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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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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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: 11.29.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 29th, 2011

  1. Although Kansas fell just short against Duke in the finals of the Maui Invitational last week, the Big 12 still voted Kansas forward Thomas Robinson as its Player of the Week. Robinson played like a man possessed during the tournament and kept the Jayhawks competitive in spite of their rough point guard play (Tyshawn Taylor’s 11 turnovers against the Blue Devils). He grabbed 15 rebounds to help give the Jayhawks a +5 margin in the game. We all knew this would be Robinson’s breakout year, and he certainly showed his potential last week.
  2. By now, you’re probably also familiar with the tragic story of Robinson’s personal life. The forward lost three close family members last winter, and the aforementioned article is a reflection of the emotion surrounding his situation. No matter who you pull for– even if it’s Missouri— it’s hard not to root for Robinson, who’s had to overcome such a great deal of adversity to continue playing for the Jayhawks. It’s amazing Robinson is still on the court much less grabbing 15 rebounds and dominating the competition.
  3. And speaking of dominating the competition, Chris Babb did that last week en route to earning Big 12 Rookie of the Week honors. Babb also made the All-Tournament team for the South Padre Invitational. In three games last week, he made 13 of 25 three-pointers, seven of which came against Rice in the tournament finals. The Cyclones haven’t been tested yet (yes, they did lose to Drake on the road), but this is still a team to keep an eye on as the season progresses, and Babb obviously looks like one of their leaders.
  4. An update on the Oklahoma State plane crash: a preliminary crash report shows nobody made any emergency calls before the plane went down earlier this month, killing four people (two of which were members of the OSU women’s basketball coaching staff). It could apparently still take as long as a year to figure out exactly what happened and what caused the crash, but it appears weather was not a factor.
  5. ESPN’s Andy Katz reflected on last week’s college basketball action in an article published on Monday, and he gave Missouri a little love. Katz said “Mizzou looks like the best team in the Big 12 early in the season,” and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment after the Tigers beat down Notre Dame and California in the CBE Classic by a combined 58 points. We will still need to find out how Frank Haith‘s team plays on the road, however, before we make any sweeping judgments.
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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 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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20 Questions: Which Transfers Will Have the Biggest Impact This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2011

I. Renko is an RTC columnist.

Question: Which Transfers Will Have the Biggest Impact This Season?

Every year, college basketball fans draw up their preseason predictions of conference champions and NCAA Tournament fields based on returning players and incoming recruits.  But each year, a handful of key transfers play a pivotal role in leading their teams to a conference championship or NCAA Tournament bid.  Which transfers are most likely to play that role this year?

Pierre Jackson and Gary Franklin, Baylor — With the return of Perry Jones and the addition of blue-chip recruits Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello (coming soon to an All-Name Team near you), expectations for the upcoming season in Waco are high.  The Bears have more raw talent than almost anyone in the Big 12 and have a realistic shot at a conference crown.  But Baylor also had quality talent and relatively high expectations last year, only to find their season upended by mediocrity at the most important spot on the floor — the point guard position.  AJ Walton was thrust into the role of replacing Tweety Carter and responded by posting an obscene 32.1% turnover rate.  In a not-unrelated phenomenon, the Bears finished the season ranked 322nd in Division I in team turnover percentage.

The Development of Franklin and/or Jackson Could Be the Difference-Maker for Baylor This Season

If Scott Drew can’t find someone to settle things down at the point this year, the Bears may disappoint again.  And that’s where Jackson and Franklin come in.  Jackson is a well-regarded JUCO transfer and Franklin a formerly touted recruit who transferred from Cal after just a semester.  Franklin will not be eligible until the spring semester, but both will have a chance to pin down the starting point guard job.  If either proves to be a stable floor general, the Bears could have their first conference championship in more than 60 years.

Iowa State’s Starting Lineup — Okay, so maybe the entire starting lineup won’t consist of transfers, but it might come close.  Fred Hoiberg is trying to resuscitate the Iowa State program by resuscitating the careers of several D-I talents, including Chris Allen (Michigan State), Royce White (Minnesota), Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois), and Chris Babb (Penn State).  They make this list as a group because collectively, they will have the single biggest transfer impact on any BCS program this year.

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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2011

Steve Fetch of Rock Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can find him on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take I


Top Storylines

  • This is of course the last year for Texas A&M to leave its mark on the Big 12, and it could be Missouri’s as well. Both teams enter the 2011-12 season with serious conference title hopes,  but each comes with some question marks. Missouri lost Laurence Bowers to an ACL injury, which really puts a strain on their interior depth. They didn’t rebound terribly well in the first place, ranking 317th nationally in defensive rebounding, and the loss of the 6’8” Bowers, who was their best returning player on the glass, won’t help. A&M meanwhile still has Khris Middleton, but do they have anyone to get him the ball? Dash Harris had a turnover rate of almost 30% last year and an assist rate of only 21%
  • Speaking of those two, the Big 12 has four new coaches this year, with Texas Tech and Oklahoma joining A&M and Missouri as teams with new head men. The Big 12 hasn’t had this many new coaches since 2007 when six of the twelve schools had first-year men on the job. I took a look at  how coaches in the Big 12 have done in their first year on the job and compared it with the historical performances of the programs who have new coaches at the helm this season, and it looks like all four could be in for rough times initially.
  • Kansas has won at least a share of the last seven Big 12 titles, but in order or the Jayhawks to make it eight, Bill Self will have to do his best coaching job yet. He lost both the Morris twins and Josh Selby to the NBA, as well as the underrated Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar to graduation. What’s more, incoming freshmen Ben McLemore, Jamari Traylor and Braeden Anderson were all deemed ineligible. Kansas still has some talent to work with, especially Thomas Robinson, who had a tremendous summer.

Even Bill Self Has Admitted That This Season Will Be A Challenge For The Perennial Blueblood

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Kansas (14-4)
  2. Baylor (13-5)
  3. Missouri (13-5)
  4. Texas A&M (12-6)
  5. Oklahoma State (10-8)
  6. Texas (9-9)
  7. Iowa State (7-11)
  8. Kansas State (5-13)
  9. Oklahoma (4-14)
  10. Texas Tech (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

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Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011



Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

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