Assessing the Season: West Virginia Mountaineers

Posted by KoryCarpenter on April 23rd, 2013

Heading into the season, you could have argued that West Virginia had a better talent and coaching combination than eight or nine teams in the Big 12. They returned a number of talented sophomores who seemed poised for breakout years, led by Keaton Miles (30 starts as a freshman) and Jabari Hinds, who started all 33 games as a freshman while averaging 7.4 PPG and 2.5 RPG. Gary Browne (6.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG) wasn’t bad, either, and expecting the trio to see big jumps in production after a year adjusting to the college game seemed fair. The Mountaineers also had a pair of talented Atlantic 10 transfers who would be eligible in guard Juwan Staten and center Aaric Murray. As a freshman at Dayton in 2010-11, Staten had led the Atlantic 10 in assists with 190 while starting all 34 games for the Flyers. In two seasons at La Salle, Murray had climbed all the way to No. 2 on the school’s all-time blocks list with 143. His 15.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 2.3 BPG averages as a sophomore led the team, and it was obvious he should try his luck on a bigger stage. Then there was the bull on the block, senior forward Deniz Kilicli, the 6’9″, 260-pound forward who averaged 10.7 PPG in 2011-12.

It Wasn't An Easy Season For Bob Huggins.

It Wasn’t An Easy Season For Bob Huggins

As you can see, future Hall of Fame coach Bob Huggins had a talented roster heading into this season. But with that talent came a lot of question marks. Would the freshmen take that next step? Would the transfers adjust to stiffer competition in a major conference? Would there be program growing pains in their first season in the Big 12, a conference in which their closest road game (Iowa State) was nearly 900 miles from home?

As it turned out, Miles couldn’t get on the floor, averaging only 2.6 PPG. Browne shot only 32.5 percent from the field with 5.2 PPG, and while Hinds’ average stayed at 7.4 PPG, his shooting percentage plummeted from seven points to 35.1 percent. The transfers Murray (8.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and Staten (7.6 PPG) were good but not great. Perhaps the only pleasant surprise this season was freshman guard Eron Harris, who led the team with 9.8 PPG. It was a roster made up of many different pieces that never came together, and that may have been evident as early as opening night.

Highs

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 16

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 25th, 2013

We are four days away from March, the Big 12 is close to solidifying its representation in the NCAA Tournament, and there are only two weeks left in the regular season. Obviously all games are important (Just ask Kansas about TCU), but for the top three teams in the standings, there isn’t much room for error in the home stretch, giving us great games like Wednesday’s double-overtime thriller between Kansas and Oklahoma State and tonight’s game in Ames between the Jayhawks and Iowa State. And that doesn’t even mention Kansas State’s trip to Waco on Saturday, where a win could potentially give the Wildcats sole possession of first place in the conference. But we’ll start with Kansas in the Power Rankings this week, who moves back to #1 after beating Oklahoma State on the road.

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

1) Kansas (23-4, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-67 (2OT) at Oklahoma State, W 74-48 vs TCU

This Week: Tonight at Iowa State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: Kansas is now 8-3 in the last five seasons when underdogs of four points or fewer after Wednesday’s double-overtime win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Tonight’s game in Ames is nearly as important and should be close as well (Kansas is favored by a single point). How about Jeff Withey against the Cowboys — 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in 29 minutes. He saved Kansas’ conference title hopes, and a win tonight could begin the conversation for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament assuming there are no more TCU-like roadblocks.
  • Outlook in March: A #1 seed is possible, but I think they will drop one more game through the Big 12 Tournament and snag a #2 seed. If they don’t end up in Indiana’s bracket, there’s enough talent and coaching ability for another trip to the Final Four. But they showed us in Fort Worth that they could just as easily lose to a Stony Brook or Montana in the first round.

2) Oklahoma State (20-6, 10-4)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 68-67 (2OT) vs Kansas, W 73-57 at West Virginia

This Week: Wednesday at TCU, 6:00 PM Saturday vs Texas, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: I know the Cowboys have fewer wins than K-State (in conference and overall) and lost to the Wildcats back on January 5, but I can’t say Oklahoma State isn’t the second-best team in the conference right now. Not with a straight face, anyway. Marcus Smart might be the best freshman in the country and a First-Team All-American choice while Markel Brown is playing even better than Smart lately, averaging 18 PPG, 3.5 APG, and 5.0 RPG last week.
  • Outlook in March: Wednesday’s game against Kansas was one of those games where a close loss wouldn’t have killed them in mock brackets and a win would have helped tremendously. They are still a #5 seed in most mock brackets and will probably end up as a #4 seed without any hiccups. They’re a definite Sweet Sixteen-level team that would give its region’s #1 seed a great game in the regional semifinals.

3) Kansas State (22-5, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 71-61 vs West Virginia, W 81-69 at Texas

This Week: Tonight vs Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: K-State’s three conference losses were very forgivable. They were swept by Kansas and lost by six at Iowa State, one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12. Their other two losses were to Michigan and Gonzaga, a pair of projected #2 seeds. They’re also winners of seven of their last eight games and have a relatively easy next three: Texas Tech, at Baylor, and TCU. The season finale against Oklahoma State in Stillwater will likely determine the Big 12 championship and whether the crown will be shared this season.
  • Outlook in March: A conference championship would probably get the Wildcats a #3 seed, a perch above their consensus #4 seed right now. As noted, they don’t have any bad losses and have a pair of good wins over Florida and Oklahoma State.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 15

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 18th, 2013

We don’t have many of these rankings left this season, but the Big 12 isn’t getting any easier to decipher as we inch closer to March (less than four weeks until Selection Sunday). The Big 12 still has a good chance to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but Baylor and Iowa State don’t have much margin for error the last three weeks of the regular season. The Cyclones are a consensus #10 seed and the Bears are an #11 seed on the latest Bracket Matrix mock bracket. The top of the conference is more of a mess, though. Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Kansas State are 9-3 but it doesn’t mean there isn’t distinctness with each record. For instance, Kansas State is 1-2 against the other first place teams while Kansas is 2-1. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is 1-1 but plays host to the Kansas schools in the coming weeks. They are also fortunate in that two of their final three road games are against West Virginia and TCU. And that’s why the Cowboys are #1 this week.

Tier I:

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

1) Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 91-67 at Texas Tech, W (OT) 84-79 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Wednesday vs Kansas, 8:00 PM, Saturday at West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: After struggling around the turn of the year and dropping three out of four, the Cowboys began playing like their talent suggests and are winners of eight of their last nine games. They have an opportunity on Wednesday to become the first Big 12 team to sweep Bill Self in a season as the Jayhawks come into Gallagher-IBA Arena, where the Cowboys have won two out of three against the Jayhawks dating back to 2007-08.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Marcus Smart: Smart had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in the upset over Kansas on Feb. 2. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals against Texas a week later, and on Saturday against Oklahoma, Smart finished with 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the overtime victory.

2) Kansas (21-4. 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 83-62 vs Kansas State, W 73-47 vs Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Oklahoma State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs TCU, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: It doesn’t really matter that top-10 teams have been consistently falling the last few weeks, but it can give Kansas fans a small sense of relief knowing that every perceived top team in the country has its flaws as well as the Jayhawks, who rebounded nicely last Monday with a 21-point win over Kansas State when they desperately needed a 21-point win. Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State could decide the Big 12 championship.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Ben McLemore: McLemore had 30 points against Kansas State on 9-13 shooting, a cool 69.2%. In seven of his last ten games he shot over 50% from the floor. But he can still do more, attempting 10 or less shots in six of those games.  Shoot the ball, Ben.

3) Kansas State (20-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 83-62 at Kansas, W 81-61 vs Baylor

This Week: Tonight vs West Virginia, 8:00 PM, Saturday at Texas, 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: Monday’s loss at Kansas hurt, but it wasn’t all that unexpected. If they can take care of Baylor on the road on March 2, there’s still a chance the Wildcats could be 14-3 heading into the final regular season game at Oklahoma State on March 9. The remaining schedule sets up that well for K-State, with their next five games against the bottom five teams in the conference.
  • Player Stepping Up: Sophomore G Angel Rodriguez: He has a 2.5:1 Assist to Turnover Ratio on the season and is averaging an efficient 19.6 PPG his last three games. In that stretch, he is 46.3% from the floor and 41.6% from three-point range.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 11th, 2013

It’s not too early to call tonight’s game between Kansas and Kansas State the Game Of The Year in the Big 12. Not with first place on the line and a chance for K-State to put the Jayhawks two games back with only seven games remaining. As for our rankings, there was a big shakeup this week with teams #1-#6, as each squad in that group either moved up or down from last week’s list. Most notable was the ascent of the Wildcats, who take the top spot for the first time this season. I decided to hold off on the Bracket Matrix Projected NCAA Tournament Seeds this week because it hasn’t been updated since Saturday’s games.

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

1) Kansas State (19-4, 8-2 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-59 at Texas Tech, W 79-70 vs. Iowa State

This Week: Tonight at Kansas, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs. Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: They earned the split with Iowa State with a 79-70 win over the Cyclones on Saturday and have now won four in a row and 12 of their last 14. Rodney McGruder carried K-State with 22 points and five assists against Iowa State on Saturday and averaged 20 points per game this week. If he continues on that pace coupled with Kansas’ recent struggles, a road-team split with the Jayhawks isn’t out of the question.
  • Reason to be optimistic: They’re playing solid defense as of late, holding three of their last four opponents under 60 points, and any concerns with Frank Martin’s players not buying into Bruce Weber’s system are long gone at this point. Not only has McGruder stepped up offensively, but sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez averaged 16.5 PPG last week as well.

2) Oklahoma State (17-5, 7-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 69-67 (OT) vs. Baylor, W 72-59 at Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday vs. Oklahoma, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: The Cowboys have been a little unlucky in that their two biggest wins — vs. North Carolina State in November and at Kansas last week — were quickly watered down. North Carolina State, then #6 in the country, lost two games later to Michigan. Kansas dropped two more games in a row, including to dreadful TCU, after losing to OSU. Even so, the Cowboys have won six out of seven games thanks to junior guard Markel Brown, who has averaged 16.7 PPG in that stretch.
  • Reason to be optimistic: Oklahoma State has more NBA talent than any other team in the Big 12. Coupled with the confidence they undoubtedly have gained with their recent wins against Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor, the Cowboys could be quite dangerous in March.

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Big 12 M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 6th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Talented players waiting their turn at Kansas is not a new thing. Four of this year’s five starters did exactly that before getting a chance to prove themselves, and freshman guard Andrew White is beginning a similar cycle this season. During Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State, White was called upon late in the game for his sharp-shooting ability, and he delivered with six points in the final minute. But as Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal points out, there isn’t a spot in the rotation for him. Senior Travis Releford and freshman Ben McLemore provide enough defense and scoring on the wing, thus Bill Self needs a point guard off the bench, not a three-point specialist. Next year, however, with the entire starting five gone (assuming McLemore leaves early) and a number of freshman on the roster, White looks to have a starting spot sealed up.
  2. Donald Pepoon of the Kansas State student paper, The Collegian, talks about the lackluster student attendance at recent Kansas State home games, which he calls “embarrassing.” The Wildcats are #13 in the latest AP poll, but as the picture in Pepoon’s article clearly points out, students don’t seem to care. Not only is Kansas State highly ranked, but they are now 7-2 in the Big 12, hold sole possession of second place in the conference, and have a chance to share first place next Monday with a win at Kansas. What else is there to do in Manhattan for a few hours on a random weeknight? The team is good and the fans have shown they can fill up Bramlage Coliseum for big games. Go support your team.
  3. Iowa State rolled through Oklahoma Monday night much like they have beaten a lot of teams this season — with three-point shooting. The Cyclones were 40% from three-point range (11-of-27) against the Sooners and won comfortably, 83-64. Bryce Miller of IndyStar.com thinks the Cyclones are now poised for a run in March, and while one game does not a season make, Iowa State’s ability to get hot from three-point land makes them a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament should they make it. Miller wonders where the team that struggled against Yale earlier in the season and lost to Texas Tech recently was on Monday against Oklahoma, talking up the Cyclones as if they’ve put their struggles behind them. The problem is, teams that rely so heavily on the three can find themselves down quickly in the NCAA Tournament. The team that lost to Texas Tech isn’t gone, it was just hiding for a night. Whether it returns in March remains to be seen.
  4. CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm recently updated his bracketology and the six Big 12 teams — Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State — remain in the dance. Kansas is still a #1 seed despite its loss on Saturday, while Oklahoma State has jumped three spots into a #6 seed in the Midwest Region. Kansas State remains a #5 seed, and the other three teams — Oklahoma (#9), Baylor (#11), and Iowa State (#11) — are all on the bubble according to Palm. Iowa State gets the unlucky draw of playing in one of the four play-in games against North Carolina.
  5. In what originally looked to be a big game but eventually turned into an afterthought, West Virginia defeated Texas on Monday night, 60-58, in Morgantown. Mountaineers senior forward Deniz Kilicli had 14 points and four rebounds, going 6-of-8 from the field in the win and pleasing his head coach Bob Huggins. “I think the last two games were the best two all-around games that Deniz has played,” Huggins told Geoff Coyle of WVillustrated.com. It’s too little to late for the senior and West Virginia’s season, but any positive momentum Huggins can take into next year has to be a plus.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 28th, 2013

Right when we thought a team might overtake Kansas in the Big 12 standings (or our power rankings, at least), Kansas State went out and lost two in a row last week, first to Kansas at home and then at Iowa State on Saturday. Both were close games with the Wildcats losing by a combined 10 points, but they lost two games on the Jayhawks in the Big 12 race and fell into a third place tie with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Baylor has quietly started 5-1 in conference play, but the easier part of their schedule is now behind them. The Bears have already swept TCU and have another win over Texas Tech in Lubbock (but hey, that’s more than Iowa State can say). And about those Jayhawks — they are due for a loss, aren’t they? They have been winning close games for the last month it seems. We’ve spiced up the rankings this week with a team’s projected NCAA Tournament seed from Bracket Matrix. Instead of picking a random bracketologist’s numbers, how about averaging out a bunch of mock brackets? The guys at Bracket Matrix do that so we don’t have to, and as many people have been saying lately, there looks to be six NCAA Tournament teams from the Big 12 this year.

The Kansas Offense Hasn't Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Their Winning Streak Alive.

The Kansas Offense Hasn’t Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Its Winning Streak Alive.

1) Kansas (18-1, 6-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Projected NCAA Seed: #1

Last Week: W 59-55 at Kansas State, W 67-54 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Tonight at West Virginia, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs Oklahoma State, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks have won 17 straight since losing to Michigan State in November but the offense has disappeared in January. They are averaging 62.2 PPG in their last five games, leading to a KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency of #18. And as we pointed out here, teams that finish outside the top #25 in that category rarely make the Final Four.
  • Cause For Concern: The offense, of course. Last season, point guard Tyshawn Taylor was always there to clean up an ugly offensive possession with a drive to the basket. This team has had point guard issues most of the year. Starter Elijah Johnson has been more of an off-guard during his career and backup Naadir Tharpe is trigger-happy. Freshman Ben McLemore averages 16.2 PPG, but with a shooting percentage of 51%, he needs to take over more games than he does. He’s the best player on the team and one of the five best in the country, so an average of 10 shots a game isn’t enough.

2) Baylor (14-5, 5-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Projected NCAA Seed: #9

Last Week: W 64-54 vs Oklahoma State, W 82-56 at TCU

This Week: Wednesday vs Oklahoma, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Iowa State 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: The days of losing to teams like Charleston and Northwestern look to be behind them, but the schedule certainly picks up the rest of the way. Eight of their last 12 games are against teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament. The emergence of freshman center Isaiah Austin will help, though. Austin has scored double figures in each of his last 10 games going back to December 12.
  • Cause For Concern: We all know what the Bears are by now, a talented, underachieving squad that could fall on its face in the first round of the Tournament or make the Elite Eight. From where they stand now, the worst thing that could happen to Baylor — or any team for that matter — is to land in the #8/#9 game and play a #1 seed in the second round.

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Diagnosing the West Virginia Fiasco

Posted by dnspewak on January 28th, 2013

Tonight, it really begins. West Virginia will find out what the Big 12 is really all about when it steps into the national spotlight on Big Monday, facing none other than the program that has won the league every year since the dawn of time (or at least seems to have). The Mountaineers saw teams like Kansas in the Big East, sure. They are ready for the level of competition, but tonight’s match-up will truly indoctrinate the Mountaineeres into the Big 12 Conference. Since Day One, it hasn’t been an easy transition for Bob Huggins‘ team. West Virginia embarrassed itself in its season opener by losing big to Gonzaga to kick off ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. It then finished 1-2 in the Old Spice Classic, lost at Duquesne (currently 7-13 and 0-6 in the A-10) and has now started 2-4 in the Big 12, with the only victories coming against Texas and TCU. Oh, and the Mountaineers played a CBS game against Purdue a few weekends ago where they lost by 27 points. So that’s where the Mountaineers stand heading into Big Monday: 9-10 overall, 2-4 Big 12, and with an angry Huggins, who seems to rip his team a new one after every single loss.

Bob Huggins and Deniz Kilicli Aren't Happy Campers

Bob Huggins and Deniz Kilicli Aren’t Happy Campers

You can’t blame him. Over Huggins’ storied career, he has become accustomed to coaching and developing hard-nosed players who don’t back down from challenges and fight on each and every possession. His teams are usually famous for their toughness, defense, and ferocious rebounding. That’s why it was stunning to see this team bow out so pathetically in a blowout loss to Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. With transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten joining a promising sophomore class, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion that Huggins would find a way to regain that tenacity. With his track record, he deserved the benefit of the doubt. Instead, disaster has struck.

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Wednesday Wrap-Up: Wild (or Ugly) Night Doesn’t Exclude the Big 12

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 24th, 2013

Thanks to the double dip of games on Big Monday and the Sunflower Showdown the following evening, Wednesday was rather light on the conference schedule. Like, the weight-of-a-leaf light. TCU-West Virginia and Iowa State-Texas Tech were match-ups that sounded like they were made for ESPN3,  yet there they were, soaking up precious air time on ESPN2 and ESPNU last evening. For fans of Big 12 basketball, it wasn’t a good night.

Iowa State played Tech's Game all night and it was hard to watch (Stephen Spillman/The Avalanche-Journal)

Iowa State played Tech’s game all night. (Stephen Spillman/The Avalanche-Journal)

West Virginia 71, Texas Christian 50: Everybody knew that the game of the night was down in Coral Gables. What I was hoping for was a close game between Duke and Miami so that the drama of that game would limit the opportunity to check up on that eyesore in Morgantown. As luck would have it, the game I wanted to watch didn’t go as planned but the one that I didn’t want to watch did. Oh, the horror.

Both teams lacked basic fundamentals. Ball-handling was spectacularly bad, fast breaks were poorly executed, and passing was hilarious in the saddest of ways. And I’m talking about TCU and West Virginia. If these schools just stayed where they were, this game would have been the Big East’s problem. TCU plays like they don’t deserve to be in a major conference. I’ll admit it: The Big 12 is having a bit of a down year but will the Horned Frogs win even one conference game this season? I don’t think so. What if they were still in the Mountain West, a conference that’s looking a lot better than several power conferences? I think, no I know, that they’d go oh-fer for sure. I hope Trent Johnson can turn things around and soon because no one deserves to root for a team that’s currently 344th out of almost 350 Division I schools in team scoring. West Virginia on the other hand has been playing better basketball as of late. They came into last weekend having lost three of four to start conference play but could have easily been 3-1 instead. They stunk it up against Purdue on Saturday so with TCU next up on the docket, it was a shoe-in for Bob Huggins’ team to get a W in the left hand column. Deniz Kilicli had his best game of the calendar year and a young guard to keep an eye on is Eron Harris. Huggins has rewarded the freshman with more minutes, and as a result, he’s averaging 15.3 points per game in his last three outings.

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Big 12 Conference Call: January 12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 12th, 2013

Welcome to the first Conference Call of conference play! We are one full week into the Big 12 season and you can already put each team into one of four boxes: the you’ll-know-how-they-finish box (Kansas, TCU and Texas Tech), the disappointment box (Texas, West Virginia), the surprise box (Kansas State) and the don’t-know-where-to-put-them box (Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma). Today, we discuss the futures for some of these teams, some of the disappointing players and much more. 

Things have been a-ok for Bruce Weber and Kansas State (Associated Press)

Things have been a-ok for Bruce Weber and Kansas State (Associated Press)

  1. Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?
  2. Iowa State was a bank shot three away from picking up a huge win vs Kansas in Lawrence. What do we make of the Cyclones this season?
  3. If you were to stop the season right now, which Big 12 coach would be the first to get fired?
  4. Which player has been the biggest disappointment this season?
  5. Divisional round of the NFL playoffs are Saturday and Sunday. Who ya got?

*****

1. Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?

  • KC: Both teams will hear their names called on Selection Sunday when the NIT picks the scraps off the table. Even if you assume Myck Kabongo will return to his old self immediately next month, the Longhorns will be lucky to be above .500 at that time and Kabongo isn’t good enough to change that ship’s course. And again, that’s assuming he will be great from the get-go, and I don’t think that will be the case. With no marquee wins on the schedule, West Virginia probably needs 12 more wins this season — giving them 20 — to make the dance. You have to jump through a few mathematical hoops to find 12 more wins on their schedule at this point.
  • DS:  I’d be surprised if either West Virginia or Texas even make the NIT. The first half of the season has been a disaster for both squads. It’s been so bad, in fact, that both teams are ranked outside of the top 100 in the RPI. I mentioned earlier this week that it’d be silly to even attempt to determine what Texas must do from this point forward to make the NCAA Tournament. That’s how far off the bubble the Longhorns are right now, and the same goes for West Virginia. Look at the Mountaineers’ “resume,” if you even want to call it that. There’s that one-point win against a Virginia Tech team that has lost four straight games by a combined 96 points. Oh, and Bob Huggins‘ team also beat a better-than-you-might-think Eastern Kentucky team at home. So there’s that, too. Texas, meanwhile, is hanging its hat on a home win over a North Carolina team that’s crumbling by the day, and Myck Kabongo won’t return from suspension until mid-February. There are Great West teams with more compelling CBI resumes than Texas and West Virginia right now. Well, almost.
  • NK: Regardless of how this season was going to turn out for the Mountaineers, they weren’t going to be anything like last year’s team. That squad had Tournament-tested guys like Darryl “Truck” Bryant and Kevin Jones. Now with those players gone, Deniz Kilicli, Aaron Brown and Jabarie Hinds were supposed to assume bigger roles this season, but in turn, they are having worse seasons this year than last. For some reason, I can’t close the door completely on Texas. Javan Felix has proven he is more than just a back-up point guard in Kabongo’s absence. Though he needs to make shots at a higher percentage, Sheldon McClellan is a better number one option than anyone West Virginia has. I don’t think either team will make the Tournament now but I’d say Texas has better odds of making it than WVU.

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Is West Virginia This Bad, Or Is Its 1-3 Record a Product of Scheduling?

Posted by dnspewak on November 27th, 2012

West Virginia is not the worst team in the Big 12. Far from it. And yet there’s no team in the league right now with a worse record than the Mountaineers, who have lost three of their first four games and own a sole victory against Marist in the Old Spice Classic’s consolation bracket (hey, that’s more than Vanderbilt can brag about). If not for that one win, it’d have been fair to call the tournament in Orlando a Thanksgiving disaster for Bob Huggins‘ team, especially on the heels of that embarrassing season-opening loss to Gonzaga by, what was it, 700 points?

West Virginia Is Enduring an Early Losing Skid

With three transfers playing major minutes and a remade roster after losing Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant, nobody expected November and December to be easy for West Virginia. You’ll also hardly see a power-conference team play a schedule like this in the opening weeks of the season. It’s no secret how good Gonzaga or Davidson are, and Oklahoma’s no slouch this season either. Still, we expected to see Huggins’ team embody a completely different mentality. He openly admitted after bowing out early in last season’s NCAA Tournament that he had never coached such a poor defensive team. That was after a blowout loss to those same Zags — and sure enough, seven months later, it happened again in the 2012-13 season opener. Different team, but more of the same issues (GU hit 52% from the floor including nine threes).

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Big 12 Team Preview #5: West Virginia Mountaineers

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 8th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team previews here at the Big 12 microsite. West Virginia at the #5 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

2011-12 record: 19-14, 9-9 Big East

Key Contributors Gone: F Kevin Jones, G Darryl “Truck” Bryant

Head Coach: Bob Huggins, 6th season

Projected Finish: 5th

Huggy Bear is Back (AP)

Bob Huggins is back in the Big 12, and that’s nothing but good news for the conference. The former Kansas State head coach bolted for West Virginia in 2007 and is back after the Mountaineers joined the conference along with TCU this summer. His one year stint in the Big 12 in 2006-07 could help his team’s transition. Or not. “I don’t know,” Huggins said when asked about his familiarity in the league. “I know where to eat.” Huggins is just funny enough and just somber enough that you never quite know if he’s being serious or cracking a joke, like when he talked about the new round-robin schedule that will take him to every Big 12 campus this season. “I didn’t get to go to Lubbock,” he said of his 2006-07 season at Kansas State. “I almost wanted to stay so I cold get to go to Lubbock the next year.”

Huggins’ acrimonious remark towards the West Texas town was dead on to anyone who has been there, and it’s a reminder to Big 12 fans that the conference has personality again, like the days when Norm Stewart and Johnny Orr and Billy Tubbs roamed the sidelines and wrote writer’s stories with their quotes. Huggins might not be so familiar with Big 12 locales, but he is familiar with a tough basketball league. He battled Louisville, UConn, and Syracuse for conference titles in the Big East. Now he’s faced with Kansas, Baylor, and Texas. Getting to those schools won’t be easy, either. “They asked me who our rivalry in the conference was going to be,” Huggins said. “I said it’s probably Iowa State, they’re only 853 air miles away.” Travel nightmares notwithstanding, the Mountaineers seem equipped to battle the Big 12′s top teams on a yearly basis. They’ve won 24 games a season every year Huggins as been in Morgantown. But like a lot of programs in the conference, they face a fair amount of roster turnover in their opening season, losing the top two scorers off last year’s team.

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Big 12 M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 8th, 2012

  1. With the election now in the rear-view mirror, Matt Norlander over at CBSSports.com wondered if the presidential race was decided by states with the best basketball programs. Norlander’s sample size is comprised of his site’s preseason top 26 because he felt it wouldn’t be as compelling if states like Alaska, Hawaii or Wyoming were put on a level playing field with say, Indiana and Kentucky. It was a close “race” between the number of red states and blue states but the electoral vote count will remind you of the results from Tuesday. It is also worth noting that each of the Big 12 teams in their top 26 are in red states. I’m just saying.
  2. USA Today Sports‘ Eric Prisbell and Nicole Auerbach give us a list of coaches with the most to prove this season and two of them are Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford. While these coaches do have some work to do this year to justify their positions, they’re at different levels on the totem pole. Weber is in his first year of a new job while Ford is a bad season away from losing his job. The article also lists UConn’s Kevin Ollie as another coach with a lot of pressure this year, so if you’re going to list guys who have limited head coaching experience with limited time with which to work, Chris Walker of Texas Tech would be as good a candidate as any.
  3. We now know how long Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins will be sidelined. Travis Ford announced he’ll be out “about a month” after suffering an injury in Monday’s exhibition victory versus Ottawa University. Le’Bryan Nash threw an alley-oop pass to Cobbins but the pass went over his head and he fell on an Ottawa player. This, of course, is bad news for a coach already without two key pieces in his rotation – Phillip Jurick who is still recovering from an Achilles injury and J.P. Olukemi who is dealing with a knee injury. Guard Brian Williams, of course, is also out for the season. Get well, Cowboys.
  4. Tuesday night West Virginia dominated its exhibition game like any good program, beating Glenville State, 95-53, and head coach Bob Huggins isn’t happy. As a team the Mountaineers shot 50% from the floor, Deniz Kilicli dropped 19 in an efficient 8-for-10 shooting night, Aaric Murray had 13 points, nine boards, and two blocked shots, while Juwan Staten had 16 points, six dimes and zero turnovers. So what does Huggins think? “We’re going to look at how we didn’t run any offense.” Riiiight, coach. I see what you did there.
  5. Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale are two of ESPN’s most visible college basketball personalities and while they have had moments of disagreement over the years, they have finally agreed on one thing: Oklahoma and Lon Kruger are on the rise this season. I don’t like the fact that Kruger doesn’t stay at places very long but what Vitale says is true: He can flat-out coach. Take a good coach like Kruger, the returns of Steven Pledger and Romero Osby, the arrival of Amath M’Baye, an emerging point guard in Sam Grooms, and I believe they will hear Greg Gumbel call their name out on Selection Sunday.
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