What Does Rick Barnes’ Season Say About Coach of the Year Awards?

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 29th, 2014

One of the biggest stories around the Big 12 this season has been the revitalization of Texas basketball. The Longhorns came into this season with their coach on the hot seat, but now they’re 16-4 with wins over North Carolina, Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor, and are currently on a five-game winning streak. That stretch includes consecutive victories over three ranked teams, but even if you discount that qualification with a more realistic evaluation of the then-overrated Bears, there’s still no doubt that Texas has played better than pretty much everyone predicted coming into the season. They were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 back in October, so naturally, their performance has led some to consider throwing Rick Barnes’ name into the hat when it comes to Big 12 Coach Of The Year honors. But the more interesting debate here is what Barnes’ case says about what we believe the award should be about.

The intrigue over Rick Barnes' COY prospects is just as philosophical as it is practical. (Getty Images)

The intrigue over Rick Barnes’ COY prospects is just as philosophical as it is practical. (Getty Images)

The discussion has raised two camps. One contends that Barnes has done a fantastic job so far, given his limitations, and as such he should definitely be given consideration for the end-of-year honor. The Longhorns, along with Oklahoma, lead the pack trailing Kansas despite losing their top four scorers from last season. Barnes has rebuilt Texas in a style that emphasizes chemistry and is having success without the services of one-and-done talents like Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson. After a disappointing freshman season, Cameron Ridley is on the short list of the most improved players in the conference; Jonathan Holmes has turned the corner when Texas desperately needed him to do so; and Isaiah Taylor is third in scoring among Big 12 freshmen despite some ups and downs.

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Looking Ahead To The Big 12′s Most Important Games This Weekend

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 17th, 2014

This week has been highly entertaining for Big 12 fans. Whether it’s Kansas winning in a return to Hilton Coliseum, Kansas State putting the clamps on Oklahoma‘s high-energy offense, or the most recent development — Texas Tech springing the biggest upset of league play by beating Baylor on Wednesday night — storylines have emerged with each passing game. No school has played more than four games yet, but the Jayhawks are the only team still unscathed in conference play. After a quiet Thursday and Friday, the action resumes tomorrow with four match-ups that will have big implications on the conference race as well as teams’ NCAA Tournament resumes going forward.

It's been a long team since a visiting player won two games in Allen Fieldhouse.  Will Marcus Smart pull it off? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

It’s been a long time since a visiting player won two games in Allen Fieldhouse. Will Marcus Smart pull it off? (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Oklahoma State at Kansas (4:00 EST, CBS) - Remember way back in October when Marcus Smart had some interesting — if correct — things to say about Andrew Wiggins? It feels like ages ago, but two of the conference’s best players will finally get a chance to battle it out on the court. Most recently on Wednesday, Smart continued to make his case as the Big 12 POY with a great night against TCU (20 points, eight rebounds, five assists) as the Cowboys rolled the Horned Frogs, while Wiggins posted 17 points and 19 rebounds against Iowa State in a performance that still left some wanting more. Kansas will have its massive homecourt advantage behind it in this one, and the Jayhawks’ frontcourt has to be licking its chops at the idea of battling the Michael Cobbins-less Oklahoma State forwards on the glass. If Brian Williams and Kamari Murphy can’t get comfortable inside, the Cowboys will need to make up for the shortfall in other ways, whether through Smart rising to the occasion,  Phil Forte raining threes, Le’Bryan Nash putting up one of his patented hyper-efficient scoring nights, or some combination of the three.

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Previewing Texas vs. North Carolina

Posted by Taylor Erickson & Lathan Wells on December 18th, 2013

(Ed. note: news released on Wednesday afternoon that UNC’s Leslie McDonald has been cleared to play as soon as tonight’s game. This post was written prior to that release.)

On Wednesday night, Texas will head to the Dean Dome for a showdown with what suddenly looks like one of the better teams in the nation in North Carolina. North Carolina has had its struggles early this season with losses to UAB and Belmont, but has righted the ship with perhaps the best collection of wins in the country after knocking off Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky – the top three teams in the preseason AP rankings. Texas has opened the season with a 9-1 record itself, but has yet to see the type of talent that the Tar Heels will roll out. ACC correspondent Lathan Wells and the Big 12′s Taylor Erickson decided to discuss some key topics heading into the contest in the hopes of providing some insights to watch for as the game plays out.

Can Marcus Paige continue his hot streak against Texas on Wednesday? (Scott Muthersbaugh / The Times News)

Can Marcus Paige continue his hot streak against Texas on Wednesday? (Scott Muthersbaugh / The Times News)

Taylor:  So I have to start with the obvious question: North Carolina has three of the best wins in non-conference play, but also has puzzling losses to UAB and Belmont. Which Tar Heels team are we going to see on Wednesday night?

Lathan: Prior to the Kentucky game, that would continue to be the prevailing question. But after their third marquee non-conference win of the season, it appears that UNC is starting to find some consistency. The players appear to be more comfortable in their roles. The fact that Texas has taken four of the last five since Roy Williams took over in Chapel Hill may be motivation enough. Speaking of adapting to roles, how has Texas been able to have such a solid start with a team that entered the season in the midst of major transition?

Taylor: The 9-1 start for Texas has certainly been refreshing to Longhorns fans, but when dissecting the schedule in more detail, it becomes apparent that most of those wins have come against clearly inferior teams. According to CBSSports.com, Texas’ strength of schedule to this point ranks 100th in the nation, 91 spots behind what North Carolina (ninth) has faced. If Rick Barnes’ squad is truly improved, it will have a chance to prove it with tonight’s game followed by one against Michigan State in a span of three days this week. That said, Texas has gotten solid contributions from big man Cameron Ridley, who went for 22 points and 10 rebounds in his last outing. After the way North Carolina handled the talented front line of Kentucky, is there any reason to believe the Heels will struggle to do the same with the Longhorns’ frontcourt?

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Big 12 M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 4th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas State has seen better Novembers. So far the Wildcats have lost their home opener to Northern Colorado, got one win in three games at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and two of their four wins came against one team: Long Beach State. The month of December gives the Wildcats a chance to turn the page starting with Thursday night’s tilt against Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss. The Rebels are a perfect 6-0 after sweeping Georgia Tech and Penn State at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn over the weekend. K-State doesn’t need this game just to say they have a “signature win” — Bruce Weber’s team simply can’t afford three losses in a month, especially with conference play lurking in the distance.
  2. Are we watching Fred Hoiberg’s best team at Iowa State? The contributions have been numerous and frequent for the Cyclones and perhaps the most surprising contribution has come from JuCo transfer Dustin Hogue. When Melvin Ejim was supposed to be out a significant amount of time with an injury, Hogue was thrown into the fire to replace the double-double machine. Since then Ejim has returned and Hogue’s play of late has earned him regular minutes; in fact, Hogue is nearly averaging a double-double himself at 12 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He is one of six Cyclones averaging double-figure scoring for a team that averages a robust 91.8 points per game (good for fourth in all of college basketball). It might be a long shot but I would love to see them put 90 burgers on Kansas or Oklahoma State in conference play.
  3. The 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis field was officially announced yesterday and it reveals yet another stacked field. The poor teams that have to make the sad trip to the sunny, tropical Bahamas are North Carolina, UCLA, UAB, Georgetown, Florida, Butler, Wisconsin and Oklahoma representing the Big 12 next November. Putting things in unnecessary but mind-blowing perspective, the eight teams in next year’s field have combined for 20 national championships and 33 national title games (!!!). Um… is it November yet?
  4. Here’s Bill Self again, continuing his Gloomy Gus routine about his Jayhawks. One quote: “I thought we would have errors of trying too hard, rather than errors of casualness. And that’s the thing that’s really frustrating to me.” Another beauty: “As a coach, you should be judged on basically three things. Do they play together — are they unselfish? Do they play extremely hard, and are they tough? And I’d say we went Oh-for-three. So that’s frustrating to me when you go oh-for-three.” Self is a master at motivating his team after a loss and whomever is next up to face KU is usually in for a heap of trouble. (To bring balance, it’s only fair that I show the contrast in personalities for Self. Here he is: doing riverdance or something.)
  5. There wasn’t a lot of good from the aftermath of Monday’s Vanderbilt-Texas game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. But it did bring us this GIF of Texas center Cameron Ridley startled by a bat roaming the Frank Erwin Center. He’s officially listed at 6’9″ and 285 pounds but to see Ridley react the way he did made me feel a lot better about my slightly shorter stature. Plus it’s a GIF, so you know it’s good.
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Big 12 Contenders Slip While Middle Tier Shows Improvement in Holiday Events

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 3rd, 2013

The conclusion of last week’s barrage of holiday tournaments is as good a checkpoint as any to take stock of the Big 12. Overall, it wasn’t a good week for the conference, as its membership failed to pick up a single exempt-event crown despite some great opportunities. The league’s heavyweight contenders sputtered out while teams in the conference’s mid-pack seemed to come away with the biggest boosts going forward. There’s a lot to go over, so let’s take a look at the week that was.

Kansas - The Jayhawks had a frustrating time in the Battle 4 Atlantis, as they failed to make the championship round of the event. Kansas hit some timely shots as it came back against Villanova in the semifinals, but the Jayhawks were done in by a Ryan Arcidiacano three in the final minute. They left the island with a pair of wins, but victories over Wake Forest and UTEP weren’t what Bill Self was counting on as the highlights of the trip; and lukewarm performances by Andrew Wiggins will only fuel the skeptics even though his overall numbers are still very good. The Jayhawks have a high ceiling, but they’re still a ways from reaching it. Kansas buried just 10 three-pointers over three games in the tournament, or, put another way, as many as Chaminade’s Christophe Varidel canned on Monday night alone. The Jayhawks are also allowing far more two-point buckets than even the flimsiest of Bill Self’s defenses have let up. It doesn’t help that KU’s defensive rebounding fell back to earth after an otherworldly start in that category. It isn’t time to panic in Lawrence, but it doesn’t get any easier as Kansas will square off with even higher-profile teams (including Florida and Georgetown) before conference play tips off in January.

Michael Cobbins (right) and Oklahoma State had a rough week in Orlando. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Michael Cobbins (right) and Oklahoma State had a tough week in Orlando. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Oklahoma State - The Old Spice Classic was one long wake-up call for the Cowboys, a team that hadn’t been seriously tested coming into the event. Sunday’s loss to Memphis, underscored by Marcus Smart‘s inauspicious night, is still fresh in everyone’s mind, but it’s worth pointing out that Oklahoma State had trouble in the first two rounds as well. The Cowboys struggled to put Purdue away, giving up 58 second-half points to the Boilermakers, and on Saturday they had to hold on for dear life against Butler while both teams lit their final possessions on fire. Like their biggest challengers to the Big 12 title, Oklahoma State came home with a pair of wins, but they didn’t do much to inspire confidence going forward.

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2013

With Feast Week kicking into high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: The Longhorns haven’t garnered many headlines this season, but as we mentioned in Friday’s M5, that’s probably a good thing, given that their schedule has consisted of four games against teams outside Ken Pomeroy’s top 100. After a couple of close calls against Mercer and South Alabama, Rick Barnes‘ team finally got the lead out last Monday, thrashing Houston Baptist in Austin. It may still be early, but things could be looking up, as the Texas offense is already more promising than it was at this time a year ago. Jonathan Holmes and Connor Lammert have made great strides, and a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio from Javan Felix has made scoring easier to come by. The Longhorns are still trying to get Cameron Ridley out of neutral, free throw shooting has been awful, and the team’s shot selection has been questionable at times, so there’s still a lot of improvement to be made. Defensively, kinks are still being ironed out, especially on the perimeter. Texas has allowed four nondescript opponents to shoot over 40 percent from beyond the arc, the result of fielding a young team and showing a zone defense that hasn’t done a good job of closing out on shooters.

The 4-0 Longhorns look to keep the good times rolling in Kansas City. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

The 4-0 Longhorns look to keep the good times rolling in Kansas City. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

First Round Preview: Texas’ defensive three-point percentage will be an area of concern right off the bat as the Longhorns draw sweet-shooting BYU tonight in Kansas City. Even though the Cougars hit only 4-of-14 attempts from outside the arc against Iowa State, the Longhorns need to keep a close eye on Matt Carlino, Tyler Haws and Anson Winer, each of whom can do damage from the perimeter in a hurry. Inside, the match-up should work slightly more in Texas’ favor, especially if Cougars forward Erik Mika has trouble adjusting to the eye injury he suffered at the hands of DeAndre Kane. Any time would be a great time for the Longhorns to get Ridley going, but with such a distinct size advantage down low, this is an especially good opportunity for him. Still, none of it will matter if Texas doesn’t keep up with BYU’s quick-strike offense, as the Cougars’ possessions last an average of just 12.6 seconds.

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Big 12 M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 8th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Big 12 and college basketball fans alike: rejoice. Just days before the 2013 edition of the Champions Classic tip-off, ESPN announced that Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State will continue the doubleheader series until at least 2016. For the last couple of years (and of course, Tuesday’s blockbuster), the Champions Classic has been the perfect nightcap to an awesome day of college hoops. As far as the next three years will shake out for Kansas, they’ll face Kentucky in 2014, Michigan State in 2015 and Duke in 2016. Did I forget to mention that today’s opening day? The news lately has been prettay, prettay, prettay, prettay good.
  2. Good news on the Oklahoma recruiting front as the Sooners received a commitment from top 150 prospect Dante Buford. A three-star prospect from Arlington Country Day in Florida, Buford commanded offers from the likes of Miami, SMU, USC, Memphis and South Carolina. The news of Buford’s pledge comes two weeks after fellow 2014 big man Khadeem Lattin committed to Lon Kruger’s program despite holding offers from Georgetown, Arizona and Memphis, among many others. The Sooners may be stretched thin for big men this year, but fret not, help is on the way to Norman!
  3. Let’s be honest, expectations for Texas this season aren’t very high. But Burnt Orange Nation argues if the Longhorns are to surprise, it will come down to the play of their four big men. Those players – Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert – struggled mightily in certain areas during their freshmen (sophomore for Holmes) campaigns, but the opportunity for growth is still great. Ridley is a physical freak, Holmes led the team in rebounds, Lammert’s shooting ability came to light when he started games late in the year, and Ibeh was second on the team in blocks behind Ridley. If they make serious strides in all of these areas, 2014-15 may look quite a bit better than you think right now.
  4. Kansas freshman Brannen Greene was rushed to Lawrence Memorial Hospital after taking a hit to the midsection during practice. It wasn’t anything serious as Greene was taken there for precautionary reasons and released shortly thereafter. Head coach Bill Self still believes Greene will see action in tonight’s season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. What we learned from this: Self is a tough coach, his players are tough, Kansas is still predicted to win the league, and water is wet. Man they’re so good.
  5. Move over Cameron Crazies: the hottest, coolest and newest student section in college basketball is the Purple Haze at TCU. The TCU Student Basketball Committee announced the name for the student section last week and members of said student section will have opportunities regular students won’t have. Head coach Trent Johnson said “The Haze” (feel free to use the nickname, TCU) will interact and build relationships with players. A point system has also been established that would enable two “Hazers” (you can use that too) who loyally attend home and away games who accumulate the most points will win two tickets to attend the 2014 Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Sounds like a sweet gig if you can get it.
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Big 12 Team Preview: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 4th, 2013

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

Where We Left Off: The 2012-13 edition of the Texas Longhorns featured the first losing season in the Rick Barnes era. Barnes’ squad struggled to a 16-18 overall record and a 7-11 conference mark, ending the streak of 14 consecutive years that Barnes had taken Texas to the NCAA Tournament. Texas was one of the youngest teams in college basketball a season ago, and was without point guard Myck Kabongo for all but eight games as Kabongo spent much of the season in limbo awaiting an NCAA eligibility ruling. Perhaps many saw the disappointing season coming after the Longhorns were ran out of the gym by lowly Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. Regardless, it would be fair to classify last year’s Texas season as a disappointment, to say the least.

A disappointing 2012-2013 season leaves Rick Barnes looking for answers (Credit: The Big Lead)

A disappointing 2012-2013 season leaves Rick Barnes looking for answers.

Positives: Unless you’re a Longhorn optimist, this becomes difficult heading into this season. With Kabongo out for much of last year, sophomore point guard Javan Felix earned valuable experience as the Texas floor general. Felix underwent hip surgery on October 1 with no timetable for his return, but showed an ability at times last season to break down defenses and get his teammates open shots. Joining Felix are newcomers Isaiah Taylor, Kendal Yancy, Demarcus Croaker and Martez Walker. Croaker figures to make perhaps the biggest impact this season as the 6’2″ guard is considered a quality shooter, something Texas severely lacked last season. Returning sophomore Cameron Ridley was a highly-recruited player out of high school, but struggled to 4.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. The 6’9″ center will need to provide a boost to the Texas frontcourt for Barnes’ team to take a step forward this year.

Negatives: You don’t have to look far to identify why many aren’t high on Texas heading into this season. Kabongo decided to enter last April’s NBA Draft but went undrafted and is now a member of the Austin Toros. In addition to Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis and Jaylen Bond all opted to transfer. McClellan and Lewis contributed significant minutes a season ago, averaging 13.5 and 11.2 points per game, respectively. As if that wasn’t enough, former freshman guard Ioannis Papapetrou, who averaged 8.3 points per game in his first season in Austin, decided to leave Texas to play professionally overseas. The plethora of offseason transfers, coupled with an underwhelming recruiting class and the disappointing 2012-13 campaign, and it’s no wonder head coach Rick Barnes finds himself firmly on the hot seat heading into this season.

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Texas’ NCAA Tourney Hopes Slipping Before Kabongo’s Return

Posted by dnspewak on January 10th, 2013

Myck Kabongo is not walking through that door. Not until February 13, at least. His Texas team must play eight more games before he returns from his NCAA-mandated  suspension, and by that time there’s a very real possibility the Longhorns could have an overall losing record. Without their star point guard, they’ve managed to reach the midway point of the season with an 8-7 record, fresh off two straight conference losses to open the Big 12 schedule. The hard-fought, overtime loss at Baylor this weekend was excusable.

Last night was not. Texas blew a 10-point lead over West Virginia with less than four minutes to play in regulation, needed a miracle shot by Jonathan Holmes to simply force overtime and then scored three points in the extra period. The Longhorns shot 44 percent from the free throw line, 35 percent from the floor, and had almost twice as many turnovers (14) as assists (8). It’s a good road win for Bob Huggins, whose team needed a boost after its own nightmarish non-conference performance, but let’s not pretend as though Texas’ collapse had nothing to do with this. Without Kabongo, Rick Barnes’ team cannot score. Period. We knew J’Covan Brown wouldn’t be here this year. But Kabongo? He figured to be the heart and soul of this team, the one guy who could create for others and change the dynamic of the offense. Barnes was counting on him to open opportunities for leading returning scorer Sheldon McClellan, blue-chip freshman center Cameron Ridley and the rest of this young squad.

Rick Barnes Is In Danger of Missing the NCAAs for the First Time at Texas

Rick Barnes Is In Danger of Missing the NCAAs for the First Time at Texas

Had Kabongo played last night, there’s no chance Texas would have lost this game on its home floor. There’s no chance it would have blown such a significant lead in the final minutes, and there’s no chance it would have scored three points in an overtime period. When he returns against Iowa State on February 13, this Texas team will transform itself. Kabongo certainly wasn’t perfect a year ago, but this guy changes the game when he steps on the court. His blend of pure athleticism, pure speed and play-making ability is rare for a point guard. Kabongo will have eight games to prove that when his suspension ends in about a month.

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Big 12 Team Previews #3: Texas Longhorns

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Texas at the #3 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 20-14, 9-9
  • Key contributors lost: J’Covan Brown
  • Head coach: Rick Barnes
  • Projected finish: 3rd

And now we play the waiting game. Coach Rick Barnes still has no idea whether star point guard Myck Kabongo will play this season after the NCAA began investigating his eligibility. The situation, which pertains to Kabongo’s relationship with an agent, could not have possibly come at a more crippling time for Texas. Already recovering from the early departure of do-it-all guard J’Covan Brown, the Longhorns cannot afford to lose Kabongo for any amount of time. They’ll need to remake themselves after relying so heavily on Brown a year ago, and their new style of offense — as well as any potential for a Big 12 title run — hinges on Kabongo’s presence. To make matters worse, this is a roster consisting almost exclusively of freshmen and sophomores, so there’s not a lot of room for error.

It’d Be a Problem if Kabongo Can’t Play

The Personnel

Along with Pierre Jackson, Kabongo is one of this league’s most dynamic playmakers at the point guard position. His world-class speed and explosion, coupled with his innate ability to dish out the basketball and makes his teammates better, is the reason his eligibility concerns are so widely publicized right now. If he plays, he’ll change the entire course of Texas’ season. As a freshman, Kabongo arrived on campus with out-of-this-world expectations, and he struggled to acclimate himself at first. His rookie season wasn’t necessarily “rocky,” but it took him all the way until March for his coach to notice a change in maturity and poise at point guard. After the Longhorns’ critical Big 12 quarterfinal victory over Iowa State all but secured an NCAA Tournament berth, Barnes singled out Kabongo as a major factor in the victory from a leadership standpoint. Apparently, it was Kabongo’s idea to put Jaylen Bond in the final minutes of the game, just so UT could switch on ball screens. “Of all the things he’s done this year,” Barnes said after the game, “I’m telling you. He’s heading in the right direction.”

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Big 12 M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 26th, 2012

  1. Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2014 out of Huntington Prep (WV) has decided to graduate early and reclassify to the 2013 class, Rivals.com announced Thursday. Wiggins is good enough that he’s already assumed the No. 1 spot in the class of 2013, supplanting Julius Randle or Jabari Parker, depending on whom you ask. Kentucky and Florida State remain in the lead for Wiggins’ services, but North Carolina and Kansas recently checked in on the 6’7″ Canadian as well. Kentucky seems like the obvious favorite at the time but the Wildcats already have five commitments in the class — three in the top 10 — leading to some serious competition for playing time. Wiggins’ father, Mitchell Wiggins, played for Florida State in the early 80s, which has obviously helped the Seminoles in his ongoing recruitment. Kansas and North Carolina sent assistants to Huntington earlier this week, but the interest between the two schools and Wiggins is still largely unknown.
  2. Speaking of the Jayhawks, Kansas announced Thursday the installment of a four-year series with Georgetown to begin next December in Allen Fieldhouse. The two teams will meet in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. during the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons with another trip to Kansas in 2015-16. The Hoyas are another quality non-conference opponent for Bill Self in a long line of quality non-conference opponents, from Duke and Kentucky to Michigan State and Ohio State in recent years. The primary incentive of this interesting Big 12/Big East match-up is to benefit KU’s east coast recruiting. Assistant coach Joe Dooley is an east coast native and has helped land a number of local recruits for the Jayhawks, such as the Morris twins (Philadelphia), Tyshawn Taylor (New Jersey) and Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C.).
  3. Baylor opened up its exhibition season with a 103-75 victory over Abilene Christian Thursday night in Waco. Junior guard Brady Heslip hit six three-pointers and finished with 18 points on the night. That Baylor gave up 75 points is a whole lot of scoring to give up to a Division II team, but the game was only an exhibition after all. There was nothing of note to take from the box score, obviously, but it was nice seeing one of those again after a six-month hiatus. Only two weeks until the real games begin.
  4. Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com ranked the top 30 freshman on Thursday, and put Kentucky center Nerlens Noel on top. The Big 12 had four freshmen on the list including three of the top 10. Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart was second on the list, and his versatility will give him plenty of opportunities to score this season while also racking up plenty of assists alongside scorer Le’Bryan Nash. The Big 12 rounded out its choices with Baylor center Isaiah Austin (#7), Kansas guard Ben McLemore (#9), and Texas center Cameron Ridley (#18).
  5. Yes, it’s another CBSSports.com list. They’ve been on fire this week with these preseason lists of players and Jeff Goodman added another quality piece on Thursday, ranking the top 30 transfers this season. Not surprisingly, former Xavier standout Mark Lyons — now at Arizona — topped the list, but not far behind Lyons was Iowa State forward Will Clyburn (#4), who averaged 17.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG for Utah two seasons ago, both team highs. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg seems to love Clyburn, another solid transfer to venture to Ames the last few years. The Cyclones were represented again with former Michigan State guard Korie Lucious coming in at No. 17. Big 12 newcomer West Virginia had two players on the list as well, center Aaric Murray (#5) and point guard Juwan Staten (#13). Oklahoma junior forward Amath M’Baye was the fifth Big 12 player on the list (#23), and was recently named a team captain.
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Big 12 M5: 10.24.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 24th, 2012

  1. It seems the Houston Rockets and former Iowa State forward Royce White have figured out the rookie’s fear of flying. White, who has struggled with anxiety issues most of his life, missed parts of Houston’s training camp while trying to figure out the travel issue. White will be allowed to travel by bus to as many road games as he can this season. He’ll obviously have to fly in certain situations, like long trips up either coast or for back-to-back road games that occur throughout the season, but allowing him to drive when possible should keep him in a good frame of mind and protect the Rockets’ nearly $3 million investment. FoxSportsSouthwest‘s Tully Corcoran had a great column on the situation earlier this month. It’s in the Rockets’ best interest to accommodate White for the two years they have to pay him. After that, we’ll find out if all the extra effort is worth it to the team.
  2. The CBSSports.com basketball staff unveiled their top 50 big men on Tuesday, and not surprisingly, Indiana’s Cody Zeller topped the list. The Big 12 didn’t fare as well as on Monday’s point guard rankings, landing just four players on this list. Kansas center Jeff Withey came in at No. 8 and Matt Norlander predicted “another huge season from a big white guy in Lawrence.” Newcomer Aaric Murray of West Virginia was next in line at No. 18, followed by freshmen Isaiah Austin of Baylor (#21) and Cameron Ridley of Texas (#43). It’s hard to argue against Zeller at No. 1, seeing he’s the best player on the preseason No. 1 team in the country, but I would have put Creighton’s Doug McDermott (#2) in that spot. Semantics, I know. Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel (#3) received the Anthony Davis treatment and was overrated at No. 3 ahead of proven college players like Mike Moser, Tony Mitchell, and C.J. Leslie, but that’s what the UK hype machine does to otherwise reasonable people.
  3. Last season, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger allowed fans into the Lloyd Noble Center to watch practices from the stands. Now there’s no excuse for the diehard Sooner basketball fan not to catch a glimpse of practice, as he has decided to live stream every preseason practice online for fans to watch. It looks to be the first time a Division I team has tried this, and while watching every minute of every practice would bore even the most loyal fan to tears, it’s cool that Kruger is looking into other avenues to excite his football school’s fan base. He doesn’t have anything to lose.
  4. Jeff Goodman has an in-depth list of the “secret scrimmages” that are happening all across the country in the next week. According to Andy Katz of ESPN, teams can play two exhibitions with non-Division I teams or scrimmage fellow Division I opponents. Looking at Goodman’s list, a lot of teams prefer to scrimmage a similar opponent rather than pay a Little Sisters of the Poor to come in and lose by 50 points in front of a few dozen fans. Somewhere in the NCAA wording of the rule, though, it states that scrimmages can’t be open to the public or media and they can’t be advertised. Whatever the case, this Saturday TCU is playing at Texas A&M, Texas is hosting Davidson, Texas Tech is playing at Texas Southern, and Xavier is playing at West Virginia. Sunday, Iowa State is hosting Nebraska. Allegedly.
  5. The odds are stacked against Texas Tech interim head coach Chris Walker, but he’s handling his situation — at least so far — as well as anyone. He was surprisingly upbeat at last week’s Big 12 Media Day and had some of the best quotes of the day. My personal favorite: “I tell the guys all the time that 85% of the people don’t care what’s going on, and the other 15% are glad you’re going through it.” The Red Raiders are looking up at every team in the Big 12 except TCU this season, and how Walker handles the struggles might determine if the interim tag is removed and he returns next season. Either way, Tech fans could have had done much worse than having Walker on board to guide this team this year.
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