Big 12 M5: 11.05.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 5th, 2013

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  1. On Monday the Associated Press released its All-America team and the only player who received a unanimous selection was Marcus Smart of Oklahoma StateKansas superfrosh Andrew Wiggins was also named to the team, along with Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Louisville’s Russ Smith and Michigan’s Mitch McGary. I’m afraid people who don’t follow college hoops might get the wrong idea based on this preseason All-America team. They might look at the list and think, ‘Gee whiz, that Big 12 is really stacked this season,’ when the reality is that teams ranked below the top three face a multitude of questions marks. I guess the upside is that they will be tricked into watching more Big 12 basketball than they normally would. That doesn’t sound too bad, right?
  2. No Ejim, no problem for Iowa State in its exhibition win on Monday night. The Cyclones throttled Augustana (SD) by a score of 90-68 as DeAndre Kane picked up the double-double duties in the absence of Melvin Ejim. Kane shot a crisp 6-of-8 from the field for 19 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Matt Thomas, one of the team’s two four-star freshman recruits, nailed 3-of-4 from three-point range and piled up 16 points. Sophomore Georges Niang struggled from the floor in missing 10 shots, including all four three-pointers, while managing to score 10, grab seven boards, and dish out a team-high six assists. You’re encouraged by the offensive output if you’re Fred Hoiberg but still, he’d prefer to have a healthy Ejim out there just like the rest of us.
  3. In slightly less encouraging exhibition newsOklahoma trailed at the half, 41-38, in its game against Oklahoma Christian but managed to win going away, 88-76. Sophomore guard Buddy Hield has battled foot problems dating back to late last season but appeared to be in full health, scoring 19 of his 29 points in the Sooners’ second half comeback. Freshman Jordan Woodard scored 17 points while also dropping six dimes and pulling down five rebounds. The team OU struggled with is a Division I member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA for short). That’s right. Imagine what would happen if the Sooners played an actual member of the NCAA. Who do they play in their first game? Alabama? On Friday? Oh… that’s not good.
  4. While coaches around the country continue to voice displeasure with the way referees will call fouls this season, there is one coach out there who might not have that big of a beef with it. That man might be Bob Huggins, who coached his Mountaineers to an 89-70 exhibition win over Fairmont State on Monday night. WVU made 37 of its 54 free throw attempts, and last year’s leading scorer Eron Harris hit 15 of them to help him reach 30 points for the game. But don’t let the 89 points fool you: The Mountaineers were able to make 20-of-49 field goal attempts so it appears their shooting problem from last season might creep up again. WVU’s 54 free throws combined with Fairmont State’s 28 gave us 82 total. In an exhibition game. You would have to be a special kind of person to sit through a game like that.
  5. Texas made news on the recruiting trail Monday with junior college power forward Obinna Oleka committing to the Longhorns. Brad Winton of JucoRecruiting.com reported the State College of Florida prospect chose Texas over Charlotte, Old Dominion, Southern Miss and South Florida. I know talent can come from anywhere, but I didn’t think I’d see a day where a name brand like Texas would be getting players who would otherwise go to places like Old Dominion or South Florida. Are the days of chasing talent that Kentucky, Florida or Kansas also want long gone for the Longhorns? Odd times in Austin for sure.
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Big 12 Team Preview: Oklahoma Sooners

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 4th, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Oklahoma.

Where We Left Off: Oklahoma returned to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since Blake Griffin was in Norman. It was a short trip, however, as the Sooners lost to San Diego State in the round of 64, 70-55. Head coach Lon Kruger enters his third season at Oklahoma and is one of the most experienced coaches in the country. He has gone largely unnoticed, though, especially this year in a league that has (rightfully) been focused on Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart and the budding rivalry between the two players and their schools. Kruger, on the other hand, is slowly turning things around at Oklahoma. He won 15 games his first season and 20 games last year. If he continues that upward tick this season he should get consideration for Big 12 Coach of the Year because his top three scorers are now gone.

Lon Kruger Will Face Plenty of Tests Early This Season (AP).

Lon Kruger Will Face Plenty of Tests Early This Season (AP).

Positives: Sophomore guard Buddy Hield gained meaningful experience last season as a freshman, averaging 25.1 MPG, 7.8 PPG, and 4.2 RPG. He deferred to upperclassmen like Romero Osby, Steven Pledger and Amath M’Baye, all of whom are gone. Hield could become the best offensive weapon for Kruger, which would mean good things for the future. Senior forward Cameron Clark also returns for the Sooners. Clark averaged 6.5 PPG last season while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Those two players, along with sophomore guards Je’lon Hornbeak (22.7 MPG, 5.6 PPG last season) and Isaiah Cousins (15.7 MPG) look to form the core for the Sooners offensively. Expect Hield and Clark to shoulder a lot of the load offensively early in the season.

Negatives: The Sooners averaged 70.6 PPG as a team last season and nearly 50 of those points per contest do not return this year. The top three leading scorers — Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Amath M’Baye — account for most of the missing production, averaging 37.7 PPG themselves. It’s unclear how that will affect returning players and if they will be able to maintain a similar offensive output. The 2013 recruiting class doesn’t look like it will make an impact this season either. Kruger signed a pair of three-star players, Frank Booker and Jordan Woodard, as well as unranked Keshaun Hamilton. It was a quiet recruiting class after signing Hield and Hornbeak, both four-star recruits in the class of 2012. With momentum following a five-win improvement last season, the Sooners will have surprised a lot of people if they continue that climb up the win totals column this season.

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The RTC Interview Series: Big 12 Preview with Fran Fraschilla and Jason King, Part I

Posted by Walker Carey on October 22nd, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the Big 12, RTC Correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to two Big 12 experts in ESPN Big 12 analyst, Fran Fraschilla, and ESPN.com college basketball writer, Jason King.  (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Big 12 Experts Fran Fraschilla and Jason King Share Their Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Big 12 Experts Fran Fraschilla and Jason King Share Their Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Rush the Court: The major storyline in the Big 12 this season will be what Andrew Wiggins does on the court for Kansas. What do you expect out of Wiggins in what figures to be his only season in Lawrence?

Fran Fraschilla: I think Andrew Wiggins is obviously an incredible addition. I am not sure if he is the alpha dog that people are expecting. He is a great teammate, an incredible athlete, and if anyone can get the most out of him in one year, it will be Bill Self. At times, he will take over games, and at other times, he will be content to stay in the background and let Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, and others dominate the ball.

Jason King: I think the expectations that have been placed on Andrew Wiggins are unfair. I think the hype surrounding him has gotten out of control. He very well might be the best player in the country, but comparing him to LeBron James is just too much. LeBron James was an alpha male coming out of high school. He was a big, strong, mean, aggressive guy. I believe Andrew Wiggins is a different type of player. I went to Kansas practice the other night and right now, his head is still spinning. He is still trying to adjust and learn the system. I think he is a special player, but he is a guy that may only average 13 or 14 points a night because he is playing with so many other very talented players. I think he will be just fine. It is just that so many people are expecting him to go in right away and score 20-22 points a night; and that probably is just not going to happen. We will still see plenty of highlights from him throughout the season and he will likely end up being one of the two or three best players in the country when all is said and done.

RTC: Focusing less on Wiggins and more on Kansas as a whole, what are realistic expectations for a very talented but young Jayhawks squad?

Fraschilla: Kansas certainly has the potential to get to the Final Four in Dallas and have a chance to win it all. Just like every other top team though, Kansas certainly has some deficiencies. Based on the talent level, the versatility of a lot of their players, and the proven leadership of Bill Self, I think Kansas is going to make a strong argument on the court that it is a team that can get to Dallas for the Final Four.

King: I think Kansas should win its 10th straight league title and anything less than that will be a disappointment. I think winning nine straight titles in a league like the Big 12 in this day and age with all the one-and-dones is very, very impressive. I believe no team in a major conference has done that since John Wooden’s days when I believe UCLA won 13 in a row. Winning the league title is expectation number one. I think the potential for this team is limitless. However, this is going to be a different kind of Kansas team. I think Kansas fans are so used to the Jayhawks just going out there and dominating mostly everyone from the start of the season to the finish. This is a team that won 31 games last year. I think this year, you might see it stumble a little bit more early on and drop some games early on that they would probably win in recent years. The non-conference schedule is the most difficult in America and it is the hardest I have ever seen Kansas play. Besides having to play Duke, you have the Battle 4 Atlantis, you have games at Colorado and at Florida, you have home games against Georgetown and San Diego State, and you have New Mexico at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. I just think with this hard of a schedule and so many young players adjusting to the college level that there might be some setbacks early on. Bill Self is such a great coach that he will have these guys playing their best basketball and the right time of the year, which is mid-January and on.

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Big 12 Season Wrap: the Highs, the Lows, All the In-Betweens

Posted by dnspewak on April 15th, 2013

In a big-picture sense, the Big 12 provided us with no surprises this season. Kansas won the league again, TCU finished in last place, five teams made the NCAA Tournament, and all was right with the world. It wouldn’t have taken Nostradamus to make those predictions. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an interesting six months, however. There were flops–most notably from the state of Texas. There were overachievers–most notably from the state of Oklahoma. There were thrilling finishes, blown calls, standout freshmen and that one time Kansas somehow lost to TCU. Oh, and one team even won a championship this season in, well, the wrong tournament.

Game of  the Year: Kansas 68, Oklahoma State 67 (February 20)

This showdown in Stillwater was simultaneously the best and worst game of the Big 12 season. How’s that for logic? After the Cowboys stunned Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the winter and literally celebrated by doing back flips on the court, this revenge game took on even more importance in the league standings. Had Oklahoma State won, it would have seized the proverbial driver’s seat along with Kansas State and would have made the Jayhawks’ path to the regular season title very difficult. We had drama. We had overtime. Two, actually. And we had a game-winner in the final minute of regulation by Naadir Tharpe, who shook off a rusty performance to hit the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds to play. Instant classic, right? Certainly. The problem was, it was perhaps the ugliest game ever played by two top-15 opponents on the same floor. Kansas did not make a field goal in the first overtime and it did not make a field goal in the second overtime until Tharpe’s game-winner. That’s almost 10 minutes of basketball without a basket. In overtime! Overall, the two teams combined to shoot five for 32 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore played 49 minutes, missed nine of 12 shot attempts and finished with seven points after barely touching the ball in the overtime periods. And that’s the best game of the year? We still stand by our decision. This was the game that changed the complexity of the Big 12 title race, and two free periods of basketball is never a bad thing.

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 (February 25): Asterisk on this one. Kansas beat Iowa State in Ames — where the Cyclones hadn’t lost in more than a year — but it needed a blown call at the end of regulation to get the opportunity. You remember the situation. Elijah Johnson‘s charging toward the basket with five seconds left in the game, his team trailing by two points. Georges Niang sets his feet and takes what appears to be a pretty standard charge. But there’s no call, the ball bounces on the floor and the officials eventually blow the whistle on Niang during a scramble. That allows Kansas to tie the game and win in overtime behind Elijah Johnson’s epic 39-point performance. The Big 12 would later admit its referees should have called a charge, but that’s a moot point right now. It’s a shame we’ll remember this game as the No-Call Game as opposed to the Elijah Johnson Game.
  • Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 (March 14): The Bears needed a victory in this Big 12 quarterfinal to give themselves a chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Then they fell behind by 20 points. Dead in the water. Except Pierre Jackson started raining jumpers and floaters all over the place, and Baylor inexplicably tied the game in the final minute of regulation. But the officials made a controversial foul call (that’s a trend this year, across all conferences) and sent Phil Forte to the line, where he made both. That’s an exciting finish in and of itself. But it got even better: Nobody’s quite sure how it happened, but with just seconds left on a desperation, mad-dash possession, Jackson dribbled straight through two Oklahoma State defenders and found himself absolutely, completely wide open from three-point land. He had a chance to win at the buzzer. No hands contesting him, no defender in sight. He missed. That sent the Bears to the NIT, and at least they won that tournament. But Jackson’s failed buzzer-beater signaled the end of Baylor’s tourney chances, and it was another dark moment during an underachieving season.

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Big 12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 6th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Big news for Oklahoma: Buddy Hield will be back. He broke his foot earlier this year, and there was a question as to whether he’d play in a Sooners uniform again. However, there are now reports that he’s likely to return on Wednesday against West Virginia. Hield isn’t a household name among Big 12 circles yet, but he had given Lon Kruger an enormous boost during his freshman season before his injury. He ran the point well, played terrific defense and was as important as any player on the roster. Now that he’s back in the fold, Kruger has to feel better heading into the postseason.
  2. Bob Huggins won’t make any excuses for his West Virginia team’s performance this season, but it’s undeniable that the Mountaineers’ move to the Big 12 had serious travel implications. The school is situated a long, long way from the rest of the conference, and getting places is a totally different ballgame compared to the Big East. The non-conference schedule added to all the travel, too: West Virginia began the season out west at Gonzaga, then took a trip to the Old Spice Classic in Orlando and later played at Duquesne and Purdue. Then think about all the flights in Big 12 play to the states of Texas, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma. Not an easy thing for a new member program.
  3. Remember when Elijah Johnson was a worthless point guard and the root of all problems in the world? The guy who turned the ball over too much and caused all wars known to mankind? Those words are a little harsh, but the bottom line was that he hadn’t played very well at that point for Bill Self throughout the early winter and caught a lot of criticism for that very reason. Now, though, that’s all changed. After his legendary performance in Ames, Johnson had 12 assists against Texas Tech on Senior Night and appears to be hitting his stride. If he can continue to man the position along with Naadir Tharpe, Self will be able to sleep a heck of a lot better at night this March.
  4. It’s now or never for Iowa State, which finds itself right on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament. No pressure though, guys. “Win these next two games for sure,” Korie Lucious told The Gazette. “That would help us. Then go into the conference tournament and win as many games as we can there — try to get that championship.” Fred Hoiberg had an interesting quote in this article too, about the Cyclones’ inability to get stops in key moments. That’s been the overlooked thing on this team all year. Iowa State has scorers, but there’s more work to do on the defensive end. That could dictate how the Cyclones finish the regular season.
  5. Oklahoma State doesn’t have it easy right now. Sure, the Cowboys are in fine position heading into the NCAA Tournament, but they’re aiming for a two seed in Kansas City and have a tough road this week to get there. First, they’ve got to play a desperate Iowa State team (see above). Then it’s Kansas State at home on Senior Day. No matter what, though, Travis Ford has to feel good about where he’s at right now. He was the one coach in this league with whom we often threw the term “hot seat” around, and now that’s completely out the window. Kudos. Now, we’ll see where this season goes from here.
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Big 12 M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 20th, 2013

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  1. Thank God it’s Wednesday because on paper, Tuesday gave us an undesirable match-up between bottom-feeders Texas and TCU. Surprisingly enough, it was a pretty good game. Texas came into the contest shooting 40% from the field as a team while committing more turnovers per game (15.5 TOPG) than anyone in the Big 12. Last night the Longhorns shot better than 50% and turned it over just eight times. It’s a night like this that accentuates the importance of a player like Myck Kabongo (seven assists, two turnovers), who played only his third game of the season. Even TCU (13.7 TOPG) had nine TOs in a losing effort. There’s a lesson to be learned from this: You shouldn’t judge a game by the teams playing in it.
  2. This year’s Oklahoma State squad is different than the ones in the recent past. Yes Marcus Smart has something to do with it but much of the Cowboys’ success has relied on winning close games. Four of their games in the current seven-game winning streak have come against probable NCAA Tournament teams and were all won by five points or fewer. How does that compare to years past? In games decided by four points or fewer, OSU went 4-3 in 2011-12 and 5-5 in 2010-11. That’s a good way to separate the men from the boys.
  3. The biggest game on Wednesday night may not be in Stillwater. Baylor and Iowa State are playing for the second time this season with major bubble implications. There’s a lot of talent on both sides but neither team has been able to put it together for an extended stretch. The Cyclones nicked the Bears by eight earlier in conference play, but while their tournament profiles are still lacking, a win in this game would go a long way.
  4. We got an unexpected storyline from Monday’s West Virginia-Kansas State game. Eron Harris, a freshman guard for WVU, was seen crying on the sidelines shortly after fouling out in just eight minutes of action. After checking back into the game, Harris had committed separate technical and personal fouls that sidelined him for the rest of the game. If there’s anything we know for sure, the young man plays with purpose. His increased playing time in conference play has shined a light on his abilities as a scorer. About him crying, wouldn’t you? Yeah it’s been a rough season but in Harris’ mind, he’s trying to do anything he can to come up with a W. So when he receives questionable foul calls and learns that his night is over before it really began, you’d feel helpless. Sometimes in life, people cry when they feel helpless. Nothing wrong with that. Oh, and it seems like he’s over it. 
  5. Not enough can be said about the job Lon Kruger has done this season. It takes a brave man to give his freshmen regular playing time with an already seasoned basketball team in place. Je’lon Hornbeak is an excellent example of this. Kruger took the point guard by trade and moved him out on the wing. So far, so good. Hornbeak is averaging 8.7 points per game in his last three contests since fellow freshman Buddy Hield went down with an injury. Once again: brave, unconventional. Kruger may be on his way to Big 12 Coach of the Year.
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Big 12 M5: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 13th, 2013

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  1. Texas has been waiting for today all season long: Myck Kabongo will finally return from his NCAA suspension tonight against Iowa State. Problem is, he’s a little late. The Longhorns’ season died a long, long time ago, around the time Division II Chaminade smacked them around in Maui way back in mid-November. Nevertheless, Kabongo could help Rick Barnes’ team play spoiler during the final month of the regular season, and perhaps he offers a little hope for a late Big 12 Tournament run. A Longhorn fan can only hope. Barnes said Kabongo will indeed start against the Cyclones tonight, and he’ll need to make up for lost time right away.
  2. Buddy Hield isn’t a household name at Oklahoma yet. He’s a fun personality and promising freshman, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many Big 12 fans who know much about him. You need to know that he fractured his foot on Monday, though. More importantly, you need to know that it’s a big loss for the Sooners. Hield is considered one of the top on-ball defenders on the team. He also played very well at both guard spots throughout the season, so he’ll add more pressure to veteran Sam Grooms and youngsters Isaiah Cousins and Je’lon Hornbeak.
  3. Speaking of guards, Naadir Tharpe was brilliant against Kansas State on Big Monday. His final stat line: eight assists, seven points and one turnover. And he even split time with Elijah Johnson at the point. This performance begs the question– is it time for Tharpe to start? It’s hard to cut Johnson’s role on the team, but maybe it’s a necessity for Bill Self so that his team maximizes its potential. Johnson certainly hasn’t been playing well lately, but he’s proven during his career that he’s more than capable of rebounding from a slump. That’s why we’re betting on Bill Self to ride out the veteran here until he absolutely has to make a change.
  4. Bill Self knows best. That’s why he has Kansas in a position to win the league again even though his team suffered through an atrocious three-game losing streak and looked more lost than any KU team in recent history. Rob Dauster tells us how that the losing streak is now a faded memory, and that it all stemmed from a lack of confidence. The Jayhawks already have a leg up on Kansas State now that they’ve swept the season series, so the big game to watch for is on February 20. That’s when Kansas travels to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State in their rematch game. Something tells us the Cowboys will need to come to play that night, because KU’s not going to just hand over the Big 12 regular season title on a silver platter.
  5. West Virginia is still not a great basketball team, but it’s not among the worst teams in the league anymore either. That’s a minor victory for Bob Huggins, who has seemed perplexed at his team’s rather poor performance all season long. The Mountaineers have now won three straight games against the three Texas schools at the bottom of the conference (TCU, Texas and Texas Tech), which means they’re an even 5-5 in Big 12 play. They’ll now try to win their fourth straight against Baylor. The Bears have problems of their own, but that would be a solid win for Huggins during somewhat of a lost season. You’ve got to beef up that CBI resume somehow.
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Big 12 M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 12th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. We saw this one coming from a mile away. After an unlikely three-game losing streak, Kansas slapped around Kansas State at the Phog on Big Monday. It was never close, as KU once again reasserted itself as the top dog in the Big 12. It’s been that way for years, and not even a horrific two-week stretch for the Jayhawks could stop that. Here’s a good breakdown of how it all happened in Lawrence last night. Jeff Withey had a historic night in becoming the Jayhawks’ all-time leading shot-blocker, and that’s surprising when you consider that he’s only logged serious minutes for two seasons.
  2. Good news in Lawrence, terrible news in Norman. Sure, Oklahoma beat up on TCU Monday night as well, but it also lost freshman guard Buddy Hield to a fractured foot. This injury could keep him out for the remainder of the year, and would represent a true heartbreaker for Lon Kruger who has gotten great minutes out of his rookie. He’s allowed Hield a lot of freedom in his offense, and he even stripped minutes from veteran Sam Grooms to make room for him. The young guard hasn’t disappointed, but Grooms will need to pick up the slack as the need dictates. As we’ve outlined extensively on this microsite, Grooms should be playing more anyway.
  3. It’s been hard to gauge Oklahoma State this season, but the Cowboys are right in the thick of the Big 12 title race. You can’t strip that win away from them in Lawrence — they’ll hold that over Kansas’ head for the remainder of the season. Travis Ford had some solid quotes in the linked article, including this one: ““There’s a looong way to go. A long way to go. As of today, we’ve got a shot. If we keep winning, we’ve got a shot.” So, coach, you’re telling us that there’s a chance?
  4. After Kansas’ win, let’s go ahead and sort out the Big 12. Only Texas, Texas Tech and TCU (so much for basketball in the Lone Star State) have fallen completely out of contention. Surprisingly, West Virginia has evened its league record to 5-5 and may be on the verge of some kind of a breakthrough. But go ahead and guess all of the opponents during the Mountaineers’ latest three-game winning streak: the aforementioned Texas trio. Still, that’s placed them a notch above the cellar, and they’re now just three games out of first place.
  5. Nobody’s too important to get booted from a high school basketball game, not even Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard. While watching his son play on one of the competing teams, he told the prep referee that he made a bad call which earned him an ejection from the building. The officials present at the game said that Pollard didn’t curse or say anything too inappropriate, but it sounds like the mere questioning of a particular call was enough to do him in.
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Biggest Win For Oklahoma Basketball Since… Who Knows?

Posted by dnspewak on January 31st, 2013

Oklahoma nearly blew a 16-point lead on Wednesday night. It turned the ball over 17 times and was outrebounded by 14. Not an absolutely vintage performance against a Baylor team fighting its own issues, but good enough for a 74-71 road victory against one of the league’s better teams. The win solidifies the Sooners’ NCAA Tournament resume and, in most cases, would deserve a pat on the back or modest praise. You know, things like… Nice win. Way to go. Keep up the good work.

Not for this program. For a moment, think back to Jeff Capel’s disastrous break-up with Oklahoma. Think back to the Tiny Gallon accusations of improper benefits, the two straight losing seasons in the post-Blake Griffin era and the overall embarrassment of a once-proud fan base. Consider all of that, and then come back to reality and realize that Oklahoma just won its most important game in years on Wednesday night. Writers like us are often guilty of hyperbole and sensationalism, but Lon Kruger put the Sooners back on the college basketball map tonight. Forget that Baylor wasn’t even ranked, and that nobody’s ever referred to the Ferrell Center in Waco as Cameron Indoor West. It was still Oklahoma’s first true quality victory this season, save for perhaps Oklahoma State earlier this month. It was an example of what this team can do when Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye is on his game. He scored 20 points tonight, and Steven Pledger broke out in a big way with 20 more of his own. Freshman Buddy Hield played such a terrific basketball game in the backcourt that Kruger didn’t even need our man Sam Grooms (who we’ve so generously supported this season and will continue to do so). There was sharing of the basketball. A 53 percent clip from the field as a team. And a couple of veteran plays by two freshmen — Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak — at the end of the game to seal the win and hold off the Bears.

Remember Blake Griffin? Wednesday Night Might Be OU's Best Win Since He Was There

Remember Blake Griffin? Wednesday Night Might Be OU’s Best Win Since He Was There

Speaking in terms of simply RPI, it is Oklahoma’s best win since February 6, 2010 against Texas, a season in which the Sooners finished with a losing record. For our purposes, let’s call this the biggest win in Oklahoma basketball history since March 27, 2009, when Blake Griffin and his boys smacked around Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. It’s been a long four years since that day. Finally, the Sooners are back on track, though it’ll take awhile longer for Kruger to restore that sort of glory. Griffin had a double-double for the Los Angeles Clippers in a victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night, by the way. You could still argue Oklahoma had a better night.

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For the First Time Since Blake Griffin Lived in Norman, Bedlam Means Something

Posted by dnspewak on January 11th, 2013

As hoops junkies, it’s unfathomable to non-sports fans how many college basketball games we watch on a yearly basis. Thanks to the four-letter network, we’re plugged into our televisions and computers during every waking minute from November through March. As the days and years pass you by, though, you start to forget all the meaningless regular season games you watched on ESPN3. It’s impossible to remember everything, so to vividly remember a specific game, something wild must have happened. Austin Rivers would have needed to make a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. DeJuan Blair would have had to have flipped Hasheem Thabeet on national television. Kansas would have had to rally against a red-hot Kevin Durant. Point is, with so many games and so many seasons, we really only remember the special games.

Le'Bryan Nash Has Something to Prove This Weekend

Le’Bryan Nash Has Something to Prove This Weekend

For some reason, I have a vivid memory of January 26, 2009. Fifth-ranked Oklahoma was on the road in Stillwater, and the place was wild. If I remember correctly, a massive ice storm had crippled a portion of Oklahoma, which made the circumstances of the game even more epic. As has often been the case with Oklahoma State under Travis Ford, the Cowboys had absolutely no size and played a four-guard lineup. They were fast, athletic and, to put it bluntly, were playing their hearts out in a rivalry game against a much better opponent. Blake Griffin was on that OU team, for god’s sake. The Sooners escaped with an eight-point win at Gallagher-Iba Arena, but it wasn’t easy. I remember that was also the first game I noticed a little freshman named Keiton Page. That kid looked so out of place on the court, but according to the announcers, he used to average 50 points a game in high school. I would hear that story a million more time before he graduated, and it never got old. I remember watching the way Oklahoma State overcame its complete lack of size against an All-American, and I remember thinking, ‘this is college basketball, man.’ Bedlam! How can you not love it? In the regular season finale a few months later, Oklahoma won by four points at home behind 33 points from Blake Griffin. And less than a week later, the Cowboys shocked Oklahoma in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, thanks to a couple of free throws by the venerable Byron Eaton in the final seconds. The Bedlam Series was in full swing. It meant something. Both teams made the NCAA Tournament that year, and the Sooners advanced to the Elite Eight.

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Big 12 M5: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 10th, 2012

  1. If you’re looking for the next fan favorite in the Big 12, get ready for four years of Buddy Hield. The Oklahoma freshman has a motor that never steps, and that goes double for his mouth. As the linked article points out, his family hails from the Bahamas and visited him during the Old Spice Classic. Hield, a 6’3” guard, has played well off the bench and has made the most of his minutes. He’s part of the new fresh blood that could help Lon Kruger’s more experienced veterans get over the hump this season.
  2. Kevin Noreen has always been an interesting case at West Virginia. The 6’10” center doesn’t get a lot of fanfare and he’s logged limited minutes under Bob Huggins so far in his career. That’s why his performance on Saturday in a win over Virginia Tech might be his coming-out party. He was a terrific high school shooter, but he’d never even attempted a three-pointer in college until Saturday. He took three treys in that game and made a pair of them, which means he’s now a 66 percent lifetime three-point shooter. Oh, and he’s a 6’10” center — did we mention that? In 33 minutes of action, he finished with 14 points, and that’s a great sign for a guy Huggins calls “a great role model.”
  3. Historic Gallagher-Iba Arena, once one of the the most feared arenas in all the land, has taken a step back ever since Eddie Sutton stepped down. At times, it’s even been sad and downright pathetic to see the empty seats at that place, but slowly, the fans are starting to crawl back. If you’re anywhere near Stillwater, listen to what The Oklahoman has to say in that column. You need to see this team. And the third-party observers want to see GIA all the way back to glory.
  4. Some of you are snobs. Some of you will laugh when you read that Texas Tech will offer $1 tickets for December games. You’ll say it’s a sign the program is in the dumps, you’ll say it’s pathetic and you’ll pity the fans for having to watch a poor product on the floor. We’re going to be bigger than that here at RTC’s Big 12 Microsite, though. Is the demand low for a team and program in transition? Certainly. But there aren’t a lot of athletic departments out there at this level of college basketball that would offer a deal like this and essentially let people come to watch its games for free. That shows a real commitment on the part of Texas Tech’s administration to get people in the seats and make games affordable for people who might not otherwise be able to attend. Kudos to the Red Raiders. Now, go win some games.
  5. There were a lot of shining moments during Kansas’ 90-64 victory over Colorado at Allen Fieldhouse this weekend, but Travis Releford deserves top honors for his dunk over Jeremy Adams late in the first half. Teammate Kevin Young had the quote of the day: “It shocked me.” The Lawrence Journal-World has a couple of solid, posterizing photos to embarrass Adams, but that’s the least of the Buffs’ concerns right now. In other notes, Tyler Self scored the first points of his college career with two seconds left in the game. Not sure anybody thought that debut would come against a team like Colorado, but KU fans will certainly take it.
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Big 12 M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 29th, 2012

  1. Last night, Oklahoma traveled to play Oral Roberts for the first time since 1995. It wasn’t easy for the Sooners as they would have to overcome a 10-point deficit to win, 63-62. Freshman Buddy Hield scored all 11 of his points in the second half while Steven Pledger hit the game-winning bucket with 1:12 left. This game was chock full of noteworthy trivia. OU’s win ended Oral Roberts’ 24-game winning streak at the Mabee Center dating back to 2010 and head coach Lon Kruger won his 499th game as a collegiate coach. Man, how good is basketball in the state of Oklahoma right now?
  2. West Virginia has had a real bad start to its season as currently the only Big 12 team with a losing record. They could really use a gimme game and coming to the Mountaineers’ rescue was Virginia Military Institute. WVU took down VMI 94-69 in its home opener and their transfers took center stage. Juwan Staten led all scorers with 18 and was one of seven guys to score in double figures for WVU despite playing a lighter rotation due to injuries. Matt Humphrey was held out of the game with what Bob Huggins calls a “tweaked shoulder.” Meanwhile, Kevin Noreen and Dominique Rutledge both suffered ankle injuries early and did not return. Nothing is known about their severity. The important thing, WVU fans, is that your ‘Eers aren’t deceiving you: West Virginia won a basketball game!
  3. By now you know the Big 12’s flirtation with Louisville was just that — flirting — and the Cardinals are officially joining the ACC. The always-opinionated coach at Kansas, Bill Self, threw in his two cents on the changing landscape of conference affiliation and what it means for the Big 12 going forward. The fact of the matter is the Big 12 doesn’t need to expand. They have their $2.6 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox signed for the next 13 years, and as far as deals go for 10-team leagues, this is the best they could have gotten. Schools would see expanding as cutting further into each school’s money pie. But I’d like to see them expand in order to stay competitive with bigger leagues like the B1G and the ACC. Whatever the Big 12 does, expand or keep the status quo, they can’t go wrong as long as nobody else jumps ship.
  4. After learning about Rodney McGruder’s struggles in the new Kansas State offense after the NIT Tip-Off, he’s singing a different tune now. McGruder says he’s feeling a comfort level in Bruce Weber’s motion offense after sitting down with coaches and getting to the root of his problem. Teammate Will Spradling said after Wednesday’s practice that during their scrimmage, “he [McGruder] kind of took over as the scorer he was last year. I think he’s getting more comfortable and confident.” Once everyone, not just McGruder, gets a more firm grip on the offense, this Kansas State team will be a dangerous one.
  5. The Texas Longhorns have gotten off to a less than ideal start to the season with Myck Kabongo sidelined, their struggles out in Maui, and their stale, turnover-prone offense. But one bright spot on the team has been the growth of Jonathan Holmes as a player from a year ago. He’s tied for the lead in the conference in rebounds per game (9.2 RPG) and Holmes had a nice stat line vs Sam Houston State: 11 points, eight boards, two blocks, two steals in a season-high 30 minutes of action. Rick Barnes went as far as saying, “You can count on him [Holmes] every night.” Hop on the Holmes bandwagon while there’s still room.
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