Even though the 2011-12 college basketball season still has its youth, it is already easy to identify some of the individuals who have overachieved this season. Players who, for one reason or another, are not only meeting expectations but blasting through them. Overachievers are on every team and come in all shapes and sizes, but this group has shown through the first month-plus of the season that they will have a major impact on the Big 12 this season. The title of overachiever doesn’t stick with these players forever, though — they either become a star, or are considered an “almost-was.” Here we list the five Big 12 basketball players who are overachieving to this point in the season.
Nobody Likes the Overachievers in College. Except on the Hardwood. (Newson6.com)
Steven Pledger, Oklahoma – While it is probably safe to consider the entire Sooner roster as overachievers due to their impressive 8-1 start, Pledger seems to be the backbone of their success. He has become a proven floor general this season and has almost doubled his points per game from last year, even while averaging fewer minutes.
Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech – While Tolbert was expected to be one of the Red Raiders’ key freshmen on this team, nobody expected him to be the entire team. Tolbert is leading the Texas Tech in both points per game (14.0) and rebounds per game (6.2), and he dropped 22 against Grambling, 16 against DePaul, and 27 against future Big 12 member TCU. Read the rest of this entry »
This Weekend’s Lede. Saturday was one of the wildest afternoons of college basketball in recent memory. Within a five-hour window from around 2:30 PM to 7:30 PM EST, we experienced one of the ugliest incidents in the modern history of college basketball, followed by both the nation’s #1 and #2 teams losing their first games of the season on the road. The afternoon’s action had the feeling of March in the intensity and drama of the games played, but the added bonus of insane home crowds hungry for key December victories over a bitter rival or, just because. Let’s jump into a busy weekend of storylines…
Your Watercooler Moment. Malice in the Cintas.
We will have much more to say on this in our sister ATB focusing exclusively on the events that occurred with 9.4 seconds remaining in the Crosstown Shootout on Saturday (the post will go live at 6:45 AM EST). Look, we all know that fights sometimes happen in sports, and they’re more likely to happen in volatile situations involving bitter rivals who don’t like each other. The fight was bad enough — in our view, Cincinnati’s Cheikh Mbodj should face criminal battery charges for his stomp to Kenny Frease’s head while the player was already lying on the floor — but the real shame in all of this was the aftermath. Not only did Xavier completely embarrass itself as a school and program in allowing Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons to get on the dais and act like they were representing XU straight outta Compton, but both schools failed to step up Sunday and properly punish the players involved — the most any player was suspended was six games (UC’s Yancy Gates, Octavius Ellis and Mbodj). We hate to say it, but the image-conscious NBA would have been much harsher in its punishments of these players, and given that all of the adults at both schools went to great pains afterward to suggest that such an out-of-control incident was unconscionable, this appears to be yet another example of actions speaking louder than words.
Grab a Coffee While You’re At It. #1 Kentucky Loses at the Buzzer.
Perhaps the best thing we’ve seen from this weekend is this mash-up put together by an IU student (@dbaba12) which shows clips from the camp-out, the game itself (including his halftime prediction of an RTC), the final play, and the aftermath. It’s stuff like this that reminds us why we love college basketball.
Tonight’s Lede. Thursday was a light night on our college basketball buffet, but there were at least two games that made sticking around the house and avoiding the hordes of hysterics downtown worthwhile. An early look at a team that some have been (wrongfully) calling the best Ivy League team of all-time versus the defending national champs was followed by a double-overtime slugfest in the heartland featuring teacher and student. The quality of basketball on this night was not the highest we’ve ever seen, but it was entertaining and it sure beat getting run over by nutty shoppers at CB2.
Your Watercooler Moment. Frank Martin’s Insanity Is No Match For His Mentor.
The above clip was the result of the play that more or less sealed the game for West Virginia in its key 85-80 double-overtime road victory “at” Kansas State tonight (actually in Wichita, but the place was purple). Frank Martin’s f-bombing eyeball act is a bit to Bobby Knight-ish for our tastes, but his ire may have been better directed in chastising the player(s) assigned guarding West Virginia’s superb forward, Kevin Jones, rather than running down his reserve guard, Angel Rodriguez. Even against a defense as tough as K-State’s, Jones made mincemeat of it. He went for his career-high 30 points using a variety of baby hooks, jumpers, drives and crafty maneuvers around the basket. He also grabbed 12 boards, blocked two shots, and hit the three to send the game to overtime as well as the post move to give WVU the lead for good in the second overtime. In other words, he spent 49 of 50 available minutes giving Frank Martin’s team and coaching staff nightmares. In proving that sometimes you just never know, Jones is bringing 21/12 to the table this season while shooting the ball at a 57% clip. Everybody knew he was good, but he’s putting up All-America type of numbers right now. Whether that is sustainable remains to be seen, what we can say with certainty is that this game between Bob Huggins as mentor and Frank Martin as pupil is a very good one — if this is what WVU’s admittance to the Big 12 will regularly look like, a street fight somewhere on the Plains, we’re on board.
A big weekend for Big 12 basketball. We’ll start with Friday’s marquee matchup, Missouri vs. Northwestern State, a game the Tigers won easily, 90-56. It was all Marcus Denmon, all night, as he cruised to a career-high 31 points. Denmon, however, says the Tigers want more, saying, “I feel that starting off 7-0 is good, but it’s something that we want to build on as a team. It’s not something that we’re satisfied with at all.”
Normally a Top 25 matchup, the UCLA-Texas game lacked the national focus it usually carries. That doesn’t mean folks in attendance weren’t treated to a exciting game, though, one in which Texas rallied from an 11-point first half deficit to earn the 69-59 victory. J’Covan Brown dropped 22 points, but the real story was freshman guard Myck Kabongo filling out the stat sheet. Kabongo finished with 13 points, five rebounds, eight assists, and one steal. In a strange turn of events, the LA Sports Arena encountered a power outage early in the first half. After the lights came back on, Texas played at a different level, narrowing the halftime deficit to six before taking control in the second half.
In a matchup of undefeated teams, Baylor easily defeated Northwestern in Evanston, 69-41. While Perry Jones didn’t have the kind of game he did in his season debut, the Bears received contributions from everybody and dominated the Wildcats from the get-go. Scott Drew has taken notice of his squad embracing the team concept, saying, “I’ve really been impressed with the unselfishness of the players.”
While there were some solid matchups this past weekend, many Big 12 basketball eyes are on Tuesday night, when 13th-ranked Missouri will square off against Villanova in the Jimmy V Classic, played at Madison Square Garden. This will be the first time the Tigers have played in Madison Square Garden since 1988, a year before any of the Tiger players were born. Marcus Denmon stated, “the Garden obviously is one of the biggest basketball venues to play in in the world. It’s something that we’re looking forward to.”
Tonight’s Lede. Big East Earns Two Road Wins in SEC/Big East Challenge.
The Length of Kentucky Frustated St. John's to the Tune of 18 Blocks (LHL/P. Alcala)
The first of the three-night SEC/Big East Challenge is in the books, and at least at this point, the Big East appears to have the upper hand. After Georgetown and Providence earned road wins at Alabama and South Carolina that neither was expected to achieve, the conferences are tied at 2-2 going into Friday night’s quadruple-header. Kentucky and Ole Miss saved face for the SEC with two wins of its own, but the Rebels barely survived at DePaul and UK was a heavy favorite over St. John’s. With three Big East schools hosting games on Friday night, and all three positioned as significant favorites, the league will be in a great spot to take a commanding lead in the 12-game challenge heading into Saturday’s final four games. Can the SEC simply send Kentucky’s long-armed corps of flyswatters to each Big East arena instead?
Your Watercooler Moment. Hollis If Ya Hear Me!
Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson came through with a big-time play on the road at Alabama tonight when many lesser teams and players would have crumbled under the pressure. After methodically imposing its defensive will on the Crimson Tide for 38 minutes to take a nine-point lead with a little over two minutes remaining, Alabama went on a 10-0 run behind its stars JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell to take a one-point advantage into Georgetown’s final possession. As the video above shows, Jason Clark, a Thursday All-American, dribble handed off to Thompson on the right side and he drained the long three for the win, ending Alabama’s 24-game home winning streak (fourth longest in the nation). The Hoyas are playing better than anyone could have anticipated and have now defeated two top-15 teams (Memphis as well) while giving another (Kansas) all it wanted. Credit is deserving to John Thompson, III, who has fashioned another really good team after losing his stellar backcourt of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman to graduation last season.
Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!
#8 – Where Get On That Floor Happens
We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.
BYU athletic director Tom Helmoe publicly discussed his school’s involvement with the Big 12 in the conference realignment saga in an interview before the BYU-Oregon State football game. Like pretty much every AD involved in conference realignment, Helmoe played it very safe, stating nothing but the facts. He discussed how BYU did not have an invitation but would not comment further on what BYU’s desired result might be during the conference realignment era. He did admit, however, that discussions with the Big 12 have occurred, and that BYU has been “monitoring the landscape of conference realignment for some time.”
The Columbia Tribunerecently posted a story debating whether or not the alleged financial benefits of Missouri joining the SEC were true. The AP recently broke the news of a study conducted by the Missouri Board of Curators determining that Missouri could earn up to $12 million more annually if it joined the SEC. Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas stated, “I don’t think that’s accurate… I’d like to see the report. I’d like to know who wrote it.”
The Wichita Eagle has a story up about Kansas State and how the integration of newcomers and veterans is going. Frank Martin stated, “We’ve got a group of guys who are extremely experienced and then we’ve got a group of guys who have absolutely no experience”. One thing is for certain, the Wildcats will have a different look about them this season than they have in recent years.
Also in K-State news, coach Frank Martin said that the addition of TCU to the Big 12 will greatly help Kansas State recruiting. “I’m ecstatic about it. We recruit Dallas a lot,” said Martin, who expresses his pleasure in being able to tell the parents of Dallas-area recruits that they will be able to see their sons play in an arena much closer in proximity to their homes when compared to Waco, College Station, Lubbock and Austin.
The KC Staranalyzed the regional differences between various parts of The Show-Me State, from it’s corn fields in the north to the urban sprawl in St. Louis to the mountains in the southwest portion and the southern feel in the bootheel. Depending on where someone lives in the state of Missouri, it’s likely that geography and culture in that locale influences the prevailing opinion on whether Mizzou should jump ship to the SEC, Big Ten or stick with the Big 12. It’s an interesting analysis for a state that often has trouble describing its own character as a result of its central location stuck between the Midwest, Southeast and Great Plains.
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences and a frequent contributor.
For more than a year now, college sports fans have looked on with some mixture of fascination, excitement, disgust and horror as conferences and their member institutions have played a game of chicken with all-out conference-realignment Armageddon. Last June, following Nebraska’s announcement that it was leaving for the Big Ten, the Big 12 was on the verge of extinction when a quartet of teams led by Texas strongly considered a move west to form the first superconference, the Pac-16. However, after a weekend on the edge of the wire, they backed away and recommitted to the Big 12. But now, with Texas A&M’s slow-motion defection from the Big 12 to the SEC all but finished, the Big 12 is in another fight for its survival, with athletic directors and conference commissioners around the country considering their options should the Big 12 dissolve.
Word leaked Tuesday night that the worst-kept current secret in college athletics will finally see the light — Texas A&Mhas been invited to formally join the SEC beginning in the 2012-13 academic year. The school plans to announce its acceptance of the invitation later today, but the question on everyone’s minds from California to New York is what happens next. Will the SEC now seek to add a 14th team like Missouri or West Virginia? Will the Big 12 quartet of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech migrate en masse to the Pac-12? Will the Big East move to swallow up Mizzou, Kansas and Kansas State? Does the Big Ten convince Maryland to jump ship? Or will the ACC raid the Big East for Syracuse, Connecticut, Rutgers and Pittsburgh? The possibilities are seemingly endless and nobody knows how all of this will eventually play out. Our conference realignment expert, Andrew Murawa, will be posting his thoughts on the myriad possibilities later this morning.
One of the more intriguing possibilities from a basketball standpoint was reported by the New York Post‘s Lenn Robbins on Tuesday. If the Big 12 implodes, the 17-team basketball version of the Big East is considering adding Kansas, Missouri and Kansas State to create a ridiculous 20-team hoops juggernaut that would include as many as 14 NCAA quality teams in a given year (last season’s 11 plus the additional three). The format would divide the 20 teams into four five-team divisions, with each team playing home-and-homes within its division and rotating games among the other teams on a yearly basis. It’s been said a million times that all of this conference realignment stuff is driven by football, but if the Big East expands as proposed here or if the ACC raids the power players in the Big East, we’re going to end up with one hell of a basketball league as a byproduct of all this madness.
Luke Winn loves his efficiency stats, and we can’t really blame him. The rise of KenPom-like statistics in college basketball has helped us more deeply understand how to measure and quantify the hidden parts of players’ games who we know are really good despite perhaps only marginal numbers when it comes to the traditional metrics of basketball performance (PPG, RPG, APG). In the first of a three-part series running this week, Winn takes a look at the top ten most valuable point guards of the efficiency era, and you might be surprised with the relatively unheralded player who ends up at the top of the list. It’ll be interesting to compare the lead guards against the other players later this week, but three of the top ten single-season performances by those players were as a part of national championship teams, lending credence to the theory that superb play at the position is almost essential to winning a title.
About that NBA lockout thing. In case you haven’t yet noticed, the NBA has now been locked out of its facilities for over two months and there are no indications of the ongoing labor problems between players and management subsiding soon. The New York Postreported on Monday that Madison Avenue firms who are accustomed to putting nearly a billion dollars worth of annual advertising into the marketplace during the NBA season are looking for other options, and college basketball (along with the NFL) might be one of those beneficiaries. Although college hoops and the NBA generally attract different fans, there are some demographic similarities: for example, both groups skew younger and male than they do among professional football fans, an extremely coveted group of eyeballs among the creative class.
It’s never too early for a preseason All-American team, and in that spirit The Sporting Newsreleased its fifteen-member group on Tuesday. Your first-teamers: UNC’s Harrison Barnes, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Baylor’s Perry Jones, Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. That’s right — one year after Barnes was prematurely selected as the first AP preseason All-American in the history of the organization, TSN is staking its reputation on the extremely talented but oh-so-young Davis. Of course, there have been seven freshmen first-teamers in the last five years, but the hard part is picking the right one. Duke’s Austin Rivers and UConn’s Andre Drummond, for example, might end up being just as worthy as UK’s Davis.
Jim Calhoun‘s non-announcement announcement that he plans to return to the Connecticut sidelines for the 2011-12 season was no shocker to anybody. If it wasn’t the interminable wait for a ‘final’ decision that tipped you off, it was the well-placed leaks from key recruits and their families; if you still weren’t convinced, surely the announcement that superstar center Andre Drummond had chosen to reclassify to the Class of 2011 and play for the Huskies this coming season clinched it. Regardless of when you believed he’d be back, Calhoun will coach his team this season at the rather ripe age of 69 years old (he turns 70 next May) and, despite some health issues in the past, he shows few signs of slowing down. And, in fact, his team will be on the short list of contenders after North Carolina and Kentucky most likely to cut the nets down next April in New Orleans.
Why Would Calhoun Give This Up?
We know that with his third national title last season, the curmudgeonly coach passed Kansas’ Phog Allen (66) as the oldest coach to win a college basketball national title, but with a stacked team returning and a few more gray hairs on top of his head, it got us wondering who his senior citizen peers are within the other sports. Here’s the list of oldest coaches to have won a title in each of the major team sports:
MLB – Jack McKeon (2003), 72 years old
NCAA Football – Bobby Bowden (1999), 69 years old
NCAA Basketball – Jim Calhoun (2011), 68 years old
NFL – George Halas (1963), 68 years old
NHL – Scotty Bowman (2002), 68 years old
NBA – Phil Jackson (2010), 64 years old
Calhoun’s championship last season falls right into the middle of that list, but if he were to win another one next spring a mere five weeks shy of his 70th birthday, he’d trail only the inimitable Jack McKeon as the oldest head coach to win a major title in American team sports. All due respect to McKeon and our friends in Major League Baseball, but Calhoun’s hands-on approach in teaching 18-21 year-old players is a completely different job than delegating those duties to a coaching staff to train older professionals — from our viewpoint, the daily demands on Calhoun’s energy are considerably more.