Big 12 M5: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 10th, 2012

  1. With Royce White out of the picture, Iowa State will need to adjust to its personnel and find different ways to facilitate offense. Instead of having White as a point-forward type of player, Fred Hoiberg will use Korie Lucious at the point and keep the ball in the hands of a traditional point guard. Losing White will change the entire dynamic of the team, but there’s one thing that might not change. The Cyclones can still fill it up from beyond the arc, even with the graduation of Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen. If you’re looking for one shooter to keep an eye on, it’s probably Tyrus McGee. The junior college transfer didn’t always play major minutes a year ago, but when he did, he always seemed to find a way to get his shots from beyond the arc. By the end of the year, he shot around a 40 percent clip from three as a reserve. His senior year could be even better, along with the rest of the Cyclones’ shooters.
  2. Bill Self’s newest commitment made a bold statement after choosing Kansas as his college destination on Tuesday. How bold? Well, Frank Mason says he wants to be the next Sherron Collins. “He was a great player and I’d like to do the same type things,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World. That’s quite the statement, but Collins certainly isn’t a bad guy to model yourself after. The one difference is Mason, a 5’11” point guard who originally committed to Towson but did not qualify academically a year ago, is actually a little under-the-radar. He’s ranked in the top-150 by Rivals.com, but he did not receive a KU offer until after he blew up in AAU ball in July.
  3. Andrew Fitzgerald played at four different high schools in four seasons. The forward then committed to play for Jeff Capel at Oklahoma — we all know how that worked out — and it turns out, he’s now entering his senior year of college without a single winning season to brag about. Talk about a chaotic decade for a basketball player. That’s why Fitzgerald has his sights set on a big finale season with the Sooners. Fitzgerald is a key part of Lon Kruger’s experienced nucleus, the kind of forward who can play a lot of different ways on the offensive end of the floor. Unfortunately, the big man disappeared at times in the scoring department during Big 12 play last season. Oklahoma’s poor conference finish wasn’t Fitzgerald’s fault, but it’s partly his job to develop his game and lead this team to an NCAA Tournament berth. After all, it’s his last chance.
  4. Oklahoma State fans are a demanding bunch. They’re not always mentioned in the national spotlight, but Gallagher-Iba Arena can be a ferocious place to play basketball. There’s no doubt these people love their hoops, which is why a columnist needed to defend coach Travis Ford in the face of criticism from Cowboys fans. As we pointed out earlier in the week, Ford’s program has slipped after qualifying for the NCAA Tournament immediately upon his arrival. Fortunately, recruiting players like Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart should help Ford stick around for a while in Stillwater. Of course, there’s a burden of expectations that comes with recruiting top-notch prospects, and that’s what Ford faces in 2012-13.
  5. We heard a few interesting comments from Bill Self and Bruce Weber at a reception Tuesday for the Coaches vs. Cancer Season Tip-Off. First of all, Self says he thinks Kansas will be “OK,” a year after a team he expressed serious concerns about in the preseason damn near won the national championship. In our books, “OK” for Kansas means, well, another Big 12 Championship and deep NCAA Tournament run. Weber, on the other hand, talked about acclimating to Manhattan, as well as the importance of the Kansas/Kansas State series now that Missouri has moved to the SEC. Weber, who faced Missouri annually at Illinois, said the absence of the Tigers in the Big 12 means the Sunflower Showdown will become an even grander rivalry (as if it weren’t heated enough already). We can’t wait.
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This is Why We Warned You About Iowa State

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2012

In the midst of discussion about Jim Calhoun’s future and the untapped potential of the defending champion Connecticut Huskies, it seems that everybody forgot about Iowa State. Right on cue, the forgotten Cyclones advanced to the second (or is it third?) round with a 77-64 victory on Thursday. Of course, we already told you yesterday the Cyclones could potentially spell danger in the NCAA Tournament. Although we would like to take credit for that prediction, it really was not a brilliant call by any means. Facing a team that underachieved all year long, Fred Hoiberg‘s overachieving bunch of transfer misfits embarrassed UConn in the first half, leading by as many as 22 points. Scott Christopherson couldn’t miss, and the team as a whole looked tougher, more mature and more focused than the young Huskies.

Anthony Davis & Kentucky Should Be Weary Of Royce White & The Cyclones

That hot start helped Iowa State withstand a rally by Connecticut. In the end, this was a statement victory for Iowa State. A statement that Hoiberg is no flash in the pan in 2011-12; that these guys can surely give Kentucky a game on Saturday. It’s hard to remember this Iowa State team actually finished third in the Big 12, considering absolutely nobody gave it a chance to knock off the defending champs. Yet after just minutes, the Cyclones wiped the floor with the big, bad Huskies of the Big East, eventually outrebounding them by 19 and holding them to 37.5 percent from the floor.

That turns our attention to Saturday. As you have heard at least a dozen times on CBS or a Turner affiliate in the past, say, 10 minutes, Kentucky can block shots. Lots of them. Anthony Davis is really good, and so is Terrance Jones. And as you’ve heard a million times, the key to beating a team with those kinds of shot-blockers is to burn them from the outside. That’s exactly what Iowa State can do. Forget Royce White. A stud, for sure, but Christopherson, Chris Allen and Tyrus McGee will need to shoulder the load from the perimeter.

Iowa State already knocked off Kansas at home this year, so it’s no stranger to defeating the nation’s top teams. If it rebounds as well as it did against UConn, we may have a ballgame.

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Rushed Reaction: #8 Iowa State 77, #9 Connecticut 64

Posted by jstevrtc on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Pardon Our Cliches… If you watched this game, you saw exactly what we did, in terms of the most important takeaway from this game. Connecticut’s roster oozed with talent. Kentucky fans stuck around for this game because they feared seeing UConn again, and for good reason. UConn had enough NBA talent on that roster to frustrate Kentucky. Both Kentucky- and non-Kentucky fans knew it. It was evident in the Big East tournament last week, even in the close loss to Syracuse. All they needed to play like that is motivation. You would think that, this being the NCAA Tournament and all, motivation would be the last of a talented roster’s problems. So here it comes: Connecticut had more talented individuals. Iowa State, from tip to buzzer, was the better team.
  2. Whither Jim Calhoun? Given his health problems and frequent absences from games this season, will it be back to Storrs next year, or will that loss be how he departs the scene? Twitter buzzed with this question in the dying moments of this game, and the speculation will continue until he puts paid to the question with a definitive statement. And we wouldn’t expect that until after the tournament is over. He would not address the issue in the post-game.
  3. Royce White Won the Key Battle. You would never have thought such a sentence would have ever been written a while back when White made that strange exit from Tubby Smith’s Minnesota squad, but the matchup everyone was watching tonight was White versus (sometimes) whiz-kid Andre Drummond. The latter was virtually non-existent (two points, three rebounds) save for four blocks, and his head was clearly elsewhere all night. White wasn’t exactly himself for the first 30 minutes or so, but took over on both ends of the floor late, just like a leader should. He ended with 15/11 on 6-10 shooting, and a new legion of  believers, we’d say.

Star of the Game. White impressed us with his leadership late in the proceedings, especially when Ryan Boatright shrank the ISU lead down to six with a 5-0 run of his own making. Aside from that, though, the most important part of this game was the opening punch landed by Cyclone guards Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen, outhustling the Huskies’ backcourt, getting into the lane easily, and propelling ISU out to an early 20-point lead. Connecticut never really recovered except for the small run in the second half that amounted to little. Those guards deserve some of the SOTG credit.

Quotable. Jim Calhoun: “They played 40 minutes. We played sporadically.” Completely true. It would be interesting to put some of these Huskies on a polygraph and ask them if they’re just a little bit glad this season is over. We don’t think they totally mind this. Calhoun tried to dilute it by saying, “If Connecticut wins 20-25 games a year and goes to the NCAA Tournament, we’ll always be happy,” but that is not the Connecticut standard. It’s been a tough season, and Calhoun admitted as much, and we think it’s one the program is glad to see the back of.

Sights & Sounds. As mentioned, most Kentucky fans stayed for this one. No question the added fan support was appreciated by Iowa State. We, uh, wouldn’t count on that come Saturday. Great motivational tactic for the Cyclones, right? We can already hear Fred Hoiberg and the ISU coaches whispering in their players’ ears, “They stayed to root for you because they thought you were the weaker team. Make them regret they cheered for you.”

What’s Next? Obviously, Iowa State gets Kentucky in the marquee game on Saturday night. Royce White has the last word, speaking about Kentucky: “You see them every night on ESPN. They have a great team, they’re number one for a reason. Great coach, great tradition, great program there, Kentucky basketball. We’re gonna go back and watch some film, and we’re gonna try and figure out their strengths and weaknesses, just like every other team has tried. I’m sure our coaches will come up with a solid game plan just like they have all year long.” He does not sound intimidated.

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SEC NCAA Tournament Primer: Thursday/Saturday Games

Posted by EMoyer on March 15th, 2012

On Thursday, Kentucky and Vanderbilt open their NCAA Tournament runs facing Western Kentucky and Harvard, respectively. Here we preview the Thursday/Saturday possibilities for the Wildcats and Commodores.

SEC NCAA Tournament Thursday/Saturday Capsules

SOUTH Region 

  • #1 Kentucky: Championship Appearances: 53; Record 107-47; Best Finish: Champion – 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998; How Qualified: At-Large, SEC; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, National Semifinal
  • #16 Western Kentucky: Championship Appearances: 22; Record 19-22; Best Finish: Third Place – 1971; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Sun Belt Conference; Last Appearance: 2009 – L, Second Round
  • #8 Iowa State: Championship Appearances: 14; Record 12-13; Best Finish: Final Four  – 1944; How Qualified: At Large, Big 12; Last Appearance: 2005 – L, Second Round
  • #9 Connecticut: Championship Appearances: 47; Record 35-43; Best Finish: Champion – 1999, 2004, 2011; How Qualified: At Large, Big East; Last Appearance: 2011 – Champion
All-Time Meetings
  • Kentucky vs Western Kentucky: Kentucky leads 3-2; Last Meeting: Nov. 15, 2001 (Western Kentucky 64, Kentucky 52)
  • Kentucky vs Iowa State: Kentucky leads 2-0; Last Meeting: Mar. 22, 1992 (Kentucky 106, Iowa State 98)
  • Kentucky vs Connecticut: Connecticut leads 3-1; Last Meeting: April 2, 2011 (Connecticut 56, Kentucky 55)
A Starting 5 of the Top Players Kentucky Could Face
  • Derrick Gordon, Western Kentucky, Fr., G: Gordon has amassed 400 points in his first year as a Hilltopper. Only two freshmen have scored more points in Western Kentucky history (Courtney Lee, 467;  Ralph Crosthwaite, 437). He is on pace to become the first Hilltopper freshman to pace the team in scoring and he will be the first in five years to lead in rebounding.
  • Chris Allen, Iowa State, Sr., G: Allen leads the team with 72 3-point field goals and he has played in the most NCAA Tournament games (14) in this year’s 68-team field. Allen played in two Final Fours for Michigan State (2009, 2010.
  • Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut, So., G: Lamb earned First-Team All-Big East honors and the NABC District I Player of the Year after leading the Huskies in scoring at 17.1 points per game.
  • Royce White, Iowa State, So., F: White is the only player in the nation to lead his team in scoring (13.1), rebounding (9.2), assists (5.1), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.9). He is on the verge of posting top-10 single seasons in assists and rebounds in Cyclone history. He is one of 12 players in the county to post a triple-double this season.
  • Andre Drummond, Connecticut, Fr., C: Drummond has tallied 10 double-doubles this season, a UConn freshman record under Coach Jim Calhoun. He won four Big East Rookie of the Week honors, and leads the team in rebounding (7.7) and blocks (2.7).
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Facing Its Own Mortality, Texas Finds a Way To Stay Alive

Posted by dnspewak on March 9th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. He filed this piece after Texas’ 71-65 victory over Iowa State. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

There was a moment early in the second half Thursday night when it appeared Texas and its three freshmen starters would unravel in its most important game of the season. Trailing by 11 with 18:22 remaining in its NCAA Tournament life, the Longhorns looked like the team that fell apart in a 19-point loss at North Carolina in late December. Like the team that lost six of its first nine Big 12 games by an average of 4.6 points.

Rick Barnes Got His Team To Respond in the Second Half.

Then, something clicked. “We’re not young anymore,” freshman point guard Myck Kabongo said. “We’ve grown up. We’ve shown strides, every single one of us.” With Kabongo running the show, the Longhorns sliced their way to the rim and denied the Cyclones’ looks from beyond the arc by eliminating dribble penetration. J’Covan Brown, the league’s leading scorer, began to abuse Chris Allen. As Iowa State’s layups rimmed out and its guards turned the ball over, the Longhorns’ threes began to fall. And just like that, Texas saved its NCAA Tournament hopes with a 71-65 victory in one nine-minute stretch. “That’s the ball game. They made big plays. I thought we put our heads down a little bit as a team,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. ”They made big plays down the stretch and we didn’t.”

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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

The Week That Was

  • Game Of The Year: Kansas was 16:42 away from being swept by Missouri and perhaps letting the Big 12 title slip away. Perhaps recognizing the importance of the last meeting as conference foes, Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit, took the game to overtime, and behind 28 points and 12 rebounds from Thomas Robinson, as well as 24 points and five assists from Tyshawn Taylor, the Jayhawks clinched no worse than a share of their eighth straight Big 12 title and perhaps have the inside track on a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Wildcats Looking Strong: Kansas State notched a huge win on the road at Missouri last Monday, and coupled with its victory over Baylor on Saturday, it was the first time Frank Martin’s team had beaten top ten teams back-to-back on the road. The Wildcats lost to Iowa State on Saturday, but the wins over Baylor and Missouri perhaps locked them into an NCAA Tournament berth.
  • A Coaches’ League: Frank Haith and Bill Self have gotten a lot of ink for national coach of the year, but the Big 12 Coach of the Year might be Fred Hoiberg. The Mayor has taken Iowa State from the conference basement to a probable NCAA tournament berth, as the Cyclones currently sit in a tie for third in the league. Royce White and Chris Allen have been great as transfers, but it’s Hoiberg who gave them the second chance and has gotten everyone to buy in. Impressive stuff up in Ames.

All Eyes Were On Allen Fieldhouse Saturday, And The Jayhawks And Tigers Delivered A Game For The Ages. (David Eulitt/The Kansas City Star)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (24-5, 14-2): The final regular season of the Border War was one of the best ever and with the win Kansas clinched a share of its eighth straight Big 12 title. A win in either of its last two games – at Oklahoma State or at home against Texas – can clinch it outright, continuing perhaps the most underrated streak in sports.
  2. Missouri (25-4, 12-4): In the span of a week, Missouri went from Big 12 favorites to having next to no shot at even winning a share of the Big 12 title. After being ahead by ten points or more for much of the second half, Missouri fans are no doubt questioning Frank Haith’s decision to stall on offense for much of the half (a strategy I tentatively agree with, by the way) as well as the final possession when Missouri did not even get a shot off. They didn’t have a timeout so Haith could not draw up a play, but not having a better option built into the offense there was a bad move. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.20.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 20th, 2012

  1. Oddly enough, Keiton Page may be the Big 12′s most intriguing player. The undersized guard hardly looks like an elite basketball player, but he has managed to contribute heavily in all four of his seasons Oklahoma State. When he graduates after this year, he will leave a mixed legacy as both a gritty underdog and a volume three-point shooter who never made more than 40% of his three-point attempts in a given season. Though he hasn’t been a perfect player since arriving in Stillwater, he was basically perfect in a 40-point effort which sprung him to fourth among the league’s scoring leaders. Page may be heating up lately, but this argument for a spot on the All-Conference team is a little off. Page actually shoots less than 40% from the field, including just a 35% clip from three. His attitude and leadership have been commendable especially since injuries and transfers have forced him to move to point guard, but that is not enough for an All-Conference selection.
  2. That 40-point game was quite a scene for Page, though, and it’s worth another mention. Teammate Le’Bryan Nash was most surprised by Page’s ability to pump fake. “I’m like: ‘Why do guys jump? You’re 5-9, I’ll just put my hands straight up and make you try to shoot over me… But guys who play my position, they make defensive mistakes. He looks for those defensive mistakes. And I’m glad they’re calling it for him,” Nash told The Oklahoman. Something tells us Keiton Page and Bob Knight would get along great, considering The General mentions his love for pump fakes at least a dozen times each broadcast.
  3. Now playing for a program looking to sneak back into the NCAAs for the first time in several years, Chris Allen‘s experience is shining at the right time for Iowa State. Allen, who has Final Four experience from his days at Michigan State, scored a career-high 25 points in a blowout of Texas A&M this weekend. That’s the second straight game Allen has led Iowa State in the scoring department. In fact, over the last four games, Allen has shot 17 for 29 from three and is shooting right around 50 percent from the field.
  4. At least Billy Gillispie has a sense of humor. After a 33-point beating at the hands of Thomas Robinson and Kansas, the Texas Tech coach made a Seabiscuit reference to describe the way the Jayhawks manhandled his team inside. “I keep thinking every time we have the tip of that scene in ‘Seabiscuit, where they walk Seabiscuit out here and he’s going against War Admiral, and War Admiral is this much taller (gestures about a foot) than him,” Gillispie told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. There’s not a whole lot to add to Coach Gillispie’s depiction of the situation– it’s pretty much spot on.
  5. Texas and Baylor are moving in opposite directions, and they are going to clash on Big Monday tonight. The Longhorns have a chance to move above .500 in the Big 12 and knock off their first ranked opponent while the Bears are trying to stop a nasty slide in conference play. After entering the Big 12 season without a loss, the Bears have now dropped five league games and hit rock bottom with a poor effort in Saturday’s loss at home to Kansas State. It’s desperation time in the state of Texas on Monday and that makes for great television.
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Night Line: Royce White’s Special Season Carrying Cyclones

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

In search of their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2005, Iowa State is doing exactly what they need to do to make a statement to the selection committee. On Tuesday night, the Cyclones withstood a valiant effort from visiting Kansas State to come away with a 72-70 win, just four days after knocking off No. 4 Kansas in the same building. Royce White’s game-winning jumper completed a massive second-half comeback and has given Iowa State a two-game cushion in fourth place in the Big 12 as well as a spot on the right side of the bubble for now. Fred Hoiberg’s team is now 16-6 overall, 6-3 in conference, and has one of the best all-around forwards in the entire country. White has been an efficient machine all season long, and he’s now doing it against top competition and in clutch moments. Given how he and his team are playing, it’s going to be tough to keep Iowa State out of the NCAA Tournament.

Royce White is Giving Iowa State Fans Reason to Celebrate (AP Photo/ J. Hayworth)

Royce White was a top 30 recruit two seasons ago and never played for Minnesota before deciding to transfer. After sitting out last season, the sophomore forward has been a dominant force in his first season in Ames, and doing so in a non-traditional manner. Before Tuesday, White was averaging just 13.6 points per game (still a team-high), but he was also the team leader in rebounds (9.6 RPG), assists (4.5 APG), steals (1.1 SPG), blocks (1.1 BPG) and field-goal percentage (53.6%). His all-around game is reminiscent of the kind of production that Draymond Green puts forth for Michigan State, yet White has seemed to get less recognition throughout the season. With another huge night on Tuesday, which included the game-winning basket with two seconds to play, that should no longer be the case.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 24th, 2012

  1. Hello, USA Today: Missouri has earned some national headlines with its #2 ranking this week, the highest the program has appeared in the polls in about a decade. You are already familiar with the story, but USA Today breaks down the situation for the rest of America’s casual sports fans. After rehashing the off-season saga of Mike Anderson and Frank Haith and the injury to Laurence Bowers, it’s incredible the Tigers have taken the nation by storm like this. Now, they will need to top it off by defeating Kansas and winning the Big 12 in its final season in the league.
  2. Finishing above .500 in college basketball is not necessarily an accomplishment, especially for a Big 12 team with several guarantee games on the non-conference schedule. But Oklahoma State has still finished with a winning record for 23 seasons, and that streak is in jeopardy this year. At 9-9, Travis Ford has five freshmen and only eight scholarship players. With two transfers and a knee injury to J.P. Olukemi, it’s understandable that Ford may have a down year. With big-time recruits coming in, though, there won’t be any excuses in 2012-13.
  3. Tyrus McGee is the forgotten newcomer for Iowa State, but the league honored him by naming him Big 12 Rookie of the Week. McGee is quietly providing Iowa State a hot hand from the perimeter. The junior college transfer is shooting 46% from three and has scored 17 and 20 points in his last two respective games. Oh, and he hit a combined 11 three-pointers in those two games. Not too bad for a guy who plays in the shadows of Royce White, Scott Christopherson, and Chris Allen among others.
  4. Texas A&M wing Khris Middleton did not play last night against Kansas after suffering a knee injury over the weekend. Middleton did miss several games in non-conference play with a knee injury, but this incident does not seem all that serious. Coach Billy Kennedy says he will probably be back soon, and he certainly needs him. Middleton is by far the top offensive option on a team that has struggled to score all season.
  5. Oklahoma is probably the most interesting team in this league right now. Lon Kruger‘s team isn’t dead yet, but it needs to shore up a few things in order to become a contender. The end of the article focuses on Steven Pledger and Cameron Clark in particular. Pledger is Oklahoma’s leading scorer, as he’s having a breakout season. Teams have figured him out a bit during Big 12 play, but this writer urges Kruger to keep feeding Pledger the ball. And Clark, who’s sort of an enigma after a promising freshman season, has started coming off the bench recently. As the article mentions, “If Clark ever reaches his full potential it could take the Sooners to another level.” For Kruger, that will have to happen sooner rather than later.
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Checking In On… The Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Two Big 12 teams notched their first wins of the conference season this week with Oklahoma defeating Kansas State and Texas A&M downing Texas Tech. Andrew Fitzgerald had a season-high 21 points to key Oklahoma’s first win as the Sooners overcame a double-double from Rodney McGruder. A&M meanwhile overcame a poor day on the glass to beat Texas Tech with five players in double figures. It doesn’t get any easier for the Aggies, as they have Missouri and Kansas in their next three games.
  • The conference’s two top defenses will meet tonight in Allen Fieldhouse when unbeaten Baylor visits Kansas. The Bears are allowing 0.908 points per possession and a 44% eFG, each mark bested only by Kansas. The Jayhawks are allowing opponents only 0.839 points per trip and an eFG allowed of 38.2%. They both have been very accomplished in Big 12 play offensively as well, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a very high-scoring affair on Big Monday.
  • At roughly the halfway point, the Big 12 leader in both points per game and points per 40 minutes is Texas junior J’Covan Brown. Brown is scoring 19 points per game and 22.9 points per 40 minutes. Brown has grown into and embraced his role as a scorer, going from playing in 53% Texas’s minutes last year to over 80% this year, and from taking roughly a fourth of the shots available all the way up to nearly a third this season.

Monday's Showdown Pitting Perry Jones And The Bears Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse Could Be The Best Game Of Conference Play. (Aiken/Getty)

Power Rankings

  1. Baylor (17-0, 4-0): The Bears narrowly avoided their first loss of the year by surviving 75-73 at Kansas State. Lest you wonder about them getting caught looking ahead to the showdown with the Jayhawks on Monday, they thumped Oklahoma State 106-75 over the weekend. While NBA scouts must be drooling about seeing Perry Jones match-up with Thomas Robinson, I’m more interested in the guards: Pierre Jackson has gotten a lot of ink lately for his stellar play (and it’s warranted, as he’s shooting 49% from three and has the 24th-best assist rate in the country), but he’ll have to go up against some good defensive guards for the Jayhawks, and with Jackson turning it over at a rate of 30% that could provide some easy buckets for the Jayhawks.
  2. Kansas (14-3, 4-0): The Jayhawks trailed nearly all game on Saturday against Iowa State (looking ahead to the Baylor game perhaps?) before finally pulling away at the end to win 82-73. Tyshawn Taylor had a career-high 28 points, and chipped in six assists and four steals. After the game, Iowa State’s Chris Allen was none too complimentary, remarking “I honestly can say that we did what we had to do to win,” Allen said. “I don’t want to make any excuses, but you watched the game like we all watched the game. It’s our fault we let the refs keep them in the game and had a couple of (bad) calls that kind of made us sink down a little bit.” Not that this is the be all end-all method of determining referee favoritism, but the Cyclones actually attempted one more free throw than the Jayhawks, and that was even with the intentional fouling at the end as Iowa State tried to play catch-up late. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 9th, 2012

  1. Royce White recorded a triple-double on Saturday, which earned him nationwide headlines and thrust him into the Big 12 spotlight. Interestingly, though, another milestone occurred during Iowa State‘s 74-50 victory at Texas A&M. Guard Chris Allen notched his 1,000th career point, and he now has 1,003 after a 10-point performance. The Thousand-Point Club is often the barometer for a solid collegiate career for a scorer, so congratulations to Allen. White’s triple-double was a little more rare, though, as he is just the fourth player in ISU history to ever record one.
  2. In a rebuilding year for Oklahoma, coach Lon Kruger is finding the positives in an 0-2 start to Big 12 play. It’s not easy to face Missouri and Kansas in back-to-back games to open the league season, but the Sooners recovered from a beatdown in Columbia to at least hang with Kansas at home for a bit. They led by a point at halftime thanks to stout defense and resiliency before the game came crashing down during a 29-6 Kansas run to open the second half. One of these days, Oklahoma fans won’t be lauding an 0-2 record and two blowout losses. But for now, the Sooners will have to live with small progress during the rebuilding process.
  3. Staying with the Oklahoma theme, the Sooners will face Oklahoma State in a rather subdued Bedlam series tonight. The game will air on ESPNU near the same time slot as the BCS Championship Game, and both teams look like Big 12 cellar-dwellars at this point. Still, it is Bedlam, and that’s at least worth changing the channel for during football pre-game coverage or early in the first quarter. We will have a full preview of this game later today, but it will be interesting to see what kind of crowd turns out at Gallagher-Iba. Traditionally one of the most intense arenas in college basketball, the OSU fan base has soured a bit lately and attendance hasn’t been stellar. That could change for Bedlam though.
  4. It is not hard to explain why Missouri lost to Kansas State on Saturday. The bigger, more physical Wildcats frustrated Ricardo Ratliffe, pressured them in the half-court, and fed off the energy of the home crowd. Here is a more analytical look at the loss for the Tigers, who dropped their first game of the season. One stat to note in particular is the turnovers. Without glancing at the box score, you might assume that Missouri lost that battle. After all, it did step on the inbounds line a few times and looked generally out of sorts on the offensive end. Turns out, that the two teams tied in that category, but here’s the kicker: Kansas State outscored Missouri 21-11 in points off turnovers. That was an overlooked aspect of this game for sure.
  5. Kansas State got the win it needed against Missouri after a blowout in Lawrence to Kansas on Wednesday, but it faces another tough task with Baylor this week. If you are keeping track, that means the Wildcats do in fact open their Big 12 season with the three clear-cut league contenders in consecutive match-ups. It would have been disastrous for Kansas State to lose all three, so at least it has one win under its belt. Now, go ahead and beat the Bears and maybe we are talking about Kansas State as a possible title contender. It is early, and the 18-game schedule means Kansas State must also prove it can win on the road. But a 2-1 start against Kansas, Missouri, and Baylor would have to put the Wildcats in that conversation.
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • The Big 12’s feel-good story has to be Texas Tech freshman Luke Adams. Adams was born almost entirely deaf with only about 10% hearing in his left ear. Thanks to cochlear implants however, he is hearing nearly completely normally now. He has been effective in limited playing time as well, shooting 46% from three and 78% from the free throw line to go with a 24.4% assist rate. Although he was the leading scorer in Class 3A in Texas last year, his scholarship options were limited due to his size. He chose to walk on at Tech and based on his early performance, he could be a nice shooter off the bench for them in the coming years.
  • Thomas Robinson had the performance of the week in the Big 12 scoring 30 points and grabbing 21 rebounds against North Dakota. It was first 30 point 20 rebound game for a Kansas player since Wayne Hightower did it against Missouri 50 years ago, and it was just the sixth time in the history of the Big 12 a player has had a 30 and 20 game. Robinson joins elite company including Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Michael Beasley in the conference’s 30-20 club.
  • For the second week in a row, the two Big 12 unbeatens stayed that way by the narrowest of margins. Baylor beat Mississippi State in Dallas, despite what a cynic would call their best efforts to give it away, and Missouri picked up a nice true road win, going to Old Dominion and surviving, 75-68. Interestingly, they both had to fight the crowd a bit: Old Dominion was at home and has a nice atmosphere at the Constant Convocation Center, but the crowd in Dallas was pitiful for the Baylor-Mississippi State game. Playing in front of a stale crowd is probably good preparation for the NCAA Tournament, but it makes for some awful regular season basketball.

Cynics Will Be Quick To Point Out That It Came Against North Dakota, But Thomas Robinson Posted One Of The Top Single-Game Performances In Big 12 History Saturday. (Credit: Reed Hoffmann/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (13-0): Although their offense is fantastic, I think it is officially time to start worrying about Missouri’s defense. They have allowed over a point per possession in back-to -back games, and almost did earlier in the month to lowly Kennesaw State. Frank Haith has generally had good defenses considering the talent he had at Miami so I think they can get the ship righted but it still is a potential red flag for the Tigers if they want to win the Big 12.
  2. Baylor (13-0): I promised I would put Baylor at the number two slot if they beat Mississippi State, but yikes. After squeaking out a two-point win in Dallas in which they tried their hardest to let the Bulldogs get out of there with the win, it probably will be a one week stay at the 2 slot. All of Baylor nation seems to have Pierre Jackson fever, as last year’s highest ranking junior college player scored 14 points against Mississippi State and has a 63.5% eFG on the season. But to temper those expectations a bit, I don’t think you can win the Big 12 title with a point guard who has a turnover rate of 30.4%. It is true that he will get more comfortable with the offense as the season goes on, but he will also be playing much tougher opponents. Read the rest of this entry »
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