Big 12 Bubble Watch: Texas is Here to Stay

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 23rd, 2014

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

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

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

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

In Very Good Shape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WINNER: Indiana

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

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

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

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

LOSER: Iowa State

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

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Big 12 M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 17th, 2014

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  1. One story flying slightly under the radar has been the saga of Iowa State guard Bubu Palo, and boy is it complicated. Everything started in September 2012, when Palo was charged with second-degree sexual abuse stemming from an incident earlier that year. At that time, he was suspended from the team, but when the charges were dropped last January, Palo was reinstated and played in the team’s final 17 games. At the time of the original charge, a complaint was also filed in ISU’s Office of Judicial Affairs, but that was dropped in April 2013. ISU President Steven Leath then overturned the decision, however, and Palo was dismissed from the team. Ever since Leath’s overruling, Palo and his attorney have fought for his reinstatement, and on Thursday, a Webster County judge lifted the sanction against Palo, ostensibly paving the way for his return to the team. As you can probably tell, though, Iowa State’s brass from Leath to AD Jamie Pollard to head coach Fred Hoiberg are not pleased with the judge’s decision. Technically, Palo is now a member of the Cyclones, but he won’t be accompanying the team on its road trip to Texas this weekend. It’s hard to picture the whole situation being anything but horribly awkward.
  2. Tomorrow, Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State return to the scene of last season’s win at Allen Fieldhouse. We’ll have more coverage on the Big 12’s marquee match-up later today, but suffice it to say that it’s a big one for the Cowboys and their chances of dethroning Kansas atop the conference. A loss would drop the Cowboys two games in the loss column, while a win would draw the teams even at the top with Oklahoma State getting a chance for the sweep at home when the Jayhawks pay a visit to Gallagher-Iba Arena on March 1.
  3. Cameron Clark has been terrific for Oklahoma this season, but Wednesday’s loss to Kansas State exposed the fact that he needs to find other ways to help the Sooners when his shot isn’t falling. Oklahoma’s defense could use plenty of work and is undoubtedly an area where Clark would give the team a lift if he can improve on that end. If he, along with the rest of the team, steps up, it will go a long way towards securing a second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.
  4. Earlier this week, we touched on the potential of Kansas basketball players getting some nice new digs. On Wednesday, the Kansas Board of Regents approved plans for a $17.5 million apartment complex that will house as many as 32 men’s and women’s basketball players in addition to traditional students (as per NCAA bylaws). When completed for the 2016-17 school year, the facilities will give the Jayhawks a leg up on their competitors on the recruiting trail.
  5. It would be an understatement to say that this season has not gone as West Virginia planned. Guard Eron Harris‘ play has been emblematic of his team’s struggles, hitting just 13-of-37 shots over the Mountaineers’ last three games. With a 10-7 record and a resume bereft of any impressive victories, West Virginia’s NCAA Tournament hopes could be on life support. For their sake, hopefully the worst is behind Harris and the rest of the Mountaineers, as we’re just not used to seeing Bob Huggins-coached teams struggle like this for extended periods of time.
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Big 12 M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 15th, 2014

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  1. Kyle Ringo of The Dagger writes that Kansas is rounding into form, and after Monday’s takedown of Iowa State despite 24 turnovers, it’s hard to deny that the Jayhawks are beginning to click. It feels like we’ve all seen this movie before: Kansas stumbles just enough in the early going for many among the media to ponder whether this will finally be the year that someone else takes the Big 12, only for Bill Self and company to knock some sense into all of us by MLK Day. We may be just two weeks into conference play, but the Jayhawks appear to be showing all the doubters why they continue to receive the benefit of the doubt when it comes to predicting the Big 12’s pecking order.
  2. Tying up one final loose end from Monday’s marquee battle, Sports Illustrated‘s Brian Hamilton contends that Iowa State needs to improve its shooting if it wants to stay in contention. Based on the Cyclones’ 31.4 percent performance from the floor, it’s reasonable to come to that conclusion, but it also makes sense to simply chalk up their bad shooting night to a sterling defensive effort on the part of the Jayhawks. It would be helpful if ISU could challenge more shots in the paint, but since it isn’t realistic to expect Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang to sprout four inches overnight, Fred Hoiberg will have to rely on what he has it his disposal, which, as a reminder, isn’t so bad.
  3. Yesterday, we talked about Kansas State needing to keep Cameron Clark from going off on Wednesday, and judging by Clark’s 1-of-9 evening at Bramlage Coliseum (and a 72-66 victory for the Wildcats), it’s safe to say that Bruce Weber’s team executed its game plan to perfection. The win was an important one for K-State, in need of a bounceback win over a fellow bubble team after the beating handed down by the Jayhawks on Saturday. Somewhat suddenly, the Wildcats find themselves at 3-1 in conference play with a pair of very winnable games (vs. West Virginia and at Texas) coming up next.
  4. It may be hard to tell due to TCU‘s health problems, but the Horned Frogs are improving, according to the Star-Telegram’s Stefan Stevenson. While season-ending injuries to Devonta Abron and Aaron Durley have kept TCU from reaching its potential, they aren’t of much solace to head coach Trent Johnson. Still, there are silver linings in Amric Fields and Jarvis Ray’s development, and Kyan Anderson is an under-the-radar point guard. While no one expects them to beat Oklahoma State tonight, it will be interesting to see whether the Horned Frogs can make it somewhat competitive.
  5. Lastly, Baylor‘s athletic department will host a rally tomorrow in support of both its nationally-ranked basketball teams. As part of the festivities, the general public is encouraged to bring new or gently-used coats to donate to local homeless shelters, and Whataburger will provide nourishment to students. Hey, anytime we can plug a charity effort while buzz-marketing a regional fast food chain, we have to do it.
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Three Thoughts on Kansas’ Big Win Over Iowa State Monday Night

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 14th, 2014

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

Joel Embiid dominated in the second half against Iowa State.

Joel Embiid dominated in the second half against Iowa State.

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

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

Posted by Taylor Erickson and Brian Goodman on January 13th, 2014

If the thrilling battles between Kansas and Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum over the last few seasons are any indication, the Jayhawks might have found themselves a rivalry replacement in the wake of Missouri’s departure to the SEC. Whether you want to talk about Fred Hoiberg‘s rapid rise among the coaching ranks, Bill Self finding himself face-to-face with an amped-up Cyclones fan, or several controversial calls, the reality is that this match-up has never failed to deliver over the past few seasons. The latest installment comes tonight as the Cyclones may need to rely on Hilton Magic with its star player DeAndre Kane banged up or otherwise unavailable (he is listed as a game-time decision). Big 12 microsite writers Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Taylor Erickson (@tc_erickson) take a look at the key storylines going into tonight’s headliner.

Can Iowa State win without DeAndre Kane? We may find out tonight. (USA Today)

Can Iowa State win without DeAndre Kane? We may find out tonight. (USA TODAY Sports)

Taylor Erickson: Brian, I’ve got to start with perhaps the biggest story line from Saturday’s action in college basketball – the status of DeAndre Kane. Early reports suggested that Kane suffered a lateral sprain and would give it a go tonight against Kansas. If Kane can’t go or isn’t at 100 percent, how big of an impact does this have on this match-up?

Brian Goodman: It’s crazy to think that before the season, no one was really sure what Kane would provide to Fred Hoiberg; but now, he’s viewed as one of the best players in college basketball and has played such an integral part of the Cyclones’ attack that his availability could tip the scales in either direction. If he can play at anywhere close to full strength, Iowa State fans will breathe a big sigh of relief because a healthy Kane can really exploit one of the biggest question marks for Kansas (the backcourt’s shaky defense). Naadir Tharpe and Wayne Selden have been terrific offensively lately, but they still have a long ways to go to satisfy Bill Self in terms of stopping players on the other end. If Kane is limited, though, look for Hoiberg to turn to Monte Morris, who isn’t the all-around threat of Kane but can create for others and score a little bit himself. It’s also worth pointing out that it’s been exactly one month since Morris committed his last turnover at home. As I mentioned earlier, there’s the matter of Kansas’ backcourt showing some defensive lapses. Regardless of whether Kane can go tonight, what do you make of the Jayhawks’ chances to contain Iowa State’s attack?

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VII

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 8th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball. 

Baylor Fails To Live Up To The Hype

When I saw the national polls come out this week I was stunned to see Baylor ranked No. 7. Yes, the Bears were 12-1 heading into last night’s Big 12 opener at Iowa State, but I was surprised more pollsters were not able to see through their smoke and mirrors. I rated Baylor No. 19 in the latest RTC Top 25 and thought it was generous given its resume. Of the team’s 12 wins, just three have been quality: Two came in Dallas against Colorado and Kentucky (certainly very fine wins) and one in Maui against Dayton. In other words, Baylor had yet to beat a great team away from home and last night’s game was actually its first true road contest of the season. Scott Drew’s team didn’t exactly validate its lofty ranking after being torched in the second half at Hilton Coliseum last night. BU’s interior defense, normally a strength, was horrendous against the Cyclones, particularly in transition. It almost seems as if Baylor was unprepared for Iowa State’s up-tempo style of basketball. Baylor is not a bad team by any stretch but there just isn’t enough consistency from game to game to warrant such a high ranking. The Bears do a lot of things well and a handful of things poorly. That keeps their ceiling low, despite a ton of talent on the roster.

Kenny Chery and Baylor have some shortcomings to address

Kenny Chery and Baylor have some shortcomings to address

Iowa State is For Real, But Just How Good are the Cyclones?

Speaking of Iowa State, how about the job Fred Hoiberg has done in Ames? In only his fourth year he has made his alma mater relevant in leading it to a top 10 ranking this week. The Cyclones are legitimate and DeAndre Kane is a big reason why. The Marshall transfer is making the most of his one year in Ames as one of the country’s best all-around players. After a season-high 30 points against Baylor last night, Kane seems to be getting even better. Hoiberg really can’t ask for much more from a senior who can run the team, rebound and score efficiently. Iowa State is obviously terrific at home but I would like to see this team perform on the road against better competition before I fully buy in. Don’t get me wrong, the Cyclones are a sure fire top 20 team in my view. However, their toughest road test to date was against a 9-7 BYU team in Provo. With five of their next nine games on the road, the Cyclones will be challenged in a big way against the likes of Kansas and Oklahoma State, as well as upstarts Texas and Oklahoma. While I believe Iowa State is very good, we will know a heck of a lot more about it when the calendar flips to February.

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Four Takeaways From Iowa State’s Win Over Baylor

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 7th, 2014

If you are just now turning your attention to college basketball, you can thank the Big 12 scheduling committee for throwing you a bone. One day after both teams moved into the top ten of the AP Poll (not ours, which as you saw tonight was more accurate), Baylor met Iowa State in Ames, with the Cyclones pulling away in the second half for a resounding 87-72 win in Hilton Coliseum. If you didn’t catch it, however, we have you covered with four key takeaways:

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn't need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn’t need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

  1. Welcome to the national spotlight, DeAndre Kane: The graduate transfer from Marshall has been terrific all season, but he completely outdid himself Tuesday night scoring 30 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out nine assists. Oh, he also had five steals. Kane excelled at picking his spots to drive right to the hoop, stop on a dime and pass, or pull up from three as well as regularly beating the Bears down the floor in transition. With conference play revving up in earnest, he is going to start gathering a lot of headlines, so be sure to tune in when the Cyclones hit the floor over the next two months. Read the rest of this entry »
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Award Tour: Four New Players Enter the NPOY Discussion

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 3rd, 2014

AwardTour

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

College basketball is chock-full of star players on the verge of making these Player of the Year rankings. Wichita State’s Ron Baker and North Carolina’s Marcus Paige dropped out, but not by their own faults. Michigan State’s Keith Appling and Florida’s Casey Prather have simply had better seasons to this point. Massachusetts point guard Chaz Williams was once as high as No. 4 in the rankings, but several poor performances have dropped him straight out of the top 10. Meanwhile, Kansas has two players, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, who could go No. 1 in the NBA Draft, but neither has yet to crack the list. The Pac-12 may have only one elite team this season, but it is loaded with top players like Arizona’s Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, and UCLA’s duo of Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – none of whom are on this week’s list either. So who made it? Let’s get to this week’s post-holiday list.

Player of the Year

10. Keith Appling – Michigan State. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 15.8 PPG, 4.8 APG, 121.9 oRTG

Keith Appling Breaks Into the NPOY Discussion This Week.

Keith Appling Breaks Into the NPOY Discussion This Week.

NBCSports.com‘s Rob Dauster put together a handy little chart comparing all of the nation’s elite point guards. What did he find? Under these parameters, Keith Appling is the No. 1 high-profile point guard in the country.

via NBCSports.com

You can see the rest of the chart here. When you factor in the points Appling scores per possession and the points he creates per assist, he ranks better than Tyler Ennis, Shabazz Napier, Chaz Williams, Marcus Smart and Russ Smith. The biggest knock against Appling remains his inconsistency in Michigan State’s biggest games.

9. Casey Prather – Florida. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 121.9 oRTG

After three seasons without much of a role at Florida, Casey Prather has developed into one of the best players in the SEC. He’s nearly tripled his point production (6.2 PPG to 17.8 PPG) thanks to an increase in minutes (33 percent to 74 percent of Florida’s game time) and usage (19.5 percent to 28.1 percent).

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Big 12 Midseason Merits and Demerits

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2014

It’s crazy to think that the season is already nearly halfway over. Over the last two months, the Big 12 had a terrific non-conference run. The league notched wins over the likes of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Memphis, Iowa, Michigan and Gonzaga; the conference proved that it has its share of individual stars beyond Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins, viewed as the toasts of the league back in November; and an argument can be made rather easily that the Big 12 is the best league in the country (or at least has had the best run to date). With league play tipping off tomorrow, it’s time for the Big 12 microsite contributors to take a look back and hand out some accolades, as well as shine a light on a some players and coaches from whom we expected a little more in the season’s first two months.

Player Of The Year

Marcus Smart headlines a long list of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Marcus Smart headlines a deep roster of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today)

  • Kory CarpenterMelvin Ejim, Iowa State: Ejim is third in the conference in scoring with 17.2 points per game and is fifth in field goal percentage, making 52.5 percent of his shots. He nearly averages a double-double as well, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game.
  • Taylor EricksonMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State – Smart has cooled off a bit recently after averaging over 31 points per game during a three-game stretch earlier in the season, but this award appears to be his to lose heading into Big 12 play. The conference slate should provide plenty of high-profile games that will undoubtedly deliver some great individual performances, allowing us to more confidently identify the league’s best player. Andrew Wiggins has been good, but for the time being, he hasn’t done enough to knock Smart from his perch.
  • Brian GoodmanMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State - Overall, Smart’s efficiency numbers have improved, and he’s still playing defense at a very high level. The Big 12 is as well-stocked with talent as any conference in the country, and Smart has produced the most for his team. That being said, the book on him is out. Whether he can score from outside when teams take away the paint could be the deciding factor for his POY candidacy.

Coach of The Year

  • BGFred Hoiberg – After the Cyclones outperformed expectations the last two years, Big 12 coaches vowed to stop sleeping on Iowa State, tabbing ISU to finish fourth in the annual preseason poll. As it turns out, even that may have been too low. Right now, the Cyclones are no worse than the third-best team in the conference, and Oklahoma State’s personnel issues could give ISU an opening to climb even higher.
  • TEFred Hoiberg – All Hoiberg has done is taken a team that lost several top scorers from a season ago and turned that into a 12-0 start to the college basketball season. Iowa State has three players averaging over 15 points per game, and it became the first school in league history to have five different players win player of the week honors.

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Big 12 M5: 12.27.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 27th, 2013

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  1. A quick look at Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, and you’d find Kansas at #13 nationally, which makes sense given how Bill Self’s teams usually guard. If you really dig into the numbers like Jesse Newel of the Topeka Capitol-Journal did, though, you would find that Kansas ranks sixth in the nation in free throw defense. Anyone familiar with college basketball would quickly recognize that there’s really no such thing, as the metric is more or less determined by how well opponents shoot from the free throw line. So far, Kansas opponents have made only 62.0 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe versus the NCAA average of 69.3 percent. So perhaps Self and company have been a bit lucky so far this season as they continue to work to mold a young squad into the defensive team (beyond the free throw line) we’re used to seeing.
  2. Iowa State continued its hot play during the non-conference portion of its schedule after beating Boise State in the Diamond Head Classic title game in Hawaii on Christmas night. The showing in this tournament further cements the Cyclones’ spot among the nation’s best teams, bumping their RPI to fourth best in the NCAA. What this win also also does, as Randy Peterson explains, is to continue the discussion regarding Fred Hoiberg‘s future as a coaching candidate for many NBA positions. It’s obvious Hoiberg is a star in Ames, but fans should enjoy the time he’s around because it’s hard to foresee a lucky GM eventually luring in The Mayor.
  3. After struggling to a 13-19 record in their first Big 12 season a year ago, there was optimism among West Virginia fans that this year’s squad would be much improved. Through 12 games, however, Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers have the exact same record (7-5) as they did through 12 games last season. The difference this year is that most observers feel that this team is much closer to turning the corner and becoming a contender for a postseason spot. That feeling is shared by sophomore guard Eron Harris, who says Huggins’ coaching staff has been easier on the team as they too see how close this team is to putting it all together.
  4. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown might be one of the best-kept secrets in college basketball. On Monday, Brown was honored as the Big 12 player of the week, averaging 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in wins over Delaware State and Colorado. For the season, Brown is averaging 16.3 points per game with a sterling offensive rating of 131.1 (54th nationally), and at this rate will make it extremely difficult to keep off the All-Big 12 first team.
  5. While Kansas continues to be the favorite of most to win the Big 12 regular season title, they certainly won’t be without their fair share of opponents challenging for their claim to the league title. As Raphielle Johnson of NBCSports.com points out, Baylor and Iowa State paired with Oklahoma State creates some serious competition along with the Jayhawks at the top. Even the middle tier of the league – teams like Texas, Kansas State, and Oklahoma – appeared to be a bit down coming into this season but have certainly shown that they should not be taken lightly during league play. In the first few months of the season, the Big 12 has made a statement as one of the best conferences in college basketball.
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Key Questions to Answer in Advance of the Iowa-Iowa St. Matchup

Posted by Brendan Brody & Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2013

One of the best games of the weekend should take place in Ames, Iowa, on Friday night, as Iowa State hosts Iowa for state bragging rights. Big Ten correspondent Brendan Brody and the Big 12’s Brian Goodman decided to address some key questions heading into the contest in the hopes of providing some insights for the viewers to watch for as the game plays out.

Roy Devyn Marble will play a vital role if the Hawkeyes want to pull off a road upset against Iowa State Friday night (Joe Camporeale, USA Today Sports).

Roy Devyn Marble will play a vital role if the Hawkeyes want to pull off a road upset against Iowa State Friday night (Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports).

B12: Iowa State has risen to the Top 25 and is getting contributions from a number of players, but what is Iowa’s best bet to contain the three-headed monster of Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, and DeAndre Kane?

B1G: The best way that Iowa can do this is to force turnovers and bad shots with their diamond press that they employ on a good number of possessions. Aaron White and Mike Gesell are the key defensive players here, with White’s length a problem for Iowa State at the head of the press. Gesell harassed Farleigh Dickinson’s best guard, Sidney Sanders, into a 5-of-17, four-turnover evening recently, so look for him to start off on Kane to try to force similar results. Another advantage the Hawkeyes have is strength in numbers. They have multiple players who they can rotate in and out to cover each of the Cyclones’ Big Three. Speaking of which, Iowa has one of the deepest teams in the country, with 10 players averaging over 15 MPG. How can the Cyclones negate this Iowa advantage?

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