Former Houston Coach Makes Strong Accusations Against Another Big 12 School

Posted by dnspewak on August 2nd, 2012

We’ve got a bit of a whodunnit on our hands this week in the Big 12. In light of the recent Central Florida sanctions, a USA Today article about third-party influences in college basketball quoted former Houston coach Tom Penders of accusing a Big 12 school of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to an AAU coach in exchange for a recruit. Normally, we might skim over this kind of news because it is so commonplace in this day and age of Reggie Bush, O.J. Mayo, Worldwide Wes, point-shaving scandals and god knows what other sorts of shenanigans programs engage in these days. We’ve all seen Blue Chips. We know the world is a dark, dark place.

Tom Penders Made Some Waves on Wednesday

But this accusation by Penders is different, simply because it is so incredibly easy to pinpoint who the culprits may be in this situation. Penders “declined” to name the recruit in question, but read the following quote from USA Today. He basically does our job for us.

Others move in the shadows of the sport. In six seasons as head coach at Houston, Penders estimated, an AAU coach or his agent asked Penders for money in return for the commitment of a prospect at least 25 times. On one occasion, an AAU coach and his agent visited Penders’ office with two offers: Pay tens of thousands of dollars in return for a player’s commitment, or place an AAU coach on his staff to establish a pipeline. “I threw him out of my office,” Penders said. Penders said the player, whom the coach declined to identify, spent one season at a Big 12 school before being drafted in the second round of the NBA draft. Penders said the AAU coach collected “six figures” from the Big 12 school that chose to engage in the scheme.

So we’re looking for a one-and-done Big 12 player drafted in the second round between 2005 and 2010. As fellow college hoops scribe Rob Dauster points out, that leaves us with three possibilities:

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Big 12 Weekly Five: 05.23.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on May 23rd, 2012

  1. It’s been a bizarre off-season for Billy Gillispie and Texas Tech. After a disastrous last-place finish in 2011-12 during Gillispie’s first season, the Red Raiders have now lost six players to transfer. The latest player to depart, Kevin Wagner, is heading to a community college. Seriously. It’s interesting to note that Texas Tech’s main contributors are staying aboard, though. Gillispie has signed nine freshmen for 2012-13, and he’ll have leading scorer Jordan Tolbert and point guard Ty Nurse returning. Losing six players in the span of only a few months is never good publicity, but Gillispie may be able to survive this situation.
  2. Patrick Beilein never played in the Big 12, but West Virginia‘s basketball program is a part of this conference now. So it’s important for us to point out that Beilein, the son of former WVU coach John Beilein, is the new head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan. The former sharpshooter with the Mountaineers helped his team to an Elite Eight in 2005 under his father’s methodical and perimeter-oriented style of play, and something tells us the West Virginia Wesleyan players might be learning how to A) play a 1-3-1 zone and B) how to light up the scoreboard from beyond the arc. But that’s just a hunch.
  3. Lon Kruger has jumped from job to job his entire career, so he’s probably used to being the bad guy. After all, the current Oklahoma coach is now with his sixth college program and also enjoyed a stint in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks. But after his most recent departure from UNLV, it sounds as though the Vegas people still appreciate him. Kruger can still be found in Las Vegas with his family during the off-season, and the tone of the article paints a picture of peace — not animosity. If only every coaching change could run this smoothly.
  4. In many ways, CBS has become indistinguishable from the game of college basketball. It represents everything about it: the NCAA Tournament, the Madness, the emotion, the drama. Now, Big 12 fans will get to see a few more games on the CBS Sports network after it reached a recent new deal with ESPN. At the very least, we’ll get to hear that catchy CBS jingle a few more times in 2012-13.
  5. And in your realignment news of the day, Clemson‘s athletic director is trying to do some damage control about reports his school will bolt from the ACC for the Big 12. Right now, officials at both Clemson and Florida State are being careful not to make any missteps, and they’re trying to stress that all of these realignment rumors are just that — rumors. We’ve heard this before, that’s for sure. At least we know what to expect after two years of the Realignment Apocalypse.
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Grading the Big 12’s 2011-12 Season: Bottom Half

Posted by dnspewak on April 5th, 2012

With the 2011-12 campaign now just a memory, it’s difficult to actually remember all of the drama and agony the Big 12 experienced during the last five months. Kansas’ thrilling loss to Duke in the Maui Invitational seems like ages ago, as does the Jayhawks’ first loss to Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. Remember when Missouri and Baylor were only a few of the remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball? Or when Texas found a way to lose game after game in the most heartbreaking fashion? These memories are hard to digest, but you’ll probably never forget the Border War drama between Kansas and Missouri, nor will you forget Iowa State’s rise thanks to the brilliant play of Royce White. The Big 12 kept playing until the final game of the 2011-12 season, ending with Kansas’ loss to Kentucky in the title game on Monday. And with the conclusion of this wild campaign, the final grades are in. Kansas earns an A+. Big surprise. Texas A&M earns an F. Big surprise, too, but for different reasons. The other eight teams settled into a grade somewhere between those two extremes.

We’ll cover the bottom half of the league today, and the top half tomorrow.

10. Texas Tech (8-23, 1-17)

Gillispie's First Year in Lubbock Wasn't Great

FINAL GRADE: D

The Red Raiders get a free pass in Billy Gillispie‘s first season. Playing almost exclusively with newcomers, Texas Tech had no chance this year. Robert Lewandowski was the only senior on the roster, but not even he could lead this team to any sort of success. Their inexperience was just too much to overcome. The Red Raiders were plagued by turnovers all season and they never got consistent point guard play. Jordan Tolbert emerged as the leading scorer in the frontcourt, and he played the most consistent basketball on the team from November through February. Still, even after a last-place finish, Texas Tech should not worry about the state of this program. Gillispie’s success at UTEP and Texas A&M proves he can win in this state, and he’ll have almost everybody back next season.

9. Texas A&M (14-18, 4-14)

FINAL GRADE: F

Sorry, A&M. You fail. Picked in the pre-season to win the Big 12, the Aggies suffered through a nightmare year, though there are extenuating circumstances to consider here. Coach Billy Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s diagnosis in the fall, which kept him sidelined for fall practice and away from his team during critical teaching moments. As a first-year coach, Kennedy never had the chance to establish himself to his new players. Adding to the woes, many of those players missed time themselves with injuries. Star wing Khris Middleton had surgery on his knee in November and sat out part of Big 12 play. Point guard Dash Harris missed a handful of games, too, and his backup Jamal Branch transferred before conference play. Kourtney Roberson played only nine games before his season ended due to injury as well. As the troubles mounted, the losses began to pile up. The Aggies simply could not score because of all the roster turnover and the lack of creators on the offensive end. We thought this team could muscle its way to a Big 12 title by playing with the principles former coach Mark Turgeon instilled, but that never happened. Now, Kennedy must revamp this program and forget about the 2011-12 nightmare.

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Big 12 Tourney First Round Reaction: Oklahoma State vs.Texas Tech

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Oklahoma State 76, Texas Tech 60

Oklahoma State hardly looked like a team missing two key contributors on Wednesday night. Even without the injured Le’Bryan Nash and Philip Jurick, the Cowboys managed to pull away from a pesky Texas Tech squad 76-60 thanks to a second-half burst from Cezar Guerrero and Brian Williams. Despite briefly trailing by a point early in the second half, OSU regrouped by attacking the basket and forcing the Red Raiders to jack up bad shots from beyond the arc. Within minutes, that deficit turned into a double-digit lead, and from there Oklahoma State punished the young Red Raiders by working the clock and clamping down on defense. It all happened with major personnel adjustments — with Williams playing the four position and Markel Brown running the point. “Words really can’t describe how proud I am of our basketball team,” coach Travis Ford said. “For these guys to continue to play as hard as they are, they’re fun to coach.”

Texas Tech's season ended with a 76-60 loss to Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

Why the Cowboys Won: Cezar Guerrero really exploded in the second half, burying back-to-back three-pointers after his team’s brief one-point deficit. “I felt like I just needed to bring energy and get these guys going again,” Guerrero said. “Luckily, my teammates just got me open and I hit the shots. I was really feeling it today.” Texas Tech also struggled on the offensive end, looking every bit like the team that finished 1-17 in Big 12 play under first-year head coach Billy Gillispie. Even a strong effort from Jordan Tolbert could not overcome the Cowboys, who had four players score in double figures. Senior Keiton Page couldn’t find his shot early, but he heated up in garbage time to finish with a team-high 20 points. The key statistic to take note of here is Texas Tech’s performance from three-point land: 4-20. That’s your ballgame right there. That, and a 16-16 team mark from the free throw line for Oklahoma State.

What’s Next: Oklahoma State advances to play second-seeded Missouri, a team it defeated in Stillwater this year but could not compete with on the road. If Nash can’t go, though, the Cowboys have little to no shot. Nash put his team on his shoulders in that game, scoring important basket after important basket to announce to the national stage that he was a legitimate star. Without him, it’s important for Williams to keep playing as aggressively as he did against Tech. “We didn’t exactly play the way we wanted to up in Columbia,” Williams said. “We’ll just get to the film room and start studying Missouri.”

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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

The Week That Was

  • Game Of The Year: Kansas was 16:42 away from being swept by Missouri and perhaps letting the Big 12 title slip away. Perhaps recognizing the importance of the last meeting as conference foes, Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit, took the game to overtime, and behind 28 points and 12 rebounds from Thomas Robinson, as well as 24 points and five assists from Tyshawn Taylor, the Jayhawks clinched no worse than a share of their eighth straight Big 12 title and perhaps have the inside track on a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Wildcats Looking Strong: Kansas State notched a huge win on the road at Missouri last Monday, and coupled with its victory over Baylor on Saturday, it was the first time Frank Martin’s team had beaten top ten teams back-to-back on the road. The Wildcats lost to Iowa State on Saturday, but the wins over Baylor and Missouri perhaps locked them into an NCAA Tournament berth.
  • A Coaches’ League: Frank Haith and Bill Self have gotten a lot of ink for national coach of the year, but the Big 12 Coach of the Year might be Fred Hoiberg. The Mayor has taken Iowa State from the conference basement to a probable NCAA tournament berth, as the Cyclones currently sit in a tie for third in the league. Royce White and Chris Allen have been great as transfers, but it’s Hoiberg who gave them the second chance and has gotten everyone to buy in. Impressive stuff up in Ames.

All Eyes Were On Allen Fieldhouse Saturday, And The Jayhawks And Tigers Delivered A Game For The Ages. (David Eulitt/The Kansas City Star)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (24-5, 14-2): The final regular season of the Border War was one of the best ever and with the win Kansas clinched a share of its eighth straight Big 12 title. A win in either of its last two games – at Oklahoma State or at home against Texas – can clinch it outright, continuing perhaps the most underrated streak in sports.
  2. Missouri (25-4, 12-4): In the span of a week, Missouri went from Big 12 favorites to having next to no shot at even winning a share of the Big 12 title. After being ahead by ten points or more for much of the second half, Missouri fans are no doubt questioning Frank Haith’s decision to stall on offense for much of the half (a strategy I tentatively agree with, by the way) as well as the final possession when Missouri did not even get a shot off. They didn’t have a timeout so Haith could not draw up a play, but not having a better option built into the offense there was a bad move. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three To Go: What’s At Stake for Big 12 Tournament Seeding

Posted by dnspewak on February 23rd, 2012

After more than two months of wars and 15 games in the books, the Big 12 Tournament scenarios are looking a little clearer. Either Kansas or Missouri will win the conference and earn the top seed. Texas Tech will finish last. And Texas will probably find a way to lose another close game to ruin its RPI. With three games to play, here’s a look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for each Big 12 team in the final week and a half of regular season play:

1. Kansas (13-2)

  • Schedule: vs. MU, at OSU, vs. Texas
  • Highest possible seed: 1 
  • Lowest possible seed: 2
  • Bottom line: Beat Missouri on Saturday. That’s it. With a victory, the Jayhawks would wrap up another Big 12 title barring a collapse in the final week of the season.

Round Two in Lawrence Could Result in a Big 12 Title For KU (AP/L.G. Patterson)

2. Missouri (12-3)

  • Schedule: at KU, vs. ISU, at TTU
  • Highest possible seed: 1
  • Lowest possible seed: 3
  • Bottom line: Win out. Do that and the Tigers at least have a share of the title in their last season in the conference.

3. Baylor (10-5)

  • Schedule: vs. OU, vs. TTU, at ISU
  • Highest possible seed: 2
  • Lowest possible seed: 5
  • Bottom line: The Bears cannot earn that elusive two-seed unless they A) win out and B) Missouri loses out. That’s not going to happen, so Scott Drew’s team will likely either play a six-seed on Thursday night or occupy one of the #4 vs. #5 slots on Thursday afternoon.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.20.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 20th, 2012

  1. Oddly enough, Keiton Page may be the Big 12’s most intriguing player. The undersized guard hardly looks like an elite basketball player, but he has managed to contribute heavily in all four of his seasons Oklahoma State. When he graduates after this year, he will leave a mixed legacy as both a gritty underdog and a volume three-point shooter who never made more than 40% of his three-point attempts in a given season. Though he hasn’t been a perfect player since arriving in Stillwater, he was basically perfect in a 40-point effort which sprung him to fourth among the league’s scoring leaders. Page may be heating up lately, but this argument for a spot on the All-Conference team is a little off. Page actually shoots less than 40% from the field, including just a 35% clip from three. His attitude and leadership have been commendable especially since injuries and transfers have forced him to move to point guard, but that is not enough for an All-Conference selection.
  2. That 40-point game was quite a scene for Page, though, and it’s worth another mention. Teammate Le’Bryan Nash was most surprised by Page’s ability to pump fake. “I’m like: ‘Why do guys jump? You’re 5-9, I’ll just put my hands straight up and make you try to shoot over me… But guys who play my position, they make defensive mistakes. He looks for those defensive mistakes. And I’m glad they’re calling it for him,” Nash told The Oklahoman. Something tells us Keiton Page and Bob Knight would get along great, considering The General mentions his love for pump fakes at least a dozen times each broadcast.
  3. Now playing for a program looking to sneak back into the NCAAs for the first time in several years, Chris Allen‘s experience is shining at the right time for Iowa State. Allen, who has Final Four experience from his days at Michigan State, scored a career-high 25 points in a blowout of Texas A&M this weekend. That’s the second straight game Allen has led Iowa State in the scoring department. In fact, over the last four games, Allen has shot 17 for 29 from three and is shooting right around 50 percent from the field.
  4. At least Billy Gillispie has a sense of humor. After a 33-point beating at the hands of Thomas Robinson and Kansas, the Texas Tech coach made a Seabiscuit reference to describe the way the Jayhawks manhandled his team inside. “I keep thinking every time we have the tip of that scene in ‘Seabiscuit, where they walk Seabiscuit out here and he’s going against War Admiral, and War Admiral is this much taller (gestures about a foot) than him,” Gillispie told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. There’s not a whole lot to add to Coach Gillispie’s depiction of the situation– it’s pretty much spot on.
  5. Texas and Baylor are moving in opposite directions, and they are going to clash on Big Monday tonight. The Longhorns have a chance to move above .500 in the Big 12 and knock off their first ranked opponent while the Bears are trying to stop a nasty slide in conference play. After entering the Big 12 season without a loss, the Bears have now dropped five league games and hit rock bottom with a poor effort in Saturday’s loss at home to Kansas State. It’s desperation time in the state of Texas on Monday and that makes for great television.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.14.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 14th, 2012

  1. You are probably sick of these “will-they-won’t-they” articles about the Border War, but here’s another look at the state of the Missouri-Kansas rivalry. In particular, check out the comments from former Missouri coach Norm Stewart at the bottom of the article. “I really understand why Kansas would not want to play Missouri if we’re not in the conference. I really would understand that,” Stewart told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week. “I hope Missouri people do, too, because if you don’t, then you’re never going to play.” No matter what Stewart or anyone else says, though, we know this: Missouri and Kansas won’t play each other any time soon. So let’s savor the February 25 match-up coming up in less than two weeks.
  2. Speaking of conference realignment, not everybody agrees that Missouri and Texas A&M‘s moves to the SEC will benefit the respective schools. The article says Missouri will “miss” Big 12 basketball, solely because the league’s tournament is held in Kansas City. In the end, both programs will be just fine in every sport. There’s a reason the SEC accepted them– they can both play at that level. To think otherwise sounds a bit like sour grapes.
  3. Sticking with our theme of repeating ourselves each morning, here’s yet another look at the state of Texas‘ NCAA Tournament hopes. The Longhorns are now a 12-seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology, thanks in large part to that win over Kansas State this weekend and a solid RPI. Rick Barnes‘ team hasn’t suffered any bad losses, and that’s why it’s right in the hunt for that elusive at-large bid.
  4. Oklahoma isn’t anywhere near an at-large bid, mostly because it cannot close games or figure out a way to upend top competition in the final minutes. Any post-season chances may be dwindling right now, but this article outlines the ways Lon Kruger’s guys can end the season with modest improvement. With the majority of the roster presumably returning in 2012-13, don’t underestimate the importance of these final six games for Oklahoma. It could be a real momentum-builder for a somewhat young team heading into next season.
  5. Texas Tech hasn’t gotten much good news this season, but got a big boost yesterday as Wannah Bail and Michael Carey, teammates from a school in Houston, Tx., committed to Billy Gillispie. Bail is a big-time get for Gillispie, as he’s rated in the top-100 by Rivals and was nominated for McDonald’s All-Americans honors. Carey isn’t shabby either, and both were courted by major schools like Oregon. According to the article, Marquette and Florida State were also in the running for Bail.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.09.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 9th, 2012

  1. Frank Haith doesn’t need anybody to stand up for him anymore — not with a 21-2 record in early February. Still, Kim English has been a vocal supporter of Haith since the day he was hired, and he’s back at it on Twitter. “Please don’t get it twisted whose “players” we are… We are Frank Haith’s “players”!!!” English never mentioned Mike Anderson, but he didn’t have to. Missouri fans have already long erased that name from their vocabularies.
  2. Like Haith, when Kansas State hired Frank Martin, he also immediately became the butt of the Big 12’s jokes. He wasn’t a coach; just a caretaker of Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. But after establishing his own brand at KSU following the departure of those two stars, Martin has created a consistent program in Manhattan despite a slip-up this past month or so. The Wildcats are not elite, though, and at least one person argues that it’s because he’s failed to recruit a dominant big man. In a way, that’s true. But you’ve got to remember that there are only a handful of elite bigs out there on the recruiting trail. Martin has brought in Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels and several other productive forwards to team with his terrific guards. And who’s to say Thomas Gipson won’t eventually pan out?
  3. This is going to be weird: The first 2,000 Texas Tech fans to show up on Saturday will all receive cut-outs of Billy Gillispie‘s head, and the first 200 students all get free pizza (yeah, it’s been a rough year in Lubbock). That’s great and all, but the idea of 2,000 blow-up pictures of Gillispie around the arena is frightening– like something out of one of the Scream movies. Let’s hope it doesn’t become a national trend.
  4. After an encouraging non-conference start, Oklahoma has fallen flat in Big 12 play. It’s not a major surprise for a team that most considered a cellar-dwellar in the preseason, but if anyone would have overachieved, it’d have been Lon Kruger. Clearly, though, that isn’t the case with this team. At 3-8 now in the Big 12, OU probably does not have much of a shot at any postseason tournament, much less the NCAAs. Still, it’s not as though Kruger’s team has rolled over for Big 12 foes. They seem to fight everyone they play, yet they cannot figure out how to close out a game or pull a major upset. That’s a good sign for Kruger’s program, which should take off in the near future. Hey, Kruger has won everywhere else he’s coached — why not Oklahoma?
  5. Oklahoma State has a thin roster, and it’s even thinner up front. But Michael Cobbins is starting to play big for the Cowboys. He’s served as the main cog in the paint for a team that has defended very well this year, and he swatted four shots against Baylor. He played every minute of the game and limited the Bears’ production, which is not an easy task against a team that starts three All-Conference caliber forwards. With Philip Jurick out due to injury right now, expect to see Cobbins’ role expand even further.
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Checking In On… The Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Jayhawks Tumble In Ames: Kansas lost its first conference game, losing 74-62 to Iowa State in Ames. Kansas didn’t make many shots and sent the Cyclones to the foul line, but what will undoubtedly make Bill Self the angriest is the general lack of effort. Kansas had the second-lowest offensive rebound rate of Self’s tenure, and there were multiple times when a lone Cyclone got a loose ball despite three Jayhawks being around it. It certainly won’t be a fun couple of practices for the Jayhawks this week as they get prepped for Missouri.
  • Nash Bash: Like Kansas, Missouri was bitten by the upset bug, losing 79-72 in Stillwater. LeBryan Nash had by far the best game of his college career, pouring in 27 points on 12-18 shooting (3-4 from three), and the Cowboys held Missouri to just 4-19 shooting from distance. Missouri probably has the best offense in the country, but it is so dependent on jump shots that when they have an off night in that department, they seem to be a bit more vulnerable to an upset than the best offense in the country should be.
  • White Shows His Stripes: ESPN had a very nice story on Iowa State forward Royce White, highlighting some of the issues he has had in his life with anxiety. White had numerous criminal and other behavior issues while at Minnesota and while his anxiety should not be used as a blanket excuse, it is yet another caution that we as fans should not make our minds up about a player’s character without knowing the full story.

After Spinning His Wheels For Most Of The Season, LeBryan Nash Raised The Roof In Stillwater. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (17-4, 7-1): The Jayhawks remain in first in the rankings due to their loss being “better” than Missouri’s. They are just now hitting the meat of their conference schedule, with three of their next five games on the road at Missouri, Baylor, and Kansas State. Winning all three of them will all but lock up the conference title for Kansas, but if they play like they did in Ames they will be lucky to win one of them, and their streak of Big 12 titles could be over.
  2. Missouri (17-2, 4-1): The Tigers, as I mentioned above, rebounded nearly half of their misses at Baylor over the weekend and shot 68% from two, with Ricardo Ratliffe scoring 27 points on 11-14 shooting.  All season, they have struggled rebounding and at defending the two-point shot, so questions about how they will react when faced with size in the tournament are still valid, but they answered some of those questions on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 30th, 2012

  1. Missouri did not play well in a win over Texas Tech on Saturday. It does not take a basketball genius to figure that out. The Tigers did not shoot well, and they could not pull away from the Big 12’s most inept team. Had the Red Raiders not turned the ball over so many times, they may have actually taken the game to the wire. Still, Missouri is looking on the bright side after picking up the victory. If the Tigers play like this tonight at Texas or next weekend against Kansas, they will get blown out of the building. But against an inferior opponent, Missouri took care of business. Forgive and forget, Frank Haith, and move on to the next one.
  2. Before Saturday, Iowa State had made steady progress as a program for the past three months. But it lacked that defining, concrete moment– you know, that win that would transform the culture and help boost the Cyclones’ NCAA Tournament resume. Then, Kansas happened. The Cyclones knocked off fifth-ranked Kansas to earn their first signature victory, a moment which coach Fred Hoiberg marked as the return of “Hilton Magic.” It’s a major victory for Iowa State’s NCAA hopes, but as Hoiberg mentioned, it won’t mean a thing if his team does not take care of business from here on out. For now, though, Iowa State can bask in its most significant victory over Hoiberg’s tenure.
  3. Steven Pledger is back. The Oklahoma guard burst onto the scene in November and December, but opposing Big 12 defenses had done a better job of slowing him down. Then, Pledger scored 30 in a win at Kansas State this weekend, scoring 18 in the first half as he led Oklahoma to just its second league road win in 23 tries. If Pledger continues to star, maybe Lon Kruger‘s team can make a bit of a turnaround here. The Sooners don’t have a terrific resume, but they do own two victories over Kansas State and have the advantage of Kruger’s experience and pedigree.
  4. Texas A&M did not get off to a good start in Big 12 play, but it is showing signs of life lately. On Saturday, it was the reserves that boosted a win against Oklahoma State. Dealing with injuries to two starters, the Aggies needed one walk-on in particular to save the day. Alex Baird grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists in 21 minutes of playing time despite appearing in only eight previous games during his career. Billy Kennedy even said, “It was one of my better wins,” which is high praise from someone who won a lot of important games at Murray State.
  5. On a similar note, one Texas Tech walk-on made a big splash this weekend, even in a loss to Missouri. Frustrated with his starters, coach Billy Gillispie put Luke Adams in the game early in the first half, even though he had played only five minutes in the team’s most recent game against Kansas State. Adams knocked down a few of his first attempts from the field, though, and Gillispie stuck with him. In all, Adams played a career-high 36 minutes, scoring eight points with two assists and two rebounds. Adams, an interesting story because he was born deaf and wears cochlear implants, also stands at just 5-foot-9 and hardly looks like he fits in on the basketball court. Still, he found a way to make an impact, rewarding his coach for all of the playing time.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.16.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 16th, 2012

  1. In a sign of the times at Texas Tech, coach Billy Gillispie praised his walk-ons for their second half performance at Texas A&M after the conclusion of the 67-54 loss. On the road against one of the Big 12’s biggest disappointments, the Red Raiders used Clark Lammert and Luke Adams after halftime, and they combined for 17 points. “It came down to pride,” Lammert said. That doesn’t appear to be a major problem for this team, though, and Gillispie says the rest of the guys are “trying like crazy.” That’s a good start at least.
  2. Oklahoma State lost to undefeated Baylor this weekend. That surprised nobody. But the 105-65 margin? That’s a little concerning even for a crumbling Oklahoma State team playing on the road against the league’s best team. Ford says his team needs to move on and try to learn from the experience, which had to be humbling for these Cowboys. Interestingly, Markel Brown did say Baylor “could be beat” after the game though he did also offer words of respect. Sure, Baylor can be beat. But not by Brown’s team.
  3. Despite the ugly loss, the future looks bright for Oklahoma State thanks to a few incoming recruits. Marcus Smart and Phil Forte sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about that future and they will be catalysts in trying to right the ship for Travis Ford. Smart is the more heralded recruit, but he and Forte are good friends that go way back. So far back, in fact, that most refer to them as brothers. That family tie may come in handy next season.
  4. Frank Martin‘s post-game comments keep getting better and better. After Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, Martin lashed out at the world: ““That’s why I tell you to not look at a team’s record,” Martin said. “Did Oklahoma look like an 0-3 team in conference play today? Did they look like a team that scored 48 points their last game out?” He has a point. Lon Kruger is one of the league’s most respected veteran coaches, and he’s going to get things rolling in Norman eventually. He also has a decent core this year that has the potential to play well at home and spring a few upsets as it did on Saturday.
  5. And staying with Oklahoma, Kruger says the Kansas State win was big for his program in the early stages of the rebuilding process. Sure, Oklahoma played reasonably well in the non-conference, but it still lost an ugly game to Saint Louis and blew a lead at Cincinnati. Then, after an 0-3 conference start, it appeared the Sooners may fall apart. But they’ve changed their approach lately, and as Kruger says, they are playing with a tougher attitude. Kruger’s not all that pleased yet, however. “We’re not anywhere near Big 12 (tough), physical and aggressive… We need to be a lot more physical, be a lot tougher.”
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