Two Burning Questions: Previewing Texas vs. Kentucky

Posted by David Changas & Brian Goodman on December 5th, 2014

The slow build of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge will finally reach a crescendo tonight as the long-awaited battle between Kentucky and Texas tips off at 7:00 ET. RTC contributors Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and David Changas (@dchangas) are here to break down the showdown between two of the longest and strongest frontcourts in college basketball.

BG: One of the many things that makes this match-up so enticing is that Kentucky will finally go toe-to-toe with one of the few frontcourts around that can match its size down low. The Longhorns lead the nation in blocked shots, and for the tempo-inclined, own the country’s third-best block percentage, swatting 20.3 percent of their opponents’ shots. On offense, Jonathan Holmes, Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner haven’t always been the most efficient group, but collectively, they can score in virtually any way imaginable — shooting from deep, slashing to the rim, or posting up on the blocks. How do you think the Wildcats will look to contain that trio?

Myles Turner has feasted on inferior competition, but has yet to break out against a team with comparable talent. Will tonight be the night? (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Myles Turner has feasted on inferior competition, but has yet to break out against a team with comparable talent. Will tonight be the night? (Jim Rogash/Getty)

DC: It’s hard to imagine a better match-up of frontcourts in all of college basketball. The challenge the Longhorns will present Kentucky is one the Wildcats haven’t faced thus far, and likely won’t face again all year long. What makes Holmes and Turner so dangerous is how good they have been from the perimeter – the duo is a combined 18-of-39 from three-point range –  and it will be interesting to see how the Wildcats deal with players who can draw their big men outside. If they can hit some early shots, that should open things up for the Texas guards. Given the unique problems Holmes and Turner present, John Calipari might need to mix and match his lineups a bit more than he has thus far. As for Ridley, he needs to do a better job on the glass than he has done thus far, as Kentucky leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (48.1%). Of course, another major advantage the Wildcats have with so much interior depth is that Calipari does not have to worry about foul trouble, whereas Texas has to be quite careful to avoid it.

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Grading the Big 12’s Feast Week Performances

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2014

With much of the Big 12 participating in competitive, neutral-court tournaments last week, we were able to get a solid litmus test for most of the conference’s squads. All in all, the league had a good showing, but it wasn’t spectacular. Here are some grades relative to how each team was expected to perform during Feast Week:

  • Texas (wins vs. St. Francis and UConn): A. In the Longhorns’ first action since Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist (minus the game against Cal the following night at MSG), Rick Barnes’ team rolled over the Red Flash without a problem, as they were paced by Myles Turner’s 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. All they did was follow that up by handing UConn its first non-conference loss at Gampel Pavilion since 1993, when current Husky guard Sam Cassell, Jr.’s dad helped Florida State beat UConn in Storrs. Big ups go out to Jonathan Holmes, who, with this game-winner from Sunday, is now shooting an eye-popping 61.9% from distance.
Jonathan Holmes' late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated.

Jonathan Holmes’ late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated. (Getty)

  • Kansas (wins over Rhode Island, Tennessee and Michigan State in the Orlando Classic): A-. After the big Kentucky loss, Kansas’ last game against venerable competition before the holiday weekend, the Jayhawks had their fair share of unanswered questions. With this still being the first week in December, the rotation still has some kinks to iron out, but fans should be happy about Perry Ellis‘ improved rebounding to complement his scoring ability as well as Frank Mason‘s overall progress, though I’m still a little bearish because we’ve seen both these movies before and because I’m not sure Michigan State is all that good. The keys moving forward are whether Ellis and Mason can maintain that level of play, and whether Bill Self‘s leash on Cliff Alexander has truly lengthened. It would also be helpful if Wayne Selden could bust out of a big scoring funk (6.8 PPG on 24.1% shooting over his last four games).

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AAC Bests and Worsts: Holiday Wrap-Up Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 1st, 2014

Let’s start by putting it bluntly — the teams in the AAC did not have a very good week. The conference’s final three unbeaten teams — Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF — all lost for the first time this season and the supposed standard-bearers for the conference — UConn, Memphis, SMU, and even Tulsa — all lost high-profile games and the Huskies were the only team with a realistic shot to win their game. We are now nearly a month into the season and UConn’s 11-point win against Dayton remains the best win by an AAC team. These are not fun days to be an AAC basketball fan, but the season is young, and there is time for some of these teams to turn things around. So let’s get into the best and worst of the week:

For Ryan Boatright and the rest of the AAC, Thanksgiving week wasn't too kind. (US Presswire)

For Ryan Boatright and the rest of the AAC, Thanksgiving week wasn’t too kind. (US Presswire)

  • Worst Inbounds Defense With The Game On The Line: UConn had a chance for the conference’s first statement win of the season yesterday as they led Texas at home for most of the game. But Ryan Boatright missed a free-throw to put the Huskies up by three and Texas’ relatively simple play out of the timeout worked to perfection as Jonathan Holmes was left open to bury the game-winning three-pointer. Give the Longhorns credit, they executed the play about as well as it could have been executed. But Holmes is the Longhorns’ best player and it is inexcusable that he should be left all alone no matter how good the screen was and no matter how badly injured Boatright was on they play.

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Texas Makes Its Case For Best Defensive Team in the Country

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 22nd, 2014

Fresh off an underdog Sweet Sixteen run at Tennessee, California head coach Cuonzo Martin got a different taste of the national spotlight with his new program by beating Syracuse in its home away from home, Madison Square Garden. The Golden Bears, led by a trio of guards who accounted for 48 of the team’s 73 points, relentlessly attacked and picked apart the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense with quick passing and sharp shooting. While many spent the next 24 hours attributing the win to Syracuse’s disappointing performance rather than Cal’s own doing, there was no denying the host of talented players Martin had in his hands. The plan was to take this newfound momentum and showcase the shooting prowess of Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird.

Texas Looked Very Impressive in NYC This Week (USA Today)

Texas Looked Very Impressive in NYC This Week (USA Today)

Texas was having none of it. And neither was senior forward Jonathan Holmes. Head coach Rick Barnes made his game plan clear from the start: Attack the middle and force Cal’s guards off the perimeter. This meant more interior passes to the Bears’ less talented forwards, and unlike Syracuse, whose big men were mostly inexperienced or physically soft, Texas has a wealth of size and talent in the frontcourt. As a team, Texas recorded 16 blocks in the two preceding games, and for a California team with just two players over 6’6″ receiving meaningful minutes, that meant trouble.

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Texas Looks to Maintain Balanced Attack in 2k Sports Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2014

Over the next week, we’ll be bringing you breakdowns of notable Big 12 teams participating in neutral site holiday events. Today, we look at how Texas shapes up in the 2k Sports Classic in New York, where it will face Iowa tonight and either Syracuse or Cal tomorrow.

Outlook

Texas picked up right where it left off coming out of a successful 2013-14 campaign. It’s only been two games against teams who aren’t going to sniff NCAA Tournament bids this season, but in hanging 85 points on both North Dakota State and Alcorn State in blowout wins, Texas has done nothing to deter the preseason expectation of competing with Kansas for the Big 12 title. The most important development of the short season has been Myles Turner‘s stellar start to his college career. Through two outings, he holds per-36-minute averages of 22.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 7.2 blocks. That will definitely play. Leading returning scorer Jonathan Holmes has also been steady, averaging 12.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while point guard Isaiah Taylor is in the process of emerging from national obscurity with a terrific all-around skill set.

Get ready to meet Myles Turner in the 2k Sports Classic. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

Get ready to meet Myles Turner in the 2k Sports Classic. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

Opening Round Preview

One of the best frontcourts in the nation will find a competitive match-up in the Hawkeyes’ rotation, which consists of four players who are 6’9″ or taller. That core should help Iowa improve on its woeful two-point field goal defense from last season, and although it has done so this year in two games against inferior competition, the Hawkeyes still need to prove that they can do the job against quality opponents. To that point, look for Turner, Cameron Ridley and Holmes to test Aaron White, Adam Woodberry and Gabriel Olaseni early, and possibly stretch them out to the perimeter to free up cutting lanes for Taylor and Javan Felix. Defensively, the Longhorns should have the edge inside, so the big question is whether Texas’ backcourt can neutralize Iowa’s long-range attack. Despite losing Roy Devyn Marble from their rotation, the Hawkeyes can still launch it; Anthony Clemmons, Josh Oglesby and Peter Jok can all connect from deep, as can 6’9″ Jared Uthoff. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Season Preview: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 12th, 2014

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

Texas

Hey look, Rick Barnes magically became a good coach again! Some may have actually had this thought, but no, he didn’t become a terrible coach after one bad season. Those calling for his termination have to remember that Barnes has taken the program to heights not seen since the midway point of the 20th century. It’s hard to believe the same Texas team picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll last season won 24 games and made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. Now with virtually everyone back on board for another year, the Longhorns are primed to jostle with the Jayhawks atop the Big 12 standings. Just like old times.

Did we mention Rick Barnes won Big 12 Coach of the Year? No? Well yeah, he did. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Did we mention Rick Barnes won 2013-14 Big 12 Coach of the Year? No? Well yeah, he did. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Strengths: A team full of freshmen and sophomores at key positions a year ago grew up rather quickly. Most can point to their December win at North Carolina as a turning point in the season. Then you throw in some tournament experience, a blue-chip recruit and a largely intact rotation, this has the makings of a colossal year in Austin. Myles Turner is the blue-chip center out of the Dallas area. The center and forward spots are in capable hands even without Turner but there’s little reason to believe a player of his talent will not have a role carved out for him by Barnes. The fascinating thing about Texas is that they don’t beat you with a star or two. At any time, all five guys on the floor for the Longhorns can beat you in a multitude of ways. Isaiah Taylor showed great polish as a freshman driving and dishing. Jonathan Holmes successfully took on the role as top scorer, rebounder and big shot-maker (see buzzer beater vs Kansas State). A slimmed down Cameron Ridley still clogged up the paint scoring easy buckets, improving at the free throw line and altering shots on the defensive end. Aside from Taylor, Holmes and Ridley, guys like Demarcus Holland, Connor Lammert, Javan Felix and Prince Ibeh were hustling after nearly every rebound (ranked fourth nationally; sixth nationally in offensive rebound percentage per Kenpom) and block (ninth nationally in block percentage per Kenpom). I could understand if a fan of another team became annoyed watching them. They were like a fly that would buzz past your ear every few seconds but you could never find and destroy. It would not be a stretch to expect the same effort this time around.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Texas 87, #10 Arizona State 85

Posted by Walker Carey on March 20th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

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.

When it mattered most, big #55 Cameron Ridley came up huge. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

When it mattered most, big #55 Cameron Ridley came up huge. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Three Takeaways.

  1. This victory was a team effort from Texas. The Longhorns have been a balanced offensive unit all season and that was again the story for them in the win over Arizona State. Six Longhorns (guards Javan Felix, Demarcus Holland, Isaiah Taylor and big men Jonathan Holmes, Martez Walker, and Cameron Ridley) finished the evening in double figures. Taylor, a freshman, did not show his inexperience at all, as he totaled six assists and only committed one turnover. Ridley was a load inside and his 17 points and 12 rebounds were the production Texas needed in the post. Obviously, Ridley’s biggest two points came on his putback to beat the buzzer, giving his Longhorns the victory and pushing them into the round of 32.
  2. Cameron Ridley vs. Jordan Bachynski was an outstanding post match-up. Ridley will garner nearly all the press due to his game-winning shot, but it must be noted how productive Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski was throughout the game — the Sun Devils’ big man finished the evening with 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting. There were portions of the game where it would alternate between Texas pounding the ball to Ridley on one end and Arizona State pounding it to Bachynski on the other end. It was the most entertaining match-up on the floor all evening. While Ridley ultimately got the best of Bachynski with his final shot, Bachynski was a worthy adversary and the battle between the two center greatly contributed to the game’s entertainment level.
  3. Texas faces a tall task against Michigan on Saturday. The Longhorns do not have much time to relish in their emotional victory, as they now have a match-up with #2 Michigan in the round of 32 on Saturday. The Wolverines play a similar style to that of Arizona State, but they are a much more polished unit than the Sun Devils. Michigan’s ability to shoot from distance is well-known and Texas’ perimeter defense was an issue on Friday night (it allowed Arizona State to shoot 53.3 percent from three). If Texas does not find a way to shore that up a bit before Saturday, it may be in for a long night of Michigan three-pointers. An area where Texas should have an advantage, though, is with its inside play. Ridley and Jonathan Holmes give the Longhorns two legitimate threats in the post and on the glass and those are two areas where Michigan struggles a bit. The Wolverines deserve to be favored, but don’t be surprised if Texas keeps it close and has a chance to ultimately win the game.

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Answering Six Questions About Texas vs. Arizona State

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 19th, 2014

In prepping for Thursday’s #7/#10 matchup between Texas and Arizona State, Big 12 microsite writer Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 correspondent Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) had a little Q&A session about both of these teams.

Andrew Murawa: Arizona State’s offense is dictated by the play of speedy point guard Jahii Carson. What can Texas do to slow him down?

Texas Has Struggled With Speedy Guards Like Jahii Carson This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

Texas Has Struggled With Speedy Guards Like Jahii Carson This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

Brian Goodman:  This season to date, Texas has faced its fair share of dynamic scoring point guards in Juwan Staten, Marcus Foster, Marcus Smart and Marcus Paige, and more often than not, their defense struggled to contain these players. Based on that track record, I’m not confident Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix will be able to check Carson. The bigger question to me is how many of Carson’s shots will come at the basket and how many will come as the result of creating space farther away from the hoop. Joel Embiid and Isaiah Austin have been the Big 12’s best rim protectors, but Ridley is right there behind them. If he can alter Carson’s angles when he attacks, there’s a chance Texas comes out ahead; but if he can’t, it’s going to be a long day for the Longhorns.

BG: We know all about Carson. After the Sun Devils missed last year’s Tournament, it’s a decent bet that he’s going to look to put on a show, but Jermaine Marshall enters Thursday’s game in a funk over his last three outings. Specifically, what’s been different for him lately and how important is it for him to return to form in Milwaukee?

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Baylor and Texas Playing Great Heading into Lone Star Match-up

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 14th, 2014

Baylor’s rollercoaster season has been on the upswing for awhile, and that upward trajectory has continued in Kansas City. The Bears got off to a hot start (15-3) in their opener against TCU, and followed that up with a similarly hot start in the quarterfinal against Oklahoma (13-3). The difference? TCU was winless in conference play, while the Sooners came into the game ranked #17 and boasting one of the most efficient offenses in the country. Baylor came ready to play in both games, and is now headed to the semi-finals brimming with momentum. The Bears shredded the Oklahoma defense to the tune of a 54.8 percent shooting performance in the first half, and while that dipped in the second half, they did just enough to shoot 50 percent on the game.

Kenny Chery facilitated an efficient Baylor offense as the Bears outshot Oklahoma (baylorbears.com).

Kenny Chery facilitated an efficient Baylor offense as the Bears outshot Oklahoma (baylorbears.com).

What is the ceiling for this Baylor team? If the way they’ve played in Kansas City is any indicator, it’s pretty high. Steady point guard is usually a big part of a tournament run, and Kenny Chery looked the part against the Sooners. He didn’t shoot the ball well (3-of-11), but played virtually the entire game (38 minutes) and was the key factor in the Bears’ hyper efficient offense. His seven assists helped the Bears put four players other than himself in double figures. Despite three turnovers, Chery did a good job against Oklahoma’s press and created easy basket that way too. Cory Jefferson was another reason the offense kept whirring by effectively passing out of double teams numerous times.

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Big 12 M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 6th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. It was a lot more than Senior Night on Wednesday for Kansas center Tarik Black. In his final game at Allen Fieldhouse, the senior scored 19 points on 9-of-9 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and had two blocks in Kansas’ 82-57 blowout of Texas Tech. It was a huge effort from Black, who will also start in their regular season finale Saturday at West Virginia as Joel Embiid continues to rest his sore back. If Embiid returns for the NCAA Tournament and doesn’t play as many minutes as he was, having Black make this kind of impact would result in the Jayhawks becoming more dangerous than they already are.
  2. I’m not sure what the allure is between NFL personalities and Kansas basketball, but Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers stopped by to watch the Jayhawks and gave a pep talk after practice in January. Yesterday San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was there to do pretty much the same thing and then this happened. Harbaugh hit a half-court shot during practice because… why not? But I’m not so sure he would have made the shot if he wore anything other than his trademark sweater and khakis. I’m a little curious to see what kind of person Harbaugh is when he wears something else, if he wears something else. We may never know.
  3. Oklahoma’s Je’lon Hornbeak had a breakout game in the Sooners’ season home finale. In 22 bench minutes, Hornbeak contributed 11 points, five rebounds, three dimes and two steals in the team’s 72-62 win over West Virginia. The performance comes on the heels of his nine points and five dimes in 18 minutes against Texas on Saturday. A win Saturday at TCU would lock the Sooners into the No. 2 seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament, and meanwhile, WVU’s road to an at-large bid appears to have reached a dead end. They’ll have to win the conference tournament to force their way into this season’s Dance.
  4. It was Senior Night at the Frank Erwin Center as Texas hosted TCU on Wednesday. The problem was that the Horns don’t have any seniors… but they still had a good night anyway! Rick Barnes rested leading scorer Jonathan Holmes due to a sore right knee, but his squad was able to get by the Horned Frogs, 66-54. Isaiah Taylor led the team with 21 points while Cameron Ridley (my vote for the Big 12 Most Improved Player award that I just made up in my head) posted 14 points and 10 rebounds. Texas needs to beat Texas Tech Saturday coupled with an Oklahoma loss at TCU to clinch the second seed in the Big 12 Tournament next week in Kansas City. Hang on, folks, the Madness draws nigh.
  5. A difficult season for TCU basketball got worse with head coach Trent Johnson announcing Monday that Amric Fields is out for the rest of the year because of a recurring knee injury. According to TCU360, only four of 16 total players have suited up in every game this season, which just stinks. To make matters worse, a loss to Oklahoma Saturday would result in TCU becoming the first Big 12 team to go winless in conference play since Texas A&M in 2003-04. Stash the season away and never look at it again, TCU fans. Here’s to a better 2014-15.
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Big 12 Week In Review and Look Ahead: Don’t Mistake League’s Competitiveness For Superiority

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2014

The Big 12 may be one of the most competitive conferences in the country, but this week hasn’t been the most glowing endorsement for the league’s case as the best conference in the country. Monday’s game between Baylor and Oklahoma State was supposed to be a battle of teams in the top half of the conference (if we go by preseason expectations), but instead was a fight for ninth place that only went to overtime because of a sequence that was, well, very fitting of a ninth-place battle:

The next day, Texas squared off against Iowa State in a game with major implications for the Longhorns’ Big 12 title chances, but they were able to lead only within the first five minutes. While Texas kept the game interesting with a run early in the second half, the Cyclones pulled away to hold serve at home.

Meanwhile, 925 miles south, Kansas needed another miracle from Andrew Wiggins at the end of regulation to get past a salty but mediocre Texas Tech team in Lubbock:

The only other game this week saw Kansas State quietly beat TCU by 12. The Wildcats’ two best players, Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson, paired up for 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but they also combined to shoot 34.6 percent from the floor and turned the ball over nine times. As a team, Kansas State had a staggering 18 turnovers at home against the worst power conference team in the country, needing a second half run to get away for good.

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Big 12 M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 12th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. After Kansas’ loss to Kansas State on Monday, Bill Self said that Jayhawks center Joel Embiid could miss some time to focus on recuperating from knee and back injuries. Embiid played just 18 minutes in the loss at Bramlage Coliseum, and the Wildcats exploited his health problems to attack the paint effectively. Embiid hasn’t officially been ruled out for Saturday’s game against TCU, but Self noted Tuesday that “he has no strength” and “he winces when he moves.” The Jayhawks will need their future lottery pick back and at 100 percent if they are to live up to expectations, but it appears they have a little bit of wiggle room to take it easy with their big man in the short term as they face a relative lag in the Big 12 schedule with the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders next on the docket.
  2. Speaking of the Wildcats, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber is doing a fantastic job of shaking the critics who believe that the second-year head coach can’t win with his own players, and guard Marcus Foster might be the poster boy for the campaign. The Texas native took home National Freshman Of The Week honors for his 34-point outburst against Texas last Saturday, and legitimized it by following up that game with a team-leading 20 points against the Jayhawks on Monday. The Wildcats aren’t a Tournament lock just yet, but they’re getting close, and their standout freshman is a big reason why.
  3. Texas took it to the short-handed Oklahoma State Cowboys throughout an 87-68 win that wasn’t even that close. Javan Felix led the way for the Longhorns, scoring 27 points and hitting six out of eight three-pointers. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that Texas led comfortably despite being without leading scorer Jonathan Holmes, who missed Tuesday’s game with a knee injury. With the win, Texas picked up a half-game on Kansas in the league standings, while the Cowboys fell firmly onto the bubble. We can only assume that Travis Ford is counting the hours until Marcus Smart can return to game action.
  4. Suffice it to say that Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has had better weeks. Following a gut-punching blowout at the hands of West Virginia, the Cyclones lost out on the services of Rashad Vaughn, a highly-touted guard prospect from Henderson, Nevada. Vaughn opted to stay close to home, announcing his intentions on Tuesday to attend UNLV and play for Dave Rice. While the Cyclones will lose DeAndre Kane at the end of the season, they still still figure to be in good shape moving forward with Matt Thomas, Monte Morris, Naz Long and Sherron Dorsey-Walker comprising what should be a highly formidable backcourt.
  5. TCU has an opportunity to turn their 0-10 ship around when the Horned Frogs welcome Baylor to Fort Worth tonight. Trent Johnson’s team has been outrebounded in nine of its last ten games, but Baylor’s rebounding core has left a lot to be desired, considering the athleticism of guys like Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers. Both teams could use a kickstart; The last time either team won consecutive games, Oregon and Ohio State were undefeated, Spencer Dinwiddie was healthy, and Michael Cobbins had only missed one game due to his torn Achilles.
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