Three Thoughts From Kansas vs. West Virginia

Posted by Chris Stone on February 10th, 2016

Entering February, it looked like KansasBig 12 title streak was in serious danger, as the Jayhawks brought three double-figure road conference losses into the season’s shortest month. Now, with a few fortuitous bounces — i.e., Kansas State’s upset of Oklahoma over the weekend — and last night’s home win over West Virginia, Kansas is, along with the Sooners and the Mountaineers, part of a three-way tie atop the Big 12 standings at 8-3. One of those teams will suffer its fourth loss on Saturday in Norman when Oklahoma welcomes Kansas in the rematch of early January’s triple-overtime classic. Before that, though, let’s consider a few thoughts from the game last night that deadlocked those three teams into the top spot.

Landen Lucas delivered in Kansas' 75-65 win over West Virginia. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

Landen Lucas delivered in Kansas’ 75-65 win over West Virginia. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

  1. Kansas could use that Landen Lucas more often. Without freshman Cheick Diallo living up to his considerable preseason hype, head coach Bill Self has struggled to find production out of the center position. He has started four different players there this season, but Lucas’ Tuesday night performance (nine points, 16 rebounds, four blocks) will likely solidify his role in the starting lineup. Matched up against all-Big 12 candidate Devin Williams, Lucas delivered the best performance of his career. Although it is both unfair and unlikely to expect the junior to post similar numbers again, Self only needs a modicum of production going forward from his center spot. Lucas showed last night that he can deliver. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12-SEC Challenge: What Should You Know About The SEC?

Posted by Chris Stone on January 29th, 2016

With the Big 12-SEC Challenge taking place on Saturday, we teamed up with our sister microsite to get caught with what’s going on in the SEC. Joining us for this one is SEC microsite writer Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell).

  • There are quite a few matchups in the Challenge and plenty of them have NCAA Tournament implications. What SEC team needs a win the most?
Greg: The SEC needs as many wins as it can get Saturday to help its always-sagging basketball reputation. But that’s a cop out. Vanderbilt is probably the pick. The Commodores (more to come below) are the league’s most disappointing team and came up empty during the non-conference season for a marquee win. Beating Florida on Tuesday was the best win they can offer so far, and that’s not going to cut it. Great wins are few and far between in the SEC, so a road win against Texas is quite an opportunity. LSU is clearly in a similar spot with a lackluster non-conference and the #1 team coming to Baton Rouge, but the Tigers have generated a little more positive momentum in league play.
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Buddy Hield and Ben Simmons will face off in Baton Rouge on Saturday. (Photo Credits: USA Today Sports)

  • Two blue bloods are having trouble finding significant roles for their highly touted big men. Kansas has Cheick Diallo and Kentucky has Skal Labissiere. What’s keeping Labissiere from playing a bigger role for the Wildcats? 
Greg: Labissiere simply isn’t strong enough right now. He’s struggled to establish position in the post and routinely gets bodied out on the glass. Part of this might be that the “prep school” – or whatever you would like to call it – he spent last season at was reportedly playing glorified church league games and it stunted his development. But he’s 19 years old and also playing in a country he wasn’t born in. Like Diallo, sometimes these guys can’t always be Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns. Labissiere still has plenty of potential and could even develop into a more important piece this season as he’s used more as a spot-up shooter.

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What Happened To Kansas’ Depth?

Posted by Chris Stone on January 27th, 2016

When Kansas was regularly discussed among a handful of national title contenders early on in the season, one aspect of the Jayhawks’ roster stuck out more than anything else: its depth. Even head coach Bill Self acknowledged the fact that his talent pool contained 10 or 11 potential rotation players. Given that wealth of talent, a reasonable roster development plan would have looked something like this: Freshman Cheick Diallo receives clearance from the NCAA and becomes the Jayhawks’ motor, a rim protector and rebounding machine that would fill Kansas’s biggest hole in the front court. Fellow freshman Carlton Bragg grows into an offensive threat that could help spread the floor as a sort of Diet Perry Ellis off the bench. Together, Bragg and Diallo would displace many of the minutes devoted to the Jayhawks’ other solid, but unexciting front line options – guys like Hunter Mickelson, Jamari Traylor, and Landen Lucas. Meanwhile, guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk would begin to fulfill some of his potential as a possible NBA lottery pick by turning into a dangerous scoring option off the Kansas bench.

Kansas suffered its third straight road loss on Monday night. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

Kansas suffered its third straight road loss on Monday night. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for Self and the Jayhawks. Last Friday, Self met with his four co-captains to help sort out the team’s rotation going forward. The results have been hard to miss. Over the Jayhawks’ past two games, Self has shrunk his rotation down to basically seven players–Ellis, Lucas, and Traylor in the front court along with Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, Wayne Selden, and Brannen Greene. The trio of youngsters expected to help Kansas reach its peak have combined to play just 16 of the 400 available minutes in those two contests. Bragg is the only one of the three to see the floor in both games.

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Big 12 M5: 01.20.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 20th, 2016

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  1. It’s tough enough to win on the road, but it’s even tougher when the home team makes 52.4 percent of its three-pointers. Kansas learned this fact in its 86-67 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater Tuesday night, but this was more than just a fluky shooting performance from the Pokes. Oklahoma State outscored Kansas in the paint 22-12 and outrebounded them 38-31, marking the upset as a true team effort. Freshman Jawun Evans continued his quest for conference Freshman Of The Year Honors, turning in his third straight solid performance with 22 points, six rebounds and eight assists to lead the Cowboys. The highly-touted recruit on the other side, Cheick Diallo, made his first career start, but was part of the largely ineffective Jayhawk back line. The victory marked the Cowboys’ third consecutive home win over Bill Self’s team, whose struggles continue to leave the door open for a team like Oklahoma or West Virginia to end their Big 12 title streak.
  2. To that point, the 4-1 Mountaineers will look to avoid falling back into a tie with Kansas and Oklahoma tonight when they host Texas. As successful as West Virginia has been with its pressure defense, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s more familiar with that style of play than Longhorn coach Shaka Smart. We all know about Smart’s success with VCU, but on top of that, he actually consulted West Virginia during last season’s NCAA Tournament when the Mountaineers prepped for their Round of 32 tilt against Maryland (which they won 69-59). West Virginia is favored by a comfortable 12 points tonight, but Texas’ stingy offense, which currently sports the Big 12’s lowest turnover percentage in league play, could make this one closer than Vegas thinks.
  3. Don’t look now, but the roller coaster that is Baylor basketball is on the rise entering tonight’s home game against Kansas State. While the Bears aren’t typically mentioned among the squads with a shot at ending Kansas’ regular season conference title streak (nor should they be, necessarily), they’re tied with West Virginia for first place thanks to some excellent recent shooting and its great rebounding, which has been consistent all season. Meanwhile, Bruce Weber‘s team is still looking for dependability on the offensive end, especially when it comes to shooting. They’ll carry a frosty 47.3 percent team eFG% into the Ferrell Center tonight.
  4. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish spent some time learning how Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm has managed during Prohm’s up-and-down debut season in Ames. The progression of Iowa State’s campaign to this point has been a little wilder than most expected. Prohm faced some tough criticism after the team’s 1-3 start to conference play, but wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma have put him and the team back on track. While Prohm knew the fierce expectations of the job going in, he’s learning firsthand that following a local icon with a team built to win now is no easy task when it comes to pleasing a die-hard fanbase.
  5. CJ Moore of Bleacher Report took an in-depth look at the rise in the number of one-and-done players entering the NBA Draft and wonders if the 2016 Draft (along with other factors, including but not limited to the NCAA’s recent extension of the declaration window) could turn the tide back towards more players returning to school. While age is still a key factor in the minds of evaluators, at least one pro scout told Moore that there’s still some good value in being able to project a player with four years of college experience under his belt (like Buddy Hield), as opposed to raw freshmen who may have higher upsides but also bring with them a wider swath of possible outcomes.
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Big 12 M5: 01.18.16 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 18th, 2016

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  1. After two straight losses in which Iowa State gave up more than 90 points, the Cyclones picked up a 76-63 road win over Kansas State on Saturday. The lower point total was the product of both the Wildcats’ slower pace of play and a change in Steve Prohm‘s philosophy. After a slow start to conference play, Prohm explained that the Cyclones need to manage games in a way that limits the time they spend on defense. His theory is that Iowa State is so good on offense that the Cyclones would be better off spending a bit more of the game with the ball in their hands. The key, though, will still be for Iowa State to slow down opposing offenses. The Cyclones currently rank 114th in adjusted defensive efficiency–a stat which accounts for the quality of opponent and pace of play–and will be put to the test when Oklahoma comes to Ames tonight.
  2. Speaking of the Sooners, their 70-68 victory over West Virginia reopened the Big 12 race as four teams now sit at 4-1 in the conference. More importantly, though, the win may be a boon for the confidence of sophomore Khadeem Lattin. After missing the front end of a one-and-one that would have given Oklahoma a victory in Allen Fieldhouse two weeks ago, Lattin scored the game-winning bucket against the Mountaineers on a tip-in. “It was like a redemption,” Lattin told the media.
  3. Meanwhile at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas bounced back from their loss in Morgantown on Tuesday with a 70-63 win over TCU. The Jayhawks’ two freshman big men, Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo, both got extended looks against the Horned Frogs. Bragg scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in 16 minutes, but it was Diallo’s performance that turned heads. After being featured only sparingly so far this year, Diallo played a season-high 21 minutes against TCU. His nine points, nine rebounds, and five blocks gave fans a taste of what Diallo can offer Kansas going forward. The improvement of the Jayhawks’ two freshman will be a critical component come March and it’s the reason Kansas is viewed as the title contender with the most upside going forward.
  4. Baylor‘s Lester Medford continues to come up big in key moments for the Bears. The senior point guard delivered a huge second half in Baylor’s win over Vanderbilt earlier this season, and on Saturday, he knocked down the game-winning three-pointer against Texas Tech. While most of the focus has been on Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, the Bears victory quietly pushed them into a four-way tie for first in the Big 12.
  5. Our final note comes from the recruiting world. Last week, four-star center Udoka Azubuike declared his intention to announce his college choice at the Hoop Hall Classic this weekend. Azubuike, who is choosing between Florida State, Kansas, and North Carolina, appeared to be leaning towards the ‘Noles, but by Sunday rumors were swirling that Florida State was out of the picture altogether. As Kansas and North Carolina picked up predictions in 247Sports’ Crystal Ball, Azubuike’s guardian announced that the high school senior would be pushing back his decision. Just the latest in a long line of strange recruiting stories, it looks like this recruiting battle will continue for a while longer.
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Big 12 M5: 01.14.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2016

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  1. In a close call, Oklahoma escaped intrastate rival Oklahoma State with a 74-72 win in Stillwater Wednesday night. The Cowboys actually had a chance to win the game, but Jeffrey Carroll‘s buzzer-beating three off the glass was just a bit long. Buddy Hield did his thing in the first half, scoring 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, but his second half was a completely different story. The Pokes pressured him into just six points and six turnovers after intermission, and he finished with a career-worst ten, which allowed Oklahoma State to climb back in it after being down by as much as 16 points. Another big story for Oklahoma State was the play of Jawun Evans. The 2015 McDonald’s All-American shattered the school’s single-game freshman scoring record with 42 points, showing that he may be a guy around whom the Cowboys can build.
  2. Cheick Diallo‘s struggles to find consistent playing time for Kansas has SB Nation‘s Ricky O’Donnell wondering if Bill Self‘s focus on individual wins over long-term player development is hampering the team’s ceiling in more ways than one. The highly-touted freshman played just four minutes in Tuesday’s loss to West Virginia and hasn’t played more than six minutes in a game since December 29. As we’ve mentioned in this space, improved play from Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson, along with Diallo’s NCAA-mandated suspension, have made it a challenge for Self to find opportunities for his big man from Mali. It’s also important to bear in mind that with more chances, Diallo may yet develop into the rim protector the Jayhawks need to make a deep run in March, but it’s no certainty. With Kansas’ next two games coming against two of the conference’s least competitive teams in TCU and Oklahoma State, though, one would think Diallo will get the audition he needs.
  3. Iowa State is in a spot no one thought it would be in at any point this season: last place in the Big 12 with a 1-3 record. While the Cyclones certainly miss the punch injured guard Naz Mitrou-Long provided from the perimeter, their porous defense has been the bigger issue. Travis Hines of The Ames Tribune took a closer look at why Steve Prohm’s team is sporting such dismal defensive numbers, and one of his key takeaways is that opposing offenses are exposing Iowa State’s shaky pick-and-roll defense. Hines also notes that consistency has also been a challenge, as the Cyclones have played long stretches of solid defense against some of the conference’s more potent offensive teams in Oklahoma and Baylor, only to unravel later on. Iowa State doesn’t need to become a defensive force to maximize its potential, but it does need to allow significantly fewer than its current 1.14 points per possession in conference play.
  4. Baylor made easy work of TCU, using another backbreaking run to cruise past the Horned Frogs, 82-54. A 13-0 spurt late in the first half gave the Bears all they needed to feel comfortable, and things just snowballed from there. Baylor sophomore Terry Maston led all scorers with a career-high 17 points off the bench, while Lester Medford continued his solid play at the point, dishing out 11 assists against just three turnovers.
  5. The NCAA on Wednesday afternoon made a few moves to widen the window of opportunity for NBA Draft hopefuls, which should in turn allow those players to make more informed decisions about their futures. The primary move was to extend the early entry deadline by 10 days, but another important change is that players can again test the draft waters multiple times and return to school (provided they don’t sign with an agent). Coaches have historically resisted these changes because of the uncertainty they bring to rosters entering the spring recruiting period, but the best coaches will continue to find ways to haul in the best talent available regardless of their situations.
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Kansas and Oklahoma Carry Burden of Big 12 Reputation

Posted by Chris Stone on January 5th, 2016

Last season’s NCAA Tournament resulted in a huge black mark on the Big 12’s reputation. The conference entered March ranked as KenPom‘s top league in the nation and yet three of its top teams — Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas — were all eliminated before the second weekend, and no Big 12 school made it past the Sweet Sixteen. At the time, Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star called it a “colossal failure” that would “live with the league for a while.” It was a defensible sentiment. Last year’s postseason collapse was just the most recent example of the Big 12’s failings on college basketball’s biggest stage. It’s now been four seasons since the conference’s last Elite Eight team and Kansas is the only school to make the NCAA Tournament’s final weekend since 2004. To call the Big 12’s recent NCAA Tournament performance underwhelming would be completely accurate.

Kansas and Oklahoma gave us one for the ages on Monday. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

Kansas and Oklahoma gave us one for the ages on Monday. (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

Is this the season when the Big 12 finally bounces back. Exhibit A of such a shift in fortunes came on Monday night when fans were treated to one of the best college basketball games in recent memory. Kansas head coach Bill Self gave the game his highest praise, calling it “probably the best game I have ever been a part of during the regular season,” and comparing last night’s 109-106 triple-overtime thriller against Oklahoma with Kansas’ final Border War battle against Missouri in 2012 (won by the Jayhawks in overtime, 87-86). The contest had everything we want from a college basketball game. It featured an otherworldly individual performance from All-American Buddy Hield, a 46-point virtuoso performance so sublime that Kansas fans gave him a standing ovation after the game. Allen Fieldhouse was so wild that ESPN commentator Dick Vitale went so far as to call it the loudest game he had called in his 37 years of announcing. But perhaps most importantly, the game featured arguably college basketball’s two best teams taking each other’s hardest punches before countering back with their own.

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Big 12 M5: Oklahoma vs. Kansas Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 4th, 2016

morning5_big12

  1. So… there’s a little game going on in Lawrence tonight. The implications of OklahomaKansas are enormous considering the game is likely to feature the top two teams in this week’s Associated Press poll. It is also a tiny bit disappointing that the first of two games in this epic clash will be played so early in the conference season. It’s sort of like having really good chocolate for breakfast. Not exactly a 3 Musketeers-level of chocolate (not that there’s anything wrong with a 3 Musketeers-level of chocolate) but Oklahoma at Kansas would qualify as a higher class of chocolate (Ghiradelli-esque). Let’s try to save some of the good chocolate for February 13 (lunch) and March 12 for the Big 12 Tournament title game (dinner).
  2. On Saturday, the Jayhawks dropped a triple-digit offensive effort on a Baylor team well-known for their defensive prowess. Spearheading that effort were Kansas’ two point guards Frank Mason and Devonté Graham who are natural complements to each other’s talents and inconsistencies. In addition to their games, the two players assert themselves differently on the floor. Graham is the more emotional player while Mason is the player who will let his game do the talking for him. It’s not a surprise these two mesh well on arguably Bill Self’s deepest team since arriving in Lawrence.
  3. We knew going into tonight that Sooners coach Lon Kruger and the state of Kansas were connected considering his memorable tenure at Kansas State in the late 1980s. As The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel notes, the personal ties go much deeper than that. The journey for Kruger in Manhattan, Kansas, to Norman, Oklahoma, has gone through more than a few stops along the way. Still, the journey from Kruger’s introductory press conference at Oklahoma in April 2011 to national title contender in January 2016 is one to marvel at. It took time, it took a few beatdowns and close calls at the hands of Kansas but now, Kruger’s chance to disrupt Big 12 hierarchy is as good now as it has ever been for him.
  4. What’s sure to play a pivotal role in tonight’s proceedings is the fan environment of Allen Fieldhouse. It will be loud and it will be uncomfortable for the Sooners just as it was for Baylor on Saturday afternoon. The Bears dropped their ninth game at Allen Fieldhouse in the Scott Drew era which insanely equals the amount of times Kansas has lost at home in the Bill Self era (Drew and Self both entered the Big 12 head coaching ranks in 2003). Oklahoma will attempt to pull off something schools like Texas A&M, San Diego State, Oklahoma State, Texas and a few others were able to do in recent years — win in The Phog.
  5. The Sooners were able to remain undefeated entering tonight’s game by edging out Iowa State on Saturday night. A large part of the victory came via senior big man Ryan Spangler,who battled through banging knees with Iowa State’s Matt Thomas and a trip to the locker room, in order to finish with 20 points and 12 rebounds. It’ll be interesting to see how a nicked-up Spangler deals with long and versatile frontline of Kansas, the shot-blocking Hunter Mickelson, floor-spreaders like Perry Ellis and Carlton Bragg and the quickness of Cheick Diallo. Needless to say, we’ll be waitin’ all day for Mondayyyyyy Nightttttt. Or something.
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Big 12 M5: 12.30.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2015

morning5_big12

  1. There will be very few easy games in the Big 12 this season. One of the criticisms of the conference last year was that the bottom of the league wasn’t very good. That should change in 2015-16. On Tuesday, Texas Tech picked up their fourth win over a team ranked in the top 100 on KenPom with an 85-70 victory over Richmond. The Red Raiders lone non-conference loss came against a quality Utah team. Tech is predicted to finish 8-10 in the league which would be the school’s best mark under head coach Tubby Smith. The Red Raiders also have a chance to pick up a road win against Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. If things fall in their favor, they could find themselves with a shot at their first NCAA Tournament birth since 2007.
  2. Kansas State will also contribute to a deeper Big 12 in 2015-16. With a dominating 75-47 win over Saint Louis on Tuesday, the Wildcats pushed their non-conference record to 10-2. Kansas State’s calling card has been its defense and that was no different in the win over the Billikens. Saint Louis scored a meager 0.67 points per possession in Manhattan. While the Wildcats don’t have the same quality wins that Texas Tech has, a few upsets in Big 12 play could push them onto the bubble come March.
  3. Texas announced that senior center Cameron Ridley will be out 8-10 weeks due to a fracture in his left foot. In the Longhorns’ first game without Ridley, Texas fell 71-66 to Connecticut in Austin. Ridley’s absence was felt on both ends of the floor. The Huskies outscored Texas 40-28 in the paint on Tuesday. Ridley’s replacement, Prince Ibeh, played just 18 minutes and picked up his fourth foul with nearly nine minutes remaining. Without Ibeh or Ridley on the floor, opponents will be able to challenge the Longhorns inside and UConn did so successfully. Forced to rely on a more perimeter oriented attack, Texas floundered. The Longhorns shot 39 percent from the field and 6-of-23 from three-point range. How Shaka Smart adapts to Ridley’s absence early in conference play will be crucial to Texas’ Big 12 success.
  4. Kansas beat UC Irvine, 78-53, to close out its non-conference schedule, but for the second season in a row the story out of Lawrence is becoming the playing time of a highly touted freshman. Cheick Diallo is averaging only 11.2 minutes per game so far and played just six minutes against the Anteaters. Bill Self told the media afterwards that he thinks “our experienced guys are playing better.” While that may be true at the moment, there’s no doubt that Diallo has a higher upside than just about anyone in the Jayhawks’ frontcourt rotation. Allowing Diallo to develop now could benefit Kansas in March, but with Baylor and Oklahoma on tap to open Big 12 play, it seems unlikely the freshman will be seeing significant playing time in the near future.
  5. There are two Big 12 games remaining ahead of the start of conference play on Saturday. Iowa State should cruise against Coppin State tonight, but West Virginia has a much more interesting matchup. The Mountaineers will play their first true road game of the season when they travel to Blacksburg, VA to face Virginia Tech. West Virginia is favored in the contest, but road games are always tricky. Whatever the result, the experience in a hostile environment should prove useful as the Mountaineers open their Big 12 schedule with road trips to Kansas State and TCU.
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Big 12 M5: 12.02.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 2nd, 2015

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  1. After a long, long wait, freshman Cheick Diallo finally made his debut for Kansas as the Jayhawks rolled to a 94-61 win over Loyola (MD). It took Diallo a few minutes to get comfortable on the floor, but as we predicted yesterday, he looked every bit like the rim protector and finisher the Jayhawks desperately need, finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks in 16 minutes of action. He also committed four fouls, showing that he’s far from a finished product, but he was otherwise fantastic. What stuck out most about him was how increasingly confident he appeared with every successive trip down the floor. By the end of the night, he was hyping up the crowd, hitting pull-up jumpers and showing off on coast-to-coast dunks. Yes, Loyola was picked to finish in the bottom half of the Patriot League this season, but Diallo clearly showed what the fuss was all about. He’ll have his growing pains, batching him progress with Kansas (and vice versa) this season is going to be a lot of fun.
  2. Texas avoided another early loss last night, needing overtime to beat UT-Arlington, but the Longhorns showed that Diallo isn’t the only uber-athlete in the Big 12. Freshman Kerwin Roach provided the biggest highlight of the evening, as he’s now the clubhouse leader for dunk of the year with this posterization of Mavericks’ guard Jorge Bilbao. (Prayers.). While Shaka Smart certainly enjoyed the play, he is more concerned with his team’s lack of focus on the glass, as the Longhorns were outhustled 49-35 in that department.
  3. Monte’ Morris continued his personal showcase in Iowa State‘s 84-54 romp over North Dakota State, going for 18 points, five rebounds and six assists against the Bison. There was a scary moment in the first half as Georges Niang went down holding his right knee. He had to be helped off the court, but fortunately, he returned to the game after being diagnosed with just a contusion. Niang went on to reassure the Cyclone faithful by kickstarting a 9-0 Iowa State run that put Iowa State ahead at halftime. Iowa State has one more tune-up against Buffalo before they square off with in-state rival Iowa next Thursday.
  4. Perhaps taking a page from Kansas’ playbook, Oklahoma State is rolling with a two-point guard lineup for now as Phil Forte continues to recover from an elbow injury and Tavarius Shine nurses a right shoulder bug. Sophomore Tyree Griffin and freshman Jawun Evans combined for 14 assists in last Friday’s win over Long Beach State, but they’ll face a big test tonight when 4-2 Tulsa comes to town. The Cowboys’ small lineup is made smaller with 6’2″ Jeff Newberry playing out on the wing, but the Pokes seem to be holding things together as they slowly get back to full strength.
  5. Texas Tech‘s frontcourt took a hit when it was announced on Tuesday that sophomore Isaiah Manderson had the team to continue his basketball career elsewhere. Manderson was a cog in the Red Raiders’ interior last season, playing in all 31 regular season games, contributing 4.4 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. His role figured to increase this season after he played well during Tech’s Canadian tour over the summer, but it wasn’t meant to be. A 6’10”, 255-pound center, Manderson played his high school ball in Florida and had offers from four SEC schools, so it will be interesting to see if he resurfaces in that conference.
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What to Expect From Cheick Diallo’s Debut Tonight

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2015

As most everyone around college basketball already knows, the NCAA finally cleared Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo in a ruling that figures to add much-needed frontcourt depth and rim protection to the Jayhawks’ roster. Diallo will make his college debut tonight, giving a boost of significance to what would otherwise be a relatively meaningless home cupcake game against Loyola (MD). While Bill Self said yesterday that the Mali native would come off the bench and recommended that initial expectations remain tempered, there will be considerable interest in how Diallo looks right out of the gate. Let’s take a look at what kind of opportunities the Greyhounds will present to the long-awaited jewel of the Kansas recruiting class.

Vaunted freshman Cheick Diallo makes his collegiate debut as the Jayhawks battle Loyola (MD) tonight.

Much-hyped freshman Cheick Diallo makes his collegiate debut as the Jayhawks battle Loyola (MD) tonight.

Over the last few years and for a variety of reasons, Self’s marquee freshmen have struggled to hit the ground running. Tonight should be a somewhat different story as Loyola’s attacking style of play should provide Diallo with opportunities to create highlight-worthy plays from the start. The Greyhounds rely heavily on their inside game to generate offense, which means that they’ll be coming right at the freshman in spite of his defensive abilities. According to hoop-math.com, 46.7 percent of the Greyhounds’ field goal attempts this season have been at the rim (27th nationally), but the Greyhounds are shooting just 55.5 percent on those close looks. For some context, last year’s Kansas team that struggled to find answers inside made 58.0 percent of its close shots. Put differently, one of the worst-performing offenses in Bill Self’s 13-year tenure at Kansas still had more success at the rim than Loyola has experienced in its first six games this season. That’s not good, and making matters worse for Loyola (or better for Diallo), the Greyhounds don’t have the long-range threats needed to make the Jayhawks stretch their defense.

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Morning Five: 12.01.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 1st, 2015

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  1. Today is the culmination of the #FreeDiallo campaign as Cheick Diallo, the heralded Kansas freshman, will make his debut tonight at Allen Fieldhouse.The whole saga has been discussed ad nauseum so we won’t rehash it here (you can follow Jay Bilas on Twitter for an almost daily recap), but would encourage you to watch the Jayhawks tonight if only to see the reception Diallo gets from the Kansas crowd the first time he steps on the court.
  2. Diallo may be free now, but David Collette is still waiting for Utah State to lift its universal block on his attempt to transfer. The circumstances around Collette’s decision to leave the Utah State basketball team might seem suspicious, but the school’s decision to prevent him from transferring to any program is absurd. Jeff Eisenberg details some of the other petty steps that the school has taken to try to get back at Collette. While these seem extreme the school is hardly the first to do this sort of thing and it always seems to backfire on the school so we are not sure why schools continue to do it.
  3. We probably would not have realized that former Duke star Chris Duhon is back in college basketball as an assistant coach at Marshall if not for his arrest early Monday morning for driving under the influence. Duhon was reportedly found asleep in the driver’s seat of his car with the engine running and had a blood alcohol level of 0.202, which is more than 2.5 times the legal limit. Duhon, who is an assistant under Dan D’Antoni, has been suspended for violating department rules and policies. We aren’t sure how long the suspension will last, but we hope that Duhon gets the help that he needs.
  4. The college basketball world lost an icon last Thursday when Guy Lewis died at the age of 93. Lewis, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, is best known for his Phi Slama Jama teams of the early 1980s that featured [H]Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, but his career was much more than that. Lewis won 593 games making the Final Four five times and first came to national prominence in 1968 when he engineered the “Game of the Century” in which his Houston Cougars led by Elvin Hayes knocked off a UCLA team led by Lew Alcindor [Ed. Note: We’re a college site so we go by college names.] Lewis was also one of the first coaches in the South to openly push for integration, an often overlooked aspect of his legacy.
  5. This actually is not the first time we have talked about Cal Tech on the site, but Chris Ballard’s in-depth look at the program is too good not to pass along. We will warn you that this definitely falls into the #longreads category, but we doubt that you will find an article that provides a more in-depth look at the personalities around a program that what this does. Obviously this program is very different than almost any other program in the nation (probably one of the few where student-athlete is used in the correct order), but in many ways that makes it even more interesting.
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