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".

Alley-Oops

  • 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%.
Share this story

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.

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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!).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Morning Five: 11.08.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 8th, 2011

  1. The pre-season Naismith Award list was released Monday by the Atlanta Tip-Off Club’s Board of Selectors, and it includes five Big 12 players: Perry Jones (Baylor), Quincy Miller (Baylor), Khris Middleton (Texas A&M), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), and Thomas Robinson (Kansas). All five are more than deserving to make the list, and they’ll all contend for Player of the Year honors in the Big 12, at the very least. The committee left off a couple of notable names, though. If Miller can get a vote, then why can’t Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash? In the end, of course, it’s all semantics. The list will be narrowed to the top 30 players in February.
  2. It looks as though the Big 12 will continue to confuse most Americans by remaining at 10 teams for the 2012-13 season. You’d think it would make a little more sense for a league called the Big 12 to have, you know, 12 teams, but OU president David Boren said Monday that no expansion will occur next season. However, here’s a curveball: After the 2012-13 season, Boren said the league may have an opportunity to return to 12 teams. The math would finally align, and the world would once again be normal. But does that mean that realignment apocalypse isn’t over yet? We may have to run through this same drill in two years.
  3. All anyone ever wants to talk about at Missouri is how much the move to the SEC will benefit the school financially. However, there could be some related money troubles on the horizon. According to the Associated Press, MU may need to pay $26 million in exit fees to leave the Big 12. Plus, upon joining the SEC, Missouri may be expected to upgrade its facilities and scholarships to stay competitive. Gov. Jay Nixon wouldn’t comment on the issue, but the state’s budget chairman said he hasn’t heard back from MU officials as to how they plan to pay for the move.
  4. Speaking of Missouri’s move… Kansas isn’t too happy about the potential death of the Border War. Just take a glance at some of the comments from the Kansas camp. Bill Self has said that KU has “absolutely no obligation whatsoever to play Missouri in basketball. None.” And football coach Turner Gill echoed that statement, saying he does not see the annual game on the gridiron in Kansas City continuing past this season. After a century of battles — both literally and figuratively, as it does of course date back to skirmishes during the Civil War — it’s hard to accept that Kansas may end the Border War just like that. Self also said “the majority of Kansas fans don’t give a flip about playing Missouri,” but we’re not so convinced that’s true, either. From both perspectives, the end of the rivalry would be a tragedy. Let’s hope clearer heads eventually prevail — college basketball is better when the Border War game continues.
  5. Sticking with Kansas here, ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan had a nice write-up about the importance of Jayhawk guard Tyshawn Taylor. It’s no secret he’s struggled with consistency during his time in Lawrence, but now it’s time for him to step up as the leader of this squad along with Thomas Robinson. Self has said that Taylor has “matured so much,” and that would be terrific news for a KU team looking to win its eighth straight Big 12 title. Without a fine performance from Taylor this season, Kansas cannot win. It’s as simple as that.
Share this story

Big 12 Morning Five: 11.04.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 4th, 2011

  1. Billy Gillispie’s exhibition debut at Texas Tech resulted in a victory, but it wasn’t a banner performance by any means. Tech trailed by four at halftime to Southwestern Oklahoma before scrapping out a 76-70 victory. The game went to the wire as the Red Raiders led by just two points with 10 seconds remaining. Although Gillispie’s entire team is essentially composed entirely of newcomers, it was two returners who led the way on Thursday night. Sophomore Javarez Willis scored 22 points while Robert Lewandowski, the lone senior on the team, chipped in 18 points. It wasn’t a pretty start start for Texas Tech, but a win’s a win, as they say.
  2. Gillispie’s old school, Texas A&M, had a little less trouble in its exhibition match-up with Dallas Baptist. Khris Middleton’s 20 points led the Aggies to a 91-55 romp, a game that featured a ridiculous rebounding margin (47-23) and a lot of three-point attempts (38 combined between the two teams). A&M led by 26 at halftime and coasted from there. Kourtney Roberson also finished with a double-double: 14 points and 12 rebounds.
  3. The NBA Development League held its 2011 draft Thursday night. It’s not exactly a hit with the Nielsen ratings, but a few notable Big 12 players were selected. Former Iowa State Cyclone Jamaal Tinsley, a former Big 12 Player of the Year, went first overall. He’s already played eight years in the NBA so the moment for him probably wasn’t a tearjerker. Gary Johnson (Texas) went in the late first round, Brady Morningstar (Kansas) went in the third, and Darion Anderson (Iowa State) was drafted in the fourth. Here’s to an extended career to those four players.
  4. For you TV announcer junkies, here’s a look at the commentators for the upcoming Big 12 season, as well as the rest of college basketball. Looks like more of the same, especially on Big Monday: Bob Knight and Brent Musburger are back. Depending on how you feel about The General, that’s either a brilliant or disastrous move. Also, both Jon Sciambi and Mitch Holthus will call weekly Big 12 games.
  5. And in your sad news of the morning: Oklahoma held a memorial service for radio announcer Bob Barry, Sr., who died last weekend at the age of 80. Barry spent 50 years in the business and every player, reporter, and coach he’s ever worked alongside had nothing but the best to say about him. Barry was an Oklahoma icon, and he will be missed–even by people who never met him.
Share this story

RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2011

Steve Fetch of Rock Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can find him on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • This is of course the last year for Texas A&M to leave its mark on the Big 12, and it could be Missouri’s as well. Both teams enter the 2011-12 season with serious conference title hopes,  but each comes with some question marks. Missouri lost Laurence Bowers to an ACL injury, which really puts a strain on their interior depth. They didn’t rebound terribly well in the first place, ranking 317th nationally in defensive rebounding, and the loss of the 6’8” Bowers, who was their best returning player on the glass, won’t help. A&M meanwhile still has Khris Middleton, but do they have anyone to get him the ball? Dash Harris had a turnover rate of almost 30% last year and an assist rate of only 21%
  • Speaking of those two, the Big 12 has four new coaches this year, with Texas Tech and Oklahoma joining A&M and Missouri as teams with new head men. The Big 12 hasn’t had this many new coaches since 2007 when six of the twelve schools had first-year men on the job. I took a look at  how coaches in the Big 12 have done in their first year on the job and compared it with the historical performances of the programs who have new coaches at the helm this season, and it looks like all four could be in for rough times initially.
  • Kansas has won at least a share of the last seven Big 12 titles, but in order or the Jayhawks to make it eight, Bill Self will have to do his best coaching job yet. He lost both the Morris twins and Josh Selby to the NBA, as well as the underrated Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar to graduation. What’s more, incoming freshmen Ben McLemore, Jamari Traylor and Braeden Anderson were all deemed ineligible. Kansas still has some talent to work with, especially Thomas Robinson, who had a tremendous summer.

Even Bill Self Has Admitted That This Season Will Be A Challenge For The Perennial Blueblood

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Kansas (14-4)
  2. Baylor (13-5)
  3. Missouri (13-5)
  4. Texas A&M (12-6)
  5. Oklahoma State (10-8)
  6. Texas (9-9)
  7. Iowa State (7-11)
  8. Kansas State (5-13)
  9. Oklahoma (4-14)
  10. Texas Tech (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Make or Break: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 31st, 2011

The Make or Break series will tell us what we need to know about each SEC team by looking at the three most important non-conference games on each team’s schedule. Depending on the outcome, these three games could make OR break that team’s season because of the strengths it shows or weaknesses it could expose. The next team in the series is the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Mississippi State is ready to forget about last season. The Bulldogs had their share of troubles. Point guard Dee Bost was suspended for the first nine games of the season. Renardo Sidney had missed all of the 2009-10 season and the first nine games last year due to eligibility reasons. Then Sidney marred the Bulldogs’ reputation by getting into a fight with a teammate in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. The team never appeared to get its chemistry down pat and limped to a 17-14 record and failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.

Will Stansbury's Ongoing Gamble on Sidney Finally Pay Off?

But there are reasons to be more optimistic this year. Everyone is eligible to start the season. Sidney has lost over 20 pounds and is allegedly making strides to be a better teammate. The Bulldogs welcome transfer Arnett Moultrie to help him out down low. 2011-12 could be the year Rick Stansbury’s team turns things around and gets back to the NCAAs for the seventh time in 11 seasons.

The three key non-conference games that will make or break the Bulldogs schedule this season:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC 2011 College Football All-Americans (with a Hoops Twist)

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC Pac-12 and Mountain West correspondent and a frequent columnist. 

It’s that time of year again. Off in the distance, it could be a mirage, or it could be the start of college basketball season. It’s probably a mirage, but the Great Sports Desert (you know, that time of year between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of college football when normal American males actually have time to get stuff done) ends Thursday, as college football kicks off its 142nd season. And given the offseason that college football has had, it couldn’t come any sooner. Unfortunately, given all the scandals and arrests and the like, according to my source at the NCAA, it appears that literally every college football player will be ineligible for the coming year (at least I assume that is true – it’s not a very good source). As a result, football programs across this great nation have been scrambling for some last minute replacements. And, since we here at RTC are nothing if not diligent, we’ve spent the last few weeks scouring college football camps across the country while other lesser outlets have been reporting on things like a little scuffle in Baton Rouge and something-or-other about Miami (I’ll admit, I never got through that whole article, but I think I got the gist of it – Miami is a nice place to go to school, right?). Anyway, since we’re the only ones who seem to be on top of this sea change in college football, we’ll let you all in on some of our wisdom as we preview college basketball’s richer, more-spoiled sibling, with RTC’s official 2011 College Football All-American team.

Offense

High School Star Aaron Craft Will Fill In Nicely for Terrelle Pryor at OSU

  • QB: Aaron Craft (6’2″, 190 lbs), Ohio State: In light of the Buckeye football program’s recent troubles, new head coach Luke Stickell turns the reins over to the sophomore Craft. He’s not the quickest or fleetest of foot, but he is accurate, he’s tough and he’s a leader. There has been plenty of talk about the Heisman Trophy campaign of North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, but until he takes better care of the ball (last year, he turned the ball over on almost 30% of all possessions), we’ll give the nod to Craft, who at least has the advantage of having played QB for three years in high school.
  • RB: Jordan Taylor (6’1″, 195 lbs), Wisconsin: The newest Badger tailback may not have the size of former greats like Ron Dayne and John Clay, but Taylor is a tough and smart runner who excels at finding a crease and finishing through contact.
  • Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

RTC Summer Updates: Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 10th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big 12 correspondent, Evan Pfaff.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Round Robin Scheduling – For the first time since the Big 12 was formed, the conference will implement full round-robin scheduling, meaning each school will play a home-and-home with each of the other nine schools in the conference.  In the past, schools played the teams in their division in a home-and-home, but only played schools in the other division once per season, switching home courts every year.  That meant the epic battles between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks happened only once per regular season, and whichever school hosted the game had a monumental advantage over the other.  With a full round-robin format, not only will each school play two additional conference games, but seeding will be based more on outcomes on the floor than the scheduling fates.
  • Reloading Talent – The Big 12 is used to replacing an enormous amount of talent. In 2010, ten Big 12 players were taken in the NBA Draft.  Two months ago, the Big 12 cupboards were once again raided, as seven players heard their names called. The conference should again be stacked and we might hear as many as ten names called on draft day 2012. From incoming freshmen like Baylor’s Quincy Miller, Texas’ Myck Kabongo and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash, to returning stars like Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, the Big 12 should again be a breeding ground for NBA rosters.
  • New Coaches… EVERYWHERE.  Change is inevitable in college athletics, but stability at the top usually translates into success on the floor. So it is eye opening that from Mike Anderson and Mark Turgeon leaving to Pat Knight and Jeff Capel being shown the door, the Big 12 had a 40% coaching turnover this summer. Now with Frank Haith, Billy Kennedy, Billy Gillispie and Lon Kruger roaming Big 12 sidelines, the conference has some questions to answer. Can Missouri conform to a set offense? Can A&M meet high preseason expectations under new management? Do Billy Clyde Gillispie and Lon Kruger have another run left in them?

Kansas head coach Bill Self has a tall task in front of him after losing most of the punch from last season's potent lineup.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story