Big 12 Offseason Burning Questions, Part I

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 11th, 2016

In sending three teams to the Sweet Sixteen, two to the Elite Eight and one to the Final Four, the Big 12 put together a solid NCAA Tournament, but it wasn’t enough to put to rest its reputation as a group of postseason underperformers. The 2015-16 campaign wasn’t without its highlights, though. The story of the season nationally was the prevalence of experienced veterans over one-and-done interlopers, and the Big 12 played a key role in that narrative with seniors Buddy Hield, Perry Ellis and Georges Niang leading their teams deep into March. With those three studs (among others) moving on, though, it’s time to examine the burning question that each Big 12 team faces this offseason. Today we review Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU.

Oklahoma (29-8, 12-6)

Oklahoma faces a tough rebuild as it loses Big 12 all-time leading scorer and National Player Of The Year Buddy Hield. (David K Purdy/Getty Images)

Oklahoma faces a rebuild as it loses Big 12 scoring king and National Player of the Year Buddy Hield. (David K Purdy/Getty Images)

What will the identity of post-Hield Oklahoma become? Between Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler and Dinjyl Walker, Oklahoma is losing 64 percent of the scoring from last season’s lethal offensive unit. That’s a lot. Though we trust that head coach Lon Kruger will find a way eventually, in the meantime, the Sooners will face a tough road in the wake of heavy roster turnover. Jordan Woodard and Khadeem Lattin are expected back and there are some intriguing newcomers arriving in Kameron McGusty, Christian Doolittle and former Ohio State commitment Austin Grandstaff. But it’s tough to suffer the level of production Oklahoma is losing and still be expected to perform at a level comparable to last season’s Final Four squad. Very few programs in college basketball can reload that quickly.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: It’s Practically March Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 26th, 2016

It is practically March, isn’t it? We’re just four days away. You can almost feel the bubble shrink as at-large hopefuls drop games they shouldn’t be dropping and simultaneously expand whenever a recent winning streak is validated with a big win. As of now, the Big 12’s bubble situation is relatively clear. Barring a flurry of wins from Kansas State within the next two weeks, the conference will send seven teams to the NCAA Tournament. The last team among the seven is Texas Tech. When Big 12 coaches picked them to finish 10th a few months ago, how could anyone have seen this coming?

THE EVIDENCE. (Big12Sports.com)

HERE IS THE EVIDENCE. LOOK AT IT. LOOK AT ITTTTTT (Big12Sports.com)

Texas Tech has eight conference wins at this point which bodes well with how the selection committee has historically treated eight-win Big 12 teams. Oklahoma State (twice) and Texas (once) made it safely into the field of 68 with that number in 2014 and 2015. Much has been written about the Red Raiders’ rise from rotten to respectable, and rightly so, but we shouldn’t forget that they’ve gone on this five-game winning streak without the services of starting center Norense OdiaseTubby Smith is the favorite for Big 12 Coach of the Year and is also creeping into National Coach of the Year discussions as well. Now let’s hope all seven clubs make it to the Sweet Sixteen.

Big 12 Power Rankings

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Blowing Bubbles Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 11th, 2016

When the calendar turns to February, it is required that everyone must talk about bubbles. When engaging in bubble talk, we are obliged to have serious discussions about big bubbles, small bubbles, dish soap, glycerin and various bubble wand shapes. But you must also make mention of the nervous teams on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament bracket. Last week, we discussed the Big 12 bubble picture at considerable length. While we thought that teams like Kansas State and Texas Tech still had some life left in them, we weren’t so positive that they could change their fortunes so quickly. Down starting point guard Kamau Stokes, the Wildcats knocked off #1 Oklahoma on Saturday because Wesley Iwundu decided the offense would run through him. (He also accurately decided his man-to-man defense on Buddy Hield would give his team a better chance at slowing down Oklahoma’s potent offense.) The Red Raiders had solid computer numbers going into last night’s game against Iowa State (RPI: 54, non-conference SOS: 59, two RPI Top 50 wins) but a 3-7 conference record is not where a team wants to be in mid-February. Texas Tech then proceeded to take down the Cyclones in overtime, adding another feather in the cap of a potential at-large profile.

Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith might have received help from above in last night's upset victory over Iowa State. (Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith may have received some help from above in last night’s upset victory of Iowa State.
(Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

What does this all mean? It means there are 23 days until the final day of the Big 12’s regular season on March 5. Some teams will rise, some will fall, and some will be Kansas. If you are not Kansas, you, a Big 12 conference member, have been sentenced to death in the wings of a flightless bird. They may not fly, but they sure can claw.

All hail the mighty Jayhawk.

The power rankings are below.

1. Oklahoma — 4 points (Chris & Nate — 1st, Brian — 2nd). Comment: “This is the first week that Brian, Chris and myself have not unanimously voted the Sooners No. 1 in quite some time. I might be turning myself into #thatguy, but… something’s clearly up with Oklahoma, right? The Sooners’ somewhat sluggish play might be because of the rough 48-hour turnaround that Saturday-Big Monday games will do to players, but Texas outscoring the Sooners by 14 in the paint isn’t good. Texas owning the paint with just one legitimate big man inside isn’t good. Oklahoma going ice cold late in a game (sans Buddy) in Norman isn’t good. Am I making a bigger deal from probably nothing? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Kansas — 5 points (Brian — 1st, Chris & Nate — 2nd). Comment: “The much-maligned Landen Lucas was the most active defensive player for Kansas Tuesday night, hauling in 16 rebounds and blocking four shots. It was the first such performance by a Jayhawk since Jeff Withey in the 2013 Round of 32, when Kansas knocked off North Carolina behind Withey’s 16 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks. It will probably be a while before those two are mentioned in the same sentence again, so Jayhawk fans are advised to print out these rankings and display them in their offices.” – Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman)

3. West Virginia — 9 points (All voted 3rd). Comment: “Has the Big 12 finally discovered some cracks in the Mountaineers’ press? West Virginia’s last eight opponents have all registered turnover rates below the Mountaineers’ season-long defensive average of 26.1 percent. If coaches are doing a better job of scouting West Virginia, and it looks like they are, the Mountaineers will need to find a way to adjust if they want to stay in the thick of the race.” – BG

4. Texas — 12 points (All voted 4th). Comment: “Weird trivia time! Had Texas knocked off the Sooners a few days ago, they would have been just the second Big 12 team since West Virginia and TCU joined the league to win at Baylor, at West Virginia and at Oklahoma in the same season. The first team to pull this off was 2012-13 Kansas State. Perhaps losing in Norman was for the best.” – NK

5. Baylor — 15 points (All voted 5th). Comment: “With Rico Gathers unavailable because of illness, the Bears got pummeled on both backboards against Kansas State Wednesday night, so they turned to an unlikely source for help: the free throw line. While Baylor had excelled at getting to the stripe this season, entering the game ranked second in the Big 12 in offensive free throw rate, they also entered it ranked just sixth in free throw shooting. Led by Lester Medford‘s 11-for-11 effort, though, Baylor calmly hit 29-for-30 attempts in the 82-72 win, quieting the talk of Kansas State’s narrow chances for an at-large bid – at least for now.” – BG

6. Iowa State — 18 points (All voted 6th). Comment: “While Steve Prohm hopes Jameel McKay‘s suspension will help the Cyclones in the long run, it’s certainly not helping in the short run. Without its sole rim protector against Texas Tech on Wednesday, Iowa State blocked just two shots, allowed the Red Raiders to shoot 80 percent (12-of-15) at the rim and hauled in just 62.5 percent of available defensive rebounds.” – BG

7. Texas Tech — 22 points (Chris & Nate — 7th, Brian — 8th). Comment: “It feels like it might be a while before the Red Raiders move up in our rankings because their 4-7 Big 12 record isn’t close enough to .500. But if it does, we’ll gladly oblige an ascension.” – NK

8. Kansas State — 23 points (Brian — 7th, Chris & Nate — 8th). Comment: “From off the bubble to on it to back off it in the span of five days, it’s been a busy week for the Wildcats. Then again, if you told Bruce Weber this time last year that flirting with an at-large bid would constitute a busy week, chances are he’d take it in a heartbeat.” – BG

9. Oklahoma State — 28 points (Brian & Chris — 9th, Nate — 10th). Comment: “From the Kansas win to Monday’s loss at TCU, these last few weeks have encapsulated Oklahoma State’s tenure under Travis Ford: numerous moments of failure mixed in with brief moments of brilliance. The end is near.” – NK

10. Texas Christian — 29 points (Nate — 9th, Brian & Chris — 10th). Comment: “I voted ninth for the Horned Frogs this week because: a) they share identical conference (2-9) and overall records (11-13) with Oklahoma State; and b) they have a head-to-head win over the Cowboys. The climb out of the Big 12 cellar is nearly complete.” – NK

Big 12 Video/GIF of the Week

This week’s winner was a late entry but wound up being the best regardless. With 1:34 left in overtime and two seconds remaining on the shot clock, Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans grabbed the inbounds pass and hoisted a desperation three from the Southwest Texas area of the midcourt map that smoothly banked in. It’s one of those shots that, when it drops, gives your team a boost. For the other team, however, it represents a dagger to the heart. (h/t The Cauldron)

Five Big 12 Games You Better Watch

  1. Saturday: Kansas at Oklahoma (1:30 PM CT, ESPN)
  2. Saturday: Texas Tech at Baylor (7:00 PM CT, ESPNU)
  3. Saturday: Texas at Iowa State (7:30 PM CT, ESPN2)
  4. Monday: Oklahoma State at Kansas (8:00 PM CT, ESPN)
  5. Wednesday: Oklahoma at Texas Tech (8:00 PM CT, ESPNU)
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Kamau Stokes’ Knee Injury a Real Downer For Kansas State

Posted by Chris Stone on February 5th, 2016

Last spring, Kansas State’s roster was in turmoil. The Wildcats’ leading scorer Marcus Foster was dismissed from the team along with freshman Tre Harris. Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams, the squad’s second and third leading scorers the year before, had graduated, and freshman Jevon Thomas had transferred to Seton Hall. After the veritable Moses-style Exodus from the Little Apple, it was understandable to wonder how much time coach Bruce Weber had left in Manhattan. Yet, although this season hasn’t been the Wildcats’ most successful campaign, it has given some hope for Weber’s tenure after all. Kansas State is currently 13-9 overall and 2-7 in the Big 12, but the Wildcats are ranked among KenPom’s top 50, featuring one of the toughest defenses in the country (#16). Senior Justin Edwards and junior Wesley Iwundu have anchored a cohesive roster that is heavily reliant on three up-and-coming freshmen — Barry Brown, Dean Wade, and Kamau Stokes. The one unfortunate aspect is that Stokes, the Wildcats’ starting point guard, suffered a right knee injury in last Saturday’s win over Ole Miss that will keep him out “for a while,” according to Weber.

Kamau Stokes will miss extended time after suffering a right knee injury. (Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle)

Kamau Stokes will miss extended time after suffering a right knee injury. (Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle)

Stokes’ absence was immediately noticeable in a 77-59 loss to Kansas on Wednesday night. Without their starting point guard, the Wildcats turned it over 23 times, allowing the Jayhawks to convert into 30 points. Stokes is not the most sure-handed guard around, but he had reduced his turnover rate by nearly three percent in conference play so the large number of miscues didn’t surprise. Kansas State will also miss Stokes’ proven ability to score (he has nine double-figure scoring games on the season). Forward Stephen Hurt described him as “one of our best shooters” after the Kansas loss, and indeed, Stokes is one of just two players on the Wildcats’ roster shooting over 30 percent from behind the arc (34%). He’s converted 35 of his team leading 103 attempts, but Kansas State finished 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) from distance on Wednesday night without him in the lineup. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 02.05.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 5th, 2016

morning5_big12

  1. Oddly, just one Big 12 matchup on tomorrow’s five-game slate will pit top-half teams against one another, but it should be an entertaining one as first-place West Virginia plays host to Baylor, an outfit among the league’s three second-place teams. The main area to keep an eye on in this game will be the battle on the glass, especially on the Mountaineers’ end. West Virginia sports the Big 12’s top offensive rebounding percentage in league play (grabbing 38.6 percent of its misses), while Rico Gathers leads a Baylor back line that leads the conference in defensive rebounding percentage (holding opponents to one shot 73.1 percent of the time). Mountaineers forward Jonathan Holton will miss his third game due to suspension, so Devin Williams will likely have to follow up his strong outing against Iowa State with another one on Saturday.
  2. Jawun Evans’ excellent debut season for Oklahoma State was paused Wednesday night when the freshman suffered a shoulder injury during the first half of the Cowboys’ game against Texas Tech. Evans sat the rest of the night out, and as Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes, the Pokes can ill afford any kind of extended absence from their current and future floor general. Evans’ backup, sophomore Tyree Griffin, doesn’t look ready to take on full-time point guard duties, but if Evans’ injury turns out to be serious, he’ll have no choice but to try to adjust.
  3. Texas‘ emergence has been one of the league’s hottest topics this week, but they’ve mostly been getting it done against a relatively shaky set of Big 12 foesJeff Haley of Burnt Orange Nation examines the road ahead as tomorrow starts a key stretch where the Longhorns will face some of the best competition the Big 12 has to offer. Put simply, we’re going to learn a lot about the Longhorns very soon. Tomorrow’s opponent, Texas Tech, is a team that’s already beaten them once, and next week comprises road tilts in Norman and Ames. Your move, Shaka.
  4. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber had a tough time bottling up his frustration with the officiating crew during his team’s loss to Kansas Wednesday night. The Wildcats were whistled for 14 fouls in the first half, and there were a handful of calls just before halftime that contributed to the Jayhawks building a 10-point halftime lead. While a few calls could have easily gone Kansas State’s way, that was unlikely to happen with the young Wildcats playing on the road in a crazed Allen Fieldhouse.
  5. Big 12 administrators are currently meeting in Dallas to consider a number of potential moves. Most prominently included in the proposals are expansion and reinstating a conference championship game in football, but an interesting (if comparatively minor) item on the docket is the idea of launching a third-tier sports network akin to those utilized by the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC. While it would obviously need to be financially viable in order for the league to move forward, we wouldn’t object to any development that would make it easier to catch all the Big 12 hoops action out there.
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Big 12 M5: 01.29.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 29th, 2016

big12m5

  1. Some breaking news hit our timeline last night as West Virginia big man/key to “Press Virginia” Jonathan Holton has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Rumors of a suspension have been floated around Twitter on Thursday but it was officially confirmed by Mike Casazza of the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Casazza went on to say that the team knew about the suspension as early as Wednesday and even held practice on Thursday. Holton’s potential three-game suspension comes at a suboptimal time for the Mountaineers – in the next eight days, Bob Huggins’ team will play games at Florida and Iowa State and home against Baylor.
  2. Also yesterday, 2016 blue chip center Udoka Azubuike announced he will be playing basketball for Kansas next fall. Two days ago, the Jacksonville, Florida native said he wanted to make his college decision “really soon” and, well, he did. Azubuike, a five-star recruit according to Rivals and ESPN, chose the Jayhawks over North Carolina and Florida State. He was also named to the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games. KU appears to have itself another pretty good big man.
  3. It turns out Iowa State will indeed have Jameel McKay available for Saturday’s game at Texas A&M. McKay left the Kansas game on Monday night with a knee injury and did not return. Doctors did not detect any structural damage, but did find some tendinitis in his left knee. It’d make sense to expect McKay to play limited minutes, but at the same time, the Cyclones are going to be decidedly shorthanded whether McKay is in or out of the game. The thing Cyclones will need a healthy McKay in the long run.
  4. Oklahoma president David Boren continued his crusade, spreading forth his desire of Big 12 expansion. Boren, who serves on the Big 12’s expansion committee, has also expressed a desire to roll off the Longhorn Network and turn it into a Big 12 Network (good luck with that). Expansion is almost always football-driven, but nonetheless will have ramifications in basketball and other sports. If the likes of Boren have their way, the hope is the Big 12 will end up a better league. It’s up to them if they want to make a move.
  5. Tomorrow’s third annual Big 12-SEC Challenge will feature the second Ole Miss-Kansas State tilt since the series began during the 2013-14 season. “It’s a chance for us to put an exclamation point on our non-conference record as a league,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “For us, it’s a huge game. We have a chance to beat a good, solid team in Mississippi and end up with a very good record.” I mean, sure, I guess? Weber is right. It is a huge game for confidence purposes, the protecting-your-homecourt agenda and the Wildcats’ fading at-large hopes. But I’m not sure a win over an inconsistent team in Ole Miss is going to make much of a huge difference in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Still, he’s right. They need this one.
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Big 12 New Year’s Resolutions: Part I

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2015

The year 2016 is right around the corner and along with it comes Big 12 conference play, as the league gets underway with six games on January 2. Although we know that only a fraction of people ultimately keep their New Year’s resolutions, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to come up with a few challenges for teams in the Big 12 once the ball drops tomorrow night. This is part one of a two-part series.

Kansas: To give Devonte Graham the praise he deserves

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

The focus on Kansas to this point has reasonably and rightfully been on the improved play of Wayne Selden and the consistent performance of senior forward Perry Ellis. However, the Jayhawks’ most under appreciated asset may well be sophomore point guard Devonte Graham. Graham’s move to the starting lineup has been linked to Selden’s rise because it helped free him up offensively, but Graham has provided much more. The sophomore has helped increase the number of turnovers the Jayhawks are causing on defense while simultaneously decreasing the number of turnovers Kansas commits on offense by reducing his personal turnover rate from 20.1 percent to 9.9 percent. Graham’s sophomore emergence has made the Jayhawks a national title contender and he deserves more praise for the role he’s played.

Iowa State: To find rest and relaxation for the Cyclones’ rotation

Naz Mitrou-Long’s recovery from hip surgery hit the Cyclones hard. With Deonte Burton becoming eligible at semester, it looked like Iowa State was set to have a quality eight man rotation heading into conference play. Now that Mitrou-Long’s season is over, coach Steve Prohm has made it clear that he intends to stick with a seven man rotation for the remainder of the season. Iowa State ranks 347th in percentage of bench minutes played with just 21.4 percent of available minutes coming off the bench. Last season, Wisconsin reached the Final Four with similar numbers, so the limited rotation doesn’t rule out a trip to Houston for the Cyclones, but they’ll need all the rest and relaxation they can get on the way there. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Safe To Call Kansas State Good? Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 24th, 2015

Kansas State had chemistry problems all season long a year ago as the Wildcats stumbled to a miserable 15-17 record. The offseason then brought a multitude of departures that only further weakened a fan base’s confidence in head coach Bruce Weber. This season, however, with 10 newcomers — including seven freshmen — Weber’s team has already given Texas A&M and North Carolina difficult games. The Wildcats also beat Georgia, a better-than-average SEC team, on the road. So who are these Wildcats?

You might be alarmed to learn that Bruce Weber has the Kansas State Wildcats out to an 8-2 start. (Scott Sewell/USA TODAY Sports)

You might be surprised to hear that Bruce Weber has the Kansas State Wildcats off to an 8-2 start. (Scott Sewell/USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Edwards and Wesley Iwundu are the two highest scoring returnees, but it’s freshmen like last year’s Kansas Mr. Basketball Dean Wade (11.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and Kamau Stokes (9.1 PPG, 3.5 APG) who have led the Wildcats to a 9-2 record thus far. Is it too early to call them a good team? Probably. Still, it’s encouraging to see the Wildcats hang around with teams that are clearly better than them. Kansas State likely isn’t at the point of beating good teams just yet, but the Wildcats also aren’t nearly as far away as we expected them to be before the season began. Let’s see how they fared in our latest power rankings.

Power Rankings

  • 1. Oklahoma (tie) — 6 points (Chris & Nate — 1st, Brian & Kendall — 2nd). Comment: “The Sooners still own the Big 12’s best win according to KenPom, a 23-point drubbing of Villanova on a neutral floor. They also have the country’s fifth-best defense. Sophomore Khadeem Lattin has helped fill the void left by the departure of TaShawn Thomas. His production on the defensive end, where he’s grabbed nearly 20.0 percent of the available rebounds and blocked 8.6 percent of the opposing shots, has been his biggest contribution.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)
  • 1. Kansas (tie) — 6 points (Brian & Kendall — 1st, Chris & Nate — 2nd). Comment: Wayne Selden‘s development has fueled Kansas’ shot at winning a national title. Although Selden can’t shoot 54.0 percent from three-point range all season, he has also increased his field goal percentage at the rim by 10 percent from last season.” – Kendall Kaut (@kkaut)
  • 3. Iowa State — 12 points (All voted 3rd). Comment: “Yes, the Cyclones did not lose their first game until falling to Northern Iowa in Des Moines last week, but their imperfections have been noticeable for a little while now. They struggled to beat a clearly inferior Colorado team. They trailed by 20 at home to Iowa before coming all the way back to win that one in dramatic fashion. Now they’ve lost both a game and a major shotmaker in Naz Mitrou-Long for the season while they slowly work Deonte Burton into the rotation. So, naturally, they then go out and nip Cincinnati at the wire on the road.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

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CBE Hall of Fame Classic: Reactions From Night One

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2015

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for Rush The Court. He’s in Kansas City this week for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. You can follow Brian on Twitter @BSGoodman or the RTC Big 12 Twitter account @Big12Hoops.

The CBE Hall Of Fame Classic tipped off in Kansas City on Monday night, with Kansas State walloping Missouri in the opener and North Carolina taking care of Northwestern in the nightcap. Here are the most important takeaways from each team’s performance last evening.

Bruce Weber's crew had a good night in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Bruce Weber’s crew had a good night in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Dean Wade steps up inside for Kansas State. Post production on both ends of the court was a massive struggle for Kansas State a year ago, but it’s been a different story this year thanks to Bruce Weber‘s most important newcomer. Wade overwhelmed Missouri’s undersized lineup all night long, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds to register his first career double-double. The 6’10 freshman doesn’t yet have a ton of polish around the rim, but he showed impressive range all the way out to the three-point line and made all six of his free throws. Weber was very pleased with his big man’s play on Monday, telling media after the game that his rookie “responded against probably bigger, more athletic guys than we had played in the previous games.” Wade faces his biggest test of his young career today (7:00 PM PT, ESPN2) when he’ll go up against North Carolina’s formidable back line of Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson.
  • Missouri has an all-around rough night. After last weekend’s gritty loss to Xavier, Missouri was only able to keep up with Kansas State for the first 10 minutes of the game. From that point, the Wildcats clamped down defensively and the wheels just fell off for the Tigers. Kim Anderson’s team was aggressive and played hard, particularly on one occasion where freshman Terrence Phillips leaped out of bounds to save a loose ball, but its execution otherwise couldn’t have been much worse. Missouri’s lack of size made things easy for Kansas State on the interior, and an ice-cold 4-of-18 night from three-point range did little to reduce the gap. This is an important year for the second-year head coach, who is not only working for an athletic director who didn’t hire him, but is also surrounded by SEC coaches who are far more accomplished. Monday night’s game was an opportunity to build on a solid effort against Xavier but the Tigers fell hard instead.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas State in the CBE Hall Of Fame Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2015

It’s Feast Week in college basketball. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments this week, our Feast Week Mission Briefings begin today.

Catching Up: After a major house-cleaning where seven underclassmen left Manhattan, expectations for Kansas State basketball this season understandably dropped. Considering the circumstances, though, the Wildcats are off to a strong 3-0 start, avoiding some of the bad early losses that had made them a laughingstock over the last two seasons. An NCAA Tournament bid is still the absolute best-case scenario for this team, but the Wildcats look slightly better than their preseason projections, already climbing 13 spots in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. As you might expect from a team lacking in elite talent, Kansas State’s early success can be attributed to fundamentals. They’ve rebounded well, especially on the offensive glass where they’re corralling 40.4 percent of their misses; and to compensate for a lack of knockdown shooters, they’ve paraded to the foul line a staggering 106 times and converted 72.6 percent of those attempts. Justin Edwards and Wesley Iwundu  have given the Wildcats the kind of production they need from their few veterans (averaging 17.0 and 15.3 PPG, respectively) while newcomers Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes have made up for their inexperience with controlled play on offense — turning the ball over just a combined 11 times in 215 minutes of action.

Wesley Iwundu has been a steadying presence for a Kansas State team enduring significant roster turnover. (Scott Sewell/USA Today)

Wesley Iwundu has been a steadying presence for a Kansas State team enduring significant roster turnover. (Scott Sewell/USA Today)

Opening Round Preview: The Wildcats open up the CBE Classic against a team, Missouri, going through a rebuilding effort of its own. The Tigers have a bit of a strange makeup on offense. They have several players who can hit outside jumpers but that strength hasn’t done much to open up the lane, as only 30.2 percent of their shots this season have come at the rim. Like Bruce Weber’s team, Missouri has also gotten production from its newcomers, particularly Kevin Puryear and K.J. Walton. The Tigers haven’t rebounded well, meaning Kansas State should own the glass, but containing Missouri on the perimeter could be another story. Kansas State has dared its opponents to beat them from deep, but none have yet been able to take advantage. Missouri has shown that it can get hot, though, so limiting Cullen VanLeer, Terrence Phillips and Wes Clark will be important for the Wildcats’ chances. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 11.18.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 18th, 2015

morning5_big12

  1. The Champions Classic hasn’t been very kind to Kansas over the years, and while last night’s loss to Michigan State was very different than the blowout suffered at the hands of Kentucky last year, it was a frustrating night just the same. While coughing up a double-figure lead is never a good look, especially when a team bricks as many close shots as Kansas did, there are two sides of the coin to analyze here. Michigan State went 5-of-7 from deep over the last eight minutes of the game and 6-of-6 from the line to close it out. Before long, we’ll delve into things like Bill Self‘s suspect in-game adjustments and Wayne Selden‘s continuing struggle to sway his doubters, but it’s okay to give Michigan State a little credit. I promise.
  2. After getting taken to the brink by Colorado during the season opener but still coming away with a win, Iowa State had an easier time with its second opponent on Monday, handling Chicago State by a score of 106-64. Jameel McKay led the way for the Cyclones with a career-high 25 points, but despite his big night, head coach Steve Prohm decided to burn the redshirt of 6’9″ freshman Brady Ernst in order to provide his big man with some help. While Abdel Nader‘s performance in the early going (15.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG) suggests that he could be an answer inside, that notion becomes much more questionable once you look at the better teams the Cyclones are going to face when conference play rolls around. The reality is that if Iowa State is going to capitalize on the potential of the most talented roster they’ll have for the next few years, they’ll need better interior defense. Even though it’s tough to gauge how big an impact Ernst will have as a freshman who’s also coming off an ACL tear, prioritizing the short-term potential of the team over the long-term potential of Ernst individually seems like the right move for Prohm to make.
  3. Buddy Hield‘s NPOY campaign is off to a roaring start, as the Sooners’ senior went for 30 points (including some key free throws) in Oklahoma’s impressive season-opening win at Memphis. Hield showed an impressive all-around game by also chipping in eight rebounds, three assists and three steals to go along with his big scoring evening. Another positive development for Lon Kruger‘s team was the contribution from freshman Dante Buford. With Khadeem Latti struggling, Buford came off the bench to haul in eight rebounds and swat a pair of shots, showing the kind of activity around the rim that could make him a solution to Oklahoma’s questions inside.
  4. Baylor point guard Lester Medford had a rough go of it in the Bears’ loss to Oregon, doing very little to inspire confidence that he can fill Kenny Chery’s shoes as a competent floor general. Medford committed six turnovers and shot a rusty 1-of-6 from the floor while the Ducks’ hot shooting was too much for Baylor to overcome. In fairness, playing a good team late at night over 2,000 miles away from your home campus is a tall order for anyone, but this situation will be one to monitor during the first month of the season.
  5. The jury will be out on Kansas State for a while this season, but things are going about as well as can be expected for now. Just three days after dominating Maryland-Eastern Shore, Bruce Weber‘s team beat Ivy League contender Columbia at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats led comfortably for most of the second half and buried 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch to close out the game. Kansas State’s first big test will come next Tuesday when the Wildcats will play either Northwestern or North Carolina on the second night of the CBE Classic in Kansas City.
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Big 12 M5: 11.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 16th, 2015

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  1. Kansas had no problem whatsoever handling Northern Colorado to open the season on Friday night, blowing out the Bears 109-72. The Jayhawks’ scoring output was their highest since the famous Elijah Johnson game at Iowa State in 2013 (although that game needed overtime). Everyone played a role in Friday night’s win, but the most impressive performance came from wing Brannen Greene, who went a perfect 5-of-5 off the bench from deep. Like most players whose value is tied up in his ability to make three-pointers, Greene is streaky, so whether he carries his hot start into tomorrow night’s Champions Classic meeting against Michigan State will be something to monitor.
  2. Another big story on Opening Night was the inaugural game of the Shaka Smart era at Texas, but it wasn’t quite the start fans had in mind as the Longhorns fell to Washington in a sloppy, foul-plagued rockfight in Shanghai. The game’s 83 possessions were the most for Texas in a regulation game since a close loss to an uptempo BYU team in in 2013. Havoc is of course Smart’s favored style of play and brand — and there’s no reason to doubt that it will take off once he has his own players in the fold — but in the meantime, it’s also fair to question whether pushing the pace is the best idea for a Longhorns group prone to suspect shot selection.
  3. When it comes to the teams who have the best shot of snapping the Jayhawks’ long streak of 11 straight conference titles, an overwhelming majority of the talk has centered on Oklahoma and Iowa State. However, Baylor could be right there with those two schools if its 97-55 dismantling of a decent Stephen F. Austin team is a sign of its long-term potential. We wouldn’t expect the Bears to consistently post eFG% rates in the high 70s as they did in Friday night’s victory, but the big win should serve as a new reminder to not sleep on Scott Drew’s squad this season.
  4. Speaking of Big 12 contenders, Oklahoma was idle over the weekend, but the Sooners will face a tough opener on the road Tuesday night as they travel to face Memphis. The Tigers under Josh Pastner have been competitive over the last few years but their fan base has grown impatient with the team’s inconsistency and lack of postseason success. Still, Memphis features a deep rotation inside that could make scoring difficult for Buddy HieldRyan Spangler, Khadeem Lattin and JeMuni McNeace.
  5. Lastly, the handful of Big 12 coaches facing the most pressure this season enjoyed worry-free debuts. To start off, Bruce Weber‘s new-look Kansas State squad beat a terrible Maryland-Eastern Shore team. Wesley Iwundu probably isn’t cut out to play a starring role on a good Big 12 team, but he looked the part on Friday, scoring an efficient 23 points on just 13 shots. Freshman Barry Brown was very good as well, posting 17 points in his collegiate debut. Meanwhile in Stillwater, Oklahoma State cruised to a 91-57 win over Tennessee-Martin. The Cowboys were on fire the whole game in a way we haven’t seen in a while, as their scoring efficiency of 1.34 PPP was better than any single performance from last season. Phil Forte scored 24 points on nine shots to lead the way. The Pokes have a few more cupcakes before the schedule starts to heat up, so we’ll see if they can continue to be effective.
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