Big 12 M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 19th, 2013

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  1. Iowa State senior Melvin Ejim and Kansas underclassmen Perry Ellis and Andrew Wiggins earned Big 12 weekly honors, which were announced on Monday. Ellis, a sophomore forward, scored 24 points in last week’s win against Duke. Wiggins was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after finishing with 22 points against Duke. Ejim, a senior forward, made his season debut against #7 Michigan Sunday afternoon and led all scorers with 22 points and nine rebounds.
  2. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg couldn’t have asked for a better visit from Rivals.com’s #7 overall player Rashad Vaughn last weekend. It was capped with an impressive 77-70 win over #7 Michigan Sunday afternoon in Hilton Coliseum. Vaughn told Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register that the relationships he builds with coaches and schools will be a big factor in his recruitment, and the fact that Hoiberg played major college ball seems to be a positive for the Cyclones. Vaughn has offers from fellow Big 12 schools Baylor and Kansas as well as North Carolina and a handful of others. For the Big 12’s sake, Vaughn moving to Ames would be great for the league.
  3. Bill Self didn’t expect his team to jump Louisville for the #2 spot in this week’s AP poll, less than a week after knocking off #4 Duke in Chicago. “That doesn’t make any sense to me,” he told the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd Monday. Actually, it makes plenty of sense. The only thing worse than preseason rankings is voters hesitating to move teams down just because they won. National rankings should be based on resumes, not how your ballot looked last week. If Kansas has a better resume than Louisville when the ballot is due, the Jayhawks should be ahead of them.
  4. Oklahoma signed three recruits on signing day last week and as Ryan Aber points out, head coach Lon Kruger filled the holes he needed to fill to keep the momentum going around the Sooner basketball program. Two of the players, Dante Buford and Khadeem Lattin, are in the Rivals Top 150 for the class of 2014 and both players should make immediate impacts in the front court for the Sooners next season as freshmen.
  5. If West Virginia plans on bouncing back after last season’s forgettable showing, Eron Harris and Juwan Staten will have to play big roles offensively. They did just that on Sunday in a 96-83 win over Duquesne in Morgantown. The defense left a lot to be desired, but 61 combined points from Harris and Staten was more than enough for the Mountaineers. As Staten told Garrett Cullen here, the new hand checking rules should help both players immensely this season.
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Big 12 M5: 11.05.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 5th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. On Monday the Associated Press released its All-America team and the only player who received a unanimous selection was Marcus Smart of Oklahoma StateKansas superfrosh Andrew Wiggins was also named to the team, along with Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Louisville’s Russ Smith and Michigan’s Mitch McGary. I’m afraid people who don’t follow college hoops might get the wrong idea based on this preseason All-America team. They might look at the list and think, ‘Gee whiz, that Big 12 is really stacked this season,’ when the reality is that teams ranked below the top three face a multitude of questions marks. I guess the upside is that they will be tricked into watching more Big 12 basketball than they normally would. That doesn’t sound too bad, right?
  2. No Ejim, no problem for Iowa State in its exhibition win on Monday night. The Cyclones throttled Augustana (SD) by a score of 90-68 as DeAndre Kane picked up the double-double duties in the absence of Melvin Ejim. Kane shot a crisp 6-of-8 from the field for 19 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Matt Thomas, one of the team’s two four-star freshman recruits, nailed 3-of-4 from three-point range and piled up 16 points. Sophomore Georges Niang struggled from the floor in missing 10 shots, including all four three-pointers, while managing to score 10, grab seven boards, and dish out a team-high six assists. You’re encouraged by the offensive output if you’re Fred Hoiberg but still, he’d prefer to have a healthy Ejim out there just like the rest of us.
  3. In slightly less encouraging exhibition newsOklahoma trailed at the half, 41-38, in its game against Oklahoma Christian but managed to win going away, 88-76. Sophomore guard Buddy Hield has battled foot problems dating back to late last season but appeared to be in full health, scoring 19 of his 29 points in the Sooners’ second half comeback. Freshman Jordan Woodard scored 17 points while also dropping six dimes and pulling down five rebounds. The team OU struggled with is a Division I member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA for short). That’s right. Imagine what would happen if the Sooners played an actual member of the NCAA. Who do they play in their first game? Alabama? On Friday? Oh… that’s not good.
  4. While coaches around the country continue to voice displeasure with the way referees will call fouls this season, there is one coach out there who might not have that big of a beef with it. That man might be Bob Huggins, who coached his Mountaineers to an 89-70 exhibition win over Fairmont State on Monday night. WVU made 37 of its 54 free throw attempts, and last year’s leading scorer Eron Harris hit 15 of them to help him reach 30 points for the game. But don’t let the 89 points fool you: The Mountaineers were able to make 20-of-49 field goal attempts so it appears their shooting problem from last season might creep up again. WVU’s 54 free throws combined with Fairmont State’s 28 gave us 82 total. In an exhibition game. You would have to be a special kind of person to sit through a game like that.
  5. Texas made news on the recruiting trail Monday with junior college power forward Obinna Oleka committing to the Longhorns. Brad Winton of JucoRecruiting.com reported the State College of Florida prospect chose Texas over Charlotte, Old Dominion, Southern Miss and South Florida. I know talent can come from anywhere, but I didn’t think I’d see a day where a name brand like Texas would be getting players who would otherwise go to places like Old Dominion or South Florida. Are the days of chasing talent that Kentucky, Florida or Kansas also want long gone for the Longhorns? Odd times in Austin for sure.
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Big 12 Team Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 4th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: West Virginia. 

Where We Left Off: We left off with a year West Virginia hadn’t experienced since legendary coach Gale Catlett’s 8-20 nightmare of a season in 2001-02. While last season’s edition of the Mountaineers won 13 games overall, it felt like eight games considering the success the program had achieved over the past decade. Kevin Jones and Darryl “Truck” Bryant, two integral pieces of the school’s run to the Final Four in 2010, graduated after the 2011-12 season and it seemed their leadership on the court left as well. The responsibility of team leaders fell on the broad shoulders of upperclassmen Deniz Kilicli and Aaric Murray, but their combined struggles on and off the floor set an ominous tone for a team that couldn’t seem to straighten themselves out. The .462 winning percentage in 2012-13 was the worst ever at the Division I level for WVU alumnus Bob Huggins.

I'm sure Bob Huggins would like to smile a bit more in 2013-14. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

I’m sure Bob Huggins would like to smile a bit more in 2013-14. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Positives: One big problem for WVU last season was scoring, but three of the team’s top five scorers are back for another season. Eron Harris was a precocious freshman who didn’t see consistent playing time until conference play, but when he did play he took advantage of the opportunity, leading the team in scoring at a modest 9.8 points per game. The pressure will be on the sophomore Harris to become this year’s go-to scorer. Terry Henderson is back for his sophomore season as well after developing into a threat from behind the arc last season (40%). More will also be asked of Juwan Staten, who transferred over from Dayton last season and now assumes the responsibility as the team’s starting point guard and defensive leader. Another positive is for Bob Huggins to start fresh this season. The leaders of the team are mostly sophomores and juniors, and if you’re a guy with the pedigree of Huggins, you’ve got to feel better about your team winning more than 13 games this time around.

NegativesAnd yet as I make that point about the underclassmen, that could be his team’s eventual undoing. There isn’t a single senior listed on the roster and two of the five juniors are JuCo transfers. How will this young core deal with adversity? While Murray and Kilicli may have disappointed in their WVU careers, at least they were somewhat intimidating forces in the interior. Their departures leaves a gap that could be filled with an unknown commodity in JuCo transfer Jonathan Holton. He had solid numbers as a freshman at Rhode Island, averaging 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds, followed by 17.5 points and 14.1 rebounds per game while shooting 39.6% from three-point range at Palm Beach State Community College (FL) last season. But that sure is a lot to expect from one guy needing to replace the production of two players.

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Big 12 M5: 10.17.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 17th, 2013

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  1. As we mentioned earlier this week, Kansas will hold an open scrimmage this Saturday, but one new development is that the Jayhawks will have a couple VIPs in attendance. According to The Kansas City Star’s Rustin DoddJahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, two of the top five prospects in the class of 2014, will check out the scrimmage as part of their official visits. Okafor, a center, wowed scouts and writers over the summer with his advanced footwork and fundamentals, while Jones is considered among the top point guards in the class by several recruiting services. The two have long been rumored to be a package deal, and when one of the nation’s best coaches schedules an open scrimmage that just so happens to fall during your visit, you know things are getting serious. The event will also be a nice chance for the many KU fans who were shut out of “Late Night At The Phog” to get a look at their favorite team.
  2. West Virginia will also debut its squad in front of a home crowd this weekend. The Mountaineers may not be a factor in this year’s Big 12 race, but with many new faces coming in, fans will have a chance to get acquainted tomorrow night. This season’s team figures to be very perimeter-oriented, although not to the extremes of Huggins’ 2006-08 WVU squads. Eron Harris and Terry Henderson combined to shoot 37% from distance on 231 attempts last season, Gary Browne will look to improve on his frosty 20.4% clip from last season, and 6’10” Kevin Noreen will also step out from time to time.
  3. The Big 12 coaches slotted Kansas State fifth in their preseason poll last week, and while that’s a respectable goal after losing three core players from a conference championship team, the Wildcats will need seniors Will Spradling and Shane Southwell to become vocal leaders if they are to realize their potential. Both Spradling and Southwell held supporting roles in the past, opting to let their play speak for itself, but their performance will be especially important on a team that’s lacking in post depth and bringing in five freshmen.
  4. CBS Sports contributor and friend of RTC Jon Rothstein spent some time with Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg on Wednesday. The Cyclones will pester opposing defenses with big, versatile shooters like Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim, but the piecemeal backcourt of Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, freshman Monte’ Morris and JuCo transfer K.J. Bluford shouldn’t be trifled with, either. We’re not sure if the Cyclones’ offensive production will match last season’s performance, which landed them sixth in the country in offensive efficiency, but we can’t rule it out, either. This unit will score, but improvement on defense is imperative if Iowa State is to crash Kansas and Oklahoma State’s party at the top of the standings.
  5. While we’ll be keeping very close watch on Marcus Smart, it can be easy to lose sight of the benefits his presence will bring to Oklahoma State‘s future. The attention Smart has brought the OSU program has already yielded one ESPN Top 100 recruit in Jared Terrell, and recent commitment Mitch Solomon could find himself on that list with a good senior season. Additionally, Oklahoma State remains in the hunt for big fish such as Myles Turner and Devin Robinson. There are certainly other factors at work, but it’s nearly impossible to argue that Smart’s play last season and his surprising decision to stay in Stillwater have given the program a level of exposure it wouldn’t otherwise have seen.
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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 M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 20th, 2013

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  1. Thank God it’s Wednesday because on paper, Tuesday gave us an undesirable match-up between bottom-feeders Texas and TCU. Surprisingly enough, it was a pretty good game. Texas came into the contest shooting 40% from the field as a team while committing more turnovers per game (15.5 TOPG) than anyone in the Big 12. Last night the Longhorns shot better than 50% and turned it over just eight times. It’s a night like this that accentuates the importance of a player like Myck Kabongo (seven assists, two turnovers), who played only his third game of the season. Even TCU (13.7 TOPG) had nine TOs in a losing effort. There’s a lesson to be learned from this: You shouldn’t judge a game by the teams playing in it.
  2. This year’s Oklahoma State squad is different than the ones in the recent past. Yes Marcus Smart has something to do with it but much of the Cowboys’ success has relied on winning close games. Four of their games in the current seven-game winning streak have come against probable NCAA Tournament teams and were all won by five points or fewer. How does that compare to years past? In games decided by four points or fewer, OSU went 4-3 in 2011-12 and 5-5 in 2010-11. That’s a good way to separate the men from the boys.
  3. The biggest game on Wednesday night may not be in Stillwater. Baylor and Iowa State are playing for the second time this season with major bubble implications. There’s a lot of talent on both sides but neither team has been able to put it together for an extended stretch. The Cyclones nicked the Bears by eight earlier in conference play, but while their tournament profiles are still lacking, a win in this game would go a long way.
  4. We got an unexpected storyline from Monday’s West Virginia-Kansas State game. Eron Harris, a freshman guard for WVU, was seen crying on the sidelines shortly after fouling out in just eight minutes of action. After checking back into the game, Harris had committed separate technical and personal fouls that sidelined him for the rest of the game. If there’s anything we know for sure, the young man plays with purpose. His increased playing time in conference play has shined a light on his abilities as a scorer. About him crying, wouldn’t you? Yeah it’s been a rough season but in Harris’ mind, he’s trying to do anything he can to come up with a W. So when he receives questionable foul calls and learns that his night is over before it really began, you’d feel helpless. Sometimes in life, people cry when they feel helpless. Nothing wrong with that. Oh, and it seems like he’s over it. 
  5. Not enough can be said about the job Lon Kruger has done this season. It takes a brave man to give his freshmen regular playing time with an already seasoned basketball team in place. Je’lon Hornbeak is an excellent example of this. Kruger took the point guard by trade and moved him out on the wing. So far, so good. Hornbeak is averaging 8.7 points per game in his last three contests since fellow freshman Buddy Hield went down with an injury. Once again: brave, unconventional. Kruger may be on his way to Big 12 Coach of the Year.
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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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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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