Big 12 Team Preview: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Texas Tech.

Where We Left Off: The 2012-13 season was a rough one for Texas Tech. Billy Gillispie resigned as head coach just before the start of the season, citing health concerns, but a mountain of allegations of player mistreatment that surfaced over the previous summer made one wonder just how much of the move was his call. The Red Raiders went on to win just two conference games under interim head coach Chris Walker, and finished the season 11-20, although it’s worth pointing out that one of those wins came against Iowa State. One of the more startling moves on the coaching carousel saw Texas Tech tab former Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith as its next leader, as many thought the Red Raiders would go with a younger coach eager to take on the unenviable task of resurrecting the program.

Tubby Smith brings a wealth of coaching experience to Lubbock, but don't expect a quick turnaround. (AP)

Tubby Smith brings a wealth of coaching experience to Lubbock, but don’t expect a quick turnaround. (AP)

PositivesDespite the coaching change, six of Texas Tech’s top seven rotation players (by minutes played) return from last season. For a team that lost 20 games, the immediate reaction isn’t to necessarily view that as a major advantage, but at the very least, the core of junior Jordan Tolbert and Jaye Crockett should provide some stability during the first phase of the program’s transition. The former averaged 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore, while the latter led the team in scoring and two-point field goal percentage. Freshman forward Aaron Ross will also provide a boost to the frontcourt after he was forced to take a redshirt year due to a torn ACL. Sophomore Dusty Hannahs finished among the league leaders in three-point percentage with a 37.4 percent clip last season and should see his role increase. While Smith picked up a pair of guards off the scrap heap in Stan Mays and Randy Onwuasor, the Red Raiders’ frontcourt is clearly their biggest strength.

Negatives: The Red Raiders lost Josh Gray, who consumed the most possessions of anyone on the team, to transfer after just one season, and Trency Jackson left the program after two. As a result, Texas Tech will be very thin in the backcourt, leaving Hannahs and senior Jamal Williams, Jr. at the controls without much talent behind them. In the post, while Crockett performed admirably, considering his size (just 6’7″ and 200 pounds), he’ll need to be a much bigger threat down low if Texas Tech is to stay competitive. The Red Raiders have nowhere to go but up offensively after they finished 9th or 10th in the Big 12 in nearly every offensive category, but they’ll need several players to make big leaps to get there. Simply put, there isn’t one facet of the game where Texas Tech couldn’t use significant improvement.

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Assessing the Season: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 12th, 2013

As the season winds down and Big 12 teams continue to find themselves eliminated from the post-season, we’re taking a look back on a team-by-team basis at the 2012-13 season. Next up: the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Final Record: 11-20 (3-15)

The Expectations: Normally, the only time a college basketball team makes news in August is if it secures a top commitment from a recruit. What was being reported by CBS Sports last summer was far from normal. Head coach Billy Gillispie was in a heap of trouble, violating NCAA rules by exceeding the allowable amount of practice time (four hours/day; 20 hours/week) to as many as eight hours in a day. One player, later identified as Kader Tapsoba, was so worn down by the practices that he developed multiple stress fractures. And yet Gillispie still made him practice. It wasn’t just excessive practice that led to Gillispie’s downfall, though. He promised ex-Indiana player Tom Coverdale a job as an assistant but later changed his mind. Secretaries, trainers, graduate assistants and others also left in the early stages of Gillispie’s tenure. It was already well-documented that Texas Tech was going to have a vastly different roster compared to the year before with 15 players transferring out of Lubbock in the 18 months that he had been head coach there. Associate head coach Chris Walker was later tabbed as the interim coach for the 2012-13 season, but Texas Tech basketball was starting over. The only thing you could expect from this team was to play hard, game in and game out.

Interim head coach Chris Walker was left to pick up the pieces in Lubbock. (TexasTech.com)

Interim head coach Chris Walker was left to pick up the pieces in Lubbock (TexasTech.com)

The Actual Result: The Red Raiders pressed their way to a 4-0 start to the season, albeit against inferior opponents Prairie View A&M, Nebraska-Omaha, Jackson State and Grambling State. Then came some tougher opponents in Arizona, Alabama and Arizona State, all of which soundly beat Tech in Lubbock. (Aside: everyone is no doubt jealous at how Tech was able to get all of their non-conference games at home.) Conference play began and that went just as well as you would have expected. The Red Raiders lost 15 games in the Big 12 including nine in a row at one stretch. Their best home win came against Iowa State in which both teams combined to score 107 points. Jordan Tolbert, perhaps the best player on last year’s team, told ESPN.com he’d transfer if Gillispie wasn’t fired. Tolbert returned but the 11.5 PPG scorer from last season struggled to find his offensive game, probably because Tolbert’s father and biggest motivator, James Tolbert, passed away in October. That and the fact that the freshman starting point guard, Josh Gray, was going through a baptism-by-fire against the likes of Marcus Smart, Pierre Jackson and Angel Rodriguez. It shouldn’t go unmentioned that Jaye Crockett had been a former starter for the Red Raiders and still made an impact. Chris Walker made the decision to bring him off the bench this season, and Crockett quickly became one of the better sixth men in America (11.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG).

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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 11th, 2013

It’s not too early to call tonight’s game between Kansas and Kansas State the Game Of The Year in the Big 12. Not with first place on the line and a chance for K-State to put the Jayhawks two games back with only seven games remaining. As for our rankings, there was a big shakeup this week with teams #1-#6, as each squad in that group either moved up or down from last week’s list. Most notable was the ascent of the Wildcats, who take the top spot for the first time this season. I decided to hold off on the Bracket Matrix Projected NCAA Tournament Seeds this week because it hasn’t been updated since Saturday’s games.

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

Rodney McGruder Needs A Big Game Tonight Against Kansas In Allen Fieldhouse (AP)

1) Kansas State (19-4, 8-2 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 2

Last Week: W 68-59 at Texas Tech, W 79-70 vs. Iowa State

This Week: Tonight at Kansas, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs. Baylor, 6:00 PM

  • Rundown: They earned the split with Iowa State with a 79-70 win over the Cyclones on Saturday and have now won four in a row and 12 of their last 14. Rodney McGruder carried K-State with 22 points and five assists against Iowa State on Saturday and averaged 20 points per game this week. If he continues on that pace coupled with Kansas’ recent struggles, a road-team split with the Jayhawks isn’t out of the question.
  • Reason to be optimistic: They’re playing solid defense as of late, holding three of their last four opponents under 60 points, and any concerns with Frank Martin’s players not buying into Bruce Weber’s system are long gone at this point. Not only has McGruder stepped up offensively, but sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez averaged 16.5 PPG last week as well.

2) Oklahoma State (17-5, 7-3)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 69-67 (OT) vs. Baylor, W 72-59 at Texas

This Week: Wednesday at Texas Tech, 6:00 PM, Saturday vs. Oklahoma, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: The Cowboys have been a little unlucky in that their two biggest wins — vs. North Carolina State in November and at Kansas last week — were quickly watered down. North Carolina State, then #6 in the country, lost two games later to Michigan. Kansas dropped two more games in a row, including to dreadful TCU, after losing to OSU. Even so, the Cowboys have won six out of seven games thanks to junior guard Markel Brown, who has averaged 16.7 PPG in that stretch.
  • Reason to be optimistic: Oklahoma State has more NBA talent than any other team in the Big 12. Coupled with the confidence they undoubtedly have gained with their recent wins against Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor, the Cowboys could be quite dangerous in March.

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Big 12 Conference Call: February 9 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 9th, 2013

Welcome to another edition of our Big 12 Conference Call! This week has been some kind of something hasn’t it? We have seen TCU take down Kansas in perhaps the biggest upset in the Big 12 era as well as Baylor and Oklahoma’s attempts to play themselves off the tournament bubble. There are bigger questions that loom too. Who has the inside track for Big 12 Coach of the Year? And, if Kansas continues to slide, who will win the Big 12? Today, we’ll hit on those topics and more. 

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

2. If Kansas doesn’t win the Big 12 title, who will sit atop the conference standings at the end of the year?

3. Imagine yourself on this year’s NCAA Tournament Committee and you’re forced to choose Baylor or Oklahoma to put in the field of 68. Which team would you go with and why?

4. Who do you like to win Big 12 Coach of the Year?

5. Which of the three Texas schools will have the highest finish — UT, Tech or TCU?

******

An unreal night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

It was an unbelievable night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

KC: Absolutely. With the way Kansas had been playing in January, the loss to Oklahoma State was coming. The Cowboys have plenty of talent and nobody was going to go undefeated in the Big 12 this season, anyway. But the loss to TCU -ranked lower in kempom than the likes of Quinnipiac and Yale- is the worst Kansas loss since before Larry Brown was coaching in the 80′s. Point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe shot a combined 5-for-27 with three assists against the Horned Frogs. In his last eight games, Johnson has more turnovers (28) than assists (25). If that doesn’t trouble you, nothing will.

NK: Most definitely. Kory hit the nail on the head — a slip up was bound to happen. To be truthful, I didn’t see one of this magnitude. Their loss to TCU Wednesday has gone down as easily the biggest upset in the Big 12 era in my opinion. The Jayhawks could only win in spite of their point guard problems for so long. And now in a time where a team like Kansas is supposed to separate themselves from the rest of their conference mates, they find themselves in a tighter league race. At least it’s better for the fans of other teams.

DS: They’re in a heck of a lot more jeopardy than they were a week ago, that’s for sure. And yet the Jayhawks still sit tied atop the league with Kansas State, and they own the tiebreaker with that win in Manhattan. So forget the TCU debacle. With half of the Big 12 schedule left to play, Bill Self once again has his team in position to win a regular season title. Kansas has serious issues on the offensive end, and it’s hard to envision this team doing a ton of damage in March, but it’s still the class of the Big 12. With Self’s track record, I’m expecting to see vintage Kansas show up against the Wildcats on Big Monday. But that game in Norman is a tough one this weekend.

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Big 12 M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 1st, 2013

morning5_big12

  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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Big 12 Team Preview #9: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 31st, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Monday, Danny Spewak (@dspewak) took care of previewing the TCU Horned Frogs. Today, Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso) previews the cellar-dwellers from a year ago: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were not a unanimous choice among the Big 12 microsite writers to finish ninth in the conference but we’re guessing we still won’t find much argument with this selection either. 

The Skinny: 

  • 2011-12 Record: 8-23 record, 1-17 in the Big 12
  • Key Contributors Lost: G Javarez Willis, F Robert Lewandowski
  • Head Coach: Chris Walker, 1st season
  • Projected Finish: 9th

Walker now makes three different coaches in three seasons. (Associated Press/Zach Long)

Interim head coach Chris Walker undoubtedly has a tough act to follow but at the same time he doesn’t. Former head coach Billy Gillispie had as tumultuous of a season that a coach can have. He broke NCAA practice rules more than once, was reprimanded by his athletic director for those trangressions, and his team stunk it up on the basketball court. Since the bar isn’t set very high at this point, I’m sure Walker can win more than eight games and look somewhat competitive in Big 12 play. This is Walker’s first opportunity at a head coaching job but like many first-timers, he too was a well-traveled assistant coach. He started off at Loyola Marymount in 1992 (this was the post-Paul Westhead/Kimble/Gathers era), left for Vanderbilt in 1996, went to Pepperdine in 1999, back to his alma mater Villanova in 2000, then headed to UMass in 2001, before going to New Mexico in 2007, and then back to Villanova in 2009 before arriving last season in Lubbock. For a man thrust into as awkward a situation as any, Walker is saying all the right things and then some. On “wearing” the interim tag:

“It’s all about attitude. I was remarking to somebody the other day there are a lot of interim coaches out there, they just don’t know it. I look at this situation, and people look at it as if I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. It took me six months to live. I’ve really flipped it and said it’s six months to give. I’m head coach for the first time in the Big 12. I’m going to give everything I have to the University, to the players and the community of Lubbock.”

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Big 12 Summer Update: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by dnspewak on August 6th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Texas Tech. 

2011-12 record: 8-23, 1-17

Billy Gillispie knew he had a major reclamation project on his hands at Texas Tech when he took over prior to the 2011-12 season. The program, which has always traditionally lagged behind the rest of the Big 12 in attendance and overall support, had slowly faded from a perennial NCAA Tournament team under Bob Knight to a cellar-dwellar under Pat Knight in just a few seasons. So when Gillispie landed in Lubbock after Knight’s firing and brought in a boatload of junior college transfers and freshmen, it was no surprise his team finished with eight victories and showed almost no signs of life in his first season. Apparently, that did not sit well with half the team, since six players decided to transfer during the offseason. Gillispie had originally oversigned with his 2012 recruiting class, so it’s not certain what exactly transpired this spring, but it wasn’t strong publicity for Gillispie. Before you accuse him of losing control of his program, though, look at the actual defections that occurred. He’s not losing his entire team by any means. Only one starter (Javarez Willis) transferred. That’s not good, obviously. But the others? As harsh as it sounds, they’re replaceable. And the fact is, Gillispie’s best player and leading scorer returns for his sophomore year in Jordan Tolbert, and he inked eight — yes, eight — newcomers, a class with decent potential on paper. There are still roster questions and other potential defections to worry about this summer, so much that the team hasn’t even officially published its roster online yet. But minus Billy G’s tumultuous tenure at Kentucky, the rest of his track record affords him the benefit of the doubt at Texas Tech. It might not be all that pretty in 2012-13, but the rebuilding process has entered its critical first steps here. Now, we just need to figure out who’ll actually play on the team next year.

Billy Gillispie’s Program Can’t Go Anywhere But Up

Summer Orientation:  As much potential as this Class of 2012 may have, it already lost one member when juco forward Rodrigo Silva left the team this summer to pursue a pro career in Brazil. It’s important to note that the move isn’t yet official, but the word around Texas Tech circles is Silva’s father is ill, and his family has serious financial needs. Understandable. On the court, it’s difficult to lose a 6’10” forward with the largest frame of any recruit in the class, and he’s not the only one who might not make it back to Texas Tech. Fellow forward Wannah Bail, one of the most highly-touted freshman in this bunch, had problems in the classroom this summer and had to temporarily go home. Gillispie said he expects to see him on campus for the fall semester, but this situation poses a serious problem for everybody involved. Bail, a 6’8” tweener and a top-150 prospect, needs to add considerable strength but has the athleticism and defensive potential to log a lot of minutes in his first season– if he plays. That’s why this is such an important development for Gillispie right now. He played high school ball with Michael Carey, who also committed to Tech in February but may not qualify. To be quite frank with you, we’ve attempted to look into Carey’s status for the 2012-13 season, but it appears completely unknown at this point. We know he signed, and we know there’s questions about his eligibility, but that’s all we know. Again, that’s a trend this summer. Who in the heck will really play for this team this season? Here’s another example: Blake Nash, who did officially transfer to Texas Tech but may or may not play in 2012-13. The former South Florida guard wants a hardship waiver after logging decent minutes as a backup during USF’s NCAA Tournament run in March. If he’s eligible, he’ll likely find his way into the rotation in some capacity for Gillispie in his first season and will help stiffen that point guard battle in off-season and fall practice even more.

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Big 12 Weekly Five: 05.23.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on May 23rd, 2012

  1. It’s been a bizarre off-season for Billy Gillispie and Texas Tech. After a disastrous last-place finish in 2011-12 during Gillispie’s first season, the Red Raiders have now lost six players to transfer. The latest player to depart, Kevin Wagner, is heading to a community college. Seriously. It’s interesting to note that Texas Tech’s main contributors are staying aboard, though. Gillispie has signed nine freshmen for 2012-13, and he’ll have leading scorer Jordan Tolbert and point guard Ty Nurse returning. Losing six players in the span of only a few months is never good publicity, but Gillispie may be able to survive this situation.
  2. Patrick Beilein never played in the Big 12, but West Virginia‘s basketball program is a part of this conference now. So it’s important for us to point out that Beilein, the son of former WVU coach John Beilein, is the new head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan. The former sharpshooter with the Mountaineers helped his team to an Elite Eight in 2005 under his father’s methodical and perimeter-oriented style of play, and something tells us the West Virginia Wesleyan players might be learning how to A) play a 1-3-1 zone and B) how to light up the scoreboard from beyond the arc. But that’s just a hunch.
  3. Lon Kruger has jumped from job to job his entire career, so he’s probably used to being the bad guy. After all, the current Oklahoma coach is now with his sixth college program and also enjoyed a stint in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks. But after his most recent departure from UNLV, it sounds as though the Vegas people still appreciate him. Kruger can still be found in Las Vegas with his family during the off-season, and the tone of the article paints a picture of peace — not animosity. If only every coaching change could run this smoothly.
  4. In many ways, CBS has become indistinguishable from the game of college basketball. It represents everything about it: the NCAA Tournament, the Madness, the emotion, the drama. Now, Big 12 fans will get to see a few more games on the CBS Sports network after it reached a recent new deal with ESPN. At the very least, we’ll get to hear that catchy CBS jingle a few more times in 2012-13.
  5. And in your realignment news of the day, Clemson‘s athletic director is trying to do some damage control about reports his school will bolt from the ACC for the Big 12. Right now, officials at both Clemson and Florida State are being careful not to make any missteps, and they’re trying to stress that all of these realignment rumors are just that — rumors. We’ve heard this before, that’s for sure. At least we know what to expect after two years of the Realignment Apocalypse.
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Big 12 Season Recap and Postseason Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 7th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Conference Tournament Preview

The big attraction this year for many fans is the chance to see one more Kansas-Missouri battle before the Tigers leave for the SEC. If Kansas reaches the final, they will likely be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and there’s still a chance Missouri can nab one if they win the Big 12 Tournament as well. Given the general lack of depth on both teams it might behoove them to lose early and rest up for the NCAA Tournament, but their competitiveness and seed chasing will probably lead to one last matchup.

Let's Go For a Third, Shall We? (AP)

The Big 12 has likely locked up five bids in the tournament, with a sixth possibly going to Texas. The Longhorns will need to beat Iowa State Wednesday night to have a shot, and with how soft the bubble is this year, that will probably be enough.

Elsewhere, Baylor can potentially get a #3 seed if they make a run (though with their new uniforms I am wondering if there is a way we can keep them out of the postseason altogether) and Iowa State can probably get away from the dreaded #8/#9 game if they do so as well. Kansas State‘s seeding could range widely depending on its performance this week, but the Wildcats are soundly in the Dance.

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Checking In On… The Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 20th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Baylor Falls At Home: Baylor had only lost conference games to Kansas and Missouri, but that changed with a one-point loss at home against Kansas State. Despite Wildcat freshman Angel Rodriguez traveling on an easy layup, Baylor could not win on its last possession when freshman Quincy Miller missed a shot with just seconds left. Baylor didn’t score in the final two minutes of the game, and had a couple of possessions marred by some physical play that went uncalled. The loss drops the Bears into a tie with Iowa State for third in the league.
  • Can The Jayhawks Make A Deep Run?: One of the tenets in picking a national champion is finding a team that is ranked in the KenPom top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency. At this point, only two teams meet these criteria: Kentucky and Kansas. The Jayhawks are tenth in adjusted offense and fourth in adjusted defense, giving them the ability to play with any team in the nation. Though its offense has been concentrated in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor (and lately Jeff Withey), the Jayhawks have good defenders all over the floor, which is exactly how Bill Self likes it. Considering the perception of Kansas coming into the season after losing the Morris twins, Self’s team has come a long way.
  • A Banner Day In Stillwater: Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page had the game of his career, scoring a career-high 40 points in a win over Texas. Page was efficient from the field, going 4-6 from two and 4-8 from three, but he was fantastic from the line, getting to the charity stripe 20 times and making every last one. Page’s shooting percentages have dropped a bit this year as he’s had to take a more active role in the offense, but Saturday was a reminder of what shooting skill the senior has.

Phil Pressey And The Tigers Keep Their Eyes On The Prize As They Battle Kansas In Lawrence This Saturday. (US Presswire)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (25-2, 12-2): Missouri has the best offense in the country (by a good margin), but its defense has been just mediocre. The Tigers are now fourth in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency, and have allowed over a point per possession in five of their last six games. Hosting a Kansas State team that struggles to score should give Frank Haith’s crew an opportunity to tighten up its defense.
  2. Kansas (18-5, 8-2): Kansas has never lost to Texas Tech in Allen Fieldhouse, winning this year’s edition by 33 points. Four Jayhawks scored in double figures, including Conner Teahan, who made three of his five threes, which is a huge key for the Jayhawks if they want to advance far in the NCAA Tournament. Probably the player who most delighted the home crowd, though, was walk-on Jordan Juenemann, who scored a career-high 7 points in the waning minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 6th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Fever Pitch, Columbia: The game of the year so far in the league ended with Missouri beating its archrival Kansas. The game was unfortunately marred by a questionable late charge call against Thomas Robinson as well as a 20-10 foul disparity favoring the home team, which has taken subsequent discussion away from the fantastic basketball that was played. Marcus Denmon had 29 points, shooting 6-9 from three, and Robinson had 25 points and 13 rebounds as each team showed why they’re among the best in the country. This might be the last meeting between the two schools in Missouri with the Tigers now moving to the SEC. Some fans of both schools want to see the rivalry saved, but, in basketball at least, it doesn’t make much financial or competitive sense for Kansas to play Missouri. Another sad consequence of conference realignment greed, but perhaps talks will revitalize after heads cool.

Missouri Turned Up The Volume For The Gameday Crew. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star)

  • Bears Try To Keep Pace: By holding serve, Baylor has crept back into the discussion, and the Bears are tied for the conference lead at 8-2 (there’s no head-to-head tiebreaker in the standings). They won by a total of seven points last week over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M so they certainly haven’t been impressive, but both wins came on the road and any road win is a good win. They still host Kansas and play at Missouri, so they are in control of their own destiny in the Big 12 race.
  • Jury Still Out On Haith: Ken Pomeroy wrote an interesting post last week regarding Frank Haith’s deployment of a zone defense in the final possession against Texas. Haith has gotten a lot of Coach of the Year support, but I think it is a bit overblown. As Pomeroy notes, if Texas had scored on the final possession, people would be killing Haith for deviating from the norm. Also, it was his attempt to kill the clock starting with over four minutes left that let the Longhorns back in it in the first place. Also, though Texas looked a bit confused, Rick Barnes still had a timeout left and somehow chose not to use it. Perhaps he thought he would get six in the next game. Haith has done a good job not upsetting things in Missouri to be sure, but remember that Bruce Weber went to a national championship game in his second season at Illinois.

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (21-2, 8-2): Marcus Denmon broke out of his slump in a big way on Saturday. The senior came into the contest against Kansas shooting under 30% from three in Big 12 play, but he hit six of his nine shots from deep en route to a game-high 29 points. The 6’3” guard also led the team with nine rebounds and has established himself as one of the best rebounding guards in the country. Read the rest of this entry »
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Top Ten Diaper Dandies: Midseason Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on January 13th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Compiling a list of the nation’s top freshmen in mid-January is admittedly unfair. Whether they’re a high-profile athlete or a science lab dork, ask anyone to reminisce about their first semester at school and the phrase “learning experience” comes to mind. Over the next two months, the grind of conference play will quickly mold youthful freshmen into hardened veterans. As Jeremy Lamb can attest, there’s still plenty of time for collegiate rookies to become a household name.

With that important caveat in mind, let’s gauge where this year’s talented rookies rank in terms of production and instant impact. Not all of the inclusions were ballyhooed recruits and high school All-Americans, but instead I present to you the collection of players who possess the maturation, intelligence and skill level to succeed immediately during such a difficult transition both on and off the court.

Cody Zeller has lived up to the lofty billing

Honorable Mention

Thomas Gipson, Kansas State- Gipson has proven a tremendous frontcourt compliment to the more perimeter-oriented Jamar Samuels, bulldozing opponents with his sturdy 6’7” frame to the tune of 9.2 PPG and 6.3 RPG through his first half season at Manhattan. Gipson ranks in the top-60 in the country in both offensive rebounding percentage and fouls drawn per 40 minutes.

Tony Mitchell, North Texas- Since becoming eligible on December 18 after failing to qualify at Missouri, Mitchell immediately scored in double-figures his first four games at North Texas. His banner performance to date was a 34-point, 16-rebound effort against South Alabama. The former five-star recruit is shooting an efficient 65% from inside the arc.

Quincy Miller, Baylor- The jewel of Scott Drew’s recruiting class may not post the raw numbers of other rookies due to the abundance of talent on his roster, but Miller has shown flashes of a future lottery pick, including a smooth step-back three down the stretch in Baylor’s win over Kansas State this past week. Miller is a versatile matchup nightmare as a double-figure scorer that shoots 35% from three and also snatches over five rebounds per contest.

Eli Carter, Rutgers- Carter didn’t come to Piscataway with quite the sterling reputation of some of his fellow classmates, but he’s been the most productive freshman from day one. Carter uses the most shots and possessions on a per-minute basis on the Scarlet Knights, and as long as he’s scoring over 14 a game, shooting 43% and posting 31/7/7 efforts like he did in their upset over Florida, Mike Rice will keep the green light on.

Tony Wroten, Washington- The Seattle native has been a Jekyll and Hyde act early for an equally enigmatic Huskies team. The turnovers (4.1 per game), defensive lapses and shot selection are sometimes mind-numbing, but you’ll live with some faults when your 6’5” guard is shooting 55% from inside the arc and grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game. Wroten has scored 20+ points in three of his first five conference outings.

10. Rodney Hood, Mississippi State- Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie receive the bulk of the attention, but Hood has provided a steady and efficient complimentary scoring option for Rick Stansbury. The southpaw is averaging 12.6 PPG on 53% from two and 44% from three and turns the ball over roughly once every 34 minutes. Improve from the charity stripe (59%) and Hood could be an all-SEC contender as soon as next season.

9. Austin Rivers, Duke- If you can filter out all of the unrealistic expectations, Rivers has completed a very respectable first semester serving as Duke’s primary dribble-drive threat and crunch-time scoring option. Rivers leads Duke in scoring, shoots 45% from two, 40% from three and put together 20+ point performances against top-15 Ohio State and Michigan. Look for Rivers to cut down on his turnovers as the game slows down and his decision-making improves.

8. Andre Drummond, Connecticut- Outside of #1 on this list, no player has as much room to grow from now until March as Drummond. Just as impressive as his highlight reel dunks during a 20-point, 11-rebound outing against West Virginia last Monday were two baseline jumpers he nailed during the second half. If Drummond can expand his offensive repertoire to include occasional mid-range/post scoring to compliment his explosiveness and pick-and-roll prowess, Connecticut may emerge as the second best team in the Big East by season’s close.

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