Big 12 M5: 02.17.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 17th, 2014


  1. When sophomore forward Perry Ellis plays well, his team plays well. And even though there is an asterisk to things accomplished against TCU (at home, no less) it wasn’t surprising to see Kansas beat the Horned Frogs by 30 and Ellis finish with 32 points, a career high. “He stretched it, took the ball strong to the hole,” Bill Self said after the game Saturday. “I think one of his two misses he got back and put in. Even more importantly, he made a couple great passes.” Naadir Tharpe and Joel Embiid might be the most important players for Kansas come March. But Ellis isn’t far behind. The numbers speak for themselves. 
  2. Gary Parrish over at updated his Top 25 (and one) yesterday, and three Big 12 teams made the cut. Kansas remained at #7 after beating TCU on Saturday. Iowa State and Texas stayed put as well. The Cyclones remain at #10 after beating Texas Tech by six over the weekend while Texas is #22 following a home win over West Virginia. It was a slow weekend in the Big 12, but that changes in short order with Oklahoma State taking on Baylor tonight and Texas facing Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday.
  3. Who would have guessed that Oklahoma State would find themselves on the bubble this season? Not me, and probably not anyone who follows college basketball. The season-ending injury to Michael Cobbins and the loss of Stevie Clark due to disciplinary reasons hurt enough for the 16-9 Cowboys, but the three-game suspension of point guard Marcus Smart might have pushed them over the edge. Oklahoma State had dropped four in a row before Smart’s suspension following his altercation with a Texas Tech fan last week, and things haven’t gotten better with Smart gone. They have lost their first two games without him and face Baylor on the road tonight. They still face Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State, and I wouldn’t put the Cowboys in the NCAA Tournament field right now.
  4. It doesn’t have the same shock value as the Oklahoma State debacle, but Kansas State is in the third place in the Big 12 -ahead of teams like Baylor, Oklahoma State, andIowa State- thanks to freshman guard Marcus Foster. Foster is averaging 15.1 PPG for the Wildcats and was a key player in upset wins over Kansas (20 points) and Texas (34 points) in the last 10 days. He is one of the main reasons the Wildcats are firmly in the NCAA Tournament right now and are merely playing for seeding.
  5. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has had a successful start to his young coaching career thanks in some part to his willingness to give players a second chance. And as Luke Wynn of the points out, Cyclone guard DeAndre Kane is the latest example. Kane ran into  trouble both on and off the court while at Marshall before being kicked off the team by head coach Tom Herrion. Kane graduated and was eligible for a fifth year of eligibility while pursuing a graduate degree. He landed at Iowa State and is averaging 15.9 PPG,  6.6 RPG, and 6.1 APG for the Cyclones. He should lead the team back to the NCAA Tournament before getting plenty of looks at the professional level this summer.
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Big 12 M5: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 7th, 2014


  1. Texas Tech announced that tomorrow’s game against Oklahoma State will be a sellout. It may not seem like much of a big deal to us on the outside looking in, but it is to those within the Tech athletic department. Saturday will mark the first sellout at United Spirit Arena since January 1, 2007 when the Red Raiders played New Mexico and beat the Lobos 70-68 in overtime. The athletic department did a great job marketing this game urging students to wear all black to the game, use the hashtag #BlackoutTheUSA on social media, and offer a plate of baby back ribs to the first 200 students that show up to the arena early among other promotions. Why ribs and hoops haven’t been marketed together anywhere else is my question.
  2. “Is Travis Ford a good recruiter?” That’s a question I would probably answer yes to but Pistols Firing did some further digging, breaking down each freshman class Ford has had since arriving in Stillwater and what became of them. Ford’s first recruiting class in 2009 was perhaps the most troubling. Out of the seven freshman that came on campus, all of them were gone before any of them completed their junior seasons. But from 2010 to 2013, just five players (including Stevie Clark this season) out of 16 left campus early, meaning he kept approximately 68.8 percent of talent from year-to-year which I would say is solid. Besides that, he’s had a good share of talent to use at his disposal. So to recap, Travis Ford is a pretty good recruiter.
  3. If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, here is a great feature from’s Luke Winn on Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane. Winn describes the difficult and fascinating road Kane had to travel to not only get to Ames but to reach this point as a human being. Personally, I enjoy pieces like these all the time because it helps us fans remember that these players are more than just a name listed on a box score or just another guy getting a free education. They’re human and they go through many of the same problems that us fans face. Kane has a fan in me.
  4. When it was announced that Tarik Black would be transferring to Kansas, it appeared the bigger stage would be the best option to showcase his skills in an attempt for the NBA Draft. But these days, Black isn’t getting a lot of playing time to even grab the attention of NBA teams but a league of another kind could be interested. When Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers visited Kansas last month, he was intrigued by Black’s 6-foot-9, 260 pound frame saying he wanted to try him out at tight end. As you might know, former college basketball players Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, and Antonio Gates all went on to have successful careers as tight ends in the NFL. It’s a good thing Rodgers wants to give him a try out because I doubt the Kansas City Chiefs or the St. Louis Rams would be willing to give him one.
  5. How many times could you have said a run to Chili’s might have saved a team’s season? Never…until now. During Kansas State’s trip to Puerto Rico, they were coming off a 90-63 defeat to Georgetown and Bruce Weber was so upset with his team’s effort that he refused to get the players food after the game. But Thomas Gipson texted the entire team saying they were going to go to Chili’s instead. When they returned to the hotel, the coaches pulled Gipson aside and asked him to be a team leader and he gladly took on the role. Since then. the Wildcats have won 13 of 17 but are entering a crucial part of their schedule with Texas and Kansas invading Manhattan within the next four days. But all this talk about Chili’s would make one Michael Scott a very happy man.
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Morning Five: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 6th, 2014


  1. By now all of you have heard of DeAndre Kane and at least part of his story including about his father and his time at Marshall before transferring to Iowa State, but we have not seen as thorough a description of Kane and some of the details of those incidents at Marshall as what Luke Winn provided in his article on Kane for Sports Illustrated. While Kane certainly comes across as a sympathetic figure it is interesting that he denies that any of the reported incidents happened despite multiple sources confirming the reports including one player who Kane reportedly punches who admits that he was at fault for the incident. Outside of the details on Kane it also has a guest appearance by Royce White, it also has a surprising story about how Lattrell Spreewell is one of Fred Hoiberg’s favorite teammates and how his experiences with Spreewell helped shape his view on accepting transfers.
  2. Richmond’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament appear to be over after they announced yesterday that Cedrick Lindsey‘s career at Richmond was over due a torn meniscus in both knees. Lindsay, the team’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, was the team’s only remaining senior after forward Derrick Williams quit the team. Richmond’s resume is good enough that with a solid February and March they could be on the bubble, but without Lindsey and Williams it is tough to envision them putting together such a run. Without Lindsey in the lineup even more burden will fall on Kendall Anthony, the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.8 points per game, but at this point Richmond fans might be better served looking forward to next season.
  3. Loyola’s bad season is about to get worse after they announced that Dylon Cormier, the top scorer in the Patriot League at 21.2 points per game, is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair two fractures in his left hand. The injury might have a bigger impact on Loyola than Cedric Lindsey’s will have on Richmond, but Loyola was nowhere near the point of having any postseason aspirations as they were only 9-12 prior to the announcement although they did manage to beat American, the top team in the Patriot League, last night without Cormier. It is possible that Loyola could rally without Cormier, but we would probably just consider last night’s result an aberration.
  4. As a general rule using “I’m not the only one” is never a good defense, but apparently that is what Marcus Smart has elected to use as his defense for his growing reputation for flopping. We can’t argue with Smart’s claim because we do see a lot of flopping, but we doubt that his defense will win him many supporters. What will win him supporters is getting his game back together as it and his Oklahoma State team have fallen apart. We are not quite ready to write off Smart and the Cowboys yet, but if they do not turn it around relatively soon they could be looking at a much lower seed in the NCAA Tournament than they expected coming into the season.
  5. Yesterday on ESPN’s Mike and Mike show, Jim Boeheim stated that college basketball is in “the best place it’s ever been.” On the surface it might seem like a ridiculous statement because of how much people complain about how college basketball has fallen off with many of the top talents only staying in college for the mandated one year before heading to the NBA, but Boeheim is looking at things a little differently. Boeheim’s argument is based more on parity. Some might call this mediocrity, but in Boeheim’s eyes there are benefits to not having a few dominant teams and instead having “a lot of really good teams”. On some level that is something we can certainly get behind and hope that it leads to a great NCAA Tournament.
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Iowa State Facing a Must-Win Today vs. Kansas State

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 25th, 2014

A little over two weeks ago, life for Fred Hoiberg and the Iowa State basketball program was about as good as it could get. The Cyclones were undefeated with home wins over Michigan and Iowa along with a difficult road win at BYU; DeAndre Kane’s name was being thrown out as a serious candidate for All-American honors; and it looked like the team from Ames might have the best chance of anyone to end Kansas’ nine year reign atop the Big 12 Conference.

After three losses in a row, Naz Long and Iowa State are left looking for answers.

After three losses in a row, Naz Long and Iowa State are left looking for answers. (AP)

Since that time, life in the Big 12 for Hoiberg and company has been anything but a dream. First came a disappointing road loss at Oklahoma, one in which the aforementioned Kane suffered what looked like a severely sprained ankle just two days before a home visit from Bill Self’s Jayhawks. In what seemed like a perfect opportunity to exorcise the demons that kept the Cyclones from taking down Kansas a year ago, “Hilton Magic” was anything but, as Iowa State finished the night shooting just 4-of-25 from three-point range in a deflating loss. Those two defeats were then followed up by a road loss at Texas last weekend, leaving fans and players alike with more questions than answers.

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Checking The Panic Meter: Which Teams Should Really Worry About Their January Swoons?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 24th, 2014

As Brian Otskey noted earlier this week, January losing streaks have caused a number of once-top teams to tumble down, and in some cases, out of the polls. The rigors of conference play have deflowered those gaudy late December records, prompting a number of far-sooner-than-expected reality checks. Past history will tell you that some of these January slumps will be reduced to mere blips on the radar by March (e.g., the defending champion Louisville Cardinals lost three in a row in the first month of 2013), while others are indeed the beginning of a fade into college hoops oblivion. Wondering about future prospects for fading powers? Here’s a look at where the panic meter should be (10=High Panic, 1=Nothing to worry about) for five of college basketball’s most downward-trending squads.

Georgetown: Panic Meter=10

John Thompson III, Markel Starks And Georgetown Suddenly Have Their Backs Against The Wall

John Thompson III, Markel Starks And Georgetown Suddenly Have Their Backs Against The Wall

With Jabril Trawick not expected back anytime soon (broken jaw), and Josh Smith out indefinitely due to academics (don’t forget that Greg Whittington’s “indefinite” academic suspension a year ago eventually caused him to miss the Hoyas’ final 19 contests), Georgetown is clearly undermanned right now. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera has been brilliant, and Markel Starks intermittently so, but finding offensive contributions from players who aren’t 6’2” guards has proven impossible since Smith‘s suspension began. With the 10-day forecast looking especially gloomy — top-15 teams Creighton, Villanova and Michigan State are up next for JT3’s club – Georgetown’s season could be very close to finished by the time Super Bowl Sunday arrives. Even if the Hoyas can get Smith and Trawick back by early February, a challenging closing stretch awaits: Six of Georgetown’s final seven opponents are currently ranked in KenPom’s top 75. It’s probably not the way Georgetown wanted to find March peace, but Hoyas’ fans may finally avoid their annual NCAA Tournament heartbreak.

Wisconsin: Panic Meter= 1

If you play basketball in the Big Ten, you are going to lose games. The league is simply too strong top-to-bottom to cruise the entire winter without resistance. Yes, Michigan and Michigan State – losses are coming for you as well (beginning for one of the two on Saturday). In any case, Wisconsin should be just fine. Aside from some struggles from three-point range (likely temporary), the uber-efficient Badgers’ offense has continued to roll, even through their current three-game losing streak. The defense could stand to improve marginally (55th nationally in defensive efficiency), but there is just too much offensive firepower in Madison for Bucky’s train to go too far off the tracks.

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Big 12 Bubble Watch: Texas is Here to Stay

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 23rd, 2014

Want a good laugh? Take a look at our Big 12 Bubble Watch from six weeks ago. Look at how gaudy those early season records were! Sigh, we were only kids then. But now is a lot different. Kansas appears headed for another Big 12 championship while early favorites Baylor and Iowa State are struggling to find themselves in conference play. Kansas State has turned around what could have been a disaster of a season following a co-Big 12 title last year. Oklahoma State is very much in the conversation for dethroning the Jayhawks and Rick Barnes’ Texas Longhorns continue to surprise us game after game.

(Ed. Note: While it was unclear in December who would win the Big 12, at least now we have a good enough sample size to project a team to take the conference’s automatic bid. For this particular scenario, that Big 12 champion is Kansas. Not considered in this Bubble Watch were TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia.) 

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I'm sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I’m sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In Very Good Shape

Oklahoma State: 15-3 (3-2); RPI: 12, SOS: 38

Analysis: It seemed like the world would come crashing down when Michael Cobbins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury and the Stevie Clark situation(s) flared up, but it wasn’t so. Marcus Smart is still doing Marcus Smart things and did you know Phil Forte is connecting on half of his three-pointers this season (53-for-106)? Seriously. Oklahoma State managed to be a few possessions from winning at both Kansas State and Kansas (and for that matter, a few possessions from losing at West Virginia). While having Memphis and Colorado as good non-conference wins, nice RPI and SOS numbers, no bad losses, and the rough part of their schedule still to come, Travis Ford’s team has plenty of chances to add to its portfolio.

Iowa State: 14-3 (2-3); RPI: 10, SOS: 11

Analysis: Surprised to see these guys here? The Cyclones’ struggles have been well-documented and their chances at a Big 12 regular season title are dwindling, but there is still a lot going right for this team. Remember that win over Michigan in mid-November? Its luster started to fade but the Mitch McGary-less Wolverines have re-entered the Big Ten title race with consecutive wins at Wisconsin and against Iowa. Speaking of the Hawkeyes, Iowa State beat them last month as well. At this point in the season, the difference between the Cyclones and Baylor is their head-to-head match-up in Ames where Fred Hoiberg’s team took them out with ease. What will be interesting to see from the Cyclones now will be how they deal with DeAndre Kane’s minutes. He’s played 35 minutes or more in every Big 12 game while battling an ankle injury. Will Hoiberg try to work Bubu Palo, who was placed back on the team by a county judge, into the rotation to supplant Kane? We shall see.

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Who Won The Week? Indiana, Arkansas, and a Team Led by the Nephew of an NBA Hall of Famer…

Posted by Kenny Ocker @KennyOcker on January 17th, 2014

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill.

WINNER: Indiana

The Indiana faithful certainly had something to cheer about this week. Could the Hoosiers be on the upswing? (Getty)

The Indiana faithful certainly had something to cheer about this week. Could the Hoosiers be on the upswing? (Getty)

The Hoosiers were off to a poor start in Big Ten play, falling at Illinois in overtime and then getting blown out at Assembly Hall by Michigan State. The second week of conference play proved to be far better in Bloomington. Led by freshman forward Noah Vonleh’s 19 points and six rebounds, the Hoosiers went into State College and beat Penn State 79-76 on Saturday. And when I say “led by,” I mean “Vonleh was the only Hoosier to make more than half of his shots, and his teammates combined to go 16-of-49 from the field.” A road win is a road win, after all, and when it’s your first win in conference, it’s nothing to complain about. But what really won the week for Indiana was its performance against heretofore undefeated Wisconsin on Tuesday night. The Badgers, one of four teams in the nation undefeated to that point, came into Assembly Hall riding a 12-game winning streak against the Hoosiers. Yeah, that’s over. Yogi Ferrell made sure of that. The sophomore guard lit up the nets for 25 points while also dishing four assists, leading his team to an instant resume-building win, downing the Badgers 75-72. Considering that Indiana’s best win to that point was over an 11-7 Washington team, the Hoosiers picked a mighty fine time to show up huge. Because of their skimpy resume, though, the Hoosiers will likely have to go at least 10-8 in conference, if not 11-7, to get an NCAA Tournament at-large bid come March. This week’s turnaround from a slow start will give them a much better opportunity to get to that point, and to get a ticket to the Big Dance.

(Related winners: Undefeated-in-conference Michigan State and Michigan, who have the conference lead to themselves now. Related losers: Penn State, which is a painful 0-5 in conference so far; Wisconsin; Wisconsin forward Duje Dukan, who got one rebound in 11 minutes, ruining his chance at 11 trillion in the box score.)

LOSER: Iowa State

So much for that 14-0 start in Ames. A pesky trip to Norman undid that. And then the familiar hoodoo against Kansas reared its head again. And now the Cyclones are 14-2. Somewhere in the middle, star guard and Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane got hurt, although you wouldn’t know it by his performances. Iowa State went into Oklahoma’s gym and decided that letting Ryan Spangler grab every rebound he possibly could (15, including seven on the offensive glass) would be a fantastic idea. Spangler turned that into 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 shooting from the free throw line. The Cyclones also forgot to guard guard Buddy Hield, who had 22 points and hit six three-pointers. That’s a really good way to blow a game in which Kane had 23 points and nine rebounds before rolling his ankle late, and the Robin to his Batman, Melvin Ejim, having 21 points and six rebounds of his own.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Strengthens Grip on POY

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 17th, 2014


Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

As usual, there are many candidates knocking on the door of the Player of the Year race. Florida’s Casey Prather dropped out temporarily after missing the last two games with an injury. He’ll likely be back in the rankings at some point as he’s Julius Randle’s top competition for SEC Player of the Year. After a few rough games, UMass’ Chaz Williams is back on track thanks to a 26-point, eight-assist performance in the Minutemen’s thrilling win against George Mason. Andrew Wiggins is inching closer to the rankings after a monster double-double game against Iowa State, with 17 points and 19 rebounds against the Cyclones. Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Keith Appling have also picked up the slack for the injured Adreian Payne as Sparty continues to roll on.

It's a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

It’s a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

Player of the Year

10. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 113.4 oRTG

Russ Smith hasn’t put together a complete game in a while and that trend continued Thursday night against Houston. He hasn’t scored fewer than 18 points since December 17, but his turnovers are out of control. He has committed 19 miscues in his last four games including five more against the Cougars. He’s logged at least four turnovers in seven of Louisville’s last eight games after doing so well with just three times in the Cardinals’ first 10 games. With Chane Behanan’s dismissal and Chris Jones’ recent struggles (10+ points in just one of Louisville’s last nine games), Smith’s production has to remain elite WITHOUT turnovers for Louisville to be considered a national title threat.

9. Lamar Patterson – Pittsburgh. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats:  17.6 PPG, 4.6 APG, 123.4 oRTG

It’s a gamble to add Lamar Patterson to the Player of the Year rankings considering Pitt basically hasn’t played anyone all season. The Panthers’ first major challenge comes Saturday in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. This weekend will be Patterson’s chance to show he has in fact emerged as one of the best players in the country. He’s currently tearing it up in Oakland to the tune of 58 percent from two, 43 percent from three, and a studly 123.4 offensive rating on a 27.5 percent usage rate. He’s the main reason Jamie Dixon’s squad is the second best team in the ACC.

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Big 12 M5: 01.16.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2014


  1. The Big 12 is one of the two best conferences in the country, so it comes as no surprise that a handful of players from the league made The Sporting News’ midseason All-American teams, which were released on Wednesday. Marcus Smart cracked TSN‘s first team, while Andrew Wiggins and DeAndre Kane made the second and third teams, respectively. The absence of Joel Embiid is a testament to the quality of the top-shelf individual talents around college basketball, but with half a season left, there’s plenty of time for the heralded phenom to make himself a bigger part of the discussion.
  2. With this June’s NBA Draft being hyped as perhaps the best since 2003, NBA scouts are constantly on the move from venue to venue to get a close look at the next wave of pros. DraftExpress gave us a peek behind the curtain of how scouts take in college games, surveying personnel and executives on their experiences and how they develop relationships with prospect-laden programs. It’s a fascinating look at which schools are most accommodating to scouts and which ones leave more to be desired, as well as the prolonged effects of something as seemingly small as being given a sub-optimal seat at a college game. As far as the Big 12 is concerned, Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State were cited as having the most welcoming support staffs for pro personnel, while the setups and Oklahoma State and Texas drew ire for a relative lack of hospitality.
  3. In by far the biggest upset of conference play so far, Texas Tech topped Baylor in Lubbock last night, 82-72. What was most surprising about the Red Raiders’ effort was that the team wasn’t the least bit fazed by the Bears’ zone, attacking the paint with alacrity and getting offensive rebounds when their initial shots didn’t fall. Baylor made a few small runs in the second half, but never got it close. Dejan Kravic led the way with a great all-around game, posting 14 rebounds, nine boards and six assists off the bench. Baylor was never as good as its 12th-ranked spot in the ESPN poll suggested, but this is a bad loss for the Bears, even on the road. The conference as a whole benefits, since the victory catapulted Texas Tech from 103rd to 90th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The Big 12 now has nine of its ten teams in KenPom’s top 100.
  4. In recent years, alternate uniforms have played a key role in generating buzz for schools, whether it’s among the fan bases or on the recruiting trail. Kansas has sported two distinct throwback threads this season, and during Bill Self‘s weekly radio show, the head coach announced that Kansas’ alternate uniforms will be kept in the rotation for next season. The announcement is somewhat surprising, given the Jayhawks’ reputation as a blue-blooded program with a very distinct yet classic look that doesn’t change very often, but in the currently competitive landscape, teams have to keep up with one another. As long as the Jayhawks continue to win in the new unis, it’s tough to foresee much resentment from the fans.
  5. Jeff Haley of Burnt Orange Nation breaks down advanced metrics about as well as anyone, and he has some interesting insights about Texas‘ last two games and about the Big 12 in general. One nugget that seems to be flying under the radar is about the Longhorns’ strength on the glass, which has allowed them to pull out some games they otherwise wouldn’t have won. Rick Barnes‘ team is one to keep an eye on as we advance into the heart of conference play, and they’ll likely need a scalp or two from the top tier of the conference to crack the NCAA Tournament field this year.
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Three Thoughts on Kansas’ Big Win Over Iowa State Monday Night

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 14th, 2014

Monday night’s tilt between Kansas and Iowa State entered Monday night as one of the most anticipated Big 12 games to date, in large part due to the fierce competition that developed between the two fan bases last season, stemming from two classic meetings that both required overtime to settle the score. Iowa State came into this game with a huge question mark at point guard following an ankle injury on Saturday to standout DeAndre Kane, but it appeared to have little impact as he showed up and played big, going for 21 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four steals.

Joel Embiid dominated in the second half against Iowa State.

Joel Embiid dominated in the second half against Iowa State.

Instead, the storyline from Monday night revolves around the talented Kansas freshmen, namely Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, both of whom played phenomenally in helping secure a huge win in one of the most difficult environments in college basketball. Listen, many expected Kansas to turn the corner over Christmas break like so many previous teams had done, but the home loss to San Diego State a couple weeks ago had some questioning whether Bill Self would be able to build a complete team with so many freshman playing key minutes. Since that time, Kansas has jumped out to a 3-0 start in Big 12 play and appears to clicking at just the right time, while in the midst of one of the toughest stretches in the schedule. Here are three thoughts on Bill Self’s biggest win this season, and how it impacts the league race moving forward.

  1. Joel Embiid was flat-out dominant for a stretch in the second half. Coming off a Kansas State game Saturday where Embiid picked up a silly flagrant two foul late in the game that earned him an ejection, Embiid once again found himself in a tussle early with Kane that resulted in a flagrant one foul. The second boneheaded play by Embiid in as many games resulted in a seat on the bench for a portion of the first half, and limited him from having much of a first half impact. In the second half, however, Embiid took over the game for a sequence, finding an open Frank Mason out of a double-team, followed by two baskets on the offensive end of the floor, and a block-and-rip-away on Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue. After the game, Cyclones’ head coach Fred Hoiberg called Embiid the “best player” in the nation. While that still might be a bit of a stretch, when the athletic seven-footer is on top of his game, he presents Kansas with a weapon that few teams in college basketball have. Going forward, you can bet other Big 12 squads will try to get in Embiid’s head to bait him into retaliatory actions, and Embiid will have to be prepared to deal with such chippiness for the remainder of the season. It’s much better for opponents if he’s not in the game.  Read the rest of this entry »
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