Big 12 M5: 01.07.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 7th, 2014

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  1. Some interesting news came out after the San Diego State-Kansas game on Sunday. Bill Self revealed to reporters that Naadir Tharpe had sprained his left ankle during practice on Wednesday and tried to gut it out against the Aztecs. “He was trying to put himself in a position to where he could play,” Self said. “He went a little bit halfcourt yesterday and felt good, but even with that you are nicked up and don’t have a rhythm. He took a couple ill-advised shots when we had a chance to come back, tie or take the lead.” While Tharpe didn’t have the best shooting game (2-of-10), he did have five assists and no turnovers in 34 minutes against SDSU’s suffocating defense. Still, the Jayhawks need Tharpe to be healthy in their hopes of capturing another Big 12 title.
  2. Yes, Oklahoma State is going through some stuff at the moment. NewsOK lays out the three things the Cowboys have to do to maintain their status as potential Big 12 champs and national title contenders. First, how do they replace Michael Cobbins? Sophomore Kamari Murphy is assuming Cobbins’ spot in the lineup but who will assume Murphy’s role as first big man off the bench? Then there’s the Stevie Clark situation. There’s nothing new to report here but having him around could continue to cause a distraction for the Cowboys. Finally, OSU’s free throw shooting hasn’t been the best. Their 71.7 percent mark is good for 105th in the nation. That includes Marcus Smart, who is shooting almost 10 percentage points (67.8 percent) lower than he did last year (77.7 percent). So yeah, they’ve got some work to do.
  3. Iowa State has a top 10 battle with Baylor coming up, but before then, DeAndre Kane is taking some more hardware home this week. Kane was named Big 12 POW for the second straight week, headlined by a 16-point, eight-rebound and 12-assist performance versus Northern Illinois. Kansas State’s Marcus Foster won Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after averaging 16.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over George Washington and Oklahoma State last week. It was Foster’s first award of any kind this season while Kane has two NOWs in addition to the two POWs.
  4. Foster’s teammate and fellow point guard Jevon Thomas wasn’t allowed to practice until about two weeks ago due to NCAA rules. After his first practice, Bruce Weber said of him: “He almost passed out. He was lying on the floor, saying his body was cramping.” Fast forward to today and three games under his belt, Thomas seems to be adjusting well to college basketball. In relief of Marcus Foster, Thomas has 15 assists and only two turnovers. He’s a part of the reason the Wildcats went from a 2-3 start to a nine-game winning streak and Top 25 ranking in a two-month span.
  5. There’s a little game on tonight that will have implications atop the Big 12 horse race. Baylor takes on Iowa State for the 12th time in Ames tonight and are still searching for their first ever win there. The intrigue in this match-up lies in their contrasting styles. Iowa State likes to run up and down the floor and shoot the lights out, while Baylor is more akin to a half-court offense and big men who box out well. The Cyclones and Bears will meet tonight at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2.
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Big 12 M5: 01.03.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 3rd, 2014

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  1.  With the recent injury to Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins, Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com questions whether the Cowboys still have a shot at winning the Big 12 regular season title. Cobbins’ departure means sophomore Kamari Murphy will be forced to pick up some of the slack left by Cobbins on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Oklahoma State has the ability to play small forward LeBryan Nash at the four spot, but with Nash at 6’7″ and Murphy standing at 6’8″, a team that has struggled in both offensive and defensive rebounding becomes even smaller against some of the bigger frontcourts in the Big 12.
  2. Iowa State fans had a chance Thursday to honor historic Cyclone coach, Johnny Orr, when his urn was placed in Hilton Coliseum for a public visitation. Orr passed away earlier in the week after suffering complications from a head injury suffered at his residence. It seems only fitting that the success or “Hilton Magic” that Orr introduced to Ames during his tenure as Iowa State head coach seems to be fully restored with the success the school has experienced with head coach Fred Hoiberg at the helm.
  3. The awful start that Kansas State opened the season with in a loss to Northern Colorado appears to be a thing of the past, and Tim Bisel of the Topeka Capital-Journal suggests that Bruce Weber’s Wildcats might just have a say in the Big 12 race after all.  That’s not to suggest that Kansas State will win the conference title, but the Wildcats are dangerous enough to pose a serious threat on a nightly basis for some of the league’s top teams. What’s even more interesting is how similar this season is to that a year ago, where Weber’s squad again struggled out of the gate before tying Kansas for the league regular season title.
  4. If you have watched enough of Kansas this season, you have probably noticed how un-Kansas-like the Jayhawks have been on the defensive end this season. And, if you’re familiar with Bill Self, you can probably guess how well that sits with the Kansas head coach, who said after a win on Monday night against previously undefeated Toledo that his team “is not getting it on that end at all” in regards to his team’s defensive effort. While the young talent at Kansas is as good as any team in the country, it’s becoming increasingly obvious how valuable veteran leadership has been in previous years when it comes to locking down opponents on defense.
  5. Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com released his most recent way-too-early-but-still-intriguing Bracketology update, which features five teams from the Big 12 in Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, and Texas. The Cowboys as a two seed are the highest seeded team in the league with the Longhorns bringing up the tail end as a 10 seed. What’s perhaps more interesting than those teams that are featured in Lunardi’s bracket are the teams that are for the time being not listed, namely Oklahoma who has jumped out to a 11-2 record after making the NCAA tournament a year ago. If Kansas State maintains the trend they’ve been on as of late, there’s a chance the Big 12 could place as many as seven teams in the Big Dance, but with league play getting started, there’s bound to be some cannibalization among conference foes that could damage some resumes.
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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: With a 5-0 record and the top spot in the KenPom rankings, the Cowboys are off to a hot start this season and the whole country is anxious to see how long they keep it up. Travis Ford‘s team has shown that not only should it contend with Kansas at the top of the Big 12, but it has a place in the national title conversation as well. The Cowboys have destroyed all comers, transforming their games into must-see television programming with Vine-friendly moments left and right. Do-everything NPOY candidate Marcus Smart is quieting the doubts people had about his shooting, and his teammates have been outstanding, particularly from deep. Four Cowboys have attempted at least 10 threes on the year, and all four are shooting 35 percent or better from distance. That’s a deadly level of firepower that few teams in the country can match. In the paint, Brian WilliamsMichael Cobbins and Kamari Murphy have all pitched in to clean up the glass, clearing up Oklahoma State’s biggest incoming question heading into the season.

Marcus Smart and the Cowboys look to keep rolling in Orlando after their resounding win over Memphis last week. (SI.com)

Marcus Smart and the Cowboys look to keep rolling in Orlando after their resounding win over Memphis last week. (SI.com)

First Round Preview: Oklahoma State begins the bracketed portion of the Old Spice Classic against Purdue on Thanksgiving. The Boilermakers have a perfect 4-0 record, but they haven’t played anyone of consequence, and squeakers against Northern Kentucky and Rider – both at home – unsurprisingly haven’t led to anyone jumping on their bandwagon. Ronnie Johnson and Terone Johnson are the team’s leading scorers, but at just 13.8 and 13.0 points per game, respectively, they don’t do anything that exactly strikes fear into the hearts of their opponents. Purdue’s offense is struggling from deep, hitting 31.1 percent of its shots from three, although they are shooting well inside the arc. Defensively, Matt Painter‘s team is still trying to rediscover the days of the late 2000s, when the Boilermakers locked down anyone they faced. However, poor defensive rebounding and an inability to regularly force turnovers continues to leave them searching for answers.  There’s no doubt that they’ll be motivated to take down one of the top programs in college basketball this season, but in what should be an up-and-down affair, the Cowboys should handle the Boilermakers rather easily.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2013

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

Where We Left Off: After a crushing loss to an under-seeded Oregon team in the NCAA Tournament, Marcus Smart made the pain go away for OSU fans, shocking Stillwater and the rest of the college basketball world by announcing his return for the 2013-14 season. That news briefly led prognosticators to peg the Cowboys as the most realistic challenger to dethrone Kansas atop the standings, but then Andrew Wiggins committed to the Jayhawks. Now, not only do we have a bona fide conference race, but a POY race too. The product is a scenario where each team’s destiny, whether you’re talking about the conference title race or the bigger picture of the NCAA Tournament, could very well hinge on how their respective stars perform.

Travis Ford has all the pieces he needs to make a serious run at Kansas. (Getty)

Travis Ford has all the pieces he needs to make a serious run at Kansas in the standings. (Getty)

Positives: Smart may be the heart and soul of Travis Ford‘s team, but Oklahoma State wouldn’t be a Final Four contender without a very good supporting cast. It isn’t without flaws (more on that in a bit), but there may not be a team in the country that can match Oklahoma State’s backcourt tandem of Smart and Markel Brown. While the former is a surefire lottery pick, the latter has improved every season he’s been on campus. He can still destroy a rim as ferociously as he did in his earlier years, but he’s upped his stroke from the free throw line as well as beyond the arc while lowering his turnover rate despite more possessions every season. There isn’t much more you could want from a four-year player. Phil Forte gives the Cowboys a one-dimensional but very capable long distance bomber, and junior wing Le’Bryan Nash is a refined three-point stroke away from being a total match-up nightmare.

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Big 12 M5: 01.29.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 29th, 2013

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  1. Going into last night, I thought Kansas was getting set to do terrible things to West Virginia. We instead saw a Jayhawks team playing with fire against an inferior opponent for the second time in their last three road games. They were able to scrape by Texas in Austin after trailing by 11 early in the second half, and KU was also supposed to drive a nail through the Mountaineers when they jumped out to a 22-7 lead yesterday. Should KU fans be concerned about these good-but-not-great performances outside of Lawrence? Look, if Kansas wins every game from now until the national championship by one point (it won’t happen, of course), then there’s no reason to be worried until a game or series of games are lost. Still…
  2. The Big 12 conference gathered its 10 athletic directors in Irving, Texas, to discuss measures that would be taken in the case of more conference expansion among the power six conferences. Here’s where it gets interesting: Big 12 sources revealed that if the Big Ten expands again, then that league would likely pursue a list of Association of American Universities in the ACC such as Duke, UNC, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Virginia. They also said that if the SEC were to get bigger, then they would pursue schools who aren’t currently in their footprint like the Virginia and North Carolina schools in the — you guessed it — ACC. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby reaffirmed that the league’s 10 current members are happy with this configuration but they want contingency plans  just in case. I’d really hate it if I read this article and my name was John Swofford, although Bowlsby also noted that the Big 12 is seeking a “friends with benefits” alliance with the ACC as well.
  3. It was announced yesterday that Baylor guard Pierre Jackson had won Big 12 Player of the Week honors for the first time this season. Doesn’t it seem a little odd that this is the preseason conference player of the year’s first honor? It’s not like Jackson is having a bad year. He leads the Big 12 in scoring per game (18.7 PPG), is tied at the top in assists per game (5.9 APG) and is in the top 10 for free throw percentage and steals. Jackson averaged 19 points, four assists and two rebounds while connecting on 8-of-16 on three pointers last week. With four-time POTW winner Rodney McGruder coming on strong as of late, it looks to be a photo finish among those two for Big 12 Player of the Year.
  4. Big 12 Rookie of the Week went to Will Clyburn of Iowa State who has been everything and then some for the Cyclones. Usually these weekly honors go to players who played well for a team that went undefeated last week. The Cyclones fell on the road to Texas Tech but Clyburn was still able to make a mark on this game by recording 12 points and 10 rebounds. It’s clear he won the award with his 24/10 effort in Iowa State’s win over K-State that finally gave them a win over a ranked opponent. This is Clyburn’s second ROTW of the 2012-13 season.
  5. Here is a quote from Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy’s AAU coach about the freshman in 2011: “When he goes to Stillwater, he’ll be a freshman eligibility-wise, but a sophomore mentally.” So what prompted Murphy to say this via Twitter and then promptly delete it? Is he feeling disgruntled because he isn’t getting consistent playing time, or did he truly believe his tweet had no meaning to it? You decide. It’s just more bad press for a team that should be contending for second place in the Big 12 but instead finds itself living on the fringe in sixth place.
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Set Your DVR: New Year’s Week Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 31st, 2012

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Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

College hoops heads into 2013 with the opening of conference season in some of the major leagues set to begin . The slate of games scheduled for New Year’s Eve is not to be missed, as the Big East and Big Ten seasons both get underway. However, it is one final non-conference match-up that leads our breakdowns. Happy New Year!

Game of the Week

#16 Gonzaga at #21 Oklahoma State – 6:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (*****)

After Spinning His Wheels For Most Of The Season, LeBryan Nash Raised The Roof In Stillwater. (AP)

Le’Bryan Nash and company look to stop Gonzaga’s winning ways against the Big 12. (AP)

  • A win against Oklahoma State today will make Gonzaga the best team in the Big 12. Obviously, Gonzaga is still in the West Coast Conference, but they are already 4-0 against Big 12 teams this season with wins against West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Baylor. Monday’s game against the Cowboys, however, is their first true road test against a Big 12 opponent. The other games have either been at home or on neutral courts. The Zags usually have a size advantage against their opponents, but Oklahoma State can match their size and even has that advantage at the guard position. The Pokes have four guards who contribute heavily to the offense that are 6’3″ or taller, including 6’7″ Le’Bryan Nash. With Bulldog guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. measuring at 6’2″ and 6’1″, respectively, it will be very important to watch how Mark Few’s squad chooses to defend the perimeter size of the Cowboys. Much of that defensive pressure could actually fall on the Zags’ frontcourt. The Oklahoma State guards do most of their damage inside the three-point line because they are not much of a threat from the outside. Keep an eye on how this defensive responsibility affects Gonzaga’s offense inside. The Bulldogs will still need to pound the ball down low and get to the line because it’s their best chance of winning. If they can get to the line like Virginia Tech did against Oklahoma State, they can win this game in a tough road environment.
  • No team has shot over 50% eFG in a game against Oklahoma State this season, but the Cowboys face a Gonzaga team that is lethally efficient from two-point range. The GU frontcourt’s two-point shooting breaks down like this – Elias Harris shoots 58.8%, Kelly Olynyk shoots 72.3%, Sam Dower shoots 59.7%, and Przemek Karnowski shoots 65.3%. These player will put considerable pressure on Cowboys center Phillip Jurick and freshman forward Kamari Murphy. The key will be how OSU head coach Travis Ford uses his big guards on help defense to stop the Gonzaga low post attack. If Oklahoma State can figure this out, they will pick-up an important non-conference win as they head into Big 12 play.
  • Non-conference home losses are few and far between for Oklahoma State under Travis Ford. It’s hard to believe that Gonzaga can actually go 5-0 against the Big 12 this season, especially on the road in front of the Cowboy faithful at Gallagher-Iba Arena. This game will be extremely fun to watch, but the edge has to go to the Cowboys at home.

Other Games to Watch

#10 Cincinnati at #23 Pittsburgh – 12:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (****)

  • Pittsburgh is a very flimsy 12-1. The only good team they’ve play this season is Michigan and they lost that game. We’ll know very quickly if Pitt is any good against a tough and tested Cincinnati squad. However, the Bearcats have shot the ball quite poorly over the last three games. They cannot afford to continue to do so if they expect to win this one, especially at the “Oakland Zoo” in Pittsburgh. The match-up between Tray Woodall and Cashmere Wright should be great to watch all night. Expect Cincy to get back on track and win this game, though, from behind the three-point line. However, if they are shooting bricks like they have been in the past few outings, Pitt will get a great win to start off the Big East season.

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Big 12 Team Preview #6: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 7th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Oklahoma State at the #6 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 15-18 record, 7-11 in the Big 12
  • Key contributors lost: Cezar Guerrero, Keiton Page, Fred Gulley
  • Head coach: Travis Ford, 5th season
  • Projected finish: 6th

The 2012-13 season is the most important in Travis Ford’s coaching career. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Years one and two: back-to-back NCAA appearances with fourth and sixth place finishes in the conference. Years three and four: one NIT birth with seventh and ninth place finishes in Big 12 play. Time is running out for head coach Travis Ford, a coach who enters his fifth season under the most fire with perhaps the best roster he’s ever had. Sure he gets credit for making the Tournament in 2009 and 2010 but the reality is key guys (like James Anderson, Obi Muonelo and Byron Eaton) were holdovers from the previous Sean Sutton era. Once Ford’s players came around, that recliner of his soon became a hot seat.

The Personnel

The question isn’t whether Ford can bring talent to Stillwater but if he can win with that talent. Le’Bryan Nash was a huge get in 2011 and Ford was able to add his second five-star recruit in two years with the signing last year of Marcus Smart. Accomplished head coaches like Billy Donovan and Mark Few were still yukking it up about the freshman’s game and attitude more than a full month after coaching Smart’s team to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championships. The Cowboys also got some good news about J.P. Olukemi: The NCAA has granted him a full year of eligibility instead of the fall semester exclusively. Considering he played in only 13 of 33 games last season, any Olukemi is better than no Olukemi.

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Big 12 M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 7th, 2012

  1. Jeff Borzello and his CBSSports.com companions near the end of their Preseason Top 25 +1 Countdown with a look at the Kansas JayhawksKU is going to finish the regular season as Big 12 Champions. There’s no point in fighting it anymore. It’s as much of a sure thing as Steve Spurrier getting a daily round of 18 in or Skip Bayless uttering something nonsensical. The only reason Borzello has a “Why This Team Will Disappoint” section of the preview because he has to. I’m sure the Bible has a passage that reads, “Thou shalt doubt not Bill Self.” Check again, it’s in there.
  2. Burnt Orange Nation released its full Big 12 preview yesterday. When making our own predictions here at the microsite, we came to the conclusion that predicting three through eight in the league was a total crapshoot. They have Texas ranked second in the league behind the Jayhawks, much like the mid-2000s. Their all-Conference team has the names you’d expect but a couple of their honorable mentions are from squads that will appear to finish at the bottom of the league. They aren’t as crazy as you’d think.
  3. The Remember the Miners Scholars Program is announcing the release of the Huggins Horrible Hankie. What fans can do with the “Triple-Hs” is wave them around (a la the Terrible Towel; forget that I just used a Pittsburgh reference) at West Virginia sporting events. The program’s Honorary Chairman is West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who provides financial aid to miners, dependents of miners, and students pursuing an education in the world of mining. We all know mining is a major part of the Mountain State’s identity, so if you would like to get yourself a hankie or if want to know more about Remember the Miners, do check out remembertheminers.org.
  4. The Pistols Firing Blog has now hit number eight on its player-by-player countdown. Forward Kamari Murphy was the topic yesterday and he’s definitely going to get his share of attention as a freshman starter for the Cowboys. His high school coach at IMG in Florida was particularly high on him, and I am too, despite Travis Ford complaining about Murphy not doing enough with the ball when it’s in his hands. I hope Ford’s trying to keep Murphy under the radar now just so he can have a chance to surprise us all toward the end of the year.
  5. The Collegian just ran a story on the best player in the Big 12 that nobody’s talking about. Rodney McGruder was the top scorer from last year’s Kansas State squad and he leads a team with the experience of playing a bunch of big games under their belt. I have the Wildcats finishing fourth in the Big 12 and that has a lot to do with no important losses from the program other than Frank Martin’s departure. In fact, I’ll even go as far to say that K-State could be a sleeper team to make the Sweet Sixteen this year.
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Big 12 M5: 11.01.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 1st, 2012

  1. Before his season-ending injury, Oklahoma State had figured Brian Williams would play the power forward position as a hybrid, guard-like wing in the frontcourt (as if that phrase makes any sense — you catch our drift). His loss certainly isn’t a good thing, but it’s opening up an opportunity for a more traditional lineup. Freshman Kamari Murphy looks like Williams’ replacement among the starters, which will add a true power forward thanks to his 6’8” frame and rebounding ability. As the article points out, Murphy is hardly the most celebrated newcomer for coach Travis Ford. However, as important as Marcus Smart’s point guard abilities may be to this team’s potential, Murphy’s play in the paint could be just as critical. Ford has plenty of big, physical guards, but he needs some big, physical forwards, too. Murphy fits that description.
  2. Hopefully, you’ve dedicated your life to reading the Big 12 Microsite on a daily basis here at Rush the Court, which means you would not need to waste your time with previews like this. Still, even though we go waaaay more in depth with our season preview series, this little site called Yahoo! Sports has done a good job of breaking down the Big 12 in a nutshell. It’s hard to disagree with most of their preseason picks, but it’s interesting to read about Travis Ford on the hot seat. He has a lot to be excited about, but unless injuries ravage his team again, he’ll have no excuses not to win with this group. Ah, the life of a major college basketball coach.
  3. Yahoo! Sports continued with its Big 12 preview by ranking the league’s top non-conference games. All this did was make us giddy for November 9 and the beginning of college basketball. Kansas/Michigan State tops the list, but we’re not so sure the Jayhawks’ rematch with Ohio State on December 22 isn’t a more notable game. The stars from that Final Four game have mostly moved on, but nobody in Columbus has forgotten the Buckeyes’ late-game collapse. Another fun fact: Texas Tech hosts Arizona (#15 on the list) on December 1 as a part of a non-conference schedule that does not include one road game. With the mess he inherited, Chris Walker probably wouldn’t have it any other way.
  4. It’s hard to project exactly how a coach will divide minutes among his rotation, but this guy tried to figure it out for Bill Self and Kansas. We know Jeff Withey, Ben McLemore, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford will play big minutes, but it’s hard to determine how the rest of the rotation will materialize. You’ve got to think Perry Ellis will overtake Kevin Young even after the latter returns from injury, but one thing is clear: Self has a lot more capable bodies this year as opposed to last year. Just look at all those freshmen at the bottom of the list. Self has options. Must be nice for a change — not that it mattered a year ago on KU’s run to the title game.
  5. We’re sort of shocked when we read really solid team previews out there on the Interwebs, especially from sites we haven’t heard a whole lot about (wonder if outsiders say the same thing about us? Probably). But here’s a good look at what to expect from Texas this season. It’s not earth-shattering, of course. The Longhorns are young, they’re hoping Myck Kabongo can play, and they’ve got a lot of talented new parts. We’ll tell you all that in our Texas preview next week, but study up here so you can prepare for us to wow you. Or something like that.
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