Kansas State Advances, Sets Up Epic KC Showdown With KU

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 Microsite writer. He’s in Kansas City covering the Big 12 Tournament this weekend.

Kansas and Kansas State tied for the Big 12 regular season championship. Technically. “We’re conference co‑champs,” coach Bruce Weber said. Fair enough. Both teams finished 14-4 in league play. Identical record means co-champs. Awards all around, everybody gets a trophy, let’s all go get some pizza after the game. Still, co-champ label or not, any person with even the slightest bit of logical reasoning can figure out who really won this league. Kansas won the regular season title. It played Kansas State at home and won. It played Kansas State on the road and won. That’s two games, both at two different sites, and two victories for the Jayhawks. If ever there were a tiebreaker to crown a true champion, that’d be it. Of course, it allowed Kansas to seize the top seed in the Big 12 Tournament, so it’s not as though those two victories were meaningless.

It's Part Three of Jayhawks and Wildcats in KC Tomorrow Night

It’s Part Three of Jayhawks and Wildcats in KC Tomorrow Night

So it’s settled. The Kansas Jayhawks are the Big 12 champions. For now, at least. That could change on Saturday afternoon, when the two teams face each other in the Big 12 Tournament title game at the Sprint Center on national television. This is an unprecedented event for Kansas City. If you’re not from the area or not familiar with the makeup of the sports culture here, allow us to break it down for you. There’s Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State, all within two hours of driving distance from Kansas City. They all bitterly compete for media coverage, and it’s a rite of passage as a fan to complain about the lack of attention from the newspapers. Kansas fans call the Kansas City Star the “MU Star”. Missouri fans call it the “KU Star.” Those two teams don’t play each other anymore, but there’s been talk among fans that the programs should set up a series at the Sprint Center on an annual basis. Good luck with that, folks.

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Big 12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 6th, 2013


  1. Big news for Oklahoma: Buddy Hield will be back. He broke his foot earlier this year, and there was a question as to whether he’d play in a Sooners uniform again. However, there are now reports that he’s likely to return on Wednesday against West Virginia. Hield isn’t a household name among Big 12 circles yet, but he had given Lon Kruger an enormous boost during his freshman season before his injury. He ran the point well, played terrific defense and was as important as any player on the roster. Now that he’s back in the fold, Kruger has to feel better heading into the postseason.
  2. Bob Huggins won’t make any excuses for his West Virginia team’s performance this season, but it’s undeniable that the Mountaineers’ move to the Big 12 had serious travel implications. The school is situated a long, long way from the rest of the conference, and getting places is a totally different ballgame compared to the Big East. The non-conference schedule added to all the travel, too: West Virginia began the season out west at Gonzaga, then took a trip to the Old Spice Classic in Orlando and later played at Duquesne and Purdue. Then think about all the flights in Big 12 play to the states of Texas, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma. Not an easy thing for a new member program.
  3. Remember when Elijah Johnson was a worthless point guard and the root of all problems in the world? The guy who turned the ball over too much and caused all wars known to mankind? Those words are a little harsh, but the bottom line was that he hadn’t played very well at that point for Bill Self throughout the early winter and caught a lot of criticism for that very reason. Now, though, that’s all changed. After his legendary performance in Ames, Johnson had 12 assists against Texas Tech on Senior Night and appears to be hitting his stride. If he can continue to man the position along with Naadir Tharpe, Self will be able to sleep a heck of a lot better at night this March.
  4. It’s now or never for Iowa State, which finds itself right on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament. No pressure though, guys. “Win these next two games for sure,” Korie Lucious told The Gazette. “That would help us. Then go into the conference tournament and win as many games as we can there — try to get that championship.” Fred Hoiberg had an interesting quote in this article too, about the Cyclones’ inability to get stops in key moments. That’s been the overlooked thing on this team all year. Iowa State has scorers, but there’s more work to do on the defensive end. That could dictate how the Cyclones finish the regular season.
  5. Oklahoma State doesn’t have it easy right now. Sure, the Cowboys are in fine position heading into the NCAA Tournament, but they’re aiming for a two seed in Kansas City and have a tough road this week to get there. First, they’ve got to play a desperate Iowa State team (see above). Then it’s Kansas State at home on Senior Day. No matter what, though, Travis Ford has to feel good about where he’s at right now. He was the one coach in this league with whom we often threw the term “hot seat” around, and now that’s completely out the window. Kudos. Now, we’ll see where this season goes from here.
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Where Does Iowa State Go From Here?

Posted by dnspewak on February 27th, 2013

Georges Niang drew a charge. Iowa State should have had possession of the basketball with a two-point lead late in regulation on Monday, and it should have had the chance to inbound the ball and ice the victory over sixth-ranked Kansas at the free throw line. The Cyclones should have all but sealed their NCAA Tournament at-large bid with the win, but then a funny thing happened. The officials made a human error. The Twitterverse blew up, ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla directed his outrage at the NCAA on the air, and the college basketball community essentially came to a consensus that Iowa State got jobbed.

Tough Loss Aside, Iowa State Has a Lot To Play For  (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tough Loss Aside, Iowa State Has a Lot To Play For (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Cyclones indeed had a victory stolen from them. Even Kansas fans would probably agree with that statement, but it doesn’t change the facts. The Jayhawks won because Elijah Johnson put on a display for the ages, draining threes from every corner of the state of Iowa. The officials weren’t guarding him. The Cyclones were — they were trying to, at least. Nobody could guard Johnson on this particular night, and blown call or not, Iowa State had a five-point lead with less than a minute remaining in regulation and could not hold on for a victory. Cry foul all you want and blame the zebras if it makes you feel better, but there’s nothing Fred Hoiberg and his crew can do about it now. They lost.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.19.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 19th, 2013


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

We are in the final stretch before conference tournaments tip off and there are several key match-ups this week that will help to determine not only postseason seeds but regular season titles. Let’s not waste any time and get to the breakdowns!

Indiana at Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (*****)

Tom Izzo's teams get the job done in March

How does Tom Izzo stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo from lighting up the Spartans again?

  • It doesn’t get any bigger than this game this week, as the Hoosiers and the Spartans battle for sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. Michigan State faces a gauntlet of games as it goes up against Indiana at home, Ohio State and Michigan on the road, and then back home against Wisconsin. It is highly unlikely that they will get through the next four unscathed, so this first game at home is crucial if they want to win a regular season Big Ten crown. In the teams’ previous game this season, IU defeated MSU 75-70 in Bloomington. Tom Izzo’s squad turned the ball over too many times, couldn’t hit their two-point shots, and didn’t get to the free throw line enough. Since then, the Spartans have won five straight and are looking better and better each game. They are being led by point guard Keith Appling. Appling is averaging 16.4 points per game in their current five-game winning streak, since going 1-of-4 with three points in the loss to IU. Appling will once again be a key factor as the Spartans will need his scoring and play-making abilities. Izzo will also need his defense to figure out a way to stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo. Olidipo torched the Spartans last time out for 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. If Indiana is allowed to go 19-of-32 again from inside the paint, Michigan State will struggle to find a way to win. The Spartans need a better defensive effort on the interior and better rebounding if they are going to overtake the Hoosiers for the Big Ten lead.

  Virginia at Miami (FL) – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (****)

  • While Miami remains undefeated in the ACC and is aiming for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tourney, they face two tough tests the remainder of the season against Virginia at home and against Duke on the road. The Cavaliers have been anything but road warriors in the ACC (2-4), but they present a tough match-up because of their ability to shoot the ball, especially from three. Keep a close on Virginia’s Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. If they are to knock off the Hurricanes, these two players must have very big games. If UVA is still without 6’11” Mike Tobey (mononucleosis), scoring on the interior will be tough against Miami’s 6’11” Kenny Kadji and 6’10” Reggie Johnson. The three-point shot is a significant part of the Cavaliers’ offense, so pay close attention to their effort early from beyond the arc. If they can stay in the game with some made threes, they will have a shot to win it in the end. However, the Hurricanes play lockdown perimeter defense too. This is a tall task for the Cavaliers, but it will still be an interesting match-up nonetheless.

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On the Naadir Tharpe Option at the Kansas Point Guard Position

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 13th, 2013

The story after Kansas defeated Kansas State 83-62 Monday night wasn’t that the Jayhawks ended their three-game skid and regained a shared claim of first place in the Big 12, because as Sam Mellinger points out, nobody was going to beat Kansas that night. And with that in mind, maybe we shouldn’t put too much stock into the stellar game from sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe. But it was hard to overlook the 8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio from Tharpe on the heels of a depressing 10-day stretch for Kansas basketball in general. The eight assists were the most Tharpe had dished out since a 32-point win over American on December 29. Coincidentally or not, that was the end of a ridiculous stretch of games from Kansas in December. They also beat Colorado by 36, Belmont by 29, Richmond by 28, and took care of Ohio State on the road by eight. Outside of the American game, Tharpe wasn’t great but he wasn’t bad either. He didn’t didn’t turn the ball over at all in four of the five games and averaged 2.7 APG, right on his season average.

Is Naadir Tharpe The Answer For KU's Offensive Woes? (USA Today)

Is Naadir Tharpe The Answer For KU’s Offensive Woes? (USA Today)

That production was plenty for Kansas, because senior Elijah Johnson was playing well, shooting 50% from the field in four of those five games while scoring a little above his season average (10.4 PPG). But then came the close contests. The seven-point home win over Temple on January 6, the near-loss at home to Iowa State, saved by a banked three-pointer by Ben McLemore at the end of regulation. A five-point win over Texas and four-point win at Kansas State soon followed while Johnson’s numbers plummeted. He was 2-of-6 against Texas Tech (a 60-46 road win on January 12), 3-of-10 in the road win at Kansas State, and 1-of-11 against Texas on January 19. Johnson was either falling into his usual deep-winter slump, or the transition to point guard was affecting his overall game. The loss two weeks ago to Oklahoma State at home was a long time coming, and Bill Self ripped into his team. “We don’t have a point guard,” he said, a not-so-thinly veiled shot at Johnson, who played off the ball next to Tyshawn Taylor during his first three seasons at Kansas.

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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 Conference Call: February 9 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 9th, 2013

Welcome to another edition of our Big 12 Conference Call! This week has been some kind of something hasn’t it? We have seen TCU take down Kansas in perhaps the biggest upset in the Big 12 era as well as Baylor and Oklahoma’s attempts to play themselves off the tournament bubble. There are bigger questions that loom too. Who has the inside track for Big 12 Coach of the Year? And, if Kansas continues to slide, who will win the Big 12? Today, we’ll hit on those topics and more. 

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

2. If Kansas doesn’t win the Big 12 title, who will sit atop the conference standings at the end of the year?

3. Imagine yourself on this year’s NCAA Tournament Committee and you’re forced to choose Baylor or Oklahoma to put in the field of 68. Which team would you go with and why?

4. Who do you like to win Big 12 Coach of the Year?

5. Which of the three Texas schools will have the highest finish — UT, Tech or TCU?


An unreal night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

It was an unbelievable night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

KC: Absolutely. With the way Kansas had been playing in January, the loss to Oklahoma State was coming. The Cowboys have plenty of talent and nobody was going to go undefeated in the Big 12 this season, anyway. But the loss to TCU -ranked lower in kempom than the likes of Quinnipiac and Yale- is the worst Kansas loss since before Larry Brown was coaching in the 80’s. Point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe shot a combined 5-for-27 with three assists against the Horned Frogs. In his last eight games, Johnson has more turnovers (28) than assists (25). If that doesn’t trouble you, nothing will.

NK: Most definitely. Kory hit the nail on the head — a slip up was bound to happen. To be truthful, I didn’t see one of this magnitude. Their loss to TCU Wednesday has gone down as easily the biggest upset in the Big 12 era in my opinion. The Jayhawks could only win in spite of their point guard problems for so long. And now in a time where a team like Kansas is supposed to separate themselves from the rest of their conference mates, they find themselves in a tighter league race. At least it’s better for the fans of other teams.

DS: They’re in a heck of a lot more jeopardy than they were a week ago, that’s for sure. And yet the Jayhawks still sit tied atop the league with Kansas State, and they own the tiebreaker with that win in Manhattan. So forget the TCU debacle. With half of the Big 12 schedule left to play, Bill Self once again has his team in position to win a regular season title. Kansas has serious issues on the offensive end, and it’s hard to envision this team doing a ton of damage in March, but it’s still the class of the Big 12. With Self’s track record, I’m expecting to see vintage Kansas show up against the Wildcats on Big Monday. But that game in Norman is a tough one this weekend.

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Who Won The Week? TCU, Nate Wolters, and San Diego…

Posted by CNguon on February 8th, 2013

wonweekWho 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), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.


The Horned Frogs started out their Big 12 tenure on a bad note, going 0-8 in conference and losing only one of those games by fewer than 10 points. And then #2 Kansas came to town. Recipe for disaster, right? It was, just not for the team you would expect. The Horned Frogs pounced on the Jayhawks early, holding them to two points in the first 13:39 of the game. But TCU was able to hold up for the rest of the game, never letting Kansas lead and nabbing a 62-55 victory. Never mind that TCU lost by 17 against a Texas team with two conference wins on Saturday; the Horned Frogs nabbed one of the biggest regular-season upsets ever.

TCU's upset over Kansas was one of the biggest shockers in recent memory (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)

TCU’s upset over Kansas was one of the biggest shockers in recent memory (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)

(Related winners: Other teams bidding for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament; Kansas fans who are wary of being a No. 1 seed. Related losers: Kansas – see below.)

LOSER: Kansas

Thanks to getting shelled by a team Ken Pomeroy said had a 3 percent chance of winning a few days after losing a fast-paced shootout against Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks have their first losing streak since January 2006. Kansas got torn up by the perimeter scoring of the Cowboys, whose guards Markel Brown and Marcus Smart had 28 and 25 points respectively. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks shot a tick above 40 percent from the field, eventually falling 85-80 at home. But Kansas doubled down on its offensive woes in Fort Worth, shooting under 30 percent against TCU. Primary ballhandlers Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe combined to go 5-of-27 from the floor Wednesday with three assists and five turnovers. (Against the Cowboys, the pair combined to go 6 of 21 from the field with 10 assists and five turnovers.) It looks like the Jayhawks need to find someone capable of playing consistently at point guard, lest their otherwise-championship-caliber team go to waste in a year with no dominant team.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 7th, 2013


  1. Yes, Kansas did in fact lose to TCU last night, 62-55. Yes, the Jayhawks were held to 13 points in the first half. Many suspected Kansas’ 18-2 record may have been a bit of a fraud, but 13 points in the first half against TCU? Actually losing to TCU, a team that was winless in the Big 12, a team that had lost earlier in the year to SMU and Houston and Texas Tech? It just doesn’t make sense. The Jayhawks shot 29.5% (18-61) and were 3-22 from three-point range. They are losers of back-to-back games for the first time since 2006, ending a streak of 264 games without consecutive losses. In a span of six days, Kansas has dropped from a potential No. 1 overall seed and heavy Big 12 favorites into a tie for first place in the conference and a possible #2 seed. Losses to 200+ RPI teams are a killer for NCAA Tournament Resumes.
  2. Elijah Johnson was an easy case to study for the Lawrence-Journal World‘s Jesse Newell on Wednesday morning. As Newell points outs, Johnson is KU’s least efficient player this year and is the least efficient point guard Bill Self has had at Kansas. And that was before his 3-for-12 shooting night with three turnovers and one assist against TCU. Johnson is a two-guard playing the point out of necessity, but that will be nothing but a small footnote in Kansas history if he and his offense continue their slide into March.
  3. What a game between Baylor and Oklahoma State in Stillwater last night. After a pair of Pierre Jackson free throws sent the game to overtime, Cowboy forward Michael Cobbins blocked an A.J. Walton shot attempt with around five seconds to play. Markel Brown somehow managed to make it 90 feet to the other basket in that time and beat the clock with two-tenths of a second to spare, giving Oklahoma State the win and putting them in a tie for second place in the conference with Iowa State, both at 6-3. On a night that Kansas was supposed to get its mojo back in a glorified scrimmage in Fort Worth and Oklahoma State would possibly suffer a letdown after the rarest of rare wins in Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks suffered one of their worst losses in 20 years and the Cowboys solidified themselves as a top-25 team and Big 12 contender.
  4. When you rely as heavily on transfers as Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has, you’re bound to get burned every once in a while. Former USC Trojan guard Maurice Jones, who left Southern Cal in September, planned to sit out this semester and the fall semester before beginning his Cyclone career next spring. He was denied that opportunity, the Ames Tribune and an Iowa State spokesperson reported Wednesday. The article states that Jones left USC due to academic issues but Jones is quoted as saying it wasn’t his grades. He isn’t clear about the exact reason, however. But there’s always a reason a player transfers to another school. Whether it was his decision, the coach’s, or academics, it’s not rare to find situations like Jones’. It’s actually quite surprising Hoiberg has had as much success with the transfer route he decided to take early on.
  5. It’s true that at Illinois, Bruce Weber actually held a mock funeral for his predecessor, Bill Self. Weber seemed tired of the constant chatter about the former coach and wanted to put an end to the Self era. It backfired, for the most part. Weber struggled after Self’s players left Champagne and he was fired after last season. But nearly a decade later and once again having success with another coach’s team, Weber isn’t running from the previous coach’s shadow. “I’ve given praise to Frank Martin because he created here a culture of toughness and defense and we’ve kind of carried it over, but he started it,” Weber told Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal leading up to Tuesday’s win over Texas Tech. The Wildcats are now tied for first place in the Big 12 with Kansas and face the Jayhawks on Monday night in Lawrence.
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Night Line: TCU Stuns Kansas in an Upset to Remember

Posted by BHayes on February 7th, 2013


Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

On a Wednesday night chock-full of college basketball action, nobody could have expected the story of the night to come from Fort Worth, Texas. Pairing a TCU team seeking its first Big 12 win with a Kansas squad fresh off a home loss to Oklahoma State would seem to rank pretty high on the combustibility scale, but enter a twist: It was Kansas who went up in flames tonight. The Horned Frogs snatched a win to remember in the midst of an otherwise forgettable season, and college basketball fans bore witness to one of the biggest upsets of the last decade. Jerry Palm went so far as to mention that this was the biggest upset — in terms of RPI difference — in his 20 years of tracking numbers. The 62-55 win was as ugly as it was unexpected, but if you love a good upset (and what college basketball fan doesn’t love that), this was as beautiful as it gets.

There Was Much To Celebrate For TCU On Wednesday Night

There Was Much To Celebrate For TCU On Wednesday Night

Explaining the inexplicable is not a favorite pastime of mine, but I’ll take a shot here. As bad as TCU is, the bulk of their issues have come on one side of the ball. Trent Johnson’s offense, valued at #330 nationally in efficiency, has been a nightmare. The defensive effort has been slightly better, although the national ranking of #137 in defensive efficiency still couldn’t have worried Bill Self too much before tip-off. Afterward he was too consumed with his own team’s failings to marvel at the Horned Frog D, but the point is that this was the kind of game TCU had to create to have a shot to win. They weren’t going to beat Kansas playing deep into the 60s, let alone the 90s, and it took a truly anemic KU offensive effort to allow TCU this win.

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