Big 12 Power Rankings: Oklahoma, Where Wins Come Sweeping Down the Plains Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 9th, 2015

The regular season can be a long, drawn out-proposition. Around 12 to 15 games are typically played during the pre-conference season, and even though it’s impossible to survey each team correctly, people like us try it anyway to avoid doing something else that’s actually mind-numbing. Case in point with Oklahoma. While some prognosticators pegged them as an early darkhorse to make the Final Four, no one told Creighton about that as the Bluejays beat the Sooners by two points in their second game of the season (RPI: #130). Lon Kruger’s team made up for that defeat by winning two of three out in its trip to the Bahamas, including a key neutral-court victory over a much-improved Butler team (RPI: #18). December resulted in another hiccup, though, with the Sooners losing to a ranked Washington group on a neutral court. The Huskies had started the year 11-0 with several nice victories before losing nine of their next 12 games. Now that loss is looking a lot more iffy (RPI: #80).

Don't be shy. Give it a try. (SoonerSports.com)

Don’t be shy. Give it a try. (SoonerSports.com)

Thank goodness for conference play, right? Every team welcomes the chance to start all over again. After beating Baylor and Texas by a combined 31 points to tip off Big 12 play, bad Oklahoma paid a return visit. Starting with a crushing home loss in the final seconds of overtime to Kansas State, the Sooners would move on to lose four of their next five contests. But in recent weeks, it now appears that good Oklahoma is back in action with a four-game winning streak. Through the ups and downs has been a talented crop of players but perhaps the best of this group is Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield. His game was far more perimeter-oriented last year, but Hield has become a dangerous offensive weapon from anywhere on the floor this season. So given all of these ups and downs, the Sooners are poise to leap into sole possession of second place in the Big 12 and become the newest challenger to Kansas’ throne. But they have to win tonight.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “The Jayhawks control their own destiny despite Saturday’s loss in Stillwater, but the allocation of minutes across their frontcourt continues to baffle me. Cliff Alexander played 16 minutes and was fantastic around the rim while Jamari Traylor set a new career high in turnovers (six) in his 23 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Landen Lucas contributed a forgettable two rebounds and no points in 12 minutes.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)
  2. Iowa State — 7 points (Chris & Nate — 2nd, Brian — 3rd) Comment: “The Cyclones blasted Texas Tech 75-38 this week, as Jameel McKay found his way into the starting lineup due to Bryce Dejean-Jones’ tardiness. After finishing with 17 points and nine rebounds, McKay might be proving himself worthy of a permanent spot.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Conference Catch-Up: Baylor and Oklahoma State

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 31st, 2014

We continue our breakdown of the Big 12 with the part of the league that will likely determine whether the conference matches its high water mark from last season, when it sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament. If you missed it yesterday, you can find our thoughts on the bottom rung of the conference here.

Baylor

  • Key wins: at South Carolina, vs. Memphis (in Las Vegas), at Vanderbilt
  • Key losses: vs. Illinois (in Las Vegas)
Rico Gathers leads a Baylor rotation that dominates the glass.

Rico Gathers leads a Baylor rotation that dominates the glass.

People love to hate on Scott Drew, but the dirty secret is that the Bears have been one of the country’s most consistent offenses, finishing among the top 20 in adjusted offense in six of the last seven seasons. They’re trending that way again this year, which is especially impressive when you recall that they lost over half of their offensive production due to the departures of Isaiah Austin, Brady Heslip and Cory Jefferson. The strange thing is that despite their performance so far, the Bears have not been a good shooting team, with an effective field goal percentage of just 50.7 percent, but they have the nation’s best offensive rebounder in Rico Gathers leading a core of strong, athletic players who are just relentless on the glass and get tons of second-chance opportunities. Throw in a stingy defense and four regulars that shoot at least 34 percent from deep and the result is a team that will be able to hang with the best teams in the conference.

I wrote earlier this month that it’d be wise to buy in on Baylor to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, and I still believe that, but there are a couple of things keeping the Bears from breaking into the top tier of the Big 12. Their free throw shooting has been horrific, and in a conference as competitive as the Big 12, I worry about that flaw impacting their ability to close out games. I also think that when the Bears get into conference play, their rebounding, while still strong, will regress some and force the team to get more creative on offense, which will be tough to do on the fly. I don’t think the Bears are as good as their #12 KenPom ranking suggests, but they’re definitely no slouch either.

The Bears haven’t made consecutive NCAA Tournaments at any point in their history and have been on an every-other-year pattern since 2008, but I like their chances to break that routine and go dancing as a #7 seed this year. Their ceiling will be closer to a #5 f they can shore up their free throw shooting and withstand the other rigorous frontcourts the Big 12 has to offer.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Season Preview: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2014

Throughout the preseason, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams, from worst to first. Today: Oklahoma State.

Strengths. This offseason saw a lot of roster turnover in Stillwater. Marcus Smart left after an up-and-down sophomore year and Markel Brown graduated, but those losses were presumed all along. The departures of Kamari Murphy, Brian Williams and Gary Gaskins via transfer, however, caused a bigger dent, but even after all that attrition, the Cowboys return a very solid core. Le’Bryan Nash finally improved his efficiency as a junior; the sharpshooting Phil Forte is back for a third campaign; the return of Michael Cobbins from a significant Achilles’ injury will help inside; and LSU transfer Anthony Hickey provides a steady hand at the point that can also shoot a good enough deep ball to keep opposing backcourts from cheating towards Forte.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys hopes Le'Bryan Nash can wipe away the nightmares of the 2013-14 season with a strong senior campaign. (AP)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys hope Le’Bryan Nash can wipe away the nightmares of the 2013-14 season with a strong senior campaign. (AP)

Weaknesses. The biggest questions here come from a depth perspective. Down low, Travis Ford will have options, but we won’t really know what the Cowboys are capable of until they get a few games under their belts. Marek Soucek and Leyton Hammonds are the most experienced returnees inside, but neither did enough last season to inspire much confidence. Freshman Mitch Solomon will also be available, as will 7’1″ JuCo transfer Anthony Allen, so Ford will have to hope someone emerges as a last line of defense. There are unknowns in the backcourt, too, as Jeff Newberry and Tyree Griffin will get backup opportunities, but it’s tough to say how they will work out. There’s a nice amount of talent in Stillwater, and the starters have enough experience to play well, but it’s tough to see that as enough to muster a top-half finish in the Big 12 without a few breaks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 09.23.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. We usually do not pay attention to the announcements of recruits moving teams off their list, but Cliff Alexander‘s announcement that he was taking Kentucky off his list caught our eye. Alexander, the #2 overall recruit in ESPN’s rankings, claims that he took Kentucky off his list because they were no longer expressing interest in him. While it is possible that Kentucky might not be interested in the #2 overall recruit we have to wonder if Alexander’s expressed interest in being a package deal with Jaquan Lyle, the #22 recruit on ESPN’s list, may have been the driving force in Kentucky’s decision to stop pursuing Alexander. We wouldn’t feel too bad for Alexander as the list of schools–Kansas, Arizona, Memphis, and Connecticut–currently pursuing him and that are still high on his and Lyle’s list is pretty impressive, but the package deal may eventually turn a few others off.
  2. Indiana fans can rest a little easier after Robert Johnson committed to Indiana on Friday. Johnson, a 6’3″ guard from Richmond, choose Indiana over North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida State. The addition of a 4-star recruit might not seem like a big deal for a program the caliber of Indiana’s, but given the rough recruiting week the Hoosiers had just experienced (losing out on Isaiah Whitehead and having Ahmed Hill and Stephen Hurt take them off the list) the announcement was a big deal for the program especially when combined with some earlier decommitments by even more highly regarded prospects. The Hoosiers will still need to do some more work to make this year’s recruiting haul a success, but Johnson’s commitment should at least calm down the Indiana fan base.
  3. Even Travis Ford knows that Oklahoma State caught a break when Marcus Smart decided to return for his sophomore year instead of being a likely top-5 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, but even he cannot hope for a repeat occurrence next spring. So the announcement that Jeff Newberry would be committing to Oklahoma State is a big one for the program as he appears to be the successor to Smart at the position. Newberry, one of the most highly sought-after point guards in junior college, plans on entering Oklahoma State in time for the 2014-15 season after picking the program over Connecticut and Texas Tech. He originally committed to Ole Miss where he redshirted his freshman season before bouncing around junior colleges.
  4. The news that the medical staff at Wichita State had denied D.J. Bowles medical clearance should not be considered much of a surprise given the fact that he had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator inserted on September 12 after collapsing during a team workout on September 3. To their credit, the school has already stated that they will be honoring his scholarship, which not every school would do. What is unknown is whether Bowles will attempt to go to another school and get clearance as Emmanuel Negedu did when he moved from Tennessee to New Mexico.
  5. Many members of the media latched onto Mike Krzyzewski’s statements to Dana O’Neil and focused on his statements against transfer waivers as an outright statement against student-athletes being able to transfer. What was largely ignored and what Gary Parrish decided to focus on was the second part of Krzyzewski’s statement that he would be ok with transfers being eligible immediately as long as everybody is treated equally. As Parrish points out letting the student-athletes transfer freely wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. We seem to let every other college student transfer freely without any penalty regardless of their scholarship situation (yes, schools do hand out academic scholarships too). Obviously there will be concerns about the system being abused, but it already is and the ones who are being punished are almost always the students. Would it really be that bad if a school got the short end of the stick once?
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