Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Kansas State (10-6)
Texas A&M (8-8)
Oklahoma State (8-8)
Iowa State (7-9)
Texas Tech (4-12)
All Conference Team:
Sherron Collins (G), Kansas
Willie Warren (G) Oklahoma
Craig Brackins (F) Iowa State
Damion James (F), Texas
Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas
6th Man.James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State
Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas
What You Need to Know.
KU Dominance. Of the 13 years that the Big 12 has held a conference tournament, Kansas has won the crown six times, which is the most of any Big 12 school. Kansas has been deemed the regular season conference champion nine times in those 13 years, sharing the title in three of those times. Every time Kansas has shared the title the Jayhawks were the two-seed in the conference tournament.
Two At the Top. It’s very possible that Texas and Kansas could share the Big 12 title this season. Texas’ toughest conference games are Kansas (in Austin), then Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road. The Longhorns seem to have the advantage over the Jayhawks when it comes to an easier conference schedule, but with KU bringing back all of its talent and adding one of the top freshman in the nation, I still believe that Kansas will stay atop the conference alone.
Where are the Tigers. Where do you rank the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 this season? After being picked seventh by the coaches in last year’s preseason poll, the Tigers finished third and won the Big 12 Tournament en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Mike Anderson will continue to play his “Fastest Forty Minutes” style, and behind leadership from senior guard JT Tiller (Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009), and sophomore guard Kim English, it’s hard to determine where Mizzou will be at the end of the season. Anderson has put together a very athletic lineup, which should be able to play to his coaching style, but their lack of experience and a consistent scorer could hurt them.
X-Factor. Freshman phenom Xavier Henry could be the key to Kansas’ hopes of a second national title in just three seasons. A late decider, Henry could very well be one of the most productive freshmen in the NCAA this season. He is surrounded by unbelievable talent that will hog most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up many scoring opportunities for Henry.
Other than Jodie Meeks (see post below), we promised to keep an eye on several other all-americans who were considering leaving school early, but who had put off the decision until the very last minute, i.e., today. Here’s a list of their decisions, and how it will impact their team…
Austin Daye, leaving Gonzaga – we said yesterday that we seriously questioned his reported decision to be leaning toward the draft, and it remains so. Someone will take him due to his size, length and shooting ability, but he’s proven softer than Charmin, so we’re not sure about his long-term prospects. As for Gonzaga, this is a substantial blow, as the Zags are already losing Josh Heytvelt, Micah Downs and Jeremy Pargo. It’s never truly a ‘rebuilding’ year for Gonzaga, but Matt Bouldin will have a load to carry in the Pacific NW next season.
Luke Harangody, staying at Notre Dame – this is a good decision, as Harangody stands to have a good nucleus of players surrounding him at ND next season, and with the Big East not as strong as it was in 2009, the Irish will likely be able to ride ‘Gody and Tory Jackson to an NCAA berth after their disappointing campaign last year. He’ll also have a legitimate shot at becoming the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in ND basketball history – he needs 730 pts and 370 rebounds, both totals less than he got this season.
Jeff Teague, leaving Wake Forest – we’re of the opinion that whoever drafts Teague in the late first round will get a steal on par with the Celtics selecting Rajon Rondo several years ago. In much the same way as Rondo at Kentucky, he mentally checked out of college hoops once he decided he was going pro, but the talent and athleticism is there. Wake will still have Ish Smith to run point and a decent supporting cast led by Al-Farouq Aminu, but Teague certainly was a difference maker and he will be missed.
Greivis Vasquez, staying at Maryland – this is another good decision because a more composed senior campaign from Vasquez could easily push the Terp PG into the top twenty of the 2010 draft. This is huge news for Maryland because the Terps have an experienced team returning to College Park, losing only Dave Neal, and Gary Williams’ team should compete for third place in the ACC next season.
Ater Majok, staying at Connecticut – this was a pipe dream to begin with, but Majok may end up playing in Europe anyway due to his peripheral association to the ongoing Nate Miles recruiting investigation at UConn. If he does end up playing for Jim Calhoun next season, there’s no telling how productive he’ll be, so it’s questionable what impact he could have.
Texas A&M Trio – Chinemelu Elonu is leaving the Aggies, but Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis are returning. None of these three leaving made any sense whatsoever, and the 6’10 Elonu was clearly talking to the wrong people because he has no shot at getting drafted. A&M should still be solid with the returns of Sloan and Davis, however.
Taj Gibson, leaving USC- probably a good decision given his age and the apocalypse going on at USC in the wake of the OJ Mayo scandal. Do we really need to rehash how this will impact USC next season? No, we don’t.
We’ll try to do some additional analysis on this year’s draft class later this week, but don’t hold us against it if we don’t.
Texas A&M (#9, South, Miami pod)
Vs. BYU (#8)
Thurs., 3/19 at 12:30 PM
Vegas Line: Texas A&M, +2
General Profile Location: College Station, TX Conference: Big 12, At-Large Coach: Mark Turgeon, 48-20 08-09 Record: 23-9, 9-7 Last 12 Games: 8-4 Best Win: Defeated Missouri, 96-86 on March 7th Worst Loss: Lost to Texas Tech, 88-83 in the Big 12 tournament on March 11th Off. Efficiency Rating: 112.2, 36th Def. Efficiency Rating:96.6, 79th
Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): Josh Carter (14.1 PPG and 4.5 RPG) and Chinemelu Elonu (10.1 PPG on 66.7% FG and 7.4 RPG) Unsung Hero: Donald Sloan (11.7 PPG and 3.0 APG) Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Elonu (54th in 2010). Carter is listed as late second round to undrafted in 2009 by ESPN. Key Injuries: None
Depth: 31.2% (158th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves Achilles Heel: Inconsistency. Their best win of the year was followed by their worst loss of the year (their most recent game) Will Make a Deep Run if…: They play under control like they did last year when they beat BYU in the first round. Will Make an Early Exit if…: They play impatiently and take bad shots.
Last Year Invited: 2008; lost to UCLA in the 2nd round (on a controversial play) Streak: 4th consecutive year Best NCAA Finish: Final 4 (1969) Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): Not enough data (Minimum 8 bids during this period)
Six Degrees to Detroit: San Antonio Spurs GM R.C. Buford played basketball at Texas A&M. In 2005, his Spurs team defeated the Detroit Pistons in one of the ugliest NBA Finals series in recent years. Distance to First Round Site: 1,593 miles School’s Claim to Fame: Kyle Field (where the football team) is the home of the famed “12th Man” and has been consistently ranked as one of the top places to watch a football game even if the on-field product is not that great. School Wishes It Could Forget:Its hideous court design. Prediction: Repeat of last year. Beat BYU in the first round and then lose to a Final 4 team in the 2nd round although this time without the controversy. Major RTC stories:Pics of the Night
Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.
Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)
Oklahoma (17-1)(3-0) (2)
Texas (13-4) (2-1) (3)
Baylor (14-3) (2-1) (1)
Kansas (13-4)(2-0) (5)
Texas A&M (15-3) (1-2) (4)
Missouri (15-3) (2-1) (8)
Nebraska (12-4) (2-1) (7)
Oklahoma State (12-4) (1-1) (6)
Iowa State (12-6) (1-2) (11)
Kansas State (11-6) (0-3)(9)
Texas Tech (10-8) (0-3)(10)
Colorado (8-8) (0-2) (12)
GAME OF THE WEEK Baylor 98, Oklahoma State 92 (OT): Baylor was down by as many as 17 points in the 1st half, but made a run and was quite the deal to get the game into overtime, but Tweety Carter came up huge for Baylor hitting two three-pointers at the start of overtime. Then he finished off the Cowboys with a third basket and a key steal to seal the game for the Bears.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK Sherron Collins, Kansas: Collins was the leader that the Jayhawks expected to have as he helped lead Kansas to wins in their first two conference games this week averaging 21 points (12/12 FT) and 5.5 assists per game. His leadership will determine the wins for Kansas in the conference season and how successful they want to be.
Game of the Night #8 Syracuse at #12 Georgetown, 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: It’s hard to believe that these two powerhouses are only the 3rd and 4th highest ranked teams in their own conference. [Calm down ACC folks. I realize that you have 4 teams ranked ahead of Georgetown, but the ACC doesn't even come close to the Big East in terms of depth. Look for the next ACC team in the top 25. There are none.] Looking at these teams, I still have a hard time believing that the Orangemen can compete with Pittsburgh, UConn, or Georgetown if all of those teams are playing up to their potential. However, Jim Boeheim has his team playing solid basketball and is one miracle 60-footer away from being undefeated (or at least being in OT to stay undefeated). Syracuse has been able to do this despite the distraction created by the suspension of Eric Devendorf for assaulting a female student as noted extensively here at RTC. Boehiem has been able to do this thanks to solid play from Jonny Flynn (seen below getting away with the most blatant charge that wasn’t called that you will ever see) and Devendorf (when not interacting with the co-eds) on the perimeter and Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku on the inside. The embarrassingly weak early schedule (SOS: 56th in the nation) has certainly helped the Orangemen have a gaudy record.
Tonight the Orangemen will face their first true test against the Hoyas on the road. Unlike Syracuse, Georgetown has already faced a difficult schedule (SOS: #2 in the nation behind only 6-10 Oregon) including 3 brutal games in the Big East (road games at Connecticut and Notre Dame and at home against Pittsburgh). While the Hoyas lack the depth inside (or thugs according to JT2), they will have the most talented player on the court playing for them on the inside in Greg Monroe who has shown glimpses of brilliance this year. Having seen him in person at the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving Break, I can definitely see why he has NBA scouts drooling, but at times he appears too passive at times to dominate games. While neither Harris nor Onuaku can match Monroe’s talent, it will be interesting to see if he can match their intensity the entire game. The other key match-up will be how DaJuan Summers, Chris Wright, and Austin Freeman do against Flynn and Devendorf on the perimeter although I’m not sure how John Thompson III will utilize Summers if Boeheim opts for his patented 2-3 zone. I’m not sure what to make of his experiments with man-to-man, but I would venture that he will go with the more familiar now that he is finally playing some solid teams. I’m guessing that Georgetown has too much talent, the home court, and experience from playing actually competition to lose this game. Syracuse should be able to keep it close until the final 5 minutes when the Hoyas should pull away.
Others to Watch #2 Duke at Georgia Tech, 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This has trap game written all over it. Duke just came off a win at FSU, which has shocked Duke several times this year, and the Blue Devils have a nationally televised showcase at Cameron against the aforementioned Hoyas on Saturday. Georgia Tech is mediocre enough (9-6) that the Blue Devils may overlook them, but just talented enough that they could shock Duke particularly since the game will be played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The key thing to watch here will be how the Yellow Jacket bigs–Gani Lawal (16.8 PPG and 10.0 RPG) and Alade Aminu (13.5 PPG and 9.4 RPG)–do since interior play will continue to be Duke’s Achilles’ heel (except when they go 3 for their first 27 from 3-point range). If Lawal and Aminu can dominate inside against Kyle Singler and Brian Zoubek, Paul Hewett just may be able to pull out the win.
#3 Wake Forest at Boston College, 9 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: RTC will be at this game (look for the male equivalent of Erin Andrews typing away on his keyboard) to bring you the latest scoop on Wake Forest, the most intriguing team in college basketball. Even after the Demon Deacons win at BYU to end the Cougars nation-leading 53 game home winning streak, there remained a healthy skepticism of Dino Gaudio‘s young squad. However, after they held off everyone’s national title favorite UNC people have really started to come around on this team (I don’t think their rise of 1-2 spots in the polls reflects the magnitude of the change in perception). On the other hand, Boston College may be the most confusing team in the nation. After pulling off one of the bigger upsets of the season (and ending the media’s speculation of an undefeated season for UNC), the Eagles followed it up with a loss at home against Harvard and then to Miami. While the loss to Miami (preseason #17) is excusable, the loss to the Crimson isn’t. Wake will try avoid a letdown similar to the one BC had by relying on Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Al-Farouq Aminu. Teague will likely be guarded very closely after his explosion against UNC. Wake also hopes to get a big contribution out of Chas McFarland, who was last seen outsprinting Ty Lawson down the court for a crucial lay-up on Saturday. If the Eagles are going to rebound for their back-to-back defeats, they will need a huge game out Tyrese Rice along with solid contributions out of Joe Trapani and Corey Raji. Much like the Duke-Georgia Tech game, this is one to watch to see if the favorite is looking ahead to their next game, which is also a monster match-up for Wake (against undefeated Clemson).
#21 Baylor at Texas A&M, 9:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: A match-up of two lightly regarded teams with impressive records (13-2 and 14-2, respectively). These two teams are my pick to compete with Kansas for the #3 spot in the Big 12 this year. Baylor appears to have recovered from the Dave Bliss fiasco and comes into the game with a top 25 ranking. They have done this with their entire starting 5 averaging double figures, but the unquestioned leader of this team is Curtis Jerrells who will need to have a big game tonight to get a win on the road. Looking through their results so far, I’m having a hard time finding any good wins. A win at College Station would mean a big jump for the Bears in the eyes of the voters. I think a lot of people forget just how good Texas A&M was last year. They were one blown call against UCLA away from potentially forcing OT in the Sweet 16. The Aggies will rely on a balanced attack with Josh Carter, Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis, and Chinemelu Elonu to try and defend their home court.
#24 Michigan at Illinois, 8:30 PM on The Big Ten Network: It looks like a year after his program looked like it was going implode after the Eric Gordon recruiting disaster, Bruce Weber has his team headed in the right direction. Tonight he will try to avenge one of the Fighting Illini’s 2 losses (the other was by 2-points to undefeated Clemson). This should be a close game as the Wolverines won by 10 at Ann Arbor a little over a week ago. Outside of the big guys from each team (Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims for Michigan and Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey for Illinois), my player to watch tonight is Alex Legion, who has shown signs of becoming a big-time scorer since his mid-season addition to Illinois after his transfer from Kentucky.