Preseason All-Big 12 Honors Blend Phenoms, Transfers and Experienced Contributors

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 3rd, 2013

Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

The sweet smell of college basketball strengthened Thursday afternoon as the Big 12 coaches released their preseason all-conference team, Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year selections. Let’s break down the conference’s picks:

Preseason Player of the Year: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Smart, who surprisingly returned to the Cowboys after averaging 15.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in his freshman campaign, is the incumbent Big 12 Player of the Year, so it’s hard to be too surprised at his unanimous selection from the Big 12 coaches. Others may argue that blue-chip Jayhawk freshman Andrew Wiggins would be a more worthy pick given his higher ceiling, but we have to look at recent history for context, and that history shows that Big 12 coaches just haven’t been crazy about adding pressure to hyped incoming freshmen. For instance, neither Kevin Durant nor Michael Beasley, both of whom faced their own lofty expectations coming into the conference, were named as the Preseason POY in 2006 and 2007, respectively. On the other hand, the fact that both Durant and Beasley ended up fitting the bill as not only Big 12 but National POY candidates suggests that perhaps the voting body should be more open to the idea. In the end, it’s hard to fault the coaches for going with a guy who’s done it all before in Marcus Smart, but we’re excited to see how the season plays out.

OSU's Smart is the Big 12 Preseason POY (AP Photo).

OSU’s Smart is the Big 12 Preseason POY (AP Photo).

Preseason Newcomer Of The Year: Tarik Black, Kansas: As a transfer, Black makes a ton of sense here when you consider Bill Self’s successful history with big men. Granted, Black is already in exceptional shape and will only have one year to work with Self and famed strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy, but he figures to provide plenty of muscle (at 6’9″/260 lbs.) and experience (he started 60 of 102 games at Memphis) on an otherwise young Kansas lineup.

Preseason Freshman Of The Year: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: By now, you’ve probably heard all the talking points: Wiggins is perhaps a generational superstar who is as physically talented as he is level-headed and modest, and we as college basketball fans should be thankful for the one-and-done rule enabling him to pass through this season. We don’t disagree, and this accolade is just the latest for the 6’8″ Canadian small forward. We may not necessarily see eye-popping stats, given some questions that scouts have raised about his still-developing aggressiveness and Bill Self’s preference for balance on the offensive end.  However, we do expect to see some memorable plays on both ends and are looking forward to what should be a big-time year. How will he adjust to playing in the national spotlight?

Preseason All-Big 12 Team

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Morning Five: 04.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. We will start off today by offering our best wishes to ESPN analyst Digger Phelps who revealed that he had surgery and will be treated for bladder cancer. Most of America knows Digger for his work on ESPN including his matching tie and highlighter combinations, but he was also an outstanding coach at Notre Dame from 1971 to 1991 as he was able to knock off the #1 team in the nation seven times during that stretch (a record he shares with Gary Williams) including ending UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak. We do not know much about the stage of the cancer and subsequently the prognosis, but we wish Digger the best as he continues to undergo treatment.
  2. In what might end up being the biggest early-entry decision this year, Doug McDermott announced that he will be returning to Creighton for his senior year. There have been several players with more NBA-level talent than McDermott who made early-entry decisions over the past few weeks, but none of them will have as profound an impact on their school, conference, and the national landscape as McDermott will. The Bluejays will be losing some key pieces (Grant Gibbs and Greg Echenique), but McDermott’s return should make them competitive in the new Big East and a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament. We are not sure how much McDermott will help his NBA Draft stock by returning, but as Andy Glockner points out the move to the new Big East should give McDermott the ability to showcase his skills against more high-level talent than he had in the Missouri Valley Conference.
  3. The other notable early-entry announcement yesterday came from Baylor where Cory Jefferson announced that he would be returning for his senior year. Jefferson, who showed a dramatic improvement last season, is essentially the polar opposite of McDermott as a NBA prospect in that he is a ridiculous NBA-level athlete, but his offensive game is very limited. We are not sure that Scott Drew is the best person to work on that–at least based on what we have seen from him in terms of in-game adjustments–but an extra year of college basketball should give Jefferson enough time to round out his game to make him a better NBA prospect and a probable first-round pick although with how deep next year’s NBA Draft could be Jefferson needs to continue his upward trajectory to ensure himself a first-round spot.
  4. One of the things that we always have a hard time understanding is the hype surrounding transfers. One example of this is Hunter Mickelson, who is transferring from Arkansas to Kansas. Mickelson was a highly recruited 6’10” Arkansas native who tried to get out of his letter of intent when the coaching change at Arkansas occurred, but was not released by the school only averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season in just 16.6 minutes per game. His 2.3 blocks in 17.1 minutes per game as a freshman was impressive, but we are not quite buying the hype on Mickelson yet even if his block per minute numbers compare favorably with what Jeff Withey was able to do (see Jesse Newell’s excellent analysis for a more detailed breakdown of what Mickelson brings to Lawrence). Like Mickelson, Jabari Hinds was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school, but struggled during his two seasons at West Virginia before eventually finding himself on the bench late last season. Now Hinds appears to be headed for Massachusetts where as Jeff Eisenberg points out he could benefit from playing against lower-level talent. Perhaps the most perplexing case of all is Tarik Black, the Memphis big man who put up unremarkable numbers–8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds–last season yet finds himself being heavily recruited by Duke among others. As Gary Parrish points out some of this is supply and demand. At this point there are not many big men who have proven they can play at a high-major level so now there are “at least 20 other high-major programs are all lined up and working like they’re the last 25 dudes in a bar with just one moderately attractive girl”. The part that Parrish leaves out is that the one “lucky” dude/program has to wake up the following morning next to the moderately attractive girl.
  5. With all the movement in the coaching carousel there will inevitably be a few recruits who change their minds about where they want to go to school (see Mickelson above). Two of the bigger moves in the coaching carousel this season were at UCLA and Rutgers both of whom were involved in some recruit movement yesterday. In the case of UCLA they released Allerik Freeman from the national letter of intent he signed last November when Ben Howland was still the coach at UCLA. We are not sure if this decision was mutual or if Freeman was the sole driving force, but given how quickly this went down we would be surprised if Steve Alford was not ok with having an extra scholarship available. On the other end of the country and spectrum was Rutgers who picked up its first recruit of the Eddie Jordan era when junior college guard Craig Brown committed to the school. Rutgers obviously has a very long way to go to be a national-level program again and picking up a junior college guard will not turn many heads in New Jersey, but the speed with which Jordan picked up the commitment is impressive.
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Big 12 Season Wrap: the Highs, the Lows, All the In-Betweens

Posted by dnspewak on April 15th, 2013

In a big-picture sense, the Big 12 provided us with no surprises this season. Kansas won the league again, TCU finished in last place, five teams made the NCAA Tournament, and all was right with the world. It wouldn’t have taken Nostradamus to make those predictions. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an interesting six months, however. There were flops–most notably from the state of Texas. There were overachievers–most notably from the state of Oklahoma. There were thrilling finishes, blown calls, standout freshmen and that one time Kansas somehow lost to TCU. Oh, and one team even won a championship this season in, well, the wrong tournament.

Game of  the Year: Kansas 68, Oklahoma State 67 (February 20)

This showdown in Stillwater was simultaneously the best and worst game of the Big 12 season. How’s that for logic? After the Cowboys stunned Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the winter and literally celebrated by doing back flips on the court, this revenge game took on even more importance in the league standings. Had Oklahoma State won, it would have seized the proverbial driver’s seat along with Kansas State and would have made the Jayhawks’ path to the regular season title very difficult. We had drama. We had overtime. Two, actually. And we had a game-winner in the final minute of regulation by Naadir Tharpe, who shook off a rusty performance to hit the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds to play. Instant classic, right? Certainly. The problem was, it was perhaps the ugliest game ever played by two top-15 opponents on the same floor. Kansas did not make a field goal in the first overtime and it did not make a field goal in the second overtime until Tharpe’s game-winner. That’s almost 10 minutes of basketball without a basket. In overtime! Overall, the two teams combined to shoot five for 32 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore played 49 minutes, missed nine of 12 shot attempts and finished with seven points after barely touching the ball in the overtime periods. And that’s the best game of the year? We still stand by our decision. This was the game that changed the complexity of the Big 12 title race, and two free periods of basketball is never a bad thing.

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 (February 25): Asterisk on this one. Kansas beat Iowa State in Ames — where the Cyclones hadn’t lost in more than a year — but it needed a blown call at the end of regulation to get the opportunity. You remember the situation. Elijah Johnson‘s charging toward the basket with five seconds left in the game, his team trailing by two points. Georges Niang sets his feet and takes what appears to be a pretty standard charge. But there’s no call, the ball bounces on the floor and the officials eventually blow the whistle on Niang during a scramble. That allows Kansas to tie the game and win in overtime behind Elijah Johnson’s epic 39-point performance. The Big 12 would later admit its referees should have called a charge, but that’s a moot point right now. It’s a shame we’ll remember this game as the No-Call Game as opposed to the Elijah Johnson Game.
  • Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 (March 14): The Bears needed a victory in this Big 12 quarterfinal to give themselves a chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Then they fell behind by 20 points. Dead in the water. Except Pierre Jackson started raining jumpers and floaters all over the place, and Baylor inexplicably tied the game in the final minute of regulation. But the officials made a controversial foul call (that’s a trend this year, across all conferences) and sent Phil Forte to the line, where he made both. That’s an exciting finish in and of itself. But it got even better: Nobody’s quite sure how it happened, but with just seconds left on a desperation, mad-dash possession, Jackson dribbled straight through two Oklahoma State defenders and found himself absolutely, completely wide open from three-point land. He had a chance to win at the buzzer. No hands contesting him, no defender in sight. He missed. That sent the Bears to the NIT, and at least they won that tournament. But Jackson’s failed buzzer-beater signaled the end of Baylor’s tourney chances, and it was another dark moment during an underachieving season.

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Big 12 M5: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 3rd, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Another day, another win for the Baylor men. The Bears took care of BYU for the second time this season with a 76-70 win in the NIT semifinals. Cory Jefferson had his third consecutive 20-point effort in the NIT with 21. It also makes the Bears 7-0 in games where Jefferson scores 20 or more points. Senior Pierre Jackson had 24 points and 10 assists which happens to be his third straight game with at least 20/10. (How Jackson didn’t even get an AP All-American Honorable Mention is beyond me.) When the Bears play Iowa for the NIT championship on Thursday, it’ll be the second NIT title game in the Scott Drew era. They played another Big Ten team in 2009 — Penn State — when the Bears were at the time led by Curtis Jerrells and LaceDarius Dunn.
  2. The Iowa State athletic department announced Tuesday that it has discovered an impermissible number of phone calls were made and text messages were sent between 2008 and 2011. ISU then self-imposed penalties on itself for the 2011-12 academic year which included a reduction in the number of coaches traveling to recruit potential prospects as well as a reduction of phone calls and text messages over a four-month span. The school has also asked the NCAA to place it on probation though details were not released. Another thing we don’t know yet is which sports committed these violations. The NCAA still has the power to place additional restrictions on ISU on top of those already self-imposed. There’s still a lot to be determined in this case so stay tuned for more.
  3. TCU made news on the recruiting trail yesterday as the Horned Frogs picked up a commitment from 2013 forward/guard Hudson Price. Price, the son of four-time NBA All-Star guard Mark, pledged for TCU, spurning offers from schools like Saint Louis, Vanderbilt, and Miami (FL). Price is described as an excellent three-point shooter but at 6’6″ and 210 pounds, he isn’t afraid of taking it to the rim either. The addition of Price shores up an already solid class for Trent Johnson led by Karviar Shepherd (four-star) and Brandon Parrish (three-star).
  4. As you might know, the mayor of #DunkCity Andy Enfield was hired (perhaps misguidedly) to be the new head coach at Southern California. Now who will replace him? Here’s a list of potential candidates with a couple of names that Big 12 folks should recognize. The first is Jeff Capel, the former Oklahoma coach and current Duke assistant. He doesn’t make any sense for FGCU seeing how he doesn’t have any known connections in Florida, and he could get a better offer than an A-Sun job. The other possibility is Texas assistant Russ Springman, which makes more sense. He worked with Billy Donovan at Florida as a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach, but if he were offered the job, he’d take it in a heartbeat. These next few weeks or months may be the only time in world history where a job in Fort Myers looks more attractive than one in Austin.
  5. It was a year ago yesterday when Kansas State hired Bruce Weber to be its new coach, replacing South Carolina-bound Frank Martin. Bring On The Cats did a very cool thing by archiving fans’ comments on the hire only to revisit them after a full calendar year has passed. What surprised me the most was even before Martin bolted, some fans already sensed that he was beginning to lose his team. Sure there were a fair share of fans who were angry at first but even they cooled off and came to the conclusion that reason will prevail. Wonder what they’ll say next April 2.
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Big 12 NCAA Resumes: Baylor Bears

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 27th, 2013

Over the next few weeks, we’ll break down where each Big 12 bubble team stands in terms of its current NCAA Tournament resume. This time: the Baylor Bears, who are trying to make back-to-back NCAA appearances for the first time in the Scott Drew era. 

  • Current Record: 16-11, 7-7 in the Big 12
  • RPI: 64
  • SOS: 32
Baylor's at-large opportunities are waning. (Getty Images)

Baylor’s chances at an at-large bid are waning. (Getty Images)

As is the case with most bubble teams, it’s been an up-and-down year for the Baylor Bears. The talent is there: upperclassmen, versatile big men, a dead-eye shooter and a Big 12 POY candidate. Despite a couple of brain-farts at home and maybe head coach Scott Drew, there’s still a chance to sneak into the Dance. SI’s Andy Glockner, CBS’ Jerry Palm and ESPN’s Ben Franklin all have the Bears on the outside at this point, but I’m going to do my best to try to make an unbiased case for them.

Case For An At-Large Bid: Gotta give Baylor this: They really challenged themselves in the non-conference season. They participated in the Charleston Classic that featured teams like Colorado and St. John’s. They took trips to difficult environments like Gonzaga and Kentucky. To top it off, they scheduled two home games versus 2012 Tournament teams Lehigh and BYU. (Which makes me wonder: How are strength of schedules calculated exactly?) They played Gonzaga tough on the road and lost while beating fellow bubble teams BYU, St. John’s and Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Meanwhile in conference play, they have a 10-point win against Oklahoma State which is looking better by the week.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 15th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

While there may not be as many marquee match-ups this weekend, the games in the Big East, MW, and Big Ten are extremely important to their conference races. It’s nail biting time for college hoops fans across the country as teams play for their tourney positioning. Should be a good weekend of hoops, so let’s get to the breakdowns!

#16 Georgetown at Cincinnati – 9:00 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Playing At A High Level (Getty)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Playing At A High Level (Getty)

  • Georgetown is in a three-way tie at the top of the Big East with Syracuse and Marquette after the Orange lost at UConn on Wednesday. At this point though, half the conference still has a chance to catch them. Despite their inconsistency, Cincinnati is still one of those teams. The Bearcats have been living and dying by the three-point shot. In their last three games, they were 3-13 against Providence, 4-25 against Pitt, and 12-25 against Villanova. It’s fairly easy to tell which games they won and which they lost (losses to Providence and Pitt with a win against Villanova, in case it wasn’t clear). In Big East play, Cincinnati shoots 43% of its field goal attempts from beyond the arc, while only making 30.5% of them. If you recall, Michigan looked like this in the past and had a tough time being consistent, as well. Georgetown will allow teams to get off three-point shots, but teams are only making 28.8% of those shots in the Big East. If you follow Ken Pomeroy, he will tell you the former is more important, so watch closely to see if the Bearcats can take advantage by actually knocking down the deep ball. The Hoyas length may be tough to shoot over, however. Speaking of length, 6’8″ Georgetown forward Otto Porter is on fire recently. Porter is averaging 18.5 points in his last nine games. Not coincidentally  the Hoyas are 8-1 in that stretch. The Cincinnati defense is struggling to stop teams from scoring in the paint, so look for Porter to have another big game. If the Bearcats can’t stop Porter and they can’t make threes, they are going to have a tough time winning.

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Time to Recognize the Other Point Guard at Baylor: AJ Walton

Posted by dnspewak on January 21st, 2013

ESPN’s Brent Musburger and Fran Fraschilla gushed about a bunch of Baylor players during its victory over Oklahoma State Monday evening. They talked about how the 34 NBA scouts in the building surely must have noticed that forwards Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin combined for 11 blocks and two double-doubles. They talked about standout point guard Pierre Jackson, the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year and the Bears’ leading scorer. And they talked about Brady Heslip, the dead-eyed three-point shooter who has been suffering through a shooting slump after a terrific 2011-12 campaign.

A.J. Walton is a Starter, But Nobody Knows It (photo credit to Big12Sports.com)

A.J. Walton is a Starter, But Nobody Knows It (photo credit to Big12Sports.com)

There was one more guy they gushed about. That’s A.J. Walton, the senior guard and winningest player in Baylor basketball history. It’s about time you gush about him, too. He didn’t lead the team in scoring like Jackson, and he didn’t finish with a double-double or block any shots, but he made what Fraschilla called the “play of the game” when he saved a ball near the baseline and fired it to Jefferson for a dunk, helping extend his team’s lead to eight points after the Cowboys had staged a modest comeback. It was one of four assists on the day for Walton, who also tallied two steals, five rebounds and made a number of other hustle plays, none of which went unnoticed by the commentators. By the end of the game, it would be fair to say Musburger had more of a crush on A.J. Walton than he did on that other A.J.’s girlfriend, if you catch our drift.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Eight

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 31st, 2012

With schools on Christmas break and a lot of teams giving players a few days off to travel home for the holidays, it was a slow week in the Big 12.  There were only eight games this week, highlighted by Baylor’s 94-87 loss at Gonzaga Friday night. The rest of the schedule was the usual end-of-December no-name games against teams like American and UMKC as teams prepare for the conference season’s start on Saturday. Kansas remains on top of the power rankings for another week after dismantling an overmatched American squad in Allen Fieldhouse Saturday night. The Big 12 microsite staff couldn’t agree on Oklahoma State and Kansas State at No. 2, and the trio of Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa State were tied for fifth place, so we went to KenPom to settle the score. To reiterate the ranking process, I can’t speak for Danny and Nate but my vote isn’t like a Top 25 ballot where teams are almost automatically moved up or down each week with a win or loss. So Baylor lost to Gonzaga in Spokane. Do I think Iowa State or Oklahoma would have fared any better? If the answer is yes, I vote accordingly. If not, then the Bears might not slip because of the loss. With that out of the way, here is where we stand in week eight:

1) Kansas (11-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

With no changes in a slow week in the Big 12, Bill Self's Jayhawks remain at No. 1 in our Power Rankings this week. (Photo credit: AP Photo).

With no changes in a slow week in the Big 12, Bill Self’s Jayhawks remain at No. 1 in our Power Rankings. (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Last Week: W 89-57 vs. American

This Week: Off

  • Rundown: Kansas did what it was supposed to do against American on Saturday in a glorified scrimmage. Bill Self is notorious for vastly improving his teams over the winter break when practice times are less limited, and this year is no different. The Jayhawks have been improving steadily since the close wins over San Jose State and Oregon State at the end of November, winning their last five games by an average of 26.2 PPG.
  • Interesting Stat: Jeff Withey has been so imposing defensively that teams have basically given up trying to score on him lately. In the last five games, Kansas opponents have attempted 23.6 three-pointers per game. And unless you are playing against Reggie Miller and Ray Allen on the perimeter, I think any team would gladly let its opponents shoot that often from deep.

2) Oklahoma State (8-1, 0-0) (KenPom No. 27)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: Off

This Week: Today vs. Gonzaga, 5:00 PM ESPN, Saturday at Kansas State, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: Gonzaga is 4-0 against the Big 12 this season, looking to make it five wins tonight in Stillwater. Gallagher-Iba Arena should be jumping tonight with the Bulldogs in town, and a Cowboys win would create a definite gap between themselves, Kansas, then everyone else in the conference.
  • Interesting Stat: Even with the talented duo of LeBryan Nash and Marcus Page, the Cowboys have not shot the ball well this year (44.2%), but they are the No.3 adjusted defensive team on KenPom.com. Their 81-71 loss to Virginia Tech on December 1 was the only time an opponent has scored over 65 points against them this season. Five teams have failed to reach 50 points against the Cowboys.

3) Kansas State (10-2, 0-0) (KenPom No. 48)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 52-44 vs. UMKC

This Week: Today vs. South Dakota State, 1:oo PM, Saturday vs. Oklahoma State, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: Kansas State struggled against UMKC last week, eventually winning by just 12 points. The Wildcats shot 32.1 % from the field against the Kangaroos, but I will consider it a letdown after beating then No. 8 Florida in Kansas City the week prior. 
  • Interesting Stat: Like Oklahoma State, Kansas State does not shoot the ball well (41.4% on the season) but they still have Frank Martin’s identity. They have grabbed 206 offensive rebounds this season (17.1 ORPG).

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Baylor’s National Perception Depends on Performance at Gonzaga Tonight

Posted by dnspewak on December 28th, 2012

Baylor and Scott Drew are all about perception. They always have been, and fair or not, they always will be. Drew has reached the Elite Eight twice in the last three seasons, and yet not a soul in the college basketball community trusts his program. The Bears returned the league’s best player in Pierre Jackson, added a few studs in the frontcourt and began the season ranked in the Top 25, but that perception lingered. It’s the perception that Drew can assemble all the individual talent he wants and still never come close to reaching expectations or challenging Kansas for the Big 12 title. It’s the perception that no matter how many games he wins in the decade after an infamous murder scandal and no matter how many five-star prospects he recruits to Waco, it just won’t ever be good enough. And when the Bears dropped early games to Colorado, Charleston and Northwestern in the first month of the 2012-13 season, the cynical talk began.

Pierre Jackson and Baylor have a lot of question marks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Pierre Jackson and Baylor have a lot of question marks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The talk stopped momentarily when Baylor knocked off Kentucky at Rupp Arena and regrouped with a home victory over BYU. After a fairly horrendous start against the Cougars, the Bears surged near the end of the first half and ran away with a game that started to build this team’s identity. Cory Jefferson’s 16 rebounds were a huge part of that identity, and say what you will about Kentucky, but that victory helped, too. Still, the Bears aren’t finished building yet, and Baylor has a point to prove on Friday night at Gonzaga. Is this the team with such a ridiculously disruptive zone that caused Kentucky to shoot 30 percent from the field on its home court? The team that has Isaiah Austin going off for 13 points and 13 rebounds against St. John’s, and 23 and 17 against Lamar? Or is this the team that let Northwestern and Charleston outrebound it?

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Big 12 M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 18th, 2012

morning5_big12

  1. The Big 12 announced the weekly winners for Big 12 player and rookie of the week. POTW honors went to Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim. Though he only played one game last week, Ejim filled up the stat sheet against Drake with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals in 31 minutes. It was Ejim’s 11th career double-double and he has already registered four of them on the young season. This week’s ROTW is now a repeat winner. Baylor freshman Isaiah Austin won the award with his dominant performance in the Bears’ 85-68 win over Lamar on December 12. All the seven-footer did was put up season highs in points (23) and rebounds (17) against a helpless Cardinals’ front line. I have a feeling Austin will win another ROTW honor before season’s end.
  2. Back on March 2, Chris Lowery was fired as head coach at Southern Illinois, and just seven days later, his former boss Bruce Weber was fired at Illinois. So when Weber landed feet first in Manhattan, Kansas, during the offseason, Lowery was on the short list of possible assistants to call. Even though the season is young, I’ll go ahead and call this a home run hire. In his first three seasons at SIU, Weber had just one NIT appearance but once Lowery came on staff in 2001, the Salukis made the NCAA Tournament twice including a run to the Sweet Sixteen. He even joined Weber at Illinois for a year to help guide another Sweet Sixteen team. Now if only he and Weber could sign a lifetime deal at K-State…
  3. Burnt Orange Nation gives us a recap of the first month of basketball for Big 12 teams. I can’t remember a season when the Big 12 has had so many teams show signs of incompetence. West Virginia was supposed to succeed the role of Missouri with a solid history and recent success, yet they find themselves at 4-5. Texas‘ crop of talented young guys can’t put the ball in the hoop; Baylor has been a vulnerable team at home; and then a collection of teams (Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas State) have solid records but haven’t been able to get wins against significant opponents yet. Hopefully, next month’s recap will be more flattering for the Big 12.
  4. We know Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger is into trying new things, seeing how he changes jobs every five years (I kid) but Saturday’s win over Texas A&M saw Kruger add what The Norman Transcript calls a “new wrinkle” to another possible lineup. The Sooners went with a four-guard set with 6’6″ forward Cameron Clark at the center position for a large part of the second half. Clark went on to score 12 of his 17 points in that half and, while his team searches for an identity, Kruger left the door open for the Sooners to experiment with that lineup in the future.
  5. To borrow a line from Houston Rockets radio voice Craig Ackerman, Baylor very nearly pooped their big boy pants again last night to USC Upstate but rebounded in the second half to beat the Spartans 73-57. Cory Jefferson ruled the paint going 6-of-8 from the field for 17 points to lead all scorers. Fresh off his second ROTW award, Isaiah Austin recorded his second consecutive double-double (12 points, 10 boards) while the best all-around game went to A.J. Walton who threw in 10 points, four rebounds, eight dimes and five steals. It’s another tally in the win column for Scott Drew, but the uneasy feeling about the Bears playing at the Ferrell Center isn’t going away just yet.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Illinois, Undefeated Teams, A Blown Call Nobody Noticed, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 11th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

  1. Illinois fans, here is my mea culpa. I was wrong not to rank your team. On Saturday night, the Fighting Illini ventured up to Spokane and walked out of the Kennel with the best win of any team to date. Yes, better than Duke’s wins over Louisville and Ohio State. Why? There has not been a road win of this magnitude by any team through this early point in the season. The Illini proved they’re for real with a dominant second half against a very strong Gonzaga team. After taking the opening punch and falling behind 8-0 right out of the gate, John Groce’s team didn’t panic and made fantastic adjustments. Gonzaga’s game plan was clearly to feed the ball inside and try to dominate a less than imposing Illinois front line. Illinois’ defense suddenly picked up later in the first half, swarming the Gonzaga big men and forcing the Bulldogs into an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. Illinois was able to speed the game up a bit and prevent Gonzaga from setting up its half court offense effectively. The Zags attempted 18 threes which is right about their season average but a lot of them were rushed and not something the game plan should have called for against an Illinois team without a significant inside presence. Brandon Paul looked like an All-America candidate with his performance not just on the offensive end but defensively against Pangos and the Gonzaga guards as well. Can Illinois keep this level of play up? I’m not sure but I know one thing: The Illini are way better than I thought. This team’s over-reliance on the three-point shot is concerning and is bound to catch up with them at some point, but Illinois has already proved it will be a factor in the loaded Big Ten.

    Brandon Paul Looked Like An All-American Candidate On Saturday Night In Spokane. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

  2. Another impressive performance played out in a different fashion on Saturday night in Clemson, South Carolina. Trailing Clemson by six points midway through the second half, Arizona absorbed the hit and put the pedal down in impressive fashion with a 26-5 run down the stretch to come out of rowdy Littlejohn Coliseum with a sneaky good road win. It was an impressive showing because this Arizona team had been highly touted but untested coming into the game. The Wildcats passed that test with flying colors as they head into a Saturday showdown with Florida in Tucson. Mark Lyons took control in the final minutes for Arizona but contributions from Nick Johnson (13 points, five steals) and Solomon Hill (10 rebounds despite an awful shooting night) illustrate the talent and depth of Sean Miller’s team. Although he didn’t have a great game, I was thoroughly impressed with the physique of freshman Kaleb Tarczewski. It was the first time I’ve seen him play and his body appears mature beyond his age. He’ll be a load for any opponent in the post. Arizona is clearly the best team in the Pac-12 and has the pieces to make a deep run in March. With the gritty Miller at the helm and a boatload of talent, this team will keep getting better as the year moves along. Make sure you watch the Wildcats take on Florida this Saturday night in what could prove to be the best non-conference game of the season.
  3. Another week, another confounding loss for Baylor. Just when you thought the Bears were turning the corner after winning at Kentucky, they put together an absolute stinker of a loss at home to a mediocre Northwestern team that had just suffered back-to-back home losses to Maryland and Illinois-Chicago. Baylor was dominated on the glass by a Northwestern lineup that isn’t all that physically imposing and allowed the Wildcats to shoot 51% for the game. It is inexcusable for a team with Baylor’s talent to have three losses at this point in the season but you know what I like to say, nobody does less with more than Scott Drew. When you look at the statistics, Baylor appears to be a pretty good team. But the chemistry and focus clearly is lacking, otherwise this team wouldn’t have lost to Charleston and Northwestern on its home court. Baylor is a highly talented team and has actually improved its turnover numbers significantly from previous years. Pierre Jackson is playing like one of the best point guards in America and Drew has seen junior forward Cory Jefferson take a huge step forward. Baylor has two more non-conference challenges before Big 12 play begins, against BYU in Waco and a tough trip to Gonzaga in back to back games at the end of this month. Even if the Bears enter Big 12 play at 8-4, I still believe this team is good enough to eventually earn a Top 25 ranking and fit solidly in the NCAA Tournament. At this point however, Baylor just isn’t there yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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Colorado’s Ugly Win Bodes Well For Future

Posted by AMurawa on November 16th, 2012

It was a game Colorado really should have wanted to win. But, my god, it really didn’t look like it, did it? After scoring a big opening round win yesterday in the Charleston Classic and earning their way into the winner’s side of the bracket and a chance at revenge against a Baylor team that ended their year last season, the Buffaloes did plenty of good things Friday afternoon, but struggled to slam the door on the Bears. In the last two minutes of the game, they missed five of their six free throw attempts and generally displayed some shaky decision making, allowing Baylor a decent look at tying the game as time expired, only to see an Isaiah Austin jumper go awry. It was all part of a nightmarish 4-for-19 day from the line for CU, but in the end, they were good enough on the defensive end, holding Baylor to 0.85 points per possession, to escape with a win and advance to the championship game of the tournament.

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Spencer Dinwiddie And Colorado Finally Closed Out Baylor, Earning a Pair Of Key Wins (Daily Camera)

The good news for the Buffs is that it is only going to get better from here for a young team. While CU likely isn’t on track to be a great free throw shooting team, today’s low was an aberration. For instance, sophomore point guard Spencer Dinwiddie shot better than 81% from the line last year, but today was just one-for-five. More importantly, while Dinwiddie and classmate Askia Booker got plenty of experience last year, they’re still just sophomores tasked with running an NCAA Tournament-caliber team that is trying to fold in a pair of talented frontcourt freshmen to a solid returning core. There were hiccups today, as there were yesterday, but to see this team struggle like this and still come away with a win against a very good opponent provides plenty of hope for just how good this team can be come March. For instance, freshman big man Josh Scott got his first big taste of big NBA-ready frontcourt talent today and, while foul trouble limited his minutes and he turned in season lows in points and rebounds, he showed he could hold his own against guys like Austin and Cory Jefferson. And, he’ll get better by leaps and bounds as the season progresses. Fellow frosh Xavier Johnson impressed in his first two games, but looked very much like the rookie he is today, turning the ball over five times. But, give him credit for trying to fit in with the rest of his new squad by missing three of four free throws – a team-building exercise, right?

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