Big 12 M5: 12.30.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 30th, 2013


  1. With the Big 12 season soon to be underway, conference foes will battle it out on the hardwood on nearly a nightly basis. Kansas and Iowa State will also go toe-to-toe in a recruiting battle for one of the top remaining prospects in the class of 2014 in 6’5″ shooting guard Rashad Vaughn. Vaughn is Rival’s 7th ranked recruit, and a teammate of Kansas commit Kelly Oubre, who attends Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada, with Vaughn.  Kentucky, North Carolina, and UNLV also made Vaughn’s final five schools, but many believe Iowa State will be the school to beat to earn his commitment.
  2. Speaking of Iowa State, the school announced on Sunday that junior guard K.J. Bluford has decided to leave the program.  Bluford was in his first season with the Cyclones after transferring from Northeast Nebraska Community College, and has averaged 2.7 points per game for Fred Hoiberg’s squad this year. Hoiberg’s strategy to comb the transfer market yearly for new additions to his squad has worked with tremendous success, and given how little impact Bluford has had this season, this loss shouldn’t have a huge impact on Iowa State moving forward.
  3. It’s been obvious through the non-conference season that the top of the Big 12 – Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Iowa State – is perhaps better than anyone thought heading into the season, but lost in the shuffle is the quiet 11-1 start Lon Kruger and Oklahoma have gotten off to, with their lone loss coming at the hands of Michigan State. As Dick Vitale points out in his most recent column, Oklahoma will have a chance to quickly prove how viable that record is as they begin Big 12 play with a gauntlet of games out of the gate. Getting off to a good start will be key in strengthening a resume for post season play.
  4. If history is any indicator, the Christmas break will pay dividends for Kansas as they push towards league play. Bill Self’s team used the break the last week to recover from a variety of injuries, including a bruised nerve suffered by forward Perry Ellis and a nagging hip pointer that has kept guard Andrew White III out of the last few contests. It’s not uncommon to see some Bill Self teams struggle before the break, but it will be important for this team to take a big step forward like many teams in the past.
  5. TCU continued their improved play this season on Sunday with a 77-64 win over Texas Southern, and while the victory is nice, the play of junior forward Amric Fields may be the bigger story.  Fields scored 17 points in the win as he continues his return after missing all but three games a season ago due to an ACL injury. Head coach Trent Johnson has been mindful of Fields’ minutes while Fields works to get back into playing shape.
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Big 12 Team Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 6th, 2013

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

Where We Left Off: For Iowa State fans, please excuse us, we don’t mean to re-live a bad memory. The 2012-13 season ended with Aaron Craft ripping the hearts out of Cyclone Nation with a go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds of the second (or now third?) round of the NCAA Tournament last March. Iowa State made a serious statement a year ago, proving it belongs among the league’s best teams after finishing in a tie for fourth in the conference. While Hilton Coliseum has never been an easy place to play, Fred Hoiberg‘s mesh of young players and transfers has paid dividends in making Iowa State one of the scariest teams in the league every season.

Can Fred Hoiberg's Iowa State team build upon a fourth place finish in the league last season? (Ames Tribune)

Can Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team build upon a fourth place finish in the league last season? (Ames Tribune)

Positives: Fresh off a successful run in league play a season ago, there’s so much to like about where Hoiberg has this program headed. While this Iowa State team did lose several key components to graduation, they return Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang in the frontcourt, both of whom played significant minutes last year. Ejim is a double-double machine down low and one of the best rebounders in the conference (although Ejim is expected to be out for most of November with a knee injury), while Niang has crafty skills to score the ball around the basket, and the touch to stretch a defense with his ability to knock down the outside jumper. Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane will be leaned on to fill the void from departed point guard Korie Lucious after averaging 15.1 points per game a season ago for the Thundering Herd, and freshman Matt Thomas is a sharpshooter who will fit in beautifully with Hoiberg’s three-point heavy system, helping Cyclone fans get over the loss of Tyus McGee to graduation.

Negatives: Hoiberg has transformed Iowa State into “Transfer U.” since he took over as head coach, and the strategy has worked almost flawlessly during this period. That said, there’s always a bit of a risk in relying so heavily on impact transfers and hoping the roster will gel during the year. While there is still a ton of talent on this team, the departures of Lucious and McGee, along with Chris Babb and Will Clyburn will create a big uncertainty in the backcourt. Whether Iowa State can continue to shoot the ball from deep as well as it has in the past will be a major factor in the team’s success this season.

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