Won and Done… Kentucky Roster Undergoes Yearly Overhaul

Posted by EMoyer on April 18th, 2012

On Tuesday evening, the worst kept secret was revealed as Kentucky’s five heralded underclassmen, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague all declared for June’s NBA Draft. The five brings the total to 15 of John Calipari recruits to leave early since 2008.

It Was All Smiles For This Group in Lexington

Eight of the previous 10 went on to become first round picks and two (John Wall and Derrick Rose) went No. 1 overall. Both the mock drafts at NBADraft.net and on ESPN.com have all five Wildcats going in the first round. DraftExpress.com lists four Wildcats going in the first round with Lamb currently an early second-round choice. According to all three sites, Davis will join Wall and Rose as top overall picks. They also agree that Kidd-Gilchrist projects as a top three pick and two (ESPN.com and DraftExpress.com) put Jones in the lottery.

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Morning Five: 04.09.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 9th, 2012

  1. Sometimes the coaching carousel is a strange creature. Later today, Trent Johnson will be announced as the next head coach at TCU. This would not be that notable except that Johnson is leaving LSU to take the job. Johnson has compiled a respectable 226-184 record in stops at Nevada, Stanford, and LSU, but that number is slightly inflated by three exceptional seasons at each stop where his team went 25-9, 28-8, and 27-8. Outside of those three seasons his record is 146-159. Now it may not be fair to exclude those three seasons because we could just as easily exclude his 9-20, 11-20, and 11-20 seasons, but it does point out some degree of inconsistency within his programs. Although Johnson still had a job at LSU perhaps he feared for his long-term security or had some issues with the administration there. In any event it does make an interesting situation when a coach left LSU to take over at TCU for a coach who went to Ohio, which is just about the exact opposite of what you would expect for most sports.
  2. After coaching at Florida International for three seasons Isiah Thomas was fired by the school on Friday. Thomas, who was a NBA legend as a player, but much less successful in his career afterwards, went 26-65. The initial thought that was perhaps with his name recognition and ties to Chicago he could bring in the type of players that would turn the school’s basketball program around. Unfortunately that was not the case and the team stumbled to a 8-21 record this season. Thomas appeared to be disappointed with the school’s decision and stated that he had been told he would get five years to turn the program around instead of the three years that he was given.  Thomas like most coaches who are fired claims that he was on the verge of turning the program around with several key incoming recruits. It will be interesting to see if the incoming coach will be able to keep those recruits and how Thomas will be viewed if those recruits can live up to his claims.
  3. After being led by Charlie Coles for sixteen seasons before he stepped down one month ago, Miami (Ohio) is set to introduce John Cooper as its next head coach. After being turned down by Arizona assistant coach James Whitford, the Red Hawks elected to pursue the Tennessee State coach, who led his team to the OVC championship game just three years after taking over a team that went 14-16 his first season. Perhaps, the most memorable moment of Cooper’s brief tenure at Tennessee State was their win over Murray State earlier this year giving the Racers their only loss of the regular season. Cooper will have a difficult task of following Coles, who was an icon within the program and the MAC. Fortunately for Cooper and the Red Hawks, we do not expect them to play Michigan any time soon.
  4. Later today, Eastern Illinois will introduce Jay Spoonhour as its next coach. Jay is the son of the well-known and well-liked late Charlie Spoonhour, who died of complications related to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis earlier this year. Spoonhour’s coaching experience has been limited to time as an assistant at several programs and some time as a head coach at the junior college level including a national championship in 2001. His only head coaching experience came in 2004 when he acted as an interim coach for his father while at UNLV and went 6-3 during his brief run.
  5. Outside of the transfer of Trey Zeigler to Pittsburgh there was some significant player movement as a few players announced that their plans for the NBA Draft. In one of the more surprising decisions we have seen, Khris Middleton has decided to leave Texas A&M forgoing his final year of eligibility. Based on what we have seen on mock drafts/draft boards Middleton is probably a late first/early second round pick. Given his injury issues this season, we figure it would have been better for Middleton to spend another year in college showcasing his skills while he is healthy, but perhaps Middleton thought it would be better to get a contract before another injury occurs. The people of Columbus have reason to celebrate as sophomore Deshaun Thomas has decided to return to Ohio State. Thomas, who had a huge NCAA Tournament, was projected as a borderline first round pick. Now with Jared Sullinger out of the picture perhaps Thomas can showcase his skills on a more regular basis. With Thomas returning expect to see the Buckeyes in the top 10 next season as they return most of their offense outside of Sullinger and have the potential to replace some of his productivity with one of their two primary recruiting targets–Amile Jefferson or Tony Parker. The last piece of news comes from Alabama where Tony Mitchell and Charles Hankerson Jr were granted releases by the school. While we expect Hankerson to transfer we are uncertain on Mitchell, who could consider entering the NBA Draft although we would advise against it. The more likely scenario is that Mitchell, who had discipline issues at Alabama, could be headed to another school.
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Texas A&M Ready to Leave Nightmare Season Behind It

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 Kansas’ 83-66 victory over Texas A&M. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

The two teams selected in the pre-season to win the Big 12 met in the league tournament on Thursday afternoon.

In a quarterfinal.

That’s all you need to know about this disastrous season for ninth-seeded Texas A&M, which survived a first-round game against Oklahoma but fell to regular-season champion Kansas 83-66 on Thursday. “I mean, being here for three years, [I've] never lost this many games. It’s hard on everybody. Just hate losing,” junior Khris Middleton said. Five months ago, the Aggies (14-18) appeared to have it all: a first-year coach with a successful track record at a powerhouse mid-major, a budding star in Middleton and an experienced roster to surround him. Billy Kennedy‘s team would surely carry over the defensive principles instilled by Mark Turgeon, and Middleton, Dash Harris and David Loubeau formed a solid core of upperclassmen.

Khris Middleton Is Already Looking to His Senior Season After Thursday's Loss.

But this is a cruel game. And life is cruel in general. First, Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in the fall, which kept him away from the team during critical practice time leading up to the beginning of the season. That left him helpless to establish himself as a new head coach in this program. As Kennedy began to regain his energy and return to his old self, however, the injury bug hit his team in a major way. Middleton missed several weeks during non-conference play after knee surgery and then missed a stretch of time during Big 12 play. The team lost its point guard, Harris, for most of February, and it lost Kourtney Roberson in late December. Backup point guard Jamal Brach transferred, too. By now, you’re starting to get the point, and you can probably guess what happened.

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Big 12 Tourney First Round Reaction: Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Texas A&M 62, Oklahoma 53

It didn’t matter how many shots they had missed during the first 36 minutes of the game. At least Texas A&M‘s three leaders remembered how to make jumpers when it counted most. Three-pointers by Dash Harris and Khris Middleton, sandwiched between a mid-range jumper by David Loubeau, spurred a late 8-2 run to seize a 62-53 victory over Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. Defensively, the Aggies held Oklahoma scoreless from the 2:52 mark until Cameron Clark‘s layup with 50 seconds remaining. That effort on the defensive end, according to coach Billy Kennedy, sealed the game.  ”Our guys really bought into our defensive game plan of limiting the post,” Kennedy said. “And we made big shots when we needed to.”

Texas A&M used a late run to defeat Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.

How the Aggies Won: By dominating the boards, they made up for a poor offensive showing by earning second-chance points. In addition to the 13 offensive rebounds, the Aggies also knocked down their free throws (15-17) and locked down the Sooners on the other end of the floor. They did not play particularly well, and they did benefit from the fact that ever Oklahoma player not named Romero Osby and Sam Grooms was a non-factor offensively. Grooms said his team’s offensive mistakes led to the Aggies’ decisive second-half run. “When you give Big 12 teams the opportunity to go the other way and make plays, they’re going to do it,” Grooms said.

What’s Next: Texas A&M now advances to face Kansas in the quarterfinals. In Lawrence, Kennedy’s team fought the Jayhawks for the majority of the game, even without an injured Harris. In Kansas City, though, it’s hard to expect a repeat performance. The Aggies will need Harris, Loubeau, and Middleton to play well for an extended period of time, not just the final four minutes of the game. In the other locker room, a subdued Sooners’ squad must now move on to next season after the loss of three seniors. “The guys returning have to crank it up for sure,” coach Lon Kruger said. “We’ve got to learn how to compete a lot harder.”

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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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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 6th, 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

  • Fever Pitch, Columbia: The game of the year so far in the league ended with Missouri beating its archrival Kansas. The game was unfortunately marred by a questionable late charge call against Thomas Robinson as well as a 20-10 foul disparity favoring the home team, which has taken subsequent discussion away from the fantastic basketball that was played. Marcus Denmon had 29 points, shooting 6-9 from three, and Robinson had 25 points and 13 rebounds as each team showed why they’re among the best in the country. This might be the last meeting between the two schools in Missouri with the Tigers now moving to the SEC. Some fans of both schools want to see the rivalry saved, but, in basketball at least, it doesn’t make much financial or competitive sense for Kansas to play Missouri. Another sad consequence of conference realignment greed, but perhaps talks will revitalize after heads cool.

Missouri Turned Up The Volume For The Gameday Crew. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star)

  • Bears Try To Keep Pace: By holding serve, Baylor has crept back into the discussion, and the Bears are tied for the conference lead at 8-2 (there’s no head-to-head tiebreaker in the standings). They won by a total of seven points last week over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M so they certainly haven’t been impressive, but both wins came on the road and any road win is a good win. They still host Kansas and play at Missouri, so they are in control of their own destiny in the Big 12 race.
  • Jury Still Out On Haith: Ken Pomeroy wrote an interesting post last week regarding Frank Haith’s deployment of a zone defense in the final possession against Texas. Haith has gotten a lot of Coach of the Year support, but I think it is a bit overblown. As Pomeroy notes, if Texas had scored on the final possession, people would be killing Haith for deviating from the norm. Also, it was his attempt to kill the clock starting with over four minutes left that let the Longhorns back in it in the first place. Also, though Texas looked a bit confused, Rick Barnes still had a timeout left and somehow chose not to use it. Perhaps he thought he would get six in the next game. Haith has done a good job not upsetting things in Missouri to be sure, but remember that Bruce Weber went to a national championship game in his second season at Illinois.

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (21-2, 8-2): Marcus Denmon broke out of his slump in a big way on Saturday. The senior came into the contest against Kansas shooting under 30% from three in Big 12 play, but he hit six of his nine shots from deep en route to a game-high 29 points. The 6’3” guard also led the team with nine rebounds and has established himself as one of the best rebounding guards in the country. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 24th, 2012

  1. Hello, USA Today: Missouri has earned some national headlines with its #2 ranking this week, the highest the program has appeared in the polls in about a decade. You are already familiar with the story, but USA Today breaks down the situation for the rest of America’s casual sports fans. After rehashing the off-season saga of Mike Anderson and Frank Haith and the injury to Laurence Bowers, it’s incredible the Tigers have taken the nation by storm like this. Now, they will need to top it off by defeating Kansas and winning the Big 12 in its final season in the league.
  2. Finishing above .500 in college basketball is not necessarily an accomplishment, especially for a Big 12 team with several guarantee games on the non-conference schedule. But Oklahoma State has still finished with a winning record for 23 seasons, and that streak is in jeopardy this year. At 9-9, Travis Ford has five freshmen and only eight scholarship players. With two transfers and a knee injury to J.P. Olukemi, it’s understandable that Ford may have a down year. With big-time recruits coming in, though, there won’t be any excuses in 2012-13.
  3. Tyrus McGee is the forgotten newcomer for Iowa State, but the league honored him by naming him Big 12 Rookie of the Week. McGee is quietly providing Iowa State a hot hand from the perimeter. The junior college transfer is shooting 46% from three and has scored 17 and 20 points in his last two respective games. Oh, and he hit a combined 11 three-pointers in those two games. Not too bad for a guy who plays in the shadows of Royce White, Scott Christopherson, and Chris Allen among others.
  4. Texas A&M wing Khris Middleton did not play last night against Kansas after suffering a knee injury over the weekend. Middleton did miss several games in non-conference play with a knee injury, but this incident does not seem all that serious. Coach Billy Kennedy says he will probably be back soon, and he certainly needs him. Middleton is by far the top offensive option on a team that has struggled to score all season.
  5. Oklahoma is probably the most interesting team in this league right now. Lon Kruger‘s team isn’t dead yet, but it needs to shore up a few things in order to become a contender. The end of the article focuses on Steven Pledger and Cameron Clark in particular. Pledger is Oklahoma’s leading scorer, as he’s having a breakout season. Teams have figured him out a bit during Big 12 play, but this writer urges Kruger to keep feeding Pledger the ball. And Clark, who’s sort of an enigma after a promising freshman season, has started coming off the bench recently. As the article mentions, “If Clark ever reaches his full potential it could take the Sooners to another level.” For Kruger, that will have to happen sooner rather than later.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.23.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 23rd, 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.

Syracuse has a quick turnaround on the road after losing to Notre Dame on Saturday. Can Cincinnati make it two straight losses for the Orange? Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

#1 Syracuse @ Cincinnati – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • After suffering a surprising first loss at Notre Dame on Saturday, Syracuse is back in action 48 hours later on the road against one of the hottest teams in the Big East. Cincinnati would tie Syracuse in the loss column with a win, becoming one of six teams with two losses. How do the Orange avoid that fate? It’s simpler than you might think. Shoot the ball better (34% vs. ND) and defend at a high level. Even without Fab Melo in the lineup, Syracuse has much more depth than Cincinnati. Good guard play out of Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters will be important for the Orange. Cincinnati will look to slow the pace and make this game a half court battle. Syracuse needs to rebound the ball well and get out and run at every chance. Waiters adds that spark off the bench for Jim Boeheim but Jardine has to take care of the basketball and move the ball well in half court situations.

    With Fab Melo Out, Will Cincinnati Find It Easier In The Paint ?

  • The Bearcats are 5-2 in the Big East and this would obviously be a monumental win for their NCAA Tournament resume. With no Melo, Cincinnati will find it a bit easier to get shots off around the basket as well as to rebound. Cincinnati is ranked a paltry #228 in two-point percentage but Yancy Gates could be the key guy for Mick Cronin. Cincinnati shoots a lot of threes and opportunities will be plentiful against the 2-3 Syracuse zone. If the threes aren’t falling, Gates needs to be there to clean the boards and finish the second opportunities. Without Melo anchoring the paint, Syracuse, already vulnerable on the defensive glass to begin with, could really struggle to keep Gates off the backboards. Sean Kilpatrick shoots 39.4% from deep for a team that gets over a third of its points from beyond the arc. If the Bearcats aren’t shooting the ball well over the zone, it’s lights out for Cincinnati. To get quality shots against the zone, the ball must be moved to the free throw line area. If Cronin rotates players like Kilpatrick back and forth from the three point line to the foul line, Cincinnati should be able to get quite a few open looks.
  • One thing Cincinnati must be careful of is long rebounds off of missed threes. That can lead to easy transition buckets for Waiters and the Orange, increasing the pace to a level Cronin doesn’t want to see. The Bearcats must slow the game down, protect the ball and get back in transition. Cincinnati has not defended all that well in Big East play but it must tonight in order to pull the upset. Keep an eye on the turnover margin. Cincinnati does a fabulous job of ball protection with Cashmere Wright running the point but Syracuse may be the best team in the nation at forcing steals and turnovers to fuel its transition attack. If Cincinnati shoots well and keeps control of the ball, the Bearcats will be in this game to the end with a chance to hand Syracuse its second consecutive loss.
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Big 12 Weekly Primer: Week of January 3 – 6

Posted by dnspewak on January 3rd, 2012

With the Big 12 introducing an 18-game schedule for the first time in history, conference play begins a week earlier than usual in 2012. In recent years, the week after New Year’s meant tune-up games with low-major opponents, but this season, Big 12 teams won’t have much time to recover from the holidays. Kansas and Kansas State in particular must be in tip-top shape, as the two state rivals will face each other on Wednesday (January 4).

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • #23 Kansas State (11-1) at #14 Kansas (10-3), Wednesday 7 PM CT

Thomas Robinson Was Unstoppable This Weekend

Kansas State responded from the graduation of Jacob Pullen by ripping through its non-conference schedule, which included wins over Virginia Tech and Alabama, in addition to a Diamond Head Classic championship. The early success has helped Frank Martin‘s team crack the Top 25, but the Wildcats will now face three top-15 teams during the next eight days. It all begins with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday, marking the first meeting of the season between the two underrated rivals. Kansas State may be overachieving, but the Jayhawks are still finding their way after losing games to Kentucky, Duke and Davidson during the first two months of the season. Bill Self doesn’t have a vintage KU team this season, as it lacks depth and still has not executed all that well offensively. That doesn’t mean these Jayhawks can’t ball, though. They can, especially when Thomas Robinson plays like an animal (30 points and 21 rebounds against North Dakota on Saturday) and Tyshawn Taylor takes care of the basketball. Taylor has heard a lot of criticism for his turnovers, but he may be turning his season around in that department. He led KU to a rout at USC by dishing out nine assists and limiting himself to just two turnovers and he’s averaged just two turnovers per game during the last three contests.

Of course, in those games, Kansas did not face the sort of defense it will see out of Kansas State. Martin’s teams are always defined by their intensity on the defensive end, and this 2011-12 team is no different. The Wildcats are deep, athletic and physical, and forwards Thomas Gipson, Jordan Henriquez and Jamar Samuels can test Robinson on the boards a little better than North Dakota did. Bill Self’s teams will always defend, and despite his relative lack of depth, he has more skilled and proven scorers than KSU with Robinson, Taylor and the emerging Elijah Johnson. But if Rodney McGrudercan play like a star and provide some heroics, his team may hang around at the Phog. The junior guard, who leads his team at 12.5 points per game, scored 28 against Long Beach State during Christmas week to win the Diamond Head Classic.

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Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 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

  • The Big 12’s feel-good story has to be Texas Tech freshman Luke Adams. Adams was born almost entirely deaf with only about 10% hearing in his left ear. Thanks to cochlear implants however, he is hearing nearly completely normally now. He has been effective in limited playing time as well, shooting 46% from three and 78% from the free throw line to go with a 24.4% assist rate. Although he was the leading scorer in Class 3A in Texas last year, his scholarship options were limited due to his size. He chose to walk on at Tech and based on his early performance, he could be a nice shooter off the bench for them in the coming years.
  • Thomas Robinson had the performance of the week in the Big 12 scoring 30 points and grabbing 21 rebounds against North Dakota. It was first 30 point 20 rebound game for a Kansas player since Wayne Hightower did it against Missouri 50 years ago, and it was just the sixth time in the history of the Big 12 a player has had a 30 and 20 game. Robinson joins elite company including Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Michael Beasley in the conference’s 30-20 club.
  • For the second week in a row, the two Big 12 unbeatens stayed that way by the narrowest of margins. Baylor beat Mississippi State in Dallas, despite what a cynic would call their best efforts to give it away, and Missouri picked up a nice true road win, going to Old Dominion and surviving, 75-68. Interestingly, they both had to fight the crowd a bit: Old Dominion was at home and has a nice atmosphere at the Constant Convocation Center, but the crowd in Dallas was pitiful for the Baylor-Mississippi State game. Playing in front of a stale crowd is probably good preparation for the NCAA Tournament, but it makes for some awful regular season basketball.

Cynics Will Be Quick To Point Out That It Came Against North Dakota, But Thomas Robinson Posted One Of The Top Single-Game Performances In Big 12 History Saturday. (Credit: Reed Hoffmann/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (13-0): Although their offense is fantastic, I think it is officially time to start worrying about Missouri’s defense. They have allowed over a point per possession in back-to -back games, and almost did earlier in the month to lowly Kennesaw State. Frank Haith has generally had good defenses considering the talent he had at Miami so I think they can get the ship righted but it still is a potential red flag for the Tigers if they want to win the Big 12.
  2. Baylor (13-0): I promised I would put Baylor at the number two slot if they beat Mississippi State, but yikes. After squeaking out a two-point win in Dallas in which they tried their hardest to let the Bulldogs get out of there with the win, it probably will be a one week stay at the 2 slot. All of Baylor nation seems to have Pierre Jackson fever, as last year’s highest ranking junior college player scored 14 points against Mississippi State and has a 63.5% eFG on the season. But to temper those expectations a bit, I don’t think you can win the Big 12 title with a point guard who has a turnover rate of 30.4%. It is true that he will get more comfortable with the offense as the season goes on, but he will also be playing much tougher opponents. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 01.02.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 2nd, 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.

It’s a relatively light night of hoops but two interesting games in the South should have your attention this evening.

Texas A&M at #5 Baylor – 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

  • The Baylor Bears keep winning as they head into a conference showdown with in-state rival Texas A&M tonight. This figures to be a good match-up for Baylor although it needs to ensure it controls the pace. Texas A&M gets 65.2% of its points from two-point range (third in the nation) but interior defense happens to be Baylor’s biggest strength. The Bears allow only 39.3% shooting from inside the arc with Perry Jones III and company patrolling the paint. Defensively, look for Scott Drew’s team to try to pick up the pace and pressure Texas A&M’s guards. The Bears force a turnover 24.6% of the time although both teams don’t handle the ball particularly well.
  • Texas A&M is not comfortable playing at a faster pace but therein lies the dilemma. The Aggies don’t run efficient enough half court offense to succeed in a slower-paced game, especially against the strong Baylor defense. Billy Kennedy’s team should take a page out of Louisville’s playbook against Kentucky. A&M should pressure Baylor and try to get turnovers at certain times, but not throughout the entire game. Texas A&M may actually hurt itself while trying to force Baylor into turnovers, something that will speed up the game where the Bears’ superior athletes can take over. Texas A&M has to establish Ray Turner and David Loubeau inside while Khris Middleton uses his versatility to stretch Baylor’s defense, opening up seams. Getting Elston Turner going from long range would also be advantageous for A&M, a team that doesn’t rely much at all on the trifecta. Turner had 20 points on 3-5 shooting from deep in a loss against Florida last month.
  • For Texas A&M to have a chance on the road, it must rebound, rebound, and rebound some more in addition to controlling pace. If the Aggies don’t score inside off second chance opportunities or in transition, Baylor will win this game easily. Keep an eye on Baylor’s perimeter shooting. Texas A&M ranks #6 in three-point defense and will look to shut down Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson. Even if the Aggies are successful in that regard, they need to do a whole lot more to pull the upset.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 30th, 2011

  1. As a walk-on for more than two years, Bubu Palo has been a bargain for Iowa State. Palo emerged as a reliable backup point guard, and it’s not a stretch to say he may be the most underrated role player in the league. Thanks to those contributors, the Cyclones have placed Palo on scholarship, and we can’t think of a more rewarding late holiday present. Palo, who grew up in Ames, learned after the end of the fall semester that he won’t have to pay for school this spring. So far, he’s averaging more than two assists per game in 2011-12, and he’s also a tenacious defender with a knack for doing the little things on the court. That sounds like a scholarship player to us.
  2. Jeff Goodman at CBS wrote this recap of the Big 12 season so far to prepare us for conference play next week. Interestingly, he chose Baylor above Missouri, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that the Tigers have been the trendy pick in the media to win this conference. Right now, it does at least look like a three-team race between BU, MU and Kansas, though it’s impossible to tell how the year will shake out. Texas A&M has struggled even since Khris Middleton returned, but Billy Kennedy should eventually get things rolling in College Station.
  3. Frank Martin is always great for a sound bite. This time, he made some interesting comments about his team’s offensive play, and he’s actually quite pleased with the way this team has scored. “I get a kick when I read people saying we play bad offense and we’re averaging almost 80 points a game. If we play good offense, how much would we score?” You heard the man: Kansas State can score this year. It’s not just a defensive stalwart. Rodney McGruder is a full-fledged star scorer, and Will Spradling has been the answer at the point. The Wildcats have a ton of different offensive options both in the starting lineup and on the bench, so it’d be a mistake to label this team as a gritty, offensively-challenged group.
  4. With Indiana and Louisville both losing this week, Missouri is now one of just four unbeaten teams in Division I basketball. How much does that mean exactly? Well, it means almost nothing at this point. The Tigers will play their first true road game of the season tonight at Old Dominion, and we’ll find out if MU has improved in this area after finishing 1-7 on the road in Big 12 play last year. If MU can turn into road warriors, who knows how long this little run could last? To stay undefeated entering a College Gameday showdown with Kansas on February 4, the Tigers would have to win at ODU, Kansas State and Baylor, among others. It’s possible, sure, but the Tigers will probably falter at some point before that game.
  5. Texas Tech isn’t a good basketball team right now, and people don’t like to watch bad teams lose. That’s why the TTU athletic department is offering one-dollar tickets for an upcoming game against Southeastern Louisiana. That’s not a bad deal, especially if the Red Raiders can score a win against an overmatched opponent. Apparently, this promotion was also in play during a recent win over Cal State Bakersfield, and it’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts. Our guess is the ticket prices will probably rise just a tad once Billy Gillispie turns this program around.
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