Big 12 M5: Weekend Preview Edition

Posted by Kendall Kaut on January 8th, 2016

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  1. Iowa State hosts Baylor on Saturday as the Cyclones hope to defeat the only team that won a Big 12 game in Hilton Coliseum last season. The Bears, however, enter the game 0-3 on the road this season. One way Scott Drew’s team was able to win in Ames a year ago was on the strength of its shooting, but Taurean Prince will have to return to his road form of last season because he’s only shooting 25 percent away from Waco. Iowa State may now be down to a seven-man rotation, but the Cyclones have been able to survive so far in large part because of the lowest defensive free throw rate in the country. If Deonte Burton continues to play so well — the transfer is averaging 11.0 points in just 18 minutes per game — the Cyclones will have a great chance at a top-three finish in the Big 12 race.
  2. Texas Tech has been the surprise of the season thus far, but it will have a huge task ahead on Saturday in Lubbock. Fresh off a triple-overtime win against Oklahoma, Kansas will be looking to avoid a letdown. The Red Raiders played Iowa State close on Wednesday night, but struggled to stop Matt Thomas late in the game. That challenge will be heightened against a Kansas team that ranks second nationally in three-point offense at 45.7 percent. In his third season with the Red Raiders, Tubby Smith seems to have made a leap with this team (#6 RPI; #39 KenPom). If they can pull off the upset, it could be a really nice Selection Sunday two months from now.
  3. After a legendary 46-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist performance from Buddy Hield against Kansas, the Sooners will host Kansas State on Saturday. The Wildcats have been much better than many expected this season, but because of scheduling and some bad luck they are staring down an 0-3 start in league play. Bruce Weber’s team managed to beat Oklahoma twice last season, which should prevent the Sooners from overlooking them.
  4. West Virginia can start 3-0 in Big 12 play with a win over Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Mountaineers’ vaunted press has put the team second nationally in three-point defense and first in opponents’ turnover percentage. With games coming against Kansas and Oklahoma next week, West Virginia’s schedule will ramp up soon, which is why it’s so important to win the games in which you’re favored. In contrast, Oklahoma State has been killed by the recent news that Phil Forte is probably out for the season, but Jawun Evans has shown how special the Cowboys’ backcourt can be a year from now. Evans had nine assists against Baylor and got to the line 10 times against TCU.
  5. Life has been difficult without big man Cameron Ridley, but Texas can get to 2-1 in Big 12 play with a win at TCU on Saturday. Javan Felix‘s 48 percent shooting from three-point range and Isaiah Taylor‘s average of 26.0 points per game in the first two Big 12 games give the Longhorns hope. With Trent Johnson at the helm and an investment in upgraded facilities, the future appears bright at TCU. However, TCU’s offense ranks 236th in KenPom, and with road trips to Baylor and Kansas next week, a loss to the ‘Horns could put the Horned Frogs at major risk of starting 0-5 in Big 12 play.
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Big 12 M5: 01.06.16 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 6th, 2016

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  1. We already offered two reflections on Monday night’s thriller between Oklahoma and Kansas, but if you’re still looking for a fix , Jason King of Bleacher Report wrote a very good article that captured Buddy Hield‘s demeanor in the heat of the battle as well as in defeat. In addition to some anecdotes about Hield’s commitment to improving his game, King relates a story that Bill Self had recruited the Bahamian star out of nearby Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita and had even set him up for an unofficial visit. The current NPOY candidate, however, canceled his trip to Lawrence after committing to the Sooners. This piece is definitely worth your time.
  2. Kansas State‘s surprising start after last season’s faceplant was one of the better Big 12 stories of the first two months of the season, but the Wildcats are now 0-2 in conference play after losing to Texas in Austin. This was an ugly game where both teams shot less than 40 percent from the floor, culminating with Kansas State freshman Barry Brown missing consecutive three-pointers on the team’s final possession to seal the victory for Texas. Barring an upset at Oklahoma on Saturday, Bruce Weber’s team is staring down the barrel of an 0-3 start to conference play, but while Big 12 play presents resume opportunities on a regular basis, that kind of start will be incredibly difficult to overcome for a rebuilding team like the Wildcats. Meanwhile, after facing three straight top-60 KenPom opponents, Texas shouldn’t have many issues when it travels to TCU this weekend.
  3. The only other action Tuesday night saw Baylor handle Oklahoma State by 17 points in Waco, and the biggest takeaway from this game was the Bears’ complete annihilation of the Cowboys on the glass. Baylor hauled in a whopping 44 rebounds — Rico Gathers snagged 17 boards by himself — while Oklahoma State corralled just 18. Gathers also hit a huge personal milestone as he became the first Bear ever to reach 1,000 rebounds, which is an amazing feat when you consider that he didn’t even average 20 minutes per game until his junior year. Gathers has seen all the ups and downs that a four-year career at Baylor can offer, but between his consistency on the court and his commitment to being a good dad away from it, he seems to an all-around good guy to root for.
  4. On the season’s 54th day, Texas Tech will finally play its first true road game as the Red Raiders play Iowa State in Ames tonight. The team’s resurgence has been a nice storyline this season, as their lone blemish to this point is a neutral court loss to Utah. Still, without a top 50 KenPom win, its NCAA Tournament resume lacks heft. That could change soon, though, as they’ll play at Hilton Coliseum, host Kansas and play at Kansas State over the next week. Devaugntagh Williams, Toddrick Gotcher and Norense Odiase look like a dependable core, but the Red Raiders will be put to the test in one of the conference’s toughest environments against a team looking to get back on track.
  5. Perhaps feeling the weight from the fallout of SMU’s academic scandal, one of the central figures in the story, Keith Frazier, has left the Mustang program. According to his prep coach, it sounds like the junior guard from Dallas simply wants to be able to breathe a little, which is understandable. At this point, you’re probably wondering why we’d bring that news up in this space, and the the reason is because Texas Tech was a runner-up for Frazier’s services coming out of high school and, while this is purely speculative (he’s still enrolled at SMU even though he isn’t with the team), could be a destination if he opts to transfer. One of the main reasons Frazier gave for backing off the Red Raiders back in 2013 was because they hired Tubby Smith over then-interim coach Chris Walker, though, so it may not be meant to be, but if you’re Texas Tech and Frazier leaves SMU for good, what’s the harm in calling to see if he’d be interested?
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Big 12 M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on January 1st, 2016

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  1. West Virginia closed out its non-conference schedule with an 88-63 road win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. The Mountaineers were led by sophomore guard Jevon Carter who finished with 18 points. With Juwan Staten’s graduation, Carter has played a much larger offensive roll this season. He’s scoring 13.0 points per game and has improved his outside shot in 2015-16. Already a pesky defender, Carter could be positioning himself for an All-Big 12 type season.
  2. Monte Morris continues to impress. His 10-point, 11-assist, zero-turnover performance in Iowa State’s 104-84 win over Coppin State is Morris’ latest quality outing. While Morris isn’t leading the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio for a third straight season (that honor belongs to Pitt’s James Robinson), he is still averaging nearly six assists per turnover. His impressive distribution is keeping teammates on their toes. “Just get to an open area,” Georges Niang told the media after the Cyclones’ win, “because I know he’s going to zing one past someone’s head and hopefully it doesn’t hit me in the face and it hits me in the hands.”
  3. Big 12 play begins Saturday and as usual the five game slate offers up some interesting matchups. There are two games between top 25 teams to open the conference season. Baylor will travel to Lawrence for an opening day contest against Kansas. While the Bears have a nice home win against Vanderbilt on their resume, they failed to pick up other quality wins during non-conference play. They’ll need to find a few resume builders over the remainder of the season if they want a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and there would be no better place to start than with an upset of the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse.
  4. The other Top 25 matchup on the schedule pits Iowa State against Oklahoma in Norman. The big question is whether or not the Cyclones will be able to generate enough defensive stops. Iowa State is giving up 81.3 points per game over their last three contests and opponents are now converting 35.7 percent of their threes against the Cyclones. That may not bode well against the Sooners who are shooting 46.2 percent from behind the arc this season. If both Oklahoma and Kansas pull of the victories as expected, we could be treated to a matchup between #1 and #2 in Lawrence on Big Monday.
  5. The remainder of the Big 12 slate pits Texas Tech against Texas, West Virginia against Kansas State, and Oklahoma State against TCU. The Red Raiders are looking for their first win versus the Longhorns since 2014. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers will be looking to start off conference play with a road win after going 4-5 away from home in the Big 12 last season. The battle between the Cowboys and the Horned Frogs will give both teams an opportunity to pick up what may be one of their few Big 12 wins this season.
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Big 12 New Year’s Resolutions: Part I

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2015

The year 2016 is right around the corner and along with it comes Big 12 conference play, as the league gets underway with six games on January 2. Although we know that only a fraction of people ultimately keep their New Year’s resolutions, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to come up with a few challenges for teams in the Big 12 once the ball drops tomorrow night. This is part one of a two-part series.

Kansas: To give Devonte Graham the praise he deserves

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

Devonte Graham has brought a number of positive changes to Kansas. (Charles Riedel/The Associated Press)

The focus on Kansas to this point has reasonably and rightfully been on the improved play of Wayne Selden and the consistent performance of senior forward Perry Ellis. However, the Jayhawks’ most under appreciated asset may well be sophomore point guard Devonte Graham. Graham’s move to the starting lineup has been linked to Selden’s rise because it helped free him up offensively, but Graham has provided much more. The sophomore has helped increase the number of turnovers the Jayhawks are causing on defense while simultaneously decreasing the number of turnovers Kansas commits on offense by reducing his personal turnover rate from 20.1 percent to 9.9 percent. Graham’s sophomore emergence has made the Jayhawks a national title contender and he deserves more praise for the role he’s played.

Iowa State: To find rest and relaxation for the Cyclones’ rotation

Naz Mitrou-Long’s recovery from hip surgery hit the Cyclones hard. With Deonte Burton becoming eligible at semester, it looked like Iowa State was set to have a quality eight man rotation heading into conference play. Now that Mitrou-Long’s season is over, coach Steve Prohm has made it clear that he intends to stick with a seven man rotation for the remainder of the season. Iowa State ranks 347th in percentage of bench minutes played with just 21.4 percent of available minutes coming off the bench. Last season, Wisconsin reached the Final Four with similar numbers, so the limited rotation doesn’t rule out a trip to Houston for the Cyclones, but they’ll need all the rest and relaxation they can get on the way there. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.30.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on December 30th, 2015

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  1. There will be very few easy games in the Big 12 this season. One of the criticisms of the conference last year was that the bottom of the league wasn’t very good. That should change in 2015-16. On Tuesday, Texas Tech picked up their fourth win over a team ranked in the top 100 on KenPom with an 85-70 victory over Richmond. The Red Raiders lone non-conference loss came against a quality Utah team. Tech is predicted to finish 8-10 in the league which would be the school’s best mark under head coach Tubby Smith. The Red Raiders also have a chance to pick up a road win against Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. If things fall in their favor, they could find themselves with a shot at their first NCAA Tournament birth since 2007.
  2. Kansas State will also contribute to a deeper Big 12 in 2015-16. With a dominating 75-47 win over Saint Louis on Tuesday, the Wildcats pushed their non-conference record to 10-2. Kansas State’s calling card has been its defense and that was no different in the win over the Billikens. Saint Louis scored a meager 0.67 points per possession in Manhattan. While the Wildcats don’t have the same quality wins that Texas Tech has, a few upsets in Big 12 play could push them onto the bubble come March.
  3. Texas announced that senior center Cameron Ridley will be out 8-10 weeks due to a fracture in his left foot. In the Longhorns’ first game without Ridley, Texas fell 71-66 to Connecticut in Austin. Ridley’s absence was felt on both ends of the floor. The Huskies outscored Texas 40-28 in the paint on Tuesday. Ridley’s replacement, Prince Ibeh, played just 18 minutes and picked up his fourth foul with nearly nine minutes remaining. Without Ibeh or Ridley on the floor, opponents will be able to challenge the Longhorns inside and UConn did so successfully. Forced to rely on a more perimeter oriented attack, Texas floundered. The Longhorns shot 39 percent from the field and 6-of-23 from three-point range. How Shaka Smart adapts to Ridley’s absence early in conference play will be crucial to Texas’ Big 12 success.
  4. Kansas beat UC Irvine, 78-53, to close out its non-conference schedule, but for the second season in a row the story out of Lawrence is becoming the playing time of a highly touted freshman. Cheick Diallo is averaging only 11.2 minutes per game so far and played just six minutes against the Anteaters. Bill Self told the media afterwards that he thinks “our experienced guys are playing better.” While that may be true at the moment, there’s no doubt that Diallo has a higher upside than just about anyone in the Jayhawks’ frontcourt rotation. Allowing Diallo to develop now could benefit Kansas in March, but with Baylor and Oklahoma on tap to open Big 12 play, it seems unlikely the freshman will be seeing significant playing time in the near future.
  5. There are two Big 12 games remaining ahead of the start of conference play on Saturday. Iowa State should cruise against Coppin State tonight, but West Virginia has a much more interesting matchup. The Mountaineers will play their first true road game of the season when they travel to Blacksburg, VA to face Virginia Tech. West Virginia is favored in the contest, but road games are always tricky. Whatever the result, the experience in a hostile environment should prove useful as the Mountaineers open their Big 12 schedule with road trips to Kansas State and TCU.
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Big 12 M5: 12.23.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 23rd, 2015

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  1. In its first true road game of the season, Kansas exacted revenge on a rare home loss handed to them by San Diego State two years ago with a comfortable 70-57 win in Viejas Arena. The Jayhawks made a point to run a lot of their action through Perry Ellis, who exploited the Aztecs’ lack of skilled big men on his way to a game-high 20 points. The late-night tilt also included engaged efforts from Jamari Traylor and Brannen Greene, who skied for rebounds and found other ways to get involved without having to score. The reigning Big 12 champs will now get a break until next Tuesday, when the Jayhawks welcome UC Irvine and 7’6″ Mamadou Ndiaye to Allen Fieldhouse.
  2. Oklahoma continues to run roughshod over all comers, as the Sooners demolished Washington State in their Diamond Head Classic opener on Tuesday night. Buddy Hield was incredible in this game, going for 25 points including 5-of-8 shooting from three. The game was actually close into the early stages of the second half, but a 17-0 Sooners run quickly removed all doubt about the outcome. More importantly, Oklahoma’s cushion allowed Lon Kruger to pull Hield with around 12 minutes left to rest his star, knowing that another game looms today against local favorite Hawai’i.
  3. There was another thrilling finish involving Iowa State last night, as the Cyclones edged Cincinnati by two points on the road thanks to a clutch three-pointer from Abdel Nader. Steve Prohm leaned heavily on his experienced core, with Nader, Georges Niang and Monte’ Morris combining for 51 points and 19 rebounds in this game. The win represented vintage Iowa State relentlessness, with Cincinnati seemingly taking control with a late four-point lead, only to watch as the Cyclones held them to a single point the rest of the way. Prohm also received a nice jolt of offense from newcomer Deonte’ Burton in just his second game of the season, as the transfer guard contributed 12 points off the bench. From a resume standpoint, last night’s victory somewhat neutralizes last weekend’s tough loss to Northern Iowa, but the team’s lack of depth will likely remain a sticking point through league play.
  4. In another impressive result last night, Texas Tech knocked early-season darling Arkansas-Little Rock from the ranks of the undefeated with a 65-53 victory at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock. The Red Raiders didn’t get their usual steady play from Devaugntagh Williams, instead leaning on a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds from Zach Smith. They still have to prove that they can win some games on the road, but Texas Tech has a strong case as the most-improved team in the Big 12 through the first month of the season and is a decent bet to pull a couple stunners after the calendar flips.
  5. Another contender for the title of most improved team, Kansas State, disposed of South Dakota in workmanlike fashion with a 63-49 win last night at Bramlage Coliseum. Freshman Barry Brown led all scorers with 15 points, but the most impressive element of the win was the Wildcats’ outstanding effort on the glass. Bruce Weber‘s team waxed the Fighting Hawks on the boards, collecting 47.6 percent of their own misses and 77.8 percent of North Dakota’s. With only struggling Saint Louis remaining on their non-conference slate, the Wildcats have a strong chance to enter league play with just two losses, something it hasn’t done since the 2012-13 season.
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Big 12 M5: 12.04.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 4th, 2015

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  1. On a team as loaded as Kansas, it can be tough to keep track of the squad’s best performers on a week-to-week basis. Enter Topeka Capital-Journal beat writer Jesse Newell, who yesterday introduced a Luke Winn-inspired Power Rankings column chock-full of Vines, screenshots, advanced stats and (of course) rankings to separate the wheat from the chaff on the Jayhawks’ deep and talented roster. From his most recent column, it is abundantly clear that Wayne Selden is on a mission to disprove his doubters, but a team with as many weapons as Kansas can lead to someone different stepping up in any given week.
  2. Oklahoma continued its early season dominance, annihilating Central Arkansas 111-68 in Norman last night. The Sooners could do no wrong, winning the rebounding battle by 25 boards while shooting an eye-popping 13-of-22 from deep. That long-range marksmanship was led by Jordan Woodard, who shot a white-hot 6-of-7 from behind the arc. Not surprisingly, the visitors also struggled to contain Buddy Hield, allowing 19 points and seven boards to the NPOY candidate. The Sooners are now 5-0 and rank ninth in KenPom’s national ratings with an average margin of victory of 24.4 points. Things get more challenging fast, however, as Oklahoma faces its biggest challenge of the young season on Monday when it squares off against fellow unbeaten Villanova in Hawaii.
  3. The Shaka Smart era at Texas is off to a somewhat rocky start after losses to Washington, Texas A&M, Michigan and a close call against Texas-Arlington. According to Smart (via Austin-American Statesman writer Cedric Golden), the Longhorns’ prospects would be better if one or more of his players took on a clear leadership role. On the surface, guard Isaiah Taylor has the tools and confidence to become that guy, but he’s been a disappointment at the free throw line in close games. The Longhorns have two more games to find someone to fill that role before North Carolina rolls into town next Saturday.
  4. Opportunities to step up abound on Kansas State‘s young roster, and the first few weeks have allowed JuCo transfer Carlbe Ervin to emerge as a steady backcourt contributor. Ervin provides Bruce Weber some much-needed versatility, as he is capable of both spelling starting point guard Kamau Stokes or playing alongside him if other members of the rotation aren’t performing. Ervin will be in action tonight when the Wildcats take on Georgia in their first true road game of the season.
  5. Iowa State got a surprise when former NBA head coach and current ABC/ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy rolled into Ames on Thursday. Van Gundy may be best known as the former coach of the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he cut his teeth at the college level, breaking in as a graduate assistant for Rick Pitino at Providence in the mid-1980s. Van Gundy leveled with the Cyclones about life in the professional ranks before drawing an interesting comparison between Steve Prohm‘s team and the current Golden State Warriors. He hinted that the Cyclones would do well to follow the Warriors’ lead, noting that it was Stephen Curry and his teammates’ emphasis on defense that took them from being a very good team to world champions.
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Big 12 M5: 11.30.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 30th, 2015

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  1. Perhaps it’s because they stayed home over Thanksgiving, but it feels like Oklahoma has flown under the radar during the season’s opening stages. The Sooners have been every bit as good as expected, though maybe even better. Buddy Hield has been fantastic and they’re getting the inside play they need from Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin, but I may be most impressed by Oklahoma’s defense, which has just been outstanding in the early going. On Sunday, the Sooners forced Wisconsin into its worst shooting day in nine years en route to a 65-48 win. While the Badgers aren’t what they’ve been over the last few years, everyone can agree that allowing 23.5 percent shooting against them should turn some heads. Oklahoma’s December 7 showdown with Villanova is an absolute must-watch game.
  2. Iowa State point guard Monte’ Morris continues to have increased success under Steve Prohm, as he put together another standout performance over the weekend in the Cyclones 84-73 victory over Illinois in the Emerald Coast Classic final. So far in his career, Morris has floored us with his vision and scoring ability, but he flashed a new dimension on Saturday night as he pulled down a career-high nine rebounds, all on the defensive end. While no one should ever mistake the undersized Morris for an answer to the Cyclones’ challenges inside, it has to be inspiring for Prohm to know that his floor general doesn’t mind battling it out with high-major bigs.
  3. A 2-3 start isn’t what Texas had in mind to begin the season, but while it isn’t time to panic, it isn’t unreasonable to have some concerns. The biggest trouble spots have been the Longhorns’ inability to finish (50.4% FG at the rim), generate transition offense and pull down defensive rebounds. While losses to a mediocre Washington team and a rebuilding Michigan squad won’t look good on the resume in March, it’s important to bear in mind that the Longhorns have played just one home game. Shaka Smart was thrown right into the fire by having to open the season in China with three games against competitive teams in the Bahamas shortly after, but with a much more favorable schedule coming over the next two weeks, the Longhorns need to start finding their footing. For what it’s worth, I think they will.
  4. Everyone is excited to see how quickly Cheick Diallo will make an impact for Kansas, but there’s another newcomer a little further off the radar to whom people should already start paying attention. Oklahoma State forward Chris Olivier has been a godsend for the Cowboys. The Eastern Illinois transfer is averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game off the bench and has committed just two turnovers in 121 minutes of run. He’s been efficient at the rim (66.7% FG) as well as on jump shots (52.2%) and is drawing fouls all over the place. The toughest part of the Cowboys’ non-conference schedule is still ahead of them with meetings against Tulsa, Minnesota and Florida on tap for December, so it’s important to contextualize Olivier’s performance, but for the time being, he’s been a huge boost, especially with Phil Forte nursing an elbow injury.
  5. After last Tuesday’s meltdown against North Carolina, the young Kansas State Wildcats were faced with the potential of letting another late lead slip away, but they held on to beat South Carolina State 68-66 on Sunday to move to 5-1 on the year. Senior Justin Edwards led the way with 18 points, including four clutch free throws, to go with eight rebounds and six assists. As they have been all season, the Wildcats cleaned up on the glass, but sloppy play down the stretch almost turned this one into the latest in a series of awful non-conference losses for Kansas State over the years. Edwards, Wesley Iwundu and company get thrown right back into the mix with a home tilt against Coppin State sandwiched by road games at Georgia and Texas A&M over the next two weeks.
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CBE Hall Of Fame Classic: Reactions From Night Two

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2015

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for Rush The Court. He’s in Kansas City this week for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. You can follow Brian on Twitter @BSGoodman or the RTC Big 12 Twitter account @b12hoops.

The CBE Hall Of Fame Classic wrapped in Kansas City on Tuesday night, with North Carolina overcoming a hot night from Kansas State to take the title by a score of 80-70. In the consolation round, Northwestern withstood a second half Missouri run to topple the Tigers 67-62.

  • North Carolina’s late run deflates Kansas State. The Tar Heels and Wildcats traded jabs for most of the night, with Kansas State pulling ahead for a prolonged stretch in the second half. In the closing minutes, however, North Carolina reeled off a 21-3 run to put Bruce Weber’s team away. It was a collective effort down the stretch for North Carolina, but one specific play turned the tide in the Tar Heels’ favor. Coming out of a media timeout with a touch under four minutes left, Roy Williams drew up a baseline out-of-bounds designed play for Joel Berry, who found himself open thanks to a pair of screens to bury a three-pointer off a pass from Brice Johnson. The Tar Heels were soft on offense for the better part of 35 minutes, allowing Kansas State to keep up on the glass and get some steals, but they tightened their game up when it mattered most and showed some toughness to close things out.
Down the stretch, Kennedy Meeks and UNC had just enough to hold off hometown Kansas State. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Down the stretch, Kennedy Meeks and UNC had just enough to hold off hometown Kansas State. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Kamau Stokes puts on a show as the young Wildcats put a scare into UNC. We talked yesterday about Dean Wade‘s great effort on the blocks on Monday, but it was a different Kansas State newcomer who grabbed the attention of everyone in the Sprint Center last night. Stokes came into Tuesday’s final shooting a paltry 3-of-14 from distance on the season, but caught fire against North Carolina with a 6-of-8 effort from distance. With each passing bucket, Stokes grew more confident, firing up the crowd and his teammates. Stokes’ hot stretch even drew a double-team from the Tar Heels at one point. His night was made even more unexpected by the fact that he required an extra year at prep school just to get a Division-I scholarship offer. It’s just unfortunate that the rest of the Wildcats shot just 36 percent from the floor and couldn’t buy a stop late in the game. Tonight served as a reminder that even though Bruce Weber has a young team full of guys that want to play for him, it’s still going to be a process. Stokes will continue to get opportunities as Weber figures out his rotation, but while we wouldn’t expect him to be this hot regularly, even decent three-point shooting would be a big lift to Kansas State as it retools.

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Big 12 M5: 11.25.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 25th, 2015

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  1. Iowa State handled Chattanooga on Monday night, 83-63, in its final tuneup before heading off to the Emerald Coast Classic. Once again the Cyclones received limited contributions from their bench, but that won’t matter much as long as their starters are putting up impressive numbers. Jameel McKay grabbed 17 rebounds while Naz Mitrou-Long continued his recovery from hip surgery this summer by knocking down six of his nine three-point attempts. “My shot’s been really coming together,” Mitrou-Long told Ames Tribune writer Travis Hines, “I’ve been able to get in the gym more and it just feels really good right now.” Now, the focus shifts to Florida where the Cyclones will face Virginia Tech on Friday with a potential revenge game against UAB lined up for the tournament final. “We know who we want,” Georges Niang said, “but we’ll handle Tech first.”
  2. Oklahoma picked up their third win of the season on Tuesday night with a 96-63 thrashing of Incarnate Word. Senior guard Buddy Hield scored 22 points on 12 shots which dropped his scoring average to 25.3 points per game this season. Hield is on pace to outdo his junior campaign’s offensive performance. Our unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year Selection, Hield has so far been relied upon to be even more of a scoring option for the Sooners now that TaShawn Thomas is no longer around. Despite the added load, Hield’s efficiency numbers are up. While he likely won’t maintain his 58 percent 3-point shooting, Hield should put together another great offensive season in a slightly larger role.
  3. Kansas advanced to the final of the Maui Invitational with a 92-73 victory over UCLA on Tuesday. Outside of their on fire 3-point shooting, the Jayhawks have showcased impressive ball movement on offense in Hawaii. Kansas entered Tuesday’s contest having assisted on 68 percent of their makes this season and that didn’t shown signs of slowing down against the Bruins. 19 of the Jayhawks’ 32 field goal makes were assisted against UCLA. Kansas’ offense will face a stiffer test when they take on Vanderbilt and their top 20 defense in the final on Wednesday.
  4. In another late Tuesday contest, Kansas State fell to North Carolina in the finals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, 80-70. The Wildcats, powered by a breakout performance from freshman Kamau Stokes, led for much of the game, but couldn’t close out one of the country’s preseason national title favorites. Still, Bruce Weber’s Kansas State squad has been much more impressive than expected after the team’s mass exodus during the offseason. Boasting a top 30 defense according to KenPom, the Wildcats won’t make for an easy out during Big 12 play this season.
  5. Baylor is predicted to have one of the best frontcourts in the country this season and they showed why in a 100-61 demolition of Savannah State. Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers, and Johnathan Motley combined to score 57 points and grab 24 rebounds in the win. The play of the Bears’ big men will be important for a team that’s still searching for answers at the point guard spot after losing Kenny Chery in the offseason.
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CBE Hall of Fame Classic: Reactions From Night One

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2015

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for Rush The Court. He’s in Kansas City this week for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. You can follow Brian on Twitter @BSGoodman or the RTC Big 12 Twitter account @Big12Hoops.

The CBE Hall Of Fame Classic tipped off in Kansas City on Monday night, with Kansas State walloping Missouri in the opener and North Carolina taking care of Northwestern in the nightcap. Here are the most important takeaways from each team’s performance last evening.

Bruce Weber's crew had a good night in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Bruce Weber’s crew had a good night in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Dean Wade steps up inside for Kansas State. Post production on both ends of the court was a massive struggle for Kansas State a year ago, but it’s been a different story this year thanks to Bruce Weber‘s most important newcomer. Wade overwhelmed Missouri’s undersized lineup all night long, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds to register his first career double-double. The 6’10 freshman doesn’t yet have a ton of polish around the rim, but he showed impressive range all the way out to the three-point line and made all six of his free throws. Weber was very pleased with his big man’s play on Monday, telling media after the game that his rookie “responded against probably bigger, more athletic guys than we had played in the previous games.” Wade faces his biggest test of his young career today (7:00 PM PT, ESPN2) when he’ll go up against North Carolina’s formidable back line of Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson.
  • Missouri has an all-around rough night. After last weekend’s gritty loss to Xavier, Missouri was only able to keep up with Kansas State for the first 10 minutes of the game. From that point, the Wildcats clamped down defensively and the wheels just fell off for the Tigers. Kim Anderson’s team was aggressive and played hard, particularly on one occasion where freshman Terrence Phillips leaped out of bounds to save a loose ball, but its execution otherwise couldn’t have been much worse. Missouri’s lack of size made things easy for Kansas State on the interior, and an ice-cold 4-of-18 night from three-point range did little to reduce the gap. This is an important year for the second-year head coach, who is not only working for an athletic director who didn’t hire him, but is also surrounded by SEC coaches who are far more accomplished. Monday night’s game was an opportunity to build on a solid effort against Xavier but the Tigers fell hard instead.

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Feast Week Previews: Maui, Legends, CBE & Cancun Tourneys

Posted by Andrew Gripshover on November 23rd, 2015

There are talented tournament fields everywhere this Feast Week. The Gulf Coast Showcase has a relatively strong mid-major field headlined by Murray State, Duquesne (which absolutely BLASTED Penn State on Friday) and Texas Southern. Four capable teams — Clemson, UMass (already a winner over Harvard), Creighton and Rutgers — will tussle in another four-team field in Vegas. Looking further ahead, Atlantis tips off on Wednesday before a handful of other events kick off on Thanksgiving Day and beyond. As we did with Puerto Rico and Charleston last week, here’s a look at the event favorite, a dark horse, and the teams who have the most on the line this week. We’ll also highlight a player and a storyline to watch.

Maui Invitational

Despite some early season struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

Despite some early struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

  • Favorite: Kansas. Even with no Cheick Diallo or Brannen Greene for the week and the second half collapse to Michigan State in Chicago notwithstanding, the Jayhawks are still the clear favorite in Maui as the only top 10 team in this tournament. Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor are seniors. Frank Mason and Wayne Selden are juniors. This is an experienced team that might be going on its last ride together. As usual, there’s chatter about this being the year the Big 12 title streak is broken. Winning the Maui title would probably pump the brakes on that notion, at least for the time being.
  • Darkhorse: UCLA. In terms of talent and potential, the Bruins are a clear sleeper. Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford, Tony Parker  you could easily see a team with talented pieces like these upsetting a still-not-quite-right Kansas in the semifinal and then taking out Indiana or Vanderbilt the next night. Of course, they’re flaky enough that they could brick the last Maui quarter to UNLV, especially after that whole Monmouth thing.

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