Big 12 Season Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 6th, 2014

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

Strengths: Georges Niang is getting most of the attention coming into this season, and he certainly should. He’s the best returning player in the Big 12 outside of Juwan Staten and his much-publicized physical transformation should help him stay on the court for as long as Fred Hoiberg needs him. Still, there’s a lot more to this team than just him. Dustin Hogue had a great junior season and played at least 35 minutes in seven of the team’s final nine games. Abdel Nader and Daniel Edozie bring depth to the frontcourt, as will Jameel McKay when he becomes eligible in December. Throw in long-range bombers like Naz Long, Matt Thomas and a skilled ball-handler in Monte Morris, then top it off with the promise of 7’1″ Greek import Georgios Tsalmpouris, and you can see the Cyclones throwing any of a number of looks at opposing teams. Iowa State been an offensive juggernaut under Hoiberg, finishing in the top 12 nationally in offensive efficiency each of the last three seasons, and his team has a great chance to pull off such a feat again. Even with Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane now gone, the team still has a deep arsenal of offensive weapons, so look for Iowa State to put up points in a hurry — same as it ever was.

With Hilton Magic at their back, Georges Niang and the Cyclones are back for another wild ride. (Ames Tribune)

With Hilton Magic at their back, Georges Niang and the Cyclones are ready for another ride. (Ames Tribune)

Weaknesses: While Hoiberg has always fielded strong offensive teams, did you know that he’s never had a top-5o defense in five seasons in Ames? His M.O. has always been to sacrifice blocks and steals to speed up the transition game, but while it usually works, it hasn’t made his defense any less vulnerable and there are similar questions this year. Kane’s replacement, newcomer Bryce Dejean-Jones, doesn’t have much of a defensive reputation. Tsalmpouris and Edozie could provide shot-blocking help, but with Edozie having played just sparingly and Tsalmpouris getting settled in, it’s hard to say how much either will contribute. The next biggest concern could be the speed at which Dejean-Jones gets acclimated on the offensive end, but given Hoiberg’s proven success with transfers, he should be just fine. The team’s biggest weakness is again its lack of size down low, which significantly reduces the Cyclones’ margin of error on down shooting nights (ISU went just 1-5 when it shot 40 percent or worse from the floor last season).

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Cousy Award List Reveals Kansas Struggles at Point Guard Position

Posted by Chris Stone on November 5th, 2014

Preseason award lists continued to roll in on Tuesday afternoon with the release of the 2014-15 Bob Cousy Award Watch List. For those unfamiliar, the Cousy Award is given annually to the top point guard in men’s college basketball. This year’s list is led by Preseason AP All-Americans and likely favorites Marcus Paige of North Carolina and Fred VanVleet of Wichita State. The list also exhibits the strength of the position in the Big 12 this year. Four of the league’s 10 teams are represented, including Iowa State’s Monte Morris, Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard, Texas’ Isaiah Taylor and West Virginia’s Juwan Staten. No Big 12 player has won the award since going back-to-back in 2006-07 (Acie Law IV, Texas A&M) and 2007-08 (D.J. Augustin, Texas), but this crop of league point guards provides plenty of talent that can compete for the prize this year.

The tourney upsets his Kansas teams have suffered will not be forgotten (Getty).

Despite being considered the favorites once again to win the Big 12, Bill Self and Kansas might have some question marks at the point guard position. (Getty)

  • Monte Morris averaged 6.8 points and 3.7 assists per game for the Cyclones during his freshman season and projects to replace DeAndre Kane as the starting point guard in Ames as a sophomore. The challenge for him will be to maintain his NCAA leading assist-to-turnover ratio (4.8-to-1) and great three-point shooting (40.6%) as he transitions into the role of Fred Hoiberg’s primary ball-handler.
  • Another sophomore poised to have an excellent season is Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard. As a freshman, Woodard averaged 10.3 points and 4.6 assists per game as the Sooners made the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. He will, however, need to improve his two-point field goal shooting (35.2%) to become a more complete offensive player this season. According to Hoop-Math.com, he connected on only 29.0% of his shots away from the rim last season, which has to improve.

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Big 12 M5: 11.03.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 3rd, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Guys like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Isaiah Austin and DeAndre Kane might be gone from the league, but the Big 12 could be as good as ever this season. As was pointed out here, this is the first season when four Big 12 teams have made an appearance in the Preseason AP Top 25. Those four teams are Kansas (#5), Texas (#10), Iowa State (#14), and Oklahoma (#19). The quartet of Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia all received votes as well. Kansas was picked by Big 12 scribes to win the conference for the 11th consecutive year and the AP voters rightfully gave the Jayhawks the highest ranking of any Big 12 team. But as you can see, there isn’t much of a gap between Kansas and the other schools, which should make for a great conference race.
  2. Former President Bill Clinton was campaigning for Democrats in Iowa over the weekend when he stopped at a coffee shop in Ames. “You have a very interesting team,” he told a small group of people, referring to Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team [see full video below]. It’s not every day when someone can talk hoops with a former president, and while Clinton didn’t give any amazing breakdowns during the conversation, it was still pretty cool to see. For someone who probably doesn’t watch a ton of Cyclones basketball, his wasn’t a terrible point to make. If the Cyclones are anything like what they’ve been in the past few years under Hoiberg, they’ll shoot well enough in some games to beat anybody and go cold in others, making them as upset-prone as nearly any team in the country.
  3. If Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas becomes eligible this season, Crimson and Cream Review believes that Oklahoma might be able to knock Kansas off the top spot in the Big 12 for the first time in over a decade. That’s good news for their readers, who seem to believe that Thomas will receive a waiver to play soon. The Sooners winning the conference wouldn’t be a stunner on the level of a TCU or Texas Tech winning the Big 12 title, but getting past Kansas and Texas this year? I don’t know about that one.
  4. Kansas freshman forward Cliff Alexander seemed to be a guy who might need a few weeks to get used to the college game. If you watched his high school clips, he basically did whatever he wanted inside simply because he was five inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than anyone else on the court. And while Kansas coach Bill Self recently told beat writer Gary Bedore that Alexander “had done great,” it still looks like he will need a month or so to get the hang of things in college. “Tarik averaged more fouls than rebounds and points until Christmas, and Cliff has the same potential to do that,” Self said. “But when he gets it, he’s going to be really good. I think by the end of the year, he could be one of the harder players to deal with in the league.”
  5. CBSSports.com recently ranked its top 100 college basketball players heading into the season, and surprisingly (at least to this writer), incoming freshman Jahlil Okafor was their No. 1 player ahead of guys like Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and Frank Kaminsky. The list’s top Big 12 player is Iowa State forward Georges Niang, who will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents this season with the losses of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim from the Cyclones. He is joined in the top 25 by West Virginia’s Juwan Staten (#12), Kansas’ Cliff Alexander (#14), Texas’ Myles Turner (#16), Kansas State’s Marcus Foster (#20), Kansas’ Kelly Oubre (#21), Kansas’ Perry Ellis (#22), and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield (#25). That’s not a bad collection of talent for what looks to be the second-best conference in the country, behind only the ACC.

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Big 12 M5: 10.29.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 29th, 2014

morning5_big12

 

  1. More than two dozen dignitaries from throughout Kansas‘ long history of basketball returned to Lawrence on Monday for a gala celebrating the 60th anniversary of Allen Fieldhouse. The team’s four living head coaches (Bill Self, Roy Williams, Larry Brown and Ted Owens) dating back 50 years shared anecdotes and former players including Danny Manning and Billy Thomas took some trips down memory lane as well. Williams, whose 2003 departure for North Carolina sent shockwaves through college basketball, received a nearly minute-long standing ovation and the event raised over $450,000 for charity. A trip to “The Phog,” one of the loudest venues and best atmospheres in all of sports, is an absolute must for any college hoops fan with a bucket list.
  2. The controversial news of Skal Labissiere attending a prep school that nobody is sure even exists has some Big 12 relevance, as Baylor is one of the final five suitors in the running for the services of the 6’11” blue-chip prospect. The development marks a new outpost in the overlapping worlds of recruiting and eligibility. Labissere still plans on attending classes and graduating from Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, a much more legit institution, but he’s ineligible to play basketball there since he transferred from a different school in Memphis. The reaction by the NCAA, the coaches recruiting Labissiere, and where he goes from here will be very interesting to track throughout the rest of the academic year.
  3. Ken Pomeroy released his first rankings of the 2014-15 season. Like all preseason polls, KenPom’s rankings are an educated guess to be taken with a grain of salt, but they’re interesting to examine nonetheless. All in all, there aren’t any real surprises. The Big 12 boasts six teams among the top 30, with Kansas (4) and Texas (19) leading the way. Seeing Oklahoma State positioned above Iowa StateOklahoma and Kansas State is noteworthy at this juncture, as RTC contributor Brian Goodman believes an optimistic forecast for the Cowboys still leaves them in the dogfight among the league’s middle tier.
  4. Sports Illustrated‘s Joan Niesen asked Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg and forward Georges Niang how the team deals with the public’s frequent speculation on Hoiberg’s future. Trust between The Mayor and the team is a big factor for both parties; The players see the rumors and Hoiberg knows his team sees them, but both are able to block them out and do what matters most: produce. Of course, Hoiberg being in possession of a contract that pays him $2.6 million annually to coach in a town where he’s beloved by everyone helps, but three straight NCAA Tournament trips (all including at least one win) speak to the team’s ability to maintain focus as well.
  5. Speaking of SI, Brian Hamilton gave a comprehensive overview of the Big 12 on Monday, with the help of analytical experts Luke Winn and Dann Hanner. The most noteworthy thing about their projections are that they don’t see the chase for the Big 12 title the same way others seem to. While we agree that Kansas should win its staggering 12th straight conference title, SI predicts a margin of three games, which seems very generous and would be almost unprecedented. Throughout the Jayhawks’ reign at the top, they’ve won the conference by more than two games just once, in 2010, when they finished four games ahead of Baylor. While no credible prognosticators deny that Kansas should be the favorite in the Big 12, they have enough questions that a domination of the league in such fashion should be considered pretty bullish.
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Big 12 M5: 10.24.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 24th, 2014

morning5_big12

 

  1. It’s been a rough week for complementary players in the Big 12. We’ve talked about D.J. Johnson and Georgois Tsalmpouris being hobbled to various degrees, and Thursday, it was announced that Iowa State transfer Hallice Cooke (formerly of Oregon State) will miss the season to repair cartilage tears in both of his hips. Cooke’s injury won’t have too big an impact this year, as he wasn’t going to play anyway due to NCAA transfer rules, but now, he won’t even be able to practice with his new team. Cooke will have three years of eligibility left starting with the 2015-16 season.
  2. Kansas State guard Marcus Foster admitted that being snubbed by Kansas as a prospect is a motivating factor as he looks to live up to high expectations as a sophomore for the Wildcats this season. In case you aren’t familiar, Foster was a highly sought-after guard before he let his conditioning fall by the wayside. Bruce Weber stuck with him, though, and Kansas State was rewarded for their loyalty with a commitment and the best season from a freshman Wildcat since Michael Beasley. Foster is getting some attention as a Big 12 Player Of The Year Candidate, so it will be interesting to see if he gets off to a fast start next month.
  3. Cliff Alexander and Myles Turner were mentioned by NBC’s College Basketball Talk among 20 impact freshmen around the game this year. Both Alexander and Turner have tremendous strength that should help them power to the basket on offense, but like the vast majority of freshmen at any level of college hoops, both are a little rough around the edges. It will be a lot of fun to see how they match up come conference play, as those tilts could very well decide the fate of the Big 12 race.
  4. This week had been a little quiet on the Baylor front, but not anymore. Late Thursday night, Scott Drew reeled in his fourth commitment of the 2015 class when 6’3″ guard Wendell Mitchell gave a verbal commitment to the Bears. Depending on which scouting service you prefer, Mitchell checks in with either three or four stars. While Baylor hasn’t landed a big fish in the class quite yet, they have some solid pieces on the way and remain in the hunt for the services of 5-star big man Skal Labissiere.
  5. Tubby Smith‘s first season as the head coach of Texas Tech saw his team spring a few upsets, topping Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas during conference play. While there are seven new players on the squad, Smith is hopeful that the team will build on last year’s experience and become a more competitive squad in 2014-15. The ceiling for this team remains limited, but as our Nate Kotisso relayed earlier this week, they have a deep pool of guards that can help lead them to a finish around .500 in league play if things break right.
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Big 12 M5: 10.23.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2014

morning5_big12

 

  1. Yesterday afternoon, a report surfaced alleging that Texas would start paying its student-athletes an amount in the area of $10,000 per year on top of the typical scholarship. Initially, the report set Twitter abuzz, as it would be the biggest domino to fall in the wake of the O’Bannon ruling, but it later turned out that Texas Athletic Director Steve Patterson was merely speaking hypothetically in response to a question about what might happen if the NCAA were to lose all of its appeals from the landmark. Despite the initial misinterpretation, it was interesting to get a glimpse from an administrator at a big athletics school into what the future may hold as the NCAA model is continuously challenged.
  2. Travis Ford has faced a lot of scrutiny over the past year (most of it deserved), but it hasn’t stopped him from making hay on the recruiting trail. Oklahoma State‘s latest commit came in Tuesday from 2016 guard Tre Evans. One interesting angle to Evans’ recruitment is that although his father, Terry, was a 1,300-point scorer for rival Oklahoma and later a staffer for Kelvin Sampson, the Sooners never came calling for Tre. A chip understandably developed on Tre’s shoulder, so even though he’s only a junior, he sounds very eager to get to Stillwater.
  3. In the current age of freshmen hype, we’ve seen how easy it can be for good upperclassmen to get lost in the shuffle. Last season, Kansas forward Perry Ellis flew under the radar compared to the Jayhawks’ one-and-done guys, and as of now, he’s one of college basketball’s most underrated players. That status is likely to change during the preview season as regional and national outlets take a closer look at what will make the Jayhawks go this year (especially as Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre take time to get settled) but for the time being, Ellis is about as underrated as a player for an annual contender can be. While Ellis is reliable around the rim, he was also a factor in Kansas’ disappointing defensive performance this season, so he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.
  4. Over 20 years after his tough 1992 Cincinnati team crashed the Final Four, Bob Huggins is still fighting a reputation as a perceived villain, according to Fox Sports’ Reid Forgrave. A given fan’s impression of the coaching vet probably depends on how long they’ve been following his career and whether they view teams as an extension of their coach. Huggins’ best teams — whether they’ve been at Dayton, Cincinnati or West Virginia — have always had an edge to them and thrived during a time when many coaches had a defensive philosophy based in some part on the idea that refs can only call so much contact. However, it’s also true that Huggins has always cared deeply for his players and never minces words when it comes to his teams’ performance in a given game or season. Huggins isn’t without flaws, but in today’s college basketball landscape, there are definitely more sketchy characters.
  5. Iowa State forward Georgios Tsalmpouris suffered a mild ankle sprain in practice, but should be ready to go for the start of the season. At 7’1″, Tsalmpouris is the tallest player to suit up for the Cyclones since 2004, but at 220 pounds, he has some bulking up to do before he becomes a key cog in Iowa State’s rotation. There isn’t much reason to worry about Tsalmpouris’ injury, but someone as raw as him needs all the development he can get.
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Big 12 M5: 10.21.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 21st, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas State‘s frontcourt depth will suffer a minor hit after it was announced that Jack Karapetyan has withdrawn from school and will look to transfer. The California native played in just six games before losing his season to a foot injury last year. Fortunately for him, the injury came early enough in the season that he qualified for a medical hardship waiver, which means he will have all of his eligibility at his new school. The Wildcats don’t figure to miss him, though, as they have plenty of bodies up front.
  2. If there’s one team in need of a fresh start this season, it’s Oklahoma State. Though the Cowboys rallied to make the NCAA Tournament, they finished far below expectations and are ready for a clean slate. The team is looking to Le’Bryan Nash to fill the leadership void left by the departures of Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. Nash came to Stillwater three years ago and developed a reputation for hunting shots as he struggled to accept a complimentary role. Now that he is Oklahoma State’s returning scorer, however, he will need to step up and build on a very solid junior year.
  3. A chance to play for a coach who is so well-regarded that he is approached by NBA teams on an annual basis, a rabid fan base that packs its home court every night, and the opportunity to be tested in arguably the country’s toughest conference. What’s not to like about Iowa State basketball? That’s a question we have for 6’10” Indian Hills Community College prospect Malik Dime, who verbally committed to Washington over the Cyclones on Monday. If you are going to turn down The Mayor, you better have a good reason, and according to the linked article, a couple of Washington connections were the difference.
  4. Current Southern Methodist coach and former Kansas head coach Larry Brown recalled some fond memories of coaching in Allen Fieldhouse in advance of the building’s 60th anniversary, which will be celebrated with a gala next week. Brown was only in Lawrence for five seasons, but he left a lasting legacy as the conductor of the 1988 national championship team following a prolonged stretch of mediocrity in the twilight of his predecessor’s (Ted Owens) career.
  5. As if it were even possible, West Virginia projects to lean more heavily on Juwan Staten than it did last year. Only 20 players in the country played a higher percentage of available minutes than Staten in 2014 so it’s tough imagine a bigger workload coming his way in 2015. If you ask us, the key to the Mountaineers’ season isn’t Staten’s performance, since he is more or less a known quantity, but rather the improvement of West Virginia’s abysmal defense.
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Big 12 M5: 10.20.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 20th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Iowa State lost a lot of production with the departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim from last season’s Sweet Sixteen squad, but the team is hoping that a big loss of a different variety helps the Cyclones topple Kansas atop the Big 12 this year — the disappearance of 30 pounds from senior Georges Niang‘s frame. Weight fluctuations are always a big discussion point around this time of year, but with many players on this year’s squad stepping into new roles, Iowa State expects to lean heavily on its experienced match-up nightmare. At the very least, Niang’s weight loss (from 240 pounds to 210) should help his agility to average more than the 4.5 rebounds per game he tallied a year ago.
  2. The career turnaround Rick Barnes engineered for himself was one of last season’s biggest stories, not just in the Big 12 but nationally. Now, firmly off the hot seat and with blue-chip big man Myles Turner also in tow, Barnes returns to an atmosphere where his team will shoulder expectations beyond simply making the Big Dance. The Longhorns have a deep, talented roster that will have as good a chance of knocking Kansas off its perch as any challenger has during the Jayhawks’ reign, so it will be interesting to see how Texas builds on last season’s surprise run to the Round of 32.
  3. Speaking of Kansas, Bill Self hasn’t forgotten how porous his team was on the defensive end last year, and he’s adjusting his practices to be more rigorous defensively. The Jayhawks could definitely use a shot in the arm on that end of the floor, after finishing 31st in the country in defensive efficiency on the heels of an eight-year stretch of no worse than 11th in that category.
  4. At last week’s Big 12 Media Day festivities, Curtis Shaw, who oversees the league’s officiating, opened up about the lightning rod that is the block/charge call. Shaw admitted in an interview that poor calls in block/charge scenarios happen more often than good ones, which was reflective of most fans’ perception last winter. It’s unrealistic to expect officials to get every call right, but the hope is that increased accuracy this season will deter defensive players from trying to draw charge calls by sliding into the path of an airborne offensive player.
  5. It wasn’t all that long ago that only the nation’s biggest programs participated in Midnight Madness. Now everyone is in on the act, and as a result, we’ve seen some well-intentioned yet regrettable moments from coaches as their grand entrances have become cheesier and more contrived. Last week, Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith became the latest victim of the Midnight Madness spotlight, as he fell from a motorcycle (don’t worry, it was moving at a low speed) while leading the Red Raiders onto the United Supermarkets Arena floor. The last few times Texas Tech has made the college hoops news cycle, it hasn’t exactly been flattering (we all remember the Jeff Orr debacle), so here’s hoping that Smith can get the Red Raiders pointed in the right direction after a tough first year at the helm.
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Big 12 Media Day Recap: A Photo For The Ages

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 16th, 2014

If you haven’t heard, Kansas City’s a happening place these days. Aside from that ALCS thing in town yesterday, the Big 12 also held its annual men’s basketball media day at the Sprint Center (here’s all that stuff, if it tickles your fancy). It was your run-of-the-mill media day: Reporters asked bland questions, players and coaches gave calculated answers, and no one really learned anything new. The apex of the festivities came, however, when the Big 12’s Twitter account tweeted out a group photo will all 10 of the conference’s head coaches. Here it is below:

Bask in all its glory (photo via @Big12Conference on Twitter)

Bask in All of its Glory (photo via @Big12Conference)

Instead of breaking down the nonstop action from media day, the following were the “thoughts” that went through each coach’s mind at the time the above photo was taken.*

  • Baylor’s Scott Drew: “I hate coming here when the Tournament is in an odd-numbered year. (sighs) OK, what should I do here, hands together or apart? Together? Apart? Wait, did I use all my timeouts yet? [camera takes photo] Ah heck, they’re apart.”
  • Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg: “Put me in the back, will ya? That’s fine. I’ll end up dreamier than I was before.”
  • Kansas’ Bill Self: “Really wanted to wear Wiggins’ draft day suit again. Knew I shouldn’t have had that glass of butter with dinner.”
  • Kansas State’s Bruce Weber: (chuckles to himself) “I can’t believe Ford was in ‘The 6th Man.’ That’s the best movie of all-time! I bet that made a heckuva lot of money in theaters!”
  • Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger:  “I would take another coaching job right now if it meant I didn’t have to take this photo.”
  • Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford: “This contract I have means that I’m pretty much bulletproof. I could pull down Drew’s pants right now and I’d STILL get that check next week. [mulls it over] Nah, I won’t do that to ‘em. He’s probably worried that he has to call a timeout here or something.”
  • Texas’ Rick Barnes: “I bet if I left media day, traveled the world and missed the entire year, we’d still have a better record than the football team.”
  • TCU’s Trent Johnson: “I don’t know why this camera guy told me to move this far up. He could have gotten a much better shot of me if I stood at half-court like I wanted.”
  • Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith: “I should have been more direct with people calling me Orlando instead of Tubby.”
  • West Virginia’s Bob Huggins:  “I don’t think anyone here gets my E. Gordon Gee Halloween costume.”

*thoughts confirmed by unnamed sources

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Five Takeaways From the Preseason Big 12 Coaches Poll

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 9th, 2014

We’re a little over a month away from the first games of the 2014-15 season, and that means the typical roll-out of preseason coaches polls, all-conference teams and all of the other fun stuff that comes with the countdown. This morning, the Big 12 Conference released its annual preseason coaches poll. You can find the complete rankings here, but here are the five biggest takeaways from the release.

  1. Kansas picked to lead the pack (again), though narrowly: Death, taxes, the sun shining in the east, Adam Sandler making terrible movies, and the Jayhawks winning the Big 12. Sometimes, there’s just no need to complicate life’s certainties. Kansas’ roster isn’t without questions, but whose isn’t? Until someone knocks the Jayhawks off the mountain, any predictions in favor of other teams are simply bold picks. The Longhorns are right behind the Jayhawks with three first-place votes to Kansas’ six in this poll, and have one of the best combinations of talent and depth in the country, but don’t count on the Jayhawks to give up their crown this season.
  2. Sooners on the rise: Oklahoma checks in after Texas and was one of the bigger overachievers in college basketball last season. Lon Kruger returns nearly everyone from a young roster that racked up 23 wins, a second-place finish in the Big 12, and an NCAA Tournament bid. While the team’s defense will need to improve, the offensive firepower should still be there, and the squad can catch a huge break if Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas is ruled eligible. Combine all of that with Kruger’s track record and there are plenty of reasons to believe the Sooners will build on last year’s success.

    Andrew Wiggins is a pro, but Bill Self has reloaded Kansas once again. (KUSports.com)

    Andrew Wiggins is a pro, but Bill Self has reloaded Kansas once again. (KUSports.com)

  3. Is the Big 12 selling Fred Hoiberg short?: Before the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the league’s coaches penciled Iowa State in the bottom half of the standings, and both times, Fred Hoiberg exceeded expectations. Last year, the coaches appeared to finally smarten up, as they tabbed the Cyclones to finish fourth, but Iowa State still outperformed those projections, finishing third in the league and winning the Big 12 Tournament. The departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim appear to have given the coaches pause this season in sliding the Cyclones down to fifth, but we’ve seen The Mayor rebuild too many times to believe he can’t muster a top-four finish, possibly top three if things break right for his club. Look for Bryce Dejean-Jones, Georges Niang and Monte Morris to do some big things in 2014-15.
  4. What to make of the perceptions of Kansas State and Baylor: Both the Wildcats and Bears face significant roster turnover from last season’s NCAA Tournament teams, but Bruce Weber’s team was tabbed fourth and Scott Drew’s team sixth. It appears as though the league’s coaches are looking for Wildcats guard Marcus Foster to make a big leap as a sophomore and for Baylor to continue its every-other-year pattern, because I just don’t see what else can explain the 17-point difference in the preseason vote tally.
  5. At 7th and 8th place, Bob Huggins and Travis Ford face big seasons: West Virginia’s transition to the Big 12 has been a rocky one. The Mountaineers are just 49-49 over the last three seasons, and while it’s tough to picture Bob Huggins’ seat getting too hot in Morgantown, it’s time for him to produce. Juwan Staten could be the best player in the Big 12, but his amazing talent will be wasted if West Virginia doesn’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, in Stillwater, Travis Ford looks to pick up the pieces from one of the most disappointing seasons by a Power Five conference school in recent memory. To his credit, he’s made some inroads on the recruiting circuit, but it’s hard to see freshmen like Joe Burton and Mitch Solomon being good enough complements to Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte for the Cowboys to make a run.
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Morning Five: 10.03.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 3rd, 2014

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  1. For the past few years we have been speculating as to when many of the legendary coaches in college basketball would retire, but there is another college basketball legend–Dick Vitale–who we should be talking about in a similar way. Vitale, who turned 75 in June, reached an agreement with with ESPN that will extend his contract through 2017. We all know that Vitale has become a polarizing figure with some fan bases, but we have a hard time faulting someone who is so passionate about the sport we all love and is even more passionate about raising money for cancer research. We are sure that there are some of you who have grown tired of Vitale and his “act”, but remember there is no bigger ambassador for the sport.
  2. Butler announced that head coach Brandon Miller would be taking an indefinite medical leave of absence for an undisclosed reason. Last season, Miller had the unenviable task of replacing Brad Stevens with a depleted squad and it showed with a first-year record of 14-17 overall and 4-14 in the Big East. We aren’t sure what the exact reasons are for Miller’s leave of absence, but according to Jeff Goodman they might be stress-related as many of Miller’s friends have been unable to contact him for months and Goodman says that he would not be surprised if Miller did not return. Whatever Miller’s ailment may be we wish him the best of health in his recovery from whatever is bothering him. Chris Holtmann, who previously spent three seasons as head coach at Gardner-Webb before coming to Butler, will serve as the interim head coach during Miller’s leave.
  3. Cameron Biedscheid‘s stay at Missouri was a short one as the school announced that the Notre Dame transfer is leaving the school “to attend to personal matters”. The school did not go into details as to what those personal matters were, but said that Biedscheid, who would be have eligible to play in the spring semester, “will no longer be a member of our basketball program” indicating that this will not just be a temporary break. Even though Biedscheid’s production as a freshman at Notre Dame– 6.2 points in 17.4 minutes per game–was modest he was a highly touted prospect and would have been expected to pick up a lot of the scoring the Tigers lost when Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown, and Earnest Ross left. Now the Tigers are left in an even more difficult spot and Biedscheid will have some tough decisions ahead as he will not be eligible to play in Division I until the 2015-16 season. To make things even worse for Missouri, Johnathan Williams III, a power forward who averaged 5.8 points per game last season, will miss time after suffering a torn meniscus during an individual workout.
  4. With those losses the announcement that Missouri had reinstated freshmen Jakeenan Gant and D’Angelo Allen certainly seems a little suspicious. The pair had been suspended last month after they were arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault when Gant’s wallet was found at the site of an assault. Gant was considered a coup for Kim Anderson as he was the state’s 2014 Mr. Basketball who committed to Frank Haith and stayed even after Haith left. Allen committed to Missouri the week after Anderson was hired so they are both pretty significant freshmen at least on a symbolic level.  We aren’t exactly sure how they magically managed to do enough to impress the staff that they had turned things around the same time the team lost two key pieces, but we have our suspicions.
  5. Long Beach State‘s aspirations of competing for the Big West title this year took a hit when head coach Dan Monson announced that starting guard A.J. Spencer would miss the 2014-15 season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during a pickup game last week. Spencer’s injury was reported last week by a local newspaper, but was not confirmed by Monson until this week. Spencer averaged 9.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season while starting 28 of 32 games. Monson will try to fill Spencer’s spot by committee, but with Long Beach State’s challenging non-conference slate it could be a rough start to the season.
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Morning Five: 09.26.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 26th, 2014

morning5

  1. What was a promising string of recruits for Larry Brown has continued to dwindle as former SMU commit Matt McQuaid announced his commitment to Michigan State yesterday. McQuaid, a four-star shooting guard out of Texas, backed out of his commitment to SMU in late July and also was courted heavily by Indiana, Texas and Creighton. In the end, McQuaid said it was the relationship that he developed with Tom Izzo, cemented by an official visit to East Lansing this past weekend, that led him to commit to play for the Spartans. Michigan State picks up one of the best shooters in the country to add to two other four-star commits in Deyonta Davis and Kyle Ahrens.
  2. North Carolina State junior guard Trevor Lacey was arrested last Friday for failing to show up for a court date related to a February speeding ticket. Lacey, who sat out last season after transferring from Alabama (averaging 9.3 points per game while there), was stopped for riding a moped without a helmet a little after midnight, but was arrested for missing an April 4 court date for a February 23 speeding ticket. Lacey is now scheduled to appear in court on Monday for the February ticket and also has a November 13 court date for last Friday’s clinic. While we don’t want to minimize an arrest, this is one that we feel will lead to nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the athletic department.
  3. South Carolina has joined a growing list of schools that will offer four-year guaranteed scholarships. The school will reportedly give these scholarships to players in football, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s tennis and volleyball. Athletes in other sports will have to divide up a predetermined number of four-year guaranteed scholarships with the allocations within each team to be determined by the coach. According to the school these guaranteed scholarships can only be revoked “if the student-athlete 1) decides to leave the team; 2) becomes ineligible; or 3) violates University or athletics department policies.” Although many schools have launched similar programs it is far from universal so we will be interested to see if the schools that do gain any kind of recruiting advantage.
  4. One of the most exciting things about the start of each season is waiting to see which player will be ready to make the leap to become a household name. Obviously, some of the incoming freshmen stars will make that leap, but other times it is players who have been around, but now are given the opportunity to shine. Monte Morris could be a prime example of that with DeAndre Kane no longer in Ames. Morris put up an NCAA record with a 4.79 assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman including 6.9 in Big 12 games so he obviously has the tools to guide the Cyclones. As Dana O’Neill notes Morris also an interesting back story that we think you will hear repeated on telecasts quite a bit this season.
  5. Basketball doesn’t lend itself to advanced statistical analysis the way that baseball does due to the nature of the game, but it has come a long way in a relatively short period of time and has gained acceptance by many fans. At this point nearly every baseball fan has heard of Bill James, but we doubt that many have heard of Dean Oliver, who is basically the Bill James of advanced basketball statistical analysis. Even those who know of Oliver are not that familiar with his background, which Adam Rosenfield does a good job of covering in his article on Oliver. We are not sure that we necessarily agree with Oliver that today’s traditional stats will become extinct as we believe the more useful ones will survive and be used with the similarly useful advanced metrics.
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