Set Your TiVo: 02.27.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 27th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The final week of the regular season is upon us. While there are no bubble teams in action tonight, we hope you enjoy the last Big Monday of the season.

#18 Notre Dame at #11 Georgetown – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • Georgetown enters this game tied with South Florida for the final double bye in next week’s Big East Tournament. The Hoyas have the tiebreaker, but a loss tonight would drop them into fifth place and a single bye. John Thompson III’s team allowed Seton Hall to shoot 61% against its normally stellar defense last week but responded in a big way by limiting Villanova to 28% on Saturday. Against a Notre Dame team that likes to slow the pace and grind out possessions, Georgetown should actually feel comfortable. The Hoyas have a big rebounding edge in this game with Otto Porter and Henry Sims up front. Jack Cooleyis a warrior on the boards for Notre Dame but that’s all the Irish offer in that department. Neutralizing Cooley and limiting Notre Dame’s three point attack will be the two main keys for Georgetown in this game.

    Can Georgetown Earn A Double Bye?

  • The Fighting Irish shot an anemic 4-31 from three-point land in a loss to St. John’s this past Saturday. A repeat performance against one of the best three-point defenses in the country will send Notre Dame back to South Bend with its second consecutive loss. To avoid that, Notre Dame must move the ball well against a patient defense accustomed to playing at the slow pace the Irish prefer. Eric Atkins needs to play well at the point and Notre Dame’s late shot clock execution must be working well in order for this team to win on the road tonight. With Georgetown’s big rebounding edge and familiarity with low possession games, it’s going to be hard for Notre Dame to control the game and get into a comfort zone.
  • This appears to be a bad matchup for the Irish but you never know exactly how things will play out. Both teams guard the three point line extremely well and that’s what the game may come down to. It’s unlikely that ND will shoot 4-31 from deep again but Georgetown’s rebounding edge may be the difference in the game. We have to favor the Hoyas at home.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.21.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 21st, 2012

  1. College students are notorious for their flakiness and unpredictability. Hey, it’s part of the growth process. So when Le’Bryan Nash rates his chances of returning to school in 2012-13 at “70 percent,” we’re not going to bank on it just yet. It’s not that we don’t trust Nash. It’s that we just don’t trust our own generation all that much. Nash and Travis Ford apparently have not talked about his professional future, but if he returns for his sophomore year, this could be a heck of a team with Marcus Smart coming into the mix.
  2. Keiton Page was a big topic of discussion yesterday, and he’s back in the fold today with a discussion of his legacy. He’ll graduate from Oklahoma State as a hate-him-or-love-him volume shooter who played as hard as he could every time he stepped on the floor. This article gets into a lengthy argument about whether or not Page will live on as a Cowboy legend. He won’t. But he’s a player that OSU fans will probably never forget, for both good and bad reasons.
  3. We get it. Frank Martin likes to curse, and he’s entertaining while he’s spewing venom on the sidelines. That’s just who Martin is. Still, his antics will draw attention wherever he goes, including Columbia when his Kansas State team makes its last visit to Mizzou Arena as a Big 12 foe. This rivalry is underrated compared with the Border War, but Missouri and KSU have always played against each other with a similar sort of bitterness and anger. When Mike Anderson coached at Missouri, his teams often found themselves entangled in physical foul-fests with the Wildcats. If that happens again, Frank Haith‘s seven-man team may be in trouble.
  4. What exactly is the problem with Oklahoma? It’s hard to say exactly, but Lon Kruger’s team has fallen flat after an encouraging start. This article claims the biggest issue with the Sooners right now is simply a lack of cohesion. A lot of that partly stems from Oklahoma’s somewhat shallow backcourt and lack of good ballhandlers. There are individually talented parts on this team, but Big 12 play has not been kind to this team as a whole.
  5. Melvin Ejim isn’t about to miss any time as his Iowa State team attempts to return to the NCAA Tournament. He said he’ll play against Texas Tech on Wednesday despite suffering an injury to his shoulder this weekend. Ejim missed part of a win over Oklahoma with that injury, but he actually returned from the locker room and finished with a double-double. So we’re guessing this won’t slow him down against the Red Raiders.
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Checking In On… The Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 20th, 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.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Baylor Falls At Home: Baylor had only lost conference games to Kansas and Missouri, but that changed with a one-point loss at home against Kansas State. Despite Wildcat freshman Angel Rodriguez traveling on an easy layup, Baylor could not win on its last possession when freshman Quincy Miller missed a shot with just seconds left. Baylor didn’t score in the final two minutes of the game, and had a couple of possessions marred by some physical play that went uncalled. The loss drops the Bears into a tie with Iowa State for third in the league.
  • Can The Jayhawks Make A Deep Run?: One of the tenets in picking a national champion is finding a team that is ranked in the KenPom top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency. At this point, only two teams meet these criteria: Kentucky and Kansas. The Jayhawks are tenth in adjusted offense and fourth in adjusted defense, giving them the ability to play with any team in the nation. Though its offense has been concentrated in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor (and lately Jeff Withey), the Jayhawks have good defenders all over the floor, which is exactly how Bill Self likes it. Considering the perception of Kansas coming into the season after losing the Morris twins, Self’s team has come a long way.
  • A Banner Day In Stillwater: Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page had the game of his career, scoring a career-high 40 points in a win over Texas. Page was efficient from the field, going 4-6 from two and 4-8 from three, but he was fantastic from the line, getting to the charity stripe 20 times and making every last one. Page’s shooting percentages have dropped a bit this year as he’s had to take a more active role in the offense, but Saturday was a reminder of what shooting skill the senior has.

Phil Pressey And The Tigers Keep Their Eyes On The Prize As They Battle Kansas In Lawrence This Saturday. (US Presswire)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (25-2, 12-2): Missouri has the best offense in the country (by a good margin), but its defense has been just mediocre. The Tigers are now fourth in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency, and have allowed over a point per possession in five of their last six games. Hosting a Kansas State team that struggles to score should give Frank Haith’s crew an opportunity to tighten up its defense.
  2. Kansas (18-5, 8-2): Kansas has never lost to Texas Tech in Allen Fieldhouse, winning this year’s edition by 33 points. Four Jayhawks scored in double figures, including Conner Teahan, who made three of his five threes, which is a huge key for the Jayhawks if they want to advance far in the NCAA Tournament. Probably the player who most delighted the home crowd, though, was walk-on Jordan Juenemann, who scored a career-high 7 points in the waning minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.20.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 20th, 2012

  1. Oddly enough, Keiton Page may be the Big 12’s most intriguing player. The undersized guard hardly looks like an elite basketball player, but he has managed to contribute heavily in all four of his seasons Oklahoma State. When he graduates after this year, he will leave a mixed legacy as both a gritty underdog and a volume three-point shooter who never made more than 40% of his three-point attempts in a given season. Though he hasn’t been a perfect player since arriving in Stillwater, he was basically perfect in a 40-point effort which sprung him to fourth among the league’s scoring leaders. Page may be heating up lately, but this argument for a spot on the All-Conference team is a little off. Page actually shoots less than 40% from the field, including just a 35% clip from three. His attitude and leadership have been commendable especially since injuries and transfers have forced him to move to point guard, but that is not enough for an All-Conference selection.
  2. That 40-point game was quite a scene for Page, though, and it’s worth another mention. Teammate Le’Bryan Nash was most surprised by Page’s ability to pump fake. “I’m like: ‘Why do guys jump? You’re 5-9, I’ll just put my hands straight up and make you try to shoot over me… But guys who play my position, they make defensive mistakes. He looks for those defensive mistakes. And I’m glad they’re calling it for him,” Nash told The Oklahoman. Something tells us Keiton Page and Bob Knight would get along great, considering The General mentions his love for pump fakes at least a dozen times each broadcast.
  3. Now playing for a program looking to sneak back into the NCAAs for the first time in several years, Chris Allen‘s experience is shining at the right time for Iowa State. Allen, who has Final Four experience from his days at Michigan State, scored a career-high 25 points in a blowout of Texas A&M this weekend. That’s the second straight game Allen has led Iowa State in the scoring department. In fact, over the last four games, Allen has shot 17 for 29 from three and is shooting right around 50 percent from the field.
  4. At least Billy Gillispie has a sense of humor. After a 33-point beating at the hands of Thomas Robinson and Kansas, the Texas Tech coach made a Seabiscuit reference to describe the way the Jayhawks manhandled his team inside. “I keep thinking every time we have the tip of that scene in ‘Seabiscuit, where they walk Seabiscuit out here and he’s going against War Admiral, and War Admiral is this much taller (gestures about a foot) than him,” Gillispie told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. There’s not a whole lot to add to Coach Gillispie’s depiction of the situation– it’s pretty much spot on.
  5. Texas and Baylor are moving in opposite directions, and they are going to clash on Big Monday tonight. The Longhorns have a chance to move above .500 in the Big 12 and knock off their first ranked opponent while the Bears are trying to stop a nasty slide in conference play. After entering the Big 12 season without a loss, the Bears have now dropped five league games and hit rock bottom with a poor effort in Saturday’s loss at home to Kansas State. It’s desperation time in the state of Texas on Monday and that makes for great television.
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Cezar Guerrero’s Suspension Lasts All of One Game

Posted by dnspewak on February 8th, 2012

With just a handful of scholarship players on the roster, Travis Ford can only afford to make a statement for so long. After the Oklahoma State coach suspended point guard Cezar Guerrero for Saturday’s loss against Baylor, he reinstated the freshman last night by rewarding him with four minutes of playing time. As the season progresses, though, don’t expect Ford to keep Guerrero in the doghouse for too long. Without another true point guard on the roster, Guerrero needs to play for this team to make a late-season push. He may have committed the mysterious “violation of team rules” transgression, but Ford has no other options right now. At this point, it’s amazing Ford has even crafted five Big 12 wins out of the Cowboys. Point guards Reger Dowell and Fred Gulley already transferred this winter, J.P. Olukemi’s torn ACL cost him his season and now big man Philip Jurick is battling an injury. Against the Bears, Ford played with six scholarship players– and he almost won.

Cezar Guerrero's Suspension Did Not Last Very Long (credit: streetball.com)

Guerrero may be the only natural point guard on the team, but he’s not consistent enough right now to make an impact at that position. He’s had his moments — take a heroic 29-point effort to single-handedly knock off UTSA in November — but his playing time has diminished as the season has progressed. With seven games to play, though, there’s time for Guerrero to turn his freshman campaign around. With a little more focus after the suspension, perhaps Guerrero can seize more court time at the point, which could shift Keiton Page to the off-guard spot. And with Le’Bryan Nash finally heating up, the point guard spot is the missing piece of the puzzle right now. The NCAA Tournament may not be in the cards, but the Cowboys aren’t going to fall quietly in February.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.07.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 7th, 2012

  1. Now this is just cruel: Oklahoma State guard Keiton Page has a nasty shiner after taking a knee to the face from Baylor’s Quincy Miller. Funny story and no big deal — except for the fact that OSU has already a) lost three scholarship players to injury and transfer for the season and b) played against Baylor with Philip Jurick and Cezar Guerrero out. Jurick is sitting out with a foot injury, while Guerrero is indefinitely suspended. Travis Ford absolutely, positively cannot lose Page for any period of time, or else he may find himself running the point next week. The good news is that Page doesn’t sound like he’s injured at all. Hopefully for OSU, it stays that way.
  2. Missouri survived a nailbiter at Oklahoma on Monday night, an impressive feat considering the whirlwind weekend the Tigers experienced. Part of that may have to do with Frank Haith‘s decision to keep his team in a hotel after their game against Kansas on Saturday. As a basketball fan, it’s nice to know the Tigers were safe and comfortable in the friendly confines of a quiet hotel room. No trouble, no distractions. On the other hand, you’ve got to feel for them a little bit as a group of college students. Nights like those don’t come very often. Then again, neither do seasons like this, so Missouri’s players better savor every minute of it.
  3. You could call Kansas‘ weekend a whirlwind, too, after the Jayhawks blew a late lead at Mizzou Arena to lose the Border War Vol. I. But Bill Self’s not about to panic: “We’ve been here before,” Self said. The Jayhawks have shared or won the last seven Big 12 titles, so one road loss hardly makes or breaks their season. Now, it’s time for them to move on. “We’ve got to bounce back Wednesday,” point guard Tyshawn Taylor said. Somehow, we think KU will find a way to recover.
  4. Besides KU and MU, Baylor is the other team in the Big 12 race at this point. After that undefeated start, the Bears have actually fallen off the radar a little bit. Kansas asserted its dominance with a win in Lawrence, but BU has a chance to make a statement at home this Wednesday night. Scott Drew is saying all the right things: “Until someone beats them, definitely it is their league or has been their league,” he said. We’ll find out this week who’s league it is. Can Baylor hang with Kansas on Wednesday and Missouri on Saturday?
  5. Talk about having some guts. During the Kiss Cam at a Kansas State game this weekend, a guy proposed on camera to his girlfriend. This happens all the time at games, but this is particularly noteworthy because it happened on the Kiss Cam. With only a few seconds to make a move, this guy actually made it happen. Kudos. And she said yes. That’s more than this guy can say.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 23rd, 2012

  1. Missouri earned the most important win of its season by knocking off Baylor on Saturday, and it did so by playing harder and tougher than the Bears. The Tigers, who won the rebounding battle despite having only two scholarship forwards on the roster, may have benefited from a reading assignment coach Frank Haith insisted on. Haith made the players read an essay about toughness from Jay Bilas from 2009. It appeared to pay off, according to Kim English. “Size doesn’t matter… Everything evens out in basketball. Height limits speed.” MU improved to 18-1 and now sits a game behind Kansas in the Big 12. The Tigers still need to play at Lawrence in late February, but they’ve already taken road trips to the rest of the teams in the upper half of the league. This league could come down to the final Border War series this year — imagine that.
  2. To this day, it’s hard to forget Mike Gundy‘s tirade at Oklahoma State in defense of a quarterback. Remember? He’s a man, he’s 40, and so on. Well, Travis Ford didn’t live up to that speech in OSU lore this weekend, but he made a similar plea for the critics to lay off senior guard Keiton Page. Page shot just 4-17 from the field, but Ford didn’t care. “This kid is giving it everything he’s got and he can’t even walk the next day. I do not think he gets the respect that he deserves on that court. I just don’t get it; I don’t get it… Keiton Page is phenomenal.” Ford says Page’s production is limited because of the way defenses key in on him, and he’s got a point. But clearly, Ford believes that Page is more important to this program than his shooting percentages would suggest.
  3. Ben McLemore pleaded not guilty to a minor in possession of alcohol charge, which he received back in November. It’s a small offense, but it became an issue when the Kansas freshman missed his court date in December. McLemore is ineligible to play this year, but he apparently did not tell his coaching staff or teammates about the original alcohol charge. He’ll now appear in court again in March. Bill Self says the matter will be handled “internally” — and you know what that means.
  4. Staying with Kansas, you’re probably familiar with the story of Thomas Robinson. College Gameday ran a piece about his tragic situation on Saturday, and various media outlets have told his story after he lost his grandmother, grandfather and mother in the span of a month during the 2010-11 season. Here’s another perspective on Robinson, as told by the Kansas City Star. No matter who you root for, it’s impossible not to pull for Robinson on a personal level. No person should ever have to suffer that kind of loss in such a short period of time.
  5. Lon Kruger is still trying to figure out his Oklahoma team. During this process, Kruger has adapted as a defensive coach, using a zone more frequently with the Sooners this season. Apparently, it’s working. Ever the tactician, Kruger has used it as a change of pace for his normal man-to-man look, and his players have seemed to take a liking to it. “It’s been good for us,” forward Romero Osby said. Guard Steven Pledger said the same thing, mentioning that any defense works as long as you put effort into it. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s man or zone, you have to be active and play hard.”
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.18.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 18th, 2012

  1. Fred Hoiberg has injected new life into the Iowa State program this year as the Cyclones and Royce White in particular are starting to make headlines with their pesky play. They nearly knocked off Missouri at home, and they led Kansas at the Phog for a stretch during the second half. But don’t expect a celebration for moral victories in Ames any time soon. As Scott Christopherson puts it, “Oklahoma State does not care that we played Kansas tough at Kansas… Actually, nobody really cares.” That’s harsh, but it’s the mindset Christopherson and ISU need to have for the rest of the season. Hanging tough isn’t good enough in major Division I basketball– that’s what gets coaches fired and players scrutinized.
  2. Three Big 12 basketball players have made the Mid-Season Watch List for the Wooden Award, and none of the names will surprise you: Perry Jones (Baylor), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), and Thomas Robinson (Kansas). Overall, 25 players made the list, and the vote will not take place until March. Compared to Denmon and Jones, Robinson probably has a better shot at this national award, but all three will be in the mix for Big 12 Player of the Year and All-Conference honors.
  3. A little SEC news may have some collateral damage for the Big 12. Apparently, the SEC may be interested in using Kansas City as a possible host for the men’s basketball tournament in March. Obviously, that would conflict with the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament, which is slated to stay in the city for the time being. There’s no definitive answer on this issue right now, but it underscores a larger point: conference realignment is taking a toll on every team in every conference, and the arguments aren’t over at this point.
  4. With all of its injuries and personnel issues, it’s easy to forget about Oklahoma State. At 2-2, though, it’s not as though the Cowboys’ Big 12 season has been a disaster thus far. Yes, the 41-point loss to Baylor does not look good, but Travis Ford‘s teams have made a habit of storming back during his tenure. That’s not to say this Oklahoma State team will replicate that success, of course. Ford’s early teams had an emotional leader in Byron Eaton and a never-say-die attitude. Perhaps Keiton Page is the next candidate to lead Oklahoma State to the promised land– the NCAA Tournament– in his senior season.
  5. In desperate need of quality wins right now, Texas will travel to Kansas State in a game both teams need to win to salvage their seasons. The Longhorns are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than a decade. They will have to deal with Kansas State’s energetic home crowd, and the Wildcats cannot afford to drop another home game. At 1-3, it’s already been a rough start for Frank Martin‘s team. Things could get ugly in Manhattan if that record falls to 1-4.
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Big 12 Weekly Primer: Jan 9 – 11

Posted by dnspewak on January 9th, 2012

Kansas State has a rare opportunity this week to ruin two teams’ undefeated seasons in consecutive games. Just three days after handing Missouri its first loss at Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats will host 15-0 Baylor on Tuesday night in a battle of two of the Big 12’s top frontcourts. There are a few other games to keep an eye on this week, too: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will meet tonight in a Bedlam game, though the series is hardly enticing right now with both programs struggling. And on Wednesday, MU will need to recover quickly from Saturday’s smackdown with Iowa State looming in Ames.

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • Baylor at Kansas State, Tuesday, 7 p.m. CT (Big 12 Network)

Facing an undersized Missouri team this weekend, Kansas State frustrated Ricardo Ratliffe and punished the Tigers with a physical frontline. Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez combined for seven blocked shots and Rodney McGruder attacked the basket at will as Frank Martin‘s team exposed MU’s main weakness in the paint. Unfortunately for KSU, it won’t be able to bully Baylor like that on Tuesday night. The Bears, who have been rebounding better lately, can throw any number of forwards at the Wildcats’ post defenders, including Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Perry Jones and starters Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller. They can’t play effectively unless their guards get them the basketball, though, so  it’s important for Pierre Jackson in particular to play well in a road environment. He has turned the ball over at a fairly alarming rate this year, but he has provided the missing piece for Baylor’s offense this year as a facilitator off the bench. Still, Kansas State’s half-court intensity on the defensive end may give the guards some problems, and this game could turn ugly if they can’t hold on to the basketball. In fact, for all of the talk about the forwards in this game, the guards will make the difference. Brady Heslip can provide BU with another element if his outside shots are falling, and starter A.J. Walton and reserve Gary Franklin cannot be outplayed by Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez and the rest of KSU’s deep and balanced backcourt. When BU has looked shaky offensively this season (for example, in a two-point win over Mississippi State), turnovers and a lack of ball movement has held it back. Baylor may have been able to edge MSU on a neutral court during a cold shooting night, but it won’t be able to recover from an off game in Manhattan.

Rodney McGruder Is a Difficult Matchup For Baylor

The key individual matchup is… Perry Jones vs. Jordan Henriquez. Filling in for the struggling Thomas Gipson, Henriquez earned the start against Missouri on Saturday and did not disappoint. The seven-footer blocked four shots and played one of his most complete games of the season with 10 points and eight rebounds. Now a junior, Henriquez no longer plays like a project anymore. He has the size and defensive ability to frustrate Jones, who has struggled against elite big men like Arnett Moultrie (MSU) and Kevin Jones (West Virginia) this season.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Ten For Ten: Impressions of Each Big 12 Team From Its Opener

Posted by dnspewak on January 5th, 2012

Congratulations, Big 12 teams. You’ve all now played one-eighteenth of your conference schedule. For the next two months, you will suffer through hard-fought battles week after week until this wild league sorts itself out. After one game, it’s impossible to tell what exactly will happen from now until the first weekend in March. But each Big 12 opener at least gave us a little insight into this crazy conference. In alphabetical order, here’s what you need to know about Opening Week:

  1. Baylor has not played flawless basketball this season, but don’t exactly take that as a criticism. The Bears are undefeated and off to the best start in school history, and yet they still have a lot of room for improvement. Although it handled Texas A&M from start to finish in Waco on Monday, Scott Drew’s team still finished with 16 turnovers and shot just 2-12 from beyond the arc. Guard play in particular was a problem: Pierre Jackson finished with seven turnovers, and Brady Heslip did not score. And yet the Bears’ 61-52 victory was hardly in doubt until a modest comeback by the Aggies at the very end of the game. Perry Jones, who did not play well in a win over Mississippi State on national television last week, redeemed himself with a double-double as BU’s frontcourt overpowered the normally physical Aggies. The guards will make the difference this season for Drew, and though they struggled in the Big 12 opener, that trend should not continue. Jackson, Heslip, A.J. Walton and Gary Franklin are an underrated group.
  2. Iowa State is not a pushover this season. These guys can really shoot the heck out of the basketball, and they won their first Big 12 opener in five seasons by knocking off Texas 77-71 on Wednesday night. Yes, the Longhorns have problems of their own– more on that later– but Fred Hoiberg‘s team defended well, played with outstanding energy and got every shot it wanted on the offensive end. Iowa State made 10-of-21 three-pointers, and not a single trey came from Scott Christopherson, one of the top three-point shooters in Big 12 history from a percentage standpoint. Chris Babb and Anthony Booker combined to make eight of those shots, but forward Royce White controlled this game by getting to the free throw line and posing a matchup problem for UT. The Longhorns are small on the front line, and White exploited them by using his quickness. He announced to the Big 12 that he will not be easy to defend this winter.

    Bill Self's Team Made a Statement On Wednesday Night

  3. Kansas looked like a Big 12 champion again by spanking Kansas State at the Phog on Wednesday night. Sure, the Jayhawks cooled off after building an early 18-point lead, and the Wildcats jumped back into the game in the second half. By the end of the contest, though, KU had run away with this rivalry by beating Frank Martin at his own game. Kansas State thought it could rattle the Jayhawks with its high-pressure style and tenacious rebounding, but Thomas Robinson proved once again that he’s not afraid of anybody. Forget the loss to Davidson. Tyshawn Taylor may turn the ball over too much, and the offense may not always look crisp, but Bill Self‘s team will defend and it will not back down from a challenge. 17 offensive rebounds and a +24 margin on the boards against a Frank Martin team is proof of that. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.04.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 4th, 2012

  1. Writers across the country are starting to take notice of Kansas State‘s offensive performance this season, as opposed to just its patented defense under Frank Martin. With a contest against Kansas looming at the Phog tonight, the Wildcats have shot less than 50% just once in the last four games, and they’ve also made 30-of-67 threes during that time. Will Spradling‘s steady hand at the point guard position has a lot to do with the offensive explosion, and Rodney McGruder appears to be the scorer Martin has been searching for in place of the graduated Jacob Pullen. These Wildcats are deep, balanced and willing to share the basketball, and there aren’t any egos in Manhattan right now. That’s a formula for offensive success in any program.
  2. It’s very hard to find positives for Texas Tech right now, but at least one person found something nice to write about the Red Raiders. Yes, TTU shot 11-25 from three-point range in two victories over CSU-Bakersfield and Southeastern Louisiana. We can hold off on the celebratory banner for now, but let’s at least give Billy Gillispie credit for a couple of relatively easy victories over those two squads. As Big 12 play begins this week, it’s possible the Red Raiders may not win more than three or four league games. In fact, anything more than that would be a dramatic overachievement relative to the talent available. Of course, if there’s anyone that can pull that kind of magic out of an undermanned team, it’s Gillispie.
  3. Rick Barnes may need to pull a little magic out of his young Longhorns, too. Barnes has never missed the NCAA Tournament since arriving at Texas in 1999, but his team has some work to do to reach the Big Dance this year. After losing five starters, most of the Longhorns’ problems can be attributed to youth, and as Barnes mentioned, “young guys make it more complicated than it has to be.” Right now, freshman point guard Myck Kabongo is one of those guys, but you’ve got to think he’ll come around as the leader of this offense once he gets his feet wet in Big 12 play. Give Barnes some time and he’ll be able to orchestrate a turnaround. In his 13 years at Texas, he’s at least proven that much.
  4. The NCAA Tournament seems unfathomable at this point for 7-6 Oklahoma State, but coach Travis Ford is hoping his tough non-conference schedule helped prepare his team for Big 12 play. OSU lost to Virginia Tech twice in November and December, and it also fell to Stanford, New Mexico and Alabama. Sure, the competition can’t hurt, but Ford needs a miracle right now. With J.P. Olukemi out for the year and a crisis at point guard, he’ll need Keiton Page and LeBryan Nash to perform like All-Big 12 player in order to get things rolling.
  5. A lot of eyes will be on Iowa State this winter, as Fred Hoiberg‘s remade program will hit the floor in the Big 12 with four transfers and several newcomers. The Cyclones’ experiment has resulted in an underwhelming 10-3 start so far. ISU hasn’t suffered through any early-season collapse, but the consistency is not there at this point. Take the team’s most recent two-point victory over Mississippi Valley State, for example. Iowa State nearly blew an 18-point lead before escaping with the 67-65 win, against a team that has won only one game this season. The Cyclones, known for their hot-handed shooting, have also gone cold during long stretches this season, and they’ve got to light it up from beyond the arc on a consistent basis to compete in this league.
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Yet Another Blow For Oklahoma State: Olukemi Out For The Season

Posted by dnspewak on January 2nd, 2012

Oklahoma State was already in disaster mode after two point guards transferred out of the program in a span of eight days last month, but the latest news just seems cruel for coach Travis Ford. He announced Monday that starting wing J.P. Olukemi will miss the rest of the season with an ACL tear, an injury he suffered in the second half of a loss to Virginia Tech this weekend.

The 6’5” junior was not having the breakout season many had anticipated, but he still played major minutes for the Cowboys and may have been their best athlete. He was a nightmare match-up for bigger defenders because of his quickness, and he could have easily overcome his quiet non-conference performance to emerge as a leader during the Big 12 season.

Instead, Olukemi will cheer on his teammates from the bench– and there aren’t many of them left. With point guars Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell having already left the team and fellow guard Markel Brown potentially missing the Big 12 opener against Texas Tech due to a minor hip injury the Cowboys will have a very short bench. Ford says Brown is day-to-day, and if he cannot play, OSU would have just six players remaining in its regular rotation.

JP Olukemi Will Miss The Rest of the Season With an ACL Tear

Olukemi averaged 9.4 points per game in 13 games this season. Oklahoma State had trouble scoring with him in the lineup, and now that he’s gone, the improvement of Keiton Page and LeBryan Nash will be even more important. The two leading scorers for the Cowboys are the only players capable of taking over a basketball game on the offensive end. Nash has struggled to acclimate himself to Division I basketball so far, and the lack of point guards on the roster has forced Page into an uncomfortable role. It is up to them, though, to turn this season around.

Freshman guard Brian Williams could actually benefit from this situation. With Olukemi in foul trouble and injured during the past two games, Williams logged a combined 74 minutes against Southern Methodist (double-overtime win) and Virginia Tech. He scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in that SMU victory, and he finished with a career-high 14 points against the Hokies. If this season heads in the toilet, Ford can at least monitor the progress of Williams, who appears to have a bright future.

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