Big 12 M5: 11.03.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 3rd, 2014

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  1. Guys like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Isaiah Austin and DeAndre Kane might be gone from the league, but the Big 12 could be as good as ever this season. As was pointed out here, this is the first season when four Big 12 teams have made an appearance in the Preseason AP Top 25. Those four teams are Kansas (#5), Texas (#10), Iowa State (#14), and Oklahoma (#19). The quartet of Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia all received votes as well. Kansas was picked by Big 12 scribes to win the conference for the 11th consecutive year and the AP voters rightfully gave the Jayhawks the highest ranking of any Big 12 team. But as you can see, there isn’t much of a gap between Kansas and the other schools, which should make for a great conference race.
  2. Former President Bill Clinton was campaigning for Democrats in Iowa over the weekend when he stopped at a coffee shop in Ames. “You have a very interesting team,” he told a small group of people, referring to Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team [see full video below]. It’s not every day when someone can talk hoops with a former president, and while Clinton didn’t give any amazing breakdowns during the conversation, it was still pretty cool to see. For someone who probably doesn’t watch a ton of Cyclones basketball, his wasn’t a terrible point to make. If the Cyclones are anything like what they’ve been in the past few years under Hoiberg, they’ll shoot well enough in some games to beat anybody and go cold in others, making them as upset-prone as nearly any team in the country.
  3. If Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas becomes eligible this season, Crimson and Cream Review believes that Oklahoma might be able to knock Kansas off the top spot in the Big 12 for the first time in over a decade. That’s good news for their readers, who seem to believe that Thomas will receive a waiver to play soon. The Sooners winning the conference wouldn’t be a stunner on the level of a TCU or Texas Tech winning the Big 12 title, but getting past Kansas and Texas this year? I don’t know about that one.
  4. Kansas freshman forward Cliff Alexander seemed to be a guy who might need a few weeks to get used to the college game. If you watched his high school clips, he basically did whatever he wanted inside simply because he was five inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than anyone else on the court. And while Kansas coach Bill Self recently told beat writer Gary Bedore that Alexander “had done great,” it still looks like he will need a month or so to get the hang of things in college. “Tarik averaged more fouls than rebounds and points until Christmas, and Cliff has the same potential to do that,” Self said. “But when he gets it, he’s going to be really good. I think by the end of the year, he could be one of the harder players to deal with in the league.”
  5. CBSSports.com recently ranked its top 100 college basketball players heading into the season, and surprisingly (at least to this writer), incoming freshman Jahlil Okafor was their No. 1 player ahead of guys like Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and Frank Kaminsky. The list’s top Big 12 player is Iowa State forward Georges Niang, who will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents this season with the losses of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim from the Cyclones. He is joined in the top 25 by West Virginia’s Juwan Staten (#12), Kansas’ Cliff Alexander (#14), Texas’ Myles Turner (#16), Kansas State’s Marcus Foster (#20), Kansas’ Kelly Oubre (#21), Kansas’ Perry Ellis (#22), and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield (#25). That’s not a bad collection of talent for what looks to be the second-best conference in the country, behind only the ACC.

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Big 12 M5: 10.27.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2014

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  1. Texas isn’t exactly hurting for guards, but the Longhorns picked one up for the future with a verbal commitment over the weekend from four-star high school senior Kerwin Roach. In Roach, Rick Barnes gets his second commitment for the 2015 class (joining fellow guard Eric Davis). While this season’s Longhorns will be loaded with bigs like Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes and Myles Turner, the roster makeup will begin to shift smaller next season, so keep this move in the back of your mind going forward.
  2. Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal gives a stellar look into Bill Self’s simple yet efficient philosophy when it comes to offense. The value of the layup cannot be overstated, and if you watch a lot of Kansas’ games, you’ll see the Jayhawks pass the ball three or four times around the perimeter looking for a post entry angle before the ball ever crosses the three-point line. While it may be basic, it’s also why you see Self get visibly upset every time someone like Naadir Tharpe or Tyshawn Taylor hoists a quick three. This year, look for more close-range shots with paint artist Perry Ellis and the powerful Cliff Alexander on the low blocks.
  3. The success of Oklahoma this season will depend on its frontcourt depth, writes The Crimson And Cream Machine, and we couldn’t agree more. Last season, the recipe was for the backcourt to carry the load offensively and get just enough from double-double machine Ryan Spangler to carry the day. While Spangler will be back, the thing he has now that he didn’t have last year will be a little more help. D.J. Bennett, who averaged just nine minutes per game last year, will likely see more run, and Spangler could really benefit if TaShawn Thomas is ruled eligible.
  4. Continuing with the theme of post production, players up and down Kansas State’roster are excited for what their big men will provide this season. The Wildcats haven’t had a player 6’10” or taller on the roster since Bruce Weber took over as head coach, and this year, they’ll have two such big men in Brandon Bolden and Stephen Hurt, who both stand 6’11”. The added size will provide Marcus Foster with new targets, so while the losses of D.J. Johnson (injury) and Jack Karapetyan (transfer) hurt from a depth perspective, the remainders should give Kansas State hope for another finish in the top half of the Big 12.
  5. We’ll leave you with a frivolity from the weekend. You may have heard that TCU‘s football team rolled up 82 points on Texas Tech, and in case you were wondering when the last time the Horned Frogs put up that kind of offense on the hardwood, it was on December 19 against Grambling State. To find the last instance when the Horned Frogs scored 82 points against a league foe, however, you’d have to go all the way back to a March 3, 2012, battle against then-Mountain West opponent San Diego State, a 98-82 loss. Given that TCU has yet to field even a top-150 offense under Trent Johnson, don’t expect many such performances this season.
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Big 12 M5: 10.24.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 24th, 2014

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  1. It’s been a rough week for complementary players in the Big 12. We’ve talked about D.J. Johnson and Georgois Tsalmpouris being hobbled to various degrees, and Thursday, it was announced that Iowa State transfer Hallice Cooke (formerly of Oregon State) will miss the season to repair cartilage tears in both of his hips. Cooke’s injury won’t have too big an impact this year, as he wasn’t going to play anyway due to NCAA transfer rules, but now, he won’t even be able to practice with his new team. Cooke will have three years of eligibility left starting with the 2015-16 season.
  2. Kansas State guard Marcus Foster admitted that being snubbed by Kansas as a prospect is a motivating factor as he looks to live up to high expectations as a sophomore for the Wildcats this season. In case you aren’t familiar, Foster was a highly sought-after guard before he let his conditioning fall by the wayside. Bruce Weber stuck with him, though, and Kansas State was rewarded for their loyalty with a commitment and the best season from a freshman Wildcat since Michael Beasley. Foster is getting some attention as a Big 12 Player Of The Year Candidate, so it will be interesting to see if he gets off to a fast start next month.
  3. Cliff Alexander and Myles Turner were mentioned by NBC’s College Basketball Talk among 20 impact freshmen around the game this year. Both Alexander and Turner have tremendous strength that should help them power to the basket on offense, but like the vast majority of freshmen at any level of college hoops, both are a little rough around the edges. It will be a lot of fun to see how they match up come conference play, as those tilts could very well decide the fate of the Big 12 race.
  4. This week had been a little quiet on the Baylor front, but not anymore. Late Thursday night, Scott Drew reeled in his fourth commitment of the 2015 class when 6’3″ guard Wendell Mitchell gave a verbal commitment to the Bears. Depending on which scouting service you prefer, Mitchell checks in with either three or four stars. While Baylor hasn’t landed a big fish in the class quite yet, they have some solid pieces on the way and remain in the hunt for the services of 5-star big man Skal Labissiere.
  5. Tubby Smith‘s first season as the head coach of Texas Tech saw his team spring a few upsets, topping Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas during conference play. While there are seven new players on the squad, Smith is hopeful that the team will build on last year’s experience and become a more competitive squad in 2014-15. The ceiling for this team remains limited, but as our Nate Kotisso relayed earlier this week, they have a deep pool of guards that can help lead them to a finish around .500 in league play if things break right.
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Big 12 M5: 10.22.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 22nd, 2014

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  1. Remember yesterday when we said that Kansas State‘s depth down low should be just fine? Well, it may not be so fine after all. It turns out that a broken foot sustained earlier this fall by Wildcats big man D.J. Johnson will keep the junior out for the entire season. Head coach Bruce Weber mentioned at Big 12 Media Day last week that the injury would likely lead Johnson to redshirt the year, but it seems like an even clearer possibility now. Fair or not, Johnson’s absence puts more pressure on Thomas Gipson, Wesley Iwundu and Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden to stay healthy and productive.
  2. If you lean more towards the statistical and analytical side of things, Jeff Haley has a treat for you with his in-depth breakdown of the 2014-15 Iowa State Cyclones. We’ll have our own preview of Fred Hoiberg’s squad within the next few weeks, but until then, if you’ve ever wanted to know how many two-point jumpers Bryce Dejean-Jones put up for UNLV last season, what Marquette transfer Jameel McKay will bring to the table once he’s eligible, or how Iowa State will be able to maintain its trademark spacing on offense, Jeff’s your guy.
  3. Recently, Rick Barnes took an opportunity to get close to a few fans during Texas‘ open practice. Among other things, we were reminded that big man Myles Turner announced his commitment to the Longhorns while wearing a bucket hat. We’ll leave it to the fashionistas to determine if bucket hats — last considered popular in 1998, or Barnes’ first year at the helm in Austin — are back in style (unlikely), but we will say that if they take off at Longhorns games, you were warned.
  4. NBC Sports’ College Basketball Talk has slotted Oklahoma in as the 15th-ranked team in the country. The Sooners have an interesting look because they have nearly everyone of importance back, but just one senior (D.J. Bennett) figures to be a rotation mainstay, although that will change if transfer TaShawn Thomas is deemed eligible. Either way, Oklahoma is experienced, but it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that they’re young, either, which is an odd combination. All in all we agree with Rob Dauster’s assertion that there’s a wide range of possibilities for Oklahoma when it comes to their place in the crowded top half of the Big 12, but at this stage, a win or two in the NCAA Tournament is a very reasonable expectation.
  5. Another former Kansas coach went on record about his experience coaching in Allen Fieldhouse: current UNC head coach Roy Williams. Despite the hard feelings some Kansas fans had towards Williams when he left (many of which have been soothed by a national championship and three postseason head-to-head victories), it is clear that the longtime coach still has a special place in his heart for the school and its fans. Williams hasn’t set foot in The Phog since he surprised the college basketball world by leaving Kansas for his alma mater in 2003, but all things considered, the move has worked out well for all parties involved.
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Big 12 M5: 10.21.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 21st, 2014

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  1. Kansas State‘s frontcourt depth will suffer a minor hit after it was announced that Jack Karapetyan has withdrawn from school and will look to transfer. The California native played in just six games before losing his season to a foot injury last year. Fortunately for him, the injury came early enough in the season that he qualified for a medical hardship waiver, which means he will have all of his eligibility at his new school. The Wildcats don’t figure to miss him, though, as they have plenty of bodies up front.
  2. If there’s one team in need of a fresh start this season, it’s Oklahoma State. Though the Cowboys rallied to make the NCAA Tournament, they finished far below expectations and are ready for a clean slate. The team is looking to Le’Bryan Nash to fill the leadership void left by the departures of Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. Nash came to Stillwater three years ago and developed a reputation for hunting shots as he struggled to accept a complimentary role. Now that he is Oklahoma State’s returning scorer, however, he will need to step up and build on a very solid junior year.
  3. A chance to play for a coach who is so well-regarded that he is approached by NBA teams on an annual basis, a rabid fan base that packs its home court every night, and the opportunity to be tested in arguably the country’s toughest conference. What’s not to like about Iowa State basketball? That’s a question we have for 6’10” Indian Hills Community College prospect Malik Dime, who verbally committed to Washington over the Cyclones on Monday. If you are going to turn down The Mayor, you better have a good reason, and according to the linked article, a couple of Washington connections were the difference.
  4. Current Southern Methodist coach and former Kansas head coach Larry Brown recalled some fond memories of coaching in Allen Fieldhouse in advance of the building’s 60th anniversary, which will be celebrated with a gala next week. Brown was only in Lawrence for five seasons, but he left a lasting legacy as the conductor of the 1988 national championship team following a prolonged stretch of mediocrity in the twilight of his predecessor’s (Ted Owens) career.
  5. As if it were even possible, West Virginia projects to lean more heavily on Juwan Staten than it did last year. Only 20 players in the country played a higher percentage of available minutes than Staten in 2014 so it’s tough imagine a bigger workload coming his way in 2015. If you ask us, the key to the Mountaineers’ season isn’t Staten’s performance, since he is more or less a known quantity, but rather the improvement of West Virginia’s abysmal defense.
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Big 12 Media Day Recap: A Photo For The Ages

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 16th, 2014

If you haven’t heard, Kansas City’s a happening place these days. Aside from that ALCS thing in town yesterday, the Big 12 also held its annual men’s basketball media day at the Sprint Center (here’s all that stuff, if it tickles your fancy). It was your run-of-the-mill media day: Reporters asked bland questions, players and coaches gave calculated answers, and no one really learned anything new. The apex of the festivities came, however, when the Big 12’s Twitter account tweeted out a group photo will all 10 of the conference’s head coaches. Here it is below:

Bask in all its glory (photo via @Big12Conference on Twitter)

Bask in All of its Glory (photo via @Big12Conference)

Instead of breaking down the nonstop action from media day, the following were the “thoughts” that went through each coach’s mind at the time the above photo was taken.*

  • Baylor’s Scott Drew: “I hate coming here when the Tournament is in an odd-numbered year. (sighs) OK, what should I do here, hands together or apart? Together? Apart? Wait, did I use all my timeouts yet? [camera takes photo] Ah heck, they’re apart.”
  • Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg: “Put me in the back, will ya? That’s fine. I’ll end up dreamier than I was before.”
  • Kansas’ Bill Self: “Really wanted to wear Wiggins’ draft day suit again. Knew I shouldn’t have had that glass of butter with dinner.”
  • Kansas State’s Bruce Weber: (chuckles to himself) “I can’t believe Ford was in ‘The 6th Man.’ That’s the best movie of all-time! I bet that made a heckuva lot of money in theaters!”
  • Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger:  “I would take another coaching job right now if it meant I didn’t have to take this photo.”
  • Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford: “This contract I have means that I’m pretty much bulletproof. I could pull down Drew’s pants right now and I’d STILL get that check next week. [mulls it over] Nah, I won’t do that to ‘em. He’s probably worried that he has to call a timeout here or something.”
  • Texas’ Rick Barnes: “I bet if I left media day, traveled the world and missed the entire year, we’d still have a better record than the football team.”
  • TCU’s Trent Johnson: “I don’t know why this camera guy told me to move this far up. He could have gotten a much better shot of me if I stood at half-court like I wanted.”
  • Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith: “I should have been more direct with people calling me Orlando instead of Tubby.”
  • West Virginia’s Bob Huggins:  “I don’t think anyone here gets my E. Gordon Gee Halloween costume.”

*thoughts confirmed by unnamed sources

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Five Takeaways From the Preseason Big 12 Coaches Poll

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 9th, 2014

We’re a little over a month away from the first games of the 2014-15 season, and that means the typical roll-out of preseason coaches polls, all-conference teams and all of the other fun stuff that comes with the countdown. This morning, the Big 12 Conference released its annual preseason coaches poll. You can find the complete rankings here, but here are the five biggest takeaways from the release.

  1. Kansas picked to lead the pack (again), though narrowly: Death, taxes, the sun shining in the east, Adam Sandler making terrible movies, and the Jayhawks winning the Big 12. Sometimes, there’s just no need to complicate life’s certainties. Kansas’ roster isn’t without questions, but whose isn’t? Until someone knocks the Jayhawks off the mountain, any predictions in favor of other teams are simply bold picks. The Longhorns are right behind the Jayhawks with three first-place votes to Kansas’ six in this poll, and have one of the best combinations of talent and depth in the country, but don’t count on the Jayhawks to give up their crown this season.
  2. Sooners on the rise: Oklahoma checks in after Texas and was one of the bigger overachievers in college basketball last season. Lon Kruger returns nearly everyone from a young roster that racked up 23 wins, a second-place finish in the Big 12, and an NCAA Tournament bid. While the team’s defense will need to improve, the offensive firepower should still be there, and the squad can catch a huge break if Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas is ruled eligible. Combine all of that with Kruger’s track record and there are plenty of reasons to believe the Sooners will build on last year’s success.

    Andrew Wiggins is a pro, but Bill Self has reloaded Kansas once again. (KUSports.com)

    Andrew Wiggins is a pro, but Bill Self has reloaded Kansas once again. (KUSports.com)

  3. Is the Big 12 selling Fred Hoiberg short?: Before the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the league’s coaches penciled Iowa State in the bottom half of the standings, and both times, Fred Hoiberg exceeded expectations. Last year, the coaches appeared to finally smarten up, as they tabbed the Cyclones to finish fourth, but Iowa State still outperformed those projections, finishing third in the league and winning the Big 12 Tournament. The departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim appear to have given the coaches pause this season in sliding the Cyclones down to fifth, but we’ve seen The Mayor rebuild too many times to believe he can’t muster a top-four finish, possibly top three if things break right for his club. Look for Bryce Dejean-Jones, Georges Niang and Monte Morris to do some big things in 2014-15.
  4. What to make of the perceptions of Kansas State and Baylor: Both the Wildcats and Bears face significant roster turnover from last season’s NCAA Tournament teams, but Bruce Weber’s team was tabbed fourth and Scott Drew’s team sixth. It appears as though the league’s coaches are looking for Wildcats guard Marcus Foster to make a big leap as a sophomore and for Baylor to continue its every-other-year pattern, because I just don’t see what else can explain the 17-point difference in the preseason vote tally.
  5. At 7th and 8th place, Bob Huggins and Travis Ford face big seasons: West Virginia’s transition to the Big 12 has been a rocky one. The Mountaineers are just 49-49 over the last three seasons, and while it’s tough to picture Bob Huggins’ seat getting too hot in Morgantown, it’s time for him to produce. Juwan Staten could be the best player in the Big 12, but his amazing talent will be wasted if West Virginia doesn’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, in Stillwater, Travis Ford looks to pick up the pieces from one of the most disappointing seasons by a Power Five conference school in recent memory. To his credit, he’s made some inroads on the recruiting circuit, but it’s hard to see freshmen like Joe Burton and Mitch Solomon being good enough complements to Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte for the Cowboys to make a run.
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Big 12 M5: Mid-June Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on June 16th, 2014

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  1. There may not be a bigger question mark at any position for a given team in the Big 12 than the point guard spot at Kansas. After Naadir Tharpe left the program, paving the way for signee Devonte‘ Graham to enroll in Lawrence, the question moved from “who will play at the point?” to “how will the freshman fare?” First-year point guards have rarely led the way for Bill Self’s teams at Kansas, so Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star is here to give the lowdown on the winding story of how Graham and Kansas matched up with one another. If Graham doesn’t pick things up in the Jayhawks’ system early, Self will again be left to his backup options of Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp.
  2. A pair of Iowa State Cyclones have had some run-ins with the law recently, earning sophomore guard Matt Thomas and Southern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader indefinite suspensions after each was cited for driving while intoxicated at different points in the offseason. As stupid of a decision as it is to drive while drunk, it would be a surprise if head coach Fred Hoiberg held either player out of game action once the season gears up. Still, both players have opportunities to make big impacts for the Cyclones next season, so it would be in everyone’s best interests for them to remain out of trouble off the court.
  3. Roughly one year ago, Stevie Clark was unofficially anointed the point guard in-waiting of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. However, after encountering a couple of legal incidents himself, Travis Ford dismissed him from the team, leaving an opening for a new floor general. Former LSU point guard Anthony Hickey is set to join the Cowboys and could fill that role as a transfer, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to get a waiver to play immediately. He has some makeup questions of his own, but if he is ruled eligible and realizes the opportunity in front of him, he could play a big part in steadying the Cowboys’ ship after a disastrous 2013-14 campaign.
  4. Last week, Kansas State rolled out its finalized non-conference schedule for the 2014-15 season, and while it isn’t a juggernaut, it looks plenty daunting. The Wildcats have two true road games (at Long Beach State and at Tennessee), and Bruce Weber‘s team will head out to Hawai’i for the Maui Invitational. This year’s field will be competitive as usual, with Arizona, San Diego State, Pittsburgh and Purdue among the competitors, but another interesting potential showdown could involve former Big 12 member Missouri. Last season, the Wildcats had to make up for some embarrassing early losses, but with an improved squad, they’ll obviously look for a much better showing this time around as they get ready for what lies ahead later in the season.
  5. In another scheduling tidbit, Baylor learned the team it will face in its Thanksgiving tournament, as the Bears will square off against Memphis in the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena on November 27 and will face either Illinois or Indiana State the following evening. In the aftermath of the losses of Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip from last year’s team, the Bears will need to make hay early if they are to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in the program’s history.
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Another Year, Another Doughnut: What’s Wrong With the Big 12?

Posted by Kory Carpenter on April 10th, 2014

The Big 12 has a problem. It spent most of the regular season perceived as the best conference in the country but went another year without a national champion. Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1984, only two Big 12 teams have won the national title. Both teams were Kansas (1988 and 2008). That represents fewer titles than any other Big Five conference and just one more than UNLV. In the last decade, in fact, Kansas is the only school to make a Final Four appearance as a member of the Big 12 (West Virginia made the Final Four in 2010 while still in the Big East). Since then, the ACC has sent five schools to the Final Four, the SEC seven, and the Big Ten eight. Even the one year-old American Athletic Conference has had a national champion, thanks to Connecticut. This is partly a Kansas problem, as the Jayhawks have missed good opportunities for Final Fours at least four times in the last 10 years. But without the Jayhawks the rest of the Big 12 would resemble Conference USA. It has been full of teams that were good but never considered great, and there is no better example of that than this season.

For the eighth time in the last ten years, the Big 12 failed to send a team to the Final Four.

For the eighth time in the last ten years, the Big 12 failed to send a team to the Final Four.

Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Texas spent time together in the Top 25 this season, but only the Jayhawks were considered legitimate threats to go deep in March. Iowa State, for example, cruised to a 13-0 start with a few good wins over Michigan and Iowa, so when they lost to Oklahoma, it meant the Sooners must be good. Or so we thought. And after Kansas State — which lost to Northern Colorado and Charlotte in November — beat a couple of ranked teams like Oklahoma State and Texas, people thought the conference was full of really good teams beating up on one another. But after another disappointing March, it’s time to realize that the Big 12 has one great program and a bunch of other ones capable of playing well for a few weeks at a time. Michigan State has Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. North Carolina has Duke and Syracuse. Kentucky has Florida. Kansas has a handful of teams capable of upsetting them in their building and disappearing a week later. This is most evident in the fact that Kansas has won 10 straight regular season titles. Bill Self is a future Hall of Fame coach and is on one of the best regular season runs we have seen in decades, but would he have 10 straight titles in any other major conference? Not a chance. And with Self’s prowess on the recruiting trail lately, it’s hard to see any Big 12 team ending the Jayhawks’ run of conference titles.

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Your Way-Too-Early 2014-15 Big 12 Power Rankings

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 9th, 2014

While the Big 12 catapulted a league-record seven teams into the Big Dance this season, the absence of a Final Four team among the ranks marked the latest in a series of missed opportunities for the conference to assert itself in the national conversation. The NCAA Tournament is chaotic by nature, but failing to send a single team to the final weekend eight times in the last 10 years is not the kind of distinction that the league’s administrators and coaches pride themselves on. Still, the Big 12 remains a very good league, and even though the statuses of a few NBA Draft hopefuls remain up in the air, there’s enough continuity remaining for us to ballpark the conference’s pecking order heading into next season. This is far from a predicted order of finish, but in the second week of April, here is how we think things stand.

1. Kansas

Betting against Kansas to win the Big 12 is a fool's errand, but if they want to make noise in March, they need to resolve their point guard issues.

Everyone knows that betting against Kansas to win the Big 12 is a fool’s errand, but if the Jayhawks want to make noise next March, they need to resolve their point guard issues.

  • Departures of Note: Andrew Wiggins, Tarik Black, Joel Embiid (probable)
  • Notable Returnees: Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Conner Frankamp, Naadir Tharpe, Brannen Greene, Jamari Traylor, Frank Mason
  • New Additions: Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander, Hunter Mickelson (Arkansas transfer)
  • Outlook: The back line should be very solid once again, especially if the Jayhawks can land Myles Turner. That possibility only figured to be an option if Joel Embiid left, and all indications are that the Cameroonian center will announce his departure later today. Perhaps of greater note is that there’s no imminent cure for the Jayhawks’ backcourt problems, though they do have options in Mason and Frankamp.

2. Texas

  • Departures of Note: None
  • Notable Returnees: Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Isaiah Taylor, Javan Felix, Conner Lammert, Prince Ibeh
  • New Additions: Jordan Barnett, Obinna Oleka (JuCo transfer)
  • Outlook: The Longhorns figure to return everyone from the cohesive group that got Rick Barnes comfortably off the hot seat and in the direction of conference Coach Of The Year accolades. Texas will be good again next year, but swaying the commitment of in-state standout big man Myles Turner could provide the program the opening it needs to dethrone Kansas.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.21.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 21st, 2014

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March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

South Region

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Big 12 M5: 03.19.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on March 19th, 2014

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  1. After cutting down the nets in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City on Saturday night, Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team is riding high on confidence and momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament, as the Cyclones became the first Big 12 team to win the conference tournament while seeded fourth or lower. Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune took a look at how teams that have been in a similar situation after winning their conference tournament as a lower seed have fared in the Big Dance, and found that in all five instances, those squads have fallen in either the first or second round. More recently, however, we’ve seen a pair of teams from the old Big East use their performance in their conference tournament to fuel a run in the NCAAs. Those two teams are the Kemba Walker-led Connecticut team that cut down the nets in 2011, and the Louisville team that challenged Kentucky in the 2012 Final Four. There’s certainly a case to be made for Iowa State building on last week’s success, but they’ll need to continue to shoot the ball with confidence if they intend on writing their own March story.
  2. After a great start to the conference season which propelled them near the top of the league standings, Texas dropped four of its last six regular season games and were bounced in the second round of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. If Rick Barnes’ team wants to stick around a bit longer this week, they will be best served by leaning on their elite ability to rebound the basketball, which ranks fourth in the nation in large part because of big man Cameron Ridley. As the Dallas Morning News points out, Texas isn’t really elite at anything else, from a statistical standpoint, outside of crashing the glass. In a Thursday match-up against Arizona State, this could be a big factor against a Sun Devils team that ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in rebounding.
  3. While our infatuation as a society with one-and-done college players seems to grow by the day, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star points out that freshmen-led teams winning an NCAA title are still the exception, not the rule. Bill Self’s Kansas team has had freshmen play 55.6 percent of the available minutes this season, and only the Anthony Davis-led Kentucky team has won a national championship with freshmen contributing over half of their minutes. Last year’s Louisville championship team gave only 8.1 percent of its total minutes to freshmen, a number that resembles the allocation to this year’s Florida team. From an optimistic standpoint, you could argue that Kansas resembles the 2012 champs in the sense that two Jayhawks are also projected as the top two picks in June’s NBA Draft. But the obvious flaw to that argument is that one of those future lottery picks might not see the court for the rest of the season, as Joel Embiid continues to battle a stress fracture in his lower back.
  4. When the NCAA Tournament brackets were released on Sunday evening, nearly everyone in the nation pointed to a potential third round match-up between Wichita State and Kentucky. The Shockers haven’t seen much of the type of athleticism that John Calipari puts out on the floor in what could be a very interesting showdown. What many failed to realize, however, is that the Wildcats have to survive a tough opening round game against a pesky Kansas State team which, by the way, finished fourth in what might have been the toughest conference in college basketball. The inherent urge to overlook K-State might be the best thing that could happen to Bruce Weber’s team this week, as he will have no problem motivating his team Friday night. While Kansas State won’t have the surplus of athletes of Kentucky, their disciplined approach and motion offense might be the perfect counter to what has been an undisciplined team for a majority of the season.
  5. To say that this season hasn’t gone according to plan for Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State would be quite the understatement. Part of Smart’s motivation to return for his sophomore season in Stillwater was fueled by the Cowboys’ second round loss a season ago against a terribly underseeded Oregon team. Heading into Friday’s game against Gonzaga, Smart has a chance to leave one lasting impression on his short, often criticized career at Oklahoma State. Aside from his mediocre long range shooting ability, there’s no question that Smart is an outstanding talent who could carry a team through several rounds in March. Whether he can change our perception of his college career for the good, though, remains to be seen.
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