Big 12 M5: 12.27.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 27th, 2012

morning5_big12

  1. If the annual conference realignment fiasco has taught us one thing, it’s that the NCAA doesn’t have as much power as it once did. Coaches and media members have hinted at the idea of the major conferences and schools eventually breaking away and doing things their way, without the dozens — hundreds in basketball’s case — of small schools taking a piece of the pie. When that time draws near, stories like the Myck Kabongo investigation will not help the NCAA’s case. The NCAA is more inconsistent than midwestern weather. One player accepts cash from a booster and gets a 10-game suspension. Another player catches a ride from someone and has to sit out three games. Kabongo took a flight and worked out with NBA personnel and is suspended for 23 games. Some coaches are punished for putting schools on probation. Other coaches bolt to different jobs and win championships at blue bloods without a scratch.
  2. If you want to see what some of your favorite former college players are up to, go watch an NBA D-League game sometime. It’s a great place to pick up some “Where Are They Now” trivia questions. If you can’t stomach that (I wouldn’t blame you) take a look at the end of a college team’s bench and you might recognize a few young coaches who were recent players. Former Oklahoma State guard Keiton Page turned down the chance to play professionally overseas to begin his coaching career on the ground floor. He’s now the Cowboys’ assistant strength and conditioning coach, a title that wouldn’t surprise me if told it was created just for him. He seems to be using the opportunity as an internship for a coaching career, and this opportunity should provide him plenty of experience in the next few years.
  3. Gary Parrish’s Poll Attacks is back this week, and he doesn’t like the fact that Bruce Weber’s Kansas State team is still unranked in the Coaches poll. It’s hard to argue with any of Parrish’s points on the Wildcats, either. I figured they would debut in both polls after beating a top 10 Florida team in Kansas City last Saturday night. They got the 25th spot in the AP Poll, but are still behind New Mexico and North Carolina in the “Others Receiving Votes” category of the Coaches poll. As Parrish points out, it is hard to find a reason to put North Carolina ahead of Kansas State right now. Luckily, we have this tournament at the end of the year to settle things.
  4. Former top-rated recruit Josh Smith seems to have eaten his way out of UCLA. He struggled with his weight during most of his career with the Bruins and looked to be north of 300 pounds most of the time. He left the school not too long ago and is looking to end his career at one of three schools: Georgetown, Washington, and Kansas. Bill Self has been churning out NBA big men for years now and Kansas strength coach Andrea Hudy is one of the best in the country. Self and Hudy (and former assistant Danny Manning, too) turned Marcus and Markieff Morris from skinny reeds to solid NBA scorers. Cole Aldrich went from a clumsy tall guy to a lottery pick, and current center Jeff Withey is only the best defensive player in the country. If anyone can get Smith’s weight down and turn him into a legitimate player who can stay on the court, it is the duo of Self and Hudy.
  5. Luke Meredith of the Washington Times finally noticed what we have been saying here at RTC for a while now: The Big 12 is anything but deep this season. Can Oklahoma State challenge Kansas for the regular season conference title? That is about the only compelling discussion around the league right now. West Virginia and Baylor have underperformed. Texas has, too, but at least the Longhorns have a good reason. Kansas State looks to be good for a few upsets this season but that might be it. None of the middle-of-the-road teams like Iowa State or Oklahoma have surprised anyone either, leaving us with the Jayhawks on track to win their ninth consecutive conference title and roll to another top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Someone feel free to make things interesting.
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Big 12 Summer Update: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by dnspewak on August 7th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. The final team on the list — Oklahoma State.

2011-12 record: 15-18, 7-11 (7th place, Big 12)

While his peers in the coaching community were chasing recruits this summer and lounging by the pool, Travis Ford took the stand during a rape trial to testify on behalf of a former player. This wasn’t about basketball anymore. This was about the life of Darrell Williams, facing a prison sentence after two women at a party accused him of groping them in 2010. The soaring expectations in 2012-13, thanks to the arrival of freshman star Marcus Smart and the return of sophomore Le’Bryan Nash, would have to wait. Ford argued for Williams’ innocence on the stand, and several former teammates attended the trial. The defense argued that the two women may have misidentified Williams, but that didn’t convince a jury. It convicted the forward on two counts, sending him into an uncontrollable sob as police escorted him out. Williams was never a star, and he had not played since February 2011. Still, this is not your average legal situation. That kind of thing happens all the time — like this weekend, when police arrested Cowboys’ center Philip Jurick for marijuana possession. In those situations, programs discipline, suspend and move on. When a former player heads to prison on a rape conviction, though, it takes a little while to recover. So that’s where Travis Ford sits with this Oklahoma State program right now. After a traumatic whirlwind of a summer, he must now find a way to recover from the graduation of heart-and-soul guard Keiton Page and transform this collection of individually talented parts into a winning team. It’d be nice, too, if he could find a viable point guard.

For All The Criticism, It’s Easy To Forget Nash Won Freshman of the Year Honors in 2011-12

Summer Orientation: Everybody knows Marcus Smart. Just ask Billy Donovan and Mark Few about the OSU freshman, who wowed them at the U-18 Championships this summer. ”He was our leader from the moment the players introduced themselves,” Few told CBS’ Gary Parrish. “He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever been around — and that includes all the Zags I’ve coached.” That single quote from Few sums up Marcus Smart at the most basic level. He may be a McDonald’s All-American with NBA talent, and he may be a scoring guard with ungodly physical gifts and slashing ability. That’s all great, but it’s not even what Smart is known for. He’s known as a leader. Clutch. A playmaker. The kind of guy who prides himself on his instincts, defensive prowess, smarts and basketball savvy rather than his point-per-game average. These are the qualities that have Travis Ford gushing about his freshman, to the point where he’s already anointing Smart as a team leader after he excelled in individual workouts this summer. Perhaps we’re reading too much into the Rivals.com star rankings and the spectacular performance at the U-18 games, and maybe all of this talk of early leadership and the “ultimate teammate” is overkill for a guy who hasn’t stepped on the court yet. The beauty of the situation for Smart and the Cowboys, though, is that he’s not necessarily counted on to carry this team. Le’Bryan Nash often had those expectations as a freshman a year ago, but his decision to return for his sophomore year means the two highly-touted talents can feed off each other.

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Grading the Big 12′s 2011-12 Season: Bottom Half

Posted by dnspewak on April 5th, 2012

With the 2011-12 campaign now just a memory, it’s difficult to actually remember all of the drama and agony the Big 12 experienced during the last five months. Kansas’ thrilling loss to Duke in the Maui Invitational seems like ages ago, as does the Jayhawks’ first loss to Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. Remember when Missouri and Baylor were only a few of the remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball? Or when Texas found a way to lose game after game in the most heartbreaking fashion? These memories are hard to digest, but you’ll probably never forget the Border War drama between Kansas and Missouri, nor will you forget Iowa State’s rise thanks to the brilliant play of Royce White. The Big 12 kept playing until the final game of the 2011-12 season, ending with Kansas’ loss to Kentucky in the title game on Monday. And with the conclusion of this wild campaign, the final grades are in. Kansas earns an A+. Big surprise. Texas A&M earns an F. Big surprise, too, but for different reasons. The other eight teams settled into a grade somewhere between those two extremes.

We’ll cover the bottom half of the league today, and the top half tomorrow.

10. Texas Tech (8-23, 1-17)

Gillispie's First Year in Lubbock Wasn't Great

FINAL GRADE: D

The Red Raiders get a free pass in Billy Gillispie‘s first season. Playing almost exclusively with newcomers, Texas Tech had no chance this year. Robert Lewandowski was the only senior on the roster, but not even he could lead this team to any sort of success. Their inexperience was just too much to overcome. The Red Raiders were plagued by turnovers all season and they never got consistent point guard play. Jordan Tolbert emerged as the leading scorer in the frontcourt, and he played the most consistent basketball on the team from November through February. Still, even after a last-place finish, Texas Tech should not worry about the state of this program. Gillispie’s success at UTEP and Texas A&M proves he can win in this state, and he’ll have almost everybody back next season.

9. Texas A&M (14-18, 4-14)

FINAL GRADE: F

Sorry, A&M. You fail. Picked in the pre-season to win the Big 12, the Aggies suffered through a nightmare year, though there are extenuating circumstances to consider here. Coach Billy Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s diagnosis in the fall, which kept him sidelined for fall practice and away from his team during critical teaching moments. As a first-year coach, Kennedy never had the chance to establish himself to his new players. Adding to the woes, many of those players missed time themselves with injuries. Star wing Khris Middleton had surgery on his knee in November and sat out part of Big 12 play. Point guard Dash Harris missed a handful of games, too, and his backup Jamal Branch transferred before conference play. Kourtney Roberson played only nine games before his season ended due to injury as well. As the troubles mounted, the losses began to pile up. The Aggies simply could not score because of all the roster turnover and the lack of creators on the offensive end. We thought this team could muscle its way to a Big 12 title by playing with the principles former coach Mark Turgeon instilled, but that never happened. Now, Kennedy must revamp this program and forget about the 2011-12 nightmare.

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The Final Game: How a Star and a Walk-On Finished Their Careers in Kansas City

Posted by dnspewak on March 28th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer. He wrote this piece after covering the first two days of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.  You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

One senior exits the court at the Sprint Center with 53 seconds remaining, walking gingerly toward his coach as an entire arena stands to applaud his four years of contributions. He will be remembered in college for playing more minutes than any player in program history — 4,322 to be exact. He is a former high school legend who set a state record for most points in a single season, once totaling 61 points in a single contest. He is a star and always will be. A name nobody around his parts will or could ever forget.

A night earlier, another senior enters the court at the Sprint Center with 21.2 seconds remaining on the clock, jogging toward his teammates as a few supporters in the stands politely applaud his four years of contributions. He will be remembered in college for hardly ever playing any minutes — 111 to be exact. He is a former high school point guard who won a 2008 state title without even scoring five points per game for his team, a man who has never been a star and never will be. A name most people around his parts will immediately forget.

T.J. Franklin and Keiton Page played their last games in Kansas City, Mo. (Photos by Oklahoma Sooners and NewsOK.com)

From a statistical standpoint, Keiton Page and T.J. Franklin could not possibly be any different. At the same time, they could not possibly be more alike. They are two seniors beloved by their teammates and coaches. They are two seniors considered within their respective programs as unquestioned leaders, guys who always say and do the right thing. They are two seniors who represent the best of college athletics.

This is not a story just about a household name and a walk-on. It is a story about two seniors who saw their careers end in the span of 24 hours in Kansas City, Missouri. A story about what it’s like to pour your entire life into one sport and see it all evaporate in the matter of two hours. A story about how Page and Franklin are entirely different and yet entirely the same. Read the rest of this entry »

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Missouri Punishes Undermanned Oklahoma State Team

Posted by dnspewak on March 8th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. He filed this piece after Missouri’s. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

With his team trailing by 22 points by the first media timeout of the second half Thursday, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford clapped his hands eight times and grimaced, resigned to the fact his team’s season would end in less than 16 minutes. It was a minor miracle his team even defeated Oklahoma on Wednesday and had the opportunity to lose to Missouri, 88-70, in the quarterfinals. “I think fatigue was a little bit of a factor,” Ford said. ”I think Missouri played up on that. That was probably something they talked about: ‘hey, Oklahoma State doesn’t have a whole lot of players… let’s go at them early.” Want the full rundown of OSU’s adversity this season? Start with this: Star freshman Le’Bryan Nash and big man Philip Jurick aren’t playing in this tournament due to injury. Two of his point guards, Reger Dowell and Fred Gulley, transferred within two weeks of each other before Big 12 play began. J.P. Olukemi hasn’t played in months after tearing his knee up. This is also a team playing Brian Williams out of position at the four and using Markel Brown to run the point at times.

Despite What This Picture Looks Like, It Wasn't That Hard-Fought of a Win for Missouri (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

But the Tigers didn’t care. They’ve got their own issues to worry about, like winning a Big 12 Tournament title and earning a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. They roared to a 49-24 halftime lead, looking like athletes from another planet. Missouri dominated the boards and dominated defensively, with Phil Pressey getting his hands on every basketball that came his way. The sophomore point guard finished with five steals. “I’m just playing defense the way I know how to play,” Pressey said. “That’s what my coaches want me to do. And I came out with some steals.” As usual, the Tigers shared the ball and knocked down open three-pointer after open three-pointer, using what Kim English called “Pete Carril” ball movement to shoot nearly 60% from the field. “We had tremendous ball movement. Good ball movement relieves the tension of the offense,” English said, as his coach winked at him for such an astute observation.

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Big 12 Tourney First Round Reaction: Oklahoma State vs.Texas Tech

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Oklahoma State 76, Texas Tech 60

Oklahoma State hardly looked like a team missing two key contributors on Wednesday night. Even without the injured Le’Bryan Nash and Philip Jurick, the Cowboys managed to pull away from a pesky Texas Tech squad 76-60 thanks to a second-half burst from Cezar Guerrero and Brian Williams. Despite briefly trailing by a point early in the second half, OSU regrouped by attacking the basket and forcing the Red Raiders to jack up bad shots from beyond the arc. Within minutes, that deficit turned into a double-digit lead, and from there Oklahoma State punished the young Red Raiders by working the clock and clamping down on defense. It all happened with major personnel adjustments — with Williams playing the four position and Markel Brown running the point. “Words really can’t describe how proud I am of our basketball team,” coach Travis Ford said. “For these guys to continue to play as hard as they are, they’re fun to coach.”

Texas Tech's season ended with a 76-60 loss to Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

Why the Cowboys Won: Cezar Guerrero really exploded in the second half, burying back-to-back three-pointers after his team’s brief one-point deficit. “I felt like I just needed to bring energy and get these guys going again,” Guerrero said. “Luckily, my teammates just got me open and I hit the shots. I was really feeling it today.” Texas Tech also struggled on the offensive end, looking every bit like the team that finished 1-17 in Big 12 play under first-year head coach Billy Gillispie. Even a strong effort from Jordan Tolbert could not overcome the Cowboys, who had four players score in double figures. Senior Keiton Page couldn’t find his shot early, but he heated up in garbage time to finish with a team-high 20 points. The key statistic to take note of here is Texas Tech’s performance from three-point land: 4-20. That’s your ballgame right there. That, and a 16-16 team mark from the free throw line for Oklahoma State.

What’s Next: Oklahoma State advances to play second-seeded Missouri, a team it defeated in Stillwater this year but could not compete with on the road. If Nash can’t go, though, the Cowboys have little to no shot. Nash put his team on his shoulders in that game, scoring important basket after important basket to announce to the national stage that he was a legitimate star. Without him, it’s important for Williams to keep playing as aggressively as he did against Tech. “We didn’t exactly play the way we wanted to up in Columbia,” Williams said. “We’ll just get to the film room and start studying Missouri.”

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The Breakdown: Wednesday Night in the Big 12 Tournament

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

Knowing most of you are probably not all that interested in reading about the league’s bottom four teams, I’ll try to be brief here. Here’s exactly what you need to know — and nothing more — about the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.

Game 1: (8) Oklahoma vs. (9) Texas A&M, 6 p.m CT.

Lon Kruger Needs to Work His Magic

With only one scholarship senior on the roster, Lon Kruger may actually have a decent roster to work with next year. So although Wednesday could be the final game of C.J. Washington‘s career, this could mark the beginning of a turnaround in 2012-13. The Sooners have not fared well in Big 12 play after a strong start in November and December, but they have an underrated point guard in Sam Grooms, a blossoming scorer in Steven Pledger and a couple of really good  forwards in Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald. Osby has quietly played very well down the stretch for Kruger, helping offset Pledger’s inconsistency and Fitzgerald’s struggles. He’s one of the top offensive rebounders in the Big 12, which sets up a showdown with Ray Turner and David Loubeau. Billy Kennedy will need to rework his roster more than Kruger next year, but the Big 12 Tournament could still give him some valuable feedback on what needs to change in his program.

The key player is… Osby. When these two teams played on Saturday, he scored 24 points and looked virtually unguardable. Surprisingly, Texas A&M actually kept him off of the offensive glass, which is Osby’s main strength.

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Big 12 Season Recap and Postseason Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 7th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Conference Tournament Preview

The big attraction this year for many fans is the chance to see one more Kansas-Missouri battle before the Tigers leave for the SEC. If Kansas reaches the final, they will likely be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and there’s still a chance Missouri can nab one if they win the Big 12 Tournament as well. Given the general lack of depth on both teams it might behoove them to lose early and rest up for the NCAA Tournament, but their competitiveness and seed chasing will probably lead to one last matchup.

Let's Go For a Third, Shall We? (AP)

The Big 12 has likely locked up five bids in the tournament, with a sixth possibly going to Texas. The Longhorns will need to beat Iowa State Wednesday night to have a shot, and with how soft the bubble is this year, that will probably be enough.

Elsewhere, Baylor can potentially get a #3 seed if they make a run (though with their new uniforms I am wondering if there is a way we can keep them out of the postseason altogether) and Iowa State can probably get away from the dreaded #8/#9 game if they do so as well. Kansas State‘s seeding could range widely depending on its performance this week, but the Wildcats are soundly in the Dance.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.05.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 5th, 2012

  1. The Big 12 awards are out, so let the heated debate begin. We will release our own picks soon, but the one head-scratcher here is the Coach of the Year award. Bill Self and Fred Hoiberg shared the honor, and both are more than deserving choices. Still, Frank Haith‘s absence makes little sense to anybody associated with the league, much less Missouri people. After the adversity his team faced– from the Shapiro allegations at Miami to Laurence Bowers’ injury– he has to be the hands-down choice. Right? Maybe we are off-base here. If so, let us know in the comment section below. Frankly, though, the Coach of the Year award should be renamed the “Coach of the Most Surprising Team” award. At the conference and national level, the award simply goes to the coach of a team that overachieved– as if he explains the unexplainable. So as much as we may quibble about Haith here, who cares? Picking the best coach in the league is an almost impossible task.
  2. Texas is in desperation mode against Iowa State in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, but it has learned that Alexis Wangmene will miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury. Good luck guarding Royce White now, Longhorns. And that’s pretty much all we will say about that.
  3. Here’s a shocker: Iowa State spent $420,000 on guarantee games to bring inferior opponents into Hilton Coliseum this year. This article from The Des Moines Register gives us an inside look at how athletic directors make scheduling decisions, and though it’s not the most revolutionary piece, it’s still interesting to consider the process from this perspective. It’s also interesting to see how much costs have increased for guarantee games. Look at Greg McDermott‘s comments at the end of the article–guarantee games are no longer a cheap deal for anybody.
  4. Read this lead and tell us what you think. We didn’t realize this, but Oklahoma hasn’t had a winning season since Blake Griffin left. That’s not very long ago– 2009, to be exact– but it’s a little longer than we realized. This program has taken a nosedive, but a strong showing at the Big 12 Tournament might carry a little momentum into next year.
  5. Oklahoma State needs a point guard. Bad. Really bad, even. It’s been such an issue lately for Travis Ford, especially this season, when Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell both transferred before Big 12 play even began. That switched Keiton Page to the point, but he’s going to graduate. So that leaves Cezar Guerrero, who just may be the most important player on the Cowboys next year. No pressure though, young man.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.01.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 1st, 2012

  1. Fans and media are notorious for playing “what-if” games. While the players play the game, it’s up to the writers to quibble about statistics, legacies and revisionist history. Oklahoma State is no different, as this writer asks what would have happened had the legendary Eddie Sutton not had a bout with alcoholism. It forced him to step down after a sub-par year in the mid-2000s, and his son Sean Sutton did not fare well afterward. It’s an interesting thought, at the very least.
  2. Sorry, but here’s yet another feature on Frank Haith. This one’s a good one, though. We’re not sure we agree with the headline, as Haith hasn’t really changed the culture as much as simply building on what Mike Anderson had already implemented. Still, he’s done a terrific job and his story is remarkable. But you know that already. Just read the article and learn it again.
  3. Five Big 12 players landed on the Naismith “Midseason 30″ list, and none of them will surprise you: Phil Pressey, Marcus Denmon, Perry Jones, Thomas Robinson, and Royce White. That ties the league with the SEC as having the most selections. It’s interesting to see MU land two players, whereas Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor did not make the list. Close call.
  4. If you’re interested in multimedia, check out this discussion of Oklahoma State guard Keiton Page. Yes, we’ve linked to a lot of articles about Page’s legacy during the past few months, but the senior is a divisive and intriguing player. It’s worth a look if you have the time.
  5. It may not have booked its NCAA Tournament trip, but Texas stayed alive with a victory over rival Oklahoma last night. Now, it’s time for the Longhorns to figure out a way to beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. True, Missouri proved that the Jayhawks are at least mortal and beatable on their home floor, but that was, well, Missouri. This is Texas, and the talent level in Austin this year is not nearly the same. Wilder things have happened though in sports, so that’s what Rick Barnes is going to have to bank on.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.28.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 28th, 2012

  1. As if life weren’t complicated enough in Columbia with this weekend’s loss to rival Kansas, Missouri learned this week they will now need to hear about another NCAA probe involving head coach Frank Haith‘s days at Miami. This time, the NCAA has ruled Hurricanes’ center Reggie Johnson ineligible because his family received improper travel benefits from a member of Haith’s coaching staff. The incident is unrelated to the Nevin Shapiro accusations that surfaced last summer, so it’s another problem to keep an eye on for Haith. He said he will cooperate with the investigation.
  2. Once again, Kansas is your Big 12 champion. The Jayhawks wrapped up the regular season league title with a win Monday night over Oklahoma State, a victory not nearly as enthralling as Saturday’s comeback in Lawrence. Still, as Bill Self has done over and over again, his team took care of business and did not let the critics get into its head this winter. Way back in the fall, even Self said he had concerns about this year’s team. He wasn’t alone. But this is Kansas. This program wins Big 12 titles, and this year was no different.
  3. Senior Night is always special and important, especially when a player like Keiton Page is involved. Page, such an important piece to Oklahoma State for four years running, finished with 29 points in his final game at Gallagher-Iba in the loss to Kansas. Criticize him all you want — and there’s certainly parts of his game deserving of such criticism — but this guy never quits. He’s a senior in every sense of the word.
  4. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy channeled his inner-Pat Knight by ripping his team and questioning their scholarship money, all in response to a loss this weekend to Oklahoma State. Much like Knight famously criticized his seniors at Lamar last week, Kennedy said his Aggies “were cheating on the job.” The loss dropped A&M to 4-12 in Big 12 play, a fairly amazing statistic considering yours truly predicted it to win the Big 12 in the preseason. Whoops.
  5. Baylor had no trouble with Texas Tech last night in Waco, rolling to a 77-48 victory. The Senior Day win was important for this graduating class, which has won the most games in school history. Made up of Quincy Acy, Fred Ellis, and Anthony Jones, the senior class has won 95 games since arriving on campus and is likely to crack 100 before they’re finished as Bears.
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ATB: Tournament Basketball Begins, an RTC Ends Badly, and the Final Big Monday of the Year…

Posted by rtmsf on February 28th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Championship Fortnight is under way! With three days still left in February, the Big South Tournament tipped off its opening round at two different campus locations to mark the arrival of the best time of the year. Elimination basketball, baby. Most of the nation is still focusing on the last week of the regular season in the power conferences, and the final Big Monday of the 2011-12 season featured one of the country’s two NPOY candidates in action, an RTC that went oh-so-badly, and an impressive defensive performance by a team we’re having trouble figuring out. Let’s jump in…

See That? Tournament Basketball Has Started... (credit: Big South Conference)

Your Watercooler Moment. When RTCing Goes Very Wrong. You all know our general set of guidelines when it comes to rushing the court. Make it special. Listen to your gut. Full and complete coverage. Easy enough, right? Well, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be RTCing for any reason until the game is actually over. Delaware State’s fans must not have gotten the memo tonight against Morgan State, and it severely cost them. After a tip-dunk by Tahj Tate gave the Hornets a one-point lead very late in the game, players and fans spilled onto the court in jubilation of the apparent victory. The only problem — there were still 1.1 seconds remaining on the game clock. After a significant delay, the officials levied a delay of game technical foul on Delaware State, allowing Morgan State’s Aric Brooks to hit two free throws to win the game. It’s not very often that MEAC basketball is highlighted on the national stage for something significant — this certainly isn’t the PR hit that the league offices were probably hoping for.

Survive and Advance. Big South. The Big South Tournament got under way on Monday night with High Point overtaking Gardner-Webb, 68-58, and VMI (remember when they could score?) outlasting Radford, 55-53. High Point will advance to play the top seed, UNC-Asheville, on Wednesday night, while VMI will take on the #2 seed, Coastal Carolina.

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