Night Line: TCU Stuns Kansas in an Upset to Remember

Posted by BHayes on February 7th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

On a Wednesday night chock-full of college basketball action, nobody could have expected the story of the night to come from Fort Worth, Texas. Pairing a TCU team seeking its first Big 12 win with a Kansas squad fresh off a home loss to Oklahoma State would seem to rank pretty high on the combustibility scale, but enter a twist: It was Kansas who went up in flames tonight. The Horned Frogs snatched a win to remember in the midst of an otherwise forgettable season, and college basketball fans bore witness to one of the biggest upsets of the last decade. Jerry Palm went so far as to mention that this was the biggest upset — in terms of RPI difference — in his 20 years of tracking numbers. The 62-55 win was as ugly as it was unexpected, but if you love a good upset (and what college basketball fan doesn’t love that), this was as beautiful as it gets.

There Was Much To Celebrate For TCU On Wednesday Night

There Was Much To Celebrate For TCU On Wednesday Night

Explaining the inexplicable is not a favorite pastime of mine, but I’ll take a shot here. As bad as TCU is, the bulk of their issues have come on one side of the ball. Trent Johnson’s offense, valued at #330 nationally in efficiency, has been a nightmare. The defensive effort has been slightly better, although the national ranking of #137 in defensive efficiency still couldn’t have worried Bill Self too much before tip-off. Afterward he was too consumed with his own team’s failings to marvel at the Horned Frog D, but the point is that this was the kind of game TCU had to create to have a shot to win. They weren’t going to beat Kansas playing deep into the 60s, let alone the 90s, and it took a truly anemic KU offensive effort to allow TCU this win.

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Ten Tuesday (Wednesday) Scribbles: On Underwhelming Teams, Soft Schedules, Wisconsin and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 6th, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. The Super Bowl marks the beginning of a two month stretch where college basketball dominates the national sports scene. From now until April 8, the focus will be squarely on our terrific sport. Sure it can be frustrating for the diehard fans that have been following every game since early November but the attention of the casual fans is what drives coverage and television ratings. The unfortunate reality is that without casual fan interest, college basketball would exclusively be a niche sport. We all have had that NCAA Tournament pool experience where the person who starts watching in February or March and knows very little other than team names and rankings wins the pool while the person who studies the efficiency metrics and knows that Travis Trice is a great three point shooter but awful inside the arc (h/t Luke Winn) finishes near the bottom of the pool standings. Nevertheless, it is an exciting time of year as bubble talk, last four in and last four out quickly creep into the daily sports conversation. Games like Tuesday night’s Ohio State/Michigan classic are what drive interest in the sport. We’ve been treated to plenty of great games this season but this one couldn’t have come at a better time, a time when most of America is now squarely focused on college basketball. Strap in, it’s going to be really fun as we head into the part of the season where every game is so big and teams make their final push towards March.
  2. As we move into this crucial part of the season, the issue of teams peaking early can become a concern for some. The season is a process, an evolution if you will, and not every team is playing its best basketball come March. As I look across the nation, there are a few teams that may have already peaked or are peaking right now and may not be able to sustain their current level of play into March. Oregon, NC State, Miami and Butler come to mind. Two losses to the Bay Area schools have put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Is it a short term blip or a sign of things to come for the Ducks? Their ability to score and propensity for turnovers are causes for concern but Oregon’s defense is surprisingly solid. NC State’s issue is just the opposite. The Wolfpack certainly can score, although their offense was shut down in losses to Maryland and Virginia. However, defense has been a problem all year and NC State’s efficiency, ranked #141 in the country, is simply not at a level where you can win games consistently. Chances are the Wolfpack have already peaked and their inability to stop teams will catch up to them eventually. Miami is a case of a team that may be peaking as we speak. The Hurricanes have won 10 consecutive games in a variety of different ways. This fact (meaning they can play different styles/speeds) combined with a defensive efficiency ranked fourth in the country suggest Miami can sustain this level of play. Concerns for the Hurricanes include three point shooting, free throw shooting and offensive rebounding but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miami hold steady, at least for the next few weeks. Butler is an interesting case. The Bulldogs are 18-4 (5-2) but have lost two of their four games since the emotional win over Gonzaga on January 19 while also struggling through a win over lowly Rhode Island. Butler’s league isn’t as tough as the other teams mentioned here so it will likely enter the NCAA Tournament with a very strong record. Of concern is the BU defense which is not at the elite level it was when the Bulldogs first went to the national title game three years ago. However, it would be foolish to doubt Brad Stevens and his group. With a soft schedule down the stretch, there is still time for Butler to pile up wins and gather confidence heading into the tournament. I would say Butler has not peaked yet despite some major wins already on its resume. Look out for the Bulldogs next month.

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

  3. As we head into February and the regular season begins to wind down, I figure this is a good time to look at a few of America’s underwhelming teams. There are teams out there with gaudy records but few quality wins or those who just haven’t gotten on track relative to preseason expectations. Notre Dame, UNLV, UCLA and Missouri come to mind immediately. Notre Dame is 18-5 and 6-4 in the Big East which appears good on the surface but this was a team many thought would finish third in that rugged conference. However, a closer inspection reveals the Irish have just two quality wins on their resume (Kentucky (maybe) and at Cincinnati). In Big East play, Notre Dame has lost twice on its home court, something that has been almost unheard of over the years in South Bend. Notre Dame has never been a defensive juggernaut under Mike Brey but this is arguably his worst defensive team in 13 years at the helm. UNLV is a team with lots of talent that always leaves you wanting more, always following up a stretch of good play with a disappointing loss. The Rebels struggle away from Vegas which is understandable but you would still like to see them beat a few good teams on the road. They have failed to do that. UNLV can still turn it around but I feel like we’ve seen this movie before. Three consecutive first round NCAA flameouts show that UNLV isn’t quite ready for primetime. In fact, the Rebels have not won a postseason game since a first round victory over Kent State in 2008. UCLA is still a work in progress but there is no denying it has been underwhelming. The Bruins have lost three of their last four games since winning 10 straight games after a disappointing 5-3 start. Defense has been a concern all season long but it’s the offense that has scuttled of late. Five of UCLA’s final seven games are on the road and one of the home games is against Arizona. Things could get a little dicey down the stretch for the Bruins. Missouri is the team I feel is the most overrated of all. Despite a resume that lacks one single freaking SEC road win and non-conference wins over fading Illinois and mediocre Stanford, the Tigers continue to be ranked in both major polls. Missouri is not a good defensive team and has given up a lot of points to pretty much every good team it has played. Phil Pressey can be a great distributor but he’s also a turnover machine and a poor jump shooter. Mizzou will probably make the NCAA Tournament but an early departure is highly likely. Read the rest of this entry »
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Saturday Look Ahead: Big 12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 2nd, 2013

We will be halfway home in the conference season later tonight, but we’ve had more questions than answers through seven Big 12 games this season. Kansas is still on top, like most years. But we still don’t know how things will play out in terms of the order behind the Jayhawks, who hold at least a two-game lead over everyone else. Here’s what to watch for around the league:

1) Game Of The Day#18 Kansas State at Oklahoma, 6:00 PM ESPN2: The Sooners are the favorite tonight against the Wildcats in Norman. Oklahoma is 7-1 in its last eight home games, but Kansas State has won three of its last four road games as well. Kansas State won the first meeting in Manhattan a few weeks ago, 69-60, thanks to Rodney McGruder’s 20 points. Head coach Lon Kruger has made the Sooners relevant for the first time since Blake Griffin was on campus four years ago, and while they’re a good bet to make the NCAA Tournament as of right now, a solid win over a ranked Kansas State team would make them near-locks. McGruder had a big game in the first meeting between these teams, but he has been quiet lately, averaging 11 points his last three games. Not surprisingly, the Wildcats are 1-2 in that stretch.

Lon Kruger Is Proving To Be One Of The Better Coaches In The Country

Lon Kruger Is Proving To Be One Of The Better Coaches In The Country.

2) Something to Watch… Kansas has won 18 straight games, but they haven’t been pretty the last month. As Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal points out here, the Jayhawks have a -8 turnover margin (95-87) in conference play. Bill Self told Meek that the team has been “careless and lazy.” For a team that has had guards like Keith Langford, Russell Robinson, Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor in the lineup over the years, it’s strange watching the Jayhawks struggle at the point. Sophomore Naadir Tharpe has been good at times and awful at others, while senior Elijah Johnson has struggled to take over for Taylor. With lockdown defenders like Travis Releford and Jeff Withey and one of the most talented players in the country in Ben McLemore, strong point guard play could lead Kansas to a national title. Poor point guard play, on the other hand, could have the Jayhawks bounced in the second round.

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Award Tour: Fabulous Week For Freshmen; Jim Larranaga Is New No. 1 Coach

Posted by DCassilo on February 1st, 2013

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

What a couple of days it was for our freshmen across college basketball. On Tuesday, there was Nerlens Noel, who provided one of college basketball’s best performances of the year by blocking 12 shots in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss. Meanwhile, his teammate Archie Goodwin posted 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. A day later it was Baylor’s Isaiah Austin stealing the show with 19 points and 20 rebounds. Elsewhere in the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart had 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Anyone who believes talent is down this year for the freshman class just hasn’t been paying attention.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG

After starting the season on fire, Bennett has not been nearly as dominant in the Mountain West Conference. He clings to a spot this week after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds over his last two games. This week: February 2 at Boise State, February 6 at Fresno State

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Zeller has drawn a lot of criticism this season, mainly because of expectations that were too high in the first place. When the dust settles, he’s still the top scorer and rebounder on the third-best team in the country. This week: February 2 vs. Michigan, February 7 at Illinois

8. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 18 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season.

With the below-average competition in the West Coast Conference, Olynyk isn’t posting monster numbers lately because he really doesn’t have to. He’s coming off a week in which he averaged 14 points and seven rebounds, while the Bulldogs cruised to two victories. This week: February 2 at San Diego, February 7 vs. Pepperdine

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Early foul trouble against West Virginia on Monday had McLemore destined for his worst game in ages. But he still found a way to finish with a solid 13 points and four rebounds. It must be nice to have a freshman that you can pencil in for at least those numbers every night. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU

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Big 12 M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 1st, 2013

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  1. The U.S. Basketball Writers Association announced the midseason watch list for college player of the year, otherwise known as the Oscar Robertson Trophy. There are only two players from the Big 12 and both play for Kansas. No one will dispute that Ben McLemore is unworthy of making the list, but I wonder, had McLemore been eligible last season, could KU have beaten Kentucky in the championship game? Jeff Withey is adding an offensive game but he’s also still locking the paint down on the defensive end. The two Kansas players outnumbered power leagues like the ACC, SEC and Pac-12 in total players chosen.
  2. It was a busy day at the USBWA as they also released its midseason watch list for the Wayman Tisdale Award, given to the top freshman in college basketball. Thankfully, the Big 12 had more diversity among the candidates. Baylor’s Isaiah Austin is one of the more versatile seven-footers in all of college basketball — how many guys that tall can shoot threes and pull down 20 boards like he did against Oklahoma? Speaking of versatility, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart is a point guard who wears many hats: those of a passer, a defender, and a leader. Those two along with Ben McLemore give the Big 12 three of the 12 candidates named for this award. The Pac-12 led all conferences with four representatives.
  3. When Frank Martin trotted out freshman Angel Rodriguez as a stater last season, I wasn’t so sure it was the best idea. Clearly he felt strongly enough to throw him into the fire and, wouldn’t you know it, he didn’t burn as the Wildcats ended up winning 22 games in 2011-12. Rodriguez’ Achilles heel last season was turnovers but that appears to be a thing of the past this time around. He’s averaging 6.3 assists and 1.6 turnovers per game in seven Big 12 games which amounts to nearly a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The point guard depth in this league is exceptional so being the third best one-guard behind Smart and Pierre Jackson is by no means an insult.
  4. We know Texas stinks this year but would it be the right decision to fire Rick Barnes after the season? Admittedly, my gut says no way because he’s had so much success (two Elite Eights and a Final Four) and a team in the tournament every year since he arrived at the Forty Acres. And then I think about the teams he had from 2009-11 who appeared destined for deep NCAA runs but in fact never made it to the second weekend. Yes it would be foolish to let go of Barnes after one bad season out of 15 years at the helm, but it wouldn’t be foolish to keep an eye on him if I’m athletic director DeLoss Dodds. If progress isn’t made soon, we’ll hear those grumblings get louder.
  5. Jordan Tolbert’s numbers are down from last year and now we know that this has played a role in it. Tolbert lost his father, James Tolbert, to a heart attack back in October — he was just 40 years old. “To wake up to that [learning of his dad’s passing], I just couldn’t believe it,” the sophomore guard said. Learning of something like that can derail anyone’s season but Tolbert has turned things around this past week (15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds per game). His season isn’t quite over but, much like the healing process, it’s getting better by the day. Thoughts and prayers to the entire Tolbert family.
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Award Tour: Ben McLemore and Brad Stevens Reach No. 1 For the First Time

Posted by DCassilo on January 25th, 2013

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

The two players I have the most trouble with every week are Russ Smith and Michael Carter-Williams. With Smith, it’s because his on-ball defense, arguably his biggest strength, doesn’t show up in box scores or highlights, so I need to watch his entire games to stay up to speed. And I have to be honest, his reputation sometimes gives him credit in games he doesn’t deserve it. Couple that with a streaky jump shot, and he falls short of the top-10. As for MCW, I have a real problem ranking him because he’s a terrible shooter and a turnover machine. People say he makes the big shots, but if he made them in the first half or didn’t keep giving the ball away, there wouldn’t be big shots to make. So like it or not, that’s why those two guys aren’t on the list at this juncture.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Since the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer, Greg Whittington, was ruled ineligible, Porter has raised his game to another level. Over his last four games, he’s averaging 19.8 PPG and 9.3 RPG and played a full 40 minutes in Georgetown’s upset win at Notre Dame. This week: January 26 vs. Louisville, January 30 vs. Seton Hall

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Indiana and Cody Zeller Also Finished Strong in the Big Ten (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Cody Zeller has a lot of work to do to get back up the rankings. (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Zeller did not register a single field goal on Wednesday against Penn State, but prior to that, he had back-to-back games of at least 20/10. While people have made the case that Victor Oladipo is more valuable to the Hoosiers, I still think Zeller will dictate the big games. This week: January 27 vs. Michigan State, January 30 at Purdue

8. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 18.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG

Against Wyoming on Thursday, Bennett’s scoring finally returned, as he finished with 17 points. But the rebounding has disappeared. Bennett has just 13 boards over his last three games. Once a double-double machine, it will be interesting to see if he gets it back.  This week: January 29 vs. Nevada

7. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG

For those who didn’t see it late Thursday night, Olynyk had a night to remember against BYU. He went 9-of-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line en route to 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Make sure to catch him next time he’s on TV because he’s fun to watch. This week: January 26 vs. San Francisco, January 31 at Loyola Marymount

6. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Since breaking out against Iowa State to start Big 12 play, McLemore has been a steady contributor for the Jayhawks. Although teams are devoting more defensive attention to him, he finds a way to get his points. This week: January 26 vs. Oklahoma, January 28 at West Virginia Read the rest of this entry »

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Night Line: Jayhawks Escape Octagon of Doom Victorious — Is Perfect Big 12 Season Possible?

Posted by BHayes on January 22nd, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

At some point during the nine-year Bill Self era, we stopped being surprised by another year of Kansas dominance. Offseason after offseason of KU stars leaving Lawrence for the NBA seem to never be remembered by the time the next January rolls around, and this first month of 2013 has been no exception. Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor posted brilliant individual campaigns a year ago, as both earned All-America honors in leading Kansas all the way to the national championship game. Neither has taken the floor at Allen Fieldhouse in almost a full year, but looky, looky – Kansas is 17-1 and a perfect 5-0 in Big-12 play. A ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season title is beginning to look like a mere formality, as the Jayhawks dispatched rival Kansas State tonight in Manhattan en route to their 16th straight victory. Self has accomplished almost everything there is to accomplish in his near-decade at KU, but this group of Jayhawks still has a chance to do something that none of the previous nine could do – run the table for a perfect Big 12 season.

Travis Releford Locked Down Rodney McGruder In What Was Another Stifling Jayhawk Defensive Effort

Travis Releford Locked Down Rodney McGruder In What Was Another Stifling Jayhawk Defensive Effort

Robinson and Taylor may be gone, but these Jayhawks have their own pair of potential All-Americans. We all became well-acquainted with Jeff Withey and his menacing defense a year ago, but meet freshman Ben McLemore, who, in the estimation of many, has been both the best newcomer in the country and the top player in the conference. Less is more for the silky-smooth wing, as he has needed just 11 field goal attempts to score his 16 points per game. He has played well within the Kansas system to this point, but do not doubt that McLemore will be ready to shoulder more of a load if and when the situation demands it.

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What We Learned: Kansas Beats Kansas State in Manhattan

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 22nd, 2013

It was close, as Vegas suggested it would be (Kansas closed as a three-point favorite). But the Jayhawks survived another tough game in the type of battle Kansas State wanted to play — slow and muddy. Kansas now takes sole possession of first place in the Big 12 and improves to 17-1 on the season. Here is what we learned tonight:

1. Kansas is learning how to win close games. Or shall I say, Kansas has learned how to win close games. Coming into tonight’s game, here is how the Jayhawks have played down the stretch in close games since losing a three-point game to Michigan State on November 13.

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KU is Getting It Done in Crunch Time

After Bill Self called a full timeout with 4:55 left in the game and a 54-49 lead, Kansas State finished the game 2-of-6 from the field including 0-of-3 from three-point range with a pair of turnovers. It’s fair to criticize close games against Iowa State or Temple at home, but Kansas State is a tough squad this year and Bramlage Coliseum is always rowdy when the Jayhawks are in town. Coming away with a close win is another positive learning experience this Kansas team will need in March.

2. Kansas State’s win over Florida wasn’t a fluke. The Wildcats shot 35.1% from the field and were still within three points of the Jayhawks with 40 seconds left. They held Kansas under its season shooting averages, both from two and three-point range (From two: 48.4% on the year, 45.7% tonight; from three: 36.2% on the year, 30.8% tonight). They have solid wins over Oklahoma State and #8 Florida, and their only losses are to #2 Michigan, #10 Gonzaga, and now #11 Kansas.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Florida, Illinois, Surprising Conference Leaders, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 22nd, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Saturday night’s epic Gonzaga vs. Butler game was everything college basketball is about and then some. The game had all the trappings: two great basketball teams, a national TV audience, a historic venue, two terrific (and classy) coaches, an electric atmosphere, 40 minutes of competitive action, and an indescribable finish to the game. This was college basketball in its purest form. Everything you could ask for in a game. The kind of game you would show someone who has never watched college basketball before. It was the game of the year to date, one that will be nearly impossible to top in the regular season (we know what the Tournament can do). This was a high-level game between two teams that have the potential to make deep runs in March and the top two “mid-major” programs of the last decade. Roosevelt Jones’ game-winner will be the lasting memory from this game but I hope people remember just how well it was played on both ends. In the final minute and a half, I don’t think either team missed a shot in those final 90 seconds and the only mistake was Alex Barlow’s turnover which, ironically, set up the memorable ending. Dick Vitale said it was one of the top five games he has seen since he started working for ESPN 34 years ago. I wouldn’t doubt it. The game was that good.

    Butler's contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

    Butler’s contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

  2. An important result from last week in the Big Ten was Wisconsin taking down Indiana on Tuesday night in Bloomington. That’s now 11 straight Badgers’ victories over the Hoosiers and it’s safe to say Bo Ryan owns Tom Crean. Even when Crean was at Marquette, he only won three games against Ryan’s Badgers in their annual intra-state rivalry making him 3-13 against Ryan in his career. “Tommy Basketball,” as Ryan once called him, didn’t have an answer for Wisconsin last week. The Badgers controlled the pace of the game from the opening tip and got physical with the more athletic and talented Hoosiers. Once again, Ryan overcame a talent disadvantage on the road to score a huge victory. He’s one of the best pure basketball coaches in the nation and it shows year after year no matter who is on his roster. Wisconsin let Cody Zeller do his thing in the first half but the Badgers really clamped down on him after halftime. A big key to the win was limiting Jordan Hulls. With Ben Brust glued to him most of the game, Hulls could only manage one three-point attempt. That’s outstanding defense and a great game plan against one of the best shooters in the country. Wisconsin limited everyone not named Zeller to 28.2% shooting, a remarkable accomplishment against one of the best offensive teams in the nation. It was a great win for the Badgers but, unfortunately for them, they followed it up with a road loss to Iowa on Saturday night. Nevertheless, Wisconsin is getting better. Never count out Bo Ryan. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.21.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 21st, 2013

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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 just had one of the most memorable weekends in recent memory in college hoops. Every game seems to be up for grabs and it’s making for an exciting season. This week should be no different as each conference has its share of important match-ups. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Cincinnati at #3 Syracuse – 3:30 PM PM EST, Monday on ESPN (***)

boeheim

Jim Boeheim’s Team Looks Great After This Weekend

  • Cincinnati barely snapped a three-game home losing streak on Saturday with an overtime win against Marquette. The Bearcats were without star guard Cashmere Wright as he continues to heal up from a knee injury. Wright is day-to-day so we don’t know quite yet if he will be available against Syracuse, though. If he is unable to play, his three-point shooting will be missed greatly against the Orange’s match-up zone defense. Although, even if he plays, the size of the Orange backcourt will surely create issues for the 6’0″ guard. In its huge win at Louisville over the weekend, Syracuse proved its size and length on defense makes Jim Boeheim’s team a clear title contender. Both of these teams excel on the offensive glass, so keep a close eye on which team is getting more second-chance opportunities and making the most of them — this could be another place where the Syracuse size makes a difference. More than likely this game will be won on the defensive end.  However, if the Bearcats don’t find a better shooting stroke quickly, this game will not be close regardless of their defensive effort. They shot 41.4% eFG against Marquette, so a shooting number like that won’t cut it against Syracuse.

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

  • It felt like Iowa was due for a big win at home and it happened to come against Wisconsin on Saturday. After the Badgers’ huge win against Indiana last week, the weekend loss to Iowa brought the team back to reality, but they don’t get much rest with the Spartans coming to town. In order for the Badgers to beat the Spartans, they must play their typically great defense. Bo Ryan‘s squad is 1-4 against teams that shoot over 50% eFG against them so it’s clear that they do not have the offense to go back and forth with teams. Luckily, the Spartans are not a great shooting team with nine games under 50% eFG themselves on the season. This should make for a very close defensive-oriented contest in Madison. Keep an eye on free throws, as they will be a major factor in determining the outcome. Wisconsin must play good defense without fouling; if they are sending Michigan State to the line early in each half, they could very easily drop two games in a row. Look for Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to be all over Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren, forcing someone else on the Badgers to beat them. This should be another slugfest in the Big Ten.

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Big 12 M5: 01.18.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 18th, 2013

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  1. I said earlier in the week that this article by C.J. Moore of Basketball Prospectus may have changed my mind on Rick Barnes‘ coaching ability. I have never been a fan of Barnes and his seeming ability to do less with more than almost any coach in the country. Moore’s article was a nice rebuttal to opinions like mine. But a lot of Texas fans don’t see it that way, and articles like this one from Mike Finger of MySanAntonio.com highlight those reasons. As Finger points out, Barnes has had no trouble throwing his players under the bus this season, and he’s had no problems doing so since around 2008. And while I’ve never been against a coach calling a player out in public (if they can take the compliments in the press, they should be able to take the criticism, too), there’s always the danger of a team zoning a coach out. Barnes has already had to diffuse those notions this season. Maybe Finger is right. Maybe blasting underclassmen isn’t the best way to get your team to respond.
  2. If you are wondering if Oklahoma has a chance to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009, Jordan Esco over at SBNation.com delves into that topic here. The Sooners have made appearances on most mock brackets as of late, and with the expanded NCAA Tournament field and their 12 wins at the midway part of the regular season, it looks like they will be in the dance barring a collapse in conference play. Esco has them going 9-6 from here on out to finish 12-6 overall in the Big 12. And with three more games against TCU and Texas Tech, West Virginia at home, and Texas at home before Myck Kabongo’s return, it looks like there are nine more wins on that schedule.
  3. I’m sure I’ve said this a few times already, but there are worse people to hire than Bruce Weber if you have an experienced team without a coach. The troubles seem to come when its time for him to start recruiting his own players, but we can discuss that when the time comes. For now, Kansas State is #16 in the country and playing defense as well as almost any team in America right now. They are on a seven-game winning streak and have held their last 10 opponents under 70 points, which includes the 67-61 win over #10 Florida on December 22 in Kansas City. They have a big game against Oklahoma on Saturday, as both teams are 3-0 in the Big 12.
  4. The Big 12 knows about the one-and-done rule as well as any conference, whether conference schools were getting torched by Kevin Durant in 2006-07, Ben McLemore this season, or Kansas losing to the most talented group of one-and-doners ever in last year’s national championship game. If it was up to Shaq, Durant and McLemore would be “three-and-dones” instead. O’Neal recently made the remarks at the NCAA convention in Grapevine, Texas, and had plenty of valid points arguing that players need to stay in school longer. It’s a topic many people feel strongly about, and both sides have their fare share of solid arguments. My take? One year of guys like Durant, Odom, Anthony Davis, McLemore and the rest is better than no years. And while these players staying in school for three years would be fun to watch, if a professional league wants to pay them, let them go earn the money.
  5. Jason King of ESPN.com updated his National Player of the Year ballot, and (rightfully so) Creighton’s Doug McDermott tops his list. McDermott is averaging 24 PPG and 7.2 RPG after being named a First-Team All-American last season. Jeff Withey is fourth on King’s ballot. I can’t help but think of a season ago as Anthony Davis was heralded as one of the best shot-blockers of all-time. A “game-changer” they called him. Davis averaged 14.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 4.7 BPG for Kentucky. Withey is currently averaging 13.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 4.7 BPG this season, just like Davis. I’d still give the award to McDermott this season, but it’s time Withey received more love for possessing the same shot-blocking ability that helped earn a guy the NPOY award last season.
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Big 12 M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 17th, 2013

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  1. Ben McLemore was named a Sporting News First Half First Team All-American on Tuesday. McLemore is leading Kansas with 16.4 PPG and is grabbing 5.4 RPG this season. His semester of practice last spring while he sat out due to academic issues looks to have helped immensely. He is projected to be a top-5 pick in this summer’s NBA draft and will be the reason if the Jayhawks advance deep in March this year. He sprained his right ankle late in the game against Baylor, but the Lawrence Journal-World reported that he may not miss Saturday’s game against Texas. McLemore wasn’t the only Big 12 representative on the All-American list, though. Oklahoma State freshman point guard Marcus Smart was also named a First Half First Team All-American. He was also named the Freshman of the Year as the Sporting News explained they didn’t include freshmen who were on campus and practiced last season. Smart has been great for the Cowboys this season, averaging 14 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game.
  2. McLemore and Smart may have received the highest honors of any players or teams in the Big 12, but they aren’t alone. Other awards include: Oklahoma State’s 69-68 loss to Gonzaga on New Year’s Eve is the 4th best game of the season. Kansas State is the biggest surprising team so far, ahead of Charlotte, Oregon, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The Wildcats are #16 in the country with a nice win over Florida last month and their only losses coming to Michigan and Gonzaga. Jeff Withey is 4th most improved player of the year while averaging 13.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 4.7 BPG. Texas is the 4th most disappointing team and West Virginia is 3rd, on the list with Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oregon State.
  3. Baylor lost to Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night, which isn’t all that surprising because most teams lose in Allen Fieldhouse, 100 out of the last 101, to be exact. John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald had a nice piece on the historic building after covering the 61-44 Kansas win. A great snippet from Werner’s article after he described the pre-game video and festivities: “Intimidated yet? It all got to me, and I was just there to write about it.” Allen Fieldhouse can’t be appreciated until you see a game there, and it can’t be fully appreciated until you’re lucky enough to be there for a big game, like Baylor, Ohio State, and Missouri last season.
  4. Take away any team’s starting point guard and it will struggle offensively. Take away the starting point guard from a  team as young as Texas, and things are destined to be tough offensively. But historically bad? With an 8-8 record and #12 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency on Kenpom.com, it certainly isn’t the defense that is hurting the Longhorns this season. As Peter Bean of BurntOrangeNation.com points out, barring an upset of Kansas on Saturday, Texas will be under .500 for the first time since Brittney Spears released her debut album. They are 254th in the country with 64.1 PPG and are 0-3 in the Big 12.
  5. Even with one of the best point guard’s in the country in Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State isn’t a great offensive team this season, so their margin for error on defense isn’t very big. That didn’t seem like much of a factor early in the season as they started off 10-1, but as John Helsley points out, teams have been shooting the ball well against the Cowboys lately and it has translated to a 1-3 record in their last four games. The recent struggles could also be due in part to a tougher schedule, and Oklahoma State not being as good as we once thought. They have that nice win over North Carolina State and they also beat Tennessee. But overall they are 1-2 against ranked opponents and 3-3 against BCS opponents only because TCU basketball is lucky enough to be called a BCS school now.
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