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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Morning Five: 01.20.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 20th, 2011

  1. It’s been a weird few weeks for Christian Standhardinger, hasn’t it? He left Nebraska in mid-season last month even though just about everyone predicted he’d have a breakout season this year. Soon after, he said he planned to transfer and play next season at La Salle. On Wednesday the world learned that over the weekend Herr Standhardinger was found having sex with a 19-year old girl in a park in Lincoln. We’ve been hearing and reading a lot of jokes on this matter, but La Salle isn’t laughing. Explorers’ coach John Giannini announced yesterday that any transfer ambitions the Munich native had have now been given das Boot now that Standhardinger has been tagged (as well as his companion) with a public indecency charge.
  2. The Bahamas is the new Maui. Calm down, travel connoisseurs, we’re just talking in terms of basketball. And we’re still kidding. This past weekend, though, the NCAA voted to give exempt status to the Bahamas, meaning teams that play in tournaments there can count their participation as one game instead of three. The Battle at Atlantis (held last month) will become the Battle 4 Atlantis, it will be held around Thanksgiving, and it will be played in a ballroom. What is it with these Caribbean events being held in ballrooms? Somebody build a gym! Ballroom or not, the chance to play two holiday tournaments in Maui and the Bahamas in consecutive seasons doesn’t sound too bad.
  3. Where do you stand on this whole John Calipari swearing issue? It looks like people aren’t surprised at the language used (most coaches are guilty of this) but rather the name-calling aspect. Again, this happens everywhere. Calipari just got caught on TV, and he’s apologized. What really surprises us are the folks who say they “wouldn’t have taken it” or that “nobody’s calling me [that name] in public.” So, a free education, chance to play for a pipeline program, lots of television exposure, a shot at a championship – you’d give all that up for pride? We doubt the big talkers in these complaints would have actually walked off in mid-game or left school the next day had they found themselves in the same spot. We’re not defending Calipari, but we are defending Terrence Jones. He was the target, and he took it, went out and played, and hasn’t said a word about it — not a single tweet of dissention, not a single remark to the media.
  4. Mike Holmes is finished at Coastal Carolina. Jeff Goodman reports that Holmes has now been given the heave-ho at his second school, having been shown the door at South Carolina last season. Both dismissals were the result of altercations with teammates, Goodman confirms, and he explains why one Chanticleer had to wear a protective mask on his face in a recent win. You’ve got to credit CCU coach Cliff Ellis for sticking to his principles on this (we’re lookin’ at you, Mississippi State) and bouncing Holmes despite the senior’s production. Coastal Carolina is 16-2 and 7-0 in the Big South, and Holmes led the team in rebounding with 8.4 RPG and was second in scoring, putting up 14.0 PPG.
  5. We sent out a couple of tweets on this subject last night, but please, allow us to offer a team for you to watch over these last six weeks of the regular season: Belmont. They’re nestled among several tall trees at 28th in the KenPom ratings, and at 16-3 (8-0), they are spanking the rest of the Atlantic Sun with an in-conference margin of victory of 29 points. Coach Rick Byrd’s deep bench isn’t an accident, and the team’s success to this point is a product of how Byrd interestingly distributes playing time and marshals his talent. The three blemishes on the record were all away, to in-staters Tennessee (twice, away!) and Vanderbilt, not exactly bad losses. Anyone want to face them in the first round?
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Morning Five: 01.11.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2011

  1. News broke late Monday that a Washington player is currently under investigation for sexual assault of a sixteen-year old girl whom he allegedly met on Saturday night through Facebook.  It’s notable that the report out of Seattle cites the player as “prominent,” which is language that it would be unlikely to use if they were talking about a walk-on or other benchwarmer.  With Abdul Gaddy already on the shelf with a torn ACL and now this disconcerting news, Lorenzo Romar’s team could be on the verge of self-destruction after a strong first half of this season.
  2. Some transfer news for your Tuesday morning.  Former Minnesota guard Devoe Joseph will end up in Oregon to play for Dana Altman next season, while Nebraska forward Christian Standhardinger announced that he is transferring to La Salle.  Both of these players are difference-makers for their new programs.  Joseph was attracted to the more uptempo style of play employed by Altman, while Standhardinger will step into a starting role with plenty of playing time next season on the Main Line.
  3. Speaking of second chances, Kansas forward Mario Little has been reinstated by head coach Bill Self and will be eligible to play immediately.  Little has missed KU’s last six games as he worked through some legal issues surrounding a misdemeanor battery and other criminal charges from an incident that took place in mid-December.  Prior to his suspension, Little was averaging 6/4 in about sixteen minutes per game backing up Tyshawn Taylor and Tyrel Reed.  The rich get richer…
  4. Bill Carmody received a “multi-year extension” recently at Northwestern even though he’s been coaching in Evanston for ten-plus years now and has yet to get the Big Ten school to the NCAA Tournament.  Granted, his career record of 143-160 (.472) at the school is virtually unprecedented, but even though it now appears that the Wildcat program is moving in the right direction (back-to-back NITs in 2009 and 2010), Carmody still has more tenth and eleventh place finishes (four) than he does Big Ten finishes in the top half (one).
  5. The nation’s top 25 freshmen players, as presented to you by Basketball Prospectus.  Since it comes from that site, you know that they have the statistics to back up the choices.  The most amazing thing?  That preseason AP All-American Harrison Barnes hasn’t even performed well enough to be considered one of the top 25 frosh in the country so far — would anyone have taken that bet prior to November 1???
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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 20th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

  • Finals week for most schools and that means a slow week in the Big 12.  For the most part, the conference sat idle from Sunday to Friday with a few non-conference cupcake tune-ups played here and there.
  • Saturday however, signaled a return to basketball with ten games and several intriguing matchups throughout the league.  Kansas State played in the only battle between ranked teams as the Wildcats took on Florida as part of the Orange Bowl Classic in Frank Martin’s hometown of Miami.  Unfortunately, the homecoming didn’t turn out the way Martin would have hoped with both teams playing an ugly brand of basketball and the Wildcats never put things together, scoring just 44 points in a 13-point loss to Billy Donovan’s Gators.
  • Another Big 12 contender, the Baylor Bears, struggled as well in their first game against any form of true competition.  The Bears took on the Gonzaga Bulldogs as part of The Showcase in Dallas.  The Bulldogs sit 6-5 with four losses to top 25 opponents, but were able to pull away from the #9 Bears  behind a 7-9 free throw shooting effort down the stretch.  The loss was the first on the season for the Bears and exposed some of the vulnerabilities that were expected for a new look Baylor squad with plenty of talent but an assortment of new faces.
  • The Texas Longhorns further solidified their top 25 ranking by heading on the road to a neutral site game that was hardly neutral when they played the North Carolina Tar Heels in Greensboro.  In a great game from start to finish, the Longhorns would receive a boost from freshman Cory Joseph, who stepped up and knocked down the game-winning basket with just 1.4 seconds left on the clock.  The game is another notch on the belt of a young Longhorn squad that has looked solid against good competition throughout the non-conference schedule.
  • Another true freshman stole the show in Lawrence with the much-anticipated debut of Josh Selby in a Kansas Jayhawk uniform.  The Jayhawks squared off against a USC team fresh off a win over fellow Big 12 team Texas.  The Trojans added a guard to their lineup themselves, as transfer Jio Fontan entered the lineup for the first time all year and helped the Trojans take the game down to the wire.  In the end, it was Selby knocking down a three pointer with just 26 seconds on the clock to go ahead by one and secure the Jayhawks’ 65th straight win in Allen Fieldhouse.
  • Another team emerging in the contender category would be the Texas A&M Aggies.  The Aggies took on the Arkansas Razorbacks as part of the The Showcase in Dallas and in a game that would feature a bench clearing brawl and extra five minutes of overtime, sophomore forward Khris Middleton would score 31 points and lead the Aggies to a nine-point win.  Mark Turgeon has the Aggies playing a tough brand of basketball and A&M more and more looks to have the weapons to compete with anyone in the league.
  • Elsewhere, Missouri would win a pair of games in impressive fashion against a pair of tune-up opponents.  Oklahoma State continues to position themselves as a middle-tier team with a very real shot at being the fifth, sixth or even seventh tournament team in the Big 12.  This is the role that many thought Colorado might fill, but the Cowboys seem to be better than expected.
  • Speaking of Colorado, the Buffaloes would improve their record with two easy wins as the group in Boulder continues to improve and find themselves as a team.  Iowa State would continue their run through the preseason extending their overall record to 10-2 as Scott Christopherson continues to fire at will.  While the troubles in Lubbock and Norman show no sign of letting up.
  • The news in Lincoln was good on the court with a win over Eastern Washington on Saturday, however Doc Sadler continues to struggle in keeping the talent happy, as Christian Standhardinger is the fourth player from the 2009 recruiting class to leave the Cornuskers.
  • At this point the Big 12 is what it always seems to be in mid December.  The contenders are separating themselves with big wins and marquee games against better competition.  The pretenders and bottom half of the conference is padding the win loss column in hopes that they can hang on for a bubble birth come March.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (10-0) – The Jayhawks moved to 10-0 in a nailbiter against the USC Trojans.  The good news is the Jayhawks were not the only team in the conference to look sluggish after a long break and Josh Selby at face value looks like a player that can help some of the Jayhawk offensive weaknesses in a hurry.
  2. Texas A&M (10-1) – A&M has gone from a team that was surprising to a team that has some serious talent developing.   Khris Middleton, Nathan Walkup and David Loubeau are a trio of forwards that are physical, talented and leading the way from a scoring standpoint for Mark Turgeon.  This may prove to be too high for the Aggies as the season goes on, but in the world of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately power rankings, they look as good as anyone in the South.
  3. Missouri Tigers (10-1) – The Tigers weren’t tested in two fairly sizeable wins, but they are disposing teams in the manner you’d expect from a good team.  Mike Anderson’s team set a school record with a 116-point output on Saturday and they look like a group beginning to hit their stride.  This week’s Bragging Rights game against Illinois will be a great measuring stick to gauge improvement since the early loss to Georgetown.
  4. Texas (9-2) – Rick Barnes and Texas have an argument for a higher spot without question.  They’ve played a challenging schedule, for the most part they’ve played well, and they have a real opportunity to be a very difficult matchup as the players become comfortable in their roles.  A big opportunity this week for Texas comes in the form of a game against Tom Izzo and Michigan State.
  5. Kansas State (9-2) – Something just doesn’t seem right in Manhattan right now.  The Wildcats are still one of the toughest defensive teams in the conference and they’re going to make you earn every point, but on the offensive end, it isn’t clicking.  Curtis Kelly hasn’t stepped up to the level expected and Jacob Pullen is doing well, but it’s difficult for him to completely carry the team when he’s the focus of every opposing defense.  It’s hard to believe Frank Martin won’t get things going, but for now the Wildcats haven’t played to the level expected.
  6. Oklahoma State (10-1) – The Cowboys moved to 10-1 this week but they still lack a statement win.  The good news for Cowboy fans is that different players are stepping up at different times and they‘re beating teams in different ways.  They’re likely the seventh-best team in the conference in terms of talent, but they could cause some trouble in a wide open South.
  7. Baylor (7-1) – Everyone has been waiting for the Bears to play someone and in the first attempt to do that, they fell to Gonzaga in what was basically a home game.  Gonzaga was due for a win, but they still don’t look like the top 15 Bulldog squad that was expected this season and they managed to handle the Bears even with Steven Gray hobbled from back spasms.
  8. Iowa State (10-2) – Scott Christopherson continues to have a green light and the Cyclones continue to win.  Still there isn’t much in the way of competition against which to truly judge Iowa State.   With three relatively soft games remaining in the non-conference docket, it’s possible Iowa State could enter conference play with 13 wins already under their belt, yet still sit ill-prepared for the gauntlet that awaits in Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri in the North.
  9. Colorado (7-3) – Two games, two easy opponents, two comfortable wins.  Colorado was a team with high expectations early, but they fell flat and haven’t done enough to restore hope.  A solid opponent awaits this week in New Mexico and a chance for Tad Boyle to restore some of the lost faith.
  10. Nebraska (9-2) – Nebraska sits at 9-2, which is a good record.  Typically, they don’t do much to test themselves early, but the win over USC looks better and better every day.  This is still a team that doesn’t jump off the page, but they very well could battle Colorado and Iowa State for fourth in the North.  Still, at this point, it’s hard to see much that justifies the nod.
  11. Oklahoma (5-6) – After a two-game uptick, the Sooners fell to a decent Big East team in Cincinnati.  It’s enough to give them the edge over Tech for now, but it’s still not pretty in Norman.  Statistically speaking, they do very little that could be considered a strength, unless of course you want to give them credit for mediocre shooting.
  12. Texas Tech (5-6) – Texas Tech is on a three-game skid with the last two coming against mid-major talent.  Tech had the offensive talent returning, but they needed to improve defensively and on the boards.  Neither of those things have happened.

A Look Ahead

  • This week’s Big 12 slate takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday before a long holiday weekend.  All 12 teams play between the two nights with Kansas State kicking things off in a tough contest taking place at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.  In the Wildcats’ third game in Kansas City this year, K-State will play host to another ranked opponent in the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.  Coming off the loss in Miami, the Wildcats and their fans will be anxious to see if the offense can get back on track.
  • Another game to watch in the conference on Tuesday will pit the Oklahoma State Cowboys against Stanford in Stillwater.  The Cardinal hasn’t been particularly impressive, but it is a name opponent from a name conference and a chance to learn a little more about the Cowboys.
  • Wednesday night is a big night if you’re a Big 12 basketball fan.  The highlight of the night will likely take place in St. Louis, as the Missouri Tigers square off against the Illinois Fighting Illini in a matchup of two top 25 teams.  The game lost a little luster when the Illini fell flat against Illinois-Chicago this weekend, a loss that will drop them from top 15 status, but it’s a big game and a heated rivalry nonetheless.
  • The game just prior to Missouri and Illinois on ESPN2 will be another big opportunity for the Big 12, as Texas heads back out on the road for a big game against Michigan State.  The game is another example of the bold scheduling approach taken by Rick Barnes and a big time opportunity for the Longhorns to reassert themselves on the national stage.
  • Rounding out the night will be Kansas heading to Berkeley for a road game against a Pac-10 opponent.  The Jayhawks have had their struggles against the Pac-10 conference this year but have managed to slip by every challenger.
  • Another good one to keep an eye on will be New Mexico in Boulder against the Buffaloes. This is a game that Tad Boyle needs to start rebuilding some of the confidence and excitement that was lost after the stumble out of the gates in the early season.

Stats, Quotes and other Notables

  • 21 Points on 5-8 Shooting from three – Debut line for Kansas freshman Josh Selby.
  • 11 points in 11 minutes – The offensive drought that ultimately doomed the Kansas State Wildcats against the Florida Gators.
  • 4-22 from three – Just one example of the mediocrity taking place on the offensive end for the Oklahoma Sooners.
  • 7 Players Scoring in Double Figures - The Missouri Tigers are balanced, they showed that against Central Arkansas with this impressive stat.
  • “We were sleepwalking, [The scuffle] seemed like it really changed the game for us.” – Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon talks about his team coming to life after a rare bench-clearing scuffle at mid court against Arkansas.

Player of the Year Watch (No Specific Order)

  • Jacob Pullen – (16.3 PPG, 3.8 APG, 40% FG) Even: Pullen is doing everything he can, but the loss of Denis Clemente is clearly being felt.  From a numbers standpoint, Pullen is maintaining pace, but the Wildcats are looking like a team slightly lost offensively.
  • Marcus Morris – (16.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 62% FG) Even: Morris wasn’t great against USC, but he got a lift with the addition of Josh Selby. Morris still looks like a player that can sometimes score at will, it’s just a matter of getting the team chemistry back where it needs to be.
  • Alec Burks – (20.3 PPG, 51% FG) Even: Burks is slowly becoming a smarter player on the offensive end and his efforts on the defensive end aren’t going unnoticed.  Statistically it’s pretty much the same player, but he’s improving day to day.
  • Jordan Hamilton – (19.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG) Even: Texas could be turning a corner.  The players around him are doing more, but Hamilton is still the most explosive option for the Longhorns.
  • LaceDarius Dunn – (21.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.6, 2.2 SPG, 48% FG) Trending Up: Baylor loses to Gonzaga, but Dunn is looking like one of the more complete and impactful players for his team.
  • Marcus Denmon – (16.8 PPG, 1.9 SPG, 51% 3P%) Trending Up: He continues to be the best player on a VERY deep team.  Denmon is turning into the leader for the Tigers and he seems like a player that has even more to give.
  • Scott Christopherson – (16.5 PPG, 55% 3P%) New**: Christopherson’s chances are probably slim unless he can somehow lead the Cyclones to a surprisingly successful season and a top 3 finish in the North.  Still, he’s a player whose early-season efforts deserve a mention and he’ll be a thorn in everyone’s side in conference play.
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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Upper Midwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Upper Midwest Region (MI, WI, MN, IA, NE, SD, ND)

  • Kalin Lucas – Sr, G – Michigan State.  Few elite players and certainly no other senior elite players will enter this season as more of an unknown quantity than Kalin Lucas. Coming off a solid junior season where he averaged 14.8 points and 4.0 assists per game, Lucas and the Spartans were poised for yet another run at the Final Four before a torn Achilles tendon in the second round against Maryland supposedly ended those hopes along with the possibility that Lucas might declare for the 2010 NBA Draft, already lacking in depth at the point guard position. We all know what happened instead (MSU rallied to yet another Final Four even without their starting point guard).  All indications point to Lucas having recovered from the untimely injury to near 100%, but we can’t help but wonder if his explosiveness, which already was a concern for NBA teams, might be compromised. Lucas is certainly fast enough when he gets going in the open court, but his first step has never been at the level of the other elite point guards he has been compared to and a potential reluctance to push off that torn left Achilles tendon may hinder that more. Despite the questions, Tom Izzo is certainly happy to have Lucas and his all-around skills and intangibles back in East Lansing—there are very few All-American point guards in BCS conferences that stick around for their senior season—and if Michigan State is going to make a push to yet another Final Four it will be Lucas who will again be the driving force. Having lost the enigmatic but explosive Raymar Morgan and equally enigmatic but troublesome Chris Allen, Izzo will expect Lucas to carry an increased offensive load while still distributing the ball to wings Durrell Summers and Draymond Green along with the talented Delvon Roe, who has yet to fulfill the promise he showed coming out of high school. If Lucas is able to meet those expectations, he could have a senior season much like one of his Spartan predecessors (Mateen Cleaves) that results in the Spartans cutting down the nets in Houston next April.

Lucas Returns For a Last Final Four Shot

  • Blake Hoffarber – Sr, G – Minnesota. Here’s the thing about Blake Hoffarber: he’s probably not the best player on this Minnesota team, maybe not even the third or fourth best player, but he is absolutely critical to their success, perhaps the most important player on the team in that regard. Guys like Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph, Ralph Sampson, III, and Colton Iverson, are all probably more talented and more complete players than Hoffarber, but last year’s Golden Gopher results tell the tale of a team that succeeded when Hoffarber succeeded and failed when he failed. In the 15 games in which Hoffarber scored ten or more points last season, Minnesota went 13-2; in the remaining 20 games when he scored less than ten, they were 8-12. The lesson is simple: Hoffarber needs to score for this team to be successful. And given that Hoffarber’s offensive game is almost entirely predicated on hitting spot-up threes, maybe the true impact player here should be Joseph or Nolen, getting Hoffarber good looks on drive-and-dish. Or maybe it should be Sampson and Iverson for sucking in defenders in the post or kicking out offensive rebounds that eventually find their way into Hoffarber’s hands. But the point remains, Hoffarber needs to get and hit threes for the Gophers to be successful. His offensive numbers tell the story well, as last season Hoffarber was the most efficient offensive player in the nation, but only used 14% of all Gopher possessions when he was in the game. He scored a total of 351 points last season, 255 of which came from behind the arc (at an impressive 46% clip, leading to an effective field goal percentage of 67.3%, good for fourth in the nation). Of the remaining 96 points, 28 came from the line, meaning he scored just 34 hoops inside the arc, less than one point per game. Basically, Hoffarber is the very essence of a pure shooter – you really don’t need to worry about him going around anybody and the only open looks he’ll create for teammates is when he draws defenders to him at the line and rotates the ball around the arc. Sure, he contributes a handful of rebounds a game and rarely turns the ball over, he passes pretty well and is a decent if unspectacular defender, but when it comes right down to it, he’s “just a shooter” – one of the best in the nation upon whom the Golden Gophers’ chances depend, but in the end, still “just a shooter.”

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Morning Five: 08.09.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on August 9th, 2010

  1. Jim Calhoun has to appreciate the support shown by many of his former players as the cloud of an NCAA investigation looms over Storrs, support that was evident on Saturday as many of his UConn family showed up to play in a benefit game for the Jim and Pat Calhoun Cardiology Center.  Heck, we’d pay $20 to watch Ray Allen, Emeka Okafor, Caron Butler and Rudy Gay in an alumni game, especially for a good cause.  The word “family” above is not used lightly, as Butler can attest to in speaking about his coach: “I’ll just sum it up like this.  He’s the closest thing to a father that I’ve ever had.”
  2. It just won’t go away.  Karen Sypher says her trial was unfair because Louisville is a small enough town to feel the influence of Louisville coach Rick Pitino.  “I know now there is no justice system,” she told the AP.  And she also says that there was evidence in her favor that her defense attorney didn’t use, and that it will come out later.  Sypher will be sentenced on October 27th.  We’re fine with Pitino facing no disciplinary action from U of L, since this is a family matter more than anything else, but we’re still evaluating AD Tom Jurich’s statement calling his coach a “grand ambassador” of the program…
  3. SI’s Luke Winn gave us stat nerds the warm-and-fuzzies when he broke out some serious numbers to predict some possible breakout players in the sophomore class for 2010-11 (a taste — Nebraska’s Christian Standhardinger makes the list).  His 2008 version yielded eerily accurate results to the point where we have our current crop of RTC interns investigating if there are some prop bets in Vegas on this topic.  And Luke, if you’re reading…yes, we’ll give you a cut.
  4. Seton Hall announced on Friday that Ole Miss guard Eniel Polynice will be joining the Pirates as a transfer student next season.  Polynice will not have to sit out the typical year for transfers, taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows early graduates to play their fourth season of eligibility elsewhere if their current school doesn’t offer postgraduate work in their field of study.  Polynice, a communications major who graduated in the spring from Ole Miss, sat out the 2008-09 season as a redshirt student.  He is a very nice late summer pickup for new Hall head coach Kevin Willard, who will need some experienced players to keep uber-gunner Jeremy Hazell under control and tutor a deep incoming class of freshmen.
  5. If we were the president of Florida International University (and just to be clear, we’re not), we’d immediately call head coach Isiah Thomas into our office for a sitdown about a little something called focus.  Coming off a 7-25 season that finished on the high note of nine straight losses, you would think that if Thomas were fully committed to his current job, he wouldn’t be taking on part-time work as a paid consultant for the NBA team he helped destroy, the New York Knicks   The Miami media, to put it lightly, is not amused.
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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings 

  1. Kansas (13-1, 27-2) - The bad news for Kansas fans is that you lost a conference game after a tremendous run. The good news is that you have seen this before, (a road loss to Oklahoma State) and last time the Jayhawks bounced back in a big way, winning the national championship.
  2. Kansas State (11-3, 24-4) – Its still not out of the question for the Wildcats to share the conference title with KU.  The game Wednesday in Lawrence will be pretty intense, and KSU probably knows they will need to beat Kansas at least once (on Wednesday, or in the Big 12 Tournament) in order to have an argument for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Baylor (9-5, 22-6) – That was a huge week for Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears. They needed to hold home court against Texas A&M, which they did, and then go on the road and take care of business against the Sooners. Right now this is probably the last team I’d want to see on my side of the bracket if I was a top seed in the NCAA tournament. BU plays with fire and intensity that is even unmatched by most Big 12 teams, and that’s saying a lot.
  4. Texas A&M (9-5, 20-8) – The Aggies, along with the Bears, are in really good shape for a top four seed in the conference tournament and grabbing that all-important first round bye. B.J. Holmes spraining his ankle will not help, but that’s why getting the bye is even more important for TAMU because they would like to give Holmes the extra day of rest and recovery.
  5. Missouri (9-5, 21-8) – Losing Justin Safford to a torn ACL costs the Tigers size on the inside which they desperately need. I don’t see the loss of Safford being as important as losing one of their better scorers, but usually when you lose a veteran player late in the season it can demoralize your team. Mizzou should be fine with a guy like Mike Anderson at the helm, but right now they’re fighting very hard to improve their seed in the NCAA tournament and will miss Safford’s presence on the court.
  6. Oklahoma State (8-6, 20-8) – The week didn’t start off well with a loss at Texas, but it certainly ended pretty well with their upset over KU. The team you saw on Saturday is definitely not the team that OSU brings every night, as it’s impossible to shoot that well every game, but we did see the Cowboys being more efficient with the basketball. They spread the scoring around even with James Anderson putting up 27 points. The most impressive stat of this game was that OSU outrebounded KU 34-26, that’s something most people never saw coming.
  7. Texas (9-6, 23-7) – The Longhorns had a big scare when J’Covan Brown collided with B.J. Holmes in the second half of the game on Saturday. Texas can’t afford to lose a scoring guard especially this late in the season, but he made it back ok on Monday night’s game against Oklahoma.  The Horns will need to win this weekend at Baylor to give itself a shot at a top four seed in KC.
  8. Colorado (4-10, 13-15) – Other than the atrocity that was the Mizzou vs. Colorado game on Wednesday night, where we saw CU quit in the first five minutes, the Buffaloes had a pretty good week, taking down Iowa State in Boulder on Saturday to notch their fourth conference win.  That’s the highest conference win total that CU has had since the 2005-06 season. So congratulations to Colorado, and hopefully they can continue to improve and make the whole conference stronger.
  9. Texas Tech (4-10, 16-12) – Currently the coldest team in conference play, on a five-game losing streak, TTU will be looking to either upset Baylor at home or beat Colorado on the road this week in order to “right the ship” before the conference tournament starts. John Roberson (14.8 PPG, 5.3 APG) is probably one of the better point guards in the conference that no one talks about, and along with junior Mike Singletary they could lead this team to some upsets in the next two weeks.
  10. Oklahoma (4-11, 13-16) - It looks like OU will be luck to get Willie Warren back at all this season. His draft stock has plummeted, so I guess it’s not entirely out of the question that he could skip the NBA draft and stay in Norman. However, it’s more than likely that OU will not have Warren next season, and Jeff Capel will start rebuilding this program.
  11. Iowa State (3-11, 14-15) - The Cyclones will have a say in how the Big 12 standings sift out in this last week, and they could be the ultimate spoilers against Mizzou on Tuesday in Ames. More importantly I don’t think any ISU fans expected a possible last place finish this season, and it could be time head coach Greg McDermott is on the hot seat.
  12. Nebraska (2-12, 14-15) - I give credit to this Nebraska team because they have not given up, they play every team very tough. However, they just don’t have the talent to compete in the Big 12 right now.  Brian Diaz and Christian Standhardinger, two foreign freshman forwards, will be good for NU in the future. So at least there is something to look forward to on the hard court in Lincoln. But hey, the women’s team is undefeated.

Team of the Week: Baylor Bears - The Bears desperately needed to beat Texas A&M in order to maintain a shot at a top four seed in the conference tournament. BU took care of business and now they’re back in the top 25.  This week has two potential wins for Baylor, who can move as high as second place because they have the tiebreaker over Kansas State.

Player of the Week: Matt Pilgrim F Oklahoma State (8-8 FG, 2-2 FT, 6 REB) - that was Pilgrim’s line against Kansas. He is averaging just over 8 PPG on the season, so I give him Player of the Week honors for stepping up against the big competition. If OSU can get production from him like this in the tournament they will be a very hard team to beat.

This Week’s Predictions

Tuesday March 2

  • Colorado at Nebraska (8:00 PM ET) - Both teams are coming off rare wins in conference play, so there isn’t really a “hot” team to pick in this matchup. I like the Buffaloes because they have a lot more talent in their two star guards, Alec Burks and Cory Higgins, than NU has in their starting lineup.

Winner: Colorado

  • Missouri at Iowa State (8:00 PM ET) - The Cyclones will be looking to play spoiler in this matchup. They played Mizzou tough in Columbia so I expect they will do the same in Ames. Marquis Gilstrap had one of his better conference games against MU, so look for him to be a huge factor in this game. Overall, this is not a good matchup for the Tigers but Mike Anderson doesn’t usually let his team lose two games in a row, especially to a team with less talent.

Winner: Missouri

  • Baylor at Texas Tech (8:00 PM ET) - The Bears know that they will get Texas Tech’s best shot, especially now that BU is ranked. TTU has played many teams tough at home, regardless of how overmatched they may be, and I don’t think this game with be an exception. However, Baylor has the “Big Three,” LaceDarius Dunn, Ekpe Udoh and Tweety Carter.

Winner: Baylor

Wednesday March 3

  • Kansas State at Kansas (8:00 PM ET ESPN360) - If you don’t have ESPN360, find a friend with it and go to his house for this matchup. Kansas State is now officially the hottest team in the Big 12, going up against a KU team that is probably demoralized after getting blown out in Stillwater. Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente are probably my favorite guard duo to watch in the country, and I also enjoy watching Xavier Henry’s silky smooth shot from behind the arc. If you’re a true college basketball fan you will find some way to watch this game, because it is one of the better matchups of the whole season. Kansas knows if they beat their rival they lock up the Big 12 regular season title, and KSU knows their only chance at sharing the title is to upset the Jayhawks in Lawrence, which just doesn’t happen.

Winner: Kansas

  • Oklahoma State at Texas A&M (9:00 PM ET ESPN2) - The fact is without B.J. Holmes, A&M is not the same team. Last time these teams played the Cowboys came out on top, and this time I think they will get the best of the Aggies again. Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis are a tremendous inside-outside duo for A&M, but it won’t be enough to stop James Anderson and company.

Winner: Oklahoma State

Saturday March 6

  • Texas A&M at Oklahoma (12 PM ET ESPN) – The Aggies will be looking for redemption against a different Oklahoma team in Norman. There will be a lot of fans on hand for this game, but the excitement level of the crowd remains to be seen. It’s hard to cheer on a team that has suspended three players and their “star” is most likely out for the year with a sickness. Tommy Mason-Griffin is the new leader at OU, but I don’t think he’s ready to lead his team to an upset of this caliber. TAMU knows they need a win to clinch a top four spot in the conference, and Mark Turgeon will make sure his guys are ready to play on Saturday.

Winner: Texas A&M

  • Nebraska at Oklahoma State (1:30 PM ET) - I’m not a liar, so I won’t say that the Cornhuskers have much of a chance in this game. It is going to be James Anderson’s last game in Stillwater, and look for him to put on a show in his “curtain call.”

Winner: Oklahoma State

  • Kansas at Missouri (2 PM ET CBS) - It’s always a great environment when these two rivals play. Last season, Zaire Taylor hit a game winner in Columbia and the Mizzou fans rushed the court (both teams were ranked in the top 20 so it was hardly an upset), which shows how intense this rivalry is on both sides. KU will again be looking to put MU in its place, and since the Tigers have absolutely no answer for Cole Aldrich I like Kansas to win this one easily.

Winner: Kansas

  • Texas Tech at Colorado (4 PM ET) - This will most likely be the battle for eighth place in the conference. Colorado fans want to see as many wins out of their Buffs as possible this season, and I think they will pleased on Saturday. Colorado will have its best week since they upset Baylor, and finish at 6-10 in conference play.

Winner: Colorado

  • Texas at Baylor (4 PM ET ESPN) - Baylor has lost at least one game every week they show up in the rankings. I don’t think this week will be any different as the Longhorns will come into Waco and upset the Bears. It took Baylor overtime to upset Texas in Austin, so we all know we’re in store for a great basketball game.

Winner: Texas

  • Iowa State at Kansas State (6 PM ET)- Craig Brackins had his best game of the season against KSU in their first matchup. I like Brackins to have another great game, but the Wildcats will come out on top to clinch second place in the conference.

Winner: Kansas State

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