Big East Morning Five: 01.10.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 10th, 2012

  1. Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch told Alex Kline of he will transfer to UNLV.  Birch visited UNLV, Florida and New Mexico State last week before making his choice. “I really like UNLV,“ he told Kline. “It was a very tough decision but UNLV is a good fit for me because of the coaches, players and facilities… I can develop under a great, young coach in Dave Rice.  He and the entire staff made me feel very comfortable in Las Vegas.”  As a transfer, Birch will have to sit out two semesters.  The timing of the decision was critical as he will be able to enroll in school for the spring semester with the intent of becoming eligible in January 2013.  UNLV has two remaining scholarships that could be used to build upon what is already a monster class of newcomers: DaQuan Cook, Katin Reinhardt, Demetris Morant as well as Bryce Jones, who is a transfer from the Southern California, are all headed to Vegas next year.   The buzz surrounding the two open spots involves three more heavyweights in forwards Anthony Bennett (ranked seventh in the class of 2012 by both and, Shabazz Muhammad (the consensus number one rated class of 2012 recruit) and St. John’s decommit Norvel Pelle.
  2. St John’s was involved in the other piece of transfer news yesterday.  Fortunately, this time they found out they were getting one rather than losing one.  Guard Jamal Branch, who left Texas A&M after one semester there, announced he will be suiting up for the Red Storm once he sits out a year under NCAA transfer rules.   Arizona, Marquette and Maryland were also reportedly in the mix.  Branch, a top 100 recruit coming out of Grace Prep in Arlington, Texas, was playing significant minutes (18.6 MPG) for the Aggies as the backup point guard, averaging 4.2 points and 2.5 assists per game.  He cited his relationship with current St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison as contributing to his decision. “The players there are pretty cool and with me knowing D’Angelo helped me make my decision,” Branch said. “That’s like my little brother and we always wanted to play with each other. Me and him click well and are looking forward to doing big things here at St. John’s.”
  3. It will be a banner evening in Providence tonight when Rick Pitino and his Louisville club come to town to take on the Friars.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of Providence’s Final Four run under Pitino and the milestone will be celebrated during a halftime ceremony.  With a band of pressing, three-point shooting unknowns such as current Florida head coach Billy Donovan, Delray Brooks and Ernie “Pop” Lewis, the 1986-87 Friars captivated a region and vaulted Pitino to coaching stardom.  “I have always coached every time out, no matter how much time is left in the game, feeling we could come back, no matter what the level was, or the score was, all because of that Providence College basketball team. Because they set the standard, not only for comebacks, but they set the standard for just making me believe that anything is possible,” Pitino said.  The Friars defeated Georgetown, ironically in Louisville, in the regional final before bowing to another Big East foe, Syracuse, in the national semifinals.  Current Providence head coach Ed Cooley will personally enjoy the moment as well.  A Rhode Islander who group up a fan of the Friars, Cooley was star player at Rhode Island’s Central High School at the time. A number of team members are expected to be in attendance, including Brooks and Lewis.
  4. The Big East’s weekly superlatives have been dished out and West Virginia’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant scooped up his second Player of the Week honor.  Bryant averaged 27 points per game in Mountaineer wins over Rutgers and Georgetown.  Rookie of the Week went to St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison who averaged 21 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games, highlighted by an 18-point, seven-rebound effort in an upset road win over Cincinnati.  Big East Honor Roll recipients this week were: DePaul guard Brandon Young, who averaged 24 points per game including 26 in a win over Pittsburgh; Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley who is starting to become a regular around here;  Rutgers guard Eli Carter, who followed up his Rookie of the Week honor with more strong play; Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore, who averaged a double-double for the week (16.5 PPG, 10.0 APG) and Syracuse guard Brandon Triche who filled up the stat sheet (16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.5 APG) to help keep the Orange unbeaten.
  5. Say what you want about the overall quality of the Big East this year as compared to recent seasons but one thing is for sure, nobody can ever rest on their laurels, lest they find themselves on the short end of an upset loss.  It was another turbulent week in the conference as evidenced by the latest Top 25 poll.  The only constant of course has been Syracuse (17-0), who was pushed at times on the road by Providence and back home against Marquette, but held firm to their undefeated record and #1 ranking.  The Orange have really separated from the back as they now represent the Big East’s only resident of the Top 10.  Connecticut (12-3), behind losses to Seton Hall and Rutgers, plummeted nine spots to #17.  Georgetown (13-2) lost at West Virginia and slipped two notches to #11 as a result.  Louisville’s (13-3) double overtime loss to Notre Dame cost them three spots as the Cardinals slid to #14.  Marquette (12-4) took two losses last week, and therefore did not hold their ranking, falling five spots to #25.  OK, enough of talking about teams that are struggling.  How ‘bout those Pirates!  Yes, Seton Hall (14-2) coming of a 2-0 week that featured wins over then #8 Connecticut and on the road against Providence, broke in at #24 and is ranked for the first time since 2001.
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Morning Five: 01.10.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 10th, 2012

  1. After thinking it over on Sunday night Khem Birch announced that he would be transferring to UNLV. Birch chose UNLV over Florida and New Mexico State, his two other reported finalists. In the end, it appears that Birch saw what Mike Moser, one of several transfers on the UNLV roster, was doing in UNLV’s system and felt that he could play a similar role for the Rebels. Birch will join an interesting roster next year that will feature three other transfers and a solid incoming class with one more scholarship spot available. Of course, many Rebels fan will view this decision through the prism of how it will affect their recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad, the #1 overall recruit in this year’s senior class. According to Muhammad’s father, Birch’s announcement “only strengthens UNLV in the eyes of Shabazz.”
  2. While Birch knows that he will be playing college basketball in a year, the future is not so bright for UAB student Todd O’Brien as his appeal for a graduate student transfer exemption was denied by the NCAA. O’Brien’s saga, which technically began last summer, rose to national prominence last month when he wrote a column for Sports Illustrated calling out Saint Joseph’s and Phil Martelli for not granting him a waiver and not providing him with a reason for their denial. As we noted last week, Saint Joseph’s has tried to hide behind the veil of  student privacy although reports last week indicate that the school would not divulge its reason(s) even if O’Brien waived that right. Now it appears with little non-legal (the real legal system not the NCAA version), O’Brien appears willing to call Saint Joseph’s bluff and we will see how the school and Martelli respond.
  3. Over the past few years, Todd Bozeman has become known as the one coach who had managed to overcome the  now infamous show-cause penalty to become a success Division I basketball head coach. Unfortunately, Bozeman’s path to redemption took a detour over the weekend as Bozeman was involved in an altercation of some sort with senior guard Larry Bastfield. There are conflicting reports on what actually happened–Bozeman says it was “accidental contact” while others say it was a deliberate punch–but for the time being Morgan State has decided to suspend Bozeman indefinitely while they conduct an investigation. From the reports we have read the evidence does not appear to be clear cut especially since both Bozeman and Bastfield now claim that the incident was overblown, but for someone with Bozeman’s history this is the last thing he needs to have around him.
  4. It did not generate nearly the same level of buzz that Birch’s announcement did, but St. John’s picked up a commitment from transfer Jamal Branch, who left Texas A&M after just 11 games this season. Branch, who was a consensus top 100 recruit last season, will be a welcome addition to a Red Storm team that lost much of its heralded freshman class to a variety of eligibility issues and are still waiting on several members of next season’s incoming freshman class to finalize their decisions.
  5. In this week’s Hoops Thoughts column Seth Davis explores the downtrend in fouls called and scoring with some analysis from John Adams, the NCAA’s supervisor of officials. Adams provides some interesting insight and clarifies a few common misconceptions that some fans have about new or controversial rules. Seth also offers a variety of random thoughts on different teams and even touches on his belief that coaches should wear more casual/comfortable clothing on the sideline citing St. John’s big win over then #1 Duke last January when its coaches wore sneakers and open collars, which they also did when they when they lost at home in November to Northeastern by 14.
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Big 12 Weekly Primer: Week of January 3 – 6

Posted by dnspewak on January 3rd, 2012

With the Big 12 introducing an 18-game schedule for the first time in history, conference play begins a week earlier than usual in 2012. In recent years, the week after New Year’s meant tune-up games with low-major opponents, but this season, Big 12 teams won’t have much time to recover from the holidays. Kansas and Kansas State in particular must be in tip-top shape, as the two state rivals will face each other on Wednesday (January 4).


  • #23 Kansas State (11-1) at #14 Kansas (10-3), Wednesday 7 PM CT

Thomas Robinson Was Unstoppable This Weekend

Kansas State responded from the graduation of Jacob Pullen by ripping through its non-conference schedule, which included wins over Virginia Tech and Alabama, in addition to a Diamond Head Classic championship. The early success has helped Frank Martin‘s team crack the Top 25, but the Wildcats will now face three top-15 teams during the next eight days. It all begins with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday, marking the first meeting of the season between the two underrated rivals. Kansas State may be overachieving, but the Jayhawks are still finding their way after losing games to Kentucky, Duke and Davidson during the first two months of the season. Bill Self doesn’t have a vintage KU team this season, as it lacks depth and still has not executed all that well offensively. That doesn’t mean these Jayhawks can’t ball, though. They can, especially when Thomas Robinson plays like an animal (30 points and 21 rebounds against North Dakota on Saturday) and Tyshawn Taylor takes care of the basketball. Taylor has heard a lot of criticism for his turnovers, but he may be turning his season around in that department. He led KU to a rout at USC by dishing out nine assists and limiting himself to just two turnovers and he’s averaged just two turnovers per game during the last three contests.

Of course, in those games, Kansas did not face the sort of defense it will see out of Kansas State. Martin’s teams are always defined by their intensity on the defensive end, and this 2011-12 team is no different. The Wildcats are deep, athletic and physical, and forwards Thomas Gipson, Jordan Henriquez and Jamar Samuels can test Robinson on the boards a little better than North Dakota did. Bill Self’s teams will always defend, and despite his relative lack of depth, he has more skilled and proven scorers than KSU with Robinson, Taylor and the emerging Elijah Johnson. But if Rodney McGrudercan play like a star and provide some heroics, his team may hang around at the Phog. The junior guard, who leads his team at 12.5 points per game, scored 28 against Long Beach State during Christmas week to win the Diamond Head Classic.

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Checking In on… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2011

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Denmon Scorching: The Big 12 Player of the Year race will come down to who does what in conference play, but at the midseason point I would be hard-pressed to pick anyone other than Missouri’s Marcus Denmon. The senior is averaging 19.6 points per game, and is doing it extremely efficiently, with a 52.8% eFG. He’s also getting to the line a decent amount, and shooting 91.7% once he gets there. Despite taking more shots than anyone on the team, and using his fair share of possessions, Denmon has been great at taking care of the ball as well: his 4.2% turnover rate is best in the entire country. Not only is he the best player in the league at this point, he might be the best in the country entering conference play.
  • Coaches Jockeying: Coach of the Year, on the other hand, is a much more muddled situation. At Kansas, Bill Self has taken a Kansas team savaged by graduations and early departures and led them to a 7-2 record, including a big win over Ohio State. There were some snickers when Missouri hired Frank Haith, but the Tigers are 11-0 and will likely be favored in their next month’s worth of games. Frank Martin has taken a Kansas State team without much offensive talent but has ridden defense to a 7-1 record, including a win over a good Alabama team. Their lone loss came in double overtime to future conference foe West Virginia.
  • Tolbert Under The Radar: While Quincy Miller, Deuce Bello, and LeBryan Nash have received more publicity and probably have brighter NBA futures, how about some love for Texas Tech’s Jordan Tolbert? He’s taking 34.1% of the team’s shots while on the floor, but has not wilted in the face of having to carry an offense as a freshman. Quite the opposite in fact as he’s shooting 63% and drawing an impressive five fouls per 40 minutes. Once at the line, he’s shooting 83.3%. He also leads the Red Raiders in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Texas Tech probably will finish last in the league this year, but it won’t be because of Tolbert.

Marcus Denmon Is Setting Nets Ablaze With His Shooting, But Will It Continue Into League Play?

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (10-0): The Tigers start 10-0 for the first time since joining the conference. They haven’t played the toughest of non-conference schedules, however, and will be trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s second half swoon when they lost eight of their final 14 games. I mentioned how great Marcus Denmon has been already, but don’t sleep on Kim English either: the senior is shooting 52.5% from three and has the tenth-best eFG in the country.
  2. Kansas (7-2): Kansas didn’t play last week due to pesky finals week, but while they will be hoping for good news off the court in the form of good grades, it looks like they will get a piece of good news on the court as senior guard Tyshawn Taylor, who had surgery on a torn meniscus and was expected to be out a minimum of two weeks, is now expected to play in Kansas’s game Monday against Davidson. Thomas Robinson had a similar procedure as Jayhawk with a comparable recovery time, for what it’s worth. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Team Previews: Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by cwilliams on November 10th, 2011

Predicted finish: 3d

2010-11 season: 24-9 (10-6)

Head coach: Billy Kennedy, 1st season (currently on medical leave)

Key losses: B.J Holmes (9.7 PPG), Nathan Walkup (9.4 PPG)

With Mark Turgeon’s legacy at Texas A&M coming to an end this offseason because of his departure to Maryland, the Billy Kennedy era in College Station has officially begun. Luckily for Kennedy, he has a luxury many first-year coaches do not — a talented, experienced roster. The Aggies started last season strong but fizzled in the heart of conference play. They eventually fell to Florida State in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, an experienced and mature Aggie team hits the court of Reed Arena. A&M has not make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2007, despite making the field of 65 68 each season since. If Kennedy wants to make an immediate impact on this resurgent A&M basketball team, he will need to show they are more than a one-and-done program and that they can be a legitimate threat to earn a Final Four berth.

Is A&M Prepared to Take the Next Step With Kennedy?

The Stars: All eyes will be on Khris Middleton, or as we like to call him, Maroon 22. Middleton is an athletic, dynamic player who is likely NBA-bound once there is such a thing again. He averaged 14.3 PPG last season, carrying the load for the Aggie offense. He is expected to do more of the same this season, as he’ll be the focal point in Kennedy’s new offense as well. Helping Middleton will be David Loubeau, a versatile inside player who can rebound, block shots and score. He has impressive athleticism, but needs to improve his consistency, especially when squaring off against bigger players.

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RTC Summer Updates: Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 10th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big 12 correspondent, Evan Pfaff.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Round Robin Scheduling – For the first time since the Big 12 was formed, the conference will implement full round-robin scheduling, meaning each school will play a home-and-home with each of the other nine schools in the conference.  In the past, schools played the teams in their division in a home-and-home, but only played schools in the other division once per season, switching home courts every year.  That meant the epic battles between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks happened only once per regular season, and whichever school hosted the game had a monumental advantage over the other.  With a full round-robin format, not only will each school play two additional conference games, but seeding will be based more on outcomes on the floor than the scheduling fates.
  • Reloading Talent – The Big 12 is used to replacing an enormous amount of talent. In 2010, ten Big 12 players were taken in the NBA Draft.  Two months ago, the Big 12 cupboards were once again raided, as seven players heard their names called. The conference should again be stacked and we might hear as many as ten names called on draft day 2012. From incoming freshmen like Baylor’s Quincy Miller, Texas’ Myck Kabongo and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash, to returning stars like Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, the Big 12 should again be a breeding ground for NBA rosters.
  • New Coaches… EVERYWHERE.  Change is inevitable in college athletics, but stability at the top usually translates into success on the floor. So it is eye opening that from Mike Anderson and Mark Turgeon leaving to Pat Knight and Jeff Capel being shown the door, the Big 12 had a 40% coaching turnover this summer. Now with Frank Haith, Billy Kennedy, Billy Gillispie and Lon Kruger roaming Big 12 sidelines, the conference has some questions to answer. Can Missouri conform to a set offense? Can A&M meet high preseason expectations under new management? Do Billy Clyde Gillispie and Lon Kruger have another run left in them?

Kansas head coach Bill Self has a tall task in front of him after losing most of the punch from last season's potent lineup.

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Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011



Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

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