The Big Picture Implications of Iowa State’s Loss

Posted by dnspewak on March 24th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 Microsite writer. 

One shot does not define a program. Aaron Craft’s dramatic, I-can’t-believe-that-just-went-in three-pointer in the final milliseconds of regulation on Sunday will become an iconic moment of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but as much as it will pain Iowa State fans for all eternity, it will not ruin Cyclones basketball. It will not overshadow Fred Hoiberg’s rebuilding job and two straight NCAA Tournaments, nor should it overshadow the fact that ISU will return the Big 12’s leading rebounder in Melvin Ejim next season. Hoiberg’s program is in fine shape, and Craft’s pull-up three won’t change that.

Fred Hoiberg Has To Hurt After This Loss

Fred Hoiberg Has To Hurt After This Loss

But boy, does this one hurt. And it’s hard not to think about what might have happened had Craft’s shot not fallen. Say he misses, and the 10th-seeded Cyclones upset Ohio State in overtime. Say Chris Babb does not get injured, or the officials make a different call on that charge in the final minutes and it changes the outcome of this game. If Iowa State could have found a way to knock off the Buckeyes and advance to the Sweet Sixteen, it would have made its first trip to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2000. That’s a full 13 years ago, when Larry Eustachy roamed the sideline and Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley wore the Cyclones jersey. It was the end of a strong era for Iowa State basketball, as Eustachy’s success built upon the work of Tim Floyd and Johnny Orr in the ’80s and ’90s. When Iowa State earned a two-seed in the 2001 NCAA Tournament, this program couldn’t have soared any higher.Then Hampton happened. Out in the first round to a 15-seed. A short while later, the infamous party pictures of Eustachy forced his departure after the 2002-03 season. His replacement, Wayne Morgan, won one game in the NCAA Tournament a few years after that but nothing more. When Greg McDermott took over in 2006-07, four seasons of mediocre, tournament-less basketball followed.

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Where Does Iowa State Go From Here?

Posted by dnspewak on February 27th, 2013

Georges Niang drew a charge. Iowa State should have had possession of the basketball with a two-point lead late in regulation on Monday, and it should have had the chance to inbound the ball and ice the victory over sixth-ranked Kansas at the free throw line. The Cyclones should have all but sealed their NCAA Tournament at-large bid with the win, but then a funny thing happened. The officials made a human error. The Twitterverse blew up, ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla directed his outrage at the NCAA on the air, and the college basketball community essentially came to a consensus that Iowa State got jobbed.

Tough Loss Aside, Iowa State Has a Lot To Play For  (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tough Loss Aside, Iowa State Has a Lot To Play For (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Cyclones indeed had a victory stolen from them. Even Kansas fans would probably agree with that statement, but it doesn’t change the facts. The Jayhawks won because Elijah Johnson put on a display for the ages, draining threes from every corner of the state of Iowa. The officials weren’t guarding him. The Cyclones were — they were trying to, at least. Nobody could guard Johnson on this particular night, and blown call or not, Iowa State had a five-point lead with less than a minute remaining in regulation and could not hold on for a victory. Cry foul all you want and blame the zebras if it makes you feel better, but there’s nothing Fred Hoiberg and his crew can do about it now. They lost.

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Big 12 M5: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 31st, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Oklahoma finally had a chance to score a road win against Baylor that would boost their average tournament profile. So they grabbed a hold of this game early and never let go. The Sooners marched into Baylor’s Ferrell Center and handed the Bears their third home loss of the season (they’ve got six total). They got an outstanding effort from Amath M’Baye but I’m giving major props to a upperclassmen I expected a lot more from during his senior season. I pictured Steven Pledger being a serious contender for player of the year in the Big 12 but his six minute drop in playing time has seen his shooting and scoring numbers take a hit in 2012-13. Last night:  20 points, 6-for-12 shooting, made three threes, had two steals, five assists and one turnover. He made three free throws down the stretch to clinch it for Oklahoma. This game goes to show that he’s better than his season stats would tell you.
  2. Iowa State tried to make history last night, and they came close, but it just wasn’t to be. Again. The Cyclones had not won a game at Gallagher-Iba Arena in a quarter of a century and now they will have to wait another year to rewrite history. They led for a little over half of the game before losing it in an interesting final seconds of regulation. If the original call of a foul plus a 1-and-1 opportunity for Chris Babb stood firm, we could be talking a game that went to overtime and possibly a streak that could be no more. But as players and coaches will tell you, it’s never a good idea to let the referees decide the end of a game. They’ll move on and face Baylor Saturday who ironically enough have never won a game at Hilton Coliseum. Go figure.
  3. Yes it was super frosh Marcus Smart who hit the game-winner last night and had another typical superb game,  but his high school teammate is deserving of some attention tooPhil Forte stands just five feet, eleven inches tall and knows if he wasn’t a gym rat, there’s a chance he wouldn’t be playing Division 1 hoops. His tireless work ethic has earned him starters’ minutes as of late, going over 30 in four of the last five games. Last night, Forte chipped in with 17 points and four steals. It won’t be long before people outside Stillwater will realize that Forte is actually not related to former Cowboy Keiton Page.
  4. We knew it was going to get ugly in Manhattan. What hampered Texas this time? Offense again. All the Longhorns could get was 19 in the first half while K-State happened to score 19 more than UT. The Horns turn the ball over more than anyone (16 turnovers/game) in the Big 12. Wouldn’t you know it, the Wildcats would win the turnover battle 17-6.  Sheldon McClellan described this season better than anyone after the game: “Demoralizing.” At this point Rick Barnes’ only hope this spring is if he can find a way land Julius Randle for next year’s recruiting class.
  5. Kansas State absolutely would have taken a win by any means necessary after losing twice last week. While the game was never in doubt, backup forward Thomas Gipson played like there was no tomorrow. After starting the last 13 games for the Wildcats, Gipson found himself coming off the bench. He took the demotion in stride, scoring 17 points and pulling down seven boards in 21 minutes. For Gipson, there was also some added meaning for playing on January 30th. “I think that today, my real motivation was that today was my sister’s (Jade Middleton) birthday and she passed about a year ago and I just used that as my reason to play hard. I should play like that every day.” At least he’s willing to admit he doesn’t play to his potential. Now it’s time to buck that trend.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Five

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 10th, 2012

Kansas State jumps into the third spot in this week’s ranking and the top three teams remain at one loss for the year. Texas continues its free fall without Myck Kabongo, the middle of the pack teams played like middle of the pack teams this week, and Texas Tech and TCU are still looking up at the rest of the Big 12 from a deep, deep hole.

1) Kansas (7-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week:  W 90-54 vs. Colorado

This Week: Saturday vs. Belmont, 6:00 PM CST

Bill Self’s Jayhawks are Atop the Big 12 Power Rankings for the Second Straight Week. (AP)

  • Rundown: The loss to Michigan State is getting further into the rear view as the Jayhawks have now won six in a row. They struggled 10 days ago against Oregon State but a week of practice seemed to help, and they ran Colorado out of the gym Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse. Finals are over this week, and these next few weeks of winter break are usually when Bill Self implements most of his offense and prepares his teams for their annual Big 12 title runs.
  • They Could Use Help From: Freshman F Perry Ellis: Ellis is averaging 5.9 PPG and 3.6 RPG. He’s only a true freshman and expectations aren’t high this season, but another reliable scorer next to Jeff Withey would be a boost for a Kansas offense that has struggled at times.

2) Oklahoma State (7-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 61-49 vs. South Florida, W 62-42 vs. Missouri State

This Week: Sunday vs. Central Arkansas, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: Oklahoma State rebounded from its loss to Virginia Tech to beat South Florida and Missouri State last week, but the loss to the Hokies is a bit of a head-scratcher. Junior guard Markel Brown continues to impress, though, averaging 14.0 PPG and 4.9 RPG. The Cowboys should clean up with their next three games: Central Arkansas, Texas-San Antonio, and Tennessee Tech.
  • They Could Use Help From: Senior G Jean-Paul Olukemi: With the additions of Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart the last two seasons, it’s not shocking that Olukemi’s offensive numbers have dipped. But he’s capable of scoring at a better clip, and the Cowboy offense (158th in the country with 69.4 PPG) could certainly benefit from.
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Big 12 Team Preview #7: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 6th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Iowa State at the #7 position is next on our list.

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 Record: 23-11, 12-6 Big 12
  • Key Contributors Gone: F Royce White, G Scott Christopherson, G Chris Allen
  • Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg, 3rd season
  • Projected Finish: 7th

Replacing Royce White will be crucial if Iowa State wants to continue its uptick in the Big 12.

Fred Hoiberg wasted no time after being hired at Iowa State in April 2010, quickly assembling a group of transfers who sat out the first season before making a big impact a year ago. The Cyclones saw a seven-win improvement in 2011-12 and played eventual national champion Kentucky tough — at least for a half — in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament before losing, 87-71. Now Hoiberg is looking to do it again. Last year’s top three scorers are gone, led by NBA first round pick and do-everything forward Royce White. He has two more excellent transfers eligible to play this season and a solid four-man recruiting class to blend with those transfers. Hoiberg proved he could mesh everything together for a successful season a year ago, but he had a lot of help with one of the most difficult forward match-ups in the country in the form of Royce White. The non-conference schedule plays out nicely for the Cyclones, with a few tough games — a possible game with UNLV in Las Vegas in the Global Sports Classic and BYU in Ames — but plenty of multi-directional schools will be at home to boost the win total while the newcomers learn to play together. Hoiberg said at the Big 12 Media Day that he has accomplished what he set out to do, quickly building up the program with transfers and surrounding them with good four-year guys. It was successful last season and Hoiberg’s roster moves this year proves that he thinks it will work again.

The Personnel

Hoiberg said that he’ll always play to the strengths of his team, no matter the style. Last year, he gave the ball to White just about anywhere on the floor and let him distribute to the shooters, and it worked. White was too big for most guards and too fast for most big men. And when he drew extra attention, Cyclone shooters were ready, knocking down 293 three-pointers on the year. Hoiberg called last year’s team unconventional because of White’s offensive game, something that won’t be the case this season. “We’ll have Korie Lucious, a pure point guard again,” Hoiberg said at Big 12 Media Day. “I’m excited about that. It gives us the opportunity to play a little faster.” Lucious, now a redshirt senior, played three seasons at Michigan State, contributing to two Final Four teams for Tom Izzo while averaging 6.5 PPG and 4.1 APG in 2010-11. He takes over for White, sort of. As Hoiberg mentioned, Lucious is a pure point guard, while White was nothing of the sort. Lucious will look to pass first and score second. He’ll push the tempo, and while he’s not a 6’8″, 260-pound mismatch, he brings his own skills to this Cyclone team. “He’s got that experience of leading a basketball team.” Hoiberg said. “And we’ve got the athletes to get out and run and play with him.”

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Chris Babb Suspended For Iowa State’s Creampuff Schedule

Posted by dnspewak on November 1st, 2012

In the latest edition of News That Probably Won’t Matter In the Long Run, Iowa State guard Chris Babb will miss the final exhibition game and the Cyclones’ first two regular season contests after coach Fred Hoiberg suspended him on Thursday. Big news, right? We’re just not sure how Iowa State will manage to fend off powerhouses Southern University and Alabama A&M without its shooting guard (although we should mention Southern is in fact a preseason SWAC favorite). At this point, we know very little about the situation other than the official tweet from Iowa State’s men’s basketball program. We’ll never know what the mysterious “violation of team rules” was, nor will we know how exactly Hoiberg will treat Babb during practice for the next few weeks. We do know he won’t suit up until the third game of the regular season against Campbell. Most importantly, he’ll be back in time to provide his top-notch defensive ability during Iowa State’s showdown with Cincinnati on November 23, as well as his team’s match-up with BYU the following week.

Chris Babb Won’t Miss Much Time For This Suspension (photo credit: Associated Press)

In the meantime, though, Hoiberg will have to find a way to replace Babb’s minutes. Remember, this team already lost backup point guard Bubu Palo earlier this fall after a sexual abuse charge, so Babb’s absence means more pressure on sharpshooting senior Tyrus McGee and Hoiberg’s wealth of freshmen guards. Korie Lucious may be all set to start at point guard, but other than him, there are question marks.

No harm, no foul for Babb, though. Babb will miss a few games, learn his lesson and make his grand return just in time for the meat of the Cyclones’ non-conference schedule. It’s probably not the best sign that a senior leader and important figure for this team got suspended before the regular season even began, but this sort of thing happens all across the country. Babb, who started all 34 games a year ago after transferring from Penn State, certainly isn’t the first guy to get in a little minor trouble.

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A Sexual Abuse Case Against the Most Stunning of Suspects

Posted by dnspewak on September 10th, 2012

Much like the recent Billy Gillispie and Dez Wells’ stories, it’s important to stay grounded in light of a recent sexual abuse accusation against Iowa State guard Bubu Palo. Head coach Fred Hoiberg has indefinitely suspended his backup point guard, so it’s now time for the legal process to begin. According to police reports, a woman told authorities Palo and another man, 21-year-old Spencer Cruise, drove her to a home in Ames in May and forced her to have sex with them. A sergeant in the Ames Police Department said it collected DNA evidence from both Palo and Cruise, which led to their arrests last week. In fact, Palo turned himself in at the advice of his attorney, and he now faces a serious prison sentence if convicted. Those are the facts of the case, so judge the situation however you’d like. We’re staying out of this debate. It’d be unfair to the victim to assume she’s lying, and it’d be unfair to Palo to assume the accusations against him are true. So instead of taking aside, this is all we’ll say: There are serious allegations against Bubu Palo, and he’ll likely never play for the Cyclones again unless he’s fully exonerated.

The Charges Against Bubu Palo Offer a Cautionary Tale

That’s the story here– that this happened to Bubu Palo. Whether he’s guilty of sexual abuse or not, it would be almost impossible to find a more bizarre candidate to appear in a story of this magnitude. If there were an illustration of the American Dream walking among us in college basketball, it’d be Palo.  Just look at his background. He’s a hometown kid and a graduate of Ames High School. No criminal history. Academic All-Big 12. A former walk-on who earned a scholarship and made a name for himself as a gritty, underrated reserve. So glancing at a headline about sexual abuse and seeing Palo’s name is, well, stunning, for lack of a better adverb.

The accusations also leave Iowa State without a reliable backup point guard, placing a little more pressure on Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious, the obvious starter at that position. Palo was also the longest-tenured Cyclone guard, having played three seasons in Ames, including a redshirt year. Seniors Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee, on the other hand, joined the program last year as transfers. It seems a little silly to talk basketball after allegations of such consequence, however. Iowa State will trudge on for now without Palo, and Hoiberg must now wait patiently until he learns the legal fate of his backup point guard.

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Big 12 Summer Update: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by dnspewak on July 10th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. We begin with Danny’s update on Iowa State: 

Iowa State Cyclones

2011-12 Record: 23-11, 12-6 (3rd place)

Fred Hoiberg is having a better summer than you. After every basketball writer in America questioned his risky strategy to recruit four Division I transfers to his Iowa State program last year, the Fab Four silenced the naysayers and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. Hoiberg may lose the bulk of his starting lineup to graduation and the pros, but The Mayor has successfully changed the basketball culture in Ames in the span of just one season. So yes — he’s probably having a terrific summer by basking in his team’s 23-win season. And, more importantly, Hoiberg’s bosses rewarded him with a contract extension to give him some extra stability and millions of dollars in cash. That doesn’t mean there’s not work to do while the weather’s still warm, though. Hoiberg’s job now requires him to mix a large class of newcomers with a few returning veterans to keep Iowa State from becoming a one-year wonder.

The Mayor Is Smiling This Summer After an NCAA Tournament Appearance

Summer Orientation: It’s important to stay realistic about summer league basketball, but these statistics for Will Clyburn are too gaudy to ignore. The 6’7’’ wing, eligible next season after transferring from Utah, put up 111 points in two games in the YMCA/Capital City League this summer. He scored 63 in the first game and 48 in the next. For all you math majors, that’s a 55.5 point-per-game average over two contests. Small sample size? Certainly. And summer league? It’s not the NBA. But it’s encouraging for the Cyclones to see Clyburn excel, especially since that league features several of his Iowa State teammates. Former Cyclone Royce White even says Clyburn, a former All-Mountain West honoree at Utah, will make the team better this year than last.

Clyburn has already set a league record for points, but he’s not the only Cyclone making headlines in this league. Freshman Georges Niang actually held Clyburn to 28 points (measly, right?) when the two faced each other in the Y, and there are high hopes for this four-star stud forward from New Hampshire. Fellow froshs Sherron Dorsey-Walker and Naz Long are also earning some experience in this league before their first college seasons, and three-star forward Kerwin Okoro just joined the league in late June.

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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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Set Your TiVo: 01.11.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Will the number one team in the land survive a rivalry road test? Can Missouri bounce back from its recent beatdown to win an away game? Here’s what to expect from two Top 10 teams in tough spots tonight:

#1 Syracuse at Villanova – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (***)

Can Villanova Save Its Season Tonight by Beating #1 Syracuse? (AP Photo)

  • Undefeated Syracuse comes into this game playing as well as any team in the country, but their toughest away games of the season have been at NC State and Providence, so they’re not exactly road tested. The Orange will certainly have the advantage in this one, as their 2-3 zone defense has been incredibly effective this season at forcing turnovers and limiting paint opportunities. Nova’s a team that struggles in these two areas to begin with, and also a team that fires up a lot of threes (over 20 per game) at a low conversion rate (30%, ranked in the bottom 50 nationally). If Syracuse simply executes defensively and forces the Wildcats into a three-point barrage, they’ll have a huge advantage. Jim Boeheim’s team will come at Villanova with their deep array of weapons, where Kris Joseph (14.1 PPG) and Dion Waiters (12.5 PPG) should have opportunities to score in transition and on the wings against Villanova’s poor perimeter defense.
  • Villanova is in the midst of a year to forget, but they can change the outlook of the entire season with a win tonight. The Wildcats are dying for a victory of this caliber, and fans must be fired up in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for this rivalry home game against the number one team in the land. If the Wildcats are going to have a chance to win, they need to stop chucking up threes, especially in this game against a zone defense that will encourage them to shoot from the outside. Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek each attempt over four three-pointers per game and both are shooting under 30% from deep! Instead, these talented guards need to play off of each other. Wayns (17.4 PPG, 4.75 APG) is one of the quickest guards in America and can penetrate the teeth of a zone defense, and from there he must make good decisions and find teammates moving amongst the trees for good shot opportunities. Jay Wright’s team also must stay out of foul trouble and defend the perimeter if they want to have a chance.
  • This seems like an uneven matchup on paper, but it could be a serious trap game for Syracuse. They haven’t yet played a good conference team on the road, and Villanova is a rival who will be fired up for this one. If Nova can find early success against the Syracuse zone, then they could have a chance in this one.
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Checking In On… The Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 9th, 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

  • Missouri played a relatively soft non-conference schedule, and got dominated in a tough road environment losing by 16 at Kansas State. All year long people, questioned whether the Tigers had the toughness inside to be one of the elite teams in the country. In Manhattan they grabbed only 21% of their available offensive rebounds and allowed the Wildcats an offensive rebounding rate north of 40%. What’s more, 6’3” Marcus Denmon was the team’s leading rebounder in the game.
  • Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners sprinted out to a 10-2 record outside of league play, but reality set in a bit for the Sooners as Big 12 play started, losing 87-49 at Missouri and 72-61 at home against Kansas. Oklahoma is getting 18 points per game from Steven Pledger but only have two other players scoring over 8.5 per contest. They are also struggling defensively, allowing just under a point per possession this year against a fairly soft schedule.
  • The Big 12 has been much better than expected this year as they are ranked second according to the Pomeroy rankings. The Big 12 has five teams in the top 30, which is second only to the Big 10 who has 6. Even the Big East, with 16 teams, has only five. It has been the five teams (Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Kansas State, and Texas) that I expected to carry the load, but it nonetheless has been impressive what the Big 12 has done this year.

McGruder & The Wildcats Took Down The Tigers After Losing At Allen Fieldhouse. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Baylor (15-0, 2-0): Baylor almost suffered a potential Big 12 title-killing defeat this weekend, beating Texas Tech by only 13 on Saturday, pulling away late. The Bears turned it over 14 times in a 64 possession game, which is right in line with their season average. If their turnover rate, which ranks 235th nationally, doesn’t improve, I can’t see them competing for the Big 12 title, especially because their quality of competition will increase.
  2. Kansas (12-3, 2-0): The Jayhawks jumped out to a big lead against rival Kansas State and, though it got close in the second half, they managed to win by 18 points, a win that looked even better after what Kansas State did to Missouri. Thomas Robinson continues to be fantastic, with a 15/14 effort against the Wildcats, but the Jayhawks’ best player has been someone most fans haven’t heard much from. More on him later. Read the rest of this entry »
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Ten For Ten: Impressions of Each Big 12 Team From Its Opener

Posted by dnspewak on January 5th, 2012

Congratulations, Big 12 teams. You’ve all now played one-eighteenth of your conference schedule. For the next two months, you will suffer through hard-fought battles week after week until this wild league sorts itself out. After one game, it’s impossible to tell what exactly will happen from now until the first weekend in March. But each Big 12 opener at least gave us a little insight into this crazy conference. In alphabetical order, here’s what you need to know about Opening Week:

  1. Baylor has not played flawless basketball this season, but don’t exactly take that as a criticism. The Bears are undefeated and off to the best start in school history, and yet they still have a lot of room for improvement. Although it handled Texas A&M from start to finish in Waco on Monday, Scott Drew’s team still finished with 16 turnovers and shot just 2-12 from beyond the arc. Guard play in particular was a problem: Pierre Jackson finished with seven turnovers, and Brady Heslip did not score. And yet the Bears’ 61-52 victory was hardly in doubt until a modest comeback by the Aggies at the very end of the game. Perry Jones, who did not play well in a win over Mississippi State on national television last week, redeemed himself with a double-double as BU’s frontcourt overpowered the normally physical Aggies. The guards will make the difference this season for Drew, and though they struggled in the Big 12 opener, that trend should not continue. Jackson, Heslip, A.J. Walton and Gary Franklin are an underrated group.
  2. Iowa State is not a pushover this season. These guys can really shoot the heck out of the basketball, and they won their first Big 12 opener in five seasons by knocking off Texas 77-71 on Wednesday night. Yes, the Longhorns have problems of their own– more on that later– but Fred Hoiberg‘s team defended well, played with outstanding energy and got every shot it wanted on the offensive end. Iowa State made 10-of-21 three-pointers, and not a single trey came from Scott Christopherson, one of the top three-point shooters in Big 12 history from a percentage standpoint. Chris Babb and Anthony Booker combined to make eight of those shots, but forward Royce White controlled this game by getting to the free throw line and posing a matchup problem for UT. The Longhorns are small on the front line, and White exploited them by using his quickness. He announced to the Big 12 that he will not be easy to defend this winter.

    Bill Self's Team Made a Statement On Wednesday Night

  3. Kansas looked like a Big 12 champion again by spanking Kansas State at the Phog on Wednesday night. Sure, the Jayhawks cooled off after building an early 18-point lead, and the Wildcats jumped back into the game in the second half. By the end of the contest, though, KU had run away with this rivalry by beating Frank Martin at his own game. Kansas State thought it could rattle the Jayhawks with its high-pressure style and tenacious rebounding, but Thomas Robinson proved once again that he’s not afraid of anybody. Forget the loss to Davidson. Tyshawn Taylor may turn the ball over too much, and the offense may not always look crisp, but Bill Self‘s team will defend and it will not back down from a challenge. 17 offensive rebounds and a +24 margin on the boards against a Frank Martin team is proof of that. Read the rest of this entry »
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