NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big 12 Teams

Posted by Brian Goodman & Taylor Erickson on March 16th, 2014

Sunday night, the Big 12 realized the rewards of an outstanding 2013-14 season. Back in November, the league was expected to top out at five NCAA bids, but a league record-tying seven schools heard their names called on Selection Sunday. The conference’s selection of NCAA Tournament participants run the gamut from national title contender (Kansas, if the Jayhawks live long enough to see the return of Joel Embiid) to trendy second weekend picks like Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State, to a trio that not only outperformed preseason expectations but cemented their standings without needing extra wins over this weekend to do so (Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma). The league may not have a team that you can feel great about locking in for an appearance in Dallas in early April, but you can say the same thing for most power conferences around the country.

Can the Jayhawks get past New Mexico in the second round if they'll need to do so without Joel Embiid? (USA Today)

The Jayhawks have national title aspirations, but can they get past a potential match-up against New Mexico without Joel Embiid? (USA Today)

Kansas (Brian Goodman)

  • Seed: #2 South
  • Quick First Round Preview: Kansas will square off against the 15-seed Eastern Kentucky Colonels, winners of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. The Jayhawks shouldn’t have much trouble handling them — even without Joel Embiid in the lineup — but Jeff Neubauer’s senior-laden team operates with the nation’s fourth-best effective field-goal percentage (57 percent) and turns opponents over at a rate of 24.2 percent.
  • Intriguing Potential Future Matchup: A second-round match-up against New Mexico will await the Jayhawks provided both teams take care of business. Bill Self‘s team beat Craig Neal’s in Kansas City just three months ago, but New Mexico forward Cameron Bairstow didn’t have much trouble against Kansas’ front line even with Embiid, as he led the Lobos with 24 points in the losing effort.
  • Final Word: The Jayhawks reap the rewards of their historically intense non-conference schedule and relative walk to their 10th straight Big 12 regular season title with favorable placement in St. Louis, just a five-hour drive from Lawrence. Traveling Jayhawks fans will be in for a treat, as they can catch Wichita State, Kentucky and fellow Big 12 member Kansas State all under one roof.

Iowa State (Kory Carpenter)

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Big 12 M5: 03.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 14th, 2014

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  1. Kansas State went one-and-done in the Big 12 Tournament, but they’re still headed for the Big Dance in what was supposed to be a down year. As much as yesterday’s loss to Iowa State hurts, that’s a pretty good situation to be in as a program, writes Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star. On Sunday, the Wildcats will crack the field for the fifth consecutive season, establishing a new program record for sustained success. Cynics may point to the fact that only two of those five bids belong to Bruce Weber, but to focus on that would be to lose sight of the mediocrity in which the program toiled until the last seven or eight seasons. Don’t hang your heads, Wildcats fans.
  2. ESPN‘s Myron Medcalf writes that everyone who keeps harping on Andrew Wiggins to show some emotion might be better served just calming down and appreciating the star freshman for what he is. It’s tough to disagree. There are plenty of guys playing this week and next who will gladly pop their collar after hitting a big shot, stare down their opponent or give a primal “AND-ONE” scream when driving to the bucket, but there aren’t many guys who will put up 71 points on 35 shots in the space of two games with his team’s game-changing center glued to the bench with a bad back. There are no more than eight chances left to see Wiggins do his thing at this level, so my advice is to sit back and enjoy it.
  3. Oklahoma was also sent home packing Thursday when the Sooners fell 78-73 to Baylor. Oklahoma simply dug themselves too big hole, falling behind by as many as 21 points. They would go on to mount a comeback, but came no closer than four points from tying the Bears in Kansas City. The Sooners should settle into the bracket around the five-seed line, while the Bears added a little more juice to their resume.
  4. The night ended with Texas snuffing out whatever fire was left from West Virginia’s upset win over Kansas last Saturday by blowing out the Mountaineers, 66-49. The game started with Texas racing out to a 12-0 start and nothing went right for the Mountaineers on either end. While West Virginia was a longshot for a bid coming into last night’s game, it was highly disappointing to see them come out as flat as they did with their season on the line.
  5. The best way to sum up Thursday’s action is that for the most part, the cream rose to the top. For all the talk about this being a wide-open tournament, three of the top four teams in the standings will play in tonight’s semifinals and even though Baylor was seeded seventh, the Bears have been playing much better lately than that seed suggests. Tonight should be another exciting slate of hoops: The teams with the league’s two best resumes square off at 6:00 CST, and in the nightcap, we’ll see a battle between two coaches in Rick Barnes and Scott Drew who have fought through multiple rounds of criticism (some deserved, some not) and have their squads playing some pretty good ball right now.
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Chaotic Weekend Builds Drama for Regular Season’s Final Act

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 3rd, 2014

It was a weekend that saw 11 ranked teams fall, an unlikely band of Shockers find a small slice of immortality (the regular season variety), and an already jumbled NCAA Tournament bubble grow exponentially more confusing. Ever predictably, the arrival of March meant great drama for college basketball fans. With one week now left in the regular season, here are three key storylines that emerged from a riveting weekend of action on the college hoops hardwood.

Last #1 Seed Up For Grabs

Syracuse Has Suddenly Lost Three Of Four After A 25-0 Start; Can Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, And Company Right The Ship In Time To Get Back On The #1 Seed Line?

Syracuse Has Suddenly Lost Three Of Four After A 25-0 Start; Can Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, and Company Right The Ship In Time To Get Back On The #1 Seed Line?

Presumptive #1 seeds Arizona, Florida and Wichita State were all able to avoid the upset bug this weekend, and barring multiple losses in the next two weeks, each seems adequately safe on the top line. But with Syracuse continuing its mini-slide in Charlottesville Saturday afternoon, that fourth #1 seed has no apparent owner heading into the season’s final week. By my count, no fewer than eight teams should still be in play for the honor, although scenarios for five of those squads — Creighton, Michigan, Wisconsin, Villanova and Virginia – would almost surely include winning out through their conference tournaments, and then also getting help from elsewhere. The trio with the firmest grasp on their own fate — Duke, Kansas, and the aforementioned Orange — may not be doing as much Championship Week scoreboard watching as those five teams, but all would still likely need to win out to earn that last #1 seed. But before those three schools face the gauntlet that will be the Big 12 and ACC Tournaments, there is still business to be tended to this week. Despite a date with surging rival UNC (at Cameron), Duke may have the easiest list of chores among the three: KenPom’s predictor gives the Blue Devils a 68 percent chance of finishing off the regular season with a pair of wins. Kansas faces Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse before concluding the regular season with a visit to West Virginia; the latter contest offers a challenge sufficient enough to leave KenPom predicting that a Jayhawks’ final week sweep will occur only 60% of the time (and that number probably does not account for the likelihood that Joel Embiid sits out). Syracuse shouldn’t look past Georgia Tech on Tuesday (don’t forget those Boston College Eagles!), but its Sunday trip to Tallahassee is a significant landmine — significant enough that the Orange are expected to polish off their regular season with two wins just 48 percent of the time. The margin for error is thin for all three of these teams; a loss – no matter where it comes from – would all but end dreams of that fourth #1 seed.

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Bill Self’s 10th Consecutive Big 12 Title as Predictable as It Is Impressive

Posted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on February 25th, 2014

Every season, Kansas players exit the huddle with the same phrase: “Big 12 champs.” For the last decade, the chant has worked. Last night the Jayhawks clinched a share of their 10th consecutive Big 12 regular season championship with an 83-75 home win over Oklahoma. And yet, a feat that shouldn’t surprise anyone who follows college basketball is still somewhat surprising. Bill Self — who now has more Big 12 titles than losses at Allen Fieldhouse — has done well in every conference in which he has coached. He finished third in Conference USA during his first year at Tulsa prior to winning back-to-back titles there and moving up to Illinois. In Champaign, he won two Big Ten titles in three seasons before heading west to Lawrence. He then finished second in his first Big 12 season at Kansas and has won a share of the league title every year since.

Kansas has dominated their conference like no major team has in decades. (Nick Krug, Lawrence-Journal World)

Kansas has dominated their conference like no major team has in decades. (Nick Krug, Lawrence-Journal World)

Self reflected on the accomplishment last night after the win.“To get a piece of it or win it outright 10 years in a row means we’ve had a lot of good players come through here.” And he is right. But this run hasn’t been your garden variety roll-the-ball-out and dominate with better players like John Wooden’s UCLA dynasties of old. Self has won the Big 12 in just about every way imaginable. The 2008 National Championship team had four NBA draft picks in the rotation. The 2011-12 Final Four squad had former walk-on Conner Teahan as its sixth man. In 2006-07, he won the league with the nation’s best defense and 26th best offense (according to KenPom.com). This year the defense is ranked 27th but his offense is fifth (averaging nearly 80 points per game).

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Big 12 M5: 02.24.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on February 24th, 2014

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  1. With his recent three game suspension behind him, Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart now has an opportunity to make one last impression on how we will remember his college career in Stillwater. At 5-9 in league play, the Cowboys are are the perfect example of a bubble team heading into the last few weeks of the season with games against Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State remaining. Given the talent on Travis Ford’s roster, it’s not a stretch to think this team could get on roll throughout both the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments and pose an incredibly difficult match-up for most teams.
  2. Heading into this Big 12 season, most anticipated the aforementioned Oklahoma State would be the biggest challenge to end Kansas’ streak of nine regular season league titles, but with just four games remaining, Kansas holds a three-game lead on all other teams in the conference, and needs just one win to guarantee at least a tie for the league crown. As Mike DeCourcy writes, the streak by Bill Self and company is much more of a dynasty given just how dominant the Jayhawks have been for the last decade.
  3. For Kansas State this season, there has certainly been no place like home. On Saturday, Bruce Weber’s team continued to experience road woes in their blowout loss at Oklahoma. Wildcat forward Thomas Gipson said after the game that he didn’t know what they can do to win a game away from home. Kansas State has a difficult finish to their season and while their doesn’t appear to be a threat to their NCAA Tournament status just yet, they could vastly improve their seeding come Selection Sunday if they were able to show their ability to win away from home.
  4. Two of the most bubblicious teams in the Big 12 squared off on Saturday when Baylor visited West Virginia, and for the time being, it looks like they may be headed in different directions come Selection Sunday. Scott Drew’s Baylor team has now won four straight league games after topping the Mountaineers 88-75 in Morgantown. Baylor is now 6-8 in league play in their quest to finish .500 in the conference, which should be enough to get them into the dance given the strength of their non conference play. In the first meeting between these two teams, Baylor guard Royce O’Neale played just seven minutes in the Bears’ loss at home in Waco, but scored 22 on Saturday and has been valuable in the resurgence of Baylor as of late.
  5. While the spot at the top of the conference seems all but settled, the race for second place will come down to the last few weeks of the season between Iowa State, Texas, and perhaps Oklahoma, all of whom currently sit at 9-5 in league play. For the Cyclones, finding a way to position themselves second in the Big 12 would allow them to avoid a potential rematch with Kansas until the championship game, and would pair Fred Hoiberg’s squad in the second round with a team that played the previous day. Regardless of how the seedings play out, you can bet the competition in Kansas City will be highly entertaining.
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Big 12 Week In Review and Look Ahead: Don’t Mistake League’s Competitiveness For Superiority

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2014

The Big 12 may be one of the most competitive conferences in the country, but this week hasn’t been the most glowing endorsement for the league’s case as the best conference in the country. Monday’s game between Baylor and Oklahoma State was supposed to be a battle of teams in the top half of the conference (if we go by preseason expectations), but instead was a fight for ninth place that only went to overtime because of a sequence that was, well, very fitting of a ninth-place battle:

The next day, Texas squared off against Iowa State in a game with major implications for the Longhorns’ Big 12 title chances, but they were able to lead only within the first five minutes. While Texas kept the game interesting with a run early in the second half, the Cyclones pulled away to hold serve at home.

Meanwhile, 925 miles south, Kansas needed another miracle from Andrew Wiggins at the end of regulation to get past a salty but mediocre Texas Tech team in Lubbock:

The only other game this week saw Kansas State quietly beat TCU by 12. The Wildcats’ two best players, Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson, paired up for 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but they also combined to shoot 34.6 percent from the floor and turned the ball over nine times. As a team, Kansas State had a staggering 18 turnovers at home against the worst power conference team in the country, needing a second half run to get away for good.

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Big 12 M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 20th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Jimmy Burch is correct in that Oklahoma State will get a boost when Marcus Smart returns from his three-game suspension this weekend against Texas Tech. He is also correct in that the Cowboys have a slim chance to still gain an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament with Smart’s return. But he forgets that Oklahoma State lost four straight games before Smart’s suspension. Could Smart return and be “even better,” as head coach Travis Ford predicts? Sure. But will that lead to an NCAA Tournament bid? Don’t count on it.
  2. Lon Kruger won 15 games two seasons ago in his first campaign at Oklahoma. He won 20 games last season and made the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners are currently 18-6, and barring a surprising collapse, will finish with more wins than last season and reach the NCAA Tournament once again. As Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World reports, Kruger said before the season that he hoped to be in a position this time of year to make a run to the postseason. The Sooners aren’t locks for the Big Dance yet, but they are getting closer to that goal with every passing win.
  3. Kansas State is in virtually the same spot as Oklahoma. The Wildcats are 18-8 and have at least a few winnable games left on the schedule. It’s certainly a far cry from November when they started the season 2-3, including embarrassing losses to Northern Colorado and Charlotte. Freshman guard Marcus Foster has in the interim emerged as one of the best freshmen in the country, and the Wildcats are close to locking up a bid for the NCAA Tournament.
  4. As Mike Hlas states, Iowa State isn’t a great team, “but ISU is very good a lot of days, very entertaining almost every game, and is 20-5.” That, among other things, are the reasons the Cyclones might be the second most dangerous Big 12 team in March. They are entertaining because they shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more. And when they are hitting their jumpers they are tough to beat. It sounds clichéd (because it usually is), but the Cyclones could shoot themselves out of the NCAA Tournament on the first day or wind up in Dallas in the Final Four. Either way, we will know the reason.
  5. Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid came back from a one-game hiatus and was close to dominant in the Jayhawks’ overtime win against Texas Tech Tuesday, finishing with 18 points (a career high) and eight rebounds. Embiid told Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World that he was at “about 90 percent.” He looked much better than he did against Kansas State, and if he was truly back to that level already, Kansas fans should feel hopeful for March.
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Big 12 M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 18th, 2014

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  1. With a healthy Joel Embiid in the lineup, Kansas is a national title contender. Without their 7’0” freshman center from Cameroon, however, the Jayhawks would be fortunate to make the Elite Eight. Embiid has become the most important player on Bill Self’s team this season. So when a few nagging injuries finally caught up with him in last week’s loss to Kansas State, it was wise of Self to sit his big man against TCU on Saturday. He looks to be back in the lineup for tonight’s game versus Texas Tech, so it’s safe to say that his recent knee and back problems were nothing a little time off couldn’t fix. At least that’s what Jayhawks fans everywhere are hoping.
  2. As Ken Corbitt points out here, Bruce Weber doesn’t generally like to foul when down three points late in the game. And whether he was a proponent of that strategy or not, Corbitt correctly points out that Kansas State’s double-overtime loss Saturday to Baylor wasn’t a good time to foul anyway. Baylor was down three but shot the ball too soon for Kansas State to foul. The Bears kept grabbing offensive rebounds, though, and in the confusion, Brady Heslip ended up with the ball and drained a three-pointer to send the game to its first overtime. If you’re going to foul, its best to do so with under six seconds remaining. There is no game-planning strategy available for an early three-point attempt followed by multiple offensive rebounds and a kick-out three.
  3. If you watched last night’s Baylor vs. Oklahoma State game on ESPN, you might recall that they showed a Big 12 Tournament bracket if the season had ended today. Last night’s opponents would be the #8/#9 match-up while Texas Tech — yes, Texas Tech — would be the No. 7 seed. The Red Raiders are currently 5-7 in league play and KenPom has the team as just five-point underdogs tonight against Kansas. A lot of that has to do with two people: head coach Tubby Smith and senior forward Jaye Crockett. Smith admits that he felt the need to win Crockett over after he was hired last year. It seems to have worked, as Texas Tech sits at 13-12 overall and should manage to win enough games to play in some sort of postseason tournament next month.
  4. Speaking of Baylor and Oklahoma State, last night’s game prompted both teams to appear on CBSSports.com’s most recent “Poppin’ Bubbles” segment. As Jeff Borzello points out, Baylor now has five top-50 wins this season and is riding a three-game winning streak. The Bears are 17-9 and could realistically get to 20 wins if we include the Big 12 Tournament. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, has lost seven straight games with and without Marcus Smart in the lineup. They have two winnable games coming up against Texas Tech and TCU, but end the season against Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. The Cowboys might be NIT-bound.
  5. Like every other Big 12 team has experienced at some point, Oklahoma is entering a brutal stretch of games, beginning this weekend. The Sooners will face Kansas State, travel to Kansas and play host to Texas in a span of eight days. At 19-7 overall, the Sooners look to be on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, but a late-season losing streak (no matter how much the committee claims recent performances don’t carry more weight) could hurt their chances next month. They end the season at TCU, but the aforementioned trio of games followed by West Virginia should keep Sooners fans on their toes for now.
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Big 12 M5: 02.17.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 17th, 2014

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  1. When sophomore forward Perry Ellis plays well, his team plays well. And even though there is an asterisk to things accomplished against TCU (at home, no less) it wasn’t surprising to see Kansas beat the Horned Frogs by 30 and Ellis finish with 32 points, a career high. “He stretched it, took the ball strong to the hole,” Bill Self said after the game Saturday. “I think one of his two misses he got back and put in. Even more importantly, he made a couple great passes.” Naadir Tharpe and Joel Embiid might be the most important players for Kansas come March. But Ellis isn’t far behind. The numbers speak for themselves. 
  2. Gary Parrish over at CBSSports.com updated his Top 25 (and one) yesterday, and three Big 12 teams made the cut. Kansas remained at #7 after beating TCU on Saturday. Iowa State and Texas stayed put as well. The Cyclones remain at #10 after beating Texas Tech by six over the weekend while Texas is #22 following a home win over West Virginia. It was a slow weekend in the Big 12, but that changes in short order with Oklahoma State taking on Baylor tonight and Texas facing Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday.
  3. Who would have guessed that Oklahoma State would find themselves on the bubble this season? Not me, and probably not anyone who follows college basketball. The season-ending injury to Michael Cobbins and the loss of Stevie Clark due to disciplinary reasons hurt enough for the 16-9 Cowboys, but the three-game suspension of point guard Marcus Smart might have pushed them over the edge. Oklahoma State had dropped four in a row before Smart’s suspension following his altercation with a Texas Tech fan last week, and things haven’t gotten better with Smart gone. They have lost their first two games without him and face Baylor on the road tonight. They still face Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State, and I wouldn’t put the Cowboys in the NCAA Tournament field right now.
  4. It doesn’t have the same shock value as the Oklahoma State debacle, but Kansas State is in the third place in the Big 12 -ahead of teams like Baylor, Oklahoma State, andIowa State- thanks to freshman guard Marcus Foster. Foster is averaging 15.1 PPG for the Wildcats and was a key player in upset wins over Kansas (20 points) and Texas (34 points) in the last 10 days. He is one of the main reasons the Wildcats are firmly in the NCAA Tournament right now and are merely playing for seeding.
  5. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has had a successful start to his young coaching career thanks in some part to his willingness to give players a second chance. And as Luke Wynn of the SportsIllustrated.com points out, Cyclone guard DeAndre Kane is the latest example. Kane ran into  trouble both on and off the court while at Marshall before being kicked off the team by head coach Tom Herrion. Kane graduated and was eligible for a fifth year of eligibility while pursuing a graduate degree. He landed at Iowa State and is averaging 15.9 PPG,  6.6 RPG, and 6.1 APG for the Cyclones. He should lead the team back to the NCAA Tournament before getting plenty of looks at the professional level this summer.
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What’s Trending: Tyler #ENNIONS, Dick Vitale Pop Art, Holly Rowe, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 14th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Raw emotion meets raw weather, as Dick Vitale was caught puttering through a North Carolina blizzard only to find out the Duke vs. North Carolina game would be postponed due to the winter storm. We have applied a bit of an Andy Warhol Pop Art feel to it, while some feel like the original would be perfect album art for an upcoming indie rock band’s latest LP.

Dick Vitale snow picture

Tyler #ENNIONS Ennis Keeps Syracuse Undefeated

It will challenge for Game of the Year, capped off by a strong nominee for Play of the Year. Tyler Ennis, the savvy Orange point guard, has been huge in close games for his team all season long. You’ve seen the buzzer-beater, now check out the reaction from his giddy head coach and others around the web.

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Big 12 M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 14th, 2014

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  1. Media members are currently gathered in Indianapolis for the annual mock selection process, and while the seeding component won’t be finished until later today, the field was finalized Thursday night and it contained six Big 12 teams: Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The results aren’t too surprising, but it’s important to note that the process doesn’t project any results from the remainder of the season (aside from assuming current first-place teams will win their automatic bids). With that in mind, West Virginia and Baylor may have something to say about it before all is said and done, and it’s not hard to picture Oklahoma State tumbling out of the picture.
  2. With the Cowboys floundering, the contributors of Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing called a roundtable meeting. The main points of discussion were the employment status of Travis Ford, what might constitute a breaking point for athletic director Mike Holder, and the idea of luring CBS Sports‘ Doug Gottlieb away from the microphone and onto the sideline should Holder decide to move on (it’s not as farfetched as it sounds to the casual college hoops fan, but it’s still a dream). The complicating issue is that Ford’s contract, which runs through the 2018-19 season, is heavily back-loaded, and a buyout just doesn’t sound feasible at this point.
  3. While Kansas State would be in the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 if the season ended today, the Wildcats have fallen short of their maximum potential. Head coach Bruce Weber believes that if his team could just get its two best scorers other than Marcus Foster going at the same time, the Wildcats’ postseason prospects would be much more secure. The peaks and valleys of Shane Southwell and Will Spradling‘s seasons have coincided with one another, and with seven games remaining in the regular season (including four on the road), the Wildcats don’t have much time to get both clicking simultaneously.
  4. Contrary to popular belief, there’s measurable interest in college hoops in the state of TexasDallas Morning News writer Kevin Sherrington took some time to give his takes in a chat on Wednesday, and he provided some interesting insights about the Lone Star State’s teams. It’s nice to see that Texas Tech‘s improvement in the first year under Tubby Smith hasn’t gone unnoticed outside of this website, and with the Longhorns and possibly Baylor in the NCAA Tournament picture (plus Big 12 outsiders SMU), we should continue to see some great stories emerge from the great state of Texas.
  5. Lastly, there are a couple of minor but noteworthy updates out of Lawrence. Kansas center Joel Embiid is feeling better, and Jayhawks fans can exhale after an MRI revealed no structural damage stemming from his recent health problems. His status for Saturday’s game against TCU remains up in the air, though. On another note, Self removed all doubt when it came to the status of forward Jamari Traylor, who was held out of Monday’s game against Kansas State for disciplinary reasons. Self indicated that the sophomore will play on Saturday, ushering in his return to the rotation. Those items won’t take Naadir Tharpe and Wayne Selden’s defensive issues out from under the microscope, but they should help Kansas fans breathe a little easier.
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Rush The Weekend: West Virginia Enters a Crucial Stretch

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 7th, 2014

There’s been no shortage of intrigue in the Big 12 this season. Whether you want to discuss Kansas’ future lottery picks and national title hopes, Texas’ resurrection, Baylor’s free-fall, Oklahoma State’s dive, or the resilience of Iowa State, you don’t have to look very far to find any of the nation’s biggest stories in college hoops; you could just look at this conference. But if all of those plot lines aren’t enough for you, yet another Big 12 team could muscle itself into the fray this weekend: the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Can Juwan Staten lead the Mountaineers back into tournament discussion? (AP Photo/Andrew Ferguson)

Will Juwan Staten lead the Mountaineers back into tournament discussion? (Andrew Ferguson/AP)

When Bob Huggins’ team wrapped up non-conference play back on December 29, it had very little to write home about. A handful of wins over bad teams kept them afloat, but there was no NCAA Tournament resume to speak of because of losses to the only relevant teams on their slate (Wisconsin, Missouri, Gonzaga, Purdue and Virginia Tech). Those defeats put them on the ropes earlier than many expected, and to boot, they dropped four of those games by seven points or less. When the calendar turned, they had a resume that was considerably worse than their statistical profile, which is something that you don’t see very often.

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