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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Big 12 M5: 10.21.13 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on October 21st, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Gary Parrish over at CBSSports.com gave us his top 30 big men coming into the season, and the Big 12 was well represented with five players making the list. In order, they are: #8 Isaiah Austin (Baylor), #9 Joel Embiid (Kansas), #11 Cory Jefferson (Baylor), #22 Melvin Ejim (Iowa State), and #29 Georges Niang (Iowa State). Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Kentucky’s Julius Randle topped the list, both of whom are hard to argue against even though Randle is a true, untested freshman. As for Iowa State, if Ejim and Niang play as well as Parrish thinks they can play this season, the Cyclones could contend near the top of the Big 12 standings.
  2. It is surprising that a group of talented, young basketball players don’t want to get out and run in transition, but that appears to be what Bill Self is battling with his team so far this season. “I think this could be the quickest team we’ve had to get up and down the court,” Self told the Lawrence Journal-World‘s Gary Bedore Saturday. “But we’ve got to do it every possession.” Self is right, especially with the way he coaches defense. Kansas teams are known for their outstanding defense, and a team that wants to play fast can convert turnovers into points in a flash. The Jayhawks have as many athletes and as much depth as nearly anyone in the country this season, and with a young team that could take some time to master the offense, getting into transition on a regular basis for easy buckets could be exactly what they need early on.
  3. Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart isn’t shying away from his decision to return for his sophomore year, bypassing the NBA and the chance to be a top-5 pick last summer. “A lot of people say I turned (a big opportunity) down, but I didn’t turn down anything,” Smart told the Oklahoman‘s Gina Mizell on Friday. “I just pushed it to the side.” Smart spoke after Oklahoma State’s annual “Homecoming and Hoops” Midnight Madness event, highlighted in part by a video montage that was projected onto the Gallagher-Iba court. Smart said the Cowboys have a chance to make history this season in Stillwater, and he is right.
  4. Not only does Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds know his school has a basketball team, he is actually concerned about the state of said basketball team. No, really. “I worry more about basketball,” Dodds told Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel last week. “If I were going to pick one [program] to worry more about, I worry more about basketball.” Dodds has announced his retirement for next August, so it’s hard to see him firing head coach Rick Barnes and making a new hire on his way out the door, but with a new boss coming to town next fall, Barnes’ days in Austin could be numbered.
  5. Not unlike Bill Self’s wishes, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins wants his team to start running. Huggins, however, wants his guys to run because they’ve been so busy teaching and learning this season that actually playing the game has been secondary at times. “It’s just that with all those new guys we’re doing so much teaching that we haven’t had a chance to run up and down,” Huggins said after Friday’s Midnight Madness, officially named the “Gold-Blue Debut.” The Mountaineers return only five players from last year and will have a steep learning curve this season regardless of how much running they do.
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Big 12 M5: 10.18.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 18th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Remember earlier this week when it was reported by Bleacher Report that adidas and Nike were set to offer Andrew Wiggins a shoe contract in the range of $140 to $180 million upon completion of this season at Kansas?  As it turns out, that story was indeed a hoax.  A report issued on Thursday night by Sole Collector, an insider in the sneaker industry, included a photograph they obtained of the fraudulent offer letter which was both undated and unaddressed discussing the details of the Wiggins “shoe contract”.  How exactly the fake offer was brought to light is still unknown, but the details of the story further underscore the difficulty top recruits face in making decisions as they embark on their professional career.  It’s a sad truth, but many of these young athletes present such a profitable marketing potential that the number of individuals willing to leach themselves on in hopes of cashing out in their own right creates an incredibly dirty and misleading situation.
  2. In an article by NBC Sports exploring non-Jordan Brand or McDonald’s All American freshmen who could make an impact this season, Iowa State shooting guard Matt Thomas was highlighted as a perimeter sharpshooter who could potentially be the best outside shooter in this year’s class.  Thomas will fit perfectly in Fred Hoiberg’s three-point heavy system, and will help fill the void left by former Big 12 sniper Tyus McGee.  Given the national exposure that Hoiberg has generated at Iowa State the past few seasons for his up tempo, run-and-gun style offense, it would not be surprising to some of the top future shooting talent flock to Ames to get in on the action.
  3. Baylor coach Scott Drew announced on Thursday morning that consensus top 100 freshman recruit Allerik Freeman will miss 6-7 weeks with a hand injury. Freeman was expected to bolster the Bears backcourt scoring, and provide yet another skilled piece to compliment the frontcourt duo of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. An exact return for Freeman will not be determined for several weeks, but any action on or prior to Baylor’s showdown with Kentucky on December 6 will significantly improve Baylor’s chances of competing with the young, but talented Kentucky squad.  Perhaps the most important factor in Baylor’s success this season will be how they adjust to the departure of point guard Pierre Jackson.
  4. USA Today released their preseason coaches poll on Thursday, which featured #6 Kansas followed by Oklahoma State at #12.  Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas State also received votes, effectively ranking them 26, 41, and 43, respectively. Much of the league’s preseason attention has featured Kansas and Oklahoma State who will anchor the top half of the league all season.  Baylor certainly has the talent to work its way up in the polls, and will have a chance to prove this in their December showdown with Kentucky. It will be interesting to see how Iowa State and Kansas State adjust to significant roster changes and whether they can position themselves in the upper echelon of schools in the Big 12 come March.
  5. In an interesting insight to just how important recruiting is for coaches throughout the nation, Luke Winn’s Sports Illustrated piece on Andrew Wiggins that hit shelves earlier this week explained how Bill Self altered his game plan last March against Texas Tech in an attempt to impress Wiggins during his official college visit at Kansas.  Former Jayhawk point guard Elijah Johnson threw six first half alley-oops as Self felt this both gave Kansas the best chance to win, and also showed Wiggins family what they wanted to see.  While this may not be groundbreaking information for some, it does further highlight just how hard some coaches work to win recruiting battles.  This story naturally begs the question, how much will Self be willing to adjust his game plan this season now that Wiggins has joined the Jayhawks?
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Big 12 M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 16th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Bill Self was one of a few coaches to comment on the new emphasis that will be placed on hand-checking by on-ball defenders this season. According to a report from ESPN‘s Jeff Goodman, NCAA officials contend that the spirit of the rule change is to increase scoring and make games flow more smoothly, but opinions among head coaches regarding the impact are mixed. Some, like Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, carry an attitude of guarded optimism, but Self is concerned that the new rules will lead to an excessive number of trips to the foul line rather than better shots in the flow of a given team’s offense. There will inevitably be an adjustment period for all teams (and officials), just as there was when the charge circle was added two seasons ago, and we’ll definitely keep an eye on how teams adapt from November through March.
  2. Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith was mentioned among College Basketball Talk‘s Rob Dauster’s list of losers in last year’s coaching carousel. Simply not being Billy Gillispie will put Smith in good graces among some Red Raider fans for a short time, but the challenges of the job — a relative lack of winning tradition and the absence of success in the NBA Draft, just to name two — give us pause as to whether Texas Tech can rise from the ashes under its seasoned leader. This was a perplexing hire from day one, as we expected the Red Raiders to go with someone who was more of an up-and-comer rather than an established coaching veteran. Either way, it will be a tough row to hoe in Lubbock for the foreseeable future.
  3. CBSSports.com‘s crack team of college hoops contributors released its annual list of the nation’s top 100 players, and how the Big 12 fared depends on where you put the most stock. For instance, Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart top the list, but you have to look 22 spots down from them to find the next Big 12 player, Baylor center Isaiah Austin. Overall, the Big 12 landed 10 players on the top 100, but we see some potential big-time risers in Joel Embiid (#28), Markel Brown (#52), and Melvin Ejim (#72).
  4. A thorough piece from Bleacher Report‘s Jared Zwerling reports that once Andrew Wiggins turns pro next spring, he could fetch a shoe deal valued as high as $180 million. After reading the story, there are plenty of angles worth examining: what the speculative value of Andrew Wiggins to a shoe company at this very moment says about the one-and-done rule and the concept of amateurism; how Wiggins can possibly handle all of the attention and pressure to succeed; and what head coach Bill Self  needs to do to keep he and his teammates focused as the Jayhawks aim for a 10th consecutive league title.
  5. Oklahoma State held its annual media day festivities on Monday, and it will definitely be interesting to see how the Cowboys hold up to league championship aspirations for the first time in 10 years. The aforementioned link is chock full of quotes from several players as well as head coach Travis Ford, and while nothing was said that was too far out of the ordinary, you do get the sense that the team’s chemistry could be off the charts all season long. If the Cowboys are used to playing with one another in January while Kansas is still trying to figure out how to make its pieces fit, that could be just the edge OSU needs to unseat the nine-time defending Big 12 champions.
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Preseason All-Big 12 Honors Blend Phenoms, Transfers and Experienced Contributors

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 3rd, 2013

Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

The sweet smell of college basketball strengthened Thursday afternoon as the Big 12 coaches released their preseason all-conference team, Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year selections. Let’s break down the conference’s picks:

Preseason Player of the Year: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Smart, who surprisingly returned to the Cowboys after averaging 15.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in his freshman campaign, is the incumbent Big 12 Player of the Year, so it’s hard to be too surprised at his unanimous selection from the Big 12 coaches. Others may argue that blue-chip Jayhawk freshman Andrew Wiggins would be a more worthy pick given his higher ceiling, but we have to look at recent history for context, and that history shows that Big 12 coaches just haven’t been crazy about adding pressure to hyped incoming freshmen. For instance, neither Kevin Durant nor Michael Beasley, both of whom faced their own lofty expectations coming into the conference, were named as the Preseason POY in 2006 and 2007, respectively. On the other hand, the fact that both Durant and Beasley ended up fitting the bill as not only Big 12 but National POY candidates suggests that perhaps the voting body should be more open to the idea. In the end, it’s hard to fault the coaches for going with a guy who’s done it all before in Marcus Smart, but we’re excited to see how the season plays out.

OSU's Smart is the Big 12 Preseason POY (AP Photo).

OSU’s Smart is the Big 12 Preseason POY (AP Photo).

Preseason Newcomer Of The Year: Tarik Black, Kansas: As a transfer, Black makes a ton of sense here when you consider Bill Self’s successful history with big men. Granted, Black is already in exceptional shape and will only have one year to work with Self and famed strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy, but he figures to provide plenty of muscle (at 6’9″/260 lbs.) and experience (he started 60 of 102 games at Memphis) on an otherwise young Kansas lineup.

Preseason Freshman Of The Year: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: By now, you’ve probably heard all the talking points: Wiggins is perhaps a generational superstar who is as physically talented as he is level-headed and modest, and we as college basketball fans should be thankful for the one-and-done rule enabling him to pass through this season. We don’t disagree, and this accolade is just the latest for the 6’8″ Canadian small forward. We may not necessarily see eye-popping stats, given some questions that scouts have raised about his still-developing aggressiveness and Bill Self’s preference for balance on the offensive end.  However, we do expect to see some memorable plays on both ends and are looking forward to what should be a big-time year. How will he adjust to playing in the national spotlight?

Preseason All-Big 12 Team

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Morning Five: 04.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. There were so many early-entry decisions over the past three days that we will have break them into groups. The first group will be the guys who left. Perhaps the most notable is Shane Larkin, who is leaving Miami after a sophomore year in which he took his stock from not being on the NBA’s radar to being a potential first round pick. We are not quite sold on Larkin as a NBA point guard–his limitations were exposed in a few games this season–but we do not see his NBA Draft stock getting much higher especially with how little Miami will be returning next season so it made sense for him to leave. On a smaller scale, but probably more important in terms of the landscape of his conference Ray McCallum Jr. announced that he is leaving Detroit after his junior season. McCallum is in a similar Draft position or possibly a little worse than what Larkin is based on the mock drafts that we have seen, but given the information that his father (Detroit’s coach) has we would expect that he has some pretty good information on where he could expect to be selected. Finally, there is Andre Roberson, Tad Boyle’s first recruit in Boulder, who announced that he will forgo his senior season at Colorado to enter the NBA Draft. Roberson’s draft stock appears to be similar to the other two although Roberson’s position in mock drafts has varied more than the other two.
  2. While a trio of players announced their departure from the college game another trio announced that they will be staying. The most significant in terms of the national championship picture is Adreian Payne, who announced that he will return to Michigan State for his senior season. Out of all of the players considering entering the NBA Draft early opinion on Payne may have been the most divided. He probably could have come out and been a first-round pick, but if he returns and improves his game he should be a lottery pick next year. The next biggest announcement was the Isaiah Austin will be returning to Baylor for his sophomore season. Austin seemed to be a fairly safe bet to be a first-round pick so his decision is a bit surprising, but it has been reported that he was diagnosed with a torn labrum, which would affect his NBA Draft workouts, and he clearly has some areas to work on his game so it doesn’t seem unreasonable. We will leave the question of coming back to Scott Drew to work on those deficiencies for another column. Shabazz Napier may not garner the same headlines as the other two players that we mentioned, but his decision to return to Connecticut for his senior season may have an equally significant impact on his team’s success. We are glad that Napier decided to return to school because he was at best a late second round pick although the fact that he waited so long to announce might suggest that someone was putting thoughts in his head that he could have been a first-round pick. Fortunately he did not listen to those voices and will return to finish his college career in Storrs.
  3. Most of the attention has been focused on NBA Draft decisions, but there were a pair of notable transfers. On Friday, Ahmad Starks announced that he is transferring from Oregon State. Starks, who has one more season of eligibility left is reportedly looking at Bradley or Illinois to be close to his ailing grandmother. Starks would be a huge addition for either program and given the way the family hardship waivers have been getting cleared by the NCAA we have no doubt that he would be able to play next season. The other transfer announcement is more of an update as Rutgers transfer Eli Carter has narrowed his list down to Florida and Maryland. Normally we would assume that Carter would have to sit out a year, but after the NCAA’s ruling on the players at Rice and how they received a waiver due to the abuse they alleged at the school we would not be surprised to see Carter and other Rutgers transfers to try for a similar waiver given the video evidence against Mike Rice.
  4. We may have finally moved past conference realignment, but it appears that conferences are looking at creating their own version of Manifest Destiny as the ACC is looking at expanding its brand into Europe by playing games there. As the article notes the entire idea is in the preliminary stages so a lot of work needs to be done, but other schools have played games overseas with some success. Our big qustion is how this would work at the conference level. It works great when teams are playing glorified exhibition games or when there is well-defined revenue-sharing the way that professional leagues do, but what happens when a school loses a lucrative home-game that could be the difference between them becoming bowl-eligible or being on the right side of the bubble. Obviously pro sports teams deal with this issue too, but they have more well-defined revenue-sharing agreements and have a much stronger central leadership structure that allows them to issue edicts that will be followed.
  5. It is a move that probably will not attract much attention on the coaching carousel, but UNC-Asheville filled its head coaching vacancy as it introduced Nick McDevitt as its next head coach. McDevitt, who played for the school from 1997 to 2001, had been an assistant with the team before taking over the head coaching responsibilities when the former coach left to take a job on the staff at UNC-Wilmington. McDevitt has no experience as a head coach so we are withholding judgement on his ability to coach so hopefully his alma mater gives him a chance to prove himself.
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Big 12 Season Wrap: the Highs, the Lows, All the In-Betweens

Posted by dnspewak on April 15th, 2013

In a big-picture sense, the Big 12 provided us with no surprises this season. Kansas won the league again, TCU finished in last place, five teams made the NCAA Tournament, and all was right with the world. It wouldn’t have taken Nostradamus to make those predictions. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an interesting six months, however. There were flops–most notably from the state of Texas. There were overachievers–most notably from the state of Oklahoma. There were thrilling finishes, blown calls, standout freshmen and that one time Kansas somehow lost to TCU. Oh, and one team even won a championship this season in, well, the wrong tournament.

Game of  the Year: Kansas 68, Oklahoma State 67 (February 20)

This showdown in Stillwater was simultaneously the best and worst game of the Big 12 season. How’s that for logic? After the Cowboys stunned Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the winter and literally celebrated by doing back flips on the court, this revenge game took on even more importance in the league standings. Had Oklahoma State won, it would have seized the proverbial driver’s seat along with Kansas State and would have made the Jayhawks’ path to the regular season title very difficult. We had drama. We had overtime. Two, actually. And we had a game-winner in the final minute of regulation by Naadir Tharpe, who shook off a rusty performance to hit the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds to play. Instant classic, right? Certainly. The problem was, it was perhaps the ugliest game ever played by two top-15 opponents on the same floor. Kansas did not make a field goal in the first overtime and it did not make a field goal in the second overtime until Tharpe’s game-winner. That’s almost 10 minutes of basketball without a basket. In overtime! Overall, the two teams combined to shoot five for 32 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore played 49 minutes, missed nine of 12 shot attempts and finished with seven points after barely touching the ball in the overtime periods. And that’s the best game of the year? We still stand by our decision. This was the game that changed the complexity of the Big 12 title race, and two free periods of basketball is never a bad thing.

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 (February 25): Asterisk on this one. Kansas beat Iowa State in Ames — where the Cyclones hadn’t lost in more than a year — but it needed a blown call at the end of regulation to get the opportunity. You remember the situation. Elijah Johnson‘s charging toward the basket with five seconds left in the game, his team trailing by two points. Georges Niang sets his feet and takes what appears to be a pretty standard charge. But there’s no call, the ball bounces on the floor and the officials eventually blow the whistle on Niang during a scramble. That allows Kansas to tie the game and win in overtime behind Elijah Johnson’s epic 39-point performance. The Big 12 would later admit its referees should have called a charge, but that’s a moot point right now. It’s a shame we’ll remember this game as the No-Call Game as opposed to the Elijah Johnson Game.
  • Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 (March 14): The Bears needed a victory in this Big 12 quarterfinal to give themselves a chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Then they fell behind by 20 points. Dead in the water. Except Pierre Jackson started raining jumpers and floaters all over the place, and Baylor inexplicably tied the game in the final minute of regulation. But the officials made a controversial foul call (that’s a trend this year, across all conferences) and sent Phil Forte to the line, where he made both. That’s an exciting finish in and of itself. But it got even better: Nobody’s quite sure how it happened, but with just seconds left on a desperation, mad-dash possession, Jackson dribbled straight through two Oklahoma State defenders and found himself absolutely, completely wide open from three-point land. He had a chance to win at the buzzer. No hands contesting him, no defender in sight. He missed. That sent the Bears to the NIT, and at least they won that tournament. But Jackson’s failed buzzer-beater signaled the end of Baylor’s tourney chances, and it was another dark moment during an underachieving season.

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Assessing the Season: Baylor Bears

Posted by KoryCarpenter on April 11th, 2013

I don’t know who Baylor’s biggest basketball rival is, but I imagine whoever it was laughed at the Bears for winning the NIT last week — something about being the 69th best team in the country. Of course there are worse things than winning the NIT –  like losing in the NIT — so the Bears have that going for them. But those taunts from rival fans still have some merit. For schools like Memphis (2002 champs) or Wichita State (2011), winning the NIT can become a stepping stone to bigger and better things. But for big boy schools, schools like Baylor with top recruits falling off the bleachers, it’s hard to gauge how it feels to win its last game of the year and not capture the National Championship. In its 74-54 NIT championship game win over Iowa, Baylor played a former five-star center (Isaiah Austin), an honorable mention All-America guard in Pierre Jackson, and a quartet of former four-star recruits. That roster lost 14 games this season (including a 9-9 mark in conference play) and couldn’t beat out teams like La Salle and Ole Miss for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. There was no reason the Bears should have been in the NIT in the first place, but for the sake of this column, we’ll take a look at the highs and lows of the 2012-13 Baylor Bears.

It Wasn't the Championship Baylor Wanted, But the NIT Was a Nice Consolation Prize

It Wasn’t the Championship Baylor Wanted, But the NIT Was a Nice Consolation Prize

Highs

  • Beating Kentucky in Rupp Arena, December 1: In early December, Kentucky wasn’t the team that would eventually fall to Robert Morris in the opening round of the NIT. Or at least, that wasn’t yet the perception. The Wildcats were #8 in the country at the time and pundits still believed their band of high school All-Americans could make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Baylor’s patented zone frustrated the Kentucky freshmen into a 29.6% shooting performance from the field. Pierre Jackson scored 17 points as the Bears rebounded from their loss to Charleston in the game prior.
  • 86-79 Overtime Win Over Texas, January 5: With a tough non-conference season then behind them, the Bears avoided back-to-back losses with an overtime win over Texas in the Big 12 opener thanks to big games from Cory Jefferson and Pierre Jackson, who combined for 49 points.
  • Senior Night Win over Kansas, March 9: Losers of eight of their previous 11, the Bears still had a chance to deny Kansas the outright regular season conference title on its Senior Night. That’s exactly what they did after Pierre Jackson scored 28 points and added 10 assists to give Kansas its worst loss in five years.

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Big 12 M5: 03.14.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 14th, 2013

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  1. The first set of fireworks at the Big 12 tournament were set off last night as Texas Tech beat West Virginia 71-69. After losing a 14 point lead earlier in the game, junior Dejan Kravic’s putback with 0.4 seconds left was enough for the Red Raiders to live to play another day. For Tech, third time’s the charm seeing how they lost both of their regular season meetings with the Mountaineers. A dramatic win like this can only help the chances for interim head coach Chris Walker to get the full-time gig. The job would be essentially his if Texas Tech would somehow upset Kansas later on today.
  2. Staying with the Red Raiders and this story is a real head scratcher. Remember Trency Jackson? He was a junior college transfer who started 11 games for them this season. Upon his transfer, Jackson obtained a special waiver because he “didn’t have enough transferable hours Texas Tech was willing to accept in advance of enrolling.” Usually in a case like this, the academic adviser at the transfer’s new school would be notified of this and would hatch a plan with the transfer to get those hours squared away. But that never for happened for Jackson. He was suspended for being academically ineligible but the problem was Texas Tech never told him he was until after the spring semester begun. It seems that Tech REALLY dropped the ball here and now will be interesting to see how this lack of oversight will affect Chris Walker’s prospects of getting the head coaching job. Jackson has since transferred to Western Kentucky and will hopefully be eligible to play by December.
  3. Texas closed up the night with a 70-57 win over TCU. The game was further proof that, even against a team like the Horned Frogs, Myck Kabongo makes a world of difference for the Longhorns. Kabongo made the most impact for his team, totaling 16 points, four rebounds and six assists. UT also got major contributions off the bench from sophomores Julien Lewis (19 points) and Sheldon McClellan (12 points). I feel like had Texas had the luxury of Kabongo all season long, they’d be in contention for an at-large bid (they’ve gone 6-3 since his return). Texas has to deal with Kansas State coming up tonight.
  4. On Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Goodman sized up each Big 12 coach’s hot seat on a scale of one (meaning they’re safe) and ten (meaning they best be looking for a new job). According to Goodman, every coach is essentially safe and much of that has to do with the unique situations going on in the league: Texas missing the tourney for the first time since the late 90s, Travis Ford finally cashing in on his talented basketball team, Trent Johnson’s first year at TCU etc. The only man truly coaching for a job is Chris Walker of Texas Tech as they look for a permanent leader going forward. Hopefully, we’ll see all 10 coaches return next season.
  5. Congratulations to Baylor’s Pierre Jackson who was named the District VII player of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Those not familiar with the “District VII” distinction (as I wasn’t), District VII is in reference to all Division I basketball programs housed in the states of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana which means Jackson was voted the best player in those states. He is not the first Bear with All-District VII honors in consecutive season (Curtis Jerrells, Lawrence Roberts and Darryl Middleton were the others) but he is the first player from the school to be named District VII Player of the Year. Freshman Isaiah Austin also joined Jackson as a first team All-District VII honoree.
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Big 12 M5: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 28th, 2013

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  1. Not only is the Kansas State senior class working on one of the school’s best seasons in over three decades, but they just became the school’s all-time winningest group of seniors with 97 victories and counting. The trio of Jordan Henriquez, Rodney McGruder and Martavious Irving are three wins away from K-State’s first conference regular season title since 1977, and if that happens, it will break the school’s all-time conference win record of 14. The Wildcats are currently 12-3 in the Big 12 and are tied with Kansas in first place. If they can take care of Baylor and TCU, the season finale against Oklahoma State in Stillwater would be one of the biggest regular season games in Kansas State history.
  2. Every team in the country is working for something right now. For schools like Texas Tech and West Virginia, it’s probably getting the players ready for next season. For Baylor or Iowa State, assuring a spot in the NCAA Tournament is the primary goal. But for teams like Oklahoma State, seeding in the Big Dance is the focus as the regular season draws to a close. The Cowboys still have a slender shot at the Big 12 championship, but the most likely scenario is a third place finish. They end the season against Texas, at Iowa State and play host to Kansas State on March 9. The latest Bracket Matrix outlook has them as a #5 seed, but they could probably jump to as high as a #3 seed if they win those three games and win the Big 12 Tournament, which would likely mean three wins against Kansas and Kansas State.
  3. The story of Bill Self’s 500th career victory was quickly lost in the shuffle of overtime, questionable officiating and rowdy Iowa State fans Monday night. Self is the ninth fastest Division I coach to reach 500 wins and the third Kansas coach — joined by Phog Allen and Roy Williams — to reach the milestone. Self has said a few times this season that he has no intentions of coaching long enough to break any wins records, but he is certainly on pace to get in the neighborhood of the all-time greats if he decides to stay in the game long enough. He has an 83.7% winning percentage at Kansas and has averaged 29.9 wins per season while there. As pointed out here, he could reach 1,000 wins in 15 years if he averages just three more wins per season through the age of 65.
  4. Baylor freshman center Isaiah Austin could easily end up being an All-American during his career in Waco, but he probably won’t be around long enough to see that happen. Austin is saying all the right things right now, like how he’s focused on getting the Bears into the NCAA Tournament and having success there, not the looming decision to stay or leave. The team seemed like a lock to earn an NCAA bid a month ago, but they have now lost six out of nine and are in danger of landing on the wrong side of the bubble on Selection Sunday just a bit over two weeks away. Whether the Bears make the NCAA Tournament or not, don’t expect to see Austin in yellow and green next season unless the Kings finally become the Sonics and select him in this summer’s NBA Draft.
  5. Sam Grooms hasn’t had the best sendoff in his final season at Oklahoma, averaging 4.3 PPG as a senior. It’s a small dip from last season as the Sooners guard has struggled with his confidence at times this year. “I would second-guess myself all the time before I shot and it didn’t turn out well,” Grooms recently told John Shinn of the Tahlequah Daily Press. Grooms averaged 17.6 PPG in a recent three-game stretch against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor, two Sooner wins. Grooms isn’t the best or most important player on the Oklahoma roster, but a productive final month of his college career could assure his team a spot in the NCAA Tournament and perhaps a couple of wins if they get there.
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