Checking In On… The Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 28th, 2011

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 

  • J’Covan Carrying Longhorns: In what could quickly turn into a weekly J’Covan Brown watch, the Texas guard had 17 in a loss to NC State and was dreadful in a closer-than-it-looked 56-40 win over Sam Houston State. Brown had exploded onto the scene early but some questions over his efficiency have cropped up again: Brown went just 3-12 from two-point range against Sam Houston State. With Texas currently ranked as the 34th best offense by Ken Pomeroy, the Longhorns need Brown, their best offensive player, to be a lot better if they want to be one of the top teams in the league this year.
  • Tigers Get ‘Em Talking: More ridiculous offense from Missouri. The Tigers played two 70-possession games this week and scored 87 and 92 points in them. That’s good against anyone. They currently have the fourth-best three point shooting team in the country and turn it over at a rate higher than just four teams. The same question – What will they do when having to play a team with some size? – will probably linger until conference play, but it’s clear over the first month of the year that their guards are as good as any backcourt in the country.
  • The Big Picture: For all the talk that the Big 12 might be down this year, it sure doesn’t seem that way, as they are 38-10 so far this year and two of those losses were Kansas’s defeats at the hands of Kentucky and Duke, both on neutral courts. The league’s two worst losses no doubt belong to Texas Tech, who has dropped games to both DePaul and Indiana State.

Marcus Denmon And The Tigers Can't Help But Give A Smirk, Considering The Buzz They've Generated So Far. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (6-0): The Missouri stat that surprised me the most this week is their rebounding numbers: The Tigers snatch just 28.4% of the available offensive rebounds, which is 270th nationally. It’s very strange that a team that thrives on pressuring opponents and forcing them to speed up would be so focused on getting back defensively rather than crashing the boards. Of course, it could be more that the team wants to set up its press, but it is something to watch for sure.
  2. Kansas (3-2): After senior Tyshawn Taylor had 11 turnovers in a hard fought Maui Invitational championship game, several Kansas fans took shots at the guard and he responded on Twitter. Thomas Robinson was named to the Maui all-tournament team after putting up double-doubles in each game, but his struggles facing double teams highlight a potential concern for the Jayhawks. If he’s not scoring efficiently, Kansas could find it extremely difficult to repeat as Big 12 champs. One possible answer is the emergence of junior Jeff Withey. Withey had 14 points and 10 rebounds against Duke and might find himself matched up with Jared Sullinger in a little over a week when the Buckeyes pay a visit to Allen Fieldhouse. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 21st, 2011

­­­­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

  • Texas A&M Plays Well Without Middleton: With star forward Khris Middleton out nursing a knee injury Texas A&M handled themselves well in New York, narrowly losing to Mississippi State and beating St. John’s. With Middleton out, defense has been the name of the game for the Aggies, who have not allowed an opponent to score a point per possession yet. Unfortunately for the Aggies, they only have scored more than a point per possession in two of their four games. Offensively the Aggies have rebounded reasonably well without Middleton, but have  been unable to score consistently. They had just a 46.7% eFG vs. St. John’s and a 46.3% against Mississippi State.
  • Top-Flight Tigers: Missouri has scored 83, 81, and 83 points in their first three games. Granted they have played Southeast Missouri State, Mercer, and Niagara, but with each of the games being around 70 possessions, the Tiger offense has been clicking in midseason form. They are still playing about as quickly as they did under Mike Anderson, and still are taking care of the ball extremely well (their 14.6% turnover rate is 15th-best nationally). They are only shooting 45.7% from two, however, so it will be interesting to see how well they can score when their 48.3% three point percentage regresses a bit.
  • Heavyweight Match-ups Approaching?: As I mentioned in the poll question, a number of Big 12 teams will be participating in holiday tournaments. Kansas faces Georgetown in the Maui Invitational, and with either UCLA or Chaminade waiting in the second round, a championship match-up with Duke (or perhaps a 2008 national title game rematch with Memphis) is a real possibility. Texas lost to Oregon State in the Legends Classic semifinals, but should be very encouraged by the play of J’Covan Brown, who is averaging almost 30 points per game on over 50% shooting so far this year.

Tyshawn Taylor Was KU's Top Performer In Its Loss To Kentucky Last Week.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (1-1): Despite having Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson, two enigmatic guards, as their primary ball handlers, the Jayhawks have turned it over fewer than all but four teams in the country. Oddly enough, though, they are getting their shots blocked more often than all but 15 teams in the country. Playing Kentucky will do that, but with Thomas Robinson and seven- footer Jeff Withey in the middle it should not be happening this much. The Jayhawks have been good defensively despite opponents shooting nearly 42% from three so once that regresses a bit the Jayhawks should be one of the stingiest defensive teams in America.
  2. Baylor (3-0): The Bears struggled to put San Diego State away, but with Perry Jones III suspended that is not that unexpected. Though Baylor is probably the most talented team in the conference, its ceiling is limited because of their lack of consistent guard play. Baylor is turning it over on 23.3% of their possessions so far, which is above the 20% teams generally strive to maintain. Baylor does have a lot of size and length inside though, which contributes to them allowing opponents to shoot only 34.2% from two. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.18.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 18th, 2011

  1.  In case you missed the marquee Big 12 contest of the night on Thursday, ESPN posted a quick review of Texas A&M‘s loss to Mississippi State in the 2k Sports Classic. For those of us who turned the game off after MSU took a 20-plus point lead in the first half, it’s hard to believe the Aggies eventually lost by only nine points. They were outclassed in almost every way without star Khris Middleton, but they at least deserve credit for battling all 40 minutes. After such an atrocious start, Billy Kennedy has to be pleased at his team’s effort to cut the lead to eight points late in the second half.
  2. If you’re an ESPN insider, here’s another look at the 2012 recruiting classes in the Big 12. Once again, it’s worth mentioning the Texas schools are completely dominating the recruiting trail lately within the conference. John Stovall ranks Texas first overall in these rankings, and interestingly, he points out that UT only has one player taller than 6’8” right now. That’s why Barnes hauled in a talented group of forwards, all of which should form the nucleus of his program in the near future.
  3. Speaking of Texas, the play of J’Covan Brown has been ridiculous this season. It’s early, of course, but Brown has played like the star Rick Barnes needs him to be. If he keeps up the pace, he’s easily a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate; but again, it’s only been two games. So what do we make of the hot start? There’s one thing we can all agree on: Brown can play. The former sixth man was productive last season and looks like a budding star, and he’s the key to this team’s success this year.
  4. Oklahoma may not be the most notable team in the league, but the Sooners have a decent core of players in Cameron Clark, Andrew Fitzgerald and others that get their names in the paper a lot. Calvin Newell almost never gets his name in the paper– until now. He’s starting to get a little more attention for his scoring ability, and he looks like leading-scorer material down the road. For now, he’ll have to settle for being a spark off the bench, and we’re guessing coach Lon Kruger won’t complain about that.
  5. The folks over at Big 12 Hoops have published their first “Conference Call” of the year, and they hit on a variety of topics. One of the more interesting discussions centers around Kansas and its decision to play Kentucky during the first month of the season. They wondered out loud whether or not it was worth it to lose a game so early, but we don’t see any sort of problem here. If you’re a program like KU, why not play more games like that at Madison Square Garden? Any exposure is good exposure, even in a loss.
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Set Your TiVo: 11.17.11

Posted by bmulvihill on November 17th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Now that you have fully recovered from ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon, it’s time to jump into the first of the exotic preseason tournaments.  The Puerto Rico Tip-Off gets going today, along with the big boys’ rounds of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.  Let’s take a look at the action.

Maryland vs. #16 Alabama – 5:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (**)

JaMychal Green and Anthony Grant Lead Alabama into the Puerto Rico Tip-Off

  • Rarely do you see a team hit zero three-point shots and still win a game.  However, that is exactly what Maryland did in its first game of the season against UNC-Wilmington.  The Terps finished 0-9 from downtown, but managed to drain 58% of its twos.  Mark Turgeon’s squad is going to have a tough time hitting such a high percentage of shots inside the arc against Alabama’s vaunted defense.  While Terp forwards James Padgett and Ashton Pankey both scored in double figures in the opener, neither consistently demands enough attention to take scoring pressure off the guards.  Sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin needs to have another big game in order for the Terrapins to have a chance.  If the Alabama defense can lock him up, there is not enough fire power elsewhere on Turgeon’s team to beat the Crimson Tide.
  • Alabama is all about defense.  They picked up right where they left off last year giving up only 0.8 points per possession through their first two games of the season.  However, senior forward JaMychal Green should not be overlooked as a big time offensive threat.  Green is averaging 18 points per game in only 25 minutes of action per night.  Coach Anthony Grant’s team needs to improve its shooting, though.  Alabama shot under 50% eFG in 20 of it’s 37 games last season and that trend is continuing again this season.  While they finished a remarkable 10-10 in those games because of a stellar defense, it’s very difficult for a team to have major success shooting under 50% eFG.  If the Tide is hitting more than half of its shots against Maryland, the game will not be close.
  • This game hinges on Maryland’s ability to create baskets in transition.  Maryland plays at a much faster pace than Alabama.  If they get locked down in a halfcourt match-up with the Crimson Tide defense, the Terps’ offense will bog down because they do not have enough weapons in the low post.  The team that dictates the pace and style of this game will ultimately win.

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week One

Posted by cwilliams on November 16th, 2011

The college basketball season is still young for the ten Big 12 schools. They have only played 19 games collectively, losing two of them. That being said, as college basketball nerds, it is never too early to start to analyze what we’ve seen thus far. So, I’d like to introduce a new weekly column, Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs. Every Wednesday I’ll examine which individuals and teams have been playing so well they fall under the “alley-oops” category, and which individuals and teams’ play has been so dismal that they fall under the “airball” category. Here’s the list for Week One.

J'Covan Brown Headlines Our "First Alley-Oops and Airballs".


  • J’Covan Brown: Coming into this season, all eyes of Texas were upon Brown, as he was expected to be the leader of this young Longhorn team. So far, Brown has done more than just lead on the court — he’s dominated on it. Brown is averaging 31.5 PPG, and leads the Big 12 in total points, field goals, and per-game average.
  • Kim English’s Three Ball: Missouri fans have openly worried about English’s three-pointer, as his three-point percentage has declined each year since his freshman season. So far, it appears that “Kimmeh” has worked out some of the kinks in his shot, as he has already drained nine from downtown this season, with a three-point percentage at 60%.
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A&M, Oklahoma Get Bad News on Unofficial Opening Day

Posted by dnspewak on November 12th, 2011

Two Big 12 teams received some tough news on Friday: Texas A&M learned it will lose star wing Khris Middleton for about a month, and Oklahoma received three years of probation as a penalty for major violations under former coach Jeff Capel‘s watch.

There’s a theme of promise with both situations, though. It could have been worse. Middleton, considered a candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year this season, hurt his knee in the first half of A&M’s season opening win against Liberty and will miss three to four weeks. The Aggies will have to make major adjustments without their star, as their offense essentially runs through him on every possession. Between now and the middle of December, though, A&M plays just one school from a BCS conference: Mississippi State, next Thursday. Besides that, A&M won’t have another major test until Dec. 17 at Florida. By then, Middleton should be back, so the damage here is minimal.

Middleton Will Miss the Next 3-4 Weeks with an Injury

As for Oklahoma, the word “probation” always hurts, and Lon Kruger‘s new staff will suffer recruiting and scholarship restrictions. Plus, the NCAA will vacate 13 wins from OU’s dismal 2009-10 season, but we get the feeling Sooners fans would rather forget the memory of that season anyway. Capel was not implicated in the findings, but the violations stem from Tiny Gallon and certain illegal payments during his career in Norman. Kruger will be a bit handcuffed here, but overall, his program should recover.

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Big 12 Team Previews: Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by cwilliams on November 10th, 2011

Predicted finish: 3d

2010-11 season: 24-9 (10-6)

Head coach: Billy Kennedy, 1st season (currently on medical leave)

Key losses: B.J Holmes (9.7 PPG), Nathan Walkup (9.4 PPG)

With Mark Turgeon’s legacy at Texas A&M coming to an end this offseason because of his departure to Maryland, the Billy Kennedy era in College Station has officially begun. Luckily for Kennedy, he has a luxury many first-year coaches do not — a talented, experienced roster. The Aggies started last season strong but fizzled in the heart of conference play. They eventually fell to Florida State in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, an experienced and mature Aggie team hits the court of Reed Arena. A&M has not make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2007, despite making the field of 65 68 each season since. If Kennedy wants to make an immediate impact on this resurgent A&M basketball team, he will need to show they are more than a one-and-done program and that they can be a legitimate threat to earn a Final Four berth.

Is A&M Prepared to Take the Next Step With Kennedy?

The Stars: All eyes will be on Khris Middleton, or as we like to call him, Maroon 22. Middleton is an athletic, dynamic player who is likely NBA-bound once there is such a thing again. He averaged 14.3 PPG last season, carrying the load for the Aggie offense. He is expected to do more of the same this season, as he’ll be the focal point in Kennedy’s new offense as well. Helping Middleton will be David Loubeau, a versatile inside player who can rebound, block shots and score. He has impressive athleticism, but needs to improve his consistency, especially when squaring off against bigger players.

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After the Buzzer: Lavin Returns on an Otherwise Yucky Night

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Say It Ain’t So, Joe! On the second night of games of the opening week of college basketball, we’d be completely remiss if we didn’t comment on the insane evening that took over the airwaves while the Coaches vs. Cancer games were going on in the background. The number of stomach-turning things about this entire sordid Penn State affair are too many to count, but the absolutely shameful response by PSU students more concerned with protecting their beloved coach than recognizing the basic simplicity of right from wrong is beyond incomprehensible. Where have we come to as a society when the middle 80% of this great land are only moved to demonstration when our sports heroes are under duress or we’ve killed an enemy of the state? Why not take the streets in outrage over the numerous children whose innocent lives were destroyed by the selfish and criminal actions of a powerful few? That folks would care when it matters, and matter when they care. Mistakes were made at Penn State; it doesn’t mean that Joe Paterno is a horrible person, but it does mean that he has to go.

Lavin Returned Early From Medical Leave and Led His Team to a Victory (NYDN/A. Theodorakis)

Your Watercooler MomentLavin Returns, Surprises His Team.  How about some good news in an emotionally rough night? St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin, not someone we would characterize as a man content with sitting around at home, made an early return from his recent prostate cancer surgery and surprised his young team so much that they forgot to play the first half. Truthfully, despite a surfeit of talented parts, St. John’s is going to have evenings when the Red Storm will fall behind by 16 points in the opening stanza because players are still figuring out how to play with each other. But, as Lavin’s interchangeable pieces learn to synergize and feed off one another as they did for the game-changing run in the second half against Lehigh, the ceiling for his team this year appears fluid. And we referred to this angle the other night, but it bears repeating — cancer is an insidious disease, so we love the fact that Lavin was able to make his season debut during one of the Coaches vs. Cancer games. Even before his own diagnosis of prostate cancer, Lavin was a vocal supporter of the various anti-cancer charities related to college basketball. We wish him nothing but the best on his road to complete recovery (having a God’s Gift on hand doesn’t hurt!).

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Ready to Roll: Texas A&M Kicks off Big 12 Season

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2011

Liberty vs. Texas A&M (7 PM CT, Fox Sports Southwest)

After months of mindless discussion ranging from conference realignment to coaching changes to recruiting, all of the speculation and commentary can finally end.

Finally, it’s time to play some basketball: Texas A&M will kick off the hoops season for the Big 12 at 7 PM tonight with a home contest against Liberty in the opening round of the 2k Sports Classic. The Aggies haven’t lost a home non-conference game at Reed Arena since the 2005-06 season, but the Flames aren’t pushovers. They return several contributors from a team that reached the postseason and finished 19-13 in 2010-11, but they’re missing perhaps their best player in John Brown, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

Maroon 22.

Head coach Billy Kennedy won’t coach A&M this evening after his Parkinson’s diagnosis so assistant Glynn Cyprien is acting as the interim coach for the time being. His team will have to contain guard Jesse Sanders, a terrific assist man and an all-league selection. The Flames have a decent amount of experience surrounding Sanders, but without Brown– who averaged an eye-popping 10.8 rebounds per game last year despite his 6’4” stature– they may struggle to rebound against A&M. Compounding Brown’s absence Dale Layer’s team does not have much size on the front line. It starts 6’10” Joel Vander Pol at center, but he is on the skinny side at 225 pounds. 6’6” Antwan Burris should start opposite of him, and he’ll have a tough match-up with the forwards like David Loubeau. 

If Liberty wants to pull the upset, it will have to find somebody to guard leading scorer Khris Middleton, but that’s a tough task for any team. In the end, A&M’s size and physicality should be too much for the Flames at home.

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Set Your TiVo: 11.09.11

Posted by bmulvihill on November 9th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are still building up to the big season tip off on Friday.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at another pair of games from the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic regional rounds.

Akron @ Mississippi State – 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

Dee Bost Looks to Continue a Hot Start Against Akron

  • Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie are 6’10” and 6’11”, respectively.  While Akron sports its own big man in seven-foot center Zeke Marshall, watch for Mississippi State to pound the ball down low in order to open things up on the outside for point guard Dee Bost.  Akron was mediocre at defending the two-point shot last year, allowing opponents to shoot 46.1% and was particularly atrocious at keeping teams off the offensive glass (32.7% OR).  In the Bulldogs’ opening game against Eastern Kentucky on Monday, Sidney and Moultrie went a combined 8-13 on their two point attempts and MSU shot 56% from inside the arc as a team.  A repeat performance like that will put a lot of pressure on the Zip defense.
  • For Akron, Sophomore point guard Alex Abreu will need to set the table for the rest of the team, which he did quite well last year as a freshman with an assist rate of 35.9% (3.5 APG) coming off the bench.  This year he will be the starting point guard for the Zips. Abreu will be feeding the ball to UMBC transfer Chauncey Gilliam and last season’s leading scorer, Nikola Cvetinovic (11.7 PPG), early and often.  Unfortunately for Keith Dambrot’s squad, Abreu is their only real ballhandler.  If he gets into foul trouble and is not on the court, it will be a long night for the Zips.  Watch for Bost to put offensive pressure on the sophomore point guard in an effort to draw fouls and get Abreau off the floor.
  • The key to this game will be Zeke Marshall’s ability to handle the daunting duo of Sidney and Moultrie on both ends of the floor.  Marshall finished the 2010-11 season 19th in the country in blocked shots (2.6 BPG), and although he is certainly a force at 7’0”, managing both Sidney and Moultrie is a tall task, particularly for someone who is foul prone (Marshall fouled out of six games last season).  If the Akron big man gets into foul trouble tonight, it will force the defense to collapse on Sidney and Moultrie which opens things up outside for Bost, who finished 4-8 from behind the arc against Eastern Kentucky. Mississippi State may simply have too many weapons for the Zips.

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