Iowa State-Oklahoma Delivers, But Reveals March Madness Concerns

Posted by Chris Stone on March 11th, 2016

Thursday night’s quarterfinal battle between Oklahoma and Iowa State was just the latest in a long line of highly competitive contests between the two schools, as the Cyclones and Sooners have consistently delivered thrilling, high-scoring contests over the last three seasons. In three meetings this season, the two teams combined to score over 150 points each time, with an aggregate margin of victory amounting to only 12 points. Thursday’s quarterfinal, a three-point win for the Sooners, was an individual showcase of two the Big 12’s best players. For 40 back-and-forth minutes, Iowa State’s Georges Niang (31 points) and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield (39 points) threw haymakers; culminating in a dual postgame interview with ESPN‘s Holly Rowe in which both players called the performance “special.” And yet, as special as those individual performances were, last night’s contest revealed continued concerns about how deep either team’s March can go.

Oklahoma's Buddy Hield fires up a jumper over Iowa State's Matt Thomas during the Sooners' 79-76 win. (Mandatory Credit: Kelsey Kremer/The Register)

Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield fires up a jumper over Iowa State’s Matt Thomas during the Sooners’ 79-76 win. (Mandatory Credit: Kelsey Kremer/The Register)

Hield’s night was certainly spectacular. The senior guard poured in 39 points on 21 shots and grabbed nine rebounds. He only made two of his six three-point attempts, instead dazzling within the arc, knocking down fadeaways and catching alley-oops. Hield, though, has never been the Sooners’ problem. The concern for Lon Kruger’s squad looking ahead is whether he will get sufficient help. On Thursday, the rest of the Oklahoma team combined to shoot 14-of-42 (33.3 %) from the field. Hield’s backcourt mates (and the Sooners’ second and third leading scorers), Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard, made a meager 5-of-19 attempts. After delivering highly efficient performances for the first three months of the season, the duo has struggled with consistency down the stretch. In games since the beginning of February, they have each shot better than 50 percent from the field just once. During that stretch, Oklahoma has gone 7-4. For the Sooners to make a deep run this month, Buddy needs some help from his backcourt buddies.

For Iowa State, the concern is a physical one. Point guard Monte’ Morris suffered a strained rotator cuff in the Cyclones’ loss to Kansas last Saturday and the injury kept him out of practice leading up to the Big 12 Tournament. It also caused him to compare his jump shot unfavorably to none other than Dwight Howard. Morris admitted that he was in pain during Thursday’s loss to the Sooners, finishing a miserable 1-of-9 from the field and delivering a season-low two assists. A full recovery will likely take two to six weeks, but perhaps an early elimination could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for an Iowa State team that lacks a backup point guard. Morris will now be able to rest his shoulder for a full week leading into the NCAA Tournament, which should help the Cyclones get one of the nation’s best point guards back to better strength.

Last night’s game between Oklahoma and Iowa State was as exhilarating a matchup as you’ll find in the quarterfinals of a major conference tournament, but it also revealed some concerns about each team going forward. Sure, Buddy Hield and Georges Niang can deliver outstanding performances on a nightly basis, but it will be the successes or failures of their teammates that determines how far they can go this March.

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NCAA Bound Big 12 Teams Have Plenty Still to Play For

Posted by Chris Stone on March 9th, 2016

The Big 12 is in a bit of a unique position heading into the conference tournament. The league already appears poised to send seven teams to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season, so unless something completely unexpected happens, the Big 12 Tournament will have very few, if any, bubble implications this week. The conference’s bottom three teams seem to have their futures largely set in stone as well. Kansas State looks poised for an NIT berth while both Oklahoma State and TCU are largely playing for pride. There will still be plenty on the line in Kansas City this week, as all seven NCAA-bound teams are playing for seeding and geographic considerations. Let’s examine what each of those top seven seeds has to gain over the next five days.

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The 2016 Big 12 Tournament bracket. (Credit: Big 12 Conference)

1. Kansas – Although Kansas already owns 14 wins against the RPI top 50, the Jayhawks are still in a battle to be the overall #1 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. If they can knock off the winner of Kansas State-Oklahoma State in Thursday’s quarterfinals, they’ll have a chance to pick up a couple more impressive victories on Friday and Saturday. In order to get there, head coach Bill Self will hope for continued consistency from center Landen Lucas, someone who has provided the Jayhawks with quality inside minutes late this season.

2. West Virginia – The Mountaineers are currently slated as a #3 seed according to most bracket projections, but assuming Texas Tech defeats TCU in their play-in game, they could pick up as many as three additional RPI top 50 wins to support a #2 seed. West Virginia enters the Big 12 Tournament on a four-game winning streak during which it has made 38.2 percent of its three-pointers. If the Mountaineers can keep up that pace, they’re a very dangerous team.

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RTC Top 25: Final Regular Season Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on March 8th, 2016

Another regular season has come and gone. In a season that was defined by utter craziness throughout, the final week was laced with mostly expected results. Previously #22 Wichita State, however, suffered an unexpected defeat to Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Tournament semifinals. That loss is part of a less than spectacular NCAA Tournament résumé that will have Gregg Marshall’s Shockers sweating all the way up to Selection Sunday. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty is after the jump.

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Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Handing Out Big 12 Superlatives

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 7th, 2016

To say that the Big 12 had a good year would be a massive understatement. According to KenPom‘s advanced metrics, the league was the nation’s toughest. Not a fan of advanced metrics? That’s fine too, because the conference treated us to a surplus of intense games and is home of one of the two top contenders for National Player of the Year. Furthermore, the Big 12 is expected to propel seven good teams to The Big Dance — including a prohibitive favorite for the top overall seed — for the third straight season. It was a banner year regardless of what happens next, but before we look ahead to the postseason, let’s take some time for the Big 12 microsite to hand out some hardware.

All-Big 12 Team Selections


Player Of The Year – Buddy Hield (unanimous)

Chris Stone: Perry Ellis and Georges Niang are a pair of worthy contenders, but everyone in the Big 12 is playing for second behind Oklahoma’s Hield. The Oklahoma senior averaged 25.1 points per game during Big 12 play and finished with a league-leading 65.2 percent true shooting rate, all while logging the conference’s second-highest usage rate. For a guard to attempt nearly 31 percent of his team’s shots while making them as efficiently as Hield did is exceptional, especially when you consider that almost 60 percent of his field goal attempts came from behind the three-point arc.”

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Big 12 M5: 03.04.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 4th, 2016


  1. Jamari Traylor isn’t a career 1,500-point scorer and his future at the next level will likely be limited by his age and skill set, but those shortcomings won’t stop Bill Self from referring to him as one of his all-time favorite players. While Traylor’s presence isn’t always felt in terms of production (he has averaged just 2.8 points per game in Big 12 play), he embodies the physical toughness and vocal personality that Self values. Teammate Perry Ellis will be the star of the show during Kansas’ Senior Day festivities, but Self will no doubt be sad to see the Chicago native leaving as well.
  2. The last few weeks haven’t been kind to Oklahoma, as the Sooners have gone just 4-4 with their shooting cooling off and their defense allowing back-breaking runs that keep coaches up at night. So what’s been holding Lon Kruger’s team back? Two possible explanations being discussed are fatigue and lapses in focus. For all their offensive prowess, the Sooners don’t have very much depth and have had to make adjustments to their routine in order to stay fresh. It’s not realistic to expect Oklahoma to suddenly develop a more efficient defense or fashion better reserves out of thin air, so Kruger will have to hope that the sense of urgency that comes with postseason play sparks something that reverts them back to their earlier performance.
  3. While Kansas State is more experienced than many believe, its core of young players has spent all season developing together. That hasn’t translated to all that many wins, though, so head coach Bruce Weber has announced that his team will take an overseas trip to Italy and Switzerland for 11 days this summer. The trip will provide the Wildcats roster with additional practice time in addition to the games, hopefully giving them an early leg up on the Big 12 competition next winter.
  4. The upcoming graduations of Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay from Iowa State mean that Steve Prohm is going to need frontcourt players who can contribute right away next season. In a piece of news that should help with that transition, the Cyclones secured a commitment from Northern Illinois graduate transfer Darrell Bowie. Bowie, a 6’7″, 220-pound forward, suffered a shoulder injury last March and sat out this season after leaving the Huskies in November, but posted averages of 9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game as a junior. Along with returnee Deonte Burton, Bowie should become an immediate factor as the Cyclones start a new era this fall.
  5. West Virginia will follow in TCU’s footsteps with a long-overdue facilities project. Crews will start work on a variety of improvements at WVU Coliseum next week, including widened concourses, increased bathroom fixtures and new concession stands. Renovations more beneficial to the school’s athletes will take place elsewhere on campus, including a 12,000-square-foot strength and conditioning center for non-revenue teams. While not as large in scale as TCU’s improvements to Schollmaier Arena, the Mountaineers are clearly poised to take a step forward in the ever-present arms race that is life in the Big 12.
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Big 12 M5: 02.22.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2016


  1. Frank Mason led Kansas with 16 points in the Jayhawks’ 72-63 win over Kansas State on Saturday. The junior used 24 percent of his team’s possessions, which hasn’t always yielded great results. Before Saturday’s victory, Kansas had been just 1-4 when Mason consumed that percentage of possessions. One possible (and simple) explanation for Mason’s improved performance? Rest. He’s rarely left the floor for extended stretches in conference play, but he averaged “just” 29.5 minutes per game in the two previous contests, and he got four days of rest following last Monday’s win over Oklahoma State. A healthy and rested Mason could be huge for the Jayhawks’ postseason hopes, so his usage moving forward will be something to keep an eye on.
  2. Kansas got a big lift before its game even tipped Saturday when Oklahoma knocked off West Virginia in Morgantown to create a three-way tie for second place. The Mountaineers’ defense has not been as effective lately, as six of their last seven opponents have scored at least one point per possession against them. Five of those opponents have also neutralized “Press Virginia” by posting turnover rates under 20 percent, including Oklahoma’s stellar 13 percent mark over the weekend. Bob Huggins‘ team faces another big test tonight when it matches up with Iowa State’s high-powered attack.
  3. Speaking of the Cyclones, their high-wire act continued Saturday night as the outcome of their game against lowly TCU remained in doubt until the eight-minute mark of the second half. While they avoided an embarrassing home loss to the Horned Frogs, the cloud of uncertainty around center Jameel McKay re-emerged, with Steve Prohm (with minimal explanation) holding the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player Of The Year out of action for the third time in five games. Although Deonte Burton stepped up in McKay’s absence with 23 points and 14 rebounds, the lack of a second rim-protector — in addition to general depth challenges — makes the senior one of the Cyclones’ most important pieces.
  4. The Big 12’s (deserving) reputation as the nation’s toughest conference doesn’t leave much room for Cinderella stories, but you can find one in Lubbock this season where Texas Tech is putting a bow on an at-large bid. The league’s coaches picked the Red Raiders to finish dead last in the conference standings in October, but Tubby Smith‘s team has quieted the doubters with seven conference wins including the current four-game winning streak during which they’ve outscored opponents by 0.13 points per possession. To put that number in perspective, Kansas currently leads the conference with a 0.10 PPP advantage in conference play. It’s hard to say enough about the outstanding job the Red Raiders are doing right now.
  5. Just one week after getting blown out by Texas Tech at home, Baylor traveled to Austin and wiped the floor with Texas in a 78-64 win that wasn’t even as close as the score indicates. While the Bears assisted on just 12 of their 36 field goals, they shot 65 percent inside the arc and put together 1.15 points per possession. Baylor now owns the odd distinction of having a better in-conference record on the road (5-2) than it does at home (4-3), but the Bears will look to notch another important home win when they host Kansas on Tuesday night.
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Big 12 M5: 02.17.16 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on February 17th, 2016


  1. Texas defeated West Virginia on Tuesday evening in Austin, 85-78. Isaiah Taylor led the way with 23 points and freshman Eric Davis added 15 as the Longhorns turned it over just seven times in the win. Texas hasn’t lost a home game at the Erwin Center since December 29 and are one of only two Big 12 teams undefeated at home during conference play. In a league as tightly packed as this one this season, holding serve at home is vital to determining placement in the league standings. The Longhorns will be tested down the stretch, though, with home games still to come against Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas.
  2. With the Mountaineers’ loss and its Monday night home win over Oklahoma State, Kansas now owns sole possession of first place in the Big 12. The Jayhawks, winners of seven straight, have been bolstered lately by the play of junior forward Landen Lucas. Lucas has collected 36 rebounds in the last three games and now ranks third in defensive rebounding rate (24.2%) and second in offensive rebounding rate (15.0%) in the Big 12. Although Lucas is not going to produce like former bigs Joel Embiid, Jeff Withey and Markieff Morris, Kansas will be happy to get any significant numbers from the center spot given the talent it has at the other positions.
  3. Congratulations are in order for Iowa State forward Georges Niang, who became the Cyclones’ third 2,000-point scorer on Tuesday night (passing his former head coach Fred Hoiberg in the process). Niang also sat down this week for a rather candid Q&A with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman in which he discussed the team’s coaching transition to Steve Prohm, which college basketball player he’d start a team with, and the best trash talkers. Niang is always a joy in interviews and this one is well worth your time.
  4. While Niang delivered 24 points for the Cyclones on Tuesday night, it was Baylor that walked out of the Ferrell Center with a 100-91 overtime win — the Bears’ second victory over an RPI top 25 team this season. Sophomore Johnathan Motley delivered a fantastic performance while senior Rico Gathers missed the game with an illness. Motley tied his career-high in scoring with 27 points on 17 shots and grabbed 10 rebounds. Baylor will have plenty of opportunities to pick up a few more quality wins with four games remaining against ranked opponents, but this one is certain to help its seeding come March.
  5. The final Big 12 game ahead of the regular Saturday slate pits Oklahoma against a rising Texas Tech squad in Lubbock. The Red Raiders are coming off of two straight wins over ranked opponents while the Sooners have lost two of their last three outings. The stakes in this one are high for both teams as Oklahoma needs a win to keep itself in the Big 12 title picture while a victory for Tech would add another big win to its NCAA Tournament resume. The fact that the Red Raiders are even in the bubble conversation after finishing 3-15 in the conference last season is a testament to the job head coach Tubby Smith has done rebuilding the program in such a short period of time.
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Big 12 M5: 02.08.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2016


  1. Kansas State shook up the Big 12 with an upset of Oklahoma at Bramlage Coliseum Saturday night. Three-point shooting was the difference as the Wildcats went six of 12 from deep while the Sooners launched themselves into a hole from which they couldn’t recover by making just six of their 24 three-point attempts. Buddy Hield finished with 23 points, but Wesley Iwundu did a really solid job defending him throughout the game, forcing several bad shots by the NPOY frontrunner. The loss drops Oklahoma into a second-place tie in the league, leaving West Virginia all alone at the top. Lon Kruger’s team suddenly has a critical week in front of them, as they’ll host Texas tonight ahead of the sequel to their triple-overtime thriller against Kansas.
  2. The win was huge for the Wildcats, too, as it awakened Kansas State’s hopes for an at-large bid. Bruce Weber‘s team is now 40th in the RPI, although the Wildcats are just 1-9 against the top 25. They are undefeated against teams ranked outside of the top 25, however, and Kansas State’s upcoming schedule gives them a solid shot to bolster the resume. Three of its next five games are at home (against Baylor, Texas and Kansas), while the two road games in that stretch are against a pair of bottom-half teams in Oklahoma State and TCU. If the Wildcats can go 3-2 or better leading into their February 27 trip to Iowa State, those at-large hopes will get very real.
  3. West Virginia had its best offensive performance of conference play against Baylor Saturday night, scoring 1.19 points per possession in an 80-69 win. The Mountaineers’ success was due in large part to a hot night from beyond the arc that saw them make half their tries from long range. Any day is a good day to shoot that kind of percentage, but it was especially helpful on Saturday because West Virginia’s trademark press wasn’t nearly as effective as usual. The Mountaineers generated turnovers on just 14.9 percent of Baylor’s possessions, well off the Mountaineers’ season average of 26.2 percent. Bob Huggins’ team will seek its fifth conference road win of the year tomorrow when it visits Kansas, a team that does a generally solid job holding onto the ball.
  4. Iowa State‘s season hasn’t lacked for drama this year, and that theme continued Friday night when Travis Hines of The Ames Tribune reported that Jameel McKay hadn’t traveled with the team to Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State (which the Cyclones would go on to win). Soon afterward, Iowa State confirmed that McKay had been suspended, and while the player and Steve Prohm gave conflicting messages as to how long the suspension would last, the head coach affirmed after Saturday’s game that the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is on the shelf indefinitely. No matter how long the suspension lasts, McKay’s absence leaves a big hole in the Cyclones’ already-thin frontcourt. He isn’t the first player to land in Prohm’s doghouse this season, but he’s one of the team’s most important pieces in its quest to make a run in March. It will be interesting to see if and when he and Prohm can get back on the same page.
  5. Texas took care of business at home against Texas Tech despite Prince Ibeh being saddled with foul trouble for most of the game. They were able to do it with a big game from Javan Felix, who has been a versatile and valuable presence in Shaka Smart‘s first year in Austin. Felix’s ball-handling ability as the off-guard alongside Isaiah Taylor has made him a natural fit in Smart’s offense. The senior has played 75.6 percent of available minutes during conference play, but has turned the ball over on just 9.7 percent of possessions – a big turnaround from last season when he turned the ball over 18.5 percent of the time in conference play despite shouldering a smaller workload in terms of minutes. Felix can still score when called upon (he scored 20 points against Tech on Saturday), but his ability to succeed as both a ball-handler and scorer makes him an important piece of the Longhorns’ attack.
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Morning Five: 02.08.16 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 8th, 2016


  1. The big news over the weekend (ok, technically it came out on Friday afternoon) was Louisville‘s decision to self-impose a postseason ban for this season as the result of its prostitution scandal. While they aren’t the first school to self-impose a ban during the middle of the season (a team from their own conference–Syracuse–did it last year) the decision to do it for a team that has the potential to make a run in the NCAA Tournament is a little unusual particularly since the NCAA would never have come to a decision before the season ended. There are several obvious issues: what the school knows that made it make the decision now, how unfair it is to the players (particularly the graduate transfers), and whether the NCAA will take this into consideration if and when they announce any sanctions. For his part, Rick Pitino put the blame on the NCAA (instead of pointing the finger at himself) and suggested that the programs should be fined $10 million and the coach should be fined 50 percent of his salary. While we can appreciate that in theory, we would love to see Pitino step up and give back 50 percent of his salary to some charitable cause.
  2. The other big news of the weekend was Iowa State‘s decision to suspend senior forward Jameel McKay indefinitely as the result of something that happened at a practice on Thursday afternoon. McKay, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season, has averaged 12 points, 9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game this season. As with any “indefinite suspension” the main question is how long that suspension will be. According to a tweet from McKay, it might end up being just one game. While the school has not addressed the duration given how vocal McKay has been about the length of the suspension without a correction from the school we tend to believe him.
  3. While Bruce Pearl has done a good job winning over the media during his time at Auburn, the on-court results have been less impressive. The latest setback comes in the form of Kareem Canty, the team’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, being suspended indefinitely. The school did not specify the reason for the suspension, but Pearl said Canty’s “effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable.” Pearl has already suggested the possibility of Canty coming back on the team later this season so we don’t think this suspension will last that long.
  4. Players of the caliber of McKay and Canty can get away with certain things, but when you have minimal contributions and repeatedly get in trouble sometimes you run out of forgiveness as Daquan Cook found out when he was dismissed from UNLV for unspecified reasons. Cook, who has either been injured or suspended recently, was let go by interim coach Todd Simon and had been suspended for the first two months of the season after getting arrested over the summer on DUI charges. Cook is expected to graduate this spring and could theoretically try to go to another program, but we doubt anybody significant would take him given all the baggage he has.
  5. Pete Thamel’s report that FSU commit Jon Isaac could try to enter the 2016 NBA Draft has not gathered a lot of attention yet, but it is certainly something worth watching. Isaac, a top-10 recruit who is just 18, but will be eligible because he entered high school in 2011 even though he has not graduated high school yet (just needs to be one year removed from his class graduating), is going to utilize the new rule that gives players the option of entering the NBA Draft, but then withdrawing their name at a later date than previously allowed. It will be interesting to see if more players utilize this although Isaac is an unusual case because of his age and year entering high school.
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What’s Trending: A Month Away from March!

Posted by Griffin Wong on February 4th, 2016

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Griffin Wong (@griffwong90) is your weekly host.

SEC/Big 12 Challenge

The midseason SEC/Big 12 Challenge took place last weekend, giving teams from both conferences a chance to prove themselves in a high-profile event. The highlight of the weekend was surely Oklahoma’s surge to beat LSU in overtime, as senior Buddy Hield poured in 32 points and pushed still closer to legendary 50-50-90 Club (50% 3FG, 50% FG, 90% FT). While Hield’s late flourish stole the show, it may have been Texas A&M that proved the most. Behind 20 points from guard Danuel House, the Aggies, lacking a signature win, cemented themselves as one of the best teams in the nation with a 10-point win over Iowa State. Overall, the Big 12 took the bragging rights with a 7-3 victory, and the event was a resounding success.

More Tragedy Strikes

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