Big 12 M5: 02.15.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 15th, 2016

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  1. In the second meeting of the Big 12’s Game of the Century, Kansas persevered through Frank Mason III fouling out with 3:22 to go and completed a season sweep of Oklahoma. Not only did the Jayhawks join a first-place tie in the Big 12 with West Virginia but, as CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish points out, Kansas also notched its fifth RPI top 25 victory. No other team in all of college basketball has done that this season. Considering the questions around this team after they lost at West Virginia and Oklahoma State, The Streak™ looked to be in great jeopardy. Not so much now, as we’re three weeks away from the completion of conference play and again in the place we’ve always been around this time of year: marveling at Kansas atop the Big 12 standings.
  2. When you think about Iowa State, you probably think about this man as the team’s one and only All-American leader. Maybe you shouldn’t, though. As the Ames Tribune’s Travis Hines writes, the team’s starting point guard is performing at an All-American level as well. You may remember Monte’ Morris from his game-winners against Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma in the last calendar year, but he’s been a tremendous performer in all of phases of the game this season. The junior point guard is averaging 15.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 7.0 assists per game (against 1.4 turnovers per game) while shooting 51 percent from the floor. As good as Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis and Providence’s Kris Dunn have been this year, it’s hard to argue against Morris being the best point guard in America when factoring in his offensive efficiency numbers. If the conversation for Morris to get All-American publicity hasn’t already started, let Hines be the one to get it going.
  3. Maybe Saturday night was your official wake up call, but Tubby Smith‘s Texas Tech squad has officially arrived. After fighting off Iowa State earlier in the week, Tech walked into Waco and ran over the Bears by 18 points in a convincing victory. It was the first time it had won back-to-back games versus AP Top 25 opponents in nine years. Because the Red Raiders gamed the RPI system and took down a few non-conference opponents that are at or near the top of their respective leagues, their recent wins could turn into fuel for an at-large bid. Now armed with league wins over Texas, Iowa State and Baylor, Smith’s team could get away with a 9-9 or even an 8-10 conference record and still actually sneak into the NCAA Tournament.
  4. Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State was a sad game for a few reasons. This nearly empty picture of Gallagher-Iba Arena and the “actual” attendance numbers told the story of a once-proud basketball program heading decisively in the wrong direction. On the flip side, Kansas State needed to win the game to join Texas Tech in the bubble picture, but the Wildcats were unable to score the road conference win. Two teams with two different mindsets are now inexplicably tied at 3-9 in Big 12 play — yet another wrinkle in a wild and confusing Big 12 standings.
  5. Before the Cowboys’ home game against the Wildcats, Travis Ford brought in former Oklahoma State dunking spacehuman Markel Brown to give the team a serious pep talk. Brown, now a guard with the Brooklyn Nets, had NBA All-Star Weekend off so he thought it was a good idea to take a trip back to campus. Gotta give it to the head coach, though. Even when the world is telling him he’s done at Oklahoma State, he’s still willing to try anything to get his players motivated. And hey, it worked.
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Big 12 Bubble Watch: Giving It The Ol’ College Try Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 5th, 2016

Today is the first Friday in February, which means March is approaching as quickly as bubble discussion is intensifying. So lets frame the Big 12’s bubble situation as it stands now. Thankfully, the Big 12 isn’t the most complicated conference in this respect. We aren’t talking about a league like the ACC, where the second and tenth place teams are separated by just 2.5 games. In any case, the Big 12’s true bubble teams are down to four after West Virginia, who is currently tied for first in the conference, all but locked up its tournament spot by taking down Iowa State this week at Hilton Coliseum. The other three teams considered locks for the NCAA Tournament are obvious ones: the aforementioned Cyclones, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Now it’s time to dive into the four teams who have the best shot at snagging those coveted at-large bids. What have they done so far? What must they do in the future? Should you eat more of a balanced diet? Two of these questions will be answered on this edition of Big 12 Bubble Watch. (RPI numbers via NCAA.com; SOS via CBSSports.com; Kenpom via Kenpom.com). Numbers are as of February 4.

You won’t need to watch out for Lucille. She already has an eye on the Big 12 bubble picture.

You won’t need to watch out for Lucille. She already has an eye on the Big 12 bubble picture.

Probably In

Baylor: 17-5 (6-3); RPI: 26, SOS: 43, Kenpom: 29

Analysis: There was a 30 for 30 on a great Bears team last night (er, somebody’s Bears) but this year’s team is just kinda plain. They’re vanilla. A likable flavor with likable qualities. Lester Medford has dished out 75 assists compared to 25 turnovers in the last 10 games. Rico Gathers Sr. is a man with “Sr.” in his name and continues to dole out punishment to anyone who has to guard him. Taurean Prince is still a prospect NBA executives are drooling over. So what’s missing? The Bears’ lone win against a sure-fire tournament team came on the road at Iowa State, which is obviously nice. Outside of that, Baylor’s other wins are fairly hollow. Fortunately, they’ve got nine games to go and a golden opportunity at another good road win when they travel to West Virginia tomorrow. There is very little to worry about right now in Waco.

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Big 12 M5: 01.29.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 29th, 2016

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  1. Some breaking news hit our timeline last night as West Virginia big man/key to “Press Virginia” Jonathan Holton has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Rumors of a suspension have been floated around Twitter on Thursday but it was officially confirmed by Mike Casazza of the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Casazza went on to say that the team knew about the suspension as early as Wednesday and even held practice on Thursday. Holton’s potential three-game suspension comes at a suboptimal time for the Mountaineers – in the next eight days, Bob Huggins’ team will play games at Florida and Iowa State and home against Baylor.
  2. Also yesterday, 2016 blue chip center Udoka Azubuike announced he will be playing basketball for Kansas next fall. Two days ago, the Jacksonville, Florida native said he wanted to make his college decision “really soon” and, well, he did. Azubuike, a five-star recruit according to Rivals and ESPN, chose the Jayhawks over North Carolina and Florida State. He was also named to the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games. KU appears to have itself another pretty good big man.
  3. It turns out Iowa State will indeed have Jameel McKay available for Saturday’s game at Texas A&M. McKay left the Kansas game on Monday night with a knee injury and did not return. Doctors did not detect any structural damage, but did find some tendinitis in his left knee. It’d make sense to expect McKay to play limited minutes, but at the same time, the Cyclones are going to be decidedly shorthanded whether McKay is in or out of the game. The thing Cyclones will need a healthy McKay in the long run.
  4. Oklahoma president David Boren continued his crusade, spreading forth his desire of Big 12 expansion. Boren, who serves on the Big 12’s expansion committee, has also expressed a desire to roll off the Longhorn Network and turn it into a Big 12 Network (good luck with that). Expansion is almost always football-driven, but nonetheless will have ramifications in basketball and other sports. If the likes of Boren have their way, the hope is the Big 12 will end up a better league. It’s up to them if they want to make a move.
  5. Tomorrow’s third annual Big 12-SEC Challenge will feature the second Ole Miss-Kansas State tilt since the series began during the 2013-14 season. “It’s a chance for us to put an exclamation point on our non-conference record as a league,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “For us, it’s a huge game. We have a chance to beat a good, solid team in Mississippi and end up with a very good record.” I mean, sure, I guess? Weber is right. It is a huge game for confidence purposes, the protecting-your-homecourt agenda and the Wildcats’ fading at-large hopes. But I’m not sure a win over an inconsistent team in Ole Miss is going to make much of a huge difference in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Still, he’s right. They need this one.
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Big 12 M5: 01.27.16 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 27th, 2016

big12m5

  1. Fresh off another huge home win, this time against Kansas, Iowa State has another test in front of them when they face Texas A&M in College Station on Saturday. The Big 12-SEC Challenge has people, namely coaches, voicing their “excitement” about the event before ending their thought with an “is what it is.” Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register is not a fan of the Challenge coming smack dab in the middle of Big 12 play and would much rather have the games played in December. The main problem here is television, namely ESPN. After the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series and SEC-Big East Challenge died, the Big 12-SEC Challenge became the baby they decided to make as a compliment to the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. As we know, the week of the B1G-ACC Challenge took up the Monday-Wednesday of the first full week of December while the Big 12-SEC Challenge took the Thursday-Saturday slots later that week. No matter the matchup, putting those games at the end of the week negatively impacted TV ratings. Now, with the advent of the Big Ten and Big East’s Gavitt Tipoff Games shared with FS1, scheduling the Big 12-SEC Challenge became even more of an issue. The idea of getting all the games on one day is a nice change, but cramming it in to the middle of league play has left coaches and writers alike scratching their collective heads. We’ll see how it all plays out on Saturday.
  2. Iowa State big man Jameel McKay remains a question mark for the A&M game this weekend. McKay had his left knee examined on Tuesday after leaving the Kansas game and did not return. “We’ll see,” McKay said after the game. “It’s something I’ve got to get over. I’ve got to start thinking about myself personally so I don’t know how much more I’ve got in me.” Coincidentally enough, the Aggies are dealing with an injured big man of their own, as freshman Tyler Davis has a lingering foot injury. As deep as the Aggies are, having a healthy McKay in the lineup will give the Cyclones more than a fighting chance in a difficult true road game.
  3. In our last M5, it seemed safe to say that Kansas was going through a bit of a rough patch. Now, it’s time to start freaking out. As the road losses have mounted, so has the lackluster play. On Bill Self‘s most talented team, littered with both young and veteran talent, who are the leaders of the team? That’s the question the Lawrence World-Journal is seeking to answer. The Jayhawks quest to win another Big 12 title is in doubt, perhaps more so than it ever has been under Self. Still, it’s not over. Sitting only a game back, KU still has time to right its wrongs.
  4. The Oscar Robertson Trophy is awarded annually to the top player in college basketball. Well guess what? Your favorite basketball conference, the Big 12, has four of the best 20 players in college basketball. Predictably, those players are Wayne Selden Jr., Buddy Hield, Georges Niang and Monte Morris. All have had special season to this point, as have the other 16 players on this list. The four players from the Big 12 was the most players from one conference, tied with the ACC and Big Ten.
  5. Texas took care of TCU again last night, 71-54, to join the four-team cluster at 5-3 in the Big 12. Before the game, Hookem.com compiled a list of the top five Texas-TCU tussles to remember. Yes, this is a serious list. Yes, this series had a few memorable moments.  Yes, reading up on this likely supplies you with trivia you might not need. But then again, you might need it. So read up.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: This League Is (Still) Off Its Rocker Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 22nd, 2016

We’re almost four weeks into league play, which typically means a select group of contenders have asserted themselves and are heading for the summit they call “Conference Champion Mountain.” It’s a grueling hike to the top, but totally worth it once you get up there. You get to look out at the rest of your conference mates with the knowledge that your better was better than their better. You think about that banner you get to hang in your arena’s rafters that will forever stamp just how good your regular season was. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that you’re up really high. You struggle to breathe. Now, you can’t breathe AT ALL. After fighting for breath, you fall off the mountain, not because of the altitude. No. You fall off the mountain because a scrappy No. 14 seed has ended your quest for a national championship before you had a chance to get out of the Tournament’s first weekend.

Or, at least that’s usually how it goes in the Big 12. This season, though, has brought a special kind of craziness – one none of us could have imagined even a few short weeks ago.

Womp womp. (Screengrab via ESPN.com)

Womp womp. (Screengrab via ESPN.com)

This is where we are now, so expect a wild and crazy edition of our Big 12 Power Rankings. Here we go.

Power Rankings

1. Oklahoma — 3 points (All voted 1st). Comment: “The Sooners have two losses in Big 12 play, but both of them came on the road against upper echelon competition. Buddy Hield is continuing to play like a National Player of the Year and he has Oklahoma in position to be KenPom’s favorite in the Big 12.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)

2. Kansas — 6 points (All voted 2nd). Comment: “Defensive struggles were at the heart of Tuesday’s upset at the hands of Oklahoma State, but the Jayhawks have been in a bit of a rut offensively, too, averaging only an even 1.00 point per possession over their last four games. One of the biggest factors has been the regression of Wayne Selden, who is scoring just 9.5 points per contest on 37.8% shooting since opening conference play with 24 and 21-point outbursts. The Jayhawk’s depth, along with Bill Self‘s coaching ability, is strong enough that I trust Kansas to get back on track sooner rather than later.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: Oklahoma vs. Kansas Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 4th, 2016

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  1. So… there’s a little game going on in Lawrence tonight. The implications of OklahomaKansas are enormous considering the game is likely to feature the top two teams in this week’s Associated Press poll. It is also a tiny bit disappointing that the first of two games in this epic clash will be played so early in the conference season. It’s sort of like having really good chocolate for breakfast. Not exactly a 3 Musketeers-level of chocolate (not that there’s anything wrong with a 3 Musketeers-level of chocolate) but Oklahoma at Kansas would qualify as a higher class of chocolate (Ghiradelli-esque). Let’s try to save some of the good chocolate for February 13 (lunch) and March 12 for the Big 12 Tournament title game (dinner).
  2. On Saturday, the Jayhawks dropped a triple-digit offensive effort on a Baylor team well-known for their defensive prowess. Spearheading that effort were Kansas’ two point guards Frank Mason and Devonté Graham who are natural complements to each other’s talents and inconsistencies. In addition to their games, the two players assert themselves differently on the floor. Graham is the more emotional player while Mason is the player who will let his game do the talking for him. It’s not a surprise these two mesh well on arguably Bill Self’s deepest team since arriving in Lawrence.
  3. We knew going into tonight that Sooners coach Lon Kruger and the state of Kansas were connected considering his memorable tenure at Kansas State in the late 1980s. As The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel notes, the personal ties go much deeper than that. The journey for Kruger in Manhattan, Kansas, to Norman, Oklahoma, has gone through more than a few stops along the way. Still, the journey from Kruger’s introductory press conference at Oklahoma in April 2011 to national title contender in January 2016 is one to marvel at. It took time, it took a few beatdowns and close calls at the hands of Kansas but now, Kruger’s chance to disrupt Big 12 hierarchy is as good now as it has ever been for him.
  4. What’s sure to play a pivotal role in tonight’s proceedings is the fan environment of Allen Fieldhouse. It will be loud and it will be uncomfortable for the Sooners just as it was for Baylor on Saturday afternoon. The Bears dropped their ninth game at Allen Fieldhouse in the Scott Drew era which insanely equals the amount of times Kansas has lost at home in the Bill Self era (Drew and Self both entered the Big 12 head coaching ranks in 2003). Oklahoma will attempt to pull off something schools like Texas A&M, San Diego State, Oklahoma State, Texas and a few others were able to do in recent years — win in The Phog.
  5. The Sooners were able to remain undefeated entering tonight’s game by edging out Iowa State on Saturday night. A large part of the victory came via senior big man Ryan Spangler,who battled through banging knees with Iowa State’s Matt Thomas and a trip to the locker room, in order to finish with 20 points and 12 rebounds. It’ll be interesting to see how a nicked-up Spangler deals with long and versatile frontline of Kansas, the shot-blocking Hunter Mickelson, floor-spreaders like Perry Ellis and Carlton Bragg and the quickness of Cheick Diallo. Needless to say, we’ll be waitin’ all day for Mondayyyyyy Nightttttt. Or something.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Safe To Call Kansas State Good? Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 24th, 2015

Kansas State had chemistry problems all season long a year ago as the Wildcats stumbled to a miserable 15-17 record. The offseason then brought a multitude of departures that only further weakened a fan base’s confidence in head coach Bruce Weber. This season, however, with 10 newcomers — including seven freshmen — Weber’s team has already given Texas A&M and North Carolina difficult games. The Wildcats also beat Georgia, a better-than-average SEC team, on the road. So who are these Wildcats?

You might be alarmed to learn that Bruce Weber has the Kansas State Wildcats out to an 8-2 start. (Scott Sewell/USA TODAY Sports)

You might be surprised to hear that Bruce Weber has the Kansas State Wildcats off to an 8-2 start. (Scott Sewell/USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Edwards and Wesley Iwundu are the two highest scoring returnees, but it’s freshmen like last year’s Kansas Mr. Basketball Dean Wade (11.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and Kamau Stokes (9.1 PPG, 3.5 APG) who have led the Wildcats to a 9-2 record thus far. Is it too early to call them a good team? Probably. Still, it’s encouraging to see the Wildcats hang around with teams that are clearly better than them. Kansas State likely isn’t at the point of beating good teams just yet, but the Wildcats also aren’t nearly as far away as we expected them to be before the season began. Let’s see how they fared in our latest power rankings.

Power Rankings

  • 1. Oklahoma (tie) — 6 points (Chris & Nate — 1st, Brian & Kendall — 2nd). Comment: “The Sooners still own the Big 12’s best win according to KenPom, a 23-point drubbing of Villanova on a neutral floor. They also have the country’s fifth-best defense. Sophomore Khadeem Lattin has helped fill the void left by the departure of TaShawn Thomas. His production on the defensive end, where he’s grabbed nearly 20.0 percent of the available rebounds and blocked 8.6 percent of the opposing shots, has been his biggest contribution.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops)
  • 1. Kansas (tie) — 6 points (Brian & Kendall — 1st, Chris & Nate — 2nd). Comment: Wayne Selden‘s development has fueled Kansas’ shot at winning a national title. Although Selden can’t shoot 54.0 percent from three-point range all season, he has also increased his field goal percentage at the rim by 10 percent from last season.” – Kendall Kaut (@kkaut)
  • 3. Iowa State — 12 points (All voted 3rd). Comment: “Yes, the Cyclones did not lose their first game until falling to Northern Iowa in Des Moines last week, but their imperfections have been noticeable for a little while now. They struggled to beat a clearly inferior Colorado team. They trailed by 20 at home to Iowa before coming all the way back to win that one in dramatic fashion. Now they’ve lost both a game and a major shotmaker in Naz Mitrou-Long for the season while they slowly work Deonte Burton into the rotation. So, naturally, they then go out and nip Cincinnati at the wire on the road.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

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Big 12 M5: 12.11.15 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 11th, 2015

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  1. In a game where Iowa led for 37 minutes and the game was tied for another two minutes and 21 seconds, archrival Iowa State found a way to win a game that looked like it was lost in Ames last night. The Cyclones ended the game on a 9-0 run, capped by Monte’ Morris’ game-winning floater with less than nine seconds remaining. On the backs of Jared Uthoff (32 points, nine rebounds) and Peter Jok’s (16 points in the second half) work, Iowa built a commanding 20-point lead only to have it erased in the final few moments. Iowa State remains undefeated as another thrilling chapter to the Cy-Hawk Series has been written.
  2. Well, it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt, right? As the buzzer sounded in Ames, Cyclones fans rushed the court in wild celebration. Randy Peterson, the Iowa State beat writer for the Des Moines Register, got caught up in the fracas, was knocked down and left Hilton Coliseum on a stretcher with a broken leg. So now the debate on whether college kids should or should not rush the court has picked up again. Our well wishes go out to Peterson as he begins to heal, and at least he apparently has a great sense of humor about things.
  3. A name familiar to Big 12 fans made his highly-anticipated debut with Wichita State on Wednesday night. Yes, Conner Frankamp, the former Kansas guard, checked into a game for the first time since the Jayhawks’ upset loss to Stanford in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Frankamp, the all-time leading scorer in Wichita high school history, struggled shooting the ball (0-of-5 shooting), but he did hit two crucial free throws late to give the Shockers a two-possession lead with 21 seconds to play. He’ll need to be an important piece for Gregg Marshall’s team as it enters Missouri Valley play but my guess is that Kansas (91.0 PPG) isn’t missing his scoring punch all that much.
  4. Baylor’s Rico Gathers is aware of the fact that he is a very large person. He’s known this about himself for a little more than three years, at the very least. There’s almost no chance a low mid-major team like Northwestern State can adequately prepare for a player his size. Predictably, Gathers had his way with the Demons, scoring a career-high 31 points and outrebounding them by himself, 21 to 18, in the Bears’ 13-point win. He’s already the all-time rebounding king in the history of Baylor basketball with 938 and counting. It would be incredible if he gets to 1,000 boards before conference play opens versus Kansas on January 2.
  5. Texas’ gauntlet of a non-conference schedule continues this weekend as North Carolina will invade the Forty Acres on Saturday. After nailing 15 of 30 threes against UT-San Antonio, can the Horns conceivably put up another respectable effort from outside against a much stronger opponent? With a healthy Marcus Paige back in the Tar Heels’ lineup, Shaka Smart’s squad might need another one of those everything-is-going-through-the-net type of games in order to stay with one of the favorites to cut down the nets next April.
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Big 12 Power Rankings: We Don’t Know Anything Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 10th, 2015

Welcome to what is certain to be an exciting and perplexing year of our Big 12 Power Rankings. Most of the fun found in doing weekly power rankings is to watch the progression of each team from December to March. The other fun part is being given the license to be dead wrong in December because conference play hasn’t yet started. Since we’re less than a month away from league play, join us as we are free to drive off of the road with our rankings and crash into as many mailboxes before our front bumper is no longer a front bumper. Remember to buckle up.

We're not sure what Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is telling his players at this moment. It's likely he is sharing something basketball related here but I wouldn't rule out Kruger explaining to him the lyrics of "Coconut" by Harry Nilsson. (CBS Sports)

We’re not sure what Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is telling his players at this moment. It’s likely he is sharing something basketball related here but I wouldn’t rule out Kruger explaining to him the lyrics of “Coconut” by Harry Nilsson. (CBS Sports)

Power Rankings

1. Kansas (tie) — 6 points (Brian & Kendall — 1st, Chris & Nate — 2nd). Comment: Bill Self‘s best teams have been known for their intensity and defensive toughness, but this might be the best offensive team he’s ever had in Lawrence. The Jayhawks are shooting a white-hot 47.2 percent from three, mostly without the help of Brannen Greene, whose five-game suspension just ended.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

1. Oklahoma (tie) — 6 points (Chris & Nate — 1st, Brian & Kendall — 2nd). Comment: “The Sooners absolutely demolished the Big East’s best team in a convincing 78-55 win over Villanova. Meanwhile, Buddy Hield is taking more shots and knocking them down at a more efficient clip than last season. Barring a major slip up, Oklahoma should enter Big 12 play still undefeated.” – Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) Read the rest of this entry »

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Despite Loss, Vanderbilt Can Learn From Maui Experience

Posted by David Changas on November 27th, 2015

After thrashing St. John’s and Wake Forest in its first two games at this week’s Maui Invitational, Vanderbilt was not able to finish the deal against #5 Kansas in the championship game, falling 70-63. The #19 Commodores, a team that generally has no problem scoring but is somewhat prone to struggling on the defensive end, held the Jayhawks in check for the first half, leading 30-26 at the break. However, defensive shortcomings allowed Kansas to ride a 62.5 percent shooting second half en route to the school’s second championship in Maui. The Commodores helped things along with a woeful 6-of-27 (22.2%) performance from three-point range, and there was no way Kevin Stallings’ team was going to leave the islands with a trophy without a better offensive performance.

Damian Jones and Vanderbilt can take a lot of good from Maui (Bosley Jarrett/Vanderbilt Hustler).

Damian Jones and Vanderbilt can take a lot of good from Maui. (Bosley Jarrett/Vanderbilt Hustler)

Despite the disappointment of not becoming the first SEC team to win the Maui Invitational since 1993 (Kentucky), Vanderbilt’s loss to Kansas should provide Stallings some valuable lessons as the season progresses. First of all, it is highly unlikely that the Commodores will again be so futile on the offensive end. The Commodores came into the game shooting over 42 percent from beyond the arc, so it’s doubtful that one cold shooting performance signals a long-term problem. Where the Vanderbilt coach should be concerned, however, is on the defensive end. The Commodores allowed Kansas guard Wayne Selden, Jr., to completely go off on them, as the junior guard matched his career high with 25 points and almost single-handedly kept the Jayhawks in the game in the first half. Fellow guard Devonte’ Graham scored 12 points of his own as the two Jayhawks’ guards combined to go 7-of-11 from deep. Read the rest of this entry »

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Michigan State vs. Kansas: Four Things to Know

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 17th, 2015

Tonight the fifth annual Champions Classic will tip off at the United Center in Chicago where Michigan State will face Kansas in the late game. The Spartans and Jayhawks — both ranked in the top 15 — bring the usual lofty season expectations each program is accustomed to. Bill Self and Tom Izzo have built the type of rosters that seem to be the recipe for success in today’s college game: a healthy mix of experienced upperclassmen along with some talented freshmen. In order to prepare you for tonight’s game and get you familiar with some of the new faces, here are four things you need to know before you tune in to watch.

Deyonta Davis will need to keep dominating inside against Kansas. (Rey De Rio/Getty Images)

Deyonta Davis faces his first major challenge in the paint against Kansas. (Rey De Rio/Getty Images)

  1. Deyonta Down Low. Michigan State lost a lot of its muscle in the post when Branden Dawson graduated but Izzo seems to have found a more-than-suitable replacement in four-star freshman Deyonta Davis. The Muskegon, Michigan, native didn’t let his youth and inexperience make him reticent in his inaugural outing on Friday, as evidenced by his stat line of 13 points on 14 shots (team-high), 11 rebounds, and five blocks against Florida Atlantic. But his head coach might have to calm his budding star down a bit tonight because Davis won’t be able to physically bully the Jayhawks in the paint like he did against the Owls. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Power Rankings: Baylor Demands Your Attention Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 3rd, 2015

It’s a near-consensus this season that the Big 12 is considered the best conference in college basketball. As we approach the halfway point of league play, drawing a line between NCAA Tournament contenders and the rest has become an easier task. We all expected Kansas and Iowa State to reign at the top and Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech rounded out the standings (sorry, guys). But the middle five conference teams have been the tough to forecast all season long. West Virginia is 6-2 in league play but still somewhat unproven, with four of those six wins coming against the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State have all left something to be desired. The only middle five team to exceed expectations so far has been none other than Baylor.

It's possible: You can respect Scott Drew's grind while laughing at how silly he looks in this photo. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

It’s possible: You can respect Scott Drew’s grind while laughing at how silly he looks in this photo. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

After finishing sixth last year, Big 12 coaches picked Baylor sixth again before the season began. At the moment, the Bears are in, you guessed it, sixth place. So how are they exceeding expectations? Because they lost Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip — three of their top four scorers from a year ago — and a slew of role players has been charged with taking on greater responsibility. Rico Gathers has been an anchor inside, grabbing more rebounds in a starter’s role (12.0 RPG) while sharing the wealth among veterans Royce O’Neale (6.3 RPG), Taurean Prince (5.7 RPG) and freshman Johnathan Motley (4.6 RPG). The graduation of sharpshooter Heslip left a gaping hole in the team’s outside shooting but that role has been supplanted by another trio of Bears. O’Neale has been a consistent outside shooting option since arriving from Denver (42.4%) and Prince is also capable from distance (40.5%), but the most improvement has come from point guard Kenny Chery (32.5% last season to 40.5%).

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