Loss To Baylor Exposes Kentucky’s Inexperience

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2013

John Calipari‘s system of corralling the best high school talent and molding it into a championship-level college team was put to the test Friday night against a more experienced Baylor team. In a 67-62 loss at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Kentucky learned that for all the future lottery picks that litter its roster, there are plenty of kinks to be straightened out before the Wildcats can knock off the best squads the college level has to offer.

Julius Randle and the Wildcats were done in by Baylor’s defense Friday night. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Julius Randle and the Wildcats were done in by Baylor’s defense Friday night. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Wildcats’ lack of concentration was exposed throughout the game. Kentucky struggled to defend Baylor’s ball screens, giving junior college transfer Kenny Chery space at the top of the key, where the junior adeptly picked his spots with long jump shots and high floaters. On the rare occasion that another defender switched on to Chery on a pick-and-roll, missed assignments elsewhere on the floor allowed Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin to break to the rim untouched. Perhaps the most telling defensive possession for the Wildcats was the shot that sealed the win for Baylor. With less than a minute remaining, star forward Julius Randle inexplicably sagged off of Chery, allowing the junior to hit an open midrange jumper to give the Bears a four-point lead. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Observations a Month Into the Season

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 6th, 2013

With a month of action in the 2013-14 college basketball season now under our belts, the natural question becomes what exactly have we learned so far? We’ve been treated to some impressive performances, by both Big 12 teams and individuals, and a good number of less-than-impressive efforts. And while the buzz of Christmas season is firmly upon us, we’re also in the meat of a non-conference slate with several high-profile games involving the Big 12′s elite, allowing us further opportunity to draw more concrete conclusions. For the time being, though, four weeks into the season, here are a few observations worth keeping an eye on.

Smart showed he is human after a sub-par performance against Memphis in the Old Spice Classic (Credit: Orlando Sentinel).

Smart showed he is human after a sub-par performance against Memphis in the Old Spice Classic (Credit: Orlando Sentinel).

  • Marcus Smart is actually human after all.  Seriously, after exploding for 39 points against Memphis, Smart followed that up with 25- and 30-point performances against South Florida and Purdue, and left many in college basketball wondering if he had transformed into some sort of Space Jam Monstar in the offseason. The Oklahoma State point guard struggled in the Cowboys’ second match-up with Memphis, finishing with 12 points and two costly turnovers in a close game down the stretch. I’m not sure there’s another player in college basketball who seems to be better at harnessing his emotions in a positive way than Smart, so if there’s one thing worth betting on this season, it’s that the sophomore from Flower Mound, Texas, will find a way to bounce back quickly from a disappointing performance.

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Big 12 M5: 12.06.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 6th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Oklahoma took care of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 78-56 in a game moved up five hours from its original start time last night to avoid conflict with worsening weather conditions in Norman. The surprise performance came from junior forward D.J. Bennett, whose nine points, three boards and career-high five blocked shots added a different edge to the Sooners’ frontcourt. Bennett has dealt with a partially torn tendon since earlier in the season, and because of that hasn’t seen a lot of floor time, but this could be the start of his comeback. Goodness knows the Sooners could use someone who is effective down low when Ryan Spangler isn’t on the floor.
  2. It wasn’t easy, but Kansas State found a way to get by the Fighting Marshall Hendersons from Ole Miss, 61-58, on Thursday. Henderson tried his darndest to single-handedly win the game for the Rebels, but his 4-of-18 shooting (off the bench) did more harm than good. It’s fascinating to see how different the Wildcats play when Thomas Gipson is in the lineup — the junior tallied 15 points, six rebounds, and two blocks in the contest. And here’s an update on the attendance at Bramlage Coliseum: It certainly looked like the Wildcat faithful showed up last night. The 11,990 fans in the building made last night the third-highest attended game this season at Bramlage.
  3. A year and change into his sophomore season, Isaiah Austin is pretty pleased with his decision to attend Baylor. “Coming out of high school, everyone wants to go with the hype and Kentucky was the hype out of high school,” Austin told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But I made the best decision for me — coming here to Baylor playing under Coach Drew, who is just as great of a coach as coach Calipari is… we have just as great of faculty and staff and everybody. Kentucky is not better than us in any way, shape or form.” Oooh, them sounds like fighting words! Just in case you don’t miss it, Kentucky-Baylor from AT&T Stadium is tonight. A little big-time Friday night college hoops never hurt anybody.
  4. It was also more than a year ago when Iowa State guard Bubu Palo was arrested on charges of sexual abuse before those charges were dropped in mid-January. Now, Palo is seeking reinstatement to the men’s basketball program and in a text message to the Ames Tribune said his appeal was denied by the Iowa State Board of Regents. According to ISU’s Student Disciplinary Regulations, decisions made by the Regents can be appealed in district court. The Tribune is also reporting that Palo was initially exonerated from the SDR but that decision was appealed to ISU president Steven Leath, who in turn removed Palo from the team. I hope he can return to the floor as soon as possible. I know I’d hate to be missing out on a season like the one Iowa State is having right now.
  5. While Marcus Smart finishes off his sophomore campaign and the Stevie Clark situation is still very much up in the air, Oklahoma State received a letter of intent from Jared Terrell, the four-star point guard who committed to the Cowboys back in September. He’s 6’3″ and 220 pounds which will scare the living bejeezus out of opponents next year, and according to Travis Ford, can drive to the hoop, hit mid-range jumpers and make threes. I wonder if this official announcement translates into anything with Stevie Clark and his future with the team.
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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Baylor in the Maui Invitational

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: Baylor entered 2013-14 season sneaking in at #25 in the preseason AP poll, and jumped out to a 4-0 start with a 72-60 neutral site win over Colorado and a 66-64 home win over South Carolina. While neither of these teams are featured in Ken Pomeroy’s top 50, they both provided solid tests for the Bears while working in new point guard Kenny Chery after the departure of standout guard Pierre Jackson a season ago. Baylor followed up its first two wins with a blowout home victory over Louisiana-Lafayette and by squeaking by with a 69-64 home win over Charleston Southern. Center Isaiah Austin was solid on the offensive end for Scott Drew last year, and his work on the defensive end early this season appears to be taking shape after blocking 15 shots in a span of two games.

Baylor finds itself in the Maui Invitational Championship game against Syracuse on Wednesday night.

Baylor finds itself in the Maui Invitational Championship game against Syracuse on Wednesday night.

First Round Recap: After watching fellow Big 12 foe Texas fall in Maui to host school Chaminade a season ago, the Silver Swords certainly had Baylor’s attention entering Monday night. That focus translated into a 93-77 win, despite the fact that Chaminade made 11 first half three-pointers in the contest. A majority of those points from deep came by way of Christophe Veridel, a Florida Gulf Coast transfer who lit the Bears up for 31 points the first 20 minutes of the game before being limited to just 11 second half points. Baylor had a hot shooting night themselves, connecting on 44 percent of shots from behind the arc and led by senior guard Gary Franklin, who paced Scott Drew’s squad with 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting from three. While most teams may have been rattled early on after seeing Veridel unconscious from deep, Baylor showed good poise to weather the early barrage of threes before using their size and athleticism to break the game open in the second half.

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Observations From Baylor’s Sloppy Win Over South Carolina

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 13th, 2013

If yesterday’s Baylor vs. South Carolina matinee was any indication, Big 12 fans will not enjoy the rule changes this season that have resulted in refs blowing the whistle after almost any contact on the perimeter. More fouls equals longer games, and on Big Mondays when the Big 12 game tips off two hours after the start of the ACC game, Big 12 fans might feel a little anxious. By the time West Virginia had blown a 17-point lead and lost to Virginia Tech by five on Tuesday, ESPN switched over to the Baylor game with 11:28 left in the first half. Baylor eventually outlasted the Gamecocks after a last-second foul was a tenth of a second too late and Frank Martin’s team was not provided a chance to tie the game at the free throw line. The following are some random thoughts about Baylor’s performance on Tuesday afternoon.

Brady Heslip Will Spread Defenses Out All Season.

Brady Heslip Will Spread Defenses Out All Season

  • There were 55 total fouls called in a game that lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours. Teams should eventually adjust to the new rules, but don’t expect that to happen before Christmas if it happens this season at all.
  • In true Frank Martin fashion, South Carolina attacked inside on nearly every possession and Baylor didn’t do much to stop them. Had the Gamecocks made three or four more of the dozen layups they missed (including a wide-open attempt on a fast break with under three minutes to go during a tie game), it could have been a different outcome. On a number of occasions, South Carolina grabbed the ball out of the net, made two passes and had a layup before Baylor could get anyone back on defense.
  • Baylor ran its patented 1-3-1 zone on several possessions, but its effectiveness depended on which player was stationed at the top on the perimeter. When 6’6″ forward Royce O’Neale was there, the Gamecocks struggled to get the ball inside. When 5’11” guard Kenny Chery was in that spot, it resulted in two passes and a layup. Two games in, it doesn’t look like Baylor’s defense has been addressed like it needs to for the Bears to jockey into the Big 12 race.

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Big 12 M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 11th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. USA Today’s Eric Prisbell wrote an interesting column on Saturday in which he indicated that there’s more than meets the eye in the top-heavy Big 12. We may be biased, but we can easily get on board with that opinion. You need not look any further than Friday night when a pair of teams outside of the two getting the most pub had already secured important wins against power-conference foes (Oklahoma topping Alabama and Baylor getting the best of Colorado). Throw in a promising Iowa State team and some of the game’s best coaches at this level and you’d be unwise to limit your opinion to what you see from Kansas and Oklahoma State.
  2. Speaking of the Jayhawks, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the box score from Kansas’ 80-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe, but heralded freshmen Andrew Wiggins wasn’t as involved as many expected, even given some recent tempering of expectations regarding Wiggins by many in the media. It’s way too early to hit the panic button on either Wiggins specifically or Kansas as a whole, but given how easily Duke disposed of Davidson and that the Jayhawks didn’t pull away against a worse opponent until midway through the second half, it’s reasonable for fans in Lawrence to sense a little bit of concern heading into Tuesday’s match-up with Duke. Just don’t go too far.
  3. Iowa State sophomore Naz Long stepped in and scorched the nets for the Cyclones, hitting eight of 11 shots from beyond the arc as his team dismantled UNC Wilmington Sunday afternoon. Long’s eight makes yesterday matched his output in that category from all of last season. While there’s plenty of firepower up and down the Cyclones’ lineup (transfer DeAndre Kane nearly had a double-double at halftime), Fred Hoiberg may have found a designated gunner to replace the departed Tyrus McGee.
  4. Perhaps no team in the Big 12 had a more disappointing opener than the Kansas State Wildcats, who fell to Northern Colorado at Bramlage Coliseum Friday night. Bruce Weber’s team was without the services of big man Thomas Gipson, who is recovering from a concussion, but while depth isn’t KSU’s strong suit (and with all due respect to the Bears), it’s hard to find a legitimate excuse for Kansas State dropping this one. As it is, the Wildcats will look to recover tomorrow night against Oral Roberts.
  5. The Colorado Buffaloes were just the first in a long line of tournament-caliber teams that will line up against Baylor over the next two months. Head coach Scott Drew is excited to see what his experienced team can do in the Maui Invitational and against Kentucky, and so are we, though we aren’t sure we would sing the same tune if Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson had entered the 2013 NBA Draft rather than return to school.
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Breaking Down Colorado vs. Baylor

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2013

It’s New Year’s Day for college hoops fans. To help celebrate, Big Twelve correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of an interesting opening night game: Colorado vs. Baylor in Dallas.

Baylor will win if… It feeds its stars and contains Colorado’s secondary options. The Bears’ offense under Scott Drew has always been among the nation’s best, and this season should be no different. There may not be a big man in the country that can stretch a defense like Isaiah Austin can, and Cory Jefferson‘s 41-of-56 shooting mark during the NIT should put Colorado on notice. Throw in Brady Heslip‘s three-point prowess and the Buffs will have their hands full. Defensively, it’s hard to say whether Baylor’s guards can contain Spencer Dinwiddie. Heslip has never been known for his defense, Kenny Chery is the Bears’ newest undersized point guard who will be playing his first Division I game, as will heralded freshman tweener Ish Wainright. I’m not sure either of the three can be counted on to keep Tad Boyle‘s emerging star in check, so Baylor’s defensive gameplan should lean more heavily towards containing Colorado’s other options. If Austin, Royce O’Neale and Rico Gathers make Xavier Johnson think twice about driving and keep Josh Scott and redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon from getting easy looks in the paint, it probably won’t matter how well Dinwiddie plays.

Baylor went 13-3 when Cory Jefferson and A Potent Baylor Offense Could Give Colorado's Defense Fits (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Cory Jefferson and A Potent Baylor Offense Could Give Colorado’s Defense Fits. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Colorado will win if… Their veteran backcourt can make life miserable for a couple of Baylor perimeter guys – Chery and Wainright – who are making their Division I debuts. Between Dinwiddie and his junior backcourt mate Askia Booker, the pair of Colorado guards has been through a lot of battles. Dinwiddie has turned into a rock solid presence at the point, capable of creating for himself or finding his teammates in good position. Booker, however, has taken plenty of heat as a guy who is a bit too wild and a bit too in love with his own jumper. With more offensive weapons on this year’s squad, the hope is that Booker dials back his shot-hunting a bit and dials up his shooting percentages in turn. Either way, both of these guys are capable of causing plenty of trouble for young Bear ballhandlers like Chery and Wainright. In a big game right out of the gate where emotions are high, the calming presence of a pair of backcourt greybeards who have been through their fair share of battles may be enough to tip the scales in the Buffaloes favor. Oh, and not to pile on or anything, but in a battle of wits between Boyle and Drew, gimme Boyle.

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Yes, College Basketball Season is Finally Here

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 8th, 2013

College hoops fans everywhere, rejoice. Like Harry and Lloyd finally arriving in Aspen, we’re therrre. The anticipation for college basketball season has been building for the past several months, and we can finally take a deep breath and revel in the fact that the official start has arrived. Gone are the days of exhibition games and the abundance of preseason lists and rankings and speculation. Instead, they’re replaced by games that really count, and storylines that actually matter. Your weekends are about to get a lot more intriguing, and your weeknights a lot less boring. From Ames to Austin, Lubbock to Morgantown, and everywhere in between, the Big 12 is chock full of headlines bound to whet your appetite for action on the hardwood. So kick back, relax, and hear us out with a plethora of reasons on why you should be giddy with excitement for another rendition of college basketball.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

  • For Kansas State fans, it’s a packed house − the Octagon of Doom − and Sandstorm pumping through the PA system so violently you can’t hear yourself think. And the thought of Bruce Weber pulling a purple blazer out of the wardrobe, similar to the orange one he donned at Illinois. Can Shane Southwell become “the man” in Manhattan?  We’ll have to wait and see.
  • In Fort Worth, the reminder of one of the biggest upsets in recent college basketball history has you clamoring for an encore performance again this year. An influx of new talent, and Trent Johnson at the helm provides reason to believe the Horned Frogs can make some noise in the Big 12.
  • Whether it’s a track suit on game day or a letter sweater on media day, there’s no doubt Bob Huggins in comfortable in his own skin. You can bet though, that experiencing his first losing record in nearly 30 years was anything but comforting. The West Virginia head coach is determined to turn things around this year in Morgantown. Is there enough talent this go-round to make the Mountaineers relevant in conference play? Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Predicted Standings

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2013

Yesterday, the four Big 12 Microsite writers (Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso) named their preseason All-Big 12 selections. On college basketball’s opening day, we take a look at each writer’s predicted order of finish.

B12Standings

Some key takeaways:

You can have Marcus Smart and the Cowboys, but we’re picking Kansas until someone knocks them off: As we touched on in the Oklahoma State team preview, the Cowboys have as good a chance to dethrone Kansas as some of the top challengers in the Jayhawks’ nine-year stay atop the conference. But if a Big 12 coach is going to clown our writers by the end of the season, it’s going to be someone other than Bill Self.

  • TE: The reason I went with Kansas as my pick to win the Big 12 is a culmination of several different factors. While I think both teams not only have great talent in Wiggins and Smart, both also have strong supporting players around them. On Smart’s team, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are both extremely talented and could go for 30 on any night, and for Wiggins, he has two other potential lottery picks beside him, not to mention Perry Ellis. I think Kansas is just more of a complete team. While Oklahoma State certainly has the advantage at the point guard spot, I’m not sure there’s another position where you could definitively say that OSU is better, and in my opinion Kansas is far better and more talented in the frontcourt. Also, I fully recognize that Marcus Smart is an outstanding college basketball player – maybe the best in the nation – but I do think as point guard and team leader his squad sputtered a bit down the stretch last season when they really had a chance to knock Kansas out of the top spot with a win in Stillwater, along with an early exit in the Big 12 Tournament and a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it’s not fair to put all that blame on Smart, and some of it should be shifted to Travis Ford, which I guess leads me to my last point. If we hold all else equal and believe that the talent levels in Lawrence and Stillwater are more or less a wash, it becomes a question as to who you’d take as a coach to lead your team between Ford and Bill Self, and I think that answer is pretty obvious.
  • KC: Marcus Smart is one of the best guards in the country, but Andrew Wiggins is better. Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are good guards as well, but there is a reason Wayne Selden is a projected lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft while Brown and Nash aren’t. And even if you canceled out both backcourts, the Cowboys don’t match up well with a Kansas frontcourt that has as much depth as any unit in the country. Joel Embiid is projected to be taken in the lottery along with Wiggins and Selden, and he won’t even be starting early in the season. And when you throw in the Bill Self and Allen Fieldhouse factors, it isn’t hard to pick Kansas to win the conference, again.

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Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Preseason All-Conference And POY Selections

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2013

After a seven-month wait, we can taste the start of the season. We tasked the four Big 12 Microsite contributors – Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso – with selecting their own all-conference teams and backing up their selections. For the sake of transparency, they are as follows:

All-Conference Picks

Right away, there’s a clear consensus on three players, with all four contributors agreeing that Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart and Isaiah Austin are the toast of the conference:

  • On Andrew Wiggins (TE): “There’s a chance by the end of the season we could be looking at a conference with the two best players in college basketball, period. Going with Wiggins here isn’t a knock on Marcus Smart, because I do think Smart will once again be fantastic, but Wiggins will be the best player on the conference’s best team. Both players come into this season with an extraordinary amount of pressure, and if the preseason banter between the two is any indication, we should be in for one heck of a season.”
  • On Wiggins (KC): “There has been some Andrew Wiggins backlash the last few months from people looking to be contrarian. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman picked not one, but TWO freshmen (Jabari Parker and Julius Randle) on his First Team All-American ballot. That was foolish, and so would picking against Wiggins for Big 12 Player of the Year. Marcus Smart is great, Wiggins is greater.”
  • On Marcus Smart (NK): “Smart is a once-in-a-blue-moon type of player who led the Cowboys in points, assists and steals last season. He also tied for second on the team in rebounds per game with 5.8 as the starting point guard. He’s got a basketball IQ that’s off the charts and is an incredibly selfless person on and off the floor. Clark Kellogg’s definition of a ‘stat-sheet stuffer’ was meant for players like Marcus Smart.”
  • On Isaiah Austin (BG): “As was the case with Marcus Smart, Isaiah Austin returned to school despite a very promising draft projection. His three-point accuracy can be a deadly weapon, and because of his height (7’1″), very few players will be able to disrupt his shot. Closer to the hoop, his reach makes him a target for easy baskets both on set plays and putbacks. If Baylor manages to shake things up at the top of the conference, he’ll be a huge reason why.”

Meanwhile, Nate Kotisso explains why Cory Jefferson could also be in line for some accolades: 

  • “Consistency will be the key this season. Baylor went 13-3 last season in games where Jefferson scored 15 points or more. We hope to see the same Jefferson that lit up the NIT.”

Taylor and Brian went slightly off the beaten path, giving preseason props to two of the country’s biggest sleepers:

Overlook Markel Brown at your own peril.

Overlook the Cowboys’ Markel Brown at your own peril.

  • On Markel Brown (BG): “Brown is a dangerously underrated player. While I enjoy watching hyped-up draft prospects as much as anyone, there’s something about the four-year player who constantly improves that will always get my attention. Casual fans may see Brown as a novelty dunking machine, but once you catch him in action over a longer stretch or dig into his numbers, you’ll see that there’s so much more to his game than that. While he isn’t shy about attacking the hoop with a level of authority completely atypical for a 6’3″ guard, Brown also provides value from the three-point line and can even hang on the defensive glass. I’m done sleeping on him and you should be, too.”
  • On Perry Ellis (TE): “While there’s certainly a case that could be made for putting Cory Jefferson here, I think it becomes difficult to recognize a team that won’t finish in the top two in the conference with two All-Big 12 selections. Ellis has been under the radar heading into this season after closing out last year with strong performances down the stretch and in the Big 12 Tournament for Kansas. While the trio of freshmen at Kansas are generating most of the buzz, I think there’s a good chance Ellis could lead the Jayhawks in scoring this year.”
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Big 12 Preview: Baylor Bears

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 6th, 2013

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

Where We Left Off: They were playing for their NCAA Tournament lives late last season. Baylor faced a tough test in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma State — not to mention an 18-point halftime deficit. They managed to trim the Cowboys’ lead to two with seconds remaining but Pierre Jackson’s running three-pointer careened off the mark as the buzzer sounded. The Bears, who had struggled to find consistency all season, hoped their 9-9 record in Big 12 play was enough to prove to the committee they were worthy of an at-large bid. But they were left on the bubble and had to settle for an invitation from the NIT. It was there when we saw the Baylor team most had expected in the preseason, ripping through five games to bring home the first NIT Championship for a Big 12 school. Jackson has since graduated, but a combination of players returning and the addition of several touted incoming recruits could result in a more promising finish this season.

Scott Drew loses his best player from a year ago and could possibly have a better team in 2013-14. (John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

Scott Drew loses his best player from a year ago and could possibly have a better team in 2013-14. (John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

Positives: Almost everybody’s back! Isaiah Austin put his NBA future on hold by returning to campus after averaging 13 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a freshman. If there was one thing the 7’1″ Austin could improve on this year, it’s his outside shooting. It’s weird saying that about a center but the outside shot is a potentially lethal weapon of his offensive arsenal (33 percent from three-point range in 2012-13). The most important player returning is Cory Jefferson because his play usually indicated how competitive Baylor was in big games. I attended Texas-Baylor back in January and saw firsthand the kind of monster Jefferson can be when he’s playing his best. His 25 points and 10 rebounds were a big reason why the Bears won that day and went 13-3 in games where Jefferson scored at least 15 points. The best trait of these Bears is their frontcourt. In addition to Austin and Jefferson, Rico Gathers at 6’8″ and 270 pounds was a space-eater on the floor who scored the same amount of points as he did rebounds per game (5.7) off the bench. Their recruiting class also brought in four-star guard/forward Ish Wainwright (6’6″, 245 pounds) of Missouri who turned down offers from Ohio State, St. John’s and Texas to come to Waco; three-star big Johnathan Motley (6’9″, 210 pounds) of Houston decided to come to Baylor despite offers from Marquette, Oregon, Wichita State and his hometown school, Houston. News also came down within the last week that Denver transfer forward Royce O’Neale (11.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG in 2012-13) has been granted a waiver and will play immediately. This might be the best frontcourt in America. Everybody’s favorite Canadian sharpshooter Brady Heslip is also back for his senior season and fellow countryman Kenny Chery is expected to step in as the starting point guard.

Negatives: Pierre Jackson is gone. He was the heart and soul of the team, leading the Bears in minutes played, points, assists and spectacular plays, although I’m sure that last one isn’t a real stat. Another big loss is A.J. Walton, who wasn’t a big offensive presence but did serve in better roles as a second distributor and designated defensive stopper. Who will emerge this year to guard guys like Marcus Smart or quick guards like Naadir Tharpe or Buddy Hield? It might have to be Gary Franklin. With all their depth at the forward and center positions, there are five pure guards on the team and freshman Allerik Freeman‘s hand injury stretches those guards even thinner until his likely return in late November or early December.

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The RTC Interview Series: Big 12 Preview with Fran Fraschilla and Jason King, Part I

Posted by Walker Carey on October 22nd, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the Big 12, RTC Correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to two Big 12 experts in ESPN Big 12 analyst, Fran Fraschilla, and ESPN.com college basketball writer, Jason King.  (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Big 12 Experts Fran Fraschilla and Jason King Share Their Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Big 12 Experts Fran Fraschilla and Jason King Share Their Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Rush the Court: The major storyline in the Big 12 this season will be what Andrew Wiggins does on the court for Kansas. What do you expect out of Wiggins in what figures to be his only season in Lawrence?

Fran Fraschilla: I think Andrew Wiggins is obviously an incredible addition. I am not sure if he is the alpha dog that people are expecting. He is a great teammate, an incredible athlete, and if anyone can get the most out of him in one year, it will be Bill Self. At times, he will take over games, and at other times, he will be content to stay in the background and let Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, and others dominate the ball.

Jason King: I think the expectations that have been placed on Andrew Wiggins are unfair. I think the hype surrounding him has gotten out of control. He very well might be the best player in the country, but comparing him to LeBron James is just too much. LeBron James was an alpha male coming out of high school. He was a big, strong, mean, aggressive guy. I believe Andrew Wiggins is a different type of player. I went to Kansas practice the other night and right now, his head is still spinning. He is still trying to adjust and learn the system. I think he is a special player, but he is a guy that may only average 13 or 14 points a night because he is playing with so many other very talented players. I think he will be just fine. It is just that so many people are expecting him to go in right away and score 20-22 points a night; and that probably is just not going to happen. We will still see plenty of highlights from him throughout the season and he will likely end up being one of the two or three best players in the country when all is said and done.

RTC: Focusing less on Wiggins and more on Kansas as a whole, what are realistic expectations for a very talented but young Jayhawks squad?

Fraschilla: Kansas certainly has the potential to get to the Final Four in Dallas and have a chance to win it all. Just like every other top team though, Kansas certainly has some deficiencies. Based on the talent level, the versatility of a lot of their players, and the proven leadership of Bill Self, I think Kansas is going to make a strong argument on the court that it is a team that can get to Dallas for the Final Four.

King: I think Kansas should win its 10th straight league title and anything less than that will be a disappointment. I think winning nine straight titles in a league like the Big 12 in this day and age with all the one-and-dones is very, very impressive. I believe no team in a major conference has done that since John Wooden’s days when I believe UCLA won 13 in a row. Winning the league title is expectation number one. I think the potential for this team is limitless. However, this is going to be a different kind of Kansas team. I think Kansas fans are so used to the Jayhawks just going out there and dominating mostly everyone from the start of the season to the finish. This is a team that won 31 games last year. I think this year, you might see it stumble a little bit more early on and drop some games early on that they would probably win in recent years. The non-conference schedule is the most difficult in America and it is the hardest I have ever seen Kansas play. Besides having to play Duke, you have the Battle 4 Atlantis, you have games at Colorado and at Florida, you have home games against Georgetown and San Diego State, and you have New Mexico at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. I just think with this hard of a schedule and so many young players adjusting to the college level that there might be some setbacks early on. Bill Self is such a great coach that he will have these guys playing their best basketball and the right time of the year, which is mid-January and on.

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