Texas A&M Ready to Leave Nightmare Season Behind It

Posted by dnspewak on March 8th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. He filed this piece after Kansas’ 83-66 victory over Texas A&M. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

The two teams selected in the pre-season to win the Big 12 met in the league tournament on Thursday afternoon.

In a quarterfinal.

That’s all you need to know about this disastrous season for ninth-seeded Texas A&M, which survived a first-round game against Oklahoma but fell to regular-season champion Kansas 83-66 on Thursday. “I mean, being here for three years, [I've] never lost this many games. It’s hard on everybody. Just hate losing,” junior Khris Middleton said. Five months ago, the Aggies (14-18) appeared to have it all: a first-year coach with a successful track record at a powerhouse mid-major, a budding star in Middleton and an experienced roster to surround him. Billy Kennedy‘s team would surely carry over the defensive principles instilled by Mark Turgeon, and Middleton, Dash Harris and David Loubeau formed a solid core of upperclassmen.

Khris Middleton Is Already Looking to His Senior Season After Thursday's Loss.

But this is a cruel game. And life is cruel in general. First, Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in the fall, which kept him away from the team during critical practice time leading up to the beginning of the season. That left him helpless to establish himself as a new head coach in this program. As Kennedy began to regain his energy and return to his old self, however, the injury bug hit his team in a major way. Middleton missed several weeks during non-conference play after knee surgery and then missed a stretch of time during Big 12 play. The team lost its point guard, Harris, for most of February, and it lost Kourtney Roberson in late December. Backup point guard Jamal Brach transferred, too. By now, you’re starting to get the point, and you can probably guess what happened.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Tourney First Round Reaction: Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Texas A&M 62, Oklahoma 53

It didn’t matter how many shots they had missed during the first 36 minutes of the game. At least Texas A&M‘s three leaders remembered how to make jumpers when it counted most. Three-pointers by Dash Harris and Khris Middleton, sandwiched between a mid-range jumper by David Loubeau, spurred a late 8-2 run to seize a 62-53 victory over Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. Defensively, the Aggies held Oklahoma scoreless from the 2:52 mark until Cameron Clark‘s layup with 50 seconds remaining. That effort on the defensive end, according to coach Billy Kennedy, sealed the game.  “Our guys really bought into our defensive game plan of limiting the post,” Kennedy said. “And we made big shots when we needed to.”

Texas A&M used a late run to defeat Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.

How the Aggies Won: By dominating the boards, they made up for a poor offensive showing by earning second-chance points. In addition to the 13 offensive rebounds, the Aggies also knocked down their free throws (15-17) and locked down the Sooners on the other end of the floor. They did not play particularly well, and they did benefit from the fact that ever Oklahoma player not named Romero Osby and Sam Grooms was a non-factor offensively. Grooms said his team’s offensive mistakes led to the Aggies’ decisive second-half run. “When you give Big 12 teams the opportunity to go the other way and make plays, they’re going to do it,” Grooms said.

What’s Next: Texas A&M now advances to face Kansas in the quarterfinals. In Lawrence, Kennedy’s team fought the Jayhawks for the majority of the game, even without an injured Harris. In Kansas City, though, it’s hard to expect a repeat performance. The Aggies will need Harris, Loubeau, and Middleton to play well for an extended period of time, not just the final four minutes of the game. In the other locker room, a subdued Sooners’ squad must now move on to next season after the loss of three seniors. “The guys returning have to crank it up for sure,” coach Lon Kruger said. “We’ve got to learn how to compete a lot harder.”

Share this story

Set Your TiVo: 01.23.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 23rd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Syracuse has a quick turnaround on the road after losing to Notre Dame on Saturday. Can Cincinnati make it two straight losses for the Orange? Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

#1 Syracuse @ Cincinnati – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • After suffering a surprising first loss at Notre Dame on Saturday, Syracuse is back in action 48 hours later on the road against one of the hottest teams in the Big East. Cincinnati would tie Syracuse in the loss column with a win, becoming one of six teams with two losses. How do the Orange avoid that fate? It’s simpler than you might think. Shoot the ball better (34% vs. ND) and defend at a high level. Even without Fab Melo in the lineup, Syracuse has much more depth than Cincinnati. Good guard play out of Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters will be important for the Orange. Cincinnati will look to slow the pace and make this game a half court battle. Syracuse needs to rebound the ball well and get out and run at every chance. Waiters adds that spark off the bench for Jim Boeheim but Jardine has to take care of the basketball and move the ball well in half court situations.

    With Fab Melo Out, Will Cincinnati Find It Easier In The Paint ?

  • The Bearcats are 5-2 in the Big East and this would obviously be a monumental win for their NCAA Tournament resume. With no Melo, Cincinnati will find it a bit easier to get shots off around the basket as well as to rebound. Cincinnati is ranked a paltry #228 in two-point percentage but Yancy Gates could be the key guy for Mick Cronin. Cincinnati shoots a lot of threes and opportunities will be plentiful against the 2-3 Syracuse zone. If the threes aren’t falling, Gates needs to be there to clean the boards and finish the second opportunities. Without Melo anchoring the paint, Syracuse, already vulnerable on the defensive glass to begin with, could really struggle to keep Gates off the backboards. Sean Kilpatrick shoots 39.4% from deep for a team that gets over a third of its points from beyond the arc. If the Bearcats aren’t shooting the ball well over the zone, it’s lights out for Cincinnati. To get quality shots against the zone, the ball must be moved to the free throw line area. If Cronin rotates players like Kilpatrick back and forth from the three point line to the foul line, Cincinnati should be able to get quite a few open looks.
  • One thing Cincinnati must be careful of is long rebounds off of missed threes. That can lead to easy transition buckets for Waiters and the Orange, increasing the pace to a level Cronin doesn’t want to see. The Bearcats must slow the game down, protect the ball and get back in transition. Cincinnati has not defended all that well in Big East play but it must tonight in order to pull the upset. Keep an eye on the turnover margin. Cincinnati does a fabulous job of ball protection with Cashmere Wright running the point but Syracuse may be the best team in the nation at forcing steals and turnovers to fuel its transition attack. If Cincinnati shoots well and keeps control of the ball, the Bearcats will be in this game to the end with a chance to hand Syracuse its second consecutive loss.
Share this story

Big 12 Weekly Primer: Week of January 3 – 6

Posted by dnspewak on January 3rd, 2012

With the Big 12 introducing an 18-game schedule for the first time in history, conference play begins a week earlier than usual in 2012. In recent years, the week after New Year’s meant tune-up games with low-major opponents, but this season, Big 12 teams won’t have much time to recover from the holidays. Kansas and Kansas State in particular must be in tip-top shape, as the two state rivals will face each other on Wednesday (January 4).

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • #23 Kansas State (11-1) at #14 Kansas (10-3), Wednesday 7 PM CT

Thomas Robinson Was Unstoppable This Weekend

Kansas State responded from the graduation of Jacob Pullen by ripping through its non-conference schedule, which included wins over Virginia Tech and Alabama, in addition to a Diamond Head Classic championship. The early success has helped Frank Martin‘s team crack the Top 25, but the Wildcats will now face three top-15 teams during the next eight days. It all begins with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday, marking the first meeting of the season between the two underrated rivals. Kansas State may be overachieving, but the Jayhawks are still finding their way after losing games to Kentucky, Duke and Davidson during the first two months of the season. Bill Self doesn’t have a vintage KU team this season, as it lacks depth and still has not executed all that well offensively. That doesn’t mean these Jayhawks can’t ball, though. They can, especially when Thomas Robinson plays like an animal (30 points and 21 rebounds against North Dakota on Saturday) and Tyshawn Taylor takes care of the basketball. Taylor has heard a lot of criticism for his turnovers, but he may be turning his season around in that department. He led KU to a rout at USC by dishing out nine assists and limiting himself to just two turnovers and he’s averaged just two turnovers per game during the last three contests.

Of course, in those games, Kansas did not face the sort of defense it will see out of Kansas State. Martin’s teams are always defined by their intensity on the defensive end, and this 2011-12 team is no different. The Wildcats are deep, athletic and physical, and forwards Thomas Gipson, Jordan Henriquez and Jamar Samuels can test Robinson on the boards a little better than North Dakota did. Bill Self’s teams will always defend, and despite his relative lack of depth, he has more skilled and proven scorers than KSU with Robinson, Taylor and the emerging Elijah Johnson. But if Rodney McGrudercan play like a star and provide some heroics, his team may hang around at the Phog. The junior guard, who leads his team at 12.5 points per game, scored 28 against Long Beach State during Christmas week to win the Diamond Head Classic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Morning Five: 12.22.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 22nd, 2011

  1. Congratulations to five Big 12 players for earning spots on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, an honor for the nation’s best point guard. In no particular order, here are the candidates from the league: Michael Dixon (Missouri), Pierre Jackson (Baylor), Myck Kabongo (Texas), Dash Harris (Texas A&M) and Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas). All are fine point guards. Except there’s a problem here. Where’s Phil Pressey? You know, the Missouri’s starting point guard? The guy averaging six assists per game during a breakout sophomore season? We are not saying Pressey is definitively the nation’s best point guard, but he’s got to at least be in the conversation at this point. Most basketball analysts would agree with that statement, and it’s not that much to ask. The fact that the Cousy Award listed 65 other candidates on this list in front of Pressey raises some questions about their credibility.
  2. Pressey isn’t the only player having a breakout year. Steven Pledger is a new man at Oklahoma, and he says it’s due to a certain summer activity back home. His hard work is paying off, that’s for sure. He’s shooting more than 50% from three-point range, and he’s been the catalyst for a much-improved Sooners team. With a better point guard in Sam Grooms and an improved frontcourt, don’t expect Pledger’s hot start to fade once Big 12 play begins. He’s the kind of player Lon Kruger can build around in Norman.
  3. Kansas State begins play in the Diamond Head Classic this afternoon against Southern Illinois, and the Wildcats are hoping to get back to their roots: defense. Traditionally, that’s what SIU hangs its hat on, too, though the Salukis are hardly the power they were several years ago. Bruce Weber and Matt Painter started the tradition of tough-nosed, chip-on-your-shoulder defense, and current coach Chris Lowery continued that with a run to the Sweet 16 several years ago. During the past few seasons, however, external factors such as massive transfers and roster turnover has kept Lowery’s program in the cellar of the Missouri Valley. This is a game Kansas State should expect to win, but it will need to grind against this group.
  4. Bill Self got a some good news this week by landing a commitment from Brannen Greene, a 2013 prospect from Georgia. Greene, a 6’8” wing, is ranked in the top-50 of Rivals.com’s 2013 list and could have played at just about any school in America. Although we’re sure he’s a heck of a basketball player, it’s also nice to see that Greene is a 4.0 student who had an offer to play for Tommy Amaker at Harvard. Yes, the sappy “student-athlete” stories are overdone by the media, and they can seem a little forced, but let’s at least try to recognize a good student when we see one. Brannen, keep up the good work when you get to Kansas.
  5. Speaking of Kansas recruiting, here’s a look at how Self’s philosophy has shifted in that department lately. It seems his staff has gotten more aggressive in the recruiting game, hoping to keep up with this cutthroat world. There had been a little talk in the blogosphere (a reliable source, of course) that Self’s recruiting had slipped. Obviously, it hadn’t really slipped, but compared to Kansas standards, Self wasn’t making waves nationally like he used to. With pickups like Greene, though, he’s getting back into the game in a big way.
Share this story

Checking In on… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2011

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Denmon Scorching: The Big 12 Player of the Year race will come down to who does what in conference play, but at the midseason point I would be hard-pressed to pick anyone other than Missouri’s Marcus Denmon. The senior is averaging 19.6 points per game, and is doing it extremely efficiently, with a 52.8% eFG. He’s also getting to the line a decent amount, and shooting 91.7% once he gets there. Despite taking more shots than anyone on the team, and using his fair share of possessions, Denmon has been great at taking care of the ball as well: his 4.2% turnover rate is best in the entire country. Not only is he the best player in the league at this point, he might be the best in the country entering conference play.
  • Coaches Jockeying: Coach of the Year, on the other hand, is a much more muddled situation. At Kansas, Bill Self has taken a Kansas team savaged by graduations and early departures and led them to a 7-2 record, including a big win over Ohio State. There were some snickers when Missouri hired Frank Haith, but the Tigers are 11-0 and will likely be favored in their next month’s worth of games. Frank Martin has taken a Kansas State team without much offensive talent but has ridden defense to a 7-1 record, including a win over a good Alabama team. Their lone loss came in double overtime to future conference foe West Virginia.
  • Tolbert Under The Radar: While Quincy Miller, Deuce Bello, and LeBryan Nash have received more publicity and probably have brighter NBA futures, how about some love for Texas Tech’s Jordan Tolbert? He’s taking 34.1% of the team’s shots while on the floor, but has not wilted in the face of having to carry an offense as a freshman. Quite the opposite in fact as he’s shooting 63% and drawing an impressive five fouls per 40 minutes. Once at the line, he’s shooting 83.3%. He also leads the Red Raiders in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Texas Tech probably will finish last in the league this year, but it won’t be because of Tolbert.

Marcus Denmon Is Setting Nets Ablaze With His Shooting, But Will It Continue Into League Play?

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (10-0): The Tigers start 10-0 for the first time since joining the conference. They haven’t played the toughest of non-conference schedules, however, and will be trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s second half swoon when they lost eight of their final 14 games. I mentioned how great Marcus Denmon has been already, but don’t sleep on Kim English either: the senior is shooting 52.5% from three and has the tenth-best eFG in the country.
  2. Kansas (7-2): Kansas didn’t play last week due to pesky finals week, but while they will be hoping for good news off the court in the form of good grades, it looks like they will get a piece of good news on the court as senior guard Tyshawn Taylor, who had surgery on a torn meniscus and was expected to be out a minimum of two weeks, is now expected to play in Kansas’s game Monday against Davidson. Thomas Robinson had a similar procedure as Jayhawk with a comparable recovery time, for what it’s worth. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big 12 Weekend Primer

Posted by dnspewak on December 17th, 2011

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • Texas A&M (8-1) at Florida (7-2), Orange Bowl Classic, Saturday 1:30 p.m. CT
Starting next season, these two programs will battle each other annually in the SEC. Until then, Texas A&M and Florida will settle for playing each other in the Orange Bowl Classic, a neutral-site game set in Sunrise, Florida on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies are a wild card in the Big 12 right now, as they’ve built their 8-1 record against mostly inferior competition– and, more importantly, they have played all but two games without All-Big 12 wing Khris Middleton. The 6’7” junior has missed the majority of the season recovering from knee surgery, returning in time for A&M’s most recent victory over Louisiana-Monroe. Although Middleton hadn’t played since the season opener, he seemed perfectly healthy in torching the Warhawks for 24 points. His return gives Texas A&M an entirely different look on both ends of the floor, so much that it would be worthless to judge the seven games it played without Middleton. For instance, A&M fell flat against the best team on its schedule without him, falling behind by more than 20 points in the first half at Madison Square Garden. That’s why Florida will let Billy Kennedy truly gauge his team for the first time in 2011-12. Though forward Kourtney Roberson is still questionable for the contest, A&M could solidify itself as a Big 12 contender by knocking off the Gators in a quasi-road environment.

Texas A&M Will Play A "Neutral" Game in The State of Florida Against the Gators

The key individual match-up is… Dash Harris vs. Erving Walker. Although Texas A&M’s schedule has not been demanding, this team could have really slipped had Dash Harris not played so steadily. The senior point guard is known for his defense, but offensively, Harris has kept the Aggies afloat without Middleton by making good decisions and taking care of the basketball. He won’t score much, but he’s irreplaceable as a distributor in this offense. And as a defensive stopper, he has the skills to slow down Erving Walker. Harris has a few inches on Walker, and he’s as quick as any guard in the nation. No matter the defender, though, it’s up to Walker to rise to the challenge. He looks to score much more than Harris, and at times, he has looked terrific with the ball in his hands. When he has struggled, it has been his own fault: against Arizona, for example, he settled for quick threes and forced up 16 shots. If he doesn’t settle down against Harris, Walker could be in for a tough night.

Texas A&M will win if… it continues to dominate on the defensive end. This program’s attitude from former coaches Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon has carried over to Kennedy’s team. The Aggies are all about defense, rebounding and physicality, but they will have their hands full with the explosive Gator guards. Though Middleton’s blend of size and athleticism is a tough match-up for every team, Florida has excellent backcourt speed in Kenny Boynton, Brad Beal, Mike Rosario, and Walker. A&M has to find a way to lock down those guards and force them into tough shots. In that Arizona victory, Billy Donovan was not happy with the shot selection of his guards. Against a team like A&M, Florida will have to settle down and run its stuff efficiently to have a chance.
Florida will win if… it can control the paint. Texas A&M likes to think it’s tougher than you– David Loubeau and Ray Turner are intimidating physical specimens, and this team rebounds with authority around the basket. UF is no slouch in that category this year. Patric Young might be the best forward on the floor on Saturday, and sophomore Will Yeguete has done a nice job since entering the starting lineup in late November. Neither team is especially deep up front, but A&M could get a big lift if Kourtney Roberson is healthy.
Share this story

Behind the Numbers: Who Is Killing Their Own Team?

Posted by KCarpenter on December 1st, 2011

A lot of the effort in basketball analytics goes towards the good things that players do that do not appear in the box score. This is the driving idea behind Michael Lewis’s seminal New York Times feature, “The No-Stats All-Star,” an early look at analytics in the NBA primarily focused on Darryl Morey, Shane Battier, the Houston Rockets, and adjusted plus/minus. This makes sense: finding hidden strengths is the coach’s angle while finding hidden value is the economist’s angle. As a result of the fine work of smart guys with formulas and others with a willingness to watch a lot of games closely, Charles Jenkins and Nate Wolters were household names last season. This, of course, assumes that your household is filled with basketball dorks, but you get the idea.

Faried Was An Underappreciated Star

Finding diamonds in the rough is a noble pursuit and talking up the greatness of underexposed and underrated players is a worthwhile task (Hey there, Kenneth Faried!). Sometimes, however, there is a joy in using analytics and “advanced” statistics to look for the guy who is hurting his team the most.  Let’s ignore the diamonds and go straight for the rough.

How does a player hurt his team? Well, when push comes to shove, there are basically only two ways: offensively and defensively. Sadly, however, contemporary box scores assign no grade for bad defense to the individual outside of counting how many fouls (which could very well be offensive) a player commits. Our primary understanding of player’s individual defense comes only in positive contributions like blocks, steals, and defensive rebounds while the effect on an opponents shooting percentage is measured at a team level. The noble effort of Luke Winn, David Hess, and others that has sought to enact Dean Oliver’s defensive charting schemes is a good start at really quantifying individual defense, but a very small percentage of Division I games have been looked at in this way making the approach of limited use to someone who wants to look at the whole of college basketball. So, acknowledging that analytic approaches to finding bad defensive players are limited, let’s at least take a quick look at fouls.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Team Previews: Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by cwilliams on November 10th, 2011

Predicted finish: 3d

2010-11 season: 24-9 (10-6)

Head coach: Billy Kennedy, 1st season (currently on medical leave)

Key losses: B.J Holmes (9.7 PPG), Nathan Walkup (9.4 PPG)

With Mark Turgeon’s legacy at Texas A&M coming to an end this offseason because of his departure to Maryland, the Billy Kennedy era in College Station has officially begun. Luckily for Kennedy, he has a luxury many first-year coaches do not — a talented, experienced roster. The Aggies started last season strong but fizzled in the heart of conference play. They eventually fell to Florida State in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, an experienced and mature Aggie team hits the court of Reed Arena. A&M has not make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2007, despite making the field of 65 68 each season since. If Kennedy wants to make an immediate impact on this resurgent A&M basketball team, he will need to show they are more than a one-and-done program and that they can be a legitimate threat to earn a Final Four berth.

Is A&M Prepared to Take the Next Step With Kennedy?

The Stars: All eyes will be on Khris Middleton, or as we like to call him, Maroon 22. Middleton is an athletic, dynamic player who is likely NBA-bound once there is such a thing again. He averaged 14.3 PPG last season, carrying the load for the Aggie offense. He is expected to do more of the same this season, as he’ll be the focal point in Kennedy’s new offense as well. Helping Middleton will be David Loubeau, a versatile inside player who can rebound, block shots and score. He has impressive athleticism, but needs to improve his consistency, especially when squaring off against bigger players.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

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

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

Predicted Order of Finish

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Summer Updates: Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 10th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big 12 correspondent, Evan Pfaff.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Round Robin Scheduling – For the first time since the Big 12 was formed, the conference will implement full round-robin scheduling, meaning each school will play a home-and-home with each of the other nine schools in the conference.  In the past, schools played the teams in their division in a home-and-home, but only played schools in the other division once per season, switching home courts every year.  That meant the epic battles between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks happened only once per regular season, and whichever school hosted the game had a monumental advantage over the other.  With a full round-robin format, not only will each school play two additional conference games, but seeding will be based more on outcomes on the floor than the scheduling fates.
  • Reloading Talent – The Big 12 is used to replacing an enormous amount of talent. In 2010, ten Big 12 players were taken in the NBA Draft.  Two months ago, the Big 12 cupboards were once again raided, as seven players heard their names called. The conference should again be stacked and we might hear as many as ten names called on draft day 2012. From incoming freshmen like Baylor’s Quincy Miller, Texas’ Myck Kabongo and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash, to returning stars like Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, the Big 12 should again be a breeding ground for NBA rosters.
  • New Coaches… EVERYWHERE.  Change is inevitable in college athletics, but stability at the top usually translates into success on the floor. So it is eye opening that from Mike Anderson and Mark Turgeon leaving to Pat Knight and Jeff Capel being shown the door, the Big 12 had a 40% coaching turnover this summer. Now with Frank Haith, Billy Kennedy, Billy Gillispie and Lon Kruger roaming Big 12 sidelines, the conference has some questions to answer. Can Missouri conform to a set offense? Can A&M meet high preseason expectations under new management? Do Billy Clyde Gillispie and Lon Kruger have another run left in them?

Kansas head coach Bill Self has a tall task in front of him after losing most of the punch from last season's potent lineup.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Texas A&M Goes With Billy Kennedy

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2011

The coaching carousel continued to spin this weekend in the domino-falling aftermath of Gary Williams’ retirement from Maryland ten days ago.  After swinging and whiffing on several names including Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Memphis’ Josh Paster, and former Knicks head coach and current broadcaster Jeff van Gundy (really?), Texas A&M has reportedly gotten its man — Murray State head coach Billy Kennedy.

Kennedy Moves on to Texas A&M

Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson was also in the running for the position, as both up-and-coming coaches interviewed with the school on Saturday.  Much like AD Bill Byrne’s last two hires for the Aggies, Kennedy is a coach who has put in his time in the lower reaches of Division-I basketball and demonstrated success at every stop along the way.  The 47-year old originally from Metairie, Louisiana, has spent the last five seasons at Murray State, keeping the Racer program among the elite of the OVC.  His MSU teams finished first or second in the conference regular season race all five seasons, and his last two teams — including 2010’s NCAA round of 32 entrant — played in the postseason.

The Texas A&M head coaching position has become a stepping-stone job under the steady hand and guidance of Byrne, as the last two coaches — Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie — parlayed their success in College Station to big-time basketball jobs at Maryland and Kentucky, respectively.  This is not to suggest, however, that Kennedy can’t have massive success at TAMU; the school’s athletic department budget ranks in the top thirty nationally, and its relative proximity to talent-rich Houston (two hours) and Dallas (three hours) make the program fully capable of moving beyond borderline top 25 status.  Kennedy may not have brought the enthusiasm that a brand-name hire would have, but so long as he keeps the program moving forward and breaks through to that elusive second weekend of the NCAA Tournament (Gillispie took the Aggies there once, in 2007), TAMU fans will be satisfied.

A big opportunity will await Kennedy in his first season in College Station next year.  The Aggies return five of its top seven players from a 24-9 (10-6 Big 12) team, and with conference powerhouses Kansas and Texas gutted by early defections this offseason, there’s a sense that A&M could be poised to move to the top of the Big 12 standings with its existing roster and a little good fortune.  Of the five returning players from the 2010-11 all-Big 12 team, Texas A&M is the only school with two — star forwards Khris Middleton (14/6) and David Loubeau (12/5).  If the perimeter players led by senior Dash Harris and incoming four-star recruit Jamal Branch come through in 2011-12, Kennedy may be in position to do something never before done in these parts: win a Big 12 basketball championship.

Share this story