What We Learned: Kansas Beats Kansas State in Manhattan

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 22nd, 2013

It was close, as Vegas suggested it would be (Kansas closed as a three-point favorite). But the Jayhawks survived another tough game in the type of battle Kansas State wanted to play — slow and muddy. Kansas now takes sole possession of first place in the Big 12 and improves to 17-1 on the season. Here is what we learned tonight:

1. Kansas is learning how to win close games. Or shall I say, Kansas has learned how to win close games. Coming into tonight’s game, here is how the Jayhawks have played down the stretch in close games since losing a three-point game to Michigan State on November 13.

Picture 1

KU is Getting It Done in Crunch Time

After Bill Self called a full timeout with 4:55 left in the game and a 54-49 lead, Kansas State finished the game 2-of-6 from the field including 0-of-3 from three-point range with a pair of turnovers. It’s fair to criticize close games against Iowa State or Temple at home, but Kansas State is a tough squad this year and Bramlage Coliseum is always rowdy when the Jayhawks are in town. Coming away with a close win is another positive learning experience this Kansas team will need in March.

2. Kansas State’s win over Florida wasn’t a fluke. The Wildcats shot 35.1% from the field and were still within three points of the Jayhawks with 40 seconds left. They held Kansas under its season shooting averages, both from two and three-point range (From two: 48.4% on the year, 45.7% tonight; from three: 36.2% on the year, 30.8% tonight). They have solid wins over Oklahoma State and #8 Florida, and their only losses are to #2 Michigan, #10 Gonzaga, and now #11 Kansas.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.21.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 21st, 2013

setDVR

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

We just had one of the most memorable weekends in recent memory in college hoops. Every game seems to be up for grabs and it’s making for an exciting season. This week should be no different as each conference has its share of important match-ups. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Cincinnati at #3 Syracuse – 3:30 PM PM EST, Monday on ESPN (***)

boeheim

Jim Boeheim’s Team Looks Great After This Weekend

  • Cincinnati barely snapped a three-game home losing streak on Saturday with an overtime win against Marquette. The Bearcats were without star guard Cashmere Wright as he continues to heal up from a knee injury. Wright is day-to-day so we don’t know quite yet if he will be available against Syracuse, though. If he is unable to play, his three-point shooting will be missed greatly against the Orange’s match-up zone defense. Although, even if he plays, the size of the Orange backcourt will surely create issues for the 6’0″ guard. In its huge win at Louisville over the weekend, Syracuse proved its size and length on defense makes Jim Boeheim’s team a clear title contender. Both of these teams excel on the offensive glass, so keep a close eye on which team is getting more second-chance opportunities and making the most of them — this could be another place where the Syracuse size makes a difference. More than likely this game will be won on the defensive end.  However, if the Bearcats don’t find a better shooting stroke quickly, this game will not be close regardless of their defensive effort. They shot 41.4% eFG against Marquette, so a shooting number like that won’t cut it against Syracuse.

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

  • It felt like Iowa was due for a big win at home and it happened to come against Wisconsin on Saturday. After the Badgers’ huge win against Indiana last week, the weekend loss to Iowa brought the team back to reality, but they don’t get much rest with the Spartans coming to town. In order for the Badgers to beat the Spartans, they must play their typically great defense. Bo Ryan‘s squad is 1-4 against teams that shoot over 50% eFG against them so it’s clear that they do not have the offense to go back and forth with teams. Luckily, the Spartans are not a great shooting team with nine games under 50% eFG themselves on the season. This should make for a very close defensive-oriented contest in Madison. Keep an eye on free throws, as they will be a major factor in determining the outcome. Wisconsin must play good defense without fouling; if they are sending Michigan State to the line early in each half, they could very easily drop two games in a row. Look for Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to be all over Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren, forcing someone else on the Badgers to beat them. This should be another slugfest in the Big Ten.

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Seth Davis Plays “Stock Report”: Big 12 Reaction

Posted by dnspewak on January 3rd, 2013

Seth Davis is at it again. In the 2013 edition of his “Hoop Thoughts Stock Report” — which seems eerily similar to how Pardon the Interruption plays Buy or Sell — Davis included six teams from the Big 12 among his long list of schools across the country. There’s a reason Davis writes for Sports Illustrated and we, well, don’t write for SI, but regardless, no writer is off limits in the world of college basketball. Here’s are some excerpts of what Davis said about those Big 12 teams, and more importantly, here’s what we think about what Davis said about the Big 12 teams.

Pierre Jackson (#55) and Isaiah Austin (#21) Will Make or Break the Bears' Season. (Associated Press/Rod Aydelotte)

Pierre Jackson (#55) and Isaiah Austin (#21) Will Make or Break the Bears’ Season. (Associated Press/Rod Aydelotte)

BAYLOR (8-4): HOLD: This team is too soft defensively to buy, but it has too many good pieces to sell.

Hold? Agreed, to an extent. Baylor has looked marvelous at times and horrendous at others, so simply in terms of stock, let’s go ahead and even things out and call it a hold. You don’t want to buy a team that has already lost four games and was out-rebounded by College of Charleston and Northwestern, but you also don’t want to sell a team that made BYU look silly and won at Kentucky. There’s a chance this team could still wind up as good if not better than last year’s team, simply because Isaiah Austin is an animal, Pierre Jackson looks like the Big 12 Player of the Year contender we all thought he’d be and, as Davis mentions, there’s no chance Brady Heslip keeps misfiring from beyond the arc at this rate. Here’s where Davis is wrong, though: Baylor is not “too soft defensively.” The word “soft” is much too harsh. The Bears’ zone embarrassed and confused Kentucky at Rupp Arena, and they held BYU in check with a sub-40 percent percentage from the floor. Gonzaga lit them up, sure, but the word is “inconsistent.” Not necessarily “soft.”

KANSAS (11-1, No. 6): BUY It is rare to see a team have so many talented pieces that fit together so well. [...] We know the Jayhawks are going to win the Big 12 yet again, so they’re almost certain to go into the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed. I’d be surprised if their season does not end in the 404.

Easy pick here. Seth Davis, you’ve got no argument from us. In fact, you’ve likely got no argument from anybody on earth, save a few delusional Missouri fans. Bill Self has proven once again that he has no problem recovering after defections to the NBA and graduation. That’s because his bench can usually outplay the rest of the Big 12 in any given year. So now that it’s Jeff Withey‘s turn to be the star, he’s doing it. Now that it’s Ben McLemore‘s time to shine, he’s doing it, too. The question is not whether Kansas will win the Big 12. The question is whether the Jayhawks are good enough to win it all. Davis hits the nail on the head here, but you knew that already.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 21st, 2012

setDVR

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

A top ten battle with a bit of recent history leads a solid slate of games this weekend. We are down to the last few non-conference games before we go full tilt into the conference season starting in the new year. It is going to be interesting to see who starts to separate from the pack as we head towards March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#8 Kansas at #7 Ohio State 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (*****)

Kansas' Jeff Withey Builds A Case For Most Improved Player. (AP)

How will Ohio State deal with Jeff Withey? (AP)

  • Kansas beat Ohio State twice last season.  Once in the regular season in Lawrence and once in the Final Four. Both teams are without their main contributors from last season in Jared Sullinger for OSU and Thomas Robinson for KU. The key for Kansas in both wins was field goal defense. They held OSU to under 40% shooting in both outings. The Jayhawks come into this game with another solid defense led by center Jeff Withey. Withey provides an inside presence that the Buckeyes will need to game plan around. They had trouble with Duke\’s Mason Plumlee in last month\’s loss to the Blue Devils. Plumlee put up 21 points and 17 rebounds against a Buckeye team that is a bit thin on the inside. While Withey\’s offensive skills may not be as refined as Plumlee\’s, he is capable of putting up 20+ points and will certainly be a major factor on defense. Additionally, pay close attention to the KU guards. Travis Releford, Ben McClemore, and Elijah Johnson are big guards. Look to see if they can take advantage of their size.
  • Ohio State has only lost two non-conference home games since Thad Matta got to Columbus in 2005. They lost in 2008 to North Carolina and in 2009 to West Virginia. While OSU is struggling a bit to find a legit second and third scoring threat, it’s hard to argue against a record like that at home. I learned that when Notre Dame beat Kentucky earlier this season. Still though, DeShaun Thomas is going to need help on the offensive end if Thad Matta and company are to keep that home record intact. Watch Aaron Craft, as he will be the X factor for the Buckeyes. He is averaging just under 10 points a game thus far but is capable of more. Watch the match-up between Craft and Johnson for Kansas. Johnson is turning the ball over frequently (25%) and Craft is one of the best ball thieves in the business. If he can create turnover and get the Buckeyes out on the run, OSU will be in good shape.
  • It’s tough to argue against Ohio State’s home record and they are still a very talented team, but I think Withey and the big guards make the difference in this contest. Look for Withey to shut down any second chance opportunities and defend the hoop against a slashing Thomas. Plus Kansas has this to inspire them.

More Great Action

#14 Missouri vs. #10 Illinois  6:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

  • Illinois’ win at Gonzaga may be the best win of the year thus far, along side Butler’s OT victory against Indiana. As it turns out, Illinois beat Butler as well, so it’s time to take John Groce’s team seriously. The guard match-ups should be excellent in this game. The keys for Missouri will be creating turnovers and getting offensive rebounds. The Tigers aren’t turning teams over like they have in the past but the addition of Alex Oriakhi has helped the rebounding situation tremendously. Mizzou ranks 7th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. The Tigers will still have to contain Illinois’ Brandon Paul, however. If he gets loose like he did against Gonzaga, it will be another nice win for the Illini.

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Dissecting Bill Self’s Point Guard Problems at Kansas

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 7th, 2012

It isn’t natural watching a Bill Self team struggle at the point guard position, but that’s exactly what’s happening this season. It doesn’t help that Kansas has had great point guard play for most of Self’s nine seasons at the helm, raising expectations and magnifying mistakes for whomever is running the Kansas offense. Sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe looked to be the replacement this year for four-year starter Tyshawn Taylor, but  that hasn’t been the case. Tharpe, who watched most of last season from the bench, is averaging 4.0 PPG and 2.1 APG in 16 MPG, pushing the responsibility of running the team to senior guard Elijah Johnson. The problem is, though, that Johnson has played off the ball during his three years at Kansas. He hasn’t adapted to the position change yet, and it has hurt the Jayhawks offense. “It’s not Elijah,” Self said on Thursday. “as much as it is the pieces around Elijah.”

Bill Self is Looking for a Point Guard, Whether On His Bench or in His Next Recruiting Class.

With Tharpe not taking the step up that people may have expected and freshman guard Rio Adams still adjusting to the college game, the Jayhawks are in unfamiliar territory. Self even practiced with senior forward Kevin Young at the point earlier this week, although he said it only lasted about 10 minutes. The problems this season can be traced all the way back to the 2011 recruiting class. Self landed five-star point guard Josh Selby, a huge get at the time. But Selby barely had time to unpack his bags before he declared for the NBA Draft. Self’s other commitment that year was Royce Woolridge, a three-star guard who later transferred to Washington State. A year later, Self offered scholarships to a number of guards, eventually landing Ben McLemore  — a prototypical two or three guard — and Tharpe. In last year’s class, Self went after several potential point guards, from Marcus Smart and Marcus Paige to Archie Goodwin and Gabe York, eventually receiving a commitment from Rio Adams.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, Canadian Imports, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

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

  1. When the AP Top 25 was released Monday afternoon, Kentucky wound up unranked for the first time in the John Calipari era after a blowout loss to Notre Dame and a home setback to Baylor, UK’s first loss at Rupp Arena under Calipari (UK remains ranked at #20 here at RTC). Kentucky’s drop from #8 to unranked was the largest in AP poll history since the poll expanded to include 25 teams in 1990. Now we all know college basketball polls don’t really matter (unlike a certain other collegiate sport) so this is just something to discuss among basketball junkies. But seriously, do people really believe this isn’t one of the Top 25 teams in the country? I guess it depends on your philosophy when it comes to filling out a ballot. If you’re going purely by record, sure the Wildcats shouldn’t be ranked at 4-3. But a deeper inspection reveals a team with a win over Maryland, one that could turn into a very good win if the Terrapins sustain their early season level of play, and three losses to very good basketball teams (Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor). The Wildcats aren’t anywhere near last year’s juggernaut but until they lose to a bad team or the losses to good teams keep piling up, I’ll continue to rank Kentucky and won’t overreact. What are the issues Calipari faces? Number one, Ryan Harrow has proven not to be the answer at point guard. Archie Goodwin has been forced to be the primary ballhandler and is turning the ball over more than three times per game. Second, Kentucky’s rebounding and defense has taken a dip from last year but who didn’t expect that? Anthony Davis is in New Orleans now, not Lexington. Third, the team is relying exclusively on freshmen, one sophomore (Kyle Wiltjer, who does need to pick his game up) and two transfers. There is no veteran presence who has been through the SEC wars like Doron Lamb and Darius Miller had been last season. While Cal’s teams have had tremendous freshmen talent, the presence of Miller and Lamb pushed the team over the top last year. Without that crucial element, Kentucky will continue to struggle with immature plays and poor decision-making. However, I’m sure that Calipari will find a way to make things work eventually. Let’s not panic in early December because Kentucky lost three games to Top 25 teams.

    Coach Cal’s Team Is Now Unranked, But Don’t Panic Yet

  2. With Kentucky struggling to find its way right now, Florida has emerged as the early favorite in the SEC. The Gators are 6-0 with a pair of blowout wins over Wisconsin and Marquette and a nice “neutral” court win over a good Middle Tennessee team. It’s pretty clear that Florida is for real but the schedule ramps up in a big way this month with tomorrow’s road trip to rival Florida State followed 10 days later by a visit to Arizona and a quasi-road game against Kansas State in Kansas City on December 22. Everyone knows about Florida’s high-powered offensive attack but the most astonishing thing about this team has been its defense. This could very well be Billy Donovan’s best defensive team in Gainesville. Florida leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 48.5 PPG to date. The Gators are fourth in defensive efficiency and have also improved their rebounding from a year ago with Patric Young and Will Yeguete doing most of the work on the boards but even UF’s guards are contributing to that effort as well. Florida is just as efficient on the offensive end of the floor with balanced scoring and depth. Seven Gators are averaging at least seven points per game, led by Kenny Boynton. Donovan has to be thrilled with senior Erik Murphy, someone who is an absolute match-up nightmare for almost every opponent because of his length, versatility and ability to stretch defenses. When Murphy hangs out on the perimeter he can hit shots or open up gaps for his teammates to drive and score, or get to the line as Florida has done so well this year. His numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet at you but he’s such a valuable asset to this team. Murphy has had his share of off-court problems and here’s to hoping he’s learned from that and takes on a leadership role for his team as a senior. He’s off to a great start and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Florida in the top 10 all year long. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Four

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 3rd, 2012

Monday’s AP Poll confirmed what most Big 12 fans already knew: The conference isn’t very good right now. Kansas entered the top 10 and Oklahoma State sits at No. 23, and that’s it. Baylor’s win at Kentucky on Saturday should inch the Bears closer to the Top 25, but their overall resume isn’t there yet. As for Oklahoma State, its 81-71 loss last week to Virginia Tech drops them to No. 2 in our weekly power rankings, with Kansas taking its familiar spot atop the Big 12.

1) Kansas (6-1, 0-0)

Ben McLemore Has Helped Kansas Regain the Top Spot This Week (Lawrence Journal-World)

Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 70-57 vs. San Jose State, W 84-78 vs. Oregon State

This Week: Saturday vs. Colorado, 1:00 PM CST

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks have won five in a row since losing to Michigan State in Atlanta and look to be getting better, albeit slowly. Freshman guard Ben McLemore is making his case to be the third one-and-done player Bill Self has had at Kansas, and senior center Jeff Withey is playing the best defense in the country with 5.7 BPG. Saturday’s game at home against Colorado (who beat Baylor last month) should give fans a good gauge on the team’s improvement before winter break.
  • Danger Zone: Point guard play. Bill Self isn’t happy at all with his perimeter defense, and he shouldn’t be. Opposing guards have been lighting up the Kansas D all season. On offense, senior guard Elijah Johnson is playing the point for the first time in his career. He played off the ball for most of last season, deferring to Tyshawn Taylor. Now it’s Johnson’s job to lead the offense and get the ball inside when Kansas needs it, and come March, Johnson’s play could be the difference between consecutive Final Fours or another Tournament flameout.

2) Oklahoma State (5-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 81-71 at Virginia Tech

This Week: Wednesday vs. South Florida, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs. Missouri State, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: Freshman point guard Marcus Smart continued to impress against Virginia Tech last week (18 points, 11 rebounds, six assists), but it wasn’t enough to make up for the team’s putrid night from deep. The Cowboys went 4-23 from three-point range and the Hokies eventually won, 81-71. The schedule softens now, though, and the wins should pile up this month until a New Year’s Eve meeting with Gonzaga in Stillwater.
  • Danger Zone: It’s never a good thing when your freshman point guard leads the team in rebounding. Smart is averaging 7.7 RPG and while it complements the rest of his game nicely, the Cowboys need to find more consistent post play. Smart and sophomore guard Le’Bryan Nash are great, but being 135th in the country in RPG (36.5) won’t lead to sustained success this season.
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Big 12 M5: 12.03.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 3rd, 2012

  1. Did Baylor’s 64-55 win over Kentucky Saturday in Rupp Arena say more about the Bears or Wildcats? The short answer is yes. Winning in Rupp Arena isn’t easy. Kentucky had a nation-leading 55 straight wins at home and the Wildcats entered Saturday’s game at No. 8 in the country. Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson reminded people why he was chosen as the Big 12’s Pre-Season Player of the Year, though, with 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals, but it wasn’t exactly a clinic they put on in Lexington. They shot just 40 % with 19 turnovers. Luckily for them, Kentucky shot 29% and played like a bunch of freshmen. So, while beating a top-10 team on the road in an environment like Rupp Arena is impressive, Kentucky is proving to be less than stellar this season. Also, great teams don’t lose to the College of Charleston.
  2. Bill Self has had some great point guards at Kansas, from Aaron Miles and Russell Robinson to Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor. It’s a big reason why the Jayhawks have won eight consecutive Big 12 regular season championships. Now its senior guard Elijah Johnson’s turn at the point, except Johnson has never had this responsibility while at KU. He has been a shooting guard up until this season, and the position switch has seemed to affect his game early on, especially on defense. “He got whipped,” Self told ESPN’s Jason King after Kansas’ 84-78 win over Oregon State, a game in which Beaver guard Ahmad Starks had 25 points. San Jose State guard James Kinney put up 30 points on the Jayhawks last week, and Chattanooga freshman guard Farad Cobb went 7-9 from three-point range a few weeks ago in Allen Fieldhouse. “That’s something that’s got to improve or we’ll have to change how we play,” Self told King. “We’ll have to play some zone or whatnot.” The fact that Bill Self is even considering playing a zone — something he has rarely played — says a lot about his confidence in the team right now.
  3. Dave Behr of the Austin-American Statesmen wrote a column Saturday on the early struggles of the Texas Longhorns. Motivation seems to be the problem, with head coach Rick Barnes yanking players at the drop of a hat recently in an attempt to grab players’ attention. After losing to Chaminade and USC in the Maui Invitational and beating Texas-Arlington by just 16, motivation isn’t the only thing Texas fans should worry about. Of course, getting sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo back would solve a lot of problems. Kabongo has been suspended by the NCAA while being investigated for possibly receiving improper benefits.
  4. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg had nothing but good things to say about former Utah transfer Will Clyburn this offseason. Clyburn averaged 17.1 PPG in his one season at Utah and it was good enough to earn him a scholarship in the Big 12. In seven games for Iowa State this season, he’s averaging 17.3 PPG and 8.6 RPG, his best two games coming recently against then No. 18 UNLV and BYU where he finished with 21 and 32 points. As a 6’7″ guard, Clyburn will be a tough match-up for any team he plays against this season. He could also be the key to Cyclones not suffering too big of a dropoff this season with the departure of do-everything guard/forward Royce White
  5. The CBSSports.com crew updated their Top 25 (and one) ranking on Sunday night, and only two Big 12 teams made the cut. Kansas climbed from 13th to 10th while Oklahoma State dropped from 16th to 23rd after losing to Virginia Tech Saturday, 81-71. There doesn’t seem to be any Big 12 teams close to making this list, either. The conference is one Cowboy loss away from having a single team in the (unofficial) Top 25 next week.
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Rushed Reactions: #12 Kansas 78, Washington State 41

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and correspondent. He filed this report from the second semifinal of the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic Monday night.

Kansas throttled the Cougars in an even more impressive fashion than was expected coming into Monday night. Some key takeaways:

  1. Message Received By Jayhawks After Early Bumps: There’s no shame in losing to Michigan State on a neutral floor in Atlanta, but the Jayhawks needed an injection of tough love from Bill Self after falling behind to Chattanooga at home later that week. KU responded in the second half last Thursday and kept the momentum rolling from the opening tip against Washington State Monday night. The Jayhawks shot their way to a 50-point first half with a scorching 64% clip from the floor. Kansas clicked on the glass as well, rebounding five of its nine misses for an incredibly efficient start. Staked to a 29-point lead at the intermission, Self substituted freely throughout the second half, and as a result, his most important players should benefit from the rest with a one-night turnaround. In addition, the extra reps for players like Anrio AdamsAndrew White and Naadir Tharpe will serve the team well in the long run.
  2. Role Players Emerge For Kansas: While it wasn’t surprising to see KU perform well in front of a de facto home crowd, not many predicted the role Travis Releford would play Monday. The senior came into tonight’s contest shooting a bone-dry 26.1% from the floor, but made his first six shots, including a pair of threes, on his way to a game-high 17 points against the Cougars. Defensively, Kevin Young made good on his first start as a Jayhawk. The senior transfer starred alongside Jeff Withey and the two combined to fluster Wazzu in its attempts to penetrate. For KU to keep a lock on its conference championship streak, it needs consistency from its complementary players in addition to Withey and Elijah Johnson, who are expected to lead the team on a regular basis.
  3. Washington State Has Too Many Leaks For Ken Bone To Plug: Beating Kansas in its second home is a tall order for any team, but Washington State’s failure to make the game competitive at any point can’t bode well for Bone’s future in Pullman. While his portrayal of a disciplinarian in removing Reggie Moore from the team in September was admirable, Bone has struggled to pick up the pieces. Based on the combined 7-25 shooting night from Wazzu’s backcourt on Monday, the early returns in the quest for help can’t be much more discouraging. Brock Motum‘s international flavor at center is unorthodox enough to throw opposing big men off their games, but if no other threats emerge for Washington State, teams will simply continue to double Motum, knowing they can hedge away from other personnel. Coaches express emotions in several ways, but all Bone could do was shake his head as he watched Kansas make shot after shot. While it’s not advisable to make too much out of one bad game, Bone needs to find answers if his team is to make a run at a postseason tournament bid. The Pac-12 has climbed back to respectability, but Wazzu is still groping for the light switch.
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Big 12 M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 14th, 2012

  1. The annual 50-player Naismith Award watch list was unveiled by the Atlanta Tipoff Club Tuesday Morning, led by Creighton guard Doug McDermott. Five Big 12 players spanning four teams made the list. They are: Baylor G Pierre Jackson, Kansas State G Rodney McGruder, Oklahoma State G Marcus Smart, Kansas G Ben McLemore, and Kansas C Jeff Withey. Jackson has looked the best so far this season, finishing with 25 points and seven assists in Sunday’s victory over Jackson State. The Naismith Award winner will be announced on April 7 in Atlanta.
  2. Bill Self didn’t seem too upset after his team’s 67-64 loss to Michigan State last night in the Champions Classic, but he told KUSports.com that it will be a while before the Jayhawks are mentally tough and “learn to compete.” He’s right. This wasn’t a 34-point loss like what West Virginia suffered at Gonzaga late Monday night. There weren’t any demoralizing aspects to last night’s game. Kansas is young. “Green and naive,” Self called his freshmen. And there will be a few more of these close losses throughout the non-conference season as Kansas preps for another Big 12 championship run. A bright spot in the loss was the solid game from redshirt freshman Ben McLemore, who had 14 points on 5-7 shooting. His athleticism and three-point shooting will be key for the Jayhawks’ development this year.
  3. Former Iowa State forward Royce White has the talent to make a nice living in the NBA, but his battle with anxiety might be derailing that career before he signs another contract. White’s fear of flying has been well noted by now. He missed parts of the Rockets training camp this season after missing flights, eventually figuring out a travel plan with the team that would allow him to bus to away games when practical. Monday, White skipped his team’s game against the Miami Heat and was absent from Tuesday’s practice as well after the team planned to send him down to the D-League. Today, White released a statement. Part of it reads, “As a rookie, I want to settle into a team and make progress; but since preseason the Rockets have been inconsistent with their agreement to proactively create a healthy and successful relationship. He later added this on twitter. Pardon me for not feeling bad for Royce White and his anxiety. Nobody forced him to sign a contract requiring him to travel across the country for seven months out of the year. If his fear of flying is as detrimental to his health as he says, he should have no problem giving back his NBA money and working at Sears instead. Otherwise, he should do his job.
  4. Kansas State finalized its trip to New York City for the Preseason NIT after dismantling Alabama-Huntsville Tuesday in Bramlage Coliseum, 87-26. The Wildcats will play next Wednesday in New York against Delaware, following the Blue Hens’ upset at Virginia last night. A win would put Kansas State in the championship game Friday night against what will be Pittsburgh or Michigan. The two-game trip could be a great experience for a Wildcat team still learning to play in Bruce Weber’s new system. With talented upperclassmen like Jordan Henriquez and Rodney McGruder back on board, getting acclimated with Weber is the only obstacle to another NCAA Tournament appearance for K-State.
  5. Jeff Goodman of CBSSports talked about ranked teams with point guard issues this season, and Kansas and its senior guard Elijah Johnson made the list. Johnson has played off the ball in his first three years with the Jayhawks as Tyshawn Taylor ran the show. Now there’s no one else but Johnson to fill that role. He struggled in KU’s opener against Southeast Missouri State, going 1-5 from the field with just four points and one assist. In Tuesday’s 67-64 loss to Michigan State he was much improved, finishing with 16 points along with a solid floor game (four rebounds, three steals). He added just two assists, though, and it’s clear he’s not a stereotypical point guard. With so many freshman on the roster, that might not be the best thing for this year’s team. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Goodman recognized a handful of other teams with solid point guard play and didn’t take long to mention Baylor’s Pierre Jackson, who is averaging 19.5 PPG and 9.5 APG through two games.
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Set Your DVR: Week of 11.12.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 12th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The first full week of the college hoops season provides us several excellent non-conference match-ups between the true blue bloods of the sport, as well as a first glimpse at some of the mid-majors we may be hearing from in March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#2 Kentucky vs. #9 Duke – 9:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

Nerlens Noel needs to step-up his offensive game against the Duke Blue Devils

  • Duke took care of business in last Friday’s opening game against Georgia State. Because of the the level of competition, the first game does not give us too much insight into the 2012-13 version of the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad shot and rebounded well, but they were expected to against the Panthers. Mason Plumlee leads the way for Duke and his match-up against the Kentucky front line should be a key factor on Tuesday. The Wildcats can throw Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel at the Duke big man. While Maryland forward Alex Len was able to have a big game against these four, look for Kentucky coach John Calipari to make major adjustments to stop Plumlee. Duke senior Ryan Kelly needs to step-up to help Plumlee, particularly on the offensive glass where Duke struggled a bit in their first game. Also, keep an eye on Duke’s turnover numbers. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions against Georgia State. Neither Seth Curry, Tyler Thornton, or Quinn Cook had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in the first game. Continued turnovers will come back to bite the Blue Devils against better competition.
  • Kentucky gets its second ACC team of the season, but now it’s the cream of the crop in the Blue Devils. UK’s freshmen performed reasonably well in their first game but need to put together a full 40 minutes of effective basketball. Maryland was down by double figures in the first half of their first game last week but was able to make the game very tight by the end. Freshman guard Archie Goodwin put together a solid game against the Terps with 16 points, but highly touted freshman center Noel looked lost on offense. Pay close attention to how the freshmen play in the second half in this one. Interestingly enough, Kentucky played very good team defense even with so many freshmen. Typically, defensive skills take longer to develop but the Wildcats held Maryland to a 35% eFG, including 3-19 from three-point land. Duke is a three-heavy team, so watch to see how the Blue Devils fare against a tough perimeter defense.
  • Kentucky is going to need more of their freshmen to step up on offense, if they want to beat the Blue Devils. Wiltjer carried them in the first game and is as smooth as they come on the offensive end, but they need additional offensive support. Watch to see who among all the rookies is able to provide more offense. If Goodwin can continue to provide punch and they can get double figure points from one other freshman, Kentucky can win this game. Duke needs to limit turnovers and get scoring and rebounding from Ryan Kelly. He is very capable on the offensive end but needs to be more aggressive.

More Great Hoops

#8 Michigan St. vs. #4 Kansas – 7:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

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Big 12 Team Preview #1: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 9th, 2012

Over the last two weeks, we have brought you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. We finish up our segment with Kansas at the #1 position on our list.

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 32-7, 16-2 Big 12
  • Key contributors lost: G Tyshawn Taylor, F Thomas Robinson
  • Head coach: Bill Self, 10th season
  • Projected finish: 1st

Bill Self is Looking for His Ninth Consecutive Big 12 Championship (AP)

Players change, expectations don’t. That’s what Bill Self has been telling people about coaching and playing at Kansas for at least the past few seasons. It’s not meant in a negative light, even though if it was, Self would have no one to blame but himself. What else do you expect when you give one of the most rabid fanbases in the country, at perhaps the most tradition rich school in the country, winning season after winning season? In the last six years, Kansas has more victories (197) than any school over a six-year stretch in history. That stat was largely unknown until C.J. Moore of CBSSports reported it during last season’s NCAA Tournament run. In the era of 1-and-done players and a good amount of parity, Self’s run has been remarkable.

Three things have helped him remain great in that time:

  1. Allen Fieldhouse. Losses to Texas A&M in 2006-07 and Texas last year are the only home losses for Kansas the last six seasons.
  2. Great players. From Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush to Sherron Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, and Thomas Robinson. Self has great players coming to Lawrence nearly every season, and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins has noticed. “He’s a great coach. Of course, having all those players don’t hurt either,” Bob Huggins joked at Big 12 Media Day. “Just in case you were wondering, that doesn’t hurt.”
  3. Managing roster turnover. Building a team from a recruiting class into a championship contender is hard enough, no matter how many stars the players received in high school. But doing it multiple times without missing a beat is a whole different challenge.

Self calls it “bridging the gap.” Read the rest of this entry »

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