Big 12 M5: 03.21.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 21st, 2016

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  1. After extended struggles in the NCAA Tournament, the Big 12 pulled through by sending three teams — Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State — to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2009. What’s particularly interesting about the league’s current standing is that the three teams still alive are the ones we all thought had the best chance to make a run when the season started. It was tough to see Baylor, West Virginia, Texas and Texas Tech lose games they could have (perhaps should have) won, but all in all, Big 12 supporters have to like this year’s results.
  2. With Stephen F. Austin falling in a heartbreaker to Notre Dame on Sunday, you can expect the chatter connecting Brad Underwood to the Oklahoma State job to ramp up over the next couple of days. He checks many of the necessary boxes for the Cowboys: He’s been tremendously successful; he has connections to the area; he worked in the Big 12 earlier in his career and is a hot name who could reinvigorate the program and re-energize the fan base in very short order. We’ll have more on the coaching search in Stillwater a bit later today, but even though Underwood won just a single NCAA Tournament game this year, his potential addition to the program in Stillwater makes a lot of sense.
  3. In other Big 12 coaching news, a report Sunday indicated that Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon is strongly considering a move to take the vacant TCU job. While it isn’t often that you hear of a coach of Dixon’s stature being connected to a program with as little historical success as TCU, there are a few reasons why this could be a reasonable next step for the Horned Frogs. Dixon is a TCU alumnus and the school just unveiled substantial facilities upgrades, and the timing of Trent Johnson’s firing suggests that athletic director Chris Del Conte wants to take an aggressive approach towards escaping the Big 12 basement. The move could also be appealing from Dixon’s side, too. Fan unrest in Pittsburgh is growing as Dixon has turned only two of his 11 NCAA Tournament bids into Sweet Sixteen runs, and, though there’s not much to suggest he’s at risk of termination, the athletic director and chancellor who were in place when he was hired are now gone, so it’s fair to wonder just how much support he has from the current administration. Given all of those circumstances, the TCU job could represent something of an escape hatch. While the Horned Frogs don’t have the most well-regarded program around college basketball, we haven’t seen what they can do with an accomplished leader like Dixon at the helm. It’s also no secret that Texas is loaded with the kind of prep talent that can make TCU competitive with the right coach.
  4. Returning to the league’s NCAA Tournament performance over the weekend, it has to be especially redeeming for Iowa State to have extended its season for at least one more game. While this year’s campaign hasn’t been without its highlights, the Cyclones have just been through the wringer. First, they lost Naz Mitrou-Long eight games into the season. Then they started 1-3 in conference play, dashing hopes of knocking Kansas from the top of the Big 12 mountain and leading to a level of fan criticism that prompted head coach Steve Prohm to delete his Twitter and Facebook accounts. The team then spent a decent chunk of February working through various challenges with Jameel McKay before ultimately finishing fifth in the conference and going one-and-done at the Big 12 Tournament. Flash forward to this past weekend, and the Cyclones delivered one of the most refreshing stretches of play they’ve had all year. While it’s not a huge surprise to see Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen, that they’ve done so in spite of all the challenges they’ve faced likely makes this run a little more special than it would be otherwise.
  5. The Big 12’s Sweet Sixteen action will tip on Thursday night when Kansas and Maryland meet in Louisville. At first glance, the most intriguing individual matchup in this game centers on how Mark Turgeon’s team will defend Perry Ellis. Doing so is a tall order, but with four regulars at 6’9″ or taller, the Terrapins certainly have the bodies capable of altering Ellis’ inside shots. Part of what makes Ellis such a matchup nightmare, however, is his ability to force opposing big men defend him in space, so it will be interesting to monitor how often Bill Self utilizes Ellis on the perimeter.
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Rushed Reactions: #4 Iowa State 78, #12 Little Rock 61

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on March 19th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Monte Morris, Steve Prohm and Iowa State are Sweet Sixteen Bound (Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Monte Morris, Steve Prohm, and Iowa State are Sweet Sixteen Bound (Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Iowa State Offensive Excellence. According to KenPom, the Cyclones are fourth in the nation in offensive efficiency. It’s easy to see why. They’ve got an excellent floor general in Monte Morris, a player always in charge. Georges Niang is a human mismatch, capable of scoring in the paint with the big boys, stepping out to the arc and knocking in threes, or creating off the bounce. Jameel McKay gets on the offensive boards and runs the floor. Abdel Nader can hit the three or attack the hoop. And Matt Thomas is the perfect off-the-ball compliment to the other pieces. It’s not often that even the best defensive teams in the nation have a chance of slowing the talented and versatile Iowa State offense.
  2. Little Rock’s Offensive Struggles. Little Rock does many things well, but supremely efficient offense is not one of them. Today, they had a four-minute scoring drought at the end of the first half, another six-minute stretch without points at the start of the second and another two and a half-minute scoreless streak in the middle of the second. Against a team that scores as efficiently and as often as Iowa State does, these droughts were back-breakers.
  3. Clean and Pretty. In order to have a chance in this game, Little Rock probably needed to ugly this game up in a barrage of floor burns and whistles. Instead, the teams combined for just 14 turnovers and 24 fouls (a few of which were late fouls intended to send poor-shooting Jameel McKay to the line). A handful of times, Little Rock tried to unleash the press that frustrated Purdue late on Thursday, but with ballhandlers like Morris, Niang and Thomas in charge, it never put a significant dent into Iowa State’s gameplan.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Iowa State 94, #13 Iona 81

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 17th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Iowa State Advances in a Fun-n-Gun Game (USA Today Images)

Iowa State Advances Over Iona in a Fun-n-Gun Game (USA Today Images)

  1. Lack of Depth A Positive. Assuming you can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, any reasonably well-conditioned team is not going to get tired in a tournament with three-minute timeouts, coach’s timeouts, longer halftimes and an assortment of monitor reviews. So if you’ve got five guys who are clearly better than the rest of your guys, why not play them all the time? Clearly Steve Prohm buys into this theory. Only three teams in the nation this year play their bench fewer minutes than Iowa State, and that’s a good thing. That means more minutes for guys like Georges Niang, Monte Morris, Abdel Nader, Matt Thomas and Jameel McKay, all of whom have averaged double figures this year and did so again today. In today’s up-tempo game (78 possessions), with the Cyclones maintaining a solid lead throughout, the bench earned a total of 29 minutes resulting in two points. Going forward, however, expect the Cyclones to gain an advantage by getting their best guys the most possible run.
  2. Die By The Three. Coming into the game, Iona was shooting 44.2 percent of its field goal attempts from three-point range, good for 20th in the nation, knocking them in at a 37.2 percent rate (57th in the nation). Three guys (A.J. English, Isaiah Williams and Deyshonee Much) had made at least 77 three-pointers coming into today, even if most of those were in tiny MAAC gyms in front of a few thousand fans. In the Pepsi Center today on a national stage, the Gaels shot just 2-of-13 from three in the first half in allowing a 12-point deficit. In the second half, things were a little better (5-of-11), but the damage had already been done.
  3. A Better Version Of Themselves. Iowa State is a great offensive team (third in the nation in offensive efficiency) that likes to play uptempo (53rd in tempo). Iona is built around its ability to get up and down the court (45th in tempo) and score efficiently (68th in offensivce efficiency). But in this game, it was just a matter of the Cyclones having bigger and better players doing the same types of things. Iona coach Tim Cluess put it simply: “When you play teams at this level, they’re going to have guys who are bigger, stronger and better playing basketball.” For Iona to have had a great chance in this round, they were going to have to play a team with a different style. Throw in struggles from three and an inability to get to the line, and Iowa State moves on.

Star of the GameGeorges Niang. Iowa State’s senior All-American does everything for the Cyclones, and today was no different as he led all scorers with 28 points. Early in the second half, when the Cyclones had turned it over on three consecutive possessions against the press leading to transition baskets, it was Niang’s open court ability to handle the ball that settled Iowa State down and forced Iona out of its press.

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Blowing Bubbles Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 11th, 2016

When the calendar turns to February, it is required that everyone must talk about bubbles. When engaging in bubble talk, we are obliged to have serious discussions about big bubbles, small bubbles, dish soap, glycerin and various bubble wand shapes. But you must also make mention of the nervous teams on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament bracket. Last week, we discussed the Big 12 bubble picture at considerable length. While we thought that teams like Kansas State and Texas Tech still had some life left in them, we weren’t so positive that they could change their fortunes so quickly. Down starting point guard Kamau Stokes, the Wildcats knocked off #1 Oklahoma on Saturday because Wesley Iwundu decided the offense would run through him. (He also accurately decided his man-to-man defense on Buddy Hield would give his team a better chance at slowing down Oklahoma’s potent offense.) The Red Raiders had solid computer numbers going into last night’s game against Iowa State (RPI: 54, non-conference SOS: 59, two RPI Top 50 wins) but a 3-7 conference record is not where a team wants to be in mid-February. Texas Tech then proceeded to take down the Cyclones in overtime, adding another feather in the cap of a potential at-large profile.

Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith might have received help from above in last night's upset victory over Iowa State. (Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith may have received some help from above in last night’s upset victory of Iowa State.
(Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

What does this all mean? It means there are 23 days until the final day of the Big 12’s regular season on March 5. Some teams will rise, some will fall, and some will be Kansas. If you are not Kansas, you, a Big 12 conference member, have been sentenced to death in the wings of a flightless bird. They may not fly, but they sure can claw.

All hail the mighty Jayhawk.

The power rankings are below.

1. Oklahoma — 4 points (Chris & Nate — 1st, Brian — 2nd). Comment: “This is the first week that Brian, Chris and myself have not unanimously voted the Sooners No. 1 in quite some time. I might be turning myself into #thatguy, but… something’s clearly up with Oklahoma, right? The Sooners’ somewhat sluggish play might be because of the rough 48-hour turnaround that Saturday-Big Monday games will do to players, but Texas outscoring the Sooners by 14 in the paint isn’t good. Texas owning the paint with just one legitimate big man inside isn’t good. Oklahoma going ice cold late in a game (sans Buddy) in Norman isn’t good. Am I making a bigger deal from probably nothing? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Kansas — 5 points (Brian — 1st, Chris & Nate — 2nd). Comment: “The much-maligned Landen Lucas was the most active defensive player for Kansas Tuesday night, hauling in 16 rebounds and blocking four shots. It was the first such performance by a Jayhawk since Jeff Withey in the 2013 Round of 32, when Kansas knocked off North Carolina behind Withey’s 16 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks. It will probably be a while before those two are mentioned in the same sentence again, so Jayhawk fans are advised to print out these rankings and display them in their offices.” – Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman)

3. West Virginia — 9 points (All voted 3rd). Comment: “Has the Big 12 finally discovered some cracks in the Mountaineers’ press? West Virginia’s last eight opponents have all registered turnover rates below the Mountaineers’ season-long defensive average of 26.1 percent. If coaches are doing a better job of scouting West Virginia, and it looks like they are, the Mountaineers will need to find a way to adjust if they want to stay in the thick of the race.” – BG

4. Texas — 12 points (All voted 4th). Comment: “Weird trivia time! Had Texas knocked off the Sooners a few days ago, they would have been just the second Big 12 team since West Virginia and TCU joined the league to win at Baylor, at West Virginia and at Oklahoma in the same season. The first team to pull this off was 2012-13 Kansas State. Perhaps losing in Norman was for the best.” – NK

5. Baylor — 15 points (All voted 5th). Comment: “With Rico Gathers unavailable because of illness, the Bears got pummeled on both backboards against Kansas State Wednesday night, so they turned to an unlikely source for help: the free throw line. While Baylor had excelled at getting to the stripe this season, entering the game ranked second in the Big 12 in offensive free throw rate, they also entered it ranked just sixth in free throw shooting. Led by Lester Medford‘s 11-for-11 effort, though, Baylor calmly hit 29-for-30 attempts in the 82-72 win, quieting the talk of Kansas State’s narrow chances for an at-large bid – at least for now.” – BG

6. Iowa State — 18 points (All voted 6th). Comment: “While Steve Prohm hopes Jameel McKay‘s suspension will help the Cyclones in the long run, it’s certainly not helping in the short run. Without its sole rim protector against Texas Tech on Wednesday, Iowa State blocked just two shots, allowed the Red Raiders to shoot 80 percent (12-of-15) at the rim and hauled in just 62.5 percent of available defensive rebounds.” – BG

7. Texas Tech — 22 points (Chris & Nate — 7th, Brian — 8th). Comment: “It feels like it might be a while before the Red Raiders move up in our rankings because their 4-7 Big 12 record isn’t close enough to .500. But if it does, we’ll gladly oblige an ascension.” – NK

8. Kansas State — 23 points (Brian — 7th, Chris & Nate — 8th). Comment: “From off the bubble to on it to back off it in the span of five days, it’s been a busy week for the Wildcats. Then again, if you told Bruce Weber this time last year that flirting with an at-large bid would constitute a busy week, chances are he’d take it in a heartbeat.” – BG

9. Oklahoma State — 28 points (Brian & Chris — 9th, Nate — 10th). Comment: “From the Kansas win to Monday’s loss at TCU, these last few weeks have encapsulated Oklahoma State’s tenure under Travis Ford: numerous moments of failure mixed in with brief moments of brilliance. The end is near.” – NK

10. Texas Christian — 29 points (Nate — 9th, Brian & Chris — 10th). Comment: “I voted ninth for the Horned Frogs this week because: a) they share identical conference (2-9) and overall records (11-13) with Oklahoma State; and b) they have a head-to-head win over the Cowboys. The climb out of the Big 12 cellar is nearly complete.” – NK

Big 12 Video/GIF of the Week

This week’s winner was a late entry but wound up being the best regardless. With 1:34 left in overtime and two seconds remaining on the shot clock, Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans grabbed the inbounds pass and hoisted a desperation three from the Southwest Texas area of the midcourt map that smoothly banked in. It’s one of those shots that, when it drops, gives your team a boost. For the other team, however, it represents a dagger to the heart. (h/t The Cauldron)

Five Big 12 Games You Better Watch

  1. Saturday: Kansas at Oklahoma (1:30 PM CT, ESPN)
  2. Saturday: Texas Tech at Baylor (7:00 PM CT, ESPNU)
  3. Saturday: Texas at Iowa State (7:30 PM CT, ESPN2)
  4. Monday: Oklahoma State at Kansas (8:00 PM CT, ESPN)
  5. Wednesday: Oklahoma at Texas Tech (8:00 PM CT, ESPNU)
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Big 12 M5: 02.10.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 10th, 2016

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  1. Kansas is back in first place in the Big 12 after a 75-65 win over West Virginia that pushed the Jayhawks into a three-way tie with the Mountaineers and Oklahoma in the standings. Perry Ellis led the team with 21 points, but Kansas also found help in the form of a cold shooting night from the Mountaineers. After a pair of uncharacteristically good outings where West Virginia shot a robust 44 percent from long range, regression reared its ugly head to the tune of a frosty 5-of-20 clip last night in Lawrence. Bob Huggins’ team also clearly missed the presence of suspended forward Jonathan Holton, from whose absence Jayhawks’ center Landen Lucas greatly benefited. The junior had a huge game on the glass, pulling down a career-high 16 rebounds while limiting second chances for the nation’s best offensive rebounding team. Up next for Kansas is another highly important game against Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday.
  2. Kansas State‘s journey back to the bubble will continue tonight when the Wildcats host Baylor in Bramlage ColiseumBruce Weber’s team lacks the shooters to extend Baylor’s zone and has struggled mightily with turnovers all season, but the Wildcats have shown they can set up teammates (57.9 percent of their field goals in Big 12 play come on assists) and convert during good possessions. Those skills will be important this evening, particularly if the defensive rebounding expertise of Rico Gathers and Johnathan Motley renders second chances tough to find. On the other side, Baylor needs a quality road win in addition to its early January win at Iowa State to bolster its resume.
  3. The only other Big 12 action tonight pits Iowa State against Texas Tech in Lubbock, where the Cyclones will hope to find their focus. Iowa State will be without suspended center Jameel McKay for the second consecutive game, but his absence may not matter as much since the Red Raiders’ best rim-protector, Norense Odiase, will also sit with a broken foot. The Cyclones are playing on the road for the third time in their last four games, but they’ve reeled off three straight Big 12 victories away from Hilton Coliseum and will be favored to add to that streak this evening.
  4. The emergence of Texas as a legitimate contender over the last few weeks is one of the conference’s biggest stories. Its recent performance caught the attention of Washington Post writer Matthew Giles, who takes a deep look at Texas’ expedited turnaround. We dove into the subject ourselves here on the microsite last week, and Giles echoes many of our sentiments around the Longhorns’ performance. In particular, he notes the tremendous value that Prince Ibeh has provided in the wake of Cameron Ridley‘s broken foot, as well as the contributions of Texas’ revamped guard play. The Longhorns have several tough road games ahead but they’ve been a virtual lock for an at-large bid since the beginning of February, a milestone few prognosticators saw coming upon Smart’s hiring last April.
  5. Oklahoma State‘s season hit a nadir in Fort Worth on Monday night when the Cowboys were embarrassed by TCU to fall into last place in the Big 12. While the Pokes have faced many hurdles in the form of injuries this season, it didn’t seem possible that they could find themselves in such a position. Travis Ford‘s team has plenty of time to climb out of the basement of the league standings, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear for a coach who is likely to find himself on the hot seat in March.
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Big 12 M5: 02.08.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2016

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  1. Kansas State shook up the Big 12 with an upset of Oklahoma at Bramlage Coliseum Saturday night. Three-point shooting was the difference as the Wildcats went six of 12 from deep while the Sooners launched themselves into a hole from which they couldn’t recover by making just six of their 24 three-point attempts. Buddy Hield finished with 23 points, but Wesley Iwundu did a really solid job defending him throughout the game, forcing several bad shots by the NPOY frontrunner. The loss drops Oklahoma into a second-place tie in the league, leaving West Virginia all alone at the top. Lon Kruger’s team suddenly has a critical week in front of them, as they’ll host Texas tonight ahead of the sequel to their triple-overtime thriller against Kansas.
  2. The win was huge for the Wildcats, too, as it awakened Kansas State’s hopes for an at-large bid. Bruce Weber‘s team is now 40th in the RPI, although the Wildcats are just 1-9 against the top 25. They are undefeated against teams ranked outside of the top 25, however, and Kansas State’s upcoming schedule gives them a solid shot to bolster the resume. Three of its next five games are at home (against Baylor, Texas and Kansas), while the two road games in that stretch are against a pair of bottom-half teams in Oklahoma State and TCU. If the Wildcats can go 3-2 or better leading into their February 27 trip to Iowa State, those at-large hopes will get very real.
  3. West Virginia had its best offensive performance of conference play against Baylor Saturday night, scoring 1.19 points per possession in an 80-69 win. The Mountaineers’ success was due in large part to a hot night from beyond the arc that saw them make half their tries from long range. Any day is a good day to shoot that kind of percentage, but it was especially helpful on Saturday because West Virginia’s trademark press wasn’t nearly as effective as usual. The Mountaineers generated turnovers on just 14.9 percent of Baylor’s possessions, well off the Mountaineers’ season average of 26.2 percent. Bob Huggins’ team will seek its fifth conference road win of the year tomorrow when it visits Kansas, a team that does a generally solid job holding onto the ball.
  4. Iowa State‘s season hasn’t lacked for drama this year, and that theme continued Friday night when Travis Hines of The Ames Tribune reported that Jameel McKay hadn’t traveled with the team to Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State (which the Cyclones would go on to win). Soon afterward, Iowa State confirmed that McKay had been suspended, and while the player and Steve Prohm gave conflicting messages as to how long the suspension would last, the head coach affirmed after Saturday’s game that the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is on the shelf indefinitely. No matter how long the suspension lasts, McKay’s absence leaves a big hole in the Cyclones’ already-thin frontcourt. He isn’t the first player to land in Prohm’s doghouse this season, but he’s one of the team’s most important pieces in its quest to make a run in March. It will be interesting to see if and when he and Prohm can get back on the same page.
  5. Texas took care of business at home against Texas Tech despite Prince Ibeh being saddled with foul trouble for most of the game. They were able to do it with a big game from Javan Felix, who has been a versatile and valuable presence in Shaka Smart‘s first year in Austin. Felix’s ball-handling ability as the off-guard alongside Isaiah Taylor has made him a natural fit in Smart’s offense. The senior has played 75.6 percent of available minutes during conference play, but has turned the ball over on just 9.7 percent of possessions – a big turnaround from last season when he turned the ball over 18.5 percent of the time in conference play despite shouldering a smaller workload in terms of minutes. Felix can still score when called upon (he scored 20 points against Tech on Saturday), but his ability to succeed as both a ball-handler and scorer makes him an important piece of the Longhorns’ attack.
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Morning Five: 02.08.16 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 8th, 2016

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  1. The big news over the weekend (ok, technically it came out on Friday afternoon) was Louisville‘s decision to self-impose a postseason ban for this season as the result of its prostitution scandal. While they aren’t the first school to self-impose a ban during the middle of the season (a team from their own conference–Syracuse–did it last year) the decision to do it for a team that has the potential to make a run in the NCAA Tournament is a little unusual particularly since the NCAA would never have come to a decision before the season ended. There are several obvious issues: what the school knows that made it make the decision now, how unfair it is to the players (particularly the graduate transfers), and whether the NCAA will take this into consideration if and when they announce any sanctions. For his part, Rick Pitino put the blame on the NCAA (instead of pointing the finger at himself) and suggested that the programs should be fined $10 million and the coach should be fined 50 percent of his salary. While we can appreciate that in theory, we would love to see Pitino step up and give back 50 percent of his salary to some charitable cause.
  2. The other big news of the weekend was Iowa State‘s decision to suspend senior forward Jameel McKay indefinitely as the result of something that happened at a practice on Thursday afternoon. McKay, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season, has averaged 12 points, 9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game this season. As with any “indefinite suspension” the main question is how long that suspension will be. According to a tweet from McKay, it might end up being just one game. While the school has not addressed the duration given how vocal McKay has been about the length of the suspension without a correction from the school we tend to believe him.
  3. While Bruce Pearl has done a good job winning over the media during his time at Auburn, the on-court results have been less impressive. The latest setback comes in the form of Kareem Canty, the team’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, being suspended indefinitely. The school did not specify the reason for the suspension, but Pearl said Canty’s “effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable.” Pearl has already suggested the possibility of Canty coming back on the team later this season so we don’t think this suspension will last that long.
  4. Players of the caliber of McKay and Canty can get away with certain things, but when you have minimal contributions and repeatedly get in trouble sometimes you run out of forgiveness as Daquan Cook found out when he was dismissed from UNLV for unspecified reasons. Cook, who has either been injured or suspended recently, was let go by interim coach Todd Simon and had been suspended for the first two months of the season after getting arrested over the summer on DUI charges. Cook is expected to graduate this spring and could theoretically try to go to another program, but we doubt anybody significant would take him given all the baggage he has.
  5. Pete Thamel’s report that FSU commit Jon Isaac could try to enter the 2016 NBA Draft has not gathered a lot of attention yet, but it is certainly something worth watching. Isaac, a top-10 recruit who is just 18, but will be eligible because he entered high school in 2011 even though he has not graduated high school yet (just needs to be one year removed from his class graduating), is going to utilize the new rule that gives players the option of entering the NBA Draft, but then withdrawing their name at a later date than previously allowed. It will be interesting to see if more players utilize this although Isaac is an unusual case because of his age and year entering high school.
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Big 12 M5: 02.01.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2016

morning5_big12

  1. Saturday’s headliner between Kansas and Kentucky lived up to its considerable hype, with the Jayhawks eventually outlasting the Wildcats in overtime, 90-84. After the game, CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander called for the two blue-blood programs to meet every year. College basketball took a big step forward when the Champions Classic began in 2011, ensuring a steady stream of high-profile matchups between Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State. As memorable as those games have been, however, the neutral atmosphere has sterilized them to a certain degree. Norlander’s suggestion of rotating games between Rupp Arena and Allen Fieldhouse in the seasons when Kentucky and Kansas don’t meet in the Champions Classic is something both schools should explore. Given each program’s tendency to schedule aggressively, such an agreement wouldn’t be nearly as far-fetched as it sounds at first blush.
  2. The story from the game itself was Wayne Selden‘s 33-point explosion, as the junior wing finally looked like the aggressive player who led Kansas (er, Team USA) to a gold medal in the World University Games last summer. After Selden’s hot start to this season regressed, it was nice to see him step up with a huge performance on a big stage. Of course, the issue throughout his career has always been one of consistency rather than talent; with the Jayhawks set to take on a pair of weaker opponents in Kansas State and TCU this week, perhaps Selden can gather some confidence and momentum for the Big 12 home stretch.
  3. The undercard game was a fun matchup, too, with Oklahoma surviving against LSU in Baton Rouge behind yet another 30-point game from All-America guard Buddy Hield. Isaiah Cousins deserves plenty of credit as well for contributing 18 points of his own, including the game-winning jumper with four seconds remaining. While the Tigers are a borderline NCAA Tournament team, the drawing power alone of superstar freshman Ben Simmons allowed plenty of casual fans to tune in and watch the front-runner for National Player of the Year steal the show.
  4. It’s tough to win on the road, but it’s even tougher when two of your three best players are hobbled and the third hasn’t been able to catch a breather. That was the reality for Iowa State on Saturday, as the Cyclones fell to the best Texas A&M team since Billy Gillispie roamed the sidelines and Acie Law IV was burying threes. Jameel McKay put forth a gutsy effort, playing through knee trouble to finish with nine points and 14 rebounds, while Georges Niang — despite 15 points and six rebounds — was limited by a bruised hip and foul trouble. Lastly, the Aggies’ backcourt did a nice job in defending Monte’ Morris, who registered his third 40-minute effort in the last four games. Morris likely won’t get much rest in the Cyclones’ next game either, as Iowa State plays host to the physical, fast-paced pressure of West Virginia on Tuesday.
  5. Texas took another step toward an NCAA Tournament appearance with a decisive 72-58 win over a Vanderbilt team that is among the most disappointing teams in the nation. Prince Ibeh continued to look comfortable in filling in for Cameron Ridley, as he finished with his second straight double-double. Meanwhile, freshmen Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis have really come on as of late. The two paired up to score 28 points off the bench on Saturday and have now averaged a combined 23.3 points per game over the Longhorns’ last three contests. Texas may not have much of a ceiling this season, but it’s not hard to see Roach, Davis and a senior Isaiah Taylor as the Big 12’s most lethal backcourt in 2017. Of course, they’ll need inside help, but that’s a discussion for another day.
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Big 12 M5: 01.29.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 29th, 2016

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  1. Some breaking news hit our timeline last night as West Virginia big man/key to “Press Virginia” Jonathan Holton has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Rumors of a suspension have been floated around Twitter on Thursday but it was officially confirmed by Mike Casazza of the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Casazza went on to say that the team knew about the suspension as early as Wednesday and even held practice on Thursday. Holton’s potential three-game suspension comes at a suboptimal time for the Mountaineers – in the next eight days, Bob Huggins’ team will play games at Florida and Iowa State and home against Baylor.
  2. Also yesterday, 2016 blue chip center Udoka Azubuike announced he will be playing basketball for Kansas next fall. Two days ago, the Jacksonville, Florida native said he wanted to make his college decision “really soon” and, well, he did. Azubuike, a five-star recruit according to Rivals and ESPN, chose the Jayhawks over North Carolina and Florida State. He was also named to the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games. KU appears to have itself another pretty good big man.
  3. It turns out Iowa State will indeed have Jameel McKay available for Saturday’s game at Texas A&M. McKay left the Kansas game on Monday night with a knee injury and did not return. Doctors did not detect any structural damage, but did find some tendinitis in his left knee. It’d make sense to expect McKay to play limited minutes, but at the same time, the Cyclones are going to be decidedly shorthanded whether McKay is in or out of the game. The thing Cyclones will need a healthy McKay in the long run.
  4. Oklahoma president David Boren continued his crusade, spreading forth his desire of Big 12 expansion. Boren, who serves on the Big 12’s expansion committee, has also expressed a desire to roll off the Longhorn Network and turn it into a Big 12 Network (good luck with that). Expansion is almost always football-driven, but nonetheless will have ramifications in basketball and other sports. If the likes of Boren have their way, the hope is the Big 12 will end up a better league. It’s up to them if they want to make a move.
  5. Tomorrow’s third annual Big 12-SEC Challenge will feature the second Ole Miss-Kansas State tilt since the series began during the 2013-14 season. “It’s a chance for us to put an exclamation point on our non-conference record as a league,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “For us, it’s a huge game. We have a chance to beat a good, solid team in Mississippi and end up with a very good record.” I mean, sure, I guess? Weber is right. It is a huge game for confidence purposes, the protecting-your-homecourt agenda and the Wildcats’ fading at-large hopes. But I’m not sure a win over an inconsistent team in Ole Miss is going to make much of a huge difference in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Still, he’s right. They need this one.
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Big 12 M5: 01.27.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 27th, 2016

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  1. Fresh off another huge home win, this time against Kansas, Iowa State has another test in front of them when they face Texas A&M in College Station on Saturday. The Big 12-SEC Challenge has people, namely coaches, voicing their “excitement” about the event before ending their thought with an “is what it is.” Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register is not a fan of the Challenge coming smack dab in the middle of Big 12 play and would much rather have the games played in December. The main problem here is television, namely ESPN. After the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series and SEC-Big East Challenge died, the Big 12-SEC Challenge became the baby they decided to make as a compliment to the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. As we know, the week of the B1G-ACC Challenge took up the Monday-Wednesday of the first full week of December while the Big 12-SEC Challenge took the Thursday-Saturday slots later that week. No matter the matchup, putting those games at the end of the week negatively impacted TV ratings. Now, with the advent of the Big Ten and Big East’s Gavitt Tipoff Games shared with FS1, scheduling the Big 12-SEC Challenge became even more of an issue. The idea of getting all the games on one day is a nice change, but cramming it in to the middle of league play has left coaches and writers alike scratching their collective heads. We’ll see how it all plays out on Saturday.
  2. Iowa State big man Jameel McKay remains a question mark for the A&M game this weekend. McKay had his left knee examined on Tuesday after leaving the Kansas game and did not return. “We’ll see,” McKay said after the game. “It’s something I’ve got to get over. I’ve got to start thinking about myself personally so I don’t know how much more I’ve got in me.” Coincidentally enough, the Aggies are dealing with an injured big man of their own, as freshman Tyler Davis has a lingering foot injury. As deep as the Aggies are, having a healthy McKay in the lineup will give the Cyclones more than a fighting chance in a difficult true road game.
  3. In our last M5, it seemed safe to say that Kansas was going through a bit of a rough patch. Now, it’s time to start freaking out. As the road losses have mounted, so has the lackluster play. On Bill Self‘s most talented team, littered with both young and veteran talent, who are the leaders of the team? That’s the question the Lawrence World-Journal is seeking to answer. The Jayhawks quest to win another Big 12 title is in doubt, perhaps more so than it ever has been under Self. Still, it’s not over. Sitting only a game back, KU still has time to right its wrongs.
  4. The Oscar Robertson Trophy is awarded annually to the top player in college basketball. Well guess what? Your favorite basketball conference, the Big 12, has four of the best 20 players in college basketball. Predictably, those players are Wayne Selden Jr., Buddy Hield, Georges Niang and Monte Morris. All have had special season to this point, as have the other 16 players on this list. The four players from the Big 12 was the most players from one conference, tied with the ACC and Big Ten.
  5. Texas took care of TCU again last night, 71-54, to join the four-team cluster at 5-3 in the Big 12. Before the game, Hookem.com compiled a list of the top five Texas-TCU tussles to remember. Yes, this is a serious list. Yes, this series had a few memorable moments.  Yes, reading up on this likely supplies you with trivia you might not need. But then again, you might need it. So read up.
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Is Iowa State’s Defensive Improvement Sustainable?

Posted by Chris Stone on December 11th, 2015

Last week I wrote about Oklahoma’s defensive transformation powering its rise up the college basketball rankings. This week, we may be seeing something similar happening in Ames, as Iowa State now ranks 21st in adjusted defensive efficiency after the Cyclones ranked 71st in the statistic a season ago. While the team has clearly improved on the defensive end under new head coach Steve Prohm, its performance in last night’s 83-82 win over Iowa begged the question on whether the defense has really turned the corner. The Cyclones this season continue to limit free throw attempts and shots at the rim (and did so again versus Iowa on Thursday), so what’s made them better?

Steve Prohm brought an emphasis on defense to Iowa State. Will it work?

Steve Prohm brought an emphasis on defense to Iowa State. Will it work?

Coming into the year, Prohm’s stated goal was to improve the defense in three key areas: transition, defensive rebounding, and three-point defense. “It starts with transition defense,” Prohm told the Ames Tribune back in October. Taking away easy baskets is a great way to make your defense better, and the Cyclones have had a bit more success in that area this season. While opponents are still attempting nearly the same percentage of their shots in transition, they are shooting about five percent worse on those attempts, according to hoop-math.com.  The Cyclones have also found success keeping opponents’ off the offensive glass. Iowa State ranks 22nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, up from 106th last season. Opponents are snagging about six percent fewer misses this season. While Prohm has emphasized the role his guards can play in defensive rebounding, it’s actually been Jameel McKay (19.2 percent to 22.3 percent) and Georges Niang (15.2 to 17.1) who have seen their defensive rebounding percentages rise. Finally, Prohm wants his team to play an aggressive defensive style that includes running teams off the three-point line, but so far the ‘Clones have failed to do that. Teams are attempting 37.8 percent of their shots from behind the arc against Iowa State, up from 34.3 percent last season. That hasn’t come back to hurt them, though, because opponents are shooting just 29.3 percent from deep against Iowa State in 2015-16.

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Big 12 M5: 11.25.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 25th, 2015

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  1. Iowa State handled Chattanooga on Monday night, 83-63, in its final tuneup before heading off to the Emerald Coast Classic. Once again the Cyclones received limited contributions from their bench, but that won’t matter much as long as their starters are putting up impressive numbers. Jameel McKay grabbed 17 rebounds while Naz Mitrou-Long continued his recovery from hip surgery this summer by knocking down six of his nine three-point attempts. “My shot’s been really coming together,” Mitrou-Long told Ames Tribune writer Travis Hines, “I’ve been able to get in the gym more and it just feels really good right now.” Now, the focus shifts to Florida where the Cyclones will face Virginia Tech on Friday with a potential revenge game against UAB lined up for the tournament final. “We know who we want,” Georges Niang said, “but we’ll handle Tech first.”
  2. Oklahoma picked up their third win of the season on Tuesday night with a 96-63 thrashing of Incarnate Word. Senior guard Buddy Hield scored 22 points on 12 shots which dropped his scoring average to 25.3 points per game this season. Hield is on pace to outdo his junior campaign’s offensive performance. Our unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year Selection, Hield has so far been relied upon to be even more of a scoring option for the Sooners now that TaShawn Thomas is no longer around. Despite the added load, Hield’s efficiency numbers are up. While he likely won’t maintain his 58 percent 3-point shooting, Hield should put together another great offensive season in a slightly larger role.
  3. Kansas advanced to the final of the Maui Invitational with a 92-73 victory over UCLA on Tuesday. Outside of their on fire 3-point shooting, the Jayhawks have showcased impressive ball movement on offense in Hawaii. Kansas entered Tuesday’s contest having assisted on 68 percent of their makes this season and that didn’t shown signs of slowing down against the Bruins. 19 of the Jayhawks’ 32 field goal makes were assisted against UCLA. Kansas’ offense will face a stiffer test when they take on Vanderbilt and their top 20 defense in the final on Wednesday.
  4. In another late Tuesday contest, Kansas State fell to North Carolina in the finals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, 80-70. The Wildcats, powered by a breakout performance from freshman Kamau Stokes, led for much of the game, but couldn’t close out one of the country’s preseason national title favorites. Still, Bruce Weber’s Kansas State squad has been much more impressive than expected after the team’s mass exodus during the offseason. Boasting a top 30 defense according to KenPom, the Wildcats won’t make for an easy out during Big 12 play this season.
  5. Baylor is predicted to have one of the best frontcourts in the country this season and they showed why in a 100-61 demolition of Savannah State. Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers, and Johnathan Motley combined to score 57 points and grab 24 rebounds in the win. The play of the Bears’ big men will be important for a team that’s still searching for answers at the point guard spot after losing Kenny Chery in the offseason.
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