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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Rush The Weekend: West Virginia Enters a Crucial Stretch

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 7th, 2014

There’s been no shortage of intrigue in the Big 12 this season. Whether you want to discuss Kansas’ future lottery picks and national title hopes, Texas’ resurrection, Baylor’s free-fall, Oklahoma State’s dive, or the resilience of Iowa State, you don’t have to look very far to find any of the nation’s biggest stories in college hoops; you could just look at this conference. But if all of those plot lines aren’t enough for you, yet another Big 12 team could muscle itself into the fray this weekend: the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Can Juwan Staten lead the Mountaineers back into tournament discussion? (AP Photo/Andrew Ferguson)

Will Juwan Staten lead the Mountaineers back into tournament discussion? (Andrew Ferguson/AP)

When Bob Huggins’ team wrapped up non-conference play back on December 29, it had very little to write home about. A handful of wins over bad teams kept them afloat, but there was no NCAA Tournament resume to speak of because of losses to the only relevant teams on their slate (Wisconsin, Missouri, Gonzaga, Purdue and Virginia Tech). Those defeats put them on the ropes earlier than many expected, and to boot, they dropped four of those games by seven points or less. When the calendar turned, they had a resume that was considerably worse than their statistical profile, which is something that you don’t see very often.

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Big 12 M5: 02.04.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 4th, 2014

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  1. That was some game, eh? Naz Long’s three with 1.4 seconds left in the second overtime helped Iowa State force a third overtime with Oklahoma State last night. There the Cyclones got another clutch trey from Monte Morris and were able to walk out with a 98-97 victory, the program’s first win at Gallagher-Iba Arena in 19 opportunities. Lately it feels like there’s a different Big 12 team every week that needs to start worrying about its NCAA at-large chances. A few weeks ago it was the Cyclones; last week it was Baylor; and this week it looks like it is Oklahoma State’s turn because…
  2. Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford announced Monday that freshman point guard Stevie Clark has been kicked off the team in the wake of his second arrest since the New Year. Ford released a statement through the university which said: “We care about Stevie and wish nothing but the best for him. We want him to find success in his future, wherever that may be.” Not counting last night’s game, the Cowboys were without Clark’s services during five games this season. The important thing for him now is to find a school where he can focus on his studies, basketball and perhaps most importantly, himself. I hope Clark can do all those things and more when he finds his new home.
  3. Like Clark, Aaric Murray was kicked off of a Big 12 team. But the ex-Mountaineer appears to now have his life in order after transferring to Texas Southern in Houston. Murray told KTRK-TV that he “wanted to quit basketball” after his dismissal, but ex-Indiana and current head coach Mike Davis was willing to take on the senior center to help him get back on track. This season, Murray is averaging 23.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game for the Tigers and some consider the embattled big man as a possible NBA Draft pick. How does Murray deal with the distractions today? “I just stay out of trouble now,” Murray said. “Yeah this is my last go around, I can’t mess this one up.” This could be Stevie Clark’s story someday.
  4. West Virginia’s 5-4 record halfway through conference play has finally grabbed the attention of the Big 12 offices. Juwan Staten (25.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 TOPG) took home Big 12 Player of the Week honors by spearheading the Mountaineers’ recent wins over Baylor and Kansas State. Texas frosh Isaiah Taylor earned the Newcomer of the Week award for his outstanding effort against Kansas. Since the Horns didn’t play a game midway through last week, I thought it’d be fair to include averages from the Baylor and KU games (25.0 PPG, 2.0 SPG, 17-of-32 shooting). Who woulda thunk that the Big 12 had good players besides Marcus Smart in November? I’d hate to have to pick between these two.
  5. Did you think we forgot about youTexas Tech? The Red Raiders logged another conference win on Saturday with a 60-54 win over TCU. Dejan Kravic had his best offensive game of the season, going 7-of-10 for 18 points along with six rebounds and two blocks. The win helped the Red Raiders reach the .500 mark for the year (11-11) and also tied last year’s mark for Big 12 wins (three). It’s a slow build to the top but seeing what Tubby Smith has done with other programs, there’s (finally) reason for some optimism in Lubbock. And no, we’d never forget you, Tech. You still matter to us.
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Big 12 M5: 01.30.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 30th, 2014

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  1. Heading into this season, it was presumed that Kansas freshman guard Wayne Selden would be a one-and-done player along with teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Selden has certainly been solid for the Jayhawks, but he has flown under the radar a bit with the attention the others have drawn, leaving some to speculate that Selden will be back for a sophomore season. In an article on Wednesday, Jason King talked with some NBA scouts who said the book was still out on Selden and that he would be smart to return for his sophomore season.
  2. On Wednesday, the McDonald’s All-American teams were announced, and featured two current Kansas commitments in Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre. Others participating who could end up in the Big 12 next season are big man Miles Turner and guard Rashard Vaughn. Vaughn is considering Iowa State and Kansas, but is considered to be a lean to the Cyclones at this point. Turner is a consensus top-five recruit and is considering Kansas and Oklahoma State from the Big 12, among others. It’s likely that Turner’s decision will be impacted by Embiid’s status next season, but regardless, there will once again be an influx of impressive talent headed into the league next season.
  3. Yesterday, we discussed how foul trouble was beginning to weigh heavily on Oklahoma State in many games this season, thanks in large part to the absence of forward Michael Cobbins. As John Helsley points out, the Cowboys were worn down by the time tournament play rolled around last season, and it showed in early exits from both the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments. Against Oklahoma Monday night, Markel Brown played 39 minutes, and with the depth in the Big 12 this season, the road from here on out won’t be any easier for the Cowboys.
  4. Although West Virginia has struggled more than most Mountaineers’ fans would have hoped heading into this season, guard Juwan Staten has been fantastic, especially as of late. In the final seconds against Baylor on Tuesday night, Staten was able to get into the lane for a layup that gave his team the go-ahead score. Staten credits the encouragement he constantly receives from his father for his success, saying that in most situations he would have kicked that ball out, but heard his father’s urging and went for the reverse layup to give West Virginia the win.
  5. Lon Kruger has once again proven his worth as an outstanding coach this season, leading his Oklahoma team to a 17-4 record so far. In addition, Kruger’s team is doing something no other team in college basketball is doing – that is, all five of his starters are averaging double figure points per game. For a team that has flown a bit under the radar among the national media, the Sooners could be a popular pick to win a few games in the NCAA Tournament given their ability to put points on the board in a hurry.
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Big 12 M5: 12.12.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2013

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  1. Friday’s battle between Iowa State and Iowa should be one of the best games of the week. The Cyclones and Hawkeyes are both ranked, which doesn’t happen very often, and there just aren’t many venues that get rocking like Hilton Coliseum can for a big game. One match-up to keep an eye on is the battle between guards Monte Morris and Devyn Marble, not just because of their talents (Morris has done a great job backing up DeAndre Kane, while Marble stars for the Hawkeyes), but because of their close personal ties going back to their time growing up in Michigan.
  2. This one’s slightly dated, but if you haven’t read Gary Parrish’s column from earlier this week defending the track record of Baylor head coach Scott Drew, we definitely encourage you to do so. Some people enjoy being so critical of Drew that they lose track of what he’s accomplished in Waco. Baylor was a college basketball wasteland in the early 2000s, reeling from one of the biggest scandals to ever hit the sport (google Patrick Dennehy) in addition to not having won an NCAA Tournament game in over 50 years, and now they’re one of the game’s few programs that can boast a pair of Elite Eight appearance in the last four years. Some of the wrinkles to Drew’s persona rub people the wrong way, but while that’s understandable, you also have to give the guy his due for what he’s molded mostly out of thin air.
  3. ESPN’s Myron Medcalf wonders where the help is for Kansas’ Andrew WigginsTrust us, he’s not the only one. Wiggins almost single-handedly brought Kansas back to within striking distance in Tuesday’s loss to Florida, but his teammates were nowhere to be found. Without beating the drum any more than we did yesterday, it’s abundantly clear that this team isn’t on the same page. The next chance for Kansas to regain its form comes on Saturday against New Mexico in Kansas City.
  4. Speaking of the Jayhawks playing in their second home at the Sprint Center, it was announced yesterday that Kansas will square off against Utah there on a date to be determined next season. The Utes haven’t been relevant nationally for quite some time, but this season’s edition is off to a solid (albeit somewhat empty) 8-1 start. Larry Krystkowiak’s team only has one senior in its rotation, so it’s a pretty good bet that the team Kansas will play next season will look a lot like the current version of the Utes in terms of personnel.
  5. A defensive breakdown at a crucial point in the game cost West Virginia a valuable win against Gonzaga on Tuesday, according to Mountaineers guard Juwan StatenThe Bulldogs scored on 16 of their final 24 possessions and used a late 13-0 run to race right past Bob Huggins team. Right now, the big-picture issue the Mountaineers have is that they possess the statistical profile of a bubble team, but the resume of a squad that would be pretty clearly out of the field of 64 68 if the NCAAs started today.
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Big 12 M5: 11.27.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 27th, 2013

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  1. For Bob Huggins and West Virginia to rebound after a dreadful season last year, improved point guard play this season was identified by Huggins in the preseason as a must. That responsibility falls on junior guard Juwan Staten. In a 78-60 win over Old Dominion on Tuesday in the Cancun Challenge, Staten finished with 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting while dishing out 9 assists against just one turnover. West Virginia will play tomorrow in the championship game against the winner of St. Louis and Wisconsin, who will provide a formidable test for the Mountaineers to determine how they stack up against some of the better teams in the nation.
  2. On Monday, Gary Bedore of KUSports.com explored the possibility of Kansas head coach Bill Self replacing Mike Krzyzewski as head coach of the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team when Mike Krzyzewski hangs up the whistle in his Olympic coaching career after the 2016 games. Self, however, doesn’t feel the possibility is very realistic with names like Doc Rivers and Greg Popovich also thrown out as replacements. During the offseason, Self addressed the possibility of eventually coaching at the NBA level, saying if given the opportunity, he might be tempted to consider it. After landing the Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor duo who teamed up for the USA U19 team, it’s hard to argue that Krzyzewski’s involvement in USA Olympic hoops hasn’t at least benefited in a small way his recruiting at Duke.
  3. After struggling to a 3-3 start against what was considered to be a fairly soft non-conference schedule, Kansas State will look to use the short Thanksgiving break to regroup as their schedule intensifies with a home match-up against 3-0 Ole Miss on December 5, followed by a neutral site (although only by definition) tilt with Gonzaga on December 5 in Wichita, Kansas. Through the first six games, Bruce Weber’s squad has averaged 62.7 points per game, ranking 326 in the nation out of 351 teams. If there’s a silver lining for Wildcat fans, Weber’s complicated motion offense took a bit of time last season before really clicking and helping K-State finish in a tie for first place in the Big 12.
  4. We talked Monday about the suspension of Oklahoma State freshman guard Stevie Clark, and on Tuesday, head coach Travis Ford released a statement on the situation, saying that Clark was not with the Cowboys due to personal matters and continues to be a valued member of the Cowboy basketball family. On Monday, there was a thought that perhaps Clark had left the team, although his mother denied the rumor. Regardless, his departure from the Oklahoma State lineup will be something to keep an eye on moving forward and whether it has a significant impact on the Cowboys’ overall play.
  5. Speaking of Oklahoma State point guards, if you haven’t had a chance to see this yet, take a look at the 70-foot shot Marcus Smart drilled to end the first half against South Florida on Monday night. Smart picked right up where he left off against Memphis, scoring 23 points in the first half and 25 total to go along with four assists and four steals in a 93-67 rout. Smart’s intensity early this season appears to be destined to remind everyone that he’s still among the best in college basketball this year.
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Big 12 M5: 12.21.13 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 21st, 2013

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  1. Marcus Smart’s 39-point performance against Memphis Tuesday night proved why he belongs in the discussion for college basketball’s best player. Kevin Durant, who watched the sophomore show from courtside, said Smart can play in the NBA today. “Definitely,” he told USA Today‘s Eric Prisbell. Smart was 5-of-10 from the three-point line, a big improvement from last year’s 29 percent from distance. One great shooting night isn’t enough to forget last season’s inconsistency, but it showed us how good he can be if everything is clicking.
  2. Kansas State is probably playing Charlotte in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off as you read this. The game tips (tipped?) at 9:30 CST this morning and the Wildcats are looking to put as many wins between themselves and that 60-58 loss to Northern Colorado a few weeks ago. A win over Charlotte will mean a likely match-up with Georgetown on Friday afternoon. The bottom half of the bracket is highlighted by #14 ranked Michigan and #10 ranked VCU (likely to also play on Friday).
  3. West Virginia’s defense hasn’t been great this season, and Bob Huggins knows why. “We play pretty hard and then we kind of figure it’s time for a rest,” he told Allan Taylor of Metro News in West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 2-1 at this early stage of the season, but have given up 82 and 83 points in their last two games, a loss to Virginia Tech and a win over Duquesne. They have talent in guys like Juwan Staten and Eron Harris, but they aren’t good enough offensively to give up 80 points regularly and still win consistently. 
  4. Kansas freshman Brannen Greene was held out of Tuesday’s win over Iona because of a coach’s decision. Bill Self told the Kansas City Star‘s Rustin Dodd that “I love Brannen Greene, but he needs to be more responsible taking care of some responsibilities off the court.” As a 6’7” shooter, Greene will probably have a spot in the rotation this season regardless of any small off-court infractions in November. But the Jayhawks are deep, and I wouldn’t get too confident if I were Greene. Andrew White III and Conner Frankamp are capable of stealing his minutes if he isn’t careful.
  5. Here’s a shocker: Texas is having trouble getting fans to show up to games. The Longhorns missed the NCAA Tournament last season and haven’t drawn more than 4,018 fans through four home games this season. Granted, the early schedule has been awful (who really wants to pay to see Mercer or South Alabama or Stephen F. Austin?) but averaging around 3,000 fans per game for a program like Texas is not a good look.
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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: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 19th, 2013

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  1. Iowa State senior Melvin Ejim and Kansas underclassmen Perry Ellis and Andrew Wiggins earned Big 12 weekly honors, which were announced on Monday. Ellis, a sophomore forward, scored 24 points in last week’s win against Duke. Wiggins was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after finishing with 22 points against Duke. Ejim, a senior forward, made his season debut against #7 Michigan Sunday afternoon and led all scorers with 22 points and nine rebounds.
  2. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg couldn’t have asked for a better visit from Rivals.com’s #7 overall player Rashad Vaughn last weekend. It was capped with an impressive 77-70 win over #7 Michigan Sunday afternoon in Hilton Coliseum. Vaughn told Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register that the relationships he builds with coaches and schools will be a big factor in his recruitment, and the fact that Hoiberg played major college ball seems to be a positive for the Cyclones. Vaughn has offers from fellow Big 12 schools Baylor and Kansas as well as North Carolina and a handful of others. For the Big 12’s sake, Vaughn moving to Ames would be great for the league.
  3. Bill Self didn’t expect his team to jump Louisville for the #2 spot in this week’s AP poll, less than a week after knocking off #4 Duke in Chicago. “That doesn’t make any sense to me,” he told the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd Monday. Actually, it makes plenty of sense. The only thing worse than preseason rankings is voters hesitating to move teams down just because they won. National rankings should be based on resumes, not how your ballot looked last week. If Kansas has a better resume than Louisville when the ballot is due, the Jayhawks should be ahead of them.
  4. Oklahoma signed three recruits on signing day last week and as Ryan Aber points out, head coach Lon Kruger filled the holes he needed to fill to keep the momentum going around the Sooner basketball program. Two of the players, Dante Buford and Khadeem Lattin, are in the Rivals Top 150 for the class of 2014 and both players should make immediate impacts in the front court for the Sooners next season as freshmen.
  5. If West Virginia plans on bouncing back after last season’s forgettable showing, Eron Harris and Juwan Staten will have to play big roles offensively. They did just that on Sunday in a 96-83 win over Duquesne in Morgantown. The defense left a lot to be desired, but 61 combined points from Harris and Staten was more than enough for the Mountaineers. As Staten told Garrett Cullen here, the new hand checking rules should help both players immensely this season.
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Big 12 M5: 11.12.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 12th, 2013

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  1. Tonight’s Champions Classic match-up between Kansas and Duke features two of college basketball’s top programs, coaches and freshmen, but there’s another battle going on between the two schools that won’t be decided until later this week. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones will announce their collegiate choices Friday afternoon, according to a tweet from Okafor. The Jayhawks and Blue Devils have long been discussed as the top two competitors for the long-rumored packaged deal, and while the chase hasn’t been the public roller coaster that some recruiting stories can be, it looks like we’ll finally have some resolution.
  2. Yesterday, we touched on Naz Long‘s coming-out party Sunday afternoon in which he went off for 27 points against UNC Wilmington. The performance has the Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson wondering if Long could see more playing time when Melvin Ejim returns. It’s important to note that Long and Ejim don’t play the same position, but finding enough minutes to go around is always a good problem to have, especially in November. After all, Long is no stranger to playing alongside major talent — his AAU teammates included Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.
  3. For the second straight game, Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield posted a career-high in the scoring column, making his presence felt by dropping 23 points on North Texas last night. Hield is now averaging 21 points per game, and he still has a long way to go, but if Hield and the Sooners keep this up, they could lead the Sooners to another NCAA Tournament bid.
  4. West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins believes he’ll need every ounce of production he can get out of point guard Juwan Staten. After a rash of defections saw five transfers leave the Mountaineers (on top of three graduating players) over the summer, West Virginia is looking awfully thin. Staten played all 40 minutes of Friday’s season-opening win over St. Mary’s, and it will be interesting to see if he can be Huggins’ Iron Man in Morgantown like Kevin Jones and Da’Sean Butler before him.
  5. The question of who emerges alongside Michael Cobbins to produce defensively in Oklahoma State‘s frontcourt won’t be solved in the Cowboys’ first two games, but head coach Travis Ford hopes to have a clearer idea after tonight‘s game against Utah Valley State in Stillwater. Sophomore Kamari Murphy will be available after missing the season opener with a mild shoulder injury and is one candidate that Ford hopes will make the leap.
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Big 12 Team Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 4th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: West Virginia. 

Where We Left Off: We left off with a year West Virginia hadn’t experienced since legendary coach Gale Catlett’s 8-20 nightmare of a season in 2001-02. While last season’s edition of the Mountaineers won 13 games overall, it felt like eight games considering the success the program had achieved over the past decade. Kevin Jones and Darryl “Truck” Bryant, two integral pieces of the school’s run to the Final Four in 2010, graduated after the 2011-12 season and it seemed their leadership on the court left as well. The responsibility of team leaders fell on the broad shoulders of upperclassmen Deniz Kilicli and Aaric Murray, but their combined struggles on and off the floor set an ominous tone for a team that couldn’t seem to straighten themselves out. The .462 winning percentage in 2012-13 was the worst ever at the Division I level for WVU alumnus Bob Huggins.

I'm sure Bob Huggins would like to smile a bit more in 2013-14. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

I’m sure Bob Huggins would like to smile a bit more in 2013-14. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Positives: One big problem for WVU last season was scoring, but three of the team’s top five scorers are back for another season. Eron Harris was a precocious freshman who didn’t see consistent playing time until conference play, but when he did play he took advantage of the opportunity, leading the team in scoring at a modest 9.8 points per game. The pressure will be on the sophomore Harris to become this year’s go-to scorer. Terry Henderson is back for his sophomore season as well after developing into a threat from behind the arc last season (40%). More will also be asked of Juwan Staten, who transferred over from Dayton last season and now assumes the responsibility as the team’s starting point guard and defensive leader. Another positive is for Bob Huggins to start fresh this season. The leaders of the team are mostly sophomores and juniors, and if you’re a guy with the pedigree of Huggins, you’ve got to feel better about your team winning more than 13 games this time around.

NegativesAnd yet as I make that point about the underclassmen, that could be his team’s eventual undoing. There isn’t a single senior listed on the roster and two of the five juniors are JuCo transfers. How will this young core deal with adversity? While Murray and Kilicli may have disappointed in their WVU careers, at least they were somewhat intimidating forces in the interior. Their departures leaves a gap that could be filled with an unknown commodity in JuCo transfer Jonathan Holton. He had solid numbers as a freshman at Rhode Island, averaging 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds, followed by 17.5 points and 14.1 rebounds per game while shooting 39.6% from three-point range at Palm Beach State Community College (FL) last season. But that sure is a lot to expect from one guy needing to replace the production of two players.

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Big 12 M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 31st, 2013

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  1. As good as Tyus McGee was last year for Iowa State, early news out of Ames this season suggests freshman guard Matt Thomas might fill the void left by McGee without a hiccup.  Cyclone head coach Fred Hoiberg was a great shooter in his own right, and told the Des Moines Register on Wednesday “I ain’t tweaking that shot, I’ll tell you that.”  Fellow Iowa State teammates also couldn’t help but gush about Thomas’ ability to knock down shots from behind the arc.  As if you needed another scare on Halloween, just imagine one of the nation’s best shooters as a weapon in Hoiberg’s arsenal.  Yikes.
  2. As difficult as the rebuilding job at TCU was for head coach Trent Johnson, it appears the Horned Frogs seem to be heading in the right direction with the proper man at the helm.  On Tuesday, Johnson indicated that he believes his team in year two in Fort Worth is more skilled than that a season ago.  Among those looking to contribute for TCU this season, senior guard Jarvis Ray feels as if he’s playing with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder this season after missing the Big 12 campaign last year with a broken foot.  In what should be a weak bottom half of the Big 12, Ray and company will have a legitimate shot to significantly surpass last season’s conference win total of two games.
  3. To say that West Virginia‘s inaugural season in the Big 12 was a bit of a disappointment would be an understatement to say the least.  Bob Huggins’ squad struggled to a 6-12 record in the Big 12, and a 13-19 mark overall.  At the top of the list of disappointing players for the Mountaineers was point guard Juwan Staten, who figures to be an important piece for Huggins this season.  Staten seems to be using last year’s frustrations as motivation to improve his leadership for this go around in an effort to become the floor general West Virginia needs to really make their team go.  Don’t sleep on Huggins and West Virginia this season as Morgantown might just be a difficult place for many Big 12 teams to go get a win.
  4. While it appears that Kansas State may struggle at times this season scoring the ball, help in that department may be merely but a year away.  Maine transfer Justin Edwards will be forced to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules, but it seems he’s found exactly what he was looking for in Manhattan.  Edwards wanted more exposure against better competition, and there’s no doubt the Big 12 conference will provide him that.  Last year Edwards lead the America East Conference in scoring at 16.7 points a game, and while he won’t be able to suit up for the Wildcats this season, his focus during the down year will be on pushing teammates in practice and using his athleticism to bring competition to Bruce Weber’s squad.
  5. One of the more intriguing questions surrounding the Kansas Jayhawks this preseason is who, if anyone, will Bill Self choose to use the redshirt tag on for the 2013-2014 year?  As Tom Keegan of KUSports.com points out, it might be in Self’s best interest to avoid redshirting anyone this year.  Coming into the season, many believed sophomore guard Andrew White III might be a prime candidate, but it’s clear that White will hold a solid spot in Kansas’ rotation this season.  This likely leaves one of Self’s incoming freshmen, Brennan Greene or Conner Frankamp, as a more likely fit.  Although Kansas has only had one exhibition game in the books, it appeared that Frankamp might be the odd one out.  If history is any indicator, former Kansas high school standout Brady Morningstar has laid out a blueprint for Frankamp (a Wichita native) as to how patience could certainly pay dividends down the road in a Jayhawk uniform.
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