SEC M5: 11.22.13 Edition

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 22nd, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan took a look at the early candidates for the Wooden Award, and it’s no surprise that Julius Randle made the list. In fact, Randle was the only SEC player to be named. In a season of big-time talent across the nation, the SEC is a bit short yet again. Put me in the camp that has Randle as the current favorite, though, as he has dominated in a way that freshman typically do not. While Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker are both fine candidates, my money is on Randle. He’s a singular force that changes the way his entire team is defended. Even on nights when his shot isn’t falling, Randle can control a game with his rebounding and brute force. Ultimately, though, the winner of the award will probably be whichever player’s team wins the most games.
  2. It has been far too long since a John Calipari to the NBA rumor came out, so good thing it was reported yesterday that the Knicks are interested in hiring him. From a Kentucky perspective, this would be an unmitigated disaster. Calipari has been insanely successful as the Wildcats’ head coach, and it is doubtful the school could strike gold twice in a row (remember Billy Gillispie?). Odds are that this speculation continues for a while but goes away when Calipari gets a pay bump from his employer. Barring another visit from the NCAA, Coach Cal can stay in Lexington for as long as he likes. In New York, Calipari would be setting himself up for disappointment with a lack of draft picks and a bunch of overpaid fading stars. Right now, it doesn’t seem worth it for Calipari to leave the college game.
  3. Jordan Clarkson has been an early revelation for Missouri this season, and the defending SEC Player of the Week is just getting started. Clarkson sat out last season due to transfer rules, and he spent all the practice time working on his finishing moves. That work has given Clarkson the confidence to keep attacking the rim, which is going to help Mizzou in games where they would otherwise have no business winning. Clarkson can get an entire team’s frontcourt in foul trouble and make a living at the line. The most impressive park of his game thus far, though, is his willingness to avoid the three. He’s only taken eight treys this season, and he seems to be aware it isn’t his strength. That awareness is what is allowing him to flourish.
  4. With Kasey Hill out for at least a month, Billy Donovan has a lot of work to do. In this press conference Donovan talks about how he already had to pull point guard minutes from desperate places when Hill needed rest during games. The problem is that Donovan previously only needed to find 10 minutes per game to spell him, not 40. The bottom line is that without a true point guard the Gator’s offense will suffer. Shooting guards and point forwards are more inclined to look to score and make plays for themselves rather than through the offense.That can lead to bad shots and unhappy players. At least for one night though, the team found balanced scoring in a solid win over Middle Tennessee. Still, they had just 10 assists on 25 made baskets, which just goes to show they really miss having a true point guard.
  5. Ever wonder what a high major recruit could do to JuCo competition? Well new LSU commit Josh Gray is giving us a pretty good idea. Gray, who will be joining Johnny Jones in Baton Rouge next season, scored 61 and 59 points in his last two games. Originally a Mississippi State recruit, Gray actually went to Texas Tech for his freshman season before moving on to junior college, and now LSU gets to enjoy his services next season. A solid rim attacker and distributor, Gray will be an excellent addition to a rising Tigers program next season.
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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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Wednesday Wrap-Up: Wild (or Ugly) Night Doesn’t Exclude the Big 12

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 24th, 2013

Thanks to the double dip of games on Big Monday and the Sunflower Showdown the following evening, Wednesday was rather light on the conference schedule. Like, the weight-of-a-leaf light. TCU-West Virginia and Iowa State-Texas Tech were match-ups that sounded like they were made for ESPN3,  yet there they were, soaking up precious air time on ESPN2 and ESPNU last evening. For fans of Big 12 basketball, it wasn’t a good night.

Iowa State played Tech's Game all night and it was hard to watch (Stephen Spillman/The Avalanche-Journal)

Iowa State played Tech’s game all night. (Stephen Spillman/The Avalanche-Journal)

West Virginia 71, Texas Christian 50: Everybody knew that the game of the night was down in Coral Gables. What I was hoping for was a close game between Duke and Miami so that the drama of that game would limit the opportunity to check up on that eyesore in Morgantown. As luck would have it, the game I wanted to watch didn’t go as planned but the one that I didn’t want to watch did. Oh, the horror.

Both teams lacked basic fundamentals. Ball-handling was spectacularly bad, fast breaks were poorly executed, and passing was hilarious in the saddest of ways. And I’m talking about TCU and West Virginia. If these schools just stayed where they were, this game would have been the Big East’s problem. TCU plays like they don’t deserve to be in a major conference. I’ll admit it: The Big 12 is having a bit of a down year but will the Horned Frogs win even one conference game this season? I don’t think so. What if they were still in the Mountain West, a conference that’s looking a lot better than several power conferences? I think, no I know, that they’d go oh-fer for sure. I hope Trent Johnson can turn things around and soon because no one deserves to root for a team that’s currently 344th out of almost 350 Division I schools in team scoring. West Virginia on the other hand has been playing better basketball as of late. They came into last weekend having lost three of four to start conference play but could have easily been 3-1 instead. They stunk it up against Purdue on Saturday so with TCU next up on the docket, it was a shoe-in for Bob Huggins’ team to get a W in the left hand column. Deniz Kilicli had his best game of the calendar year and a young guard to keep an eye on is Eron Harris. Huggins has rewarded the freshman with more minutes, and as a result, he’s averaging 15.3 points per game in his last three outings.

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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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