Big 12 M5: 01.07.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 7th, 2014

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  1. Some interesting news came out after the San Diego State-Kansas game on Sunday. Bill Self revealed to reporters that Naadir Tharpe had sprained his left ankle during practice on Wednesday and tried to gut it out against the Aztecs. “He was trying to put himself in a position to where he could play,” Self said. “He went a little bit halfcourt yesterday and felt good, but even with that you are nicked up and don’t have a rhythm. He took a couple ill-advised shots when we had a chance to come back, tie or take the lead.” While Tharpe didn’t have the best shooting game (2-of-10), he did have five assists and no turnovers in 34 minutes against SDSU’s suffocating defense. Still, the Jayhawks need Tharpe to be healthy in their hopes of capturing another Big 12 title.
  2. Yes, Oklahoma State is going through some stuff at the moment. NewsOK lays out the three things the Cowboys have to do to maintain their status as potential Big 12 champs and national title contenders. First, how do they replace Michael Cobbins? Sophomore Kamari Murphy is assuming Cobbins’ spot in the lineup but who will assume Murphy’s role as first big man off the bench? Then there’s the Stevie Clark situation. There’s nothing new to report here but having him around could continue to cause a distraction for the Cowboys. Finally, OSU’s free throw shooting hasn’t been the best. Their 71.7 percent mark is good for 105th in the nation. That includes Marcus Smart, who is shooting almost 10 percentage points (67.8 percent) lower than he did last year (77.7 percent). So yeah, they’ve got some work to do.
  3. Iowa State has a top 10 battle with Baylor coming up, but before then, DeAndre Kane is taking some more hardware home this week. Kane was named Big 12 POW for the second straight week, headlined by a 16-point, eight-rebound and 12-assist performance versus Northern Illinois. Kansas State’s Marcus Foster won Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after averaging 16.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over George Washington and Oklahoma State last week. It was Foster’s first award of any kind this season while Kane has two NOWs in addition to the two POWs.
  4. Foster’s teammate and fellow point guard Jevon Thomas wasn’t allowed to practice until about two weeks ago due to NCAA rules. After his first practice, Bruce Weber said of him: “He almost passed out. He was lying on the floor, saying his body was cramping.” Fast forward to today and three games under his belt, Thomas seems to be adjusting well to college basketball. In relief of Marcus Foster, Thomas has 15 assists and only two turnovers. He’s a part of the reason the Wildcats went from a 2-3 start to a nine-game winning streak and Top 25 ranking in a two-month span.
  5. There’s a little game on tonight that will have implications atop the Big 12 horse race. Baylor takes on Iowa State for the 12th time in Ames tonight and are still searching for their first ever win there. The intrigue in this match-up lies in their contrasting styles. Iowa State likes to run up and down the floor and shoot the lights out, while Baylor is more akin to a half-court offense and big men who box out well. The Cyclones and Bears will meet tonight at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2.
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Big 12 M5: 12.10.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 10th, 2013

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  1. Stefan Stevenson of the Star-Telegram states a case for the Big 12 being the best conference in the country. It’s still too early to make a definitive judgment of such nature, but there’s no denying that the league is off to a great start. Five teams are in the KenPom’s top 50, the conference has already clinched the Big 12-SEC Challenge with two games still to play, and its membership has a resume that includes wins over the likes of Duke, Kentucky, Memphis, Michigan, BYU, and Dayton, with close losses to Michigan State and Villanova.
  2. In Division I college hoops, a short memory can be pivotal for both players and head coaches. Bruce Weber and Kansas State had a November to forget and are trying to make up for some early-season mishaps. There aren’t quite enough opportunities in the short term for the Wildcats to wash out the stench of the season’s first four weeks, but they can definitely make some headway when they square off against Gonzaga and George Washington later this month.
  3. When the media and blogosphere talk about the game’s injection of international talent over the last few years, more often than not, they’re referring to Canadian players. That isn’t the case in Morgantown, though, as Remi Dibo, a native of France, and Gary Browne, who calls Puerto Rico home, have played important roles for the Mountaineers early on. West Virginia is looking to make a return to the NCAA Tournament, and if they do, their foreign players will be a big reason why.
  4. TCU head coach Trent Johnson made it a point to take his team on the road early and often this season (they’ve played just two home games so far), but with a six-game homestand taking place over the next few weeks, he is hoping the toughness the Horned Frogs showed on the road lead to some wins. A tournament bid isn’t anywhere close to their radar, but it would be nice to see TCU have a more competitive go-round in its second season as members of the Big 12.
  5. When it comes to Big 12 accolades, Iowa State is sharing the love. Yesterday, forward Dustin Hogue became the third Cyclone to win conference Player Of The Week honors. Hogue averaged 19.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in Iowa State’s two wins last week. While he isn’t as pivotal to his team’s long-term success as Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, or DeAndre Kane, his productivity just makes it that much harder for opposing coaches to game plan against the Cyclones.
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Big 12 Observations a Month Into the Season

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 6th, 2013

With a month of action in the 2013-14 college basketball season now under our belts, the natural question becomes what exactly have we learned so far? We’ve been treated to some impressive performances, by both Big 12 teams and individuals, and a good number of less-than-impressive efforts. And while the buzz of Christmas season is firmly upon us, we’re also in the meat of a non-conference slate with several high-profile games involving the Big 12’s elite, allowing us further opportunity to draw more concrete conclusions. For the time being, though, four weeks into the season, here are a few observations worth keeping an eye on.

Smart showed he is human after a sub-par performance against Memphis in the Old Spice Classic (Credit: Orlando Sentinel).

Smart showed he is human after a sub-par performance against Memphis in the Old Spice Classic (Credit: Orlando Sentinel).

  • Marcus Smart is actually human after all.  Seriously, after exploding for 39 points against Memphis, Smart followed that up with 25- and 30-point performances against South Florida and Purdue, and left many in college basketball wondering if he had transformed into some sort of Space Jam Monstar in the offseason. The Oklahoma State point guard struggled in the Cowboys’ second match-up with Memphis, finishing with 12 points and two costly turnovers in a close game down the stretch. I’m not sure there’s another player in college basketball who seems to be better at harnessing his emotions in a positive way than Smart, so if there’s one thing worth betting on this season, it’s that the sophomore from Flower Mound, Texas, will find a way to bounce back quickly from a disappointing performance.

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Kansas State’s Early Struggles Possible Sign of Things to Come

Posted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on November 29th, 2013

Not much has gone right for Kansas State since capturing a share of the Big 12 regular season championship last season. The Wildcats advanced to the Big 12 Tournament championship game, was beateen by Kansas for the third time, then lost to #13 seed La Salle in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Leading scorers Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez graduated and transferred, respectively, and now, eight months later, K-State opened the season with a 60-58 loss to Northern Colorado, the same Northern Colorado team that was picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference this season.

Bruce Weber Can't Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

Bruce Weber Can’t Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

The Wildcats are 3-3 thanks to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off guaranteeing all teams three games, and that allowed them to grab another win over Long Beach State, a team which is #297 in the RPI and #230 on KenPom. The problems have been mostly on the offensive end for Kansas State. The Wildcats have yet to crack 72 points and are showing how dependent they were on McGruder and Rodriguez last season. Through six games, here are the key offensive metrics:

  • 62.7 PPG (#326 nationally)
  • 40.7% shooting (#293)
  • 12.8 APG (#179)

Head coach Bruce Weber returned four players who averaged at least 10 MPG last season, but only junior forward Thomas Gipson has shown signs of improvement early this season. His minutes per game are about the same as last but his scoring is up from a couple of points per game and he is shooting over 55 percent from the floor, up from 51.7% last season. The other three players – Will Spradling, Nino Williams, and Shane Southwell – have either gotten worse or plateaued. On the surface, Southwell’s stat line of 7.8 PPG/5.3 RPG/3.2 APG looks just fine. But the senior guard has been an albatross offensively. He is taking over eight shots per game and shooting a paltry 33.3 percent from the field. His three-point percentage is even worse at 16.7 percent, but it hasn’t stopped him from taking three attempts a game. It became clear some time ago that senior guard Will Spradling isn’t a 30 MPG-type of player at the Big 12 level, but that’s about where he has been the last three seasons. With guards like McGruder, Rodriguez, and Jacob Pullen next to him, he can play as a serviceable third guard or sixth man in a pinch. But more offensive responsibility this season hasn’t led to better results. His 35 percent shooting is the worst of his career, as is his 24 percent from three-point range.

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Big 12 M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 15th, 2013

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  1. Kansas has another big day today as Jahlil OkaforTyus Jones and Cliff Alexander are scheduled to make their college decisions this afternoon, and The Sporting News has a solid breakdown of Jones’ and Okafor’s recruitment and what the commitments will mean for the winner of their services.. The rumor mill has led many to believe that the package deal of Okafor and Jones are leaning towards Duke while Illinois is considered the leader for Alexander, a blue-chip prospect from Chicago. Even though Kelly Oubre is already committed to the Jayhawks for the 2014-15 season, Kansas may need to reload in a hurry with Andre Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid dotting mock drafts throughout the blogosphere.
  2. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but Iowa State has one big weekend in store. For starters, the Cyclones host top-flight 2014 recruit Rashad Vaughn. Touted as perhaps the best shooting guard prospect in his class, Vaughn has drawn comparisons to Ben McLemore with his shooting stroke and strength in a 6’6″ frame. While a decision isn’t expected in the immediate future, a commitment would send a message that not only can Fred Hoiberg land impact transfers, but he can make his presence felt on the prep level as well. The Cyclones top off the weekend Sunday night when they face top-10 foe Michigan at Hilton Coliseum.
  3. Their season is only two games old, but Kansas State hasn’t done much to change the minds of skeptics who are leery of their offense. The Wildcats’ defense has been fine so far, as it held both Northern Colorado and Oral Roberts to less than a point per possession, but Bruce Weber‘s team already ranks eighth in the conference in offensive efficiency. The next opponent on Kansas State’s schedule is Long Beach State, which hasn’t been the least bit impressive, so the 49ers appear to provide the Wildcats with a chance to get right on the offensive end.
  4. Burnt Orange Nation’s Jeff Haley is one of the best there is when it comes to breaking down advanced metrics, and his number-crunching tells us that Jonathan Holmes and Isaiah Taylor have been worth the price of admission through Texas‘ first two games. Haley also points out that the Longhorns have played a fair amount of zone defense, perhaps in an effort to keep Rick Barnes’ inexperienced and thin personnel from getting into foul trouble.
  5. Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler has been a work horse for the Sooners. Playing a key role in Oklahoma’s 3-0 start, Spangler has averaged 13.0 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds per game. Spangler also rejected three shots against Idaho on Wednesday and will look to keep the momentum rolling when the Sooners tip off against Seton Hall tonight in Brooklyn.
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Big 12 M5: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2013

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  1. Oklahoma State freshman Stevie Clark is adjusting quickly to the college game. Clark has put up some very efficient numbers in the early going, averaging 12 points and seven assists in just 21 minutes of action per game. If he can maintain a similar level of production behind Marcus Smart as the Cowboys’ schedule toughens up, Clark will have a great case for being the league’s best sixth man. Oklahoma State is still searching for answers down low, but between Smart, Clark, Markel Brown and Phil Forte, the Cowboys have an embarrassment of riches in their backcourt.
  2. Iowa State continues to receive outstanding contributions from its newcomers, but Tuesday night, it was junior forward Dustin Hogue who stepped up for Fred Hoiberg’s team by chipping in 13 points on just six shots to go along with eight rebounds and two steals against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Cyclones will be without Melvin Ejim against Michigan this Sunday in Ames, but encouraging performances throughout ISU’s roster this week and an amazing homecourt advantage could give them just what they need to beat the Wolverines.
  3. The Kansas Jayhawks have found production on their bench to weather early storms of foul trouble, according to Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star. Frank Mason and Brannen Greene are just two players who tend to get lost in the shuffle behind KU’s star-studded starting lineup, but they’ve provided huge minutes in supporting roles as the season has lifted off. As freshmen, they’ll only get better, so opponents shouldn’t expect a huge drop-off when Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden need to catch a few breathers.
  4. There were no surprises in Lawrence on National Signing Day Wednesday. Kelly Oubre, who committed to the Jayhawks earlier this semester, sent in his NLI, cementing his pledge to play for Kansas next season. Oubre figures to take Andrew Wiggins’ place in the KU rotation as an explosive, long-armed wing. Kansas remains in the hunt for Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, who will announce their decisions at the same time on Friday afternoon.
  5. Kansas State bounced back from an ugly early loss to Northern Colorado by taking care of Oral Roberts in a 71-63 win Wednesday night. Freshman Marcus Foster joined some esteemed company, becoming the first Wildcat freshman since Michael Beasley to score 25 points in a game. Head coach Bruce Weber has repeatedly insisted that his veterans need to lead offensively, and while that’s certainly an understandable sentiment, there are no sure things in his lineup. It would be wonderful for Kansas State if Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Thomas Gipson could be counted on for 40 combined points on a nightly basis, but in the meantime, our unsolicited advice to Bruce Weber is to take your points wherever you can get them.
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Yes, College Basketball Season is Finally Here

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 8th, 2013

College hoops fans everywhere, rejoice. Like Harry and Lloyd finally arriving in Aspen, we’re therrre. The anticipation for college basketball season has been building for the past several months, and we can finally take a deep breath and revel in the fact that the official start has arrived. Gone are the days of exhibition games and the abundance of preseason lists and rankings and speculation. Instead, they’re replaced by games that really count, and storylines that actually matter. Your weekends are about to get a lot more intriguing, and your weeknights a lot less boring. From Ames to Austin, Lubbock to Morgantown, and everywhere in between, the Big 12 is chock full of headlines bound to whet your appetite for action on the hardwood. So kick back, relax, and hear us out with a plethora of reasons on why you should be giddy with excitement for another rendition of college basketball.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

  • For Kansas State fans, it’s a packed house − the Octagon of Doom − and Sandstorm pumping through the PA system so violently you can’t hear yourself think. And the thought of Bruce Weber pulling a purple blazer out of the wardrobe, similar to the orange one he donned at Illinois. Can Shane Southwell become “the man” in Manhattan?  We’ll have to wait and see.
  • In Fort Worth, the reminder of one of the biggest upsets in recent college basketball history has you clamoring for an encore performance again this year. An influx of new talent, and Trent Johnson at the helm provides reason to believe the Horned Frogs can make some noise in the Big 12.
  • Whether it’s a track suit on game day or a letter sweater on media day, there’s no doubt Bob Huggins in comfortable in his own skin. You can bet though, that experiencing his first losing record in nearly 30 years was anything but comforting. The West Virginia head coach is determined to turn things around this year in Morgantown. Is there enough talent this go-round to make the Mountaineers relevant in conference play? Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Predicted Standings

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2013

Yesterday, the four Big 12 Microsite writers (Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso) named their preseason All-Big 12 selections. On college basketball’s opening day, we take a look at each writer’s predicted order of finish.

B12Standings

Some key takeaways:

You can have Marcus Smart and the Cowboys, but we’re picking Kansas until someone knocks them off: As we touched on in the Oklahoma State team preview, the Cowboys have as good a chance to dethrone Kansas as some of the top challengers in the Jayhawks’ nine-year stay atop the conference. But if a Big 12 coach is going to clown our writers by the end of the season, it’s going to be someone other than Bill Self.

  • TE: The reason I went with Kansas as my pick to win the Big 12 is a culmination of several different factors. While I think both teams not only have great talent in Wiggins and Smart, both also have strong supporting players around them. On Smart’s team, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are both extremely talented and could go for 30 on any night, and for Wiggins, he has two other potential lottery picks beside him, not to mention Perry Ellis. I think Kansas is just more of a complete team. While Oklahoma State certainly has the advantage at the point guard spot, I’m not sure there’s another position where you could definitively say that OSU is better, and in my opinion Kansas is far better and more talented in the frontcourt. Also, I fully recognize that Marcus Smart is an outstanding college basketball player – maybe the best in the nation – but I do think as point guard and team leader his squad sputtered a bit down the stretch last season when they really had a chance to knock Kansas out of the top spot with a win in Stillwater, along with an early exit in the Big 12 Tournament and a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it’s not fair to put all that blame on Smart, and some of it should be shifted to Travis Ford, which I guess leads me to my last point. If we hold all else equal and believe that the talent levels in Lawrence and Stillwater are more or less a wash, it becomes a question as to who you’d take as a coach to lead your team between Ford and Bill Self, and I think that answer is pretty obvious.
  • KC: Marcus Smart is one of the best guards in the country, but Andrew Wiggins is better. Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are good guards as well, but there is a reason Wayne Selden is a projected lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft while Brown and Nash aren’t. And even if you canceled out both backcourts, the Cowboys don’t match up well with a Kansas frontcourt that has as much depth as any unit in the country. Joel Embiid is projected to be taken in the lottery along with Wiggins and Selden, and he won’t even be starting early in the season. And when you throw in the Bill Self and Allen Fieldhouse factors, it isn’t hard to pick Kansas to win the conference, again.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Kansas State Wildcats

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Kansas State.

Where We Left Off: As he did at Illinois, Bruce Weber took the wheel of a new program and immediately led it to a regular season conference title. Despite an unimpressive defense and an offense that relied heavily on crashing the boards, Kansas State outperformed preseason expectations on its way to a 27-8 record and sharing the conference crown with Kansas. The postseason wasn’t so kind, however. Kansas State bowed out to the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament final, losing to Bill Self’s team for the third time in 2013, and followed it up by dropping a heart-breaker to 13-seed La Salle in their NCAA Tournament opener. KSU had a tough offseason as well, losing Angel Rodriguez to Miami and Adrian Diaz to Florida International, while also waving goodbye to graduating seniors Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez. Weber’s most prominent players still figure to be those recruited by former head coach Frank Martin, but he’ll look to begin shedding the reputation he garnered in Champaign as a coach who struggles to win without the previous regime’s holdovers.

Bruce Weber needs Shane Southwell to be the next Alpha Dog (er, cat) in The Little Apple. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Bruce Weber needs Shane Southwell to be the next Alpha Dog (er, cat) in The Little Apple. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Strengths: Last season, Shane Southwell was one of the most improved players in the Big 12, as he doubled his scoring average and then some, going from 3.2 points per game in 2011-12 to 8.4 last season. Where Southwell especially shined was beyond the arc, where he connected on 44 percent of his 110 attempts after hitting just 25 percent over the prior two seasons. Kansas State figures to rely on Southwell heavily this season, as the Wildcats’ trademark of cashing in on second chance buckets is destined to take a hit with a smaller lineup. KSU will need to score on its first attempts, and one man who can help take the pressure off Southwell is junior Thomas Gipson. At 6’7″ and 265 pounds, the big guy knows his way around the basket and takes up a ton of space. He’ll be counted on to flourish in a more significant role on both ends after averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game in each of his first two seasons. Farther out, Will Spradling is one of the Big 12’s more familiar faces. While the senior is far from automatic, he shoots the ball well enough from beyond the arc to command the respect of opposing defenders.

Weaknesses: Despite Spradling’s experience and ability to knock down set shots from distance, question marks abound in the backcourt, assuming Southwell spends most of his time on the wing this season. Spradling is hardly a sure thing and Weber will need to find a solution at the point among a glut of unknown commodities such as freshmen Marcus Foster and Nigel Johnson.  The Wildcats may also struggle down low until a capable complement to Gipson emerges. Sophomore D.J. Johnson is the only player taller than 6’7″ (6’11” Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden will sit out the season, per NCAA rules), so the Wildcats will field a frontcourt rotation that’s much smaller than what fans are used to seeing.

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Big 12 M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 4th, 2013

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  1. Kansas State took down Pittsburg State 75-54 in exhibition action on Friday night. The only problem was the Wildcats were hobbled in doing so. Bruce Weber said earlier in the week that guards Will Spradling (0 pts) and Shane Southwell (10/5 asts) as well as forward Nino Williams (13/13) were all battling injuries despite playing more than 20 minutes apiece. Thomas Gipson, who is expected to be more of a force on the offensive end, did not play either due to an unspecified injury. Another headline came from the three freshmen thrown into the action. Point guard Marcus Foster turned in 13 points, five rebounds and four dimes, while fellow Texan Wesley Iwundu scored 10 points in 17 minutes, and Nigel Johnson poured in 15 and nine boards in Gipson’s place. While it’s important to get your starters as healthy before the season tips off, it’s nice to know you have options down low and in the backcourt if you’re a K-State fan.
  2. News came down late last week that Melvin Ejim would be out several weeks with a hyperextended knee and bone bruise. But Ejim is hoping he can return to the floor sooner than expected. “I don’t think it’s going to take as long. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long,” he told the Ames Tribune. “It’d be the best if I took a couple weeks, and I could play right away, but we’ve still got to be smart and it’s something if I do play on it and it’s not properly healed, it’s potentially something that could hurt me down the line.” Smart is right. Adrian Peterson certainly set a precedent for athletes and how much time they can take to rehabilitate their injuries. And sure, Ejim’s feeling pressure to be rushed back considering 60 percent of Iowa State’s starting lineup wasn’t there a year ago. It’s also not a bad thing to go the Derrick Rose route and make sure your mind and body are in sync with each other before returning to action. Get well, Mel.
  3. They’ve got a shiny new top 10 ranking and lofty expectations at the national level, but believe it or not, Oklahoma State won’t be talking about a national championship this season. According to the Tulsa World, Travis Ford had his players study up on the six Cowboy teams that previously made it to Final Fours for a team dinner weeks ago. “We wanted them to learn about the tradition but also the championship-type teams,” Ford said. “We’ve talked a lot about trying to get to that point, trying to get our guys throughout the summer and a little bit of preseason thinking in terms of trying to motivate them to win a championship. Once the night was over, I told our guys, ‘Now we’re done talking about it.’ I don’t want to talk any more about it. I don’t want to pinhole it.” Interesting approach from a man who hasn’t done a whole lot in his time in Stillwater; but hey, the more Big 12 teams at the 2014 Final Four in Dallas, the better.
  4. TCU had its own exhibition game on Friday night and they were able to come away with a 81-74 over Arkansas-Fort Smith. Karviar Shepherd, the top prospect from the Horned Frogs’ 2013 recruiting class, shined with a 16-point, 10-rebound outing. After missing the 2013 portion of last season, senior Jarvis Ray scored 18 to lead all scorers. TCU is slated to tip off its season Friday against crosstown and old Southwest Conference rivals, SMU. Let’s hope that Trent Johnson will have a healthy roster to work with in 2013-14.
  5. The mother of Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith passed away last week. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and later confirmed by the school’s athletic department, Parthenia Smith died late Wednesday. She was 92. Tubby’s father, Guffrie, passed away just before the start of the 2009 basketball season at 88. It’ll be tough to concentrate on coaching this week, but our thoughts and prayers go out to Tubby and his family through this trying time.
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Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part I

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 29th, 2013

It’s that time of the year when fans get their usual dose of preseason predictions. One of the usual mechanisms in this onslaught is the “Coaches on the Hot Seat” list where writers identify those coaches whose job status relies on the success of their upcoming season. Each preseason in the Big Ten, previously successful coaches routinely find themselves on this list and almost never escape it. The conference is widely considered to have the best head coaches of any league which makes wins tough to come by. This competition leads to very good coaches experiencing disappointing seasons, finding themselves on the hot seat, and then eventually being fired. Last year, it was Tubby Smith at Minnesota who found himself without a job in April.  A national championship-winning coach at Kentucky, Smith led the Golden Gophers to their first NCAA Tournament win in 16 years (and, actually, longer since the NCAA vacated the 1996-97 season after charging Minnesota with academic fraud). The year before that, it was Bruce Weber at Illinois standing in the unemployment line. A former National Coach of the Year and NCAA Tournament runner-up, Weber won 100 more games than he lost over a nine-year stint. And there are others. All this goes to show that in this league, being a talented head coach might get you in the door, but it won’t save you from the hot seat.

Relax, Coach Crean.  You many have lost two NBA lottery picks.  But you're not going anywhere.

Relax, Coach Crean. You may have lost two NBA lottery picks. But you’re not going anywhere.

This year is a little different.  Barring any unforeseen scandals, there seems to be no Big Ten coaches who are in immediate danger of losing their jobs. So here at the RTC Big Ten microsite, we have instead decided to look at the coaches around the league and examine their current situations: Why are they not in danger of having to endure a sad and uncomfortable final press conference at the end of the year? In the interest of brevity, we will not review the likes of Tom Izzo, John Beilein, Thad Matta or Bo Ryan. Their current situations can be summed up in these words: They are awesome at coaching college basketball and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  For the rest of the Big Ten’s eight coaches, things are a little more nuanced. Here’s why:

John Groce (Illinois): I listed in a previous post Groce’s accomplishments from last year. Those include a trip to the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament from a roster that had all but given up the year before. But more importantly, Groce has secured quite a bit of outstanding talent for the future of his program. A bevy of promising transfers and recruits are set to join the Illini this year and next. His program is in a position to start challenging for Big Ten titles as early as 2014-15, and if Groce can land a commitment from Top 10 recruit Cliff Alexander next month, Illini fans can start dreaming even bigger. He’s in good shape.

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Big 12 M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 28th, 2013

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  1. When former Memphis transfer and current Kansas Jayhawk Tarik Black began his search for a school to set up camp with for his final year of college, Bill Self recognized Black as an opportunity to provide leadership and toughness to his very young Kansas team. What Black received in exchange was a summer-long date with KU strength coach Andrea Hudy, who helped him tone up, which in turn has helped improve both his jumping ability and quickness. Black has been active in early practices this season, giving up his body for loose balls and setting an example for some of KU’s youngsters. While many of Self’s freshmen have garnered the media’s attention, Black might be just as important in providing physicality to a Kansas frontcourt that otherwise would lack toughness.
  2. The new college basketball rule changes have created quite a buzz in the last few weeks, impacting the way Kansas State guard Will Spradling thinks about playing defense. K-State head coach Bruce Weber said that after taking a charge in practice, Spradling will go back and review film to determine if the call would hold in live action. In addition to the new emphasis on the charge rule, defenders will be unable to “hand check” an offensive player in an effort to clean up the game this season, although many believe the rule changes will instead result in more free throw attempts. After teams tip off the season in exhibition play this week, we have a feeling Spradling won’t be the only one reviewing his defensive approach.
  3. Oklahoma State kicked off its exhibition schedule with an 80-70 win on Sunday against Campbellsville, an NAIA opponent from Kentucky, and it appears Travis Ford was underwhelmed with the effort, to say the least. In his post-game comments, Ford stated that after great practices the first two weeks of the season, his team has been lackluster during the last week and Sunday’s performance mirrored that stagnation. We know Marcus Smart’s team certainly has the ability to win big time games like it did in Lawrence last season, but to have a realistic shot to win a conference title, sustained focus night in and night out in the Big 12 is crucial.
  4. Lon Kruger’s team enters the 2013-14 season with the difficult task of not only replacing the scoring from former players Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye, among others, but also filling the leadership void left by last year’s group. Enter Cameron Clark, who recently spoke about having a conversation with Osby, who told Clark to work hard and lead by example. Clark’s teammate Buddy Hield has noticed a difference in his demeanor this year, and said that while Clark is not overly vocal, when he talks his teammates tend to listen. It will be interesting to see if Clark’s leadership can help Oklahoma stay in the upper echelon of Big 12 teams this season.
  5. The biggest complaint surrounding Bruce Weber’s tenure at Illinois was his inability to sustain consistent success after making the NCAA championship game with players recruited by Bill Self. After experiencing tremendous success in his first season at Kansas State, many wonder if Weber can learn from his previous experience to keep his team among the league’s elite.  On Saturday night, Weber received a verbal commitment from 6’5″ combo guard Tre Harris, who currently attends Fishburne Military Academy in Virginia. Harris is considered a good shooter and will pair with fellow 2014 commitment Stephen Harris to bring viable scoring threats to the Wildcats next season.
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