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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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 28th, 2013

Right when we thought a team might overtake Kansas in the Big 12 standings (or our power rankings, at least), Kansas State went out and lost two in a row last week, first to Kansas at home and then at Iowa State on Saturday. Both were close games with the Wildcats losing by a combined 10 points, but they lost two games on the Jayhawks in the Big 12 race and fell into a third place tie with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Baylor has quietly started 5-1 in conference play, but the easier part of their schedule is now behind them. The Bears have already swept TCU and have another win over Texas Tech in Lubbock (but hey, that’s more than Iowa State can say). And about those Jayhawks — they are due for a loss, aren’t they? They have been winning close games for the last month it seems. We’ve spiced up the rankings this week with a team’s projected NCAA Tournament seed from Bracket Matrix. Instead of picking a random bracketologist’s numbers, how about averaging out a bunch of mock brackets? The guys at Bracket Matrix do that so we don’t have to, and as many people have been saying lately, there looks to be six NCAA Tournament teams from the Big 12 this year.

The Kansas Offense Hasn't Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Their Winning Streak Alive.

The Kansas Offense Hasn’t Been Pretty In January, But The Defense Has Helped Keep Its Winning Streak Alive.

1) Kansas (18-1, 6-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1
Projected NCAA Seed: #1

Last Week: W 59-55 at Kansas State, W 67-54 vs Oklahoma

This Week: Tonight at West Virginia, 8:00 PM CST, Saturday vs Oklahoma State, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: The Jayhawks have won 17 straight since losing to Michigan State in November but the offense has disappeared in January. They are averaging 62.2 PPG in their last five games, leading to a KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency of #18. And as we pointed out here, teams that finish outside the top #25 in that category rarely make the Final Four.
  • Cause For Concern: The offense, of course. Last season, point guard Tyshawn Taylor was always there to clean up an ugly offensive possession with a drive to the basket. This team has had point guard issues most of the year. Starter Elijah Johnson has been more of an off-guard during his career and backup Naadir Tharpe is trigger-happy. Freshman Ben McLemore averages 16.2 PPG, but with a shooting percentage of 51%, he needs to take over more games than he does. He’s the best player on the team and one of the five best in the country, so an average of 10 shots a game isn’t enough.

2) Baylor (14-5, 5-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Projected NCAA Seed: #9

Last Week: W 64-54 vs Oklahoma State, W 82-56 at TCU

This Week: Wednesday vs Oklahoma, 6:00 PM, Saturday at Iowa State 7:00 PM

  • Rundown: The days of losing to teams like Charleston and Northwestern look to be behind them, but the schedule certainly picks up the rest of the way. Eight of their last 12 games are against teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament. The emergence of freshman center Isaiah Austin will help, though. Austin has scored double figures in each of his last 10 games going back to December 12.
  • Cause For Concern: We all know what the Bears are by now, a talented, underachieving squad that could fall on its face in the first round of the Tournament or make the Elite Eight. From where they stand now, the worst thing that could happen to Baylor — or any team for that matter — is to land in the #8/#9 game and play a #1 seed in the second round.

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Diagnosing the West Virginia Fiasco

Posted by dnspewak on January 28th, 2013

Tonight, it really begins. West Virginia will find out what the Big 12 is really all about when it steps into the national spotlight on Big Monday, facing none other than the program that has won the league every year since the dawn of time (or at least seems to have). The Mountaineers saw teams like Kansas in the Big East, sure. They are ready for the level of competition, but tonight’s match-up will truly indoctrinate the Mountaineeres into the Big 12 Conference. Since Day One, it hasn’t been an easy transition for Bob Huggins‘ team. West Virginia embarrassed itself in its season opener by losing big to Gonzaga to kick off ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. It then finished 1-2 in the Old Spice Classic, lost at Duquesne (currently 7-13 and 0-6 in the A-10) and has now started 2-4 in the Big 12, with the only victories coming against Texas and TCU. Oh, and the Mountaineers played a CBS game against Purdue a few weekends ago where they lost by 27 points. So that’s where the Mountaineers stand heading into Big Monday: 9-10 overall, 2-4 Big 12, and with an angry Huggins, who seems to rip his team a new one after every single loss.

Bob Huggins and Deniz Kilicli Aren't Happy Campers

Bob Huggins and Deniz Kilicli Aren’t Happy Campers

You can’t blame him. Over Huggins’ storied career, he has become accustomed to coaching and developing hard-nosed players who don’t back down from challenges and fight on each and every possession. His teams are usually famous for their toughness, defense, and ferocious rebounding. That’s why it was stunning to see this team bow out so pathetically in a blowout loss to Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. With transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten joining a promising sophomore class, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion that Huggins would find a way to regain that tenacity. With his track record, he deserved the benefit of the doubt. Instead, disaster has struck.

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Big 12 M5: 01.15.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 15th, 2013

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  1. The AP and Coaches Polls were released Monday, and Kansas climbed into the top five (#4 to be exact) in both polls. The Jayhawks jumped Michigan and Arizona this week, who lost to Ohio State and Oregon, respectively. Kansas State continues to climb in both polls as well, jumping to #18 in the Coaches Poll and #16 in the AP. While both teams from Kansas are climbing, the rest of the Big 12 is nowhere to be seen. Oklahoma State has been dropping fast while losing three of their last four games, and Iowa State and Baylor are still a few weeks worth of wins away from making appearances of their own.
  2. I’ve never been a big Rick Barnes fan. I’ve always thought that Barnes has underachieved with the amount of talent he has had at Texas and has never been held accountable because Texas fans are more worried about the third-string quarterback than the basketball team. But C.J. Moore of Basketball Prospectus began to change my mind today. It’s an eye-opening piece with plenty of noteworthy statistics. Moore does a solid job of rebuking the claim that Barnes should have advanced further into March during his one season with Kevin Durant on the roster in 2006-07, when the Longhorns lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Maybe Moore is right — maybe Barnes is better than we think.
  3. A quick update on West Virginia sophomore guard Juwan Staten, who missed Saturday’s game against Kansas State for disciplinary reasons: Bob Huggins said during a teleconference on Monday that Staten will travel with the team for its game at Iowa State on Wednesday night. It is still uncertain whether he will play, though. Huggins seemed to infer that this week’s practices leading up to the game will decide Staten’s fate for that game as the Mountaineers will look to improve to 2-2 in the Big 12. Staten is second on the team with 10.5 PPG and leads the team with 2.9 APG at this point in the season. He played sparingly last week against Texas in logging just 13 minutes, but just the week prior he had 17 points in a home win over Eastern Kentucky.
  4. Kansas guard Ben McLemore has been getting the most attention of any freshman in the Big 12, but Iowa State freshman forward Georges Niang is quietly putting up impressive numbers for the Cyclones as well. He is third on the team with 11.5 PPG and is shooting 35.5% from beyond the arc. Fred Hoiberg told the Associated Press that he loves Niang’s footwork, and I think he has a high enough basketball I.Q. to mask his athleticism with smarts while he continues to develop his body at Iowa State. He scored 18 points in Saturday’s blowout win over Texas and has scored double figures in six of his last seven games. He has a very European style of game for a big man, shown in last week’s near-upset of Kansas. He drew shot-blocking extraordinaire Jeff Withey out of the paint with his ability to knock down jumpers, opening up the lane for his driving teammates.
  5. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com updated his latest bracketology on Monday. The Big 12 received six bids: Kansas (#1 seed), Kansas State (#6), Oklahoma (#7), Oklahoma State (#9), Baylor (#11), and Iowa State (#12). Who would have guessed before the season that Oklahoma would be projected as a higher seed than Oklahoma State and Baylor? There is obviously still a bunch of games to be played, but the Sooners are positioning themselves for a good day on Selection Sunday. On a different note, I wouldn’t want to be a #6 seed paired with Baylor in the first round (Boise State in this particular bracket). The Bears are far from a great team but, as in recent years, they have the talent to win a few games in the NCAA Tournament.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Week Nine

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 7th, 2013

After things slowed down around the holidays, the schedule picked up this week and we found out a lot about the teams in the Big 12. Kansas is beatable but resilient after rallying to take care of Temple in Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas State’s upset of Florida last month is starting to look less like a fluke. Oklahoma State’s upset of North Carolina State in November is, however, beginning to look like a fluke. Baylor showed it has the talent to compete for a top spot in the standings, while Texas still looks lost without Myck Kabongo. And oh yeah, TCU is as bad we thought.

Don't Look Now, But Bruce Weber Has Kansas State Challenging For Second Place in the Big 12 (AP Photo/M. Conroy)

Don’t Look Now, But Bruce Weber Has Kansas State Challenging For Second Place in the Big 12 (AP Photo/M. Conroy)

1) Kansas (12-1, 0-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking: 1

Last Week: W 69-62 vs. Temple

This Week: Wednesday vs Iowa State, 6:00 PM CST, Saturday at Texas Tech, 3:00 PM

  • Rundown: Every year, Kansas seems to have one close call at home in the non-conference season. Saturday was no different as Temple took the lead late in the second half before the Jayhawks rallied to win, 69-62.
  • Player Stepping Up: Senior G Travis Releford: Releford is the best perimeter defender on the roster and has been great offensively lately, shooting over 80% from the field and averaging 13.7 points per game in the last four games.

2) Kansas State (12-2, 1-0)
Previous Ranking: 3

Last Week: W 70-50 vs. South Dakota, W 73-67 vs. Oklahoma State

This Week: Saturday at West Virginia, 12:30 PM

  • Rundown: It is still to early to make any bold statements, but Saturday’s win over Oklahoma State brought the Wildcats into the discussion for second best team in the Big 12.
  • Player Stepping Up: Senior G Rodney McGruder: He leads the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game and had 28 points in the big win over OSU over the weekend.

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Big 12 M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 29th, 2012

  1. Last night, Oklahoma traveled to play Oral Roberts for the first time since 1995. It wasn’t easy for the Sooners as they would have to overcome a 10-point deficit to win, 63-62. Freshman Buddy Hield scored all 11 of his points in the second half while Steven Pledger hit the game-winning bucket with 1:12 left. This game was chock full of noteworthy trivia. OU’s win ended Oral Roberts’ 24-game winning streak at the Mabee Center dating back to 2010 and head coach Lon Kruger won his 499th game as a collegiate coach. Man, how good is basketball in the state of Oklahoma right now?
  2. West Virginia has had a real bad start to its season as currently the only Big 12 team with a losing record. They could really use a gimme game and coming to the Mountaineers’ rescue was Virginia Military Institute. WVU took down VMI 94-69 in its home opener and their transfers took center stage. Juwan Staten led all scorers with 18 and was one of seven guys to score in double figures for WVU despite playing a lighter rotation due to injuries. Matt Humphrey was held out of the game with what Bob Huggins calls a “tweaked shoulder.” Meanwhile, Kevin Noreen and Dominique Rutledge both suffered ankle injuries early and did not return. Nothing is known about their severity. The important thing, WVU fans, is that your ‘Eers aren’t deceiving you: West Virginia won a basketball game!
  3. By now you know the Big 12’s flirtation with Louisville was just that — flirting — and the Cardinals are officially joining the ACC. The always-opinionated coach at Kansas, Bill Self, threw in his two cents on the changing landscape of conference affiliation and what it means for the Big 12 going forward. The fact of the matter is the Big 12 doesn’t need to expand. They have their $2.6 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox signed for the next 13 years, and as far as deals go for 10-team leagues, this is the best they could have gotten. Schools would see expanding as cutting further into each school’s money pie. But I’d like to see them expand in order to stay competitive with bigger leagues like the B1G and the ACC. Whatever the Big 12 does, expand or keep the status quo, they can’t go wrong as long as nobody else jumps ship.
  4. After learning about Rodney McGruder’s struggles in the new Kansas State offense after the NIT Tip-Off, he’s singing a different tune now. McGruder says he’s feeling a comfort level in Bruce Weber’s motion offense after sitting down with coaches and getting to the root of his problem. Teammate Will Spradling said after Wednesday’s practice that during their scrimmage, “he [McGruder] kind of took over as the scorer he was last year. I think he’s getting more comfortable and confident.” Once everyone, not just McGruder, gets a more firm grip on the offense, this Kansas State team will be a dangerous one.
  5. The Texas Longhorns have gotten off to a less than ideal start to the season with Myck Kabongo sidelined, their struggles out in Maui, and their stale, turnover-prone offense. But one bright spot on the team has been the growth of Jonathan Holmes as a player from a year ago. He’s tied for the lead in the conference in rebounds per game (9.2 RPG) and Holmes had a nice stat line vs Sam Houston State: 11 points, eight boards, two blocks, two steals in a season-high 30 minutes of action. Rick Barnes went as far as saying, “You can count on him [Holmes] every night.” Hop on the Holmes bandwagon while there’s still room.
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Is West Virginia This Bad, Or Is Its 1-3 Record a Product of Scheduling?

Posted by dnspewak on November 27th, 2012

West Virginia is not the worst team in the Big 12. Far from it. And yet there’s no team in the league right now with a worse record than the Mountaineers, who have lost three of their first four games and own a sole victory against Marist in the Old Spice Classic’s consolation bracket (hey, that’s more than Vanderbilt can brag about). If not for that one win, it’d have been fair to call the tournament in Orlando a Thanksgiving disaster for Bob Huggins‘ team, especially on the heels of that embarrassing season-opening loss to Gonzaga by, what was it, 700 points?

West Virginia Is Enduring an Early Losing Skid

With three transfers playing major minutes and a remade roster after losing Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant, nobody expected November and December to be easy for West Virginia. You’ll also hardly see a power-conference team play a schedule like this in the opening weeks of the season. It’s no secret how good Gonzaga or Davidson are, and Oklahoma’s no slouch this season either. Still, we expected to see Huggins’ team embody a completely different mentality. He openly admitted after bowing out early in last season’s NCAA Tournament that he had never coached such a poor defensive team. That was after a blowout loss to those same Zags — and sure enough, seven months later, it happened again in the 2012-13 season opener. Different team, but more of the same issues (GU hit 52% from the floor including nine threes).

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West Virginia’s New Season Begins How the Old One Ended

Posted by dnspewak on November 13th, 2012

Well, that seemed oddly familiar. Seven months after Gonzaga ended West Virginia‘s 2011-12 season in the most embarrassing of fashions in a 77-54 NCAA Tournament beatdown, the new-look Mountaineers hardly looked new at all. They unraveled in the first few minutes of their season opener — also the first game on ESPN’s 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon slate — and wallowed to an 84-50 loss Monday night (or was it Tuesday morning)?

Gonzaga Took It Right to the Mountaineers… Again (Jed Conklin — AP)

It was bad. Real bad, across the board. Before anybody hopped up on coffee and Five Hour Energy could blink an eye, Gonzaga led 17-2. That lead got to 27 at halftime, and, as Billy Packer once said a little bit prematurely in a certain Final Four game, “this game is ovah” at that point. Players were visibly frustrated, body language was poor and coach Bob Huggins seemed to have no answers. Offensively, his team was a mess. That’s understandable after losing Kevin Jones and, probably more evidently on Monday night, point guard Truck Bryant. Dayton transfer Juwan Staten and Jabarie Hinds combined for just two assists against five turnovers, and the team totaled only eight overall assists. Aaric Murray, a newcomer from La Salle with major pro potential, scored 14 points in his debut, but that hardly mattered. The Mountaineers couldn’t initiate any open looks, and they missed everything. We mean everything. Three-of-26 from three-point land is not very pretty to open the year. Boston College transfer Matt Humphrey, known for his perimeter shooting, finished 1-of-7. Hinds was 1-of-6. It didn’t help that the Bulldogs executed very well offensively after a rather sluggish start, as four Gonzaga starters finished in double figures.

And that’s all you really need to know about West Virginia’s season opener. Playing in unfamiliar territory in the state of Washington, the Mountaineers looked about as culturally shocked as humanly possible in The Kennel. The crowd was fierce, the place was amped and Huggins’ team did not respond well. It’s clear his reclamation project will take time. He has new guards to break in, a new centerpiece on offense in Murray and a lot of sophomores trying to adjust to new roles. You know Huggins will have this team in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament by February. Unfortunately, after this debacle, it’s fair to wonder whether Huggins’ program will ever get that swagger back on the defensive end and on the boards. It lost that identity a bit a year ago — especially against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament — and it certainly did not return today.

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Big 12 M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 8th, 2012

  1. With the election now in the rear-view mirror, Matt Norlander over at CBSSports.com wondered if the presidential race was decided by states with the best basketball programs. Norlander’s sample size is comprised of his site’s preseason top 26 because he felt it wouldn’t be as compelling if states like Alaska, Hawaii or Wyoming were put on a level playing field with say, Indiana and Kentucky. It was a close “race” between the number of red states and blue states but the electoral vote count will remind you of the results from Tuesday. It is also worth noting that each of the Big 12 teams in their top 26 are in red states. I’m just saying.
  2. USA Today Sports‘ Eric Prisbell and Nicole Auerbach give us a list of coaches with the most to prove this season and two of them are Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford. While these coaches do have some work to do this year to justify their positions, they’re at different levels on the totem pole. Weber is in his first year of a new job while Ford is a bad season away from losing his job. The article also lists UConn’s Kevin Ollie as another coach with a lot of pressure this year, so if you’re going to list guys who have limited head coaching experience with limited time with which to work, Chris Walker of Texas Tech would be as good a candidate as any.
  3. We now know how long Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins will be sidelined. Travis Ford announced he’ll be out “about a month” after suffering an injury in Monday’s exhibition victory versus Ottawa University. Le’Bryan Nash threw an alley-oop pass to Cobbins but the pass went over his head and he fell on an Ottawa player. This, of course, is bad news for a coach already without two key pieces in his rotation — Phillip Jurick who is still recovering from an Achilles injury and J.P. Olukemi who is dealing with a knee injury. Guard Brian Williams, of course, is also out for the season. Get well, Cowboys.
  4. Tuesday night West Virginia dominated its exhibition game like any good program, beating Glenville State, 95-53, and head coach Bob Huggins isn’t happy. As a team the Mountaineers shot 50% from the floor, Deniz Kilicli dropped 19 in an efficient 8-for-10 shooting night, Aaric Murray had 13 points, nine boards, and two blocked shots, while Juwan Staten had 16 points, six dimes and zero turnovers. So what does Huggins think? “We’re going to look at how we didn’t run any offense.” Riiiight, coach. I see what you did there.
  5. Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale are two of ESPN’s most visible college basketball personalities and while they have had moments of disagreement over the years, they have finally agreed on one thing: Oklahoma and Lon Kruger are on the rise this season. I don’t like the fact that Kruger doesn’t stay at places very long but what Vitale says is true: He can flat-out coach. Take a good coach like Kruger, the returns of Steven Pledger and Romero Osby, the arrival of Amath M’Baye, an emerging point guard in Sam Grooms, and I believe they will hear Greg Gumbel call their name out on Selection Sunday.
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