Set Your TiVo: 02.03 – 02.05

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 3rd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are lots of good games on Saturday, highlighted by the big one in Columbia. Overall it’s a very nice day of hoops despite only a handful of truly terrific games.

#4 Kansas @ #6 Missouri – 9:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

KU Needs Taylor To Be Good Tyshawn on Saturday (credit: Missourian)

  • It doesn’t get much better than this. Two teams that don’t particularly like each other and a Border War rivalry with roots in the Civil War era. Missouri enters this game after surviving Texas in Austin on Monday. The Tigers have perhaps the best offense in the nation with incredible balance at the guard and wing positions. The question for Frank Haith and his team will be how effective Ricardo Ratliffe can be against Thomas Robinson inside. Ratliffe shoots almost exclusively in the paint and converts an astounding 75.1% of the time. However, Ratliffe will be going up against a front line of Robinson and Jeff Withey (3.1 BPG) in this one and needs to utilize his patented pick-and-roll more in this game. Ratliffe won’t have great success going one-on-one against either Robinson or Withey inside. Kansas’ defense ranks #4 in two-point percentage against but the Jayhawks are vulnerable to the three-ball. That’s where Missouri and snipers Marcus DenmonKim English and Michael Dixon can really take advantage of Bill Self’s team.
  • The Jayhawk offense is essentially a two-man operation. While players like Withey and Travis Releford contribute offensively, Kansas’ fortunes depend on Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor has taken his game to another level over the last month, highlighted by the back to back 28-point efforts against Iowa State and Baylor. The Kansas senior hasn’t shot under 40% from the floor since January 4 but will be the focus of Haith’s perimeter defense. Taylor is prone to turnovers and you can bet the Missouri guards will be ball hawking him all night long. If Taylor has a good ball handling night, Kansas will be in very good position to grab a road win. Robinson will get his points but it’s up to Taylor to put the Jayhawks in a position to win this game.
  • It’s hard to pick against Missouri at home but if any team is going to win in Columbia, Kansas is the one. With ESPN in the house for the top two teams in the Big 12, this will be as charged an environment as you will see all year in college basketball. Despite Ratliffe’s stellar shooting percentage, Kansas should win the battle inside. The duo of Robinson and Withey is incredibly difficult to score against and Robinson is obviously a load on the offensive end as well. However, the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena and the Tigers’ perimeter attack and balance should be enough to put Missouri over the top.

#3 Ohio State @ #23 Wisconsin – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  •  Ohio State can take command of the Big Ten with a win in this game. The Buckeyes hold a one game lead over Wisconsin in the loss column heading into Saturday’s matchup. If Ohio State has one weakness, it’s three-point shooting. Thad Matta is not going to beat Wisconsin, a team that shoots well over 20 threes a game, from outside. Matta has the best player on the floor in Jared Sullinger and he needs to use him early and often in order to set the tone. Ohio State is not going to turn Wisconsin over and fast break points will be at a minimum. The Buckeyes must execute their half court offense in order to win this game and the way to do that is through the big man in the middle.
  • The Badgers have righted the ship with six straight wins but will need a big game out of their supporting cast if they are going to make it a seventh. Jared Berggren in particular must contain Sullinger on the low block or else Aaron Craft can feed him all day long with no consequences. Offensively, Wisconsin will run everything through Jordan Taylor but guys like Josh Gasser and Ben Brust need to be hot from deep in order for the Badgers to pull off the win. Wisconsin will be limited to one shot per possession most of the time as it loves to run the shot clock down and shoot threes. Ohio State ranks fourth in defensive rebounding percentage, mostly thanks to Sullinger.
  • This game features the top two defensive teams in the nation in terms of efficiency. It’s likely to be a low scoring, low possession affair that comes down to the final minutes. Players like Ryan Evans for Wisconsin and Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith could be the determining factors. The battle at the point guard position between Taylor and Craft will be phenomenal but the complementary players usually put a team over the top in matchups like these. We think that’s what will happen at the Kohl Center on Saturday.
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The Border War, Part One: A History

Posted by cwilliams on February 1st, 2012

Each collegiate rivalry is encompassed by a rich history. Many date back over 100 years, and each rivalry has its unique moments, stories and anecdotes. However, no rivalry coincides with American history as much as the Missouri-Kansas rivalry, known simply around those parts as the Border War. The cities of Lawrence, Kansas, and Columbia, Missouri, have despised each other for as long as anyone can remember, but not in a way similar to the dislike between Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Kansans and Missourians loathed each other due to state political and social views, not because of football scores. The Border War is so rich with history that I thought it would be best to briefly touch on many of these spectacular moments, instead of focusing on just one.

Hide Ya Kids, Hide Ya Wife, the Border War is Coming this Weekend. (Mizzou Magazine)

  • The initiation of the rivalry began around the 1850s, when Kansas and Missouri began burning down each other’s border cities during the Civil War. That’s right. Kansas residents would cross the border and burn down a Missouri city before heading home for supper, and vice versa. The tension reached it’s pinnacle when William Quantrill and his guerrilla forces rode into Lawrence and burned down parts of that city, ultimately murdering 200 people. Ironically, Quantrill was part of a group who attempted to burn down Columbia as well, because it was a Union stronghold during the Civil War. After the war, the athletic matches between Kansas and Missouri served as relief funds for the state’s recovery from the Civil War.
  • Former Missouri hoops coach Norm Stewart refused to let his team’s busses stop in Kansas for fuel or allow his players to eat in Kansas. He didn’t want to put a single Missouri penny into the Kansas economy. On the Red and Blue side, former Jayhawk football coach Don Fambrough once refused to see a doctor in Kansas City, Missouri, stating “I’ll die first!”
  • The first time Kansas and Missouri met on the football field was Halloween 1891. They hit the hardwood for the first time together in 1906, a 34-31 Missouri triumph.
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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Eleven

Posted by cwilliams on January 26th, 2012

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

Despite being self-proclaimed “experts” in the field of college basketball, me and my fellow hoops writers are often wrong. And that’s part of it — first, we predict that Texas A&M will be a threat to win the Big 12; then, we say Missouri’s hopeless without Laurence Bowers; and then, we are proven wrong. That’s part of the job. But whenever predictions pan out correctly, most pundits can’t help but pat themselves on the back. We at RTC Big 12 predicted that, despite the injuries, academic ineligibilities, and the effect of conference realignment, the Big 12 would be one of the best conferences in college basketball. With Missouri at #2 in the nation, Kansas at #6, and Baylor at #8, plus the impressive seasons so far by Iowa State and Kansas State, it appears as if we were spot on with that one.

Nice to Meet You, Mr. Nash. (


  • That’s Just Nash-ty: Nash has been under a microscope all season, and for good reason. Touted as one of the nation’s most talented freshmen, Le’Bryan was expected to not only compete for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, but Big 12 Player of the Year too. So, naturally, he’s been a slight disappointment this season. Until last night. Oklahoma State hosted the #2 Missouri Tigers, hot off a huge road win at Baylor, and Le’Bryan went off, dropping 27 on the stunned Tigers.
  • Border War Hype:  No matter what the records of Kansas and Missouri are, the Border War will always be surrounded by a great deal of hype in the Midwest. But this season, the teams have skyrocketed the polls, now sitting at #2 and #6, respectively. The jawing between the fanbases has reached new highs, which is saying something because these guys already despise each other. Next Saturday, with ESPN’s College Gameday in town, Missouri will host Kansas, in what many are touting to be the Big 12 game of the season.
  • Taylor Made: Perhaps Tyshawn Taylor noted the public’s criticism. Or maybe he ignored it and knew his game would naturally come back. Either way, Taylor has been playing some stellar basketball as of late. His turnovers are down, his points are up, and he’s playing like the floor general Kansas needs. When Thomas Robinson and Taylor are in sync, I’m not sure anyone can stop them.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.23.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 23rd, 2011

  1.  The most stunning November development in the Big 12 so far is the play of Missouri, which simply demolished Notre Dame and California in the CBE Classic this week. ESPN’s Jason King had an instant analysis of last night’s 92-53 thumping of the 18th-ranked Bears, who figured to pose a real challenge to the Tigers with their size and discipline. Cal coach Mike Montgomery could only shake his head as MU embarrassed his players for 40 straight minutes. Even without much bulk in the frontcourt, Missouri’s speed looks overwhelming, and it is passing the ball as well as it ever has. Looks like coach Frank Haith is doing something right so far.
  2. MU’s archrival Kansas has also enjoyed a productive two days in the Maui Invitational. KU knocked off Georgetown and UCLA to qualify for the title game against Duke tonight, partly thanks to the play of Elijah Johnson, who had a career high 23 points in the win. Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson get a lot of the credit as the go-to players on this Jayhawks squad, but Johnson looks like a potential breakout candidate after his excellent performance. As Chad Ford mentions in the article above, maybe Johnson even has an NBA future as well.
  3. Now, let’s bring Missouri and Kansas together for a moment: this article in the Columbia Missourian applies to football, but it speaks to the overall state of the Border War rivalry right now. Even KU football players want to keep playing against MU, which begs the question: Why can’t they? We still have to think this will all get sorted out at some point. Right? It’s the Border War, after all. Somebody’s got to figure something out to keep it alive after Missouri joins the SEC.
  4. Moving away from the MU/KU topic, let’s now turn to Texas Tech, which is actually off to an undefeated start under new coach Billy Gillispie. One blog has a detailed analysis of the Red Raiders’ early-season play, although it’s very early to make comprehensive judgments. That’s especially true for a team as young as Gillispie’s. We’ll find out a little more about TTU in the Old Spice Classic during Thanksgiving weekend.
  5. Finally, in sad news, authorities are still trying to determine how the plane carrying two members of the Oklahoma State women’s basketball coaching staff crashed last week. It appears weather wasn’t an issue, so the cause of the crash is a complete mystery at this point. Officials are expected to release a preliminary report soon, so hopefully we’ll get our answers in the coming days. The main thing here is to figure out the cause so it never happens again. OSU has been through this sort of thing twice in the last decade now, and that’s two times too many for any school to have to handle.
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Finally Official: Missouri to Depart Big 12 For SEC

Posted by dnspewak on November 7th, 2011

As thousands of fans chanted “M-I-Z, S-E-C” during the SEC’s official welcoming reception at the University of Missouri on Sunday afternoon, it was apparent that the MU crowd had no qualms with leaving the Big 12 behind. The Tigers are off to the SEC — league commissioner Mike Slive certainly sounded happy about it, as did MU chancellor Brady Deaton. But what about the Big 12 offices? We’re guessing the reaction isn’t quite as celebratory there.

Missouri Fans Were Excited to Leave the Big 12 Today

Yes, the league has moved on. Despite its legal situation with the Big East, West Virginia looks like a good bet to replace Missouri at some point, and the Mountaineers’ athletics are more than comparable to MU’s. However, losing Missouri is still a blow to the league both geographically and academically. Columbia, Missouri, is in the heart of Big 12 country; Morgantown, West Virginia, not so much. It’s a long plane ride out there, that’s for sure. You could even use the term “misfit.” Academically, MU is ranked significantly higher than West Virginia in various college publications. MU is an AAU member; West Virginia is not.

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CBS Heading to Three Big 12 Sites

Posted by dnspewak on October 12th, 2011

CBS Sports released its 2011-12 college basketball television schedule this week, and it appears fans in Austin, Waco and Lawrence have won the proverbial jackpot.

The network will televise the following three games: Kansas at Texas (Jan. 21), Texas at Baylor (Jan. 28) and Missouri at Kansas (Feb. 25). CBS, of course, is no stranger to either of Kansas’s rivalries with Missouri or Texas. The Border War is the more traditional rivalry for the Jayhawks — and the network has covered that contest for the past three seasons — but the KU/UT match-up has gained steam during the past several years. The two programs have battled for Big 12 supremacy both in the regular season and in the league tournament, and this year should be no different.

It Hasn't Taken Scott Drew Very Long to Put Baylor on the Map.

The most important thing to note here, though, is CBS’s decision to cover Baylor’s game with Texas in Waco. Since leading the Bears to their first NCAA Tournament in 20 years back in 2008, coach Scott Drew continues to put his team on the map. Although his program hasn’t been perfect (take underachieving 2008-09 and 2010-11 campaigns, for example), he’s brought more exposure to Baylor men’s basketball than anyone could have ever imagined.

ESPN’s College Gameday came to campus last year, and getting CBS to Waco is another terrific way to showcase the school. After the Patrick Dennehy scandal in 2003, would you have believed national outlets would ever flock to the Ferrell Center less than a decade later? Somehow, that’s exactly what’s happened under Drew.

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