Comings & Goings: Steve Lavin to St. Johns; Oregon Pursues Izzo

Posted by rtmsf on March 30th, 2010

Pete Thamel of the New York Times is reporting tonight that Steve Lavin is set to be hired at St. John’s soon, as an unnamed source familiar with the proceedings labeled today as a “productive and positive dialogue” between the two parties.  Lavin has spent the last seven seasons as a commentator for ESPN after being fired from UCLA after a disastrous 10-19 season in 2002-03.  He was reportedly close to accepting the NC State position in 2006, but ultimately decided against it to remain in television.  This is a solid hire in our view.  Lavin has name-brand recognition with high school kids who have grown up watching him on ESPN, and he’s always been a strong recruiter anyway.  So long as he can connect with NYC-area kids, he should be successful there.  St. John’s has been down for so long that merely getting to a Sweet Sixteen level of success with regularity would probably give Lavin lifelong job security in Jamaica, NY.  And we’ve always had a bit of feeling that Lavin feels he got a raw deal in Westwood, so he should be all the more motivated to prove his doubters wrong there.

The other big news today was a report out of Eugene that Oregon was prepared to offer Michigan State’s Tom Izzo the richest head coaching contract in college basketball history — greater than Kentucky coach John Calipari’s $32M/8-year deal he received last spring.  Phil Knight is backing the search financially and this squares with the rumors that UO was going to attempt to hire a big name this year.  Izzo said today that he was happy where he’s at, which is currently coaching yet another Spartan team into the Final Four.  It probably won’t be Izzo, but someone will bite on this.  The numbers are simply too large to pass up.

In other coaching carousel news, Marshall’s Donnie Jones has taken the head coaching position at Central Florida.  He replaces Kirk Speraw, who was fired two weeks ago after compiling the all-time wins record in eleven seasons at UCF.  So… does this mean that CUSA FrOY and DPOY Hassan Whiteside is going pro? His mother says that early reports of his going pro are premature and that no decision has yet been made.

We’ve already discussed Kansas center Cole Aldrich and Michigan guard Manny Harris’ decisions to go pro in other spaces, but two other prominent players announced their intentions to go pro today.  Seton Hall sophomore center Herb Pope will test the waters, but is likely to stay in the draft, and UTEP junior center Derrick Caracter will also leave school for professional opportunities.  Pope is projected as a late first rounder, but Caracter at this point is not seen as a legitimate prospect given some of his previous offcourt troubles.

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Aldrich Leaves Kansas Leaving Us Wanting More

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2010

In one of the least surprising announcements of the past few weeks, Cole Aldrich announced that he would forgo his senior season at Kansas and enter the NBA Draft. While Aldrich had a relatively disappointing season (a 3rd team All-American and a flame out in the 2nd round against Northern Iowa) he will still cash in on NBA millions as he is an almost certain top 10 pick (10th overall pick gets $1.87 M per year). The big question with Aldrich is not his ability (almost nobody questions that he could be a legit NBA center especially with how weak the position is right now), but we wonder how effective he will be when he often struggled to assert himself in big moments for the Jayhawks even when he had Sherron Collins, one of the best point guards in the country, bringing the ball up the court every night. His numbers were solid (11.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 3.5 BPG–ok, the blocks are impressive), but hardly the stuff you would expect from a junior who was projected at one point in the season to be a top 5 pick. If Aldrich can’t dominate against inferior opponents with a great point guard, how will he do against NBA centers who are every bit as big as him when he won’t be playing with a point guard who is significantly better than his opponent. While we certainly enjoyed watching Aldrich play during his time in Lawrence, we have this gnawing feeling that he never really reached his potential there and can only hope he does so at the next level.

A force in the middle that left us wanting more

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Comings & Goings: Landesberg & D. Jones Leaving; Hewitt to St. John’s?

Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2010

Sylven Landesberg of Virginia has decided to leave the school and turn pro this year.  He was already suspended for academic problems, and there was little expectation that he would be able to come back next year anyway.  The problem is that he’s by no means a first round lock, and may not even be a second rounder either.  According to this report, though, he may opt to play in Europe or Israel, though.

South Florida’s Dominique Jones is exploring the option of entering the NBA Draft, but he’s leaving open the possibility of a return to school.  He will have until May 8 to decide this year.  He averaged 21 PPG this year and had a mid-season series of explosive games that really caught people’s attention.  He’s currently projected in the late 1st/early 2d round window.

Kansas’ Xavier Henry hasn’t yet made a formal decison, but his coach Bill Self stated today that his star wing is ready from a skills standpoint to move on the NBA.  KU is already losing Sherron Collins to graduation and Cole Aldrich is expected to make his decision in the next week, but we’re sure that Self will reload quickly and have the Jayhawks back in the title hunt very soon.

In a maneuver that doesn’t make a lot of sense to us unless Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt is looking for a way out of Atlanta, he will talk with St. John’s on Wednesday about the possibility of becoming the next head honcho of the Red Storm.  He is a New York guy, but this would be in no way a lateral move, as Georgia Tech has been light years ahead of the Queens-based program for the better part of two decades.

Money must really talk, otherwise how else to explain leaving a successful CAA program for a moribund A10 one? Fordham has offered its vacant head coaching position to Hofstra’s Tom Pecora, and Pecora is expected to visit the school on Wednesday and could formally be named the coach at that time.   You’ll recall that Fordham recently upped its basketball budget in an effort to lure a bigger-name coach to its Bronx campus.

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.19.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2010

Each day this week during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at

South Region Notes (Patrick Sellars)

Midwest Region Notes (Tom Hager)

  • Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl says that Ohio is a lot like his previous team, UW-Milwaukee.  In addition to being an extremely confident group, they Bobcats rely heavily on three point shooting.
  • President Obama is at the 96.6th percentile of ESPN brackets after the first round.  However, he did have Georgetown going to the Elite Eight, so his chances at the grand prize may be less promising.
  • For one of the first times all season, Cole Aldrich will be going up against somebody who is actually bigger than him in UNI’s Jordan Eglseder.  The Panthers’ big man was arrested earlier in the year on DUI charges, and his numbers have taken a slight dip since his return, but he will play a huge role in any upset bid by Northern Iowa.
  • CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel said that this Northern Iowa team is like other memorable cinderellas such as George Mason and Davidson.  His reasoning?  He has gone on record saying how UNI has no chance of winning,and that is what he said about the Patriots a few years ago.
  • Despite playing for two previous teams before the Bobcats, Mike Freeman says that no player typifies Ohio basketball more than Armon Bassett.  Bassett was a key catalyst for Ohio’s rout of Georgetown, and he has 148 points in his last five games.

East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo from SienaSaintsBlog)

  • Don’t look now but Kentucky coach John Calipari said he is concerned about Wake Forest who outrebounded Texas by 25 in their win Thursday. “They got 20 offensive rebounds against Texas, who prides itself in that toughness and that rebounding,” Calipari told the AP. “I just watched tape and, you know, you get sick to your stomach.” The Demon Deacons have momentum and nothing to lose against the Wildcats, the New Orleans Times-Picayune points out.
  • Cornell waited for its moment for two years and finally put on a show over Temple using players that were largely overlooked by major college basketball.
  • Wisconsin barely survived its first-round game against Wofford, who caught a tough break to end their first NCAA Tournament appearance.
  • Is Washington soft? No way. The Seattle Times said Coach Lorenzo Romar let his players play in the final seconds and won the game his way.
  • Darington Hobson hurt his wrist but he still has New Mexico thinking big.
  • Missouri shut down Clemson’s Trevor Booker in their win today. CBSSports asks, will Bob Huggins and West Virginia be able to handle the pressure?

West Region Notes – (Andrew Murawa)

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Second Round Game Analysis: Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Saturday games.

1:05 pm – #2 Villanova vs. #10 St. Mary’s  (Providence pod)

A great opening game of the day for the group of teams that produced the best opening day of the NCAA Tournament ever. A lot of experts are going to be calling for an upset here and based on the way these two teams are playing we can’t say that we blame them. The Wildcats came into the NCAA Tournament having lost five of seven games and nearly lost to Robert Morris (down by 7 with less than 4 minutes left before some controversial calls went ‘Nova’s way). On the other side, the Gaels stormed through the West Coast Conference Tournament and knocked off Richmond, a team that a lot of people had as a potential sleeper, in the first round. The key to this game will be how Reggie Redding handles Omar Samhan. After watching Samhan rip apart the Spiders, Jay Wright has to be concerned about his interior players going against one of the best low-post players in the country. On the other side, Saint Mary’s has to figure out how to deal with Scottie Reynolds and the rest of the Wildcat backcourt. They are certainly better equipped to match-up with Villanova’s perimeter players with Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova than the Wildcats are to handle Samhan. Saint Mary’s perimeter players pack enough offensive punch to make keep up with Villanova’s guards, but Mouphtaou Yarou and Redding shouldn’t challenge Samhan too much defensively. The one wildcard here is Reynolds. Will he “learn” from Wright’s “teaching moment” and become the Scottie Reynolds we knew for most of the past two seasons or will be the 2-15 from the field Reynolds?

The Skinny: Samhan overwhelms the Wildcats on the inside and advance into the Sweet 16 as this year’s Cinderella.

3:20 pm – #5 Butler vs. #13 Murray State  (San Jose pod)

The second game of the second round will feature the top mid-major program in the east versus an upstart who would love to get there themselves.  In their first round game, if you haven’t heard, the Racers’ Danero Thomas hit a shot at the buzzer to knock Vanderbilt out of the Tournament, but what you may not know about that game is that Murray State pretty much controlled it throughout.  It was very late when Vandy regained the lead and set the stage for Thomas’ game winner.  The point: Murray is better than your typical #13 seed Cinderella.  Butler, on the other hand, had a weak first half and a superb second half to put away UTEP.  It was two of the staples of Butler’s attack — relentless halfcourt defense and the three-ball — that allowed the Bulldogs to quickly take the lead and never look back against the Miners.  As for this game, Murray State does many of the same things that Butler does, it’s just that Brad Stevens’ team does those things better.  It will certainly be interesting to see how Butler responds to being the Big (Bull)Dog in an NCAA Tournament game, as they’re usually the upstart taking on some higher-seeded Kansas or Florida type of team.

The Skinny: We’d love to take Murray State here, but Butler isn’t going to let a johnny-come-lately out-Butler them en route to the Sweet Sixteen, so we expect Butler to hang on and win by 6-8 points.

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Big 12 Tourney Daily Diary: Quarterfinals

Posted by jstevrtc on March 12th, 2010

After two days of hoops at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, what’s all the talk?  The rocking of chalk.

I don’t just mean the Jayhawk victory over Texas Tech.  The crowds in KC are definitely enjoying themselves and taking in some high-quality hoops, but they’re wondering where the upsets are.  So far, the only real upset we’ve had so far was the first round toppling of Missouri by Nebraska.  As I was talking to some Kansas State fans about this in a local restaurant after the game, one of them spoke the truth:  “Upsets are great, as long as it’s not happening to your team.”

Upsets or no, I’ll say this:  these flyover country folks know how to enjoy college basketball.  It’s obvious from being here how much everyone who’s taken over downtown KC this week, from the fan with the worst seat in the Sprint Center to the highest Big 12 administrator, loves college hoops.  My spot on media row is right beside ESPN’s (and Big 12 Network’s) Holly Rowe, who couldn’t be nicer, and is probably a bigger overall sports fan than anyone in the arena.  Like most experts, she says it’s coming down to Kansas and Kentucky in the final, but also is high on Ohio State.  And when I asked her about certain colleagues of hers who are appearing on certain ABC dancing shows later this year, she smiled, suddenly turned serious, and said, “I’m the better salsa dancer.  That’s all I’m saying.”

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RTC 2010 All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 11th, 2010

Unanimous 1st Teamer Evan Turner

With the regular season winding down to a close, the powers-that-be here at Rush the Court met in rtmsf’s basement bunker and spent 36 hours without food or water sorting out our 1st, 2nd and 3rd All-American teams for the 2009-10 season. Just kidding, we actually did it by e-mail. Regardless, here is the much-anticipated unveiling (with a slight adjustment to the three-guard lineup for the 3rd team based on the voting). Enjoy:

1st Team

  • G – John Wall, Kentucky (16.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Evan Turner, Ohio State (19.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Greivis Vasquez, Maryland (19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG)
  • F – Wesley Johnson, Syracuse (15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.9 BPG)
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky (15.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG)

There’s not much surprise with Wall, Turner or Johnson. All three garnered 1st-team selections from all four of our voters and accomplished the feat basically wire-to-wire. The two late bloomers were Cousins and Vasquez. Cousins was overshadowed in the early part of the season by his superstar teammate, but more and more attention was paid to his obscene production as the campaign wore on. His numbers spread out over 40 minutes are off the charts. Vasquez really took off late as well, dusting off the cobwebs from a slow shooting start to lead his Terrapins to a share of the ACC crown. His heroics at the end of the Duke win likely was the clincher for our voters.

2nd Team

  • G – Scottie Reynolds, Villanova (18.8 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – James Anderson, Oklahoma State (22.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • G – Sherron Collins, Kansas (15.3 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia (17.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG)
  • C – Cole Aldrich, Kansas (11.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.5 BPG)

The 2nd-team features the Jayhawks inside-outside tandem of Collins and Aldrich. While many expected at least one of them to finish the season as a first-teamer, I think both players would rather grab that #1 overall seed in the Dance. This honor is not a bad consolation prize, either. Reynolds and Butler provided the backbones for two squads that excelled in the loaded Big East, while Anderson posted the strongest raw stats of any power six-conference player other than Turner. He’s expanding his game to become more of a complete weapon, and, along with Turner, is probably the most important player to his respective team of anyone in the nation.

3rd Team

  • G – Jon Scheyer, Duke (18.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – Jimmer Fredette, BYU (20.6 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Darington Hobson, New Mexico (15.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.6 APG)
  • F – Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (23.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG)
  • C – Greg Monroe, Georgetown (16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.5 BPG)

The Mountain West received some serious love on this team with outstanding seasons from Hobson and Fredette both rewarded. Despite missing a good portion of the stretch run, Harangody’s statistics just couldn’t be ignored. Monroe put up a solid campaign for the Hoyas and might be the best passing big man in the nation. The most efficient guard? Could very well be Scheyer. He’s led Duke to #1-seed contention.

Also receiving votes: Quincy Pondexter, Washington, Ekpe Udoh, Baylor, Robbie Hummel, Purdue, Luke Babbitt, Nevada, Damion James, Texas, Kyle Singler, Duke, Patrick Patterson, Kentucky, Gordon Hayward, Butler, Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest.

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Big 12 Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.  The Big 12 Tournament begins on Wednesday at Noon CT.

Final Standings

  1. Kansas (15-1, 29-2) – Obviously the Jayhawks are above and beyond the best team in the Big 12, and regardless of what they do in the Big 12 Tournament, KU will be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, this season has been a wildly successful one for the Jayhawks, but Bill Self and his team will not be satisfied unless they’re hoisting the trophy in Indianapolis.
  2. Kansas State (11-5, 24-6) – After losing two straight games, one to Kansas in Lawrence and another to lowly Iowa State at home, its safe to say that KSU backed its way into the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas State was one of the many surprise teams in the conference this year, and they’ll hope to continue surprising people all the way into April.
  3. Baylor (11-5, 24-6) – This is probably the best team in college basketball that few people are really talking about. Ranked #20 in the nation, Baylor has the resume to be a three seed in the NCAA tournament. After where I picked this team in my preseason poll, I think Scott Drew is a safe pick for my coach of the year in the Big 12.
  4. Texas A&M (11-5, 22-8) – After the loss of Derrick Roland I thought the Aggies were done. But behind great leadership from Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis, TAMU had a legitimate shot at finishing in second place. Even though they didn’t achieve that feat, Mark Turgeon’s team looks pretty good heading into the conference tournament as the winners of three straight. I think if anyone is going to beat Kansas again it could be the Aggies from A&M.
  5. Missouri (10-6, 22-9) – The Tigers are still adjusting to life without Justin Safford (1-2 without him, the one win coming off of a last second buzzer-beater in OT against Iowa State). Mizzou has the best shot to improve their tournament seed if they can beat A&M in the quarterfinals. A third shot at Kansas is what everyone in Columbia is wishing for, but I’m not sure another 20-point loss to Kansas is what MU needs before the NCAA Tournament.
  6. Texas (9-7, 23-8) – If there is any sportswriter in the world that picked Texas to finish sixth in the Big 12 please come forward and let me bask in your wisdom. I think its safe to say UT is the surprise team of the season in this conference, even more so than Oklahoma. The Longhorns have one of the most talented teams in the nation and they will probably end up being a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament. No one in Austin is satisfied. However, if the Longhorns go on a run we could still have the Big 12 final that everyone expected, Kansas vs. Texas.
  7. Oklahoma State (9-7, 21-9) – If the Cowboys want to make some more noise on the national level now is the time to do it. James Anderson will keep you in just about every game, but the other players around him need to step it up. I think this team could be the surprise of the Big 12 Tournament this season, remember they beat Kansas State in Manhattan back in late January and the Wildcats would be their second round matchup if OSU gets past Oklahoma.
  8. Colorado (6-10, 15-15) – Find me one person in Boulder that isn’t happy with an eighth place finish in the Big 12 and I’ll be overly surprised. CU has finally gotten themselves out of the cellar, and this could be enough reason for Cory Higgins to skip the draft and make a run at the NCAA Tournament next season.
  9. Texas Tech (4-12, 16-14) – What started out as a promising year for the Red Raiders has ended quite terribly. Right now TTU is riding a seven-game losing streak and even if they were to beat Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament, it is highly unlikely they could beat KU to make some kind of improbable run.
  10. Oklahoma (4-12, 13-17) – OU fans would love to see an upset of their in-state rival in the first round game, but I also think many Sooners fans feel the same way about this season that the Coates family felt about Old Yeller. Sure, you’d love to see the season go on, but it might be time to put this team out of their misery and head to the offseason.
  11. Iowa State (4-12, 15-16) – I think ISU pulled off the biggest upset of the year in the last game of the regular season. The Cyclones are playing their best basketball at the right time, and Texas can’t take this first round game lightly or they could find themselves on a bus back to Austin as early as Wednesday night.
  12. Nebraska (2-14, 14-17) – The Cornhuskers and Mizzou will meet for the third time this season, and the good news for NU is that usually its hard to beat the same team three times in the same season. However, I don’t see the Huskers pulling off an upset of that caliber, and it looks like NU fans can finally focus on the women’s team, which is undefeated.

Season Awards

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 02.27.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 27th, 2010

Now it’s getting serious.  College basketball teams across the country now fall into one of four camps: bored, because they know their NCAA bid is secure; resigned, because they’ve known for a long time that they’re out; relieved, because they think they’ve played their way in; and downright antsy, because they’ve still got work to do.  That last group are the most interesting ones at this time of year, and there are plenty of them out there.  We’ll be keeping an eye on all of those games and, of course, commenting on any game we can find on the tube in today’s three-man weave version of BGTD.  We hope to hear from you while we’re at it.  Here are the games on which we’ll definitely be keeping tabs, though we’ll probably find more throughout the day:

  • 12 PM – Notre Dame @ #13 Georgetown on CBS (regional) – RTC Live
  • 12 PM – #2 Kentucky @ #17 Tennessee on CBS (regional)
  • 12 PM – Michigan @ #9 Ohio State on ESPN
  • 12 PM – Northeastern @ George Mason on ESPN2
  • 2 PM – North Carolina @ Wake Forest on CBS
  • 2 PM – #21 Texas @ #23 Texas A&M on ESPN
  • 2 PM – Mississippi @ Arkansas on ESPN2
  • 4 PM – #1 Kansas @ Oklahoma State on CBS
  • 4 PM – Florida @ Georgia on SEC Network
  • 6 PM – Mississippi State @ South Carolina on ESPN
  • 8 PM – Illinois State @ #22 Northern Iowa on ESPN2
  • 8 PM – Missouri @ #6 Kansas State on ESPN-U
  • 8 PM – Southern Miss @ Memphis on CBS College Sports
  • 9 PM – #8 Villanova @ #4 Syracuse on ESPN

We will start with our coverage at 11 AM. Feel free to drop by throughout the day and ask questions/comment on anything that is happening in the world of college basketball.

11:05: Well it certainly is very orange in Syracuse. And Bob Knight with the first shot of the day mocking fans who would pay $750 to watch this game. Nice. Evan Turner just signed a “Evan Turner” home-made trophy being held by some kid wearing a home-made “Villain” t-shirt.

11:06: Knight just admitted he is rooting for Steve Alford and New Mexico tonight. Not a surprise, but still amusing. I’m sure the BYU players will have something to say to the media after the game.

11:10: We would love to interview the fan who sits in that seat or the row of seats that Erin Andrews just featured. The almost looks like Final Four type seating or what we saw earlier this year for the game at the new Cowboys stadium.

11:17: Hubert Davis calling out the Mountain West and BYU. Can we get Shawn Bradley on the phone to mock UNC? Jay Bilas comes to BYU’s defense by comparing them to and crushing Virginia Tech. He’s not going to be a popular guy the next time he visits Blacksburg. Digger makes the best point of the entire discussion by saying that the reason we are talking up the mid-majors is because the PAC-10 is awful this year.

11:20: “This is the weakest at-large field ever. The weakest at-large field ever.” – Jay Bilas. He should be fun on Selection Sunday.

11:21: Does Digger have a yellow highlighter today? Is this the first time he has went with the traditional yellow for his highlighter?

11:35: Nice feature about Hank Gathers. I still remember hearing about it the day it happened on SportsCenter the night it happened. Still jarring to see the video. Nice shout-out to RTC fan Jeff Fryer. It’s too bad they ran into the buzzsaw that was the 1990 UNLV team. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that “30 for 30” documentary.

11:45: I love seeing the replay of the Scottie Reynolds shot. Not because I root for Villanova, but because it is the craziest basketball moment I have ever seen in person. Just the ecstasy of the Villanova fans that followed their utter despair after they had almost blown the game moments before.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

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

  1. Kansas (13-0, 27-1) – After taking care of Texas A&M in College Station and Oklahoma on consecutive Big Mondays, there is only one game left that I could see the Jayhawks losing (at Mizzou). However, after Kansas dominated the Tigers at home earlier in the year, it looks like KU is in great shape to finish the Big 12 season undefeated.
  2. Kansas State (9-3, 22-4) – This year’s surprise team won two games against some of the conferences’ worst teams. The Wildcats are in the best position to finish second in the conference as of today, but their next three games (at Texas Tech, vs. Mizzou, at Kansas) are definitely not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
  3. Texas A&M (8-4, 19-7) – The Aggies and Wildcats are in similar positions. TAMU has the tiebreaker over Missouri, so if they take care of business down the stretch they will grab the three seed in the conference tournament. However, their last four games are all losable (at Baylor, vs. Texas, vs. Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma). Bryan Davis is coming on strong for this team as of late, and he will have to continue his dominant inside play if A&M wants to hold on to a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament.
  4. Baylor (7-5, 20-6) – I can’t fault the Bears for losing in Stillwater, especially when the best player in the conference is on the opposing team. In my opinion, Baylor has the best chance of any Big 12 team outside the state of Kansas to make the Elite Eight. Watch out for Quincy Acy, he is going to be key for Baylor in this home stretch.
  5. Missouri (8-4, 20-7) – The Tigers got a huge win over Texas at home on Wednesday that probably propelled them into the NCAA Tournament. Of the teams fighting for a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament I think Mizzou is least likely to get the spot because of its two games against Kansas State and Kansas, plus Baylor and Texas A&M have tiebreakers over them. Still, Mike Anderson and this MU team have been proven many critics wrong all season, so there is really no science to accurately predicting how the Tigers will finish.
  6. Texas (7-5, 21-6) – Luckily for the Longhorns they somewhat control their own destiny. If they beat Texas A&M in Lubbock and Baylor in Waco they will most likely finish in the top four of the conference. The problem is that UT has been a pretty bad road team in Big 12 play (3-4 to be exact), so any Longhorns fans that blindly assume they’ll win those two games are most likely hallucinating.
  7. Oklahoma State (7-5, 19-7) – The best news for the Cowboys in the last two weeks has to be the fact that Obi Muonelo has been stepping up his game. In games when Muonelo is in double figures scoring, OSU is 14-3. So it is pretty obvious that he is key to the Cowboys’ success. Outside of Muonelo, James Anderson continues to awe college basketball fans around the nation. He is certainly making a case for why he should be a First Team All-American.
  8. Texas Tech (4-8, 16-10) – The Red Raiders are officially dead after dropping two games last week. To their credit, no one thought they would even be in the discussion come February. Good news for Tech fans is that Pat Knight has this program going in the right direction, and he is recruiting some pretty good players for future seasons.
  9. Colorado (3-9, 12-14) – The Buffaloes picked up a nice win over OU in Boulder on Wednesday, and they have the opportunity to maybe get two more wins before the season is over (vs. Iowa State, at Nebraska). I’d say this year has been somewhat of a success for CU, the Buffs acquired another prolific scorer in Alec Burks and they have been a lot more competitive in conference play.
  10. Oklahoma (4-9, 13-14) – The 09-10 Oklahoma Sooners are the definition of letdown. They were returning one of the best freshman from the 08-09 season, and had a stellar recruiting class around him yet they couldn’t get it done. Tiny Gallon has returned, but with Willie Warren out due to mono it’s hard to see OU pulling off an unprecedented run in the Big 12 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.
  11. Iowa State (2-10, 13-14) – The Cyclones have lost some heartbreakers this season, but overall it has also been a big letdown. Many people thought this would be the year ISU returned to its glory days and got back into the NCAA Tournament on the back of Craig Brackins. However, Brackins has seemed to have regressed from last season, and while JUCO transfer Marquis Gilstrap has made a huge impact it hasn’t been enough to get ISU even on the bubble.
  12. Nebraska (1-11, 13-14) – One of the more underrated players in the conference is Ryan Anderson of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ leading scorer is a great three-point shooter, and does a pretty good job rebounding the basketball for his height (6’4). Outside of Anderson, NU has few bright spots.

Player of the WeekJames Anderson (G), Oklahoma State – Anderson had his third thirty-point game this week in a huge win over Baylor at home. In that game he also pulled down 12 boards and was 80 percent from the free throw line. Since his “bad” game against Texas Tech the Cowboys are 3-0 and Anderson is averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Team of the Week – Oklahoma State Cowboys – Travis Ford and his Cowboys need only two more regular season wins to feel good about their chances for an NCAA at-large berth. This last week moved OSU from a team on the wrong side of the bubble to feeling comfortable especially after the huge upset over Baylor at home on Saturday.

This Week’s Predictions

Kansas State at Texas Tech (Tuesday February 23,  8:00 PM ET) – I usually wouldn’t see Kansas State losing this matchup, but they have been cutting it close against lesser opponents recently. If the Wildcats let up at all in this contest they will be on the wrong end of the scoreboard. On top of that, Mike Singletary is one of the better players in the conference and he usually plays very well in Lubbock. It isn’t a Big 12 Weekly Update if I don’t mention Jacob Pullen, but I think he will have a tough time against the Red Raiders who still haven’t given up hope on making the Tournament. By no means will a win get TTU instant consideration for a bid, but Pat Knight will have his players going hard like it’s a tournament play-in game. So I’m picking a huge upset here, and saying that the Red Raiders take down one of the hottest teams in the nation on Tuesday.

Winner: Texas Tech

Nebraska at Iowa State (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) – Both teams are on long losing streaks and they really want a win. You never know what can happen with a talented team like Iowa State if they can put together a run before the conference tournament starts. Nebraska is an abysmal road team, and I don’t see them putting up too much of a fight, even against Iowa State.

Winner: Iowa State

Colorado at Missouri (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) – The only team the Tigers have really dominated in conference play is Colorado. Mike Anderson has never lost to the Buffaloes in his tenure at Mizzou, and I don’t see it happening for the first time in Columbia with his team playing their second to last home game of the season. Keith Ramsey had a big game in the first matchup between these two teams so look for him to be a key part of Missouri’s attack.

Winner: Missouri

Texas A&M at Baylor (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Here is a tremendous matchup that has huge implications for first-round byes in the conference tournament. Neither team can afford a loss, especially Baylor, because teams like Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State are nipping at their heels attempting to overtake them in the conference standings. It provides a great inside matchup between Bryan Davis and Ekpe Udoh, and also a great guard matchup between Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes of A&M vs. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter of Baylor. These teams are about as even as any in the conference, so I will go with the home team in this game and say the Bears win an overtime thriller.

Winner: Baylor

Oklahoma State at Texas (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) – If any of you remember the Big Monday game between these two teams a few weeks back, you must recall James Anderson’s stellar first half performance. Then OSU faded in the second half and Texas took care of business in Stillwater. UT has a lot to play for because they still think they can win out, including the Big 12 Tournament, and maybe get a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would be a tremendous accomplishment at this point in the season. Damion James is the key to UT’s success, as he had an ok performance against Mizzou and the Longhorns lost that game on the road. If UT wants a big win they need James and Dexter Pittman to play like they were at the beginning of the season. I don’t like how Texas has been playing lately, but you still have to go with the Horns in Austin.

Winner: Texas

Iowa State at Colorado (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) – It’s a possible CBI Final preview in Boulder on Saturday. I like the Buffs in this game because they are the better team, and believe it or not they are not easy to beat at home.

Winner: Colorado

Baylor at Oklahoma (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) – The Bears should watch out here because it is the definition of a trap game. Norman will be loud as always, and the possibility of having Willie Warren back (although there is no way he would be close to 100 percent) is scary for BU fans. Tommy Mason-Griffin of OU is one to look for in this contest, as he has been the most efficient player for the Sooners all season and can be deadly from behind the arc. All that said, I don’t see any scenario in which Scott Drew lets his team lose focus and let this one slip away.

Winner: Baylor

Texas at Texas A&M (Saturday February 27, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) – The Longhorns seem to always struggle in College Station, then again so does most of the conference. I think Texas has the advantage of many mismatches in this game, for example UT’s experienced frontcourt against TAMU’s relatively inexperienced one. It’s hard for me to pick against the Aggies at home though, especially when the game is going to be sold out against an intrastate rival.

Winner: Texas A&M

Texas Tech at Nebraska (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET) – The Red Raiders should be hot coming off the Kansas State game and will blow out the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. NU is just overmatched athletically against every team in the Big 12, so its hard to think they will win any more games this season.

Winner: Texas Tech

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET CBS) – The best player in the conference will be going up against the best team in the conference on Saturday in Stillwater. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are looking to stay undefeated, but James Anderson and Obi Muonelo should provide a tough roadblock for the Jayhawks to break through. I love Travis Ford and what he has done with the Cowboys’ program, and there is no doubt that Stillwater will probably be one of the louder places in the country this weekend, but I’ve learned my lesson picking against KU before. This team is too good, and they always find a way to win the big game.

Winner: Kansas

Missouri at Kansas State (Saturday February 27, 8:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Everyone in Manhattan has been waiting to get revenge on Missouri since the Tigers upset K-State in Columbia back in late December. Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will be the key players for K-State if they are going to destroy MU like they’re capable of doing. I think Mizzou comes in and plays tough for the first 30 minutes, but then they will hit a second half scoring drought and the Wildcats will pull away with a big conference win over a rival.

Winner: Kansas State

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