Big 12 M5: 02.11.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 11th, 2014

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  1. Marcus Smart‘s three-game suspension effectively begins tonight when Oklahoma State plays Texas in Austin, but some writers are arguing that he isn’t the only one at the heart of the Cowboys’ downward spiral. Dana O’Neil wonders why head coach Travis Ford didn’t play a bigger role in not only Saturday’s ugly ending but also in other incidents in which Smart visibly lost his cool. Mike DeCourcy also held Ford’s feet to the fire in a column Sunday night. While it isn’t Ford’s fault that Michael Cobbins tore his Achilles or that Stevie Clark decided to get arrested twice in one month, he definitely deserves some criticism and scrutiny for failing to reign in his star point guard.
  2. Texas forward Jonathan Holmes will be a gametime decision in the aforementioned game against Oklahoma State after he sustained an unspecified right knee injury in last Saturday’s loss to Kansas State. Holmes is the Longhorns’ leading scorer at 13.1 points per game, so if he can’t go in Austin, one would think they’d feel a pinch, but on the other hand, the Cowboys’ frontcourt isn’t exactly a picture of depth, either. Still, Rick Barnes would much rather have the big-bodied Holmes available.
  3. The morning after Iowa State took a 102-77 beatdown in Morgantown probably isn’t the best time to ask this question, but how tough is it to decide who has been the Cyclones’ most valuable player this season? While awards can be superficial, it’s worth noting that five of Fred Hoiberg’s players have taken home Big 12 Player Of The Week honors, and two of those players — Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane — have given opposing defenses headaches all season long. While it’s a cop-out answer, if the season ended today, there’s a good case for them to share the honor.
  4. While West Virginia blew out the Cyclones Monday night, the game ended on a weak note as Mountaineer guard Eron Harris was ejected for throwing a punch at Cyclone freshman Monte Morris late in the game. Earlier in the sequence, Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue picked up a flagrant foul for crane-kicking West Virginia forward Kevin Noreen as Hogue tried to come down with a rebound. The Mountaineers led by a staggering 29 points at the time, which makes the incident that much worse. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the Big 12 hand down a suspension to Harris for his actions that marred an otherwise astounding performance by the Mountaineers.
  5. Improved defense from Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins has given the Sooners a major boost as they have moved closer to locking up an NCAA Tournament bid. While Ryan Spangler has provided the muscle inside, Cousins has frustrated opposing floor generals with regularity. He may not have the gaudy steal totals of a Briante Weber or Jordan Adams, but he’s made life incredibly tough nonetheless.
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Who Won the Week? Two Undefeated Teams, But Certainly Not The Third…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 7th, 2014

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Who Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Wichita State

Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

Cleanthony Early was outstanding this week for the Shockers. (AP)

The nation’s winningest team cleared its toughest conference hurdle Wednesday night in defeating Indiana State in Terre Haute, led by senior forward Cleanthony Early’s 19 points. From here on, the Shockers have better than 50 percent odds to go undefeated in the regular season, according to KenPom.com, and about 35 percent odds to make it to the NCAA Tournament unblemished. Wichita State’s reign over the Missouri Valley has been so strong this year that only two teams – Missouri State and Indiana State – have even finished within 10 points of them. Tomorrow’s game at Northern Iowa is the toughest remaining tilt for the Shockers, which also sandblasted Evansville 81-67 last Saturday.

(Related winners: Gregg Marshall, whose stock will never be higher, even if he never wants to leave; the Missouri Valley, which is certain to get some more NCAA Tournament win shares, even without Creighton in the conference. Related losers: Indiana State, the MVC”s second-best team, which probably has to win Arch Madness to make the NCAAs; Evansville, perpetually anonymous in purple.)

LOSER: Arizona

Of the triumvirate of teams that came into last weekend undefeated, only two came out unscathed. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they weren’t one of them. Their road trip to California, the toughest game left on their schedule at that point, turned out to be undone by a last-second jumper from Golden Bears’ guard Justin Cobbs over center Kaleb Tarczewski, giving Cal a 60-58 win. That news was bad enough, but worse was what came after — that sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, a starter, had broken his foot during the game and would be out for the season. In Thursday’s 67-65 win over Oregon, Arizona looked disjointed offensively and saw star freshman Aaron Gordon injure his leg in a game in which he made just 2-of-11 free throws. The Wildcats actually trailed the disintegrating Ducks with just 90 seconds left before point guard T.J. McConnell made a three-pointer that gave them the lead for good. Sean Miller only played seven players, even accounting for Gordon’s injury, and its lack of depth could be problematic should more injuries arise or should fouls accumulate. It’s a shame to see this happen because a full-strength Arizona team looked to be head and shoulders above all but a few others around the country.

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Big 12 M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 5th, 2014

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  1. Last night posed the opportunity for a letdown with Texas beating league-leading Kansas on Saturday and then turning around to face last-place TCU on the road. The Longhorns trailed by two points at the half and had committed their season average of 10 turnovers to that point, but the second 20 minutes were a completely different story. The Horns regrouped as Jonathan Holmes poured in 17 of his 20 points on their way to their seventh straight Big 12 win. The Horns did all of this without one of their better ball-handlers available, as Javan Felix was out of the lineup due to a concussion he suffered on Saturday. It looks like we’re seeing the young Longhorns grow up right before our eyes.
  2. Kansas’ win over Baylor last night might appear confusing on paper because the Jayhawks won easily despite Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden Jr. only combining for 23 points on 6-of-22 shooting. But the focus should be on point guard Naadir Tharpe, who had another good offensive game on the road. Oddly enough, Tharpe has had some of his better offensive performances away from Allen Fieldhouse. In the four Big 12 road games where he’s attempted at least one shot, Tharpe is averaging 16.2 points on 22-of-33 from the floor and 10-of-14 from downtown (71.4%). Statistical anomalies: Ya gotta love ‘em.
  3. Oklahoma State‘s defeat to Iowa State on Monday night could not have come at a worse time. The school had dedicated the night to longtime head coach Eddie Sutton; Gallagher-Iba Arena was half-empty; and then there was the whole triple-overtime loss. Sutton took some thinly-veiled shots at the fan base and perhaps even the team while attending the game. “It’s easier to play here [at GIA] now than it was before,” Sutton told the Tulsa World. “It was a lot louder.” Gee, he may have a point there. It is a little embarrassing when the head coach of a team with several NBA Draft prospects has to urge students to come to their games. Guess the thermometer on Travis Ford’s seat is heating back up again.
  4. It seems as though most pundits have Kansas State pegged as NCAA Tournament-bound at this point in the year, but with so many holes in this team can we really be so sure of it? The Wildcats haven’t won any important road games; they are hard to watch on offense; and they also rank dead last in the Big 12 in free throw percentage (64.4%). For a team that beats opponents by keeping games in the 60s, making free throws is all the more vital in creating some late-game separation. If they don’t fix this problem somewhat soon, the Wildcats’ life on the bubble will be a short one and the NIT is where they’ll be headed.
  5. This isn’t news to anyone at all, but Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg is very much winning in life. He played in the NBA; he is currently coaching his alma mater (and doing well); and now he is putting up high scores on the Flappy Bird app. Now I’ve heard the Flappy Bird game is the thing kids are into these days but I have no clue how it’s played (how does one go about flapping the bird or does the bird flap you somehow?). In any case, Hoiberg scored a 123 which is apparently very hard to do. More power to him.
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Big 12 M5: Day After The Super Bowl Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 3rd, 2014

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  1. We’re not wrong when we say Saturday in the Big 12 was more Super than the so-called Super Bowl. Kansas brought its perfect conference record to “The Drum” in Austin and left imperfect. Jonathan Holmes’ jumper with 16:38 left in the first half gave Texas a lead it would never relinquish. This makes it six wins in a row for the Longhorns, and while it’s still a surprise considering what the Longhorns went through a year ago, we shouldn’t really treat it as a surprise. Think about Rick Barnes’ best teams from the 2000s: Barnes had multi-year players like T.J. Ford, Brandon Mouton, A.J. Abrams and Damion James that took the program to the next level. This year, the junior Holmes and a crop full of sophomores continues to defy logic while shooting up the national polls.
  2. One of those heralded Texas sophomores will be out for Tuesday’s game against TCU. The school announced that Javan Felix will be unavailable because of a concussion he suffered in the team’s win over Kansas two days ago. Texas will try to extend its winning streak to seven without Felix’s 12.0 PPG in the lineup. I should the mention that the game will take place in Fort Worth, and with all the craziness that’s gone down in conference play so far, the Horns had better be on Upset Watch headed into this one.
  3. Speaking of craziness, Baylor ran into problems just making its way to Stillwater for a weekend tilt with Oklahoma State. According to Jimmy Dykes, who worked color commentary on the game for ESPN, their flight was re-directed to Oklahoma City due to icy conditions near the Oklahoma State campus. The bus from OKC to Stillwater cautiously braved the ice with high speeds topping out at five miles an hour. On top of that, starting point guard Kenny Chery was out because of a turf toe injury. So it only made sense for the Bears to win their first game in three weeks, right? Gary Franklin and Brady Heslip stepped up big-time, combining for nine threes between them, and we also got to see Rico Gathers start and finish a sweet fast break dunk. It was that kind of day for the Bears and who knows, maybe this is the turning point in the season that Baylor fans have been waiting for.
  4. On the other sideline, backup point guard Stevie Clark was arrested and charged with “outraging public decency” early Sunday morning. This marks the second arrest for Clark in a little more than a month after he was caught with possession of marijuana around New Year’s Day. Most of us also remember that Clark was suspended for four games and sent home from the Old Spice Classic for another undisclosed reason back in November. Travis Ford has yet to comment on Clark’s status but it will be interesting to see how he rules on his talented but troublesome freshman this time around.
  5. Can you guess the team that sits in fourth place in the Big 12 ahead of Iowa State and Oklahoma State? It’s OK if you had to Google it for the answer, but yes… it’s West Virginia. WVU took down Kansas State on Saturday to get to 5-4 in Big 12 play (K-State also has a 5-4 record but they might as well be fifth with the Mountaineers owning the head-to-head advantage). This win coupled with their road victory at Baylor appears to have brought some at-large possibilities back to life. If they’re able to beat Oklahoma this week and continue to add a few more good wins, that might be able to offset the missed opportunities the Mountaineeers had in non-conference play to earn a Tournament bid. Could we be talking about EIGHT teams dancing from the Big 12? Wow!
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What Does Rick Barnes’ Season Say About Coach of the Year Awards?

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 29th, 2014

One of the biggest stories around the Big 12 this season has been the revitalization of Texas basketball. The Longhorns came into this season with their coach on the hot seat, but now they’re 16-4 with wins over North Carolina, Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor, and are currently on a five-game winning streak. That stretch includes consecutive victories over three ranked teams, but even if you discount that qualification with a more realistic evaluation of the then-overrated Bears, there’s still no doubt that Texas has played better than pretty much everyone predicted coming into the season. They were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 back in October, so naturally, their performance has led some to consider throwing Rick Barnes’ name into the hat when it comes to Big 12 Coach Of The Year honors. But the more interesting debate here is what Barnes’ case says about what we believe the award should be about.

The intrigue over Rick Barnes' COY prospects is just as philosophical as it is practical. (Getty Images)

The intrigue over Rick Barnes’ COY prospects is just as philosophical as it is practical. (Getty Images)

The discussion has raised two camps. One contends that Barnes has done a fantastic job so far, given his limitations, and as such he should definitely be given consideration for the end-of-year honor. The Longhorns, along with Oklahoma, lead the pack trailing Kansas despite losing their top four scorers from last season. Barnes has rebuilt Texas in a style that emphasizes chemistry and is having success without the services of one-and-done talents like Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson. After a disappointing freshman season, Cameron Ridley is on the short list of the most improved players in the conference; Jonathan Holmes has turned the corner when Texas desperately needed him to do so; and Isaiah Taylor is third in scoring among Big 12 freshmen despite some ups and downs.

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Big 12 M5: 01.23.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on January 23rd, 2014

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  1. It seems like every year now Baylor has the look of a team that can challenge for the Big 12 regular season title. And every year the Bears fall off somewhere around this time. They were ranked No. 7 in the country not too long ago but are now losers of three straight. “It’s the No. 1-ranked conference in the country, so it’s a grind,” head coach Scott Drew told John Werner of the Waco Tribune. “We’re five games into it and we’re on the upward swing, so hopefully we can keep that going.” The Bears’ next chance to get out of its current rut comes Saturday at home against Texas.
  2. John Helsley of The Oklahoman asks a good question about Oklahoma State here: Is a six-day layoff after Saturday’s loss at Kansas a good or bad thing? He makes compelling cases for both answers, but we won’t know what the correct one is until the Cowboys play West Virginia at home on Saturday. The Pokes are in a Saturday-Monday rotation for their next five games, so perhaps a routine will do Oklahoma State some good.
  3. As Kyle Ringo of Yahoo! Sports points out, not many people expected Texas to be playing as well as the Longhorns are this season. Rick Barnes lost just about all the talent he had from last year’s team, and that group of Longhorns wasn’t a great team anyway. But here they are a year later, sitting at 15-4, 4-2 in Big 12 play, and in a good position to make the NCAA Tournament this season. But will they keep it up?
  4. Kansas State was in sole possession of second place in the Big 12 not very long ago. But then Tuesday’s game at Texas happened, and the Wildcats are suddenly tied with three other schools in that spot. Texas forward Jonathan Holmes nailed a last-second three-pointer to give the Longhorns a 67-64 win and a tie for second place. Like Sean Keeler of FoxSportsKansasCity.com said, “Gotta let it go.” There’s no shame in losing a close game on the road, but come Selection Sunday, Tuesday’s loss could be one that the Wildcats point to as one that cost them on the seed line.
  5. Bill Self likes toughness. He has noted that his favorite picture is from the 2008 Final Four against North Carolina, a snapshot where two Jayhawks (Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson) dive on the floor for a loose ball with both hands while the Tar Heels’ players brace themselves for the fall. So it’s no surprise that he loved Wayne Selden‘s dive into the stands to save a loose ball  — and eventually getting an assist — on Monday night against Baylor. “He gives us an air of toughness,” Self told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. “Certainly when he’s going after the ball like that, we become a much better team because it’s contagious.”
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Previewing Texas vs. North Carolina

Posted by Taylor Erickson & Lathan Wells on December 18th, 2013

(Ed. note: news released on Wednesday afternoon that UNC’s Leslie McDonald has been cleared to play as soon as tonight’s game. This post was written prior to that release.)

On Wednesday night, Texas will head to the Dean Dome for a showdown with what suddenly looks like one of the better teams in the nation in North Carolina. North Carolina has had its struggles early this season with losses to UAB and Belmont, but has righted the ship with perhaps the best collection of wins in the country after knocking off Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky – the top three teams in the preseason AP rankings. Texas has opened the season with a 9-1 record itself, but has yet to see the type of talent that the Tar Heels will roll out. ACC correspondent Lathan Wells and the Big 12′s Taylor Erickson decided to discuss some key topics heading into the contest in the hopes of providing some insights to watch for as the game plays out.

Can Marcus Paige continue his hot streak against Texas on Wednesday? (Scott Muthersbaugh / The Times News)

Can Marcus Paige continue his hot streak against Texas on Wednesday? (Scott Muthersbaugh / The Times News)

Taylor:  So I have to start with the obvious question: North Carolina has three of the best wins in non-conference play, but also has puzzling losses to UAB and Belmont. Which Tar Heels team are we going to see on Wednesday night?

Lathan: Prior to the Kentucky game, that would continue to be the prevailing question. But after their third marquee non-conference win of the season, it appears that UNC is starting to find some consistency. The players appear to be more comfortable in their roles. The fact that Texas has taken four of the last five since Roy Williams took over in Chapel Hill may be motivation enough. Speaking of adapting to roles, how has Texas been able to have such a solid start with a team that entered the season in the midst of major transition?

Taylor: The 9-1 start for Texas has certainly been refreshing to Longhorns fans, but when dissecting the schedule in more detail, it becomes apparent that most of those wins have come against clearly inferior teams. According to CBSSports.com, Texas’ strength of schedule to this point ranks 100th in the nation, 91 spots behind what North Carolina (ninth) has faced. If Rick Barnes’ squad is truly improved, it will have a chance to prove it with tonight’s game followed by one against Michigan State in a span of three days this week. That said, Texas has gotten solid contributions from big man Cameron Ridley, who went for 22 points and 10 rebounds in his last outing. After the way North Carolina handled the talented front line of Kentucky, is there any reason to believe the Heels will struggle to do the same with the Longhorns’ frontcourt?

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Texas in the CBE Hall Of Fame Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2013

With Feast Week kicking into high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: The Longhorns haven’t garnered many headlines this season, but as we mentioned in Friday’s M5, that’s probably a good thing, given that their schedule has consisted of four games against teams outside Ken Pomeroy’s top 100. After a couple of close calls against Mercer and South Alabama, Rick Barnes‘ team finally got the lead out last Monday, thrashing Houston Baptist in Austin. It may still be early, but things could be looking up, as the Texas offense is already more promising than it was at this time a year ago. Jonathan Holmes and Connor Lammert have made great strides, and a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio from Javan Felix has made scoring easier to come by. The Longhorns are still trying to get Cameron Ridley out of neutral, free throw shooting has been awful, and the team’s shot selection has been questionable at times, so there’s still a lot of improvement to be made. Defensively, kinks are still being ironed out, especially on the perimeter. Texas has allowed four nondescript opponents to shoot over 40 percent from beyond the arc, the result of fielding a young team and showing a zone defense that hasn’t done a good job of closing out on shooters.

The 4-0 Longhorns look to keep the good times rolling in Kansas City. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

The 4-0 Longhorns look to keep the good times rolling in Kansas City. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today)

First Round Preview: Texas’ defensive three-point percentage will be an area of concern right off the bat as the Longhorns draw sweet-shooting BYU tonight in Kansas City. Even though the Cougars hit only 4-of-14 attempts from outside the arc against Iowa State, the Longhorns need to keep a close eye on Matt Carlino, Tyler Haws and Anson Winer, each of whom can do damage from the perimeter in a hurry. Inside, the match-up should work slightly more in Texas’ favor, especially if Cougars forward Erik Mika has trouble adjusting to the eye injury he suffered at the hands of DeAndre Kane. Any time would be a great time for the Longhorns to get Ridley going, but with such a distinct size advantage down low, this is an especially good opportunity for him. Still, none of it will matter if Texas doesn’t keep up with BYU’s quick-strike offense, as the Cougars’ possessions last an average of just 12.6 seconds.

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Big 12 M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 20th, 2013

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  1. Credit to Gary Parrish for calling his shot about 10 hours before Marcus Smart went off for 39 points in a rout of Memphis in Stillwater. “But Smart now has a nice opportunity to shift the national conversation back in his direction, because the big stage will be all his on this Tuesday night.” Andrew Wiggins played Tuesday night, as did Jabari Parker and Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon. But Smart stole the spotlight from the fabulous freshmen, reminding us all that he is still the best guard in the country.
  2. Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid had a big day Monday. Jayhawk beat writer Rustin Dodd featured him in an excellent article, as Embiid’s dad watched him play for the first time in his life, and he finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks in an 86-66 victory. He was 7-7 from the floor and had a few buckets that made you realize he probably won’t be in a Kansas uniform last season. The biggest defense for the second-ranked Jayhawks is still protecting the rim, and as Dodd points out, Self is working with Embiid to play more like former Jayhawk and shot block-extraordinaire Jeff Withey. If that happens, this team will be complete.
  3. Last season Juwan Staten ran the West Virginia offense and the results weren’t pretty. Staten had a respectable statline of 7.6 PPG and an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2/1. But as Bob Hertzel points out, last year West Virginia was bad. Really bad. #219 in the country bad. And fair or not, that blame went largely to the point guard. A year later, Staten is averaging 20 PPG, 7.3 APG, and is shooting over 51 percent through three games.
  4. Texas is 4-0 for the first time in four years thanks in some part to the hustle of Jonathan Holmes, who lost parts of couple teeth diving for a loose ball in Monday night’s 89-61 win over Houston Baptist. The biggest takeaway from the win, as Chris Hummer notes, is that freshman guard Kendal Yancy got the start over returning leading scorer Javan Felix. It was a good move to get Yancy some starting experience in a game the Longhorns would control because Rick Barnes will need all the help he can get this season to keep his job.
  5. If you want good seats in the Kansas student section, whether the Jayhawks are playing Iona or Towson or Missou…Kansas State, you better like early mornings, sitting, and waiting. It’s a somewhat complicated system that is run close to perfection considering it is run by students and students only. But don’t let Elise Reuter of the Kansas City Star fool you about some of the camping group names. Back in the day, when Kansas and Missouri still played, Bill Self once handed out pizzas before reading the list of the 200 or so groups, many of which would make your grandmother blush. “You guys toned it down this year,” he said. “Last season was much worse.”
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Big 12 M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 15th, 2013

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  1. Kansas has another big day today as Jahlil OkaforTyus Jones and Cliff Alexander are scheduled to make their college decisions this afternoon, and The Sporting News has a solid breakdown of Jones’ and Okafor’s recruitment and what the commitments will mean for the winner of their services.. The rumor mill has led many to believe that the package deal of Okafor and Jones are leaning towards Duke while Illinois is considered the leader for Alexander, a blue-chip prospect from Chicago. Even though Kelly Oubre is already committed to the Jayhawks for the 2014-15 season, Kansas may need to reload in a hurry with Andre Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid dotting mock drafts throughout the blogosphere.
  2. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but Iowa State has one big weekend in store. For starters, the Cyclones host top-flight 2014 recruit Rashad Vaughn. Touted as perhaps the best shooting guard prospect in his class, Vaughn has drawn comparisons to Ben McLemore with his shooting stroke and strength in a 6’6″ frame. While a decision isn’t expected in the immediate future, a commitment would send a message that not only can Fred Hoiberg land impact transfers, but he can make his presence felt on the prep level as well. The Cyclones top off the weekend Sunday night when they face top-10 foe Michigan at Hilton Coliseum.
  3. Their season is only two games old, but Kansas State hasn’t done much to change the minds of skeptics who are leery of their offense. The Wildcats’ defense has been fine so far, as it held both Northern Colorado and Oral Roberts to less than a point per possession, but Bruce Weber‘s team already ranks eighth in the conference in offensive efficiency. The next opponent on Kansas State’s schedule is Long Beach State, which hasn’t been the least bit impressive, so the 49ers appear to provide the Wildcats with a chance to get right on the offensive end.
  4. Burnt Orange Nation’s Jeff Haley is one of the best there is when it comes to breaking down advanced metrics, and his number-crunching tells us that Jonathan Holmes and Isaiah Taylor have been worth the price of admission through Texas‘ first two games. Haley also points out that the Longhorns have played a fair amount of zone defense, perhaps in an effort to keep Rick Barnes’ inexperienced and thin personnel from getting into foul trouble.
  5. Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler has been a work horse for the Sooners. Playing a key role in Oklahoma’s 3-0 start, Spangler has averaged 13.0 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds per game. Spangler also rejected three shots against Idaho on Wednesday and will look to keep the momentum rolling when the Sooners tip off against Seton Hall tonight in Brooklyn.
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Big 12 M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 8th, 2013

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  1. Big 12 and college basketball fans alike: rejoice. Just days before the 2013 edition of the Champions Classic tip-off, ESPN announced that Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State will continue the doubleheader series until at least 2016. For the last couple of years (and of course, Tuesday’s blockbuster), the Champions Classic has been the perfect nightcap to an awesome day of college hoops. As far as the next three years will shake out for Kansas, they’ll face Kentucky in 2014, Michigan State in 2015 and Duke in 2016. Did I forget to mention that today’s opening day? The news lately has been prettay, prettay, prettay, prettay good.
  2. Good news on the Oklahoma recruiting front as the Sooners received a commitment from top 150 prospect Dante Buford. A three-star prospect from Arlington Country Day in Florida, Buford commanded offers from the likes of Miami, SMU, USC, Memphis and South Carolina. The news of Buford’s pledge comes two weeks after fellow 2014 big man Khadeem Lattin committed to Lon Kruger’s program despite holding offers from Georgetown, Arizona and Memphis, among many others. The Sooners may be stretched thin for big men this year, but fret not, help is on the way to Norman!
  3. Let’s be honest, expectations for Texas this season aren’t very high. But Burnt Orange Nation argues if the Longhorns are to surprise, it will come down to the play of their four big men. Those players — Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert — struggled mightily in certain areas during their freshmen (sophomore for Holmes) campaigns, but the opportunity for growth is still great. Ridley is a physical freak, Holmes led the team in rebounds, Lammert’s shooting ability came to light when he started games late in the year, and Ibeh was second on the team in blocks behind Ridley. If they make serious strides in all of these areas, 2014-15 may look quite a bit better than you think right now.
  4. Kansas freshman Brannen Greene was rushed to Lawrence Memorial Hospital after taking a hit to the midsection during practice. It wasn’t anything serious as Greene was taken there for precautionary reasons and released shortly thereafter. Head coach Bill Self still believes Greene will see action in tonight’s season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. What we learned from this: Self is a tough coach, his players are tough, Kansas is still predicted to win the league, and water is wet. Man they’re so good.
  5. Move over Cameron Crazies: the hottest, coolest and newest student section in college basketball is the Purple Haze at TCU. The TCU Student Basketball Committee announced the name for the student section last week and members of said student section will have opportunities regular students won’t have. Head coach Trent Johnson said “The Haze” (feel free to use the nickname, TCU) will interact and build relationships with players. A point system has also been established that would enable two “Hazers” (you can use that too) who loyally attend home and away games who accumulate the most points will win two tickets to attend the 2014 Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Sounds like a sweet gig if you can get it.
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Night Line: Even Without Kabongo, Texas Has Hope in Watered-Down Big 12

Posted by BHayes on December 20th, 2012

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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.

Texas defeated a ranked North Carolina team in convincing fashion on Wednesday night, but the good vibes from the win quickly took a backseat to the news that sophomore guard Myck Kabongo had been suspended for the season by the NCAA. Fair or unfair (feel free to lean towards very unfair), it appears that the young Longhorns will be moving forward without their best player and leader. As Texas took their lumps in these first two months, most remaining optimism surrounding this year’s team hung on the presumed return of Kabongo. His comeback will no longer happen, but Texas fans should hold off on writing the year off. It would have been difficult to believe in this notion on November 19, the day that Division-II Chaminade authoritatively beat the Horns, but an improving batch of youngsters and a historically weak Big-12 might enable Texas, even without Kabongo, to make the NCAA tournament and salvage a season that once seemed lost.

Can Texas Overcome The Now Permanent Absence Of Myck Kabongo?

Can Texas Overcome The Now Permanent Absence Of Myck Kabongo?

First and foremost, it’s clear that this Texas team is getting better. They have taken care of business since the Chaminade loss and beaten the teams they are supposed to beat, with respectable losses to USC (in OT), Georgetown, and UCLA sprinkled in there. A late letdown in the UCLA loss prevented the Horns from netting their first win of consequence, but outplaying the Bruins had to be an encouraging sign for Rick Barnes. Throw in tonight’s wire-to-wire victory over the Heels and you have two solid performances against preseason top-25 teams, a definite step in the right direction. The defense has been stingy with a capital S; Texas is best in the country in effective FG% against — a remarkable statistic considering the youth on the roster. Rick Barnes deserves some real credit for the work on that end of the floor, but the offense is still very much a work in progress. Freshman Javan Felix may not have completely erased the longing for Kabongo, but has gained confidence with every outing. The Horns rely on three sophomores for the bulk of the offensive punch, and while McClellan, Lewis and Holmes all had their moments in the win tonight, they must become more consistent for Texas to find any real offensive competence.

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