Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

This week in the Big 12 featured another upset on top along with a fair amount of jockeying in the middle as the tournament bubble becomes more and more crowded. Monday night, the Kansas Jayhawks squared off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in their last Big Monday appearance.  The news of the day surrounding the Jayhawks was the suspension of junior starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor.  Taylor remains with the team and the violation is viewed as minor, but the fact that Kansas is dealing with another player missing time down the stretch is a bit of a concern.  As for the game on the court, Kansas didn’t skip a beat and Taylor’s replacement, Elijah Johnson, scored 15 points including a perfect 4-4 performance from beyond the arc.

Tuesday featured the Iowa State Cyclones heading on the road to take on the Longhorns.  The game was never really in doubt, as Texas eventually won by 23 and got back on track following the loss to Nebraska.

Wednesday was a day that had the potential to separate those on the bubble and those slowly falling off.  Missouri faced off against Baylor in a game the Bears could have used in a big way.  However, the impressive run of the Tigers in Columbia continues and after keeping it close for a time Baylor fell apart.  For Mizzou, it was an 18-point win to move the Tigers into fourth place in the Big 12 standings.

Elsewhere, Colorado kept their slim hopes alive with a close win over Texas Tech in Lubbock.  The three-point road win moved the Buffaloes to 6-7 in the conference and 17-11 overall and while the win on its own wasn’t enough to put Colorado back in the conversation, what they would accomplish later in the week was.

The big matchup on the night featured a trip by the Kansas State Wildcats into Lincoln where Nebraska and Kansas State were both battling for more stable footing.  The Wildcats entered the game considered a team in pretty good position as far as a tournament bid, but Doc Sadler’s Husker team had a chance to boost their hopes in a big way with a win.  The game was close throughout but the Huskers could never get enough consistency on the offensive end as Kansas State would win by four.

Rounding out the Wednesday action was an easy win by Texas A&M over Oklahoma in College Station.  The Aggies have quietly separated themselves in the three spot in the league, but with two tough late season tests, Kansas State and Missouri could easily threaten that.

Saturday is always the premier day of the week in the Big 12, and just like last Saturday, the Texas Longhorns fell in an upset on the road.  Despite jumping out to a 22-point lead, the Longhorns couldn’t hold off a monster day from guard Alec Burks as Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes made their most convincing argument for the tournament bubble in a win.  As for the loss, it means that the Longhorns now sit tied with the Kansas Jayhawks on top of the league as Kansas handled Oklahoma on the road and both teams sit 12-2.

Outside of the Texas upset, there were two more minor upsets in the league when Texas A&M lost to Baylor in Waco and the Missouri Tigers fell in Manhattan.  The win by Kansas State doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as Frank Martin’s team is playing very well of late and looks like a team recovering from rock bottom in early January.

The three upsets mean that the three through seven spots in the conference are separated by just two games and all seven teams, including Colorado and Baylor, now have a very real opportunity to make a late push for another large Big 12 representation in the NCAA Tournament.

Power Rankings

Quick Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll.  They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

 1. Kansas (27-2, 12-2) – Kansas continues to be extremely efficient offensively and the door is now reopened for a seventh straight conference title.

2. Texas (24-5, 12-2) Texas loses for the second consecutive Saturday against a team in the league with a below .500 record.  The Longhorns have a few chinks in the armor of late, especially on the offensive end, but they still control their own destiny in terms of winning the league.

3. Kansas State (20-9, 8-6) One month ago, the Wildcats looked like they could very easily find themselves in the NIT.  In the last month, Jacob Pullen has started to play like the POY candidate that many expected and while Kansas State was probably overrated to start the year, they have fought their way back to reality and that puts them as a pretty good team that can make some noise in March.

4. Texas A&M (22-6, 9-5) – A&M has been flying under the radar of late and at the moment, they hold the third position in the standings, giving them that all important first day bye.  Overall though, they haven’t been as impressive as some so it drops them down a bit in the power rankings.

5. Missouri (22-7, 8-6) – Can a team win the tourney when they have been so bad away from home all year?  Honestly, Missouri does seem to sneak up on people in March so they are tough to count out, but the difference between at home and on the road is staggering.

6. Colorado (18-11, 7-7) – Colorado went from a team looking to be down for the count to a team firmly on the bubble with what amounts to a fairly impressive resume.

7. Baylor (18-10, 7-7) – Baylor continues to be as up and down as ever.  The win over Texas A&M keeps them in the hunt, but the team is definitely at risk of going from Elite 8 to NIT.

8. Nebraska (18-10, 6-8) – The loss to Kansas State is one that can be lived with, but losing to Iowa State all but ruins the Huskers hopes for a tournament bid.

9. Oklahoma State (17-11, 5-9) The Cowboys had a strong non-conference season, but they haven’t put together the conference resume to make a play.  The good news is that of the bottom four teams, the Cowboys might have the brightest future.

10. Texas Tech (12-17, 4-10) Tech didn’t win but they were close in both contests.  That’s just enough to keep them ahead of Oklahoma.  It’s still fairly amazing that Pat Knight’s name rarely comes up in any discussion of coaches on the hot seat.

11. Oklahoma (12-16, 4-10) – Another week, another two losses.  The common theme when you look at the two teams at the bottom of the Big 12 is a complete lack of depth.  The good news is that both OU and ISU look to have pieces in place to improve.

12. Iowa State (15-14, 2-12) – The Cyclones snag a second win this week and send the Huskers limping to the Big 10.

A Look Ahead

This week is HUGE for the Big 12, starting with the two teams battling it out up top.   The Texas Longhorns have games against red-hot Kansas State and a trip to Baylor remaining on the schedule.  After two consecutive Saturday losses, the confidence isn’t as high in Austin and a possible one-seed and the Big 12 title are very much at stake.

Meanwhile, the biggest competition for Texas, the Kansas Jayhawks, have two pretty tough matchups themselves.  First off the Texas A&M Aggies head into Lawrence for senior night where Kansas hasn’t lost in a very long time. The game that could be the do-or-die moment will come next Saturday when Kansas heads into Columbia where Missouri is a different team and the Tigers will be fired up as they look to keep their bitter rival from winning or sharing the league for a seventh straight season.

Tuesday night features a winnable game and really a must-win game for current bubble team Baylor.  The Bears head on the road to Stillwater and need to get a win over the Cowboys.

Wednesday night is huge for the Colorado Buffaloes as they head on the road to Ames in a game that could secure a .500 conference record.  Like Baylor, this is a must win for the Buffaloes as they currently sit on the bubble with the chance to close out strong.

Saturday, the league wraps up the regular season with Texas taking on Baylor and Kansas and Missouri locking horns, though a Nebraska/Colorado tilt could be just as big in the overall conference picture heading into March.

It’s been an incredibly balanced and unpredictable year across the Big 12 and the final week has storylines building for multiple teams.  Now it’s just a matter of who rises to the challenge.

Player of the Year Watch: One week left and the preseason pick has surged back to the front of the pack, a darkhorse candidate puts his name back in the mix and the two players on teams battling it out at the top continue to put forth a strong argument.

Marcus Morris, Kansas – (19 PPG, 7.6 RPG): Morris is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country and he has the chance to lead his team to a seventh consecutive league title and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

  1. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (21.8 PPG, 3.4 APG): Pullen is coming on strong at just the right time and might mean more to his team of late than anyone in the league.  If voting were today, Pullen would have to like his chances. How much should voters penalize him for his team’s slow start?
  2. Jordan Hamilton – (18 PPG, 7.9 RPG): Hamilton shoots just 7-24 in a loss to Colorado.  The game is another signal that as Jordan Hamilton goes offensively, so goes the fate of the entire Longhorn attack.
  3. Alec Burks, Colorado – (20.3 PPG): Burks is an impressive offensive player and without him, Colorado isn’t even close to the bubble.  He’s a big time talent and led his team to a big time win over #5 Texas.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.28.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 28th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Can you believe March begins tomorrow? This is the final week of the regular season and a lot of mid-major conference tournaments begin over the next few days, as well. Tonight we kick the week off with three NCAA definites and a fourth likely headed for the Big Dance. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#14 Villanova @ #9 Notre Dame – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

A Few Weeks Ago, Wright's Squad Looked Focused and Sharp, But It Appears Lately As If a Certain Ennui Has Arisen

The Wildcats are limping toward the finish line yet again, losers in four of their last six games, including two straight home defeats this past week. Villanova is actually a very solid 7-3 on the road but they’ll have to turn things around quickly in order to win at Purcell Pavilion, a place where Notre Dame is 16-0 this season.

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BGTD: Early Afternoon Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on February 26th, 2011

The only question on a day like today after the early flight of games is…how’s the bubble? The biggest worry for bubble teams is not necessarily racking up good wins late in the year, because the schedule is, of course, already set. What you don’t want to do is give the selection committee something negative on which to hang their hat so they can leave you out. In other words, don’t play yourself out of the Tournament. So far today…

  • Let there be no doubt about Kansas State. They’ve already done enough to get in, but if you’re a bubble team you still don’t want to trip up late and drop games at home. The Wildcats, knowing that they’re in, could have come out complacent in an early game today against Missouri and  just gone through the motions. No, sir. The raves will pile up for Jacob Pullen (24 points on 6-10 and 4-4 from three) and Curtis Kelly (15/6 on 7-9), and with good reason. Pullen’s vocal leadership late in the season has been a revelation for KSU, but let’s give some juice to the Kansas State bench today, chipping in 29 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists. And look at the unselfishness on display. The Wildcats hit 28 shots…off of 23 assists!
  • For a team playing themselves out of The Dance, look no further than VCU. A few weeks ago all the talk was about how the CAA might get two or three teams in, with VCU an obvious choice. Over the past two weeks, all the Rams have done is drop four of five, including today’s senior day game against Colonial sixth-placers James Madison (72-69). No disrespect to the Dukes, because you don’t win 21 games (so far) without being a solid squad, especially in a rapidly improving conference. But despite NCAA selectors confirming that the “last 10 games” criteria isn’t considered, bubble teams that run into late losing streaks tend to wind up on the outside looking in on post-selection Monday. Barring a CAA Tournament title, you’ve got to figure that VCU is done.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.26-02.27

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 25th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We are now only about two weeks away from Selection Sunday. Teams are locking up bids and others are hurting their chances down the stretch. It’s another big weekend in the college hoops world, headlined by a top ten battle in the Mountain West. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#20 Syracuse @ #11 Georgetown – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Coach Thompson and the Hoyas Will Likely Be Without Their Most Important Player on Saturday

The Orange will look to avenge another home defeat by winning on the road, this time in Washington, D.C. Here’s a quirky fact for you: Syracuse has lost to all three of its repeat opponents (Georgetown, Villanova and Seton Hall) at the Carrier Dome but a win on Saturday would give them wins in the home buildings of all three teams. That has become more likely in this one, after Chris Wright broke his hand in Wednesday’s loss to Cincinnati. As a talented senior point guard, Wright is Georgetown’s most indispensible player. He doesn’t wow you with his shooting but he passes the ball well and does an excellent job of running John Thompson III’s complex offensive sets.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.23.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 23rd, 2011

 

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

An interesting non-conference matchup and a huge bubble battle in the Big 12 lead the way tonight. Four other bubble teams will also be in search of a marquee win against ranked opponents. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#23 Temple @ #2 Duke – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

We Don't Expect Randall To Be In the Lineup for Temple, But Then Again, This Is Duke In Prime Time

The visiting Owls will be short a couple of important bodies tonight when they head to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a late season non-conference tilt with Duke. Starting center Michael Eric is out for the season while fellow starter Scootie Randall likely won’t play after injuring his foot recently. Temple has won eight straight games entering tonight’s contest, however, although most of those have been against the bottom of the Atlantic 10. Duke is also hot, winners of six straight and 10 of 11 dating back to mid-January.

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ATB: A Messy Prez Day Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2011

The Lede.  What a wild, wild President’s Day weekend it was.  The second-, third-, and fourth-ranked teams all took a loss over the weekend to join #1 Kansas  from the previous Monday night, the first time that such a thing had happened in a little over seven years.  BracketBusters was in full effect across the land, and although there were some interesting games during the event, only a couple of teams actually helped themselves.  Over the three days, we saw RTCs ranging from relaxed ambivalence to firecracker intensity, another bizarre diatribe from Jim Boeheim, and a number of great games befitting the time of the season where so much is on the line.  Let’s jump in…

Note: For our BGTD coverage from Saturday, please see these three posts examining the early games, the late afternoon/evening games, and the BracketBuster games.

No, That's Not the Actual Ref Screaming Amidst the Mayhem... (AP/N. Harnik)

Your Watercooler Moment1, 2, 3, 4… The last time that the top four teams in the national polls lost in the same week of action, Barack Obama was an unknown state senator in Illinois and Saddam Hussein was hiding in a hole in somebody’s backyard.  It was November 2003, and the names Bieber, Gaga and Twitter had no meaning to anybody yet, but UConn, Duke, Michigan State and Arizona each dropped a game over Thanksgiving week that year and the result was a significant re-ordering of the poll.  The big difference this time around is that we’re two weeks from the end of the season as opposed to two weeks from the start, so the likelihood of four established teams dropping games over the same week was far more unlikely.  So what happened, exactly?

We already knew that #1 Kansas lost to K-State in rough-and-tumble fashion last Monday.  But the next three teams waited until the weekend to join the polling bloodbath. It began on Saturday with the first game of the day — Steve Lavin’s rejuvenated and tough-as-nails St. John’s program took down #4 Pittsburgh on the back of Dwight Hardy’s 19 points and his tap dance routine along the baseline to win the game.  It was the cherry on top of the sundae in a season of breakthroughs for the Red Storm program, and as you can see below, Madison Square Garden has become something more than just the place where Amare and (now) Melo play.

A little later Saturday afternoon, #2 Texas was in trouble at Nebraska late when its vaunted defense and some brain-farts on the part of the Huskers led to a ridiculous 12-1 in a span of thirty-four seconds to tie the game in the final minute, 65-all.  What appeared to be a major meltdown in Lincoln, though, turned to bedlam as Doc Sadler’s team regained its composure enough to hit their FTs down the stretch and notch possibly their biggest win in years.  UT is more than its individuals, but when Jordan Hamilton struggles as he did on Saturday (3-16 FG), the Horns have trouble putting enough points on the board against quality teams.  With the win, Nebraska has vaulted itself back onto the bubble — with a favorable schedule down the stretch, the Huskers could potentially get back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in thirteen seasons.  Nice RTC, fellas.

On Sunday it was Ohio State’s turn to again do battle with a Big Ten road crowd and team dead set on knocking off the much-hyped Buckeyes.  Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore ensured that the home crowd got what they paid for, as the senior guard went Kemba/Jimmer on the Big Ten leaders, scoring in just about every possible way en route to a superb 38/4/5 asst afternoon on 13-18 shooting.  His 13-point stretch over the last three-plus minutes of the first half was as impressive an offensive display as we’ve seen all season, punctuated by an acrobatic circus shot layup (see below) that told the viewers that this was going to be his game.  Talk has increased about Purdue as a legitimate Final Four contender after wins over OSU and Wisconsin last week, but the Boilermakers are an excellent home team.  We’re not as sold on Matt Painter’s team outside the friendly confines of Mackey Arena.

There you have it.  Three of the top four losing over the weekend, and nobody having a clue as to how to rank the top six today.  The AP Poll had six different teams receiving #1 votes, while the ESPN/Coaches had five.  Even the RTC poll, consisting of only six voters, had four different teams ranked at the top.  The takeaway from this weekend, and really, much of the season, is that there are a bunch of really good teams but certainly no great ones.  The NCAA Tournament could look a lot more like the 1997 (Arizona), 2003 (Syracuse), or 2006 (Florida) versions given this season’s continuing and obvious level of parity.

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. IIAnother Diatribe From Jim Boeheim.  Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim must really be frustrated with his team this season.  The smiles and self-knowing mockery that he engaged with the media last season appears to have migrated south with the rest of the snowbirds.  After tonight’s win (note we said “win”) at Villanova, Boeheim again lashed out at the media for its stupid questions and representations about his team. Mike Miller at MSNBC has the goods here (via Soft Pretzel Logic), and we’re a little bit at a loss ourselves as to why Boeheim is acting like such a prima donna lately.  With respect to the questions about “toughening” up one’s team, he can choose to not believe in such a thing but we dare say that he probably does.  Most coaches who have been doing this for as long as he has would probably believe there’s real team-building value in gutting out close wins ten times even if you end up losing a similarly-situated game in the postseason.  We weren’t at the presser in Philadelphia tonight, but it sounded like someone arguing for the sake of being argumentative.  Lighten up, Jim — the university pays you a LOT of money to answer a few minutes of questions after each game, not to berate people and make them feel stupid for doing their jobs.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

Last  week’s Big 12 schedule ended up riddled in upsets, and rather than the league providing some clarity as the NCAA Tournament approaches, the waters just got a little muddier.

The week started with a Valentine’s Day Big Monday matchup between the Kansas State Wildcats and the newly-anointed #1 Kansas Jayhawks in Manhattan.  Headed into the game, the Wildcats were in desperate need of a statement win headed toward the tourney, while the Jayhawks talked about embracing the target that comes with being named #1. The game turned out to be all Kansas State, as senior guard Jacob Pullen exploded for a career-high 38 points and the Wildcats dominated a Jayhawk team that looked complacent from the start.

Tuesday night went as expected as the Texas Tech Red Raiders lost in Columbia in a high-scoring affair against the Tigers.  The Tech effort actually provided one of the closer games for the Tigers at home this year, but the eight-point loss was just another bump in the road for a Tech team that hasn’t had much in the way of positive news this season.

On Wednesday, the Texas Longhorns took to the court knowing that taking care of business in two very winnable games during the week likely meant a top ranking to start the following week.  Against Oklahoma State in Austin, the Longhorns cruised and the Cowboys dropped to 4-7 in the conference likely dropping them off the bubble and into the group of Big 12 teams that will be NIT-bound come March.

Texas A&M turned away an Iowa State team still looking for win number two in conference play and Nebraska got a big road win in Norman over the Sooners. The win moved the Huskers to 5-6 in the conference and in the conversation with Kansas State and Colorado as a potential league representative in the tourney.  It’s definitely a bit of a reach, but in a year where college basketball is full of parity, it’s not out of the question.

Saturday tipped off with the Jayhawks rebounding from their loss to Kansas State with a blowout win over Colorado and Missouri getting their first conference road win in Ames over the Cyclones.  The big story in the early going, however, was the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  Doc Sadler and the Huskers pulled off the second big time upset of the week in conference play as they knocked off the Longhorns in a thriller in Lincoln.  The Huskers used a pesky defense and rode the energy of the home crowd to the upset and with a statement win put themselves firmly in the conversation as a fringe bubble team.

Kansas State continued their strong play of late with big win at home over the Sooners, while A&M continued to survive winning by one point over Oklahoma State in Stillwater.  Besides the Longhorn upset, another game provided a mild upset when Texas Tech went into Waco and knocked off the Baylor Bears.  Baylor now sits 6-6 in the conference with an identical record to Nebraska and Kansas State.  The biggest concern for Baylor has to be the lack of any quality wins.  In a little over a week, Baylor has gone from a team that looked to be improving and moving toward lock status, to a team sitting on the brink.  If the tourney started today Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Nebraska would be your top six teams with Baylor checking in at number seven.  That most likely doesn’t get them in.

Power Rankings

Quick Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll.  They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

  1. Texas (23-4, 11-1) – Texas dropped one on the road in Lincoln, but they retain the top spot because it was a game where they fought for 40 minutes and it just wasn’t their day.
  2. Kansas (25-2, 11-1) – Kansas was manhandled in Manhattan and didn’t put up much of a fight.  They looked great on Saturday at home against a mediocre opponent, but the manner of the loss on Monday keeps them at #2.
  3. Texas A&M (11-5, 8-4) – A&M continues to win albeit by a very slim margin.  Still the Aggies have won on the road more often than the Tigers and that puts them at #3 for now.
  4. Missouri Tigers (21-6, 7-5) – Two wins this week for the Tigers and their first conference road win against last place Iowa State.  That doesn’t necessarily change the concern over the Tigers’ play away from Columbia, but it’s a start.
  5. Kansas State (18-9, 6-6) – The Wildcats were on the ropes headed into the week, but after a win over # 1 Kansas, they now seem firmly in control of their NCAA Tournament hopes. K-State is #5 right now in the conference if the tournament selection show were today.
  6. Nebraska (18-8, 6-6) – A big win over Texas and the Huskers now sit 6-6 with a real chance to play themselves into the NCAA Tournament.  Doc Sadler plays a tough physical defensive game and it’s winning basketball games in Lincoln.
  7. Baylor (17-9, 6-6) – Baylor losing to Texas Tech at home is a pretty big blow at this point.  The Bears can’t claim any marquee wins and they have more “bad” losses than Kansas State and Nebraska.
  8. Colorado (16-11, 5-7 Big 12) – Colorado was in a position to make a play, but the schedule isn’t kind down the stretch.  Right now, they are probably a longshot tourney team, but they’ll have to run the table.
  9. Oklahoma State (16-10, 4-8) The Cowboys can’t seem to catch a break and continue to lose close games in tough situations.  Help is on the way in Stillwater, but this year has been a struggle.
  10. Texas Tech (12-15, 4-8) – Tech got a pretty nice win on the road in Waco this week and actually proved pretty competitive in Columbia which is no easy task.  One tick up in the power polls as a result.
  11. Oklahoma (12-14, 4-8) – Two losses for the Sooners this week and they drop from a potential middle tier Big 12 team back to the bottom.
  12. Iowa State (14-13, 1-11 Big 12) – Things just aren’t getting any better in Ames.  It’s a long season when you have such a lean bench.

A Look Ahead

  • Monday brings another Big Monday in Lawrence as Kansas welcomes the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  Bill Self has had his struggles against his alma mater, and at this point, the role of spoiler is all the Cowboys have to play for.
  • Tuesday night, Texas will play host to the Iowa State Cyclones in Austin in their first game since losing to the Huskers in Lincoln.  The Longhorns are still playing for the outright conference title and with four losses they are the team with the most losses that is still being mentioned in terms of a potential number one seed.
  • Wednesday night, Kansas State heads to Lincoln in a game that means a great deal for Nebraska, but  also has implications for the Wildcats as well.  While most believe Kansas State is fairly secure as a fifth Big 12 team in the tournament a win helps improve their seeding while a win for Nebraska is another big feather in the cap of Doc Sadler as he looks to take the Cornhuskers to the tourney in their final year in the Big 12.
  • Wednesday night games also include Oklahoma heading to Texas A&M, Colorado heading to Lubbock and the unpredictable but talented Baylor Bears traveling to Columbia where the Tigers are undefeated on the season.
  • Saturday once again sees all 12 teams in action with the Kansas Jayhawks and Texas Longhorns going on the road in games they are expected to win against Oklahoma and Colorado, respectively.  The Longhorn trip to Boulder is probably the more dangerous of the two as the Buffs have NBA talent.  The big question will be whether or not they can defend well enough to slow the Longhorns.
  • Missouri travels to Manhattan for a tough contest against K-State in a matchup that is slowly growing into a rivalry.  While neither team hates the other in the way they hate Kansas, this is a game that has become competitive and relevant in recent years.
  • Elsewhere, Texas A&M heads to Waco for a game against BaylorTexas Tech and Oklahoma State square off in Stillwater in a game that holds little significance.  And lastly Nebraska gets another chance to boost the resume when they travel to Iowa State with a chance at another conference road win against the Cyclones.

Player of the Year Watch

With two weeks to go, this is down to a three-man race.   Two players with teams at the top and one player who’s overcome his fair share of struggle and become a better player and leader for it.

Power Ranking Style and Based on Conference Play

  1. Jordan Hamilton – (17.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG): Not a great week for Hamilton, but he’s still the best player on the best team in the conference.
  2. Marcus Morris, Kansas – (18.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG): Statistically, Morris is still impressive, and he’s by far the most versatile.  But will the perception that he lacks leadership hurt his chances?
  3. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (21.2 PPG, 3.6 APG): Pullen exploded on Monday against Kansas with 38 points, but what was even more impressive is how he was able to step back and elevate others around him in the second half while Kansas State kept their foot firmly on the gas.  Pullen has put himself firmly back in the conversation for the postseason award.
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Morning Five: 02.21.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 21st, 2011

  1. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he was never boring, and the kid could fill it. On Sunday, Maryland honored former star (and current Memphis Grizzly) Greivis Vasquez by raising his number up to the Comcast Center rafters. And of course you know he loved getting another jab in on North Carolina, as seen in the report from the Baltimore Sun’s Tracking the Terps blog; when asked about how he thought Maryland would do in their last five regular season games, Vasquez predicted five wins, adding, “I think we can beat UNC at UNC anytime.”
  2. According to the Kansas City Star, Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen is a veritable bracket expert, often scouring the web for the latest bracket predictions and news. While making sure to note that he really just hopes his Wildcats get into The Dance, he projects KSU as a six-seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. We don’t know if Jacob is familiar with the work of RTC bracketologist-in-residence Zach Hayes, but we’ll make sure Pullen has Zach’s e-mail address in the event that he wants to lobby for his Wildcats or offer Zach a few choice words, heh heh. We’ll see where ZH has Kansas State (if anywhere) in his next bracket projection later today. In last week’s edition, KSU was one of the last four out, but it was released before the Wildcats’ win over Kansas on Monday night.
  3. You probably remember how full Cornell’s bandwagon got last year as the Big Red rolled to a 29-5 record, a 12-seed in the NCAA Tournament (way, way too low), and a Sweet 16 appearance. That was their third straight bid to the Tournament, a trifecta of appearances that came after a 20-year drought. Harvard is not impressed. The Crimson (20-4, 9-1) are a half game up on Princeton in the Ivy League standings with four games to play — remember, there’s no post-season tournament for the Ancient Eight, so the auto-bid goes to the regular season champ — and all that’s at stake for Tommy Amaker’s team is the program’s first NCAA bid…in 65 years. The last game on their schedule? Princeton. March 5th.
  4. You think Jerry Tarkanian, at age 80, has tempered his ire toward the NCAA with the passage of time? Right. You figure that $2.5 million dollar settlement check he received from them in 1998 diluted his anger? Think again. On Friday at the Palms in Vegas, HBO premiered a documentary about Tark’s UNLV days, and it’s obvious from his post-screening comments that this is one grudge he’ll never put down. He gets in some priceless digs (the strip club comment is hilarious) in this Tim Dahlberg/AP article we caught in the New York Times.
  5. Remember that play from Tuesday’s Michigan State vs Ohio State game where Aaron Craft ran down that errant Spartan pass that went into the backcourt, gathered it before it went out of bounds, then took it up strong for the and-one? A few seconds after it happened, we tweeted that that single effort told you a lot of what you needed to know about the impressive Ohio State freshman. Well, we were wrong. This article from the Akron Beacon Journal tells you even more. His sections in that “Party In the USA” viral video brought to mind the voice of the great Ralph Wiggum (full disclosure: HLN’s Rafer Weigel said that before we did), but Craft’s evidently got skills in about fourteen other sports…and that’s not counting what sounds like some serious expertise on the dance floor [h/t: Coach Jeff Boals].
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Around The Blogosphere: February 16, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on February 16th, 2011


If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #1 Ohio State 71, Michigan State 61: “In front of an energetic sell-out crowd (3rd of the season), the Buckeyes bounced back from their defeat in Madison on Saturday with a 71-61 victory over Michigan State Tuesday night. The Spartans have now won just 2 of their last 8 games to continue their dissappointing season, while the Buckeyes took step one of potentailly reclaiming the top spot in the nation after Kansas’s loss last night.” (Eleven Warriors)
  • Kansas State 84, #3 Kansas 68: “The stay atop the polls will be a short one as the Kansas Jayhawks stepped onto the court on Monday night and never stood a chance. Jacob Pullen was a man on mission, the Kansas State Wildcats fought their way off the ropes and for all the talk of embracing no.1 the Jayhawks looked completely unprepared for the challenge.” (Rock Chalk Talk: Part 1 and Part 2)
  • #13 Villanova 60, Seton Hall 57: “For the third consecutive game the outcome came down to the last shot. And twice in those three games the ball was in the hands of the opponent. The nightmare scenario was unfolding as Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall’s latest 2,000 point scorer had the ball with 0:11 on the clock and 25 points already banked from this game. Hazell-led teams had never beaten the Wildcats, and this was the best chance in his four seasons. Hazell, who had 2,005 points entering the game, will probably almost certainly pass Greg Tynes (1974-78) to become the #3 scorer in Pirate history. But his total stopped at 25 tonight as his last three point attempt careened off the rim and into Dominic Cheek’s eager grasp. ” (Villanova by the Numbers)
  • #20 Syracuse 63, West Virginia 52: “There will be no three-game losing streak. There will be no four-game home losing streak. When they needed to most, the Orange got their act together and held on for 63-52 victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers Monday night.” (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
  • #21 Kentucky 85, Mississippi State 79: “Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats did just slightly more than enough to win this game. Ugly or pretty, nobody will ever know at the end of the year that this was anything other than a W. I am not surprised that the Mississippi St. Bulldogs offered Kentucky such a stiff challenge. Last year’s two overtime losses to Kentucky had to affect this team, they came in smarting from a bad loss against the Auburn Tigers, and they were ready to take it to Kentucky. They did so. If not for the untimely foul and absurd technical by Rick Stansbury at the end of the first half, who knows for sure what the outcome of this contest might have been? In the end, though, Kentucky did just enough to win, and made some timely big plays in the bargain. But Mississippi St. deserves praise for bringing their A game into Rupp Arena.” (A Sea of Blue)

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The Week That Was: Feb. 8-14

Posted by jstevrtc on February 15th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

What a weekend. We’re still reeling from the Saturday’s chaos in Madison. It’s always a bittersweet day when the final undefeated team in the nation suffers its first loss. Do you think the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers pop champagne and toast themselves every year once that game clock hits 0:00 and their legacy is preserved for one more year? Sure, they aren’t the ’72 Dolphins, but we easily could picture Bobby Knight smirking to himself and lighting a cigar after Ohio State’s loss at Wisconsin. 

What We Learned

Taylor May Be the Most Talk-About Player In America Right Now

Ohio State wasn’t an invincible juggernaut and we already knew that. OSU endured close calls earlier the season against Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, Illinois and Northwestern. It wasn’t a matter of if Ohio State would suffer its first loss, it was a matter of when some team would rise up and topple the Buckeyes. Cue the Wisconsin Badgers. Jordan Taylor exploded in the second half scoring 21 of his 27 points to lead Wisconsin to a come from behind win and an all-time RTC. But here at TWTW, we’re not as interested in single game scenarios; we focus on the big picture. So in their win, did the Badgers show the nation a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes? The main quality a team needs in order to emulate what the Badgers did against OSU is offensive efficiency. Ohio State is the #12 team in the nation at forcing turnovers, causing them on 25% of opponents’ possessions. Wisconsin values the ball more than any other team in the NCAA, turning it over on just 13.6% of its possessions, and on Saturday the Badgers had just eight turnovers. Of course it doesn’t take a genius to point out that fewer turnovers increases your win probability. But what’s harder to duplicate is the Badgers’ enigmatic guard. Taylor pretty much single-handedly propelled Wisconsin to the upset. Few clubs have a guard capable of putting up that many points that quickly. So while opposing coaches can point to Saturday’s outcome merely as proof that OSU is beatable, it’s difficult to emulate the Badgers’ winning formula. Here’s the best recipe for beating a highly ranked Ohio State squad: schedule the game in Madison. Neither the OSU football nor basketball teams are invulnerable to the powers of Bucky Badger.

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ATB: Where’s It Been, K-State?

Posted by rtmsf on February 15th, 2011

The Lede.  Big Monday came through with a shocker tonight, and only part of it involved Jim Boeheim attacking the Syracuse media for what he deemed unfair reporting.  We’ll discuss this more below, but did Kansas State turn the proverbial corner on its season this evening with a superb showing against its bitter rival, or did we just witness the 2011 version of Devan Downey knocking out #1 Kentucky?

Start of Something or Highlight of the Year For Pullen?

Your Watercooler MomentK-State Obliterates #1 Kansas, a Nation Wonders How? Everyone in the building and watching on television knew exactly the moment when it was over.  Not over in the scoreboard sense necessarily — after all, there was enough time for a big comeback by Kansas — but over in the heads-hanging, back-breaking sense.  With about ten minutes to go in the game, K-State’s Jacob Pullen, who had broken out of his season-long slump with 25 points in the first half, shot a long three that spun around the rim, bounced up to hit the backboard, and dropped right back in.  It’s the kind of shot you only get when the night is yours, and Pullen, on his way to a 38-point masterpiece, the second-most points scored in a game against a #1 team ever, drained it for his fourth trey of the evening.  It was almost as if all of the team’s pent-up frustrations about preseason expectations, the suspensions, the finger-pointing, the NIT flap, the overriding average-ness of this team, came out in one glorious game against its hated rival.  As it turns out, the Wildcat victory tonight represented only the third such win in its last 45 tries against Kansas, a streak so unbelievable on its face that you start to think maybe K-State should only agree to play the Jayhawks when they’re ranked #1 in the polls (two of those three wins came as such).  As for tonight, Kansas State hit everything it threw up (56% FG), out-rebounded (+4) and generally out-toughed Bill Self’s top-ranked team.  They played like a team with something to earn, while Kansas played like a team with something to lose.  The big question is whether this transcendental win for Frank Martin’s guys means anything in the long run — conventional wisdom is that KSU still has some work to do before getting itself back onto the NCAA bubble, but only Florida State, Wisconsin and the Wildcats have wins over #1 teams this season.  It’s not a matter of whether — obviously if Frank Martin’s team can beat KU by nearly twenty points — they have the capacity to win four of five games the rest of the way (we’re assuming Texas in Austin is a loss).  But will the same Pullen and the same aggressive defense that we saw in Bramlage Coliseum tonight show up against the likes of Oklahoma and Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa State?  Kansas, on the other hand, once again looked completely listless in a game where we can only presume that they expected K-State to kneel down and take the beating like they had done in Lawrence a few weeks ago.  That’s what really scares us about Bill Self’s team — it’s not that they don’t have the talent and experience in droves, because they do — it’s that, as we saw in the Northern Iowa game last year and a few other near-misses since then, sometimes they’re just not mentally all the way there.  Tonight the Jayhawks were down 30-16 (thanks to a 20-8 run) before they seemed to realize they were going to have to play to win the game.  They are good enough to win the national title when playing full bore, but as Self alluded to in the postgame, if they think they can waltz in and intimidate teams with their pedigree alone, they’re vulnerable to getting shocked.  Pullen and K-State definitely did the shocking tonight; it’s up to those capable individuals to determine if it’s sustainable.

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. IIBoeheim Wins #850, Trashes Media Afterward. Coming into tonight’s game having lost five of seven games and two in a row, the Orange needed a home win to remind everyone of the team that ran out to an 18-0 start earlier this season.  Despite the same bugaboo that has caused major troubles in the Syracuse defense appearing again (three-point defense), the Orange were able to shut down WVU in the last eight minutes of the game, holding the Mountaineers to a mere three points during that stretch and pulling away.  WVU hit 11-22 from deep, though, which means that the vaunted 2-3 defense employed by SU is still having trouble getting to shooters; luckily, West Virginia didn’t appear to have much other offense than that outside the arc (6-25 from two).  The win moved Syracuse to 21-6 (8-6 Big East) and was also Jim Boeheim’s 850th win in his career (second only to Coach K among active coaches).  Boeheim used the post-game presser to rip the media about their preseason predictions and comparing his record against other coaches.  Here’s the entire thing, but we’d suggest you watch starting at around 3:00 to get the gist of it.

Tweet of the Night.  Complete agreement… during the Kansas-KSU game, it was incredibly distracting.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.14.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 14th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We’re now less than a month away from Selection Sunday. A couple of Big East teams try to enhance their resume while one Big 12 team is in desperation mode tonight. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

West Virginia @ #12 Syracuse – 7 pm on ESPN (***)

How Tough Is the Big East? The Orange Got Clowned In the Carrier Dome On 1/25...by Seton Hall

Given the state of the bubble, you’d have to say these two teams are solidly in the field of 68. We’re sure, however, that Jim Boeheim isn’t feeling so fine and dandy about his Orange right now. Syracuse has lost six of their last eight games and will look to snap a three game home losing streak when West Virginia visits the Carrier Dome this evening. Syracuse hasn’t won on their home floor in a month, their last victory coming over Cincinnati on January 15. In order to help the Orange continue that home losing streak, West Virginia needs to control the pace and work every possession through the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone. Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant have proven to be a solid tandem at the point and it’ll be up to them to take care of the ball, control the pace and create open shots.

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