Jamari Traylor’s Suspension Offers a Frontcourt Opportunity

Posted by Chris Stone on December 8th, 2014

As Brian Goodman noted in today’s Big 12 Morning 5, Kansas forward Jamari Traylor was arrested early Sunday morning for interfering with the duties of a police officer at a Lawrence nightclub. On Monday afternoon, head coach Bill Self doled out the punishment for his transgression by announcing that Traylor would be allowed to travel with the Jayhawks to Washington D.C. for Wednesday’s game against Georgetown, but he will not play. That appears to be the extent of Traylor’s sentence on the basketball court. Self closed the matter by saying, “Hopefully it’ll be a situation where we can put it behind us.”

Jamari Traylor will be on the bench when Kansas takes on Georgetown (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Jamari Traylor will be on the bench when Kansas takes on Georgetown (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Traylor’s suspension means Kansas will be without the junior forward for its first true road game of the season. The Hoyas’ frontcourt is anchored by 6’10”, 350-pound senior Josh Smith, who averages 12.7 points per game as Georgetown’s most used player (28.4 percent of their possessions while on the floor). Traylor’s loss will be felt most acutely as Kansas tries to defend the burly but talented Smith in the paint, as his presence off the bench provides Self with another experienced body to utilize should Landen Lucas or Cliff Alexander end up in foul trouble. In the absence of Traylor, the Jayhawks may now need to rely on little-used big man Hunter Mickelson instead. The 6’10” junior transfer has played only 4.6 percent of his team’s minutes this season, but he could be called on for more significant duty on Wednesday. If Mickelson can contribute like he did during a freshman year at Arkansas when he blocked 13.5 percent of opponents’ shots, then Kansas shouldn’t miss Traylor much defensively.

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Big 12 M5: 12.08.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2014

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  1. Early Sunday morning, Kansas forward Jamari Traylor was arrested for interfering with the duties of a police officer as authorities responded to an incident at a Lawrence bar. While Traylor wasn’t a highly-regarded recruit when he arrived on campus, he hasn’t developed all that much and it should be noted that he has a history of less-than-great behavior. Still, with two games this week against prominent big men in Georgetown’s Joshua Smith and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl, this is an especially inopportune time to get into trouble. If Bill Self decides to hand Traylor a suspension, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson figure to be the most likely candidates to absorb his minutes, although Self may simply give a bigger workload to Cliff Alexander after the freshman logged an impressive game against Florida on Friday.
  2. Speaking of that Florida win, it wouldn’t have been possible without sophomore Wayne Selden snapping out of his season-long scoring funk. Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star thoroughly breaks down the myriad ways in which he turned the tables against the Gators, whether it was by attacking the rim or hitting his jumpers. As mentioned in the point above, the road doesn’t get easier for Kansas anytime soon, so it will be interesting to see if Selden can keep things rolling offensively.
  3. While Oklahoma has had a nice start to the season, the Sooners haven’t looked like the team many expected in the early going (us included). Last season’s potent offense wasn’t all there, but the defense appeared to be much improved. On Friday night, however, Oklahoma’s attack was much more balanced as they blew out a bad Missouri team at the Lloyd Noble Center. The Sooners have this week off for exams, but they have an interesting road test on tap Saturday, when they travel to play a Tulsa team that beat the same Creighton squad that dropped Oklahoma a few weeks ago.
  4. Through the first few weeks of the season, the Big 12 has gotten off to a great start (more on that in a minute), but if any team has been a disappointment, it’s been Kansas State. The Wildcats already have four losses, including one to Long Beach State and two others to average Pittsburgh and Tennessee squads. It’s worth pointing out that some of the team’s struggles have come under tough circumstances: The loss to the Panthers came in the consolation bracket of the Maui Invitational, when both teams were running on fumes and playing for the third straight day; and Saturday’s game against Tennessee wouldn’t have been scheduled at all had it not been fueled by ESPN’s presentation of the Big 12/SEC challenge. That’s not to excuse Kansas State’s lackluster body of work – those games are part of the deal of being in a big conference – but context always helps. The results are the results, though, so with their biggest non-conference tests now behind them, it will be important for Bruce Weber‘s team to maximize a Big 12 slate filled with opportunity to build a reasonable case for an at-large bid.
  5. Due to final exams, the slate is quiet this week, though road games for Kansas and Iowa State (at Georgetown and Iowa, respectively) will breathe some life into the schedule. That said, it’s a good time to evaluate the conference as a whole, and the Big 12 looks terrific through three and a half weeks. The conference has wins over Michigan State, UConn and Arkansas, with two of those wins coming away from campus. Additionally, the league has no truly inexcusable losses, and while that may not sound like much at first blush, it’s more than the other power conferences around the country can say. The Big 12’s success is also evident in the computer ratings, as seven of the conference’s ten teams rank in KenPom’s top 27, and five rank in Sagarin’s top 20. For the unlikely cherry on top, perennial doormat TCU will probably be undefeated when conference play revs up next month. Of course, it’s silly to expect the Horned Frogs to carry those results very far into conference play, but it is a sign that there will be very few off nights in the Big 12, which has a clear edge in the national picture over the bloated ACC and Big Ten.
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Big 12 M5: 12.05.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 5th, 2014

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  1. The Naismith Trophy Top 50 watch list was released on Wednesday, and the Big 12 had nine players make the cut. They are: Kansas’ Cliff Alexander, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, Iowa State’s Georges Niang, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, and Texas’ Isaiah Taylor and Myles Turner. Some of these guys have better chances of winning the trophy than others; for example, it’s hard to imagine Selden or Hield doing so after poor shooting starts this season, but the freshman Turner could very well win this award. Turner is seventh in the nation in block percentage (16%) and has blocked at least five shots in three games already. Ellis hasn’t been too bad, either, as the senior is averaging 15.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG and ranks eighth on Ken Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year watch list.
  2. Gary Parrish over at CSBSports.com updated his Top 25 (And One) yesterday (like he does every morning) and Kansas (#8) and Texas (#9) each jumped up a spot in his daily rankings. West Virginia (#18) and Oklahoma (#19) were the other two Big 12 schools on his list, but all this will change soon. Kansas takes on Florida tonight in Allen Fieldhouse; Texas takes on No. 1 Kentucky in Lexington; and West Virginia lost at home to LSU last night. Oklahoma should take care of Missouri tonight in Norman, and Kansas will probably win a close one against the Gators. Texas is the team I’m most intrigued about, though — if the Longhorns play Kentucky close or somehow manage to win the game, they might be reasonably considered the favorites to win the Big 12 this season.
  3. Will the Big 12 win the SEC/Big 12 Challenge? ESPN‘s Andy Katz thinks so, and he doesn’t think it will be close. Texas Tech started things off with an ugly 46-44 win over Auburn on Wednesday night, and the Big 12 went 3-1 last night: TCU beat Ole Miss; Baylor beat Vanderbilt; and Iowa State beat Arkansas. LSU was the lone SEC school to pick up a win after beating West Virginia in Morgantown. Things pick up tonight, with the elite programs battling it out. I think Kansas and Oklahoma help improve the Big 12’s lead while Kentucky beats Texas by 10 points.
  4. There was always a distinct possibility that Iowa State would run Arkansas out of the gym last night. The Razorbacks play as quickly as almost anybody (12th in the country in adjusted tempo) and rely on turnovers via their full-court press to fuel their offense. If that doesn’t happen, though, a team like Iowa State can thrive. That’s exactly what happened as the Cyclones dropped 95 points on the Hawgs in a 95-77 win. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Georges Niang combined for 53 points in one of the fastest games of the season, and the Cyclones improved to 5-1.
  5. Last night was definitely a big setback for a rising West Virginia team. The Mountaineers came into their meeting with LSU undefeated, were up five points at halftime, and led by as many as 14 points in the second half. However, a layup by Josh Gray with 7.3 seconds left gave the Tigers the 74-73 win. West Virginia was ranked #16 going into the game but they will probably drop significantly next week as a result. Depending on what happens with LSU, this could end up being a costly loss for the Mountaineers down the road. LSU’s best win before last night came against UMass earlier this week, and they have already dropped games to Old Dominion and Clemson.

 

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Evaluating the Kansas Backcourt a Month Into the Season

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 4th, 2014

It has now been 16 days since Kansas suffered its worst loss of the Bill Self era, a 72-40 clubbing at the hands of the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats. Luckily for Jayhawks fans, the team has rebounded about as nicely as you could expect, winning four straight, including an Orlando Classic title after a five-point victory of Michigan State on Sunday. Still, there are plenty of questions about this team. Will Perry Ellis continue his recent surge when faced with bigger frontcourts? Will Kelly Oubre impress Self enough to earn decent minutes? What exactly is wrong with Wayne Selden? There is one thing we know for certain, though: Sophomore point guard Frank Mason III looks like the guy who will lead this team going forward. Since a disastrous outing at the Champions Classic where he was 1-of-10 from the field and largely invisible in his 32 minutes, Mason has made a strong case to become Self’s starting point guard. He has a 134.5 offensive rating since the Kentucky game, a very good mark for someone who uses fewer than 20 percent of his team’s possessions.

Frank Mason looks like Bill Self's man at point guard. (USATSI)

Frank Mason III looks like Bill Self’s man at point guard. (USATSI)

I don’t want to discount the night against Kentucky out of hand, though, because maybe it was indicative of how Mason will perform against the highest level of Division I competition. But Mason has been miles ahead of Devonte’ Graham, a player who many thought could supplant Mason in the starting lineup at some point this season. Self doesn’t appear to see it that way, as Graham has only played 13.4 MPG thus far and is no realistic threat to take Mason’s job from him anytime soon. In Orlando last week, Mason looked nothing like the player who went barreling into the lane with no apparent plan against the Wildcats. Instead, he picked his spots for aggressiveness, shooting 11-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point range over three games. He also grabbed 10 rebounds in the match-up against Michigan State and averaged 5.6 APG. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 12.03.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 3rd, 2014

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  1. A surprise to few after his big weekend in the Orlando Classic, Kansas forward Perry Ellis was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday. Ellis scored at least 17 points in all four games last week, which was capped off with a win over Michigan State on Sunday. Ellis, who is now averaging 18.8 PPG and 7.5 RPG on the season, is also ninth in Ken Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year rankings. While in Orlando, Ellis shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and was named tournament MVP. He had a pretty good Feast Week.
  2. West Virginia forward Jonathan Holton also received honors from the Big 12, being named conference Newcomer of the Week. The junior college transfer already has two double-doubles on the season and is a big reason why the Mountaineers have raised quite a few eyebrows around the Big 12 with their 7-0 start. Last week Holton averaged 17.5 PPG and 8.0 RPG in a pair of West Virginia wins, and he is averaging 12.9 PPG on the season. West Virginia hosts LSU Thursday night in Morgantown.
  3. Iowa State was a sexy pick to compete and potentially win the Big 12 this season, and so long as Fred Hoiberg and Georges Niang are still in Ames, it is not a terrible prediction. But after losing to Maryland last week, the Cyclones slipped quite a bit in the weekly polls. “Guys really forgot how much hard work it was to be how good we were last year,” Niang told Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. The Cyclones rebounded nicely last night, dropping 96 points in a 37-point beat down of Lamar, and are set to face Arkansas tomorrow night in what should be one of the more exciting non-conference games around the Big 12.
  4. Brian Spaen over at ClonesConfidential.com has a fair Big 12 Power Rankings heading into this week. Undefeated Texas tops the list, while Kansas follows the Longhorns in second place. We should have a somewhat good idea of where both teams stand after Texas travels to Lexington to take on Kentucky on Friday night. If (when) the Longhorns don’t lose by 32 to the Wildcats, it won’t mean they are the difference better than Kansas; but how the Texas front line handles Kentucky’s size could tell us how they might fare against Kansas in their two (possibly three) upcoming meetings this season.
  5. Kansas State didn’t have the best trip to Maui last week. The Wildcats played Arizona tough in the semifinals, but ended up losing their last two games on the island. They are now 3-3 on the year and have a few potentially tough non-conference games remaining, beginning at Tennessee on Saturday. “We’ve just got to keep moving forward,” senior forward Thomas Gipson told Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star on Monday. The four-point loss to Arizona was followed by a 23-point blowout against Pittsburgh, before they got back in the win column in Manhattan against Nebraska-Omaha last night. The Wildcats don’t look like a team capable of winning the Big 12 championship, but they have several more opportunities to pile up solid wins before heading into conference play.
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RTC Top 25: Week Two

Posted by Walker Carey on December 1st, 2014

Feast Week has come and gone, and it once again did not disappoint. Top teams #2 Wisconsin and #4 Arizona showed the nation why they are thought of as some of the nation’s best. The Badgers took home the Battle 4 Atlantis title after scoring victories over UAB, Georgetown, and #16 Oklahoma. Sean Miller’s Wildcats took home the title at the Maui Invitational with wins over Missouri, Kansas State, and #13 San Diego State. #9 Villanova also turned in an impressive week. Jay Wright’s squad was victorious at the Legends Classic, as it secured notable wins over #23 VCU and #15 Michigan. With the ACC/Big Ten Challenge set to take place this coming week, expect a lot more great action on the court and even more fluidity in the RTC25.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump…

week2_top25 Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Grading the Big 12’s Feast Week Performances

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2014

With much of the Big 12 participating in competitive, neutral-court tournaments last week, we were able to get a solid litmus test for most of the conference’s squads. All in all, the league had a good showing, but it wasn’t spectacular. Here are some grades relative to how each team was expected to perform during Feast Week:

  • Texas (wins vs. St. Francis and UConn): A. In the Longhorns’ first action since Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist (minus the game against Cal the following night at MSG), Rick Barnes’ team rolled over the Red Flash without a problem, as they were paced by Myles Turner’s 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. All they did was follow that up by handing UConn its first non-conference loss at Gampel Pavilion since 1993, when current Husky guard Sam Cassell, Jr.’s dad helped Florida State beat UConn in Storrs. Big ups go out to Jonathan Holmes, who, with this game-winner from Sunday, is now shooting an eye-popping 61.9% from distance.
Jonathan Holmes' late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated.

Jonathan Holmes’ late heroics in Storrs kept Texas undefeated. (Getty)

  • Kansas (wins over Rhode Island, Tennessee and Michigan State in the Orlando Classic): A-. After the big Kentucky loss, Kansas’ last game against venerable competition before the holiday weekend, the Jayhawks had their fair share of unanswered questions. With this still being the first week in December, the rotation still has some kinks to iron out, but fans should be happy about Perry Ellis‘ improved rebounding to complement his scoring ability as well as Frank Mason‘s overall progress, though I’m still a little bearish because we’ve seen both these movies before and because I’m not sure Michigan State is all that good. The keys moving forward are whether Ellis and Mason can maintain that level of play, and whether Bill Self‘s leash on Cliff Alexander has truly lengthened. It would also be helpful if Wayne Selden could bust out of a big scoring funk (6.8 PPG on 24.1% shooting over his last four games).

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Big 12 M5: 12.01.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 1st, 2014

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  1. Kansas defeated Michigan State 61-56 yesterday to win the Orlando Classic and improve to 5-1 on the season, thanks largely to 17 year-old Ukranian Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. The would-be junior in high school had 11 points in the win and is quickly becoming the Jayhawks’ best shooter. “He can really shoot the basketball,” Bill Self told the Kansas City Star‘s Rustin Dodd after the game. “But he’s really become a really good defender, and he understands what we’re trying to do for the most part.” Mykhailiuk started the last few games and might be starting to come into his own. He was 4-of-10 from the field and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.
  2. If you missed seventh-ranked Texas‘ last-second win over UConn yesterday morning, you missed a good one. Jonathan Holmes knocked down a corner three-pointer with two seconds left to give the Longhorns the 55-54 victory over the #24 Huskies in Storrs. The play was originally designed for freshman center Myles Turner, but when nothing developed it left Holmes with a good look from the corner. There is still plenty of improvements to be made, however, according to head coach Rick Barnes. “I told the team in the locker room that the only time they really listened and did what we asked was the last play,” Barnes told AP writer Pat Eaton-Robb. The 6-0 Longhorns take on No. 1 Kentucky on Friday in Lexington.
  3. Speaking of undefeated teams, the West Virginia Mountaineers have looked like a team that could surprise people when Big 12 play begins next month. Like Texas, The 7-0 Mountaineers also have a win over Uconn as well as wins over George Mason and Boston College. There is a decent chance Bob Huggins and Co. are undefeated heading into the conference season. Unknown players like Jonathan Holton, Jevon Carter, and Daxter Miles, Jr. have had their moments, but as Connor Murray points out, junior guard Jaysean Paige might be the most important piece to the puzzle. Paige is 10-22 from three-point range this season and is averaging 7.3 PPG.
  4. Yes, even TCU is undefeated this season as well. The 7-0 Horned Frogs aren’t expected to make much noise this season, and that is probably still the case. But they already have wins over power-5 teams Washington State and Mississippi State. If they can beat Ole Miss in Oxford on Thursday, they should have a good chance to go 13-0 out of conference. I don’t know if you had TCU and West Virginia facing off in the battle of the unbeatens on Jan. 3, but I certainly didn’t. Kyan Anderson leads the team in points (12.7 PPG) and assists (3.7 APG), and the Horned Frogs most recently claimed the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic championship over the weekend.
  5. Under head coach Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State has been known as a team that will bomb away from deep, getting hot enough to beat anyone in the country but with the potential to cool off and lose to just about anyone. But as Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune points out, the Cyclones are capable of having a legitimate presence down low this season. When 6’9″ forward Jameel McKay becomes eligible at the semester’s end, Iowa State might have someone who can compliment the bevy of perimeter talent. If that happens, the Cyclones should compete for the Big 12 title. If not, they should hope their perimeter-oriented ways will carry them through the grueling double round-robin of Big 12 play.
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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Orlando Classic

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 27th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, this time with Kansas in the Orlando Classic.

Catching Up: Bill Self claimed that his team would eventually forget all about that 32-point drubbing at the hands of Kentucky last week in the Champions Classic. An Orlando Classic championship would certainly help. So far, the Jayhawks have really only proved they can beat bad teams, defeating UC-Santa Barbara and Rider at home. Self has mixed up his starting lineup so far and its unclear if or when he will settle on the same five guys every night. Junior forward Perry Ellis leads the team with 11.3 PPG. Five-star freshman forward Cliff Alexander is second on the team with 5.3 RPG and had 10 points on 4-4 shooting in just 13 minutes earlier this week against Rider. Freshman point guard Devonte Graham sat out last game with a sprained shoulder, but he should be able to go this week in Orlando. Ukrainian freshman guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk received his first career start against Rider and did not disappoint, going 4-for-7 from the field with 10 points and five rebounds.

Bill Self is still trying to find the right rotation this year. (KUSports.com)

Bill Self is still trying to find the right rotation this year. (KUSports.com)

Opening Round Preview: The Jayhawks open up the tournament against Rhode Island, an undefeated Atlantic-10 club which most recently defeated #21 Nebraska. The Rams are 13th in the country with 45 RPG and are led in scoring by sophomore guard E.C Mathews, who is averaging 16.3 PPG. Mathews had 26 points in the win over Nebraska, but it took him 20 shots to get there. As a team the Rams are first in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (19.1) and their opponents have shot just 20.7 percent from three. They haven’t done much better themselves, however, shooting 21.9 percent from beyond the arc through three games. In the win over Nebraska, both teams combined to shoot 6-39 from three-point range. It’s hard to imagine Rhode Island staying in this game if Kansas can reach the 70-point mark. The Rams scored 72 against Umass-Lowell and 53 in regulation against Nebraska. They were able to win both games because of their defense, and they will have to play even better defensively to keep the Jayhawks in that neighborhood.

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Michigan State Frontcourt Finding Itself Ahead of Crucial Stretch

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 25th, 2014

Michigan State’s narrow victory against Navy in its season opener raised a few serious concerns for Spartans fans, not the least of which was the team’s frontcourt play outside of Branden Dawson. Not only did forwards Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling combine for just 10 points in that win, but the Midshipmen found surprising offensive success near the basket, unearthing countless easy looks on their way to 56 percent shooting inside the arc. After showing some positive flashes in a loss to Duke, however, and playing markedly better against Loyola (Chicago) in its home opener, the Michigan State big men seem to be taking incremental steps in the right direction. On Monday night, in a 79-52 victory over Santa Clara – an evening in which Dawson was sidelined with the flu – those small steps turned into even bigger strides, as Schilling, Costello and Dawson-fill-in Marvin Clark Jr. demonstrated a level of assertiveness and production that was largely missing 10 days ago. With the Spartans’ most crucial week of non-conference play looming just ahead, it’s a sign of improvement that may have come in the nick of time.

Michigan State's Gavin Schilling had a big night against Santa Clara on Monday. (Photo: Mike Carter, Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

Michigan State’s Gavin Schilling had a big night against Santa Clara on Monday. (Photo: Mike Carter, Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

Tom Izzo mentioned the 6’9’’ Schilling as a possible breakout player before the season began, and he fully looked the part – in terms of production, aggression and physique. After playing somewhat tentatively against Navy, Schilling was at times dominant against the smaller Broncos, scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and securing 11 rebounds in just 18 minutes on the court – his first career double-double. “He’s so strong and athletic… he’s got a nice jump-hook, he can use both hands,” Izzo said of the big man afterwards. Interestingly, Schilling’s outing was statistically similar to Costello’s night against Loyola, wherein the junior scored a career-high 13 points and notched 11 boards. While he didn’t near that scoring production against Santa Clara, tallying just two points, Costello did log nine rebounds and a pair of blocks, at times demonstrating the same ball-commanding assertiveness he did against the Ramblers (and subsequently earning three trips to the free throw line). More importantly, both he and Schilling were defensive enforcers in the paint, helping limit Santa Clara to a 32 percent two-point shooting mark that would have been even lower if not for a few late buckets. Likewise, the pair combined for 13 of the team’s 21 offensive rebounds, keeping possessions alive and enabling Michigan State to put the game away early. “Costello and Schilling have been bright spots,” Izzo put simply after the game.

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RTC Top 25: Week One

Posted by Walker Carey on November 24th, 2014

Week one is in the books and what a week it was. One of the great things about college basketball is that many of the elite teams play other elite teams early in the season, and that is what happened at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis last Tuesday. First, #2 Duke led the entire way in scoring a comfortable 11-point victory over #19 Michigan State, and in the nightcap, #1 Kentucky showed everyone why it will be the story of the year in college basketball, as the Wildcats thoroughly dismantled #11 Kansas. Duke’s win over Michigan State paired with its weekend victories over Temple and Stanford have the Blue Devils all the way up to the second slot in this week’s RTC25. #1 Kentucky remains in the top spot, but its style points in demolishing a talented Kansas squad earned the Wildcats every one of our pollsters’ number one votes. Outside of Kentucky, the team of the week had to be #7 Gonzaga, who rose from #11 after it impressively handled previously-#22 SMU and dominated its way to a 52-point thrashing of Saint Joseph’s.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump…

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.21.01 AM

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Big 12 M5: 11.24.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2014

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  1. In an early but big game for Bob Huggins and West Virginia, the Mountaineers impressed by beating defending national champions Connecticut, 78-68, in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Sunday night. The victory was keyed by a 17-4 run midway through the first half, and big games from Juwan Staten (21 points) and the Mountaineer defense, which forced 19 Husky turnovers, were especially crucial. Without a slate full of formidable non-con opponents, the win was very important for WVU from a resume standpoint. West Virginia can breathe easy for now, as they should have little trouble passing their next two tests, which come against VMI and the College Of Charleston.
  2. Amid the fallout for Kansas from last week’s shellacking at the hands of Kentucky was a minor injury, as it was revealed that freshman Devonte’ Graham sprained his shoulder in the loss. The injury isn’t said to be serious and it sounds like Graham will be ready for this week’s Orlando Classic, but with point guard play continuing to be a question, any development that brings more uncertainty to the picture isn’t good. If Mason shows any lingering symptoms, it will be interesting to see what the Jayhawks can get from Frank Mason.
  3. Oklahoma State big man Michael Cobbins was welcomed back to the team with open arms and showed that he was ready to go with a very solid performance against Milwaukee Friday night. Cobbins was sidelined for the Cowboys’ first three games of the season due to an NCAA ruling, but chipped in 15 points to go along with six rebounds, three blocks and a steal in an 82-68 win in his season debut against the Panthers. Oklahoma State now has everyone available as they gear up for a semifinal match-up tonight against Oregon State in the MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas. They’ll play either Auburn or Tulsa in the final or consolation round on Wednesday.
  4. Obvious as it is, we’ve talked several times about how important it is for Kansas State to avoid the kind of non-con gaffes that sent them scrambling into February to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. As it turns out, Bruce Weber‘s team didn’t listen to us, as it took a 69-60 road loss to Long Beach State on Friday night. Beating Purdue in today’s opening round of the Maui Invitational now becomes more meaningful than it was before, not so much because it would restore confidence in the Wildcats, but because it would set up a likely second-round match-up with No. 2 Arizona, where a win would do wonders for their tournament resume.
  5. Just in time for Feast Week, Iowa State will get a pair of reinforcements back tonight as Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas are now eligible to play in games. Both Nader and Thomas sat out the Cyclones’ first two games after separate run-ins with the law resulted in alcohol-related citations. We will have a full breakdown on what to expect from Iowa State in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic this week, but at the very least, Nader and Thomas can bring some offense to the Cyclone bench, which has scored just nine points so far this season.
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