Big 12 M5: 01.15.16 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 15th, 2016

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  1. There will be a full slate of Big 12 action on Saturday, but the biggest game of the weekend will come between West Virginia and Oklahoma in Norman. After defeating #1 Kansas earlier this week, the Mountaineers will now have a chance to pick up a victory against the #2 team in the country and create some separation atop the Big 12 in the process. Road wins are tough to come by, but West Virginia’s high-pressure defense will put the Sooners to the test, especially if the Mountaineers can create transition opportunities from turnovers and avoid their very good half-court defense. Oklahoma has been decent in protecting the ball this season, though, and the Sooners have home court advantage. KenPom likes the Sooners to win by five.
  2. In the Cyclones’ four Big 12 games this season, Iowa State’s Monte Morris has played 98.2 percent of the team’s available minutes. As a result, the Ames Tribune’s Travis Hines asked Morris how he’s holding up. The junior point guard told the reporter that he’s “perfectly fine,” and as the article notes, his statistics reflect that. Morris ranks fifth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio after leading the country the last two seasons; his assist rate is also up and he’s converting a higher percentage of his two-point looks. The real question is how he will hold up later this season. At that thought, even he admits, “I know it’s going to take a toll on my body probably later in the season, but as of right now I’m fine.”
  3. Morris and 10 other Big 12 players received recognition from CBS Sports‘ Sam Vecenie in his Top 100 (and 1) college hoops players so far this season. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield snagged the top spot in large part because of his 50/50/90 shooting percentages, one that Vecenie notes is “basically something I can only imagine Stephen Curry doing.” That’s some pretty good company for the Sooners’ senior and clear NPOY candidate.
  4. Baseball historian and statistician Bill James received his undergraduate degree from Kansas in the 1970s and is an avid basketball fan. On Thursday, he wrote about his experience attending the Jayhawks’ instant classic against Oklahoma the week before. The piece is largely focused on the atmosphere inside of Allen Fieldhouse (outside of a paragraph-long rant on Perry Ellis) and the experience the atmosphere produced. James writes, “There are just moments in life when everything is what it can be, when the energies of nearly violent opposing forces align by accident with the balance and precision of a symphony. We were there to see one of them.”
  5. To that point, home court advantage might be more valuable in college basketball than it is in any other sport. Whether it’s the raucous environments’ effect on opposing players or officials, there are few sports where teams regularly rack up 30-game winning streaks on their home floors. For that reason, Ken Pomeroy has decided to update his scheduling page to reflect the importance of home court advantage in college basketball. In the process, he produced a critique of the much-maligned RPI. The RPI doesn’t include home court advantage in its calculations when determining the quality of a win, so Monmouth, for example, will not get credit for a top 50 win for its victory over UCLA when, in reality, that road win is the equivalent of one. Although Pomeroy doesn’t discuss it directly, perhaps factoring home court advantage into the RPI would be one way to encourage more true road games during non-conference play as those losses would no longer look as bad on a a team’s resume.
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Big 12 M5: 01.14.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2016

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  1. In a close call, Oklahoma escaped intrastate rival Oklahoma State with a 74-72 win in Stillwater Wednesday night. The Cowboys actually had a chance to win the game, but Jeffrey Carroll‘s buzzer-beating three off the glass was just a bit long. Buddy Hield did his thing in the first half, scoring 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, but his second half was a completely different story. The Pokes pressured him into just six points and six turnovers after intermission, and he finished with a career-worst ten, which allowed Oklahoma State to climb back in it after being down by as much as 16 points. Another big story for Oklahoma State was the play of Jawun Evans. The 2015 McDonald’s All-American shattered the school’s single-game freshman scoring record with 42 points, showing that he may be a guy around whom the Cowboys can build.
  2. Cheick Diallo‘s struggles to find consistent playing time for Kansas has SB Nation‘s Ricky O’Donnell wondering if Bill Self‘s focus on individual wins over long-term player development is hampering the team’s ceiling in more ways than one. The highly-touted freshman played just four minutes in Tuesday’s loss to West Virginia and hasn’t played more than six minutes in a game since December 29. As we’ve mentioned in this space, improved play from Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson, along with Diallo’s NCAA-mandated suspension, have made it a challenge for Self to find opportunities for his big man from Mali. It’s also important to bear in mind that with more chances, Diallo may yet develop into the rim protector the Jayhawks need to make a deep run in March, but it’s no certainty. With Kansas’ next two games coming against two of the conference’s least competitive teams in TCU and Oklahoma State, though, one would think Diallo will get the audition he needs.
  3. Iowa State is in a spot no one thought it would be in at any point this season: last place in the Big 12 with a 1-3 record. While the Cyclones certainly miss the punch injured guard Naz Mitrou-Long provided from the perimeter, their porous defense has been the bigger issue. Travis Hines of The Ames Tribune took a closer look at why Steve Prohm’s team is sporting such dismal defensive numbers, and one of his key takeaways is that opposing offenses are exposing Iowa State’s shaky pick-and-roll defense. Hines also notes that consistency has also been a challenge, as the Cyclones have played long stretches of solid defense against some of the conference’s more potent offensive teams in Oklahoma and Baylor, only to unravel later on. Iowa State doesn’t need to become a defensive force to maximize its potential, but it does need to allow significantly fewer than its current 1.14 points per possession in conference play.
  4. Baylor made easy work of TCU, using another backbreaking run to cruise past the Horned Frogs, 82-54. A 13-0 spurt late in the first half gave the Bears all they needed to feel comfortable, and things just snowballed from there. Baylor sophomore Terry Maston led all scorers with a career-high 17 points off the bench, while Lester Medford continued his solid play at the point, dishing out 11 assists against just three turnovers.
  5. The NCAA on Wednesday afternoon made a few moves to widen the window of opportunity for NBA Draft hopefuls, which should in turn allow those players to make more informed decisions about their futures. The primary move was to extend the early entry deadline by 10 days, but another important change is that players can again test the draft waters multiple times and return to school (provided they don’t sign with an agent). Coaches have historically resisted these changes because of the uncertainty they bring to rosters entering the spring recruiting period, but the best coaches will continue to find ways to haul in the best talent available regardless of their situations.
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Big 12 M5: 01.11.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2016

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  1. It wasn’t pretty, but Kansas bested Texas Tech 69-59 in Lubbock Saturday night to move to 3-0 in conference play. The key stretch for the Jayhawks came late in the second half. Up by just two points, the Jayhawks used three-pointers by Wayne Selden and Frank Mason to power an 11-4 run from which the Red Raiders couldn’t recover. Tubby Smith’s team was also done in by a rare poor night at the stripe: The Red Raiders, who shoot 72.2 percent at the line, hit just 9-of-19 free throws. It would have been nice for Texas Tech to post a big win to show just how improved they are from a couple seasons ago, but they’ll have plenty of other chances.
  2. West Virginia made easy work of Oklahoma State with a 77-60 win in Morgantown, setting up a matchup of 3-0 teams when the Jayhawks visit WVU Coliseum tomorrow night. Mountaineer senior Jonathan Holton had one of the best games of his career, scoring 15 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and zero turnovers. The Cowboys weren’t expected to be very competitive in Morgantown, but with home games against Oklahoma and Kansas and road games at Texas and Kansas State coming up, things in Stillwater are likely to get worse before they get better.
  3. One of the key takeaways from last week’s classic between Oklahoma and Kansas was the importance of the league’s contenders winning their home games. Apparently, Iowa State missed the message, because they were dropped by Baylor at home on Saturday afternoon. Bears forward Johnathan Motley came up huge with a career-high 27 points and 13 rebounds against the Cyclones’ porous interior defense, but he wasn’t the only one who had a big day. Taurean Prince had a double-double (18 points and ten rebounds) and Lester Medford had a surgically efficient 16 point, 11 assist night, all without a single turnover. Iowa State is by no means done in the Big 12 race, but three of their next four games come on the road, with the only home game in that stretch coming against Oklahoma. The Cyclones definitely have their work cut out for them.
  4. Oklahoma bounced back from its tough loss at Kansas with a comfortable home win over Kansas StateBuddy Hield had another outstanding game, notching his third 30-plus point game in his last four outings and his sixth such performance this season. Oh, and he also had eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a pair of steals. His games are quickly becoming must-watch programming, and your next shot to see him do his thing comes Wednesday night when the Sooners take on intra-state rivals Oklahoma State on ESPNU.
  5. Jeff Haley of Burnt Orange Nation took a deep analytical dive into Texas’ rocky start under Shaka Smart, which may have hit a low point over the weekend with a loss at TCU. One particularly interesting point has to do with Smart’s deployment of the trademark press that connected him to every big coaching vacancy over the last few years. While the Longhorns don’t press very often, its lack of efficiency on the other end significantly reduces its margin for error when it tries to force turnovers in the backcourt. The logic there is that good teams will be able to beat the press and get easy looks, which in turn only makes the offense’s job more of a challenge than it already is. The piece is definitely worth your while.
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Big 12 M5: Weekend Preview Edition

Posted by Kendall Kaut on January 8th, 2016

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  1. Iowa State hosts Baylor on Saturday as the Cyclones hope to defeat the only team that won a Big 12 game in Hilton Coliseum last season. The Bears, however, enter the game 0-3 on the road this season. One way Scott Drew’s team was able to win in Ames a year ago was on the strength of its shooting, but Taurean Prince will have to return to his road form of last season because he’s only shooting 25 percent away from Waco. Iowa State may now be down to a seven-man rotation, but the Cyclones have been able to survive so far in large part because of the lowest defensive free throw rate in the country. If Deonte Burton continues to play so well — the transfer is averaging 11.0 points in just 18 minutes per game — the Cyclones will have a great chance at a top-three finish in the Big 12 race.
  2. Texas Tech has been the surprise of the season thus far, but it will have a huge task ahead on Saturday in Lubbock. Fresh off a triple-overtime win against Oklahoma, Kansas will be looking to avoid a letdown. The Red Raiders played Iowa State close on Wednesday night, but struggled to stop Matt Thomas late in the game. That challenge will be heightened against a Kansas team that ranks second nationally in three-point offense at 45.7 percent. In his third season with the Red Raiders, Tubby Smith seems to have made a leap with this team (#6 RPI; #39 KenPom). If they can pull off the upset, it could be a really nice Selection Sunday two months from now.
  3. After a legendary 46-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist performance from Buddy Hield against Kansas, the Sooners will host Kansas State on Saturday. The Wildcats have been much better than many expected this season, but because of scheduling and some bad luck they are staring down an 0-3 start in league play. Bruce Weber’s team managed to beat Oklahoma twice last season, which should prevent the Sooners from overlooking them.
  4. West Virginia can start 3-0 in Big 12 play with a win over Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Mountaineers’ vaunted press has put the team second nationally in three-point defense and first in opponents’ turnover percentage. With games coming against Kansas and Oklahoma next week, West Virginia’s schedule will ramp up soon, which is why it’s so important to win the games in which you’re favored. In contrast, Oklahoma State has been killed by the recent news that Phil Forte is probably out for the season, but Jawun Evans has shown how special the Cowboys’ backcourt can be a year from now. Evans had nine assists against Baylor and got to the line 10 times against TCU.
  5. Life has been difficult without big man Cameron Ridley, but Texas can get to 2-1 in Big 12 play with a win at TCU on Saturday. Javan Felix‘s 48 percent shooting from three-point range and Isaiah Taylor‘s average of 26.0 points per game in the first two Big 12 games give the Longhorns hope. With Trent Johnson at the helm and an investment in upgraded facilities, the future appears bright at TCU. However, TCU’s offense ranks 236th in KenPom, and with road trips to Baylor and Kansas next week, a loss to the ‘Horns could put the Horned Frogs at major risk of starting 0-5 in Big 12 play.
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Big 12 M5: 01.06.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 6th, 2016

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  1. We already offered two reflections on Monday night’s thriller between Oklahoma and Kansas, but if you’re still looking for a fix , Jason King of Bleacher Report wrote a very good article that captured Buddy Hield‘s demeanor in the heat of the battle as well as in defeat. In addition to some anecdotes about Hield’s commitment to improving his game, King relates a story that Bill Self had recruited the Bahamian star out of nearby Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita and had even set him up for an unofficial visit. The current NPOY candidate, however, canceled his trip to Lawrence after committing to the Sooners. This piece is definitely worth your time.
  2. Kansas State‘s surprising start after last season’s faceplant was one of the better Big 12 stories of the first two months of the season, but the Wildcats are now 0-2 in conference play after losing to Texas in Austin. This was an ugly game where both teams shot less than 40 percent from the floor, culminating with Kansas State freshman Barry Brown missing consecutive three-pointers on the team’s final possession to seal the victory for Texas. Barring an upset at Oklahoma on Saturday, Bruce Weber’s team is staring down the barrel of an 0-3 start to conference play, but while Big 12 play presents resume opportunities on a regular basis, that kind of start will be incredibly difficult to overcome for a rebuilding team like the Wildcats. Meanwhile, after facing three straight top-60 KenPom opponents, Texas shouldn’t have many issues when it travels to TCU this weekend.
  3. The only other action Tuesday night saw Baylor handle Oklahoma State by 17 points in Waco, and the biggest takeaway from this game was the Bears’ complete annihilation of the Cowboys on the glass. Baylor hauled in a whopping 44 rebounds — Rico Gathers snagged 17 boards by himself — while Oklahoma State corralled just 18. Gathers also hit a huge personal milestone as he became the first Bear ever to reach 1,000 rebounds, which is an amazing feat when you consider that he didn’t even average 20 minutes per game until his junior year. Gathers has seen all the ups and downs that a four-year career at Baylor can offer, but between his consistency on the court and his commitment to being a good dad away from it, he seems to an all-around good guy to root for.
  4. On the season’s 54th day, Texas Tech will finally play its first true road game as the Red Raiders play Iowa State in Ames tonight. The team’s resurgence has been a nice storyline this season, as their lone blemish to this point is a neutral court loss to Utah. Still, without a top 50 KenPom win, its NCAA Tournament resume lacks heft. That could change soon, though, as they’ll play at Hilton Coliseum, host Kansas and play at Kansas State over the next week. Devaugntagh Williams, Toddrick Gotcher and Norense Odiase look like a dependable core, but the Red Raiders will be put to the test in one of the conference’s toughest environments against a team looking to get back on track.
  5. Perhaps feeling the weight from the fallout of SMU’s academic scandal, one of the central figures in the story, Keith Frazier, has left the Mustang program. According to his prep coach, it sounds like the junior guard from Dallas simply wants to be able to breathe a little, which is understandable. At this point, you’re probably wondering why we’d bring that news up in this space, and the the reason is because Texas Tech was a runner-up for Frazier’s services coming out of high school and, while this is purely speculative (he’s still enrolled at SMU even though he isn’t with the team), could be a destination if he opts to transfer. One of the main reasons Frazier gave for backing off the Red Raiders back in 2013 was because they hired Tubby Smith over then-interim coach Chris Walker, though, so it may not be meant to be, but if you’re Texas Tech and Frazier leaves SMU for good, what’s the harm in calling to see if he’d be interested?
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Big 12 M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 1st, 2016

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  1. West Virginia closed out its non-conference schedule with an 88-63 road win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. The Mountaineers were led by sophomore guard Jevon Carter who finished with 18 points. With Juwan Staten’s graduation, Carter has played a much larger offensive roll this season. He’s scoring 13.0 points per game and has improved his outside shot in 2015-16. Already a pesky defender, Carter could be positioning himself for an All-Big 12 type season.
  2. Monte Morris continues to impress. His 10-point, 11-assist, zero-turnover performance in Iowa State’s 104-84 win over Coppin State is Morris’ latest quality outing. While Morris isn’t leading the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio for a third straight season (that honor belongs to Pitt’s James Robinson), he is still averaging nearly six assists per turnover. His impressive distribution is keeping teammates on their toes. “Just get to an open area,” Georges Niang told the media after the Cyclones’ win, “because I know he’s going to zing one past someone’s head and hopefully it doesn’t hit me in the face and it hits me in the hands.”
  3. Big 12 play begins Saturday and as usual the five game slate offers up some interesting matchups. There are two games between top 25 teams to open the conference season. Baylor will travel to Lawrence for an opening day contest against Kansas. While the Bears have a nice home win against Vanderbilt on their resume, they failed to pick up other quality wins during non-conference play. They’ll need to find a few resume builders over the remainder of the season if they want a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and there would be no better place to start than with an upset of the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse.
  4. The other Top 25 matchup on the schedule pits Iowa State against Oklahoma in Norman. The big question is whether or not the Cyclones will be able to generate enough defensive stops. Iowa State is giving up 81.3 points per game over their last three contests and opponents are now converting 35.7 percent of their threes against the Cyclones. That may not bode well against the Sooners who are shooting 46.2 percent from behind the arc this season. If both Oklahoma and Kansas pull of the victories as expected, we could be treated to a matchup between #1 and #2 in Lawrence on Big Monday.
  5. The remainder of the Big 12 slate pits Texas Tech against Texas, West Virginia against Kansas State, and Oklahoma State against TCU. The Red Raiders are looking for their first win versus the Longhorns since 2014. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers will be looking to start off conference play with a road win after going 4-5 away from home in the Big 12 last season. The battle between the Cowboys and the Horned Frogs will give both teams an opportunity to pick up what may be one of their few Big 12 wins this season.
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Big 12 New Year’s Resolutions: Part I

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2015

The year 2016 is right around the corner and along with it comes Big 12 conference play, as the league gets underway with six games on January 2. Although we know that only a fraction of people ultimately keep their New Year’s resolutions, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to come up with a few challenges for teams in the Big 12 once the ball drops tomorrow night. This is part one of a two-part series.

Kansas: To give Devonte Graham the praise he deserves

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

The focus on Kansas to this point has reasonably and rightfully been on the improved play of Wayne Selden and the consistent performance of senior forward Perry Ellis. However, the Jayhawks’ most under appreciated asset may well be sophomore point guard Devonte Graham. Graham’s move to the starting lineup has been linked to Selden’s rise because it helped free him up offensively, but Graham has provided much more. The sophomore has helped increase the number of turnovers the Jayhawks are causing on defense while simultaneously decreasing the number of turnovers Kansas commits on offense by reducing his personal turnover rate from 20.1 percent to 9.9 percent. Graham’s sophomore emergence has made the Jayhawks a national title contender and he deserves more praise for the role he’s played.

Iowa State: To find rest and relaxation for the Cyclones’ rotation

Naz Mitrou-Long’s recovery from hip surgery hit the Cyclones hard. With Deonte Burton becoming eligible at semester, it looked like Iowa State was set to have a quality eight man rotation heading into conference play. Now that Mitrou-Long’s season is over, coach Steve Prohm has made it clear that he intends to stick with a seven man rotation for the remainder of the season. Iowa State ranks 347th in percentage of bench minutes played with just 21.4 percent of available minutes coming off the bench. Last season, Wisconsin reached the Final Four with similar numbers, so the limited rotation doesn’t rule out a trip to Houston for the Cyclones, but they’ll need all the rest and relaxation they can get on the way there. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.30.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2015

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  1. There will be very few easy games in the Big 12 this season. One of the criticisms of the conference last year was that the bottom of the league wasn’t very good. That should change in 2015-16. On Tuesday, Texas Tech picked up their fourth win over a team ranked in the top 100 on KenPom with an 85-70 victory over Richmond. The Red Raiders lone non-conference loss came against a quality Utah team. Tech is predicted to finish 8-10 in the league which would be the school’s best mark under head coach Tubby Smith. The Red Raiders also have a chance to pick up a road win against Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. If things fall in their favor, they could find themselves with a shot at their first NCAA Tournament birth since 2007.
  2. Kansas State will also contribute to a deeper Big 12 in 2015-16. With a dominating 75-47 win over Saint Louis on Tuesday, the Wildcats pushed their non-conference record to 10-2. Kansas State’s calling card has been its defense and that was no different in the win over the Billikens. Saint Louis scored a meager 0.67 points per possession in Manhattan. While the Wildcats don’t have the same quality wins that Texas Tech has, a few upsets in Big 12 play could push them onto the bubble come March.
  3. Texas announced that senior center Cameron Ridley will be out 8-10 weeks due to a fracture in his left foot. In the Longhorns’ first game without Ridley, Texas fell 71-66 to Connecticut in Austin. Ridley’s absence was felt on both ends of the floor. The Huskies outscored Texas 40-28 in the paint on Tuesday. Ridley’s replacement, Prince Ibeh, played just 18 minutes and picked up his fourth foul with nearly nine minutes remaining. Without Ibeh or Ridley on the floor, opponents will be able to challenge the Longhorns inside and UConn did so successfully. Forced to rely on a more perimeter oriented attack, Texas floundered. The Longhorns shot 39 percent from the field and 6-of-23 from three-point range. How Shaka Smart adapts to Ridley’s absence early in conference play will be crucial to Texas’ Big 12 success.
  4. Kansas beat UC Irvine, 78-53, to close out its non-conference schedule, but for the second season in a row the story out of Lawrence is becoming the playing time of a highly touted freshman. Cheick Diallo is averaging only 11.2 minutes per game so far and played just six minutes against the Anteaters. Bill Self told the media afterwards that he thinks “our experienced guys are playing better.” While that may be true at the moment, there’s no doubt that Diallo has a higher upside than just about anyone in the Jayhawks’ frontcourt rotation. Allowing Diallo to develop now could benefit Kansas in March, but with Baylor and Oklahoma on tap to open Big 12 play, it seems unlikely the freshman will be seeing significant playing time in the near future.
  5. There are two Big 12 games remaining ahead of the start of conference play on Saturday. Iowa State should cruise against Coppin State tonight, but West Virginia has a much more interesting matchup. The Mountaineers will play their first true road game of the season when they travel to Blacksburg, VA to face Virginia Tech. West Virginia is favored in the contest, but road games are always tricky. Whatever the result, the experience in a hostile environment should prove useful as the Mountaineers open their Big 12 schedule with road trips to Kansas State and TCU.
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Big 12 M5: 12.28.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on December 28th, 2015

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  1. On Christmas Day, Oklahoma defeated Harvard to win the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. The Sooners were led by senior Buddy Hield, who scored 34 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field. It was the senior’s fourth 30-point game of the season and only the latest addition to his National Player of the Year portfolio. To say Hield’s season has been impressive would be quite an understatement. He is currently using 31 percent of Oklahoma’s possessions and scoring 24.9 points per game while performing even more efficiently than he did a year ago. Hield finished last season with an effective field goal percentage of 50.5 percent; he’s at 62.4 percent this year. On pace for a 50/50/90 season, it’s no wonder Hield is a legitimate NPOY contender.
  2. Hield isn’t the only Big 12 player in the NPOY race. After last week’s 24 points and 10 rebounds in a true road win over Cincinnati, Iowa State’s Georges Niang is also in that picture. As Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune points out, Niang is posting career high numbers nearly across the board for one of the country’s top teams, and he’ll have even more opportunities to showcase his skills on the national stage against the toughest conference in the nation come January.
  3. After a poor performance in Baylor’s 80-61 loss to Texas A&M, senior Taurean Prince bounced back with a huge game in the Bears’ subsequent 85-70 victory over New Mexico State. Prince hung 34 points on the Aggies in the win, but most importantly, he needed just 19 shots to get there. After a wildly efficient campaign last year, Prince’s efficiency numbers this season have lagged largely due to a subpar performance inside the three-point arc. Prince is shooting nearly seven percent worse on two-point shots this season. Thus, his 10-for-15 shooting on two-pointers against New Mexico State is a welcome sight for Baylor fans looking for the senior to find his groove.
  4. After a limited slate of college basketball games during the recent holidays, things will get back to normal this week. Nine of the ten Big 12 teams have games remaining ahead of the start of conference play on Saturday. The league’s headliner will likely come on Tuesday night when Connecticut travels to Austin to face Texas. Shaka Smart’s Longhorns have already collected one resume-building win (an 84-82 thrilling victory against North Carolina) at the Erwin Center this season. The key to the game will likely be Texas’ ability to limit the Huskies’ two-point offense. Connecticut ranks eighth nationally in two-point percentage and has scored 57 percent of their points inside the arc. The Longhorns, though, figure to be up to the task. They’ve allowed opponents to shoot just 40.5 percent on two-point shots this season.
  5. In the most recent iteration of his power rankings, Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn pointed out that college basketball lacks truly elite teams this season. But that hasn’t stopped the Big 12 as a whole from putting together an impressive year. Oklahoma and Kansas currently occupy the top two spots in the KenPom ratings and the league is once again ranked as his toughest conference based on adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. In fact, if the Big 12 holds, the league’s .8342 rating will be the highest achieved by any conference since the Big Ten turned the trick in 2012-13.
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Big 12 M5: 12.23.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 23rd, 2015

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  1. In its first true road game of the season, Kansas exacted revenge on a rare home loss handed to them by San Diego State two years ago with a comfortable 70-57 win in Viejas Arena. The Jayhawks made a point to run a lot of their action through Perry Ellis, who exploited the Aztecs’ lack of skilled big men on his way to a game-high 20 points. The late-night tilt also included engaged efforts from Jamari Traylor and Brannen Greene, who skied for rebounds and found other ways to get involved without having to score. The reigning Big 12 champs will now get a break until next Tuesday, when the Jayhawks welcome UC Irvine and 7’6″ Mamadou Ndiaye to Allen Fieldhouse.
  2. Oklahoma continues to run roughshod over all comers, as the Sooners demolished Washington State in their Diamond Head Classic opener on Tuesday night. Buddy Hield was incredible in this game, going for 25 points including 5-of-8 shooting from three. The game was actually close into the early stages of the second half, but a 17-0 Sooners run quickly removed all doubt about the outcome. More importantly, Oklahoma’s cushion allowed Lon Kruger to pull Hield with around 12 minutes left to rest his star, knowing that another game looms today against local favorite Hawai’i.
  3. There was another thrilling finish involving Iowa State last night, as the Cyclones edged Cincinnati by two points on the road thanks to a clutch three-pointer from Abdel Nader. Steve Prohm leaned heavily on his experienced core, with Nader, Georges Niang and Monte’ Morris combining for 51 points and 19 rebounds in this game. The win represented vintage Iowa State relentlessness, with Cincinnati seemingly taking control with a late four-point lead, only to watch as the Cyclones held them to a single point the rest of the way. Prohm also received a nice jolt of offense from newcomer Deonte’ Burton in just his second game of the season, as the transfer guard contributed 12 points off the bench. From a resume standpoint, last night’s victory somewhat neutralizes last weekend’s tough loss to Northern Iowa, but the team’s lack of depth will likely remain a sticking point through league play.
  4. In another impressive result last night, Texas Tech knocked early-season darling Arkansas-Little Rock from the ranks of the undefeated with a 65-53 victory at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock. The Red Raiders didn’t get their usual steady play from Devaugntagh Williams, instead leaning on a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds from Zach Smith. They still have to prove that they can win some games on the road, but Texas Tech has a strong case as the most-improved team in the Big 12 through the first month of the season and is a decent bet to pull a couple stunners after the calendar flips.
  5. Another contender for the title of most improved team, Kansas State, disposed of South Dakota in workmanlike fashion with a 63-49 win last night at Bramlage Coliseum. Freshman Barry Brown led all scorers with 15 points, but the most impressive element of the win was the Wildcats’ outstanding effort on the glass. Bruce Weber‘s team waxed the Fighting Hawks on the boards, collecting 47.6 percent of their own misses and 77.8 percent of North Dakota’s. With only struggling Saint Louis remaining on their non-conference slate, the Wildcats have a strong chance to enter league play with just two losses, something it hasn’t done since the 2012-13 season.
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Morning Five: 12.18.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 18th, 2015

morning5

  1. With this being finals week at most schools we expected this to be a quiet week with the exception of injuries and transfers, but that all came to an end on Tuesday night when Bo Ryan announced that he would be retiring immediately. Prior to the season Ryan had discussed his plans to retire at the end of the season, but there were some reports that he was considering staying longer. Ryan’s decision to leave his team during the season led to many questions about the timing: Was it because this is his worst Wisconsin team ever? Was he quitting on his team or helping long-time assistant Greg Gard get a chance to prove himself when the school probably would have not if Ryan had retired at the end of the season? Going through Ryan’s achievements, legacy, and potential successors is much too involved for this column (we have other posts about it on the site) so we will just say that Ryan might be as responsible for the development of an elite program as anybody in the sport today.
  2. Iowa State‘s national title hopes took a big hit earlier this week when they announced that senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long will seek a medical redshirt as he continues to recover from nagging issues with his hips. Long, who had arthroscopic surgery on both hips over the summer, was averaging 12 points per game, but felt that the pain was too great to play through at this point. Fortunately for the Cyclones they do have help in the form of mid-year transfer Deonte Burton, but Long’s absence will keep them at a seven-man rotation. There were also couple of notable injuries to big men on Tobacco Road. The more significant of the two injuries is the one to Amile Jefferson, who will be out indefinitely after fracturing a bone in his right foot. Given Duke‘s lack of depth on the inside a prolonged absence by Jefferson or even worse any lingering issues for Jefferson (averaging 11.4 points and 10.3 rebounds this season) would severely limit Duke’s upside in March. The injury to Kennedy Meeks appears to be less severe as he is expected to be out at least two weeks with a bone bruise on his right knee. Meeks is also a key part of North Carolina‘s rotation, but the Tar Heels have enough depth on the inside that they should be able to survive his absence without missing too much.
  3. Christmas break is always a popular time for players (sorry, student-athletes) to decide to transfer. As we seem to state every year the biggest reasons are likely that they head home and hear from everybody about how they should be playing a bigger role and that the coaching staff isn’t putting them in position to succeed. So we are not usually surprised to see transfers at this time of year, but as you can see by the transfer list that Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello are keeping there are already quite a few who have decided it is time to move on. Most of these transfers won’t raise many eyebrows, but a few like Texas A&M freshman Elijah Thomas, a top 30-/50-recruit depending on which rating agency you follow, are notable and will probably attract a substantial amount of interest from programs around the country.
  4. When the NCAA issued its rules changes before the start of the season it was met with quite a bit of criticism, but now that we are approaching the start of conference play we think that most people have to be happy with the results so far. As Mike Lopresti notes scoring is up by more than 10 points per game from this time last year with most of that apparently being driven the increased pace of the game. However as some coaches note there is concern about a regression particularly with freedom of movement and foul calls. While we think it is too early to reach any conclusions about the impact of the changes it seems like a good start.
  5. It seems like we hear about different models to pay student-athletes, but it is pretty rare to see an idea get an article on it in The New York Times so we were pretty surprised to see them write about a site that proposes to use crowdfunding as a means of payment. The idea that is being proposed allows fans to donate money to a student-athlete (less a 5% fee the site takes) with a note possibly encouraging them to attend a school with the donation period closing once an individual commits to a school. The student-athlete would be able to collect the money after their college career was over regardless of where they went to school. Even before the NCAA’s lawyers rip this to shreds there are a couple of key things that bother us: the monetary donations when a player hasn’t committed seems like a not-so-subtle way of buying a player to come to a school, issues with fans getting upset of having spent their money on a recruit who goes somewhere else, and finally the issue with a company/trust holding the money until their college career is over seems like a recipe for corruption.
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Big 12 M5: 12.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 17th, 2015

morning5_big12

  1. The Kansas offense is humming, thanks in large part to its dual point guard lineup, posits Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. With a more traditional lineup last season, the Jayhawks really struggled to find a balanced attack, particularly when Wayne Selden and Kelly Oubre had down nights. With Frank Mason and Devonte Graham at the controls this season, though, the Jayhawks are flying. They aren’t immune to the occasional slump as we saw in the first half of last weekend’s win over Oregon State, but we’ve seen enough to know that they’re going to bring it more often than not.
  2. A tip of the cap goes to Texas Tech for their 79-67 win over South Dakota State. Senior Toddrick Gotcher led the way with 17 points including 3-of-6 shooting from distance to go along with five boards. The Red Raiders lost the rebounding battle, but overcame it thanks to ten steals and just nine turnovers on offense. The win is significant for Texas Tech because coming into the game, the Jackrabbits were ranked higher in KenPom than schools like Georgetown, Syracuse, Providence and Saint Mary’s.  Tubby Smith‘s team had been on the hunt for a marquee win after missing their chance against Utah last month, so it was nice to see them pick one up Wednesday night. They still don’t project to contend for an NCAA Tournament bid, but significant improvement on last season’s measly three conference wins is a goal that should be within sight.
  3. The only other action from the Big 12 saw Baylor take down non-D-I foe Hardin-Simmons 104-59 in the first regular season college game ever played at Fort Hood in TexasJohnathan Motley, whose name can be seen peppering NBA Draft boards, paced the Bears with 23 points. Hardin-Simmons didn’t offer much in the way of competition, but it was still reassuring for Baylor’s chances to see Lester Medford play well, as he finished with 13 assists against two turnovers in just 18 minutes of action. Then again, pretty much everyone for Baylor had a good night handling the ball as they piled up 40 assists on 45 made baskets and committed just 15 turnovers as a team. Next up for Motley, Medford and the Bears is a big road game at Texas A&M on Saturday.
  4. TCU‘s administration opened up the newly-renovated Schollmaier Arena (formerly Daniel-Meyer Coliseum) to the media for tours in advance of the facility’s grand re-opening this weekend, and it’s a huge step up from the previous accommodations which were, to be kind, lacking. In addition to some of the standbys of renovated arenas like widened concourses and new bathrooms and concession stands, the Horned Frogs’ new digs include posh circular locker rooms, a brand-new video board, a club with floor-to-ceiling TVs and an area where boosters can watch postgame press conferences through a glass wall. Pretty swanky if you ask us. The Horned Frogs christen their made-over home Sunday against Abilene Christian.
  5. We discussed the loss of Iowa State sharpshooter Naz Mitrou-Long yesterday, but CBSSports.com took a closer look at what his absence means for transfer Deonte Burton, who is set to make his Cyclones debut on Saturday. Burton arrived in Ames from Marquette, where he had a reputation as a rim-rocking attacker, but Steve Prohm may need a more diverse array of contributions from the 6’3″ guard if Burton is to help Hallice Cooke and Matt Thomas shoulder Mitrou-Long’s production.
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