Big 12 M5: 01.25.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 25th, 2016

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  1. Kansas is struggling a bit right now. I don’t think that’s a large statement to make. Traveling to traditionally noisy road environments (West Virginia, Oklahoma State) only to come away with losses isn’t the biggest deal but when an undermanned-yet-solid Texas team had a real chance of pulling the upset at home, there might be something more to this recent rough patch. Accordingly, Bill Self tinkered with his lineup and rotation on Saturday after tinkering with it Tuesday against the Cowboys. Still, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they dropped another road contest to a really good Iowa State team later tonight but I’d like to think Kansas fans would sound the alarms if they laid another egg.
  2. Speaking of the Cyclones, Iowa State will host Kansas tonight in a match-up that has become the Big 12’s premier tussle over the past four years. As a line of tents wrap around Hilton ColiseumSteve Prohm has finally been able to build trust and encouragement with his veteran-laden team. It’s more intimidating than it is easy when you think about it. A situation where the players are good, have a years-long way of doing things and then all of a sudden, a new guy is hired from the outside. The players weren’t likely to revolt or be outright disrespectful to Prohm but there did remain a possibility that, while they knew he was successful at his previous stop, Cyclone players could have ran things they way were accustomed to for years under Fred Hoiberg. At last, the coach and his players are mentally one. The implications of this fact now radiate throughout the Big 12.
  3. My main complaint, well the nation’s main complaint, with West Virginia is that they shoot the ball like a 30-second shot isn’t sufficient for their kind of offense. And then a game like Saturday’s comes along. The Mountaineers were already shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from the perimeter and still trailed Texas Tech by four with under a minute to go. Then, the (TarikPhillip-ing occurred. The junior guard owned the last minute of play when he nailed a three-pointer, converted an old-fashioned three point play, made a dunk and tacked on two of his final three steals on the day. Most bench players don’t get that much activity playing 20 minutes and Phillip did all that — and still finished with 20 points. Because of his effort, West Virginia maintained their four-way tie for first place in the Big 12.
  4. Texas Tech was feisty in their home loss to West Virginia despite learning that sophomore big man Norense Odiase broke his fourth metatarsal bone in his right foot following Tech’s win over TCU and will be in a cast for the next three weeks according to Tubby Smith. Odiase had been growing as a more consistent low-post threat while also adding a jump shot to his arsenal. He was averaging 9 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 19.5 minutes per game. With Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State as Tech’s three of their next five games, a presence like Odiase’s will be sorely missed in games that will determine their worthiness of an at-large berth.
  5. As Oklahoma‘s dream season rolls on, the athletics department announced late last week one of its faces of the program is coming home. On March 1, Blake Griffin will ride into Norman, as the Sooners take on Baylor, where his No. 23 jersey will be retired. March 1 will almost assuredly be even more emotional as the jersey ceremony coincides with Senior Night where Sooner fans will say goodbye to Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler and the rest of the senior class. I have a strange feeling the Lloyd Noble Center will be filled to capacity that night.
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Big 12 M5: 01.22.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 22nd, 2016

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  1. It’s no secret that Kansas has struggled to contain driving guards like Jaysean Tate and Jawun Evans in recent games, and it might not get any easier tomorrow as the Jayhawks welcome Isaiah Taylor and Texas to Allen Fieldhouse. While Texas is merely average when it comes to finishing at the rim, it’s still worth wondering if Taylor, Javan Felix, and Kerwin Roach will test Kansas’ ability to stop penetration early. Saturday’s matchup in Lawrence will also mark Shaka Smart‘s first game against Kansas since that fateful day in San Antonio, so it’s also natural to think about whether both coaches will be a little more amped up than usual for this one.
  2. Two of the Big 12’s three most efficient offenses square off tomorrow when Oklahoma pays a visit to first-place Baylor. While the Bears currently sit alone atop the Big 12 standings, there’s still some skepticism of their record due to their relative lack of marquee wins and the fact that they have had close calls against two of the league’s worst teams. One of the great things about the Big 12’s perennial depth is that there are always opportunities to make statements, and the Bears will have a big shot to quiet their doubters with a win over a top-five team.
  3. Luke Winn of SI.com released his weekly Power Rankings (stay tuned for ours), and his insight into Oklahoma has to do with the performance of the frontcourt core of Ryan Spangler and Kadeem Lattin. The Sooners’ efficiency takes a dive when Spangler and Lattin don’t share the floor, but Spangler has played a whopping 88.6 percent of available minutes in conference play, so effectively, the concerns for Lon Kruger are finding ways to keep Lattin in games and finding the right lineup for those times when the sophomore big man needs to catch a breather.
  4. Iowa State sophomore Hallice Cooke recently put himself in Steve Prohm‘s doghouse by being late to practice one day after Prohm instituted tighter policies for player conduct, but he is hoping to get back at it tomorrow against TCU. With Prohm shortening up his rotation, it may be tough for Cooke to find more than a handful of minutes per game moving forward, but he can start by playing well against the worst team in the conference.
  5. Oklahoma State is flying high after its big win over Kansas, which prompted Tulsa World columnist Darnell Mayberry to compile a list of Travis Ford‘s ten biggest wins in Stillwater. While the Pokes have mostly been an afterthought since the departure of Marcus Smart, one doesn’t have to dig too deep to find some truly impressive wins in Ford’s eight seasons at the helm.
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Big 12 M5: 01.20.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 20th, 2016

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  1. It’s tough enough to win on the road, but it’s even tougher when the home team makes 52.4 percent of its three-pointers. Kansas learned this fact in its 86-67 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater Tuesday night, but this was more than just a fluky shooting performance from the Pokes. Oklahoma State outscored Kansas in the paint 22-12 and outrebounded them 38-31, marking the upset as a true team effort. Freshman Jawun Evans continued his quest for conference Freshman Of The Year Honors, turning in his third straight solid performance with 22 points, six rebounds and eight assists to lead the Cowboys. The highly-touted recruit on the other side, Cheick Diallo, made his first career start, but was part of the largely ineffective Jayhawk back line. The victory marked the Cowboys’ third consecutive home win over Bill Self’s team, whose struggles continue to leave the door open for a team like Oklahoma or West Virginia to end their Big 12 title streak.
  2. To that point, the 4-1 Mountaineers will look to avoid falling back into a tie with Kansas and Oklahoma tonight when they host Texas. As successful as West Virginia has been with its pressure defense, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s more familiar with that style of play than Longhorn coach Shaka Smart. We all know about Smart’s success with VCU, but on top of that, he actually consulted West Virginia during last season’s NCAA Tournament when the Mountaineers prepped for their Round of 32 tilt against Maryland (which they won 69-59). West Virginia is favored by a comfortable 12 points tonight, but Texas’ stingy offense, which currently sports the Big 12’s lowest turnover percentage in league play, could make this one closer than Vegas thinks.
  3. Don’t look now, but the roller coaster that is Baylor basketball is on the rise entering tonight’s home game against Kansas State. While the Bears aren’t typically mentioned among the squads with a shot at ending Kansas’ regular season conference title streak (nor should they be, necessarily), they’re tied with West Virginia for first place thanks to some excellent recent shooting and its great rebounding, which has been consistent all season. Meanwhile, Bruce Weber‘s team is still looking for dependability on the offensive end, especially when it comes to shooting. They’ll carry a frosty 47.3 percent team eFG% into the Ferrell Center tonight.
  4. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish spent some time learning how Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm has managed during Prohm’s up-and-down debut season in Ames. The progression of Iowa State’s campaign to this point has been a little wilder than most expected. Prohm faced some tough criticism after the team’s 1-3 start to conference play, but wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma have put him and the team back on track. While Prohm knew the fierce expectations of the job going in, he’s learning firsthand that following a local icon with a team built to win now is no easy task when it comes to pleasing a die-hard fanbase.
  5. CJ Moore of Bleacher Report took an in-depth look at the rise in the number of one-and-done players entering the NBA Draft and wonders if the 2016 Draft (along with other factors, including but not limited to the NCAA’s recent extension of the declaration window) could turn the tide back towards more players returning to school. While age is still a key factor in the minds of evaluators, at least one pro scout told Moore that there’s still some good value in being able to project a player with four years of college experience under his belt (like Buddy Hield), as opposed to raw freshmen who may have higher upsides but also bring with them a wider swath of possible outcomes.
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Big 12 M5: 01.18.16 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 18th, 2016

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  1. After two straight losses in which Iowa State gave up more than 90 points, the Cyclones picked up a 76-63 road win over Kansas State on Saturday. The lower point total was the product of both the Wildcats’ slower pace of play and a change in Steve Prohm‘s philosophy. After a slow start to conference play, Prohm explained that the Cyclones need to manage games in a way that limits the time they spend on defense. His theory is that Iowa State is so good on offense that the Cyclones would be better off spending a bit more of the game with the ball in their hands. The key, though, will still be for Iowa State to slow down opposing offenses. The Cyclones currently rank 114th in adjusted defensive efficiency–a stat which accounts for the quality of opponent and pace of play–and will be put to the test when Oklahoma comes to Ames tonight.
  2. Speaking of the Sooners, their 70-68 victory over West Virginia reopened the Big 12 race as four teams now sit at 4-1 in the conference. More importantly, though, the win may be a boon for the confidence of sophomore Khadeem Lattin. After missing the front end of a one-and-one that would have given Oklahoma a victory in Allen Fieldhouse two weeks ago, Lattin scored the game-winning bucket against the Mountaineers on a tip-in. “It was like a redemption,” Lattin told the media.
  3. Meanwhile at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas bounced back from their loss in Morgantown on Tuesday with a 70-63 win over TCU. The Jayhawks’ two freshman big men, Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo, both got extended looks against the Horned Frogs. Bragg scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in 16 minutes, but it was Diallo’s performance that turned heads. After being featured only sparingly so far this year, Diallo played a season-high 21 minutes against TCU. His nine points, nine rebounds, and five blocks gave fans a taste of what Diallo can offer Kansas going forward. The improvement of the Jayhawks’ two freshman will be a critical component come March and it’s the reason Kansas is viewed as the title contender with the most upside going forward.
  4. Baylor‘s Lester Medford continues to come up big in key moments for the Bears. The senior point guard delivered a huge second half in Baylor’s win over Vanderbilt earlier this season, and on Saturday, he knocked down the game-winning three-pointer against Texas Tech. While most of the focus has been on Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, the Bears victory quietly pushed them into a four-way tie for first in the Big 12.
  5. Our final note comes from the recruiting world. Last week, four-star center Udoka Azubuike declared his intention to announce his college choice at the Hoop Hall Classic this weekend. Azubuike, who is choosing between Florida State, Kansas, and North Carolina, appeared to be leaning towards the ‘Noles, but by Sunday rumors were swirling that Florida State was out of the picture altogether. As Kansas and North Carolina picked up predictions in 247Sports’ Crystal Ball, Azubuike’s guardian announced that the high school senior would be pushing back his decision. Just the latest in a long line of strange recruiting stories, it looks like this recruiting battle will continue for a while longer.
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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

morning5_big12

  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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