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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The Transfer Effect: What the Statistics Say about Missouri and Iowa State’s Recruiting Methods

Posted by dnspewak on December 27th, 2011

No matter how established the program, every college basketball coach eventually takes a chance on a transfer. Jim Boeheim, for example, plucked Wesley Johnson from Iowa State and turned him into the Big East Player of the Year in 2009-10. Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski’s current rosters both include transfers with Brandon Wood (Valparaiso) and Seth Curry (Liberty), and in 1979, a former Indiana Hoosier named Larry Bird nearly won a title with Indiana State just a few years after quitting basketball (and Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers) altogether.

Hoiberg and Haith Are Recruiting Transfers Heavily to Their Programs

Normally, coaches take one or two transfers at a time to fill immediate holes, but that’s not everybody’s philosophy. Meet Missouri’s Frank Haith and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, a pair of coaches who have abandoned traditional recruiting methods at their new schools in favor of Division I transfers. Haith, hired in April to replace Mike Anderson, is using three open scholarships in 2011-12 on players who will not appear in a single basketball game this season by signing Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Jabari Brown (Oregon). Hoiberg, on the other hand, has four transfers on his roster in his second year with the Cyclones: Chris Allen (Michigan State), Chris Babb (Penn State), Royce White (Minnesota), and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois). The two coaches have energized their fan bases by signing big names from major schools, but Haith and Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics cannot be accurately judged at this point. Iowa State’s Fab Four will begin Big 12 play next month, and Missouri’s three transfers will not all be eligible until December 2012.

Instead of speculating as to whether the two teams will suffer from dreaded chemistry problems with so many transfers, why not crunch the numbers to see if The Transfer Effect really exists? Although finding aggregate data for Division I transfers is virtually impossible, recent anecdotal evidence shows that the recruiting strategy is an enormous risk for both coaches. Seven teams from both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons welcomed three or more transfers to their programs at the same time, and only two teams (San Diego State and UNLV) finished above .500 in league play. Seton Hall, the only power conference team in the group, missed the NCAA Tournament.

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Checking In On… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 2011

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

  • Kansas Gets Exposed: For the second time in the last four years, Kansas suffered a surprising defeat to an overmatched team in Kansas City. This year’s victor was Davidson, who led nearly all game en route to an 80-74 upset over the Jayhawks. It was the third game this season where Kansas was held under a point per possession. This team might be the worst offensive team Bill Self has fielded at Kansas: there’s no real go-to guy like Marcus Morris, and the Jayhawks don’t have the three-point shooters to keep defenses from collapsing on Thomas Robinson in the middle. The turnovers are also an even bigger problem than last season, without the ability to score nearly at will to compensate.
  • Undefeated Squads Hold Serve: Both of the undefeated teams in the league narrowly retained that status, with Missouri trying valiantly to give Illinois the Braggin Rights game and Baylor doing the same with West Virginia. Frank Haith’s team won a rare close game, eking out a 78-74 win, and Baylor narrowly defeated West Virginia 83-81 in overtime, after which Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins had a rare instance of losing his cool.
  • Kansas State scored a tournament win over the weekend, downing Long Beach State on Christmas night to win the Diamond Head Classic. Angel Rodriguez was the star of the tournament, scoring 17 and 16 in the first two games. Rodney McGruder more than picked up his slack in the championship against Long Beach, scoring 28 on 10-11 shooting.  Kansas State now has a pair of good wins in the non-conference season and look like they will be in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Wildcats Have Plenty of Souvenirs To Bring Home After Winning The Diamond Head Classic. (AP)

Power Rankings

Because the marquee non conference games are virtually over, this week, I thought I’d grade the teams. I’m grading on a curve, so an A for Missouri isn’t the same as one for Kansas State.

  1. Missouri (12-0) – Grade: A. Missouri is 12-0 and while I am still not sure about Frank Haith for the long haul, he has to get credit for coming to Missouri and not changing anything. He recognized what he had in Marcus Denmon, Kim English, and Phil Pressey and let them be who they are. Haith’s Miami teams regularly played games where the pace lingered in the low-to-mid-60s , but this year Missouri is at 70.5 trips per game, basically right in line with where it has been the past three seasons.
  2. Kansas (8-3) – Grade: A-. Kansas sits only at 8-3, but actually are the highest-rated Big 12 team in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings at 8, one spot ahead of Missouri and two ahead of Baylor. Some of that is due to beating a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State, but a bigger factor has been Kansas’s stifling defense, which has held opponents to just 39.6% shooting from inside the arc. A year after losing two lottery picks and the very solid Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed, not to mention second-round pick Josh Selby, Bill Self is in the midst of maybe his best coaching job yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Weekend Games Primer

Posted by dnspewak on December 9th, 2011


  • Ohio State (8-0) at Kansas (6-2), Saturday 2:15 PM CT

Bill Self has gained a reputation during his long career for producing some of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, but his 2011-12 team hasn’t performed up to his expectations quite yet. “Our offense sucks,” Self said. “It’s ridiculous to watch.” That’s a harsh statement to make in public, but Self has a point. Kansas turned the ball over 22 times in a win over Long Beach State this week, although it did tally 16 assists and hung 88 on the Big West favorites. To put Self’s comments into perspective, however, consider his team’s three games against Kentucky, Georgetown and Duke. The Jayhawks shot 28 percent from three-point land in those contests, and they totaled more than 10 team assists just once. Right now, much of the problem stems from the lackluster play of point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who owns an assist-to-turnover ratio of less than 1.0. He turned the ball over 11 times against the Blue Devils on national television last month in the Maui Invitational title game, and his subpar efforts seem to have major implications on the way KU runs its offense. But don’t give up on the senior point guard just yet. He has a chance for redemption against a smothering Ohio State defense, and in particular, he’ll need to rise to the occassion against the feisty Aaron Craft. The matchup at point guard will to some extent determine the outcome of this game, especially since star center Jared Sullinger‘s status is in question for the Buckeyes due to back spasms. If he plays opposite of KU’s Thomas Robinson, we’ll be treated to two of the best rebounders in America on Saturday afternoon.

If Jared Sullinger Plays, KU Is In Trouble

The key individual match-up isAaron Craft vs. Tyshawn Taylor. It doesn’t take long to recognize Craft’s impact on a basketball game. Making his mark as a distributor and defender, Craft may actually be the most publicized player in college basketball who does not average double figures in scoring. He has the ability to frustrate Taylor with his intensity and aggressiveness, but it’d be silly to write off Taylor in this match-up. Craft is a sophomore; Taylor, on the other hand, is a senior who’s never turned the ball over at this rate (4.0 TPG) at any point in his career. As long as he takes care of the ball, Taylor is a good enough player to hold his own here.

Kansas wins if… It executes better offensively. You heard Bill Self — the offense “sucks” right now. With Self’s track record, that shouldn’t last for long. If the Jayhawks share the ball better and limit turnovers, they have more than enough scoring options to hang with the Buckeyes at Allen Fieldhouse.

Ohio State wins if… Jared Sullinger plays– and dominates. With Robinson and Jeff Withey, Kansas has the interior defense to contain Sullinger… sort of. No matter who he faces, Sullinger finds a way to score by playing within the offense and making high-percentage shots. If Thad Matta slots him in the starting lineup, it won’t matter who guards him.


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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 6th, 2011

  1.  As we previewed the 2011-12 season this fall, we agreed that the Big 12 Conference was wide open this season. But is the league as whole down this year? It’s very difficult to tell, considering the month of December just began. However, there’s legitimacy to the argument. There are a lot of question marks at the top: How will Texas A&M fare if Khris Middleton’s injury nags at him this season? Is Baylor as good as advertised? How about Missouri‘s hot start, and what do we make of the revamped Kansas Jayhawks? And at the bottom of the league, there are several teams still trying to prove themselves. We know one thing, at least: This will all be naturally sorted out during the next few months.
  2. TCU is still a member of the Mountain West Conference right now, but it will get a taste of the Big 12 when it faces Texas Tech tonight. The Horned Frogs, who are set to join the league beginning in the 2012-13 season, are a modest 6-2, but Jim Christian‘s team does at least appear improved. Despite a couple of losses in the Paradise Jam tourney, TCU actually owns solid road wins at Houston and Evansville and knocked off Virginia. Laugh if you want, but TCU’s early-season stretch could have been much worse.
  3. Missouri‘s early-season stretch, on the other hand, couldn’t have been better. Literally. The Tigers are undefeated, and they’ve now cracked the Top 10 in both national polls after their dominating start. Considering the whirlwind of an offseason MU experienced, it’s amazing Frank Haith has his team in this position right now. With Villanova looming tonight at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic, Haith’s squad has another chance to showcase its improvement to the nation.
  4. Iowa State began the season on a three-point tear, but the Cyclones’ accuracy from the perimeter has faded of late. That could be a serious problem for a team that relies on shooters like Chris Babb, Chris Allen, Scott Christopherson and Tyrus McGee to produce. During the past two games, ISU has taken 45 threes and the Cyclones made just 10. That’s not very productive, folks. Of course, that’s a rather small sample size. We’re guessing Iowa State’s shooters will heat up one of these days. There’s just too many of them to all go cold at once.
  5. In an interesting move, Oklahoma has actually dropped ticket prices to its men’s basketball games this season. In fact, the Sooners’ athletic department cut $100 off the price for student tickets in an effort to get more people out to the games. And from the 2008-09 season to last year, ticket revenues dropped by about 14 percent. Remember, the 2008-09 team made the Elite Eight with Blake Griffin, so it appears OU may have to keep these prices low until Lon Kruger gets the program turned around.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.30.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 30th, 2011

  1. Perry Jones is back and he returned in style from a suspension last night, scoring 29 points in a rout of Prairie View A&M. Jones’ suspension for improper benefits dates back to last season (it included the Baylor‘s lone game in the Big 12 Tournament), but with the suspension behind him, Jones appears ready to live up to his billing as the league’s pre-season Player of the Year. Playing a cupcake schedule, the Bears did just fine without Jones during a 5-0 start, but the competition stiffens this weekend with a road contest at Northwestern. Baylor needs a sharp performance out of Jones to win that one.
  2. Jones may have returned, but Baylor’s other star forward, Quincy Miller, did not play against Prairie View A&M due to a sprained ankle although the team reports that he will be ready for the Northwestern game. Hopefully, the Bears won’t have to deal with too much rust from Miller or Jones, or else they could be in for a long night against what appears to be a solid Northwestern team.
  3. Northern Iowa and Iowa State play each other every year these days, but newcomer Chris Allen has a different relationship with the Panthers. The former Michigan State guard called Northern Iowa “that purple team,” in reference to the 2010 NCAA Tournament squad that lost to the Spartans in the Sweet 16. Allen will play an important role for the Cyclones as they attempt to defend their home court. In their one previous game against Missouri Valley competition, they fell on the road to Drake. There are only a few leftovers remaining from the 2010 team that defeated Kansas in the second round, but Allen said he knows “that they can beat anyone on any given night. I saw it happen.” Coach Fred Hoiberg has to like that attitude.
  4. With so many newcomers it is not surprising that Texas Tech is struggling to take care of the ball. The statistics are staggering, though as the Red Raiders are close to dead last in Division I basketball in turnovers per game. The exact average is 18.7, and that’s “good” for 320th in college basketball. It is not just one guy either. Point guard Ty Nurse averages two turnovers per game (against only one assist per game). The rest of the team varies from about 1.5 to 3.0 turnovers per game. That has to improve for Billy Gillispie, but that goes without saying.
  5. Nobody will question LeBryan Nash’s talent, but people are starting to question his attitude. Coach Travis Ford says not to worry about Nash’s negative body language, however. He defended his young star, telling reporters that Nash’s natural demeanor often gives fans a misperception of his actual work ethic and attitude. According to Ford, Nash hasn’t had any sort of chemistry issues, and he is fitting in with the team just fine. By all accounts, it sounds like Nash’s game will eventually come around.
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Iowa State’s Impact Transfer– But He’s Not Who You Have in Mind

Posted by dnspewak on November 28th, 2011

Fred Hoiberg brought in four notable Division I transfers this season, and by now, you know them by name: Chris Babb (Penn State), Royce White (Minnesota), Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois), and Chris Allen (Michigan State). After months of hype from media members and writers such as ourselves, the group basically became known as Iowa State‘s version of the Fab Four.

So far, Babb, White, and Allen are the team’s three leading scorers, serving as the catalysts during a decent 5-1 start for the Cyclones. And that’s all great and dandy.

Except the most important transfer so far may arguably be Tyrus McGee, a junior college guard who has not started a single game this season. He earned a reputation at Cowley County Community College as a sharpshooter, and he’s certainly lived up to that billing with a blistering 56.7% mark from three-point land. Besides the season opener against Lehigh, McGee has scored in double figures in every other game, and he’s also made at least two three-pointers in each contest.

Tyrus McGee Plays Hard for Coach Fred Hoiberg (Credit: Des Moines Register)

But his scoring totals aren’t the reason McGee has earned constant praise from Hoiberg. Instead, McGee is actually making more of a mark on the defensive end, bringing a much-needed energy and toughness to Iowa State’s roster. Like any defensive stopper, Hoiberg says he “love[s] the kid because he’ll run through the wall for you.” He may not have run through any dry wall last week, but his efforts did help Iowa State to a 64-54 victory over Providence in the South Padre Island Invitational.

McGee then scored 17 points in a route of Rice in the title game. In six games, McGee has exactly one turnover. And did we mention he’s missed only one free throw so far? Yeah, it’s early. Really early. Iowa State already lost on the road to a decent but unspectacular Drake team, and its wins so far (against Lehigh, Western Carolina, Northern Colorado, Providence and Rice) aren’t going to turn any heads. Still, hustle is hustle, and McGee will play hard against any opponent. If the Cyclones surprise the Big 12 this season, he will probably be a major factor in this program’s revitalization.

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Big 12 Preview Wrap-Up

Posted by dnspewak on November 14th, 2011

For the past several weeks, we’ve pretended to be experts on the Big 12 Conference here. You likely disagree with most (if not all) of our arguments, and we’ve probably made statements bold enough to send you away from RTC and never come back. If you’re still here, though, the 2011-12 season looks promising in the Big 12. It’s a wide-open league with multiple championship contenders, and it’s also a league in transition with Missouri and Texas A&M departing after the season. The realignment apocalypse has subsided for now, and we’ve got real basketball to talk about now for the next five months. As we begin our quest this season, however, let’s take a look back at our fearless predictions this fall:

The Big 12 Streak is in Tyshawn Taylor's Hands Now

RTC Big 12 Predictions

  1. Kansas
  2. Baylor
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Missouri
  5. Texas
  6. Kansas State
  7.  Oklahoma State
  8. Iowa State
  9. Oklahoma
  10.  Texas Tech

RTC All-Big 12 First Team

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Big 12 Team Previews: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by dnspewak on November 5th, 2011

Projected finish: 8th

2010-11 record: 16-16 (3-13), 12th

Head coach: Fred Hoiberg, second season

Key Losses: Diante Garrett (17.3 PPG), Jake Anderson (12.8 PPG), Jamie Vanderbeken, (11.1 PPG)

Coach Fred Hoiberg‘s team started quick in nonconference play during his first season, but his Cyclones eventually tumbled to a dismal last-place finish in 2010-11. After losing one of the league’s top point guards in Diante Garrett, Hoiberg’s job doesn’t get much easier this fall. However, he does have one of the more intriguing rosters in the Big 12 with four big-name transfers set to take the court. There are a lot of wild cards for Iowa State this season, but there may be enough talent for a surprise finish.

Fred Hoiberg's Team Could Surprise (AP/A. Heisenfelt)

The Stars: Scott Christopherson may be the most underrated shooter in college basketball. He shot a blistering 44.1% from three-point range last year, making 83 threes during a terrific campaign. Garrett got a lot of the credit as the star last season, but Christopherson was probably the second most important player on the squad. After playing sparingly as a freshman at Marquette due to injury, Christopherson finally emerged as a team leader when he became fully healthy and earned a starting job.

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