Award Tour: Burke vs. Porter, McLemore vs. Smart and Larranaga vs. JTIII

Posted by DCassilo on March 8th, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

With just one regular season game to go, nothing is decided. It’s another example of how unpredictable this season has been. For Player of the Year, it’s down to Trey Burke and Otto Porter Jr. Both players have carried their teams and made everyone around them better. Then there’s Freshman of the Year, which is down to Ben McLemore and Marcus Smart. They are a couple of players who have been impacts guys from the opening game. And Coach of the Year? It’s Jim Larranaga’s to lose, but lately, it looks like he’s trying to lose it.

The final update of this will run on Tuesday of next week, so make sure to look out for it.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 3 SPG

I’ve written about Smart so many times this season that I need to give myself a moment to step back and admire how well-rounded he is as a player. His 3.0 SPG are third best in the country. He’s a guy I’ll always want on my team.  This week: March 9 vs. Kansas State

9. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 19.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG

A rematch of this 2012 Final Four matchup highlights the best of the remaining Big Ten non-conference games.

Thomas and Withey are in the top-10.

Oddly enough, the Buckeyes have played their best basketball when Thomas has played his worst. Still, he’s scored at least 14 points in each game of this four-game winning streak. In most other conferences, he would be the Player of the Year. This week: March 10 vs. Illinois

8. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 17.7 PPG, 7 RPG

You would be hard-pressed to find many players that are more efficient than Olynyk. The junior shot 68.8 percent from the field while attempting over 10 shots per game. It will be fun when the rest of the country figures out who he is this March. This week: Regular season over.

7. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.5 PPG, 8. RPG

It will go down as a disappointing year because of the expectations, but Zeller still improved his scoring and rebounding averages in his sophomore season. The most surprising thing, though, is that there is a Hoosier ahead of him on this list. This week: March 10 at Michigan

6. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 23.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG

McDermott closed the regular season out in style with 41 points against Wichita State. Although he will probably get a few first-place votes, what ultimately held him back was the struggles of his teammates. This week: Regular season over.

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Award Tour: Huge Week Carries Otto Porter to the Top of the NPOY List

Posted by DCassilo on March 1st, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

As we hit March, the NPOY race looks like it’s down to four players: Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Mason Plumlee and Otto Porter Jr. While it’s almost certain that one of those four will take home the hardware, it’s almost impossible to decide on a clear front-runner. Look around the Internet, and you’ll see each of those players No. 1 somewhere. In a season with no clear-cut best team, a race like this for Player of the Year is fitting. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out over the next 17 days.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Jack Cooley – Notre Dame (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.4 PPG, 11 RPG

Cooley & Martin Will Likely Be Overlooked Again (AP Photo/J. Raymond)

Cooley has had a lot to celebrate this season. (AP Photo/J. Raymond)

One of the few players from a major conference to average a double-double, Cooley has been a quiet force on an overlooked Notre Dame team. He’s not going to make any top 10 highlight reels, but he is going to be the reason the Irish win games. This week: March 2 at Marquette, March 5 vs. St. John’s

9. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 19.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG

The Ohio State junior is what he is — a scorer who can do some rebounding. He does both every single night, regardless of defense. Thomas is a really good college player that is close to being a great one. This week: March 5 at Ohio State

8. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG

Zeller has shown a knack for disappearing in big games, and Tuesday’s loss to Minnesota was no different. He went just 2-of-9 from the floor before fouling out with nine points. He can’t do that in March. This week: March 2 vs. Iowa, March 5 vs. Ohio State

7. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 17.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG

As Gonzaga appears poised to grab the No. 1 ranking, Olynyk is on a tear. The junior has made at least 70 percent of his shots in his last four games. Regardless of competition, that’s pretty impressive. This week: March 2 vs. Portland

6. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 22.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG

At a time when his team desperately needed it, McDermott had one of his best games of the season on Wednesday for Creighton. The junior finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds against Bradley. He will need to do that routinely for this team to go anywhere. This week: March 2 vs. Wichita State

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 16

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 25th, 2013

We are four days away from March, the Big 12 is close to solidifying its representation in the NCAA Tournament, and there are only two weeks left in the regular season. Obviously all games are important (Just ask Kansas about TCU), but for the top three teams in the standings, there isn’t much room for error in the home stretch, giving us great games like Wednesday’s double-overtime thriller between Kansas and Oklahoma State and tonight’s game in Ames between the Jayhawks and Iowa State. And that doesn’t even mention Kansas State’s trip to Waco on Saturday, where a win could potentially give the Wildcats sole possession of first place in the conference. But we’ll start with Kansas in the Power Rankings this week, who moves back to #1 after beating Oklahoma State on the road.

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

A Big 12 Championship Could Be On The Line Tonight For Kansas (AP)

1) Kansas (23-4, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-67 (2OT) at Oklahoma State, W 74-48 vs TCU

This Week: Tonight at Iowa State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: Kansas is now 8-3 in the last five seasons when underdogs of four points or fewer after Wednesday’s double-overtime win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Tonight’s game in Ames is nearly as important and should be close as well (Kansas is favored by a single point). How about Jeff Withey against the Cowboys — 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in 29 minutes. He saved Kansas’ conference title hopes, and a win tonight could begin the conversation for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament assuming there are no more TCU-like roadblocks.
  • Outlook in March: A #1 seed is possible, but I think they will drop one more game through the Big 12 Tournament and snag a #2 seed. If they don’t end up in Indiana’s bracket, there’s enough talent and coaching ability for another trip to the Final Four. But they showed us in Fort Worth that they could just as easily lose to a Stony Brook or Montana in the first round.

2) Oklahoma State (20-6, 10-4)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 68-67 (2OT) vs Kansas, W 73-57 at West Virginia

This Week: Wednesday at TCU, 6:00 PM Saturday vs Texas, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: I know the Cowboys have fewer wins than K-State (in conference and overall) and lost to the Wildcats back on January 5, but I can’t say Oklahoma State isn’t the second-best team in the conference right now. Not with a straight face, anyway. Marcus Smart might be the best freshman in the country and a First-Team All-American choice while Markel Brown is playing even better than Smart lately, averaging 18 PPG, 3.5 APG, and 5.0 RPG last week.
  • Outlook in March: Wednesday’s game against Kansas was one of those games where a close loss wouldn’t have killed them in mock brackets and a win would have helped tremendously. They are still a #5 seed in most mock brackets and will probably end up as a #4 seed without any hiccups. They’re a definite Sweet Sixteen-level team that would give its region’s #1 seed a great game in the regional semifinals.

3) Kansas State (22-5, 11-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 71-61 vs West Virginia, W 81-69 at Texas

This Week: Tonight vs Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: K-State’s three conference losses were very forgivable. They were swept by Kansas and lost by six at Iowa State, one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12. Their other two losses were to Michigan and Gonzaga, a pair of projected #2 seeds. They’re also winners of seven of their last eight games and have a relatively easy next three: Texas Tech, at Baylor, and TCU. The season finale against Oklahoma State in Stillwater will likely determine the Big 12 championship and whether the crown will be shared this season.
  • Outlook in March: A conference championship would probably get the Wildcats a #3 seed, a perch above their consensus #4 seed right now. As noted, they don’t have any bad losses and have a pair of good wins over Florida and Oklahoma State.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.25.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 25th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are four games left in the regular season for most teams and the conference battles are still going strong. The last week and a half of the season should be exciting for everyone. Let’s not waste any time and get to the breakdowns.

#11 Syracuse at #19 Marquette – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

Michael Carter-Williams Has Been a Revelation This Season

Can Michael Carter-Williams cause Marquette to turn the ball over?

  • Both of these teams are coming off losses that have dropped them one game behind Georgetown for the Big East lead. The final four games of the season are certainly no cakewalk for Syracuse as they have to play at Marquette, home against Louisville and DePaul, and then at Georgetown to close out the regular season. Marquette has it slightly easier as the will play at home against Syracuse and Notre Dame and then on the road against Rutgers and St. John’s. The Orange are 4-4 in their last eight games and have struggled offensively. They shot below 40% eFG in all four of the losses. Their three-point shooting has been particularly bad as they have gone 5-of-14, 3-of-14, 4-of-23, and 4-of-20 in those games. A road game at Marquette will not be easy since the Golden Eagles are 9-0 at home this year. Turnovers have been the problem for Marquette but mostly away from the Bradley Center — if Marquette can protect the basketball and the perimeter, they can win this game. Syracuse simply needs to knock down its open shots. If they are going to break out of their three-point shooting slump, Marquette is the team to do it against because Buzz Williams’ perimeter defense is suspect at best. Watch out for James Sutherland, as he has been hot and cold from deep since returning to the Orange lineup. If they can get a solid performance from him, SU will be in good shape. Also, keep an eye on the match-up between Michael Carter-Williams and Junior Cadougan. Cadougan is prone to turning the ball over, so if Carter-Williams can use his long arms to poke a few balls away and get the Orange out on the break, his team has a definite shot at a big road win against Marquette.

#7 Kansas at Iowa State – 9:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

  • Iowa State took Kansas to the brink in their first contest in early January, only to cave in overtime at Allen Fieldhouse. With four games to play in the Big 12 season the Jayhawks are currently tied with Kansas State for the lead, which puts the Cyclones squarely in the spoiler role. In the first game, Iowa State shot the ball an absurd 38 times from three. Expect more of the same in this contest as Kansas possesses a significant size advantage down low. Given that advantage, look for them to pound the ball inside to Jeff Withey early and often. Iowa State has no answer for Withey inside. If he is able to establish himself in the paint, it opens the floor for Ben McLemore to take over. If Kansas can defend the three and utilize its advantage in the paint, they should have no problem knocking off the Cyclones. However, if you see that three-pointers are raining down from Fred Hoiberg’s squad early, it’s going to be another nailbiter.

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Big 12 M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 21st, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Wednesday was a busy day for Kansas players, past and present. In Stillwater, the Jayhawks and Cowboys played a hotly contested basketball game even though they were both offensively challenged. There were so many heroes for KU in its one-point victory. Naadir Tharpe’s game-winning floater was the Jayhawks’ only field goal in either of the overtime periods. Travis Releford caused Marcus Smart to foul out in OT. Jeff Withey was fouled early and often and he made the most of it (11-of-14 on free throws). With two winnable road games remaining, the Jayhawks are once again in the driver’s seat to win another Big 12 regular season title.
  2. There was perhaps a game just as big as KU-OSU going on at the same time last night in Waco. Iowa State and Baylor came into the game each in desperate need of a resume-building victory, and for right now at least, the Cyclones appear to be on the good side of the bubble. With the win, ISU now has a profile featuring two wins versus Baylor, one against Kansas State, and another against Oklahoma. The downside of it is if Baylor continues to slide, the luster of those wins will fade away quickly. That’s what makes their Big Monday game at home against Kansas so huge. They need that win no matter what.
  3. Fresh off of a draining overtime loss to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger doesn’t worry about his team’s ability to bounce back in its next game. It was a close game to start but Oklahoma was able to create some distance between itself and Texas Tech with an 86-71 win on the road. By the looks of it, the Sooners have a solid enough profile to make the field with an RPI of #17 and the fourth toughest strength of schedule in college basketball. Though Kruger may not stay anywhere for a very long time, he’s still an outstanding coach.
  4. As weird as it is to say, Myck Kabongo is officially one week and one day into his sophomore season, which raises questions about his future at Texas. Mac Engel of The Fort-Worth Star Telegram seems to agree with me: Kabongo needs to stay on campus one more year. I think he needs to play a full season at the college level where his youth or eligibility issues won’t get in the way, and hopefully in turn, he’ll grow into more of an attractive NBA point guard prospects for the 2014 draft.
  5. With three seconds left in the first overtime of KU-OSU, the Cowboys gained possession of the ball and prompted Bill Self to unintentionally give the Internet this beauty of a GIF. As is, it’s a masterpiece. The movements are natural and repeated, so what could possibly make it better? Music. So enjoy it in all its glory and clap to the beat with Self. Sound the bell… school’s in sucka.
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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.19.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 19th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are in the final stretch before conference tournaments tip off and there are several key match-ups this week that will help to determine not only postseason seeds but regular season titles. Let’s not waste any time and get to the breakdowns!

Indiana at Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (*****)

Tom Izzo's teams get the job done in March

How does Tom Izzo stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo from lighting up the Spartans again?

  • It doesn’t get any bigger than this game this week, as the Hoosiers and the Spartans battle for sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. Michigan State faces a gauntlet of games as it goes up against Indiana at home, Ohio State and Michigan on the road, and then back home against Wisconsin. It is highly unlikely that they will get through the next four unscathed, so this first game at home is crucial if they want to win a regular season Big Ten crown. In the teams’ previous game this season, IU defeated MSU 75-70 in Bloomington. Tom Izzo’s squad turned the ball over too many times, couldn’t hit their two-point shots, and didn’t get to the free throw line enough. Since then, the Spartans have won five straight and are looking better and better each game. They are being led by point guard Keith Appling. Appling is averaging 16.4 points per game in their current five-game winning streak, since going 1-of-4 with three points in the loss to IU. Appling will once again be a key factor as the Spartans will need his scoring and play-making abilities. Izzo will also need his defense to figure out a way to stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo. Olidipo torched the Spartans last time out for 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. If Indiana is allowed to go 19-of-32 again from inside the paint, Michigan State will struggle to find a way to win. The Spartans need a better defensive effort on the interior and better rebounding if they are going to overtake the Hoosiers for the Big Ten lead.

  Virginia at Miami (FL) – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (****)

  • While Miami remains undefeated in the ACC and is aiming for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tourney, they face two tough tests the remainder of the season against Virginia at home and against Duke on the road. The Cavaliers have been anything but road warriors in the ACC (2-4), but they present a tough match-up because of their ability to shoot the ball, especially from three. Keep a close on Virginia’s Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. If they are to knock off the Hurricanes, these two players must have very big games. If UVA is still without 6’11” Mike Tobey (mononucleosis), scoring on the interior will be tough against Miami’s 6’11” Kenny Kadji and 6’10” Reggie Johnson. The three-point shot is a significant part of the Cavaliers’ offense, so pay close attention to their effort early from beyond the arc. If they can stay in the game with some made threes, they will have a shot to win it in the end. However, the Hurricanes play lockdown perimeter defense too. This is a tall task for the Cavaliers, but it will still be an interesting match-up nonetheless.

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Big 12 M5: 02.19.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 19th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Kansas State took down West Virginia on Big Monday and for the second consecutive game, another power forward made an important contribution on the offensive end. Nino Williams came into the game averaging a little over four points per game but managed to score 13 points and pull down five boards off the bench in his best game in over a month. Williams was one of five Wildcats and the second  forward off the pine to score in double figures for K-State last night. Now the Wildcats are in sole possession of first place in the Big 12… possibly for just one more day.
  2. Of course the team at the other end of the spectrum was West Virginia, headlined by the return of former coach Bob Huggins to Manhattan for the first time. The Wildcats may have won by 10 points but it wasn’t much of a game at all; K-State grabbed the opening tip and never looked back. And as is the custom following a Mountaineer defeat (sorta), it’s time to check in on what the always quotable Huggins had to say at the postgame presser: “I thought the really frustrating thing was we couldn’t make a damn shot.” Simple, crisp, to the point. That’s why we love ya, Huggs.
  3. Speaking of Huggins, Saturday’s game against TCU was marked down as the 1,000th game of his head coaching career. WVU Athletics takes us behind the scenes of this historic day for the coach, who when you consider that he hasn’t reached his 60s yet, is remarkable. In it you’ll find players and coaches going through game film, a healthy Da’Sean Butler (now a graduate assistant at WVU) and even Huggins cracked a smile, I think (though he could have been grinding his teeth for all I know). Congrats coach, here’s to a 1,000 more!
  4. We had some unexpected drama in the player and rookie of the week race this time around. Let’s start with the ROTW award, which from now on should be named after Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart. This is the second straight week he’s won the award and represents his fourth victory overall this season. He was huge in Oklahoma State’s win over intrastate rival Oklahoma in overtime while averaging a combined 19 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals last week. POTW honors went to two players: Jeff Withey, now a two-time winner, and Angel Rodriguez,who is now the second Wildcat to capture the award this season. Withey averaged 16 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in KU’s two wins while A-Rod put up 19.5 points, 8.0 assists and 3.5 steals per game in K-State’s split week. How convenient for the Big 12 to hand out its latest honors to players from teams all in contention to win the league.
  5. Oklahoma State is playing their best basketball at the perfect time. They’ve now won seven games in a row and look to make it eight as big, bad Kansas marches into Gallagher-Iba Arena tomorrow night. Dating back to the 1990-91 season, the Jayhawks have lost twice to a team in non-tournament play only four times. The Cowboys are in position to be the first school since the 2000-01 Iowa State Cyclones to sweep a two-game regular season series with Kansas. And OSU will have the advantage of playing at home. Can’t wait for Wednesday.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 15

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 18th, 2013

We don’t have many of these rankings left this season, but the Big 12 isn’t getting any easier to decipher as we inch closer to March (less than four weeks until Selection Sunday). The Big 12 still has a good chance to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but Baylor and Iowa State don’t have much margin for error the last three weeks of the regular season. The Cyclones are a consensus #10 seed and the Bears are an #11 seed on the latest Bracket Matrix mock bracket. The top of the conference is more of a mess, though. Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Kansas State are 9-3 but it doesn’t mean there isn’t distinctness with each record. For instance, Kansas State is 1-2 against the other first place teams while Kansas is 2-1. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is 1-1 but plays host to the Kansas schools in the coming weeks. They are also fortunate in that two of their final three road games are against West Virginia and TCU. And that’s why the Cowboys are #1 this week.

Tier I:

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

Back On Top: Marcus Smart Is Playing As Well As Anyone In The Big 12. (AP)

1) Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 91-67 at Texas Tech, W (OT) 84-79 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Wednesday vs Kansas, 8:00 PM, Saturday at West Virginia, 1:00 PM

  • Rundown: After struggling around the turn of the year and dropping three out of four, the Cowboys began playing like their talent suggests and are winners of eight of their last nine games. They have an opportunity on Wednesday to become the first Big 12 team to sweep Bill Self in a season as the Jayhawks come into Gallagher-IBA Arena, where the Cowboys have won two out of three against the Jayhawks dating back to 2007-08.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Marcus Smart: Smart had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in the upset over Kansas on Feb. 2. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals against Texas a week later, and on Saturday against Oklahoma, Smart finished with 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the overtime victory.

2) Kansas (21-4. 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 83-62 vs Kansas State, W 73-47 vs Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Oklahoma State, 8:00 PM, Saturday vs TCU, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: It doesn’t really matter that top-10 teams have been consistently falling the last few weeks, but it can give Kansas fans a small sense of relief knowing that every perceived top team in the country has its flaws as well as the Jayhawks, who rebounded nicely last Monday with a 21-point win over Kansas State when they desperately needed a 21-point win. Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State could decide the Big 12 championship.
  • Player Stepping Up: Freshman G Ben McLemore: McLemore had 30 points against Kansas State on 9-13 shooting, a cool 69.2%. In seven of his last ten games he shot over 50% from the floor. But he can still do more, attempting 10 or less shots in six of those games.  Shoot the ball, Ben.

3) Kansas State (20-5, 9-3)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: L 83-62 at Kansas, W 81-61 vs Baylor

This Week: Tonight vs West Virginia, 8:00 PM, Saturday at Texas, 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: Monday’s loss at Kansas hurt, but it wasn’t all that unexpected. If they can take care of Baylor on the road on March 2, there’s still a chance the Wildcats could be 14-3 heading into the final regular season game at Oklahoma State on March 9. The remaining schedule sets up that well for K-State, with their next five games against the bottom five teams in the conference.
  • Player Stepping Up: Sophomore G Angel Rodriguez: He has a 2.5:1 Assist to Turnover Ratio on the season and is averaging an efficient 19.6 PPG his last three games. In that stretch, he is 46.3% from the floor and 41.6% from three-point range.

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On the Naadir Tharpe Option at the Kansas Point Guard Position

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 13th, 2013

The story after Kansas defeated Kansas State 83-62 Monday night wasn’t that the Jayhawks ended their three-game skid and regained a shared claim of first place in the Big 12, because as Sam Mellinger points out, nobody was going to beat Kansas that night. And with that in mind, maybe we shouldn’t put too much stock into the stellar game from sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe. But it was hard to overlook the 8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio from Tharpe on the heels of a depressing 10-day stretch for Kansas basketball in general. The eight assists were the most Tharpe had dished out since a 32-point win over American on December 29. Coincidentally or not, that was the end of a ridiculous stretch of games from Kansas in December. They also beat Colorado by 36, Belmont by 29, Richmond by 28, and took care of Ohio State on the road by eight. Outside of the American game, Tharpe wasn’t great but he wasn’t bad either. He didn’t didn’t turn the ball over at all in four of the five games and averaged 2.7 APG, right on his season average.

Is Naadir Tharpe The Answer For KU's Offensive Woes? (USA Today)

Is Naadir Tharpe The Answer For KU’s Offensive Woes? (USA Today)

That production was plenty for Kansas, because senior Elijah Johnson was playing well, shooting 50% from the field in four of those five games while scoring a little above his season average (10.4 PPG). But then came the close contests. The seven-point home win over Temple on January 6, the near-loss at home to Iowa State, saved by a banked three-pointer by Ben McLemore at the end of regulation. A five-point win over Texas and four-point win at Kansas State soon followed while Johnson’s numbers plummeted. He was 2-of-6 against Texas Tech (a 60-46 road win on January 12), 3-of-10 in the road win at Kansas State, and 1-of-11 against Texas on January 19. Johnson was either falling into his usual deep-winter slump, or the transition to point guard was affecting his overall game. The loss two weeks ago to Oklahoma State at home was a long time coming, and Bill Self ripped into his team. “We don’t have a point guard,” he said, a not-so-thinly veiled shot at Johnson, who played off the ball next to Tyshawn Taylor during his first three seasons at Kansas.

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Kansas Rolls Through K-State in the Phog: What We Learned

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 12th, 2013

You can’t make up for an atrocious loss to TCU in one game, but Kansas (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) came close last night, sweeping its closest competition in #10 Kansas State (19-5, 8-3 Big 12) by a convincing score of 83-62 . Here are five things we learned about both teams.

1) The Big 12 championship still runs through Lawrence. Many Jayhawk fans thought the season was over after Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, KU’s third loss in a row. Kansas State had sole possession of first place in the Big 12 for 48 hours and gave Manhattan drinking establishments plenty of clever ideas, like the sign below:

Technically, The Wildcats Are Still In First Place. (Holly Rowe)

Technically, The Wildcats Are Still In First Place. (Holly Rowe)

Now the in-state rivals are tied for first place at 8-3 in the Big 12.

2) The Jayhawks may have solved their point guard problems. It’s still too early to tell, but in the first half, as Elijah Johnson sat on the bench in foul trouble, sophomore Naadir Tharpe ran the offense beautifully. There were fewer forced three-pointers and more penetration, opening up space for guys like Kevin Young, Jeff Withey, and Ben McLemore to have solid scoring nights. At halftime, Bill Self said Tharpe’s role wasn’t any different than before, he was merely filling in for Johnson while he had two fouls. Kansas fans should be hoping that Self was just being politically correct after repeatedly stating that Johnson was his guy last week. The thinking is that after watching the game tape of Tharpe’s eight assists and only one turnover against K-State, Self might be inclined to make a change.

3) If the Jayhawks make a run in March, Ben McLemore will be the reason. On his 20th birthday, the redshirt freshman guard had 30 points on just 13 shots, going 9-of-13 from the field and 6-of-10 from three-point range. He now averages 16.3 PPG on only 11 attempts per game. For Kansas to be successful down the stretch, he needs to raise that to closer to 15 shots per game.

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Big 12 M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 12th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. We saw this one coming from a mile away. After an unlikely three-game losing streak, Kansas slapped around Kansas State at the Phog on Big Monday. It was never close, as KU once again reasserted itself as the top dog in the Big 12. It’s been that way for years, and not even a horrific two-week stretch for the Jayhawks could stop that. Here’s a good breakdown of how it all happened in Lawrence last night. Jeff Withey had a historic night in becoming the Jayhawks’ all-time leading shot-blocker, and that’s surprising when you consider that he’s only logged serious minutes for two seasons.
  2. Good news in Lawrence, terrible news in Norman. Sure, Oklahoma beat up on TCU Monday night as well, but it also lost freshman guard Buddy Hield to a fractured foot. This injury could keep him out for the remainder of the year, and would represent a true heartbreaker for Lon Kruger who has gotten great minutes out of his rookie. He’s allowed Hield a lot of freedom in his offense, and he even stripped minutes from veteran Sam Grooms to make room for him. The young guard hasn’t disappointed, but Grooms will need to pick up the slack as the need dictates. As we’ve outlined extensively on this microsite, Grooms should be playing more anyway.
  3. It’s been hard to gauge Oklahoma State this season, but the Cowboys are right in the thick of the Big 12 title race. You can’t strip that win away from them in Lawrence — they’ll hold that over Kansas’ head for the remainder of the season. Travis Ford had some solid quotes in the linked article, including this one: ““There’s a looong way to go. A long way to go. As of today, we’ve got a shot. If we keep winning, we’ve got a shot.” So, coach, you’re telling us that there’s a chance?
  4. After Kansas’ win, let’s go ahead and sort out the Big 12. Only Texas, Texas Tech and TCU (so much for basketball in the Lone Star State) have fallen completely out of contention. Surprisingly, West Virginia has evened its league record to 5-5 and may be on the verge of some kind of a breakthrough. But go ahead and guess all of the opponents during the Mountaineers’ latest three-game winning streak: the aforementioned Texas trio. Still, that’s placed them a notch above the cellar, and they’re now just three games out of first place.
  5. Nobody’s too important to get booted from a high school basketball game, not even Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard. While watching his son play on one of the competing teams, he told the prep referee that he made a bad call which earned him an ejection from the building. The officials present at the game said that Pollard didn’t curse or say anything too inappropriate, but it sounds like the mere questioning of a particular call was enough to do him in.
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SEC M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 12th, 2013

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  1. Road wins have been hard to come by in the league this season, but after a win over South Carolina on Sunday, Tennessee is no longer in search of its first. “Finally got that road win, great feeling,” coach Cuonzo Martin said Monday. “Getting on the plane after a road win, that was always one of the things I took great pride in as a player.” Jarnell Stokes is presumably feeling pretty great as well. The sophomore posted his fifth straight double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, convincing the SEC to name him the conference’s Player of the Week. Stokes was a disappointment in non-conference play, appearing to be lost without his veteran frontcourt mate Jeronne Maymon; but maybe or maybe not coincidentally, Stokes has been a beast ever since a well-placed call from his coach.
  2. Nerlens Noel is unquestionably the best shot-blocker in the SEC, with Kansas’ Jeff Withey serving as his only real competition nationwide (my sincere apologies, Chris Obekpa). Who is better? ESPN Stats & Info took a look at that question. Noel is certainly flashier by taking advantage of his elite athleticism, but he’s “more of a ‘swatter’, liking to block the ball as hard as he can”, whereas Withey’s blocks more often find their way into a teammate’s hands. A weakness of Withey’s, however, is that he uses only his right hand to defend shots. Noel has blocked 61 with his right hand and 42 with his left, a benefit that can be utilized when caught out of position.
  3. Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray addressed the mystery surrounding Jalen Steele’s suspension, calling the junior’s transgression a “selfish act.” “Now you’re taking away a chance for guys to go out and compete and win because you’ve shortened the rotation,” he said Monday. “I think more than anything you’re screwing your team and you’re screwing your teammates when you get into trouble like that.” The loss of Steele for a few games won’t help the Bulldogs on the court, but the stance from his first-year coach is what’s really important. Let’s be honest, Mississippi State, with a roster short on talent as well as bodies, isn’t headed for a successful season. With a full team, they just might be able to sneak into 13th place in the SEC standings. For a program that had more than its fair share of off-the-court issues under previous coach Rick Stansbury, an emphasis on discipline from Ray is necessary for the culture change he desires.
  4. A road trip to Mississippi State doesn’t usually demand maximum attention from opposing coaches, but Frank Haith isn’t overlooking his upcoming trip to Starkville. His Missouri Tigers, who fell out of both the AP and ESPN polls this week, know that Wednesday is the perfect opportunity to finally grab that first true road win. “You look at the numbers, we haven’t defended well on the road, we haven’t shot the ball as well on the road,” Haith said at the SEC teleconference. “We’re still not defending like I would like us to do. That’s all a mental toughness type thing.” Mizzou’s defeat of Ole Miss was its most impressive win of the conference season and they’ll look to build on that momentum before hitting a tough three-game stretch: at Arkansas, vs. Florida in Columbia, and at Kentucky.
  5. Kentucky is looking like the league’s hottest team after winning five straight, but the Wildcats aren’t the only team on a roll. In case you missed it (and I’m guessing you did), the Georgia Bulldogs have a nice little five-game winning streak of their own. Three of those wins have come on the road, which is extra impressive in a season when home court is being defended so fiercely. Unsurprisingly, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has led the way. Since there is no real secondary scoring threat on the roster, defenses key completely on the sophomore guard every moment he’s on the court, but he’s still producing to the tune of 17.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. The Bulldogs will try to make it six in a row this week when Alabama comes to town.
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