga, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas. If anything, the 2013-14 Wildcats have proven that you can go home again. And again. And again. And again. But seriously, it would be a mistake if they were left out of the field of 68.
  4. A great thing about this Big 12 season was the rekindling of the Red River Rivalry in hoops. Sorta. Oklahoma finished off Texas 77-65 in Norman. We knew going in that Texas had the height advantage so to combat this OU relied on what they do best: hit three-pointers. In fact the Sooners hit ten of them. With the win, Oklahoma became the only Big 12 team to sweep their season series against UT. In addition to that, this season marked the first time in the Big 12 era where the Sooners swept the Horns and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. How about the job Lon Kruger has done this season? He loses five of his top eight scorers from last year’s team and are somehow averaging 11 points more than a season ago.
  5. Baylor fans: Your team may be on the brink of history! But it wouldn’t be anything to stick your chest out over. Baylor enters the final week of the regular season at 7-9 in conference play and still is in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With their strong RPI and strength of schedule numbers, there is a chance for the Bears to be the first-ever Big 12 team to make the tournament with a sub-.500 league record. The Bears have a winnable home game against Iowa State on Tuesday followed by the regular season finale versus K-State in the Little Apple. Assuming they win one of those two; grouped in with their quality wins over Kentucky, Colorado, Dayton, Kansas State and Oklahoma State (twice); BU would make a strong case to take up one of those coveted 37 at-large spots.
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Redemption for Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State Last Night Against Kansas

Posted by Eli Linton on March 2nd, 2014

Eli Linton is a RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday night’s game between Kansas and Oklahoma State.

Before Saturday night’s critical matchup between Kansas and Oklahoma State, the two teams were headed in opposite directions. Oklahoma State, which had been touted as a preseason favorite for both the Big 12 championship and a Final Four run, collapsed in February. A seven-game losing streak and the suspension of Marcus Smart threatened to make this season one of the biggest disasters in school history. Kansas, on the other hand, was once again riding its sensational talent to its 10th straight conference title. While the Cowboys were simply hoping to be find a way into the last four in the Big Dance, Kansas had its sights set on the Final Four. But on Saturday night, it was Marcus Smart’s team that found redemption, just when it seemed they had let the season slip away.

A big second half was the difference for Marcus Smart and the Cowboys. (AP)

A big second half was the difference for Marcus Smart and the Cowboys. (AP)

A lot of deserving criticism has been leveled at Smart for the part he played in the Cowboys’ downfall, but on Saturday he was the best player on the floor, leading the Cowboys to a come-from-behind 72-65 win. After a one-point, 0-of-7 first half line, Smart put up 20 points, four assists, two steals and just a single turnover in the second stanza. “Our focus was different tonight,” said Smart. “Losing those seven straight games opened our eyes. We were extra-focused tonight.” It was the biggest win of the year in the most desperate time for the Cowboys. Already on the NCAA bubble, another loss would have been devastating, but this quality win over #5 Kansas will likely earn them a bid. I am sure bubble talk was a conversation they were hoping to avoid to start the year, but they will take it and move forward. In a stroke of irony, Kansas was still able to clinch the Big 12 title outright thanks to both Texas and Iowa State losing earlier, but according to Bill Self, there will be no celebration.

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Big 12 M5: 02.28.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on February 28th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. For a Kansas team hoping to push for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, finishing the remainder of the season without another loss looks like it’ll be a necessity, and even that might not be enough to earn a spot on the top line on Selection Sunday. One of the teams that appears to be poised for a #1 seed ahead of Kansas is, of course, Wichita State. On Thursday, Kansas head coach Bill Self said that he believes the Shockers should earn a #1 seed if they finish the season unbeaten, given how hard it is to consistently win on the road regardless of strength of schedule. If things play out like they could, we might find a situation where Wichita State and Kansas are in the same region as the #1 and #2 seeds. That would certainly be all the Sunflower State could handle.
  2. Competition in the Big 12 has been nothing short of stellar for most of the season, but as Dave Skretta of the Associated Press points out, we might be reaching a point where the league is cannibalizing itself. Because there are so many quality teams from top to bottom, beating each other could potentially have a negative impact on the number of berths that the league receives to the NCAA Tournament.  The last two weeks of the season are sure to have several games that will have a significant impact on the postseason, let’s just hope the selection committee is aware of just how tough it is to win in the Big 12 this season.
  3. In a sport like college basketball where so much of the talk is centered around underclassmen, it’s refreshing to hear some of the senior night stories that will take place in the next few weeks — such as this one about Oklahoma seniors Cam Clark and Tyler Neal.  While Neal has the luxury of welcoming his parents to every home game, Clark will for once have his parents in attendance as he plays his final game in Norman.
  4. One of the biggest reasons for the turnaround that Rick Barnes’ team has experienced at Texas this season is the improved play of big man Cameron Ridley. On Wednesday night, Ridley saw the type of size on Baylor’s front line that he can expect to see at the NBA level, and his performance didn’t disappoint. We’ve seen similar play at times from Ridley throughout the season, namely the home game against Kansas where Ridley dominated the talented Jayhawks’ frontcourt. For Texas to excel in postseason play, you can bet that Ridley will need to continue to have a significant influence.
  5. Speaking of postseason play, Bob Huggins’ West Virginia team is currently in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid, but will need some big wins down the stretch to get there. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they will continue to be without the services of Terry Henderson, who has been out of action with an undisclosed illness since a game against Kansas on February 8. While West Virginia officials couldn’t get into the details of exactly what is wrong with Henderson, they believe he is appearing to come out of whatever is bothering him. It looks like superbly talented point guard Juwan Staten will continue to shoulder most of the load for the Mountaineers.
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Morning Five: 02.28.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 28th, 2014

morning5

  1. With the season winding down, UCLA appears to be looking at a fairly high seed (we have seen anywhere from 4-7 in brackets), but we have to wonder about them going forward after Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, the team’s two best players were suspended for last night’s game against Oregon. The outcome of last night’s game isn’t nearly as important as the suspensions–one game each for “violating team rules”. That could certainly mean a lot of things, but it has to make you wonder about the mindset of Anderson (14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game) and Adams (17.2 points per game) heading into March.
  2. It has been a few weeks since we had heard much about the North Carolina academic scandal so we were a bit surprised to see that Business Week had decided to make it this week’s cover story. For those who have followed this story there is not anything particularly shocking in the story, but it will only serve to further damage the school’s reputation. At this point it seems unlikely that either the NCAA or any governing body will take significant action against the school and you can argue that print media is dying, but having that cover on newsstands across the world certainly won’t help North Carolina’s brand.
  3. For the Tar Heel fans who might be feeling a little down after yet another mainstream media source took a shot at the school for their handle of the academic scandal, Grantland has a feature on a topic–the 2005 title team–that should serve as a way to perk you up. Except that it is about how the key players on that team failed to live up to expectations. We don’t mind to pile on Tar Heel fans today, but it is an interesting topic particularly when you consider that you can make a strong case for that team being one of the top teams since 2000. Oh, and if you want to know if Illinois fans are still upset about losing that title game check out the comment section.
  4. Bill Self might not want to play Wichita State, but that does not mean he does not appreciate what they are doing. When asked about the Shockers, Self reiterated his stance that he would continue to schedule games to help his program not others. This certainly won’t endear him to Wichita State fans, but Self did come out in support of the Shockers as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they are undefeated when Selection Sunday rolls around. Honestly, we don’t understand how anybody could believe that the Selection Committee would pass on an undefeated team much less one that made it to the Final Four last year (yes, we know the last part shouldn’t matter).
  5. By now you should know that we basically link Luke Winn’s Power Rankings almost every week. It’s not that Luke pays us (that would be a nice gift though), but it is because it is one of the few columns that we learn something new from every week. This week the two things that jump out at us are the block matrix that Luke created and how Xavier Thames‘ usage and production has decreased recently. The part of the block matrix that jumped out at us is how underrated Chris Obekpa is as a defender. He won’t generate the headlines that Joel Embiid does mainly because of Obekpa’s limited offensive repertoire, but these numbers suggest that he might be able to find his way onto a NBA roster some day. As for Thames, being on the East Coast we do not get to see as much of him as we would like, but the graph showing his drop in usage and production is instructive if you are trying to figure out what is wrong with San Diego State.
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