Set Your TiVo: 01.11.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Will the number one team in the land survive a rivalry road test? Can Missouri bounce back from its recent beatdown to win an away game? Here’s what to expect from two Top 10 teams in tough spots tonight:

#1 Syracuse at Villanova – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (***)

Can Villanova Save Its Season Tonight by Beating #1 Syracuse? (AP Photo)

  • Undefeated Syracuse comes into this game playing as well as any team in the country, but their toughest away games of the season have been at NC State and Providence, so they’re not exactly road tested. The Orange will certainly have the advantage in this one, as their 2-3 zone defense has been incredibly effective this season at forcing turnovers and limiting paint opportunities. Nova’s a team that struggles in these two areas to begin with, and also a team that fires up a lot of threes (over 20 per game) at a low conversion rate (30%, ranked in the bottom 50 nationally). If Syracuse simply executes defensively and forces the Wildcats into a three-point barrage, they’ll have a huge advantage. Jim Boeheim’s team will come at Villanova with their deep array of weapons, where Kris Joseph (14.1 PPG) and Dion Waiters (12.5 PPG) should have opportunities to score in transition and on the wings against Villanova’s poor perimeter defense.
  • Villanova is in the midst of a year to forget, but they can change the outlook of the entire season with a win tonight. The Wildcats are dying for a victory of this caliber, and fans must be fired up in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for this rivalry home game against the number one team in the land. If the Wildcats are going to have a chance to win, they need to stop chucking up threes, especially in this game against a zone defense that will encourage them to shoot from the outside. Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek each attempt over four three-pointers per game and both are shooting under 30% from deep! Instead, these talented guards need to play off of each other. Wayns (17.4 PPG, 4.75 APG) is one of the quickest guards in America and can penetrate the teeth of a zone defense, and from there he must make good decisions and find teammates moving amongst the trees for good shot opportunities. Jay Wright’s team also must stay out of foul trouble and defend the perimeter if they want to have a chance.
  • This seems like an uneven matchup on paper, but it could be a serious trap game for Syracuse. They haven’t yet played a good conference team on the road, and Villanova is a rival who will be fired up for this one. If Nova can find early success against the Syracuse zone, then they could have a chance in this one.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 11th, 2012

  1. Frank Haith compared Royce White to Magic Johnson earlier this week, a comment White himself called “outrageous.” Now, his own coach has compared him to Kevin Garnett, as if he didn’t have enough expectations placed on him already. After a triple-double against Texas A&M, White will be a nightmare matchup for Missouri, a team that travels to Ames tonight for another road contest. Defensively, White may end up guarding Kim English or another guard or wing, but the forward isn’t worried. “I’ve guarded wing players before,” White said.
  2. Tyshawn Taylor and social media just do not mix. The senior point guard, who’s been no stranger to online controversies during his career, called out his critics on Twitter in a harsh manner last week. Fans were attacking Taylor on the website for his turnovers, which have been well-documented this season. Taylor fired back: “If half that talk about ball could actually ball,” Taylor said, “but y’all can’t do (so you’re) stuck to being a fan.” As coach Bill Self said, Taylor probably just needs to step away from the computer and be the better man here. But Taylor’s actually got a point. A lot of these clowns mocking Taylor for his turnovers probably couldn’t run a mile without passing out, much less start at point guard for a Top 25 basketball team. As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once famously said in Airplane, “Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.” Same thing applies here, Twitter bozos.
  3. And since we’re on the topic of KU controversy, Self is fending off criticism from former guard Josh Selby these days. Selby has apparently told Memphis Grizzlies’ officials that the Kansas head coach held him back at Kansas. Of course, the always interesting Kim English of Missouri also set off this firestorm by revealing some of Selby’s comments about Self on a radio station in Kansas City. English, a good friend of Selby’s from Baltimore, told a radio host that Selby regretted his decision to go to Kansas. Self, though, isn’t about to let anybody bully his program. “You shouldn’t use certain words over the airwaves, but that’s absolute crap,” Self said.
  4. After losing to Missouri and Kansas to start Big 12 play, Oklahoma finally played some equal competition in Oklahoma State on Monday in the Bedlam series. Unfortunately, Lon Kruger’s rebuilding job took a step back in an ugly loss to a beatable opponent. The article even calls the game the low point of the season, a fair label considering Kruger’s team thrived against weak competition in November and December. The Sooners’ offense struggled, and leading scorer Steven Pledger did not help the matter by making just three of 13 shot attempts.
  5. Once considered a contender in the Big 12, Texas A&M has fallen apart lately. The Aggies, now 0-2 in the league, rank near the bottom of the conference in almost every offensive category. They have scored the fewest points, they are the worst three-point shooting team, and they are the worst at free throws. But hey, Billy Kennedy‘s team is ninth in field goal percentage! Kennedy says it’s a result of poor shot selection and a lack of an attacking mentality offensively. A&M better figure it out soon, or its NCAA Tournament hopes could vanish quickly.
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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: 01.05.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 5th, 2012

  1. You’re sick of hearing about Tyshawn Taylor‘s turnovers, and we’re all sick of writing about them. But after Kansas’s point guard turned the ball over eight times in a win over Kansas State last night, we simply cannot ignore the magnitude of the statistic. Sam Mellinger’s column provides the best analysis of Taylor’s situation. Instead of focusing solely on the turnovers, Mellinger argues that both “Good” Taylor and “Bad” Taylor go hand-in-hand at this point. You cannot separate the two identities — as Bill Self says, ““He makes plays you can’t coach, and he makes plays that look like he’s never been coached.” And that, folks, is how you sum up Tyshawn Taylor in 17 words.
  2. Four years ago, writers all across the nation put the spotlight on a young freshman named Kim English, a contributor for an Elite Eight team who was most famous for sleeping at Mizzou Arena in order to get shots up in the morning. But by his junior year, English had transformed from Lovable Kimmie to Frustrating Kimmie. He struggled through a tough 2010-11 campaign, but he’s back on everyone’s good side now. English, who scored 23 points against Oklahoma on Tuesday, is shooting 55% from three-point land and might be the most intriguing revitalization project in college basketball. Frank Haith‘s new coaching style is clearly having positive effects on English in particular, and he looks more energized and athletic this season. He’s throwing down dunks with ease this season, and most importantly, his smile is back.
  3. Speaking of Missouri, we’re a little late here with this news, but redshirt freshman forward Kadeem Green announced his decision to transfer earlier this week. No, Green was not a major contributor for Haith, but he had seen a little more playing time recently as a backup to Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore. Down the road, Green seemed to have a bright future as a shot-blocker with his long wingspan, but he’ll now take those talents elsewhere. Green says he’d like to be closer to his hometown of Toronto, and Columbia, Missouri, is certainly not anywhere near Canada. So although he leaves MU with just two scholarship forwards on the roster, the move is understandable. If Ratliffe or Moore find themselves in foul trouble at the same time, though, Frank is going to wish he had Green at the end of his bench.
  4. SI‘s Seth Davis included a few Big 12 squads in his Buy/Sell article this week, and here’s a big surprise: he’s buying Baylor. So are we. The Bears haven’t played particularly well yet this season, which sounds insane considering they are still undefeated. That’s probably why BU seems to have so much potential. Once Perry Jones finds his game, this team could be every bit as good as the 2009-10 team that reached the Elite Eight. As long as Pierre Jackson shows a little more consistency, BU has the guard play this year to win the Big 12.
  5. Finally, since we’re struggling to find a final piece of news for you, Big 12 country lost a fine man in Gene Bartow. No, Bartow did not coach at a Big 12 school, but he is a Missouri native who coached at several Midwestern schools such as Central Missouri, Valparaiso and Illinois. Bartow, most famous for succeeding John Wooden at UCLA in the late 1970s, is a graduate of Truman State University. He won more than 600 games during his career, and UAB‘s arena is named after him. Even if the Big 12 cannot claim him as its own, it would certainly like to.
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Big 12 Weekend Primer: New Years Weekend

Posted by dnspewak on December 30th, 2011

With holiday bowl games and a national showdown between Louisville and Kentucky on New Year’s Eve, there’s not a whole lot of Big 12 basketball to talk about this weekend. But six league teams will still compete during the next two days, and most notably, undefeated Missouri will hit the road for the first time in 2011-12. And if you’re not interested in watching John Calipari and Rick Pitino scream at each other for 40 minutes on CBS this Saturday, Oklahoma State will host Virginia Tech on ESPN2 during the same time slot.

  • Missouri (12-0) at Old Dominion (6-6), Friday 6 PM CT (ESPN2)

Kim English and the Tigers Still Need to Prove They Can Win on the Road

Eight days ago, Missouri showed its human side for the first time this season. After obliterating the likes of Notre Dame, California and Villanova, the Tigers nearly blew a double-digit lead to Illinois in the second half before recovering for a 78-74 victory in the Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis. That second half stretch, which featured poor passing, forced shots and turnovers by every player on the floor, marked the first time Missouri had ever looked rattled in a basketball game this season. Though half of the arena was wearing black and gold, the Illinois crowd came alive late in that game, and it was the Tigers’ first experience in a hostile environment. For a team that finished 1-7 on the road in Big 12 play last year, this is the last major concern for Frank Haith to tackle: Can his team win on the road? Old Dominion may be 6-6, but don’t write this off as a down year for Blaine Taylor‘s program. For the uneducated basketball fan, losses to Northern Iowa, Vermont, Fairfield, UCF and Richmond may not look very good, but we know better than that. All six losses for ODU (also including Kentucky) have come against league front-runners with at least outside shots to win their respective conferences. Hosting one of its most important non-conference games in recent memory, Missouri will have to deal with a rowdy and electric crowd in Norfolk. Yes, the Tigers are much quicker, and they obviously have much better guards. There’s a reason Mizzou blasted an even stronger Old Dominion team in Columbia last season. It’s a new season, though, and again, Missouri has no reason to be confident in a road setting until it proves it is not the same team as 2010-11. The formula for an upset here is simple: The Monarchs need to slow the tempo and let their defense go to work. Kent Bazemore is arguably the best defender in college basketball, so expect him to hound Marcus Denmon all night, and ODU has a couple of decent shotblockers in Nick Wright and Chris Cooper. ODU isn’t nearly as big or physical as it was a year ago, but it is still a sound rebounding team that won’t let MU get many second chances. This is a Blaine Taylor team we’re talking about here, after all. If Missouri stays hot from the perimeter, it won’t need to dominate the boards to win. Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon need to initiate the offense like they did in the first half against Illinois, as opposed to that disastrous second-half stretch. If that happens, the looks will be there for Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 29th, 2011

  1. Though Missouri has appeared immortal during the first two months of the season, a second-half lapse against Illinois last week has at least one writer questioning whether the Tigers’ field goal percentages will hold up throughout the season. Kim English has rebounded from a tough junior season to shoot 53% from three-point range this season, and Ricardo Ratliffe‘s numbers are just absurd (76% from the field). As a team, Missouri has seen enormous jumps in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage, and yes, it would be silly to think that some of these numbers will hold up. Still, even in that swoon in the second half in the Braggin’ Rights game, the issue wasn’t necessarily that MU missed a bunch of open shots. That happened under Mike Anderson a lot, especially on the road. Instead, it seemed that things broke down because of poor passing, no ball movement and a lack of poise. When Frank Haith‘s pick-and-roll offense is really working and the ball is in Phil Pressey‘s hands, he will find guys like Ratliffe, English and Marcus Denmon for a lot of open looks. And that’s partly why these statistics have skyrocketed.
  2. In this era of realigning conferences with complete disregard for geography, it’s refreshing to see that TCU will save a lot of time and money by moving to the Big 12 next season. According to one example in the article, the men’s basketball team will save almost 4,000 miles in road trips next year, and the football and basketball programs (both men’s and women’s) will combine to save about 16,770 miles. That’s a lot of fuel money in the bank, and hey, it can’t be bad for the environment either. And although TCU officials won’t say how much money the school will make from the move, one spokesperson said “it’s no secret” that the university will make a good deal of money off the move.
  3. And if you’re interested in a recap of Texas A&M‘s move to the SEC, here’s a full rundown of the situation. As you can imagine, the sports media talk in College Station was dominated by the SEC during the past year, just as it was in Columbia, Missouri, and every other college town with realignment implications. The article also points out that the SEC stuff overshadowed success from several A&M athletic programs. In fact, the Aggies won three NCAA titles and seven Big 12 titles, but this particular website thought realignment news was more important in 2011.
  4. Oklahoma State needed two overtimes to defeat SMU last night, and the victory wasn’t exactly pretty. But the win is a sign that the Cowboys are not letting transfers dictate this season. Senior Keiton Page, who started at point guard after the defection of both Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell during the past eight days, said his teammates “have been great at keeping their heads up and their emotions high.” That cannot be easy to do amidst all the turmoil, but even freshman point guard Cezar Guerrero, whose playing time will increase dramatically now, says the team chants “1-2-3… family” after every huddle. That’s got to count for something, right?
  5. Residents of Kansas City love to talk about bragging rights between Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State, and that prompted one sports journalist with the Kansas City Star to dedicate a multimedia session to the topic. The Tigers look like the Big 12 favorite right now, and Kansas will certainly be in the mix for an eighth-straight title despite that loss to pesky Davidson. As for Kansas State, the Wildcats may be the most intriguing team in the league right now. After winning the Diamond Head Classic, it’s obvious that Frank Martin‘s team will once again find itself in position for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. As always, it’ll be a fight this winter to see which of the Kansas City-area programs will come out on top.
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The Transfer Effect: What the Statistics Say about Missouri and Iowa State’s Recruiting Methods

Posted by dnspewak on December 27th, 2011

No matter how established the program, every college basketball coach eventually takes a chance on a transfer. Jim Boeheim, for example, plucked Wesley Johnson from Iowa State and turned him into the Big East Player of the Year in 2009-10. Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski’s current rosters both include transfers with Brandon Wood (Valparaiso) and Seth Curry (Liberty), and in 1979, a former Indiana Hoosier named Larry Bird nearly won a title with Indiana State just a few years after quitting basketball (and Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers) altogether.

Hoiberg and Haith Are Recruiting Transfers Heavily to Their Programs

Normally, coaches take one or two transfers at a time to fill immediate holes, but that’s not everybody’s philosophy. Meet Missouri’s Frank Haith and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, a pair of coaches who have abandoned traditional recruiting methods at their new schools in favor of Division I transfers. Haith, hired in April to replace Mike Anderson, is using three open scholarships in 2011-12 on players who will not appear in a single basketball game this season by signing Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Jabari Brown (Oregon). Hoiberg, on the other hand, has four transfers on his roster in his second year with the Cyclones: Chris Allen (Michigan State), Chris Babb (Penn State), Royce White (Minnesota), and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois). The two coaches have energized their fan bases by signing big names from major schools, but Haith and Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics cannot be accurately judged at this point. Iowa State’s Fab Four will begin Big 12 play next month, and Missouri’s three transfers will not all be eligible until December 2012.

Instead of speculating as to whether the two teams will suffer from dreaded chemistry problems with so many transfers, why not crunch the numbers to see if The Transfer Effect really exists? Although finding aggregate data for Division I transfers is virtually impossible, recent anecdotal evidence shows that the recruiting strategy is an enormous risk for both coaches. Seven teams from both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons welcomed three or more transfers to their programs at the same time, and only two teams (San Diego State and UNLV) finished above .500 in league play. Seton Hall, the only power conference team in the group, missed the NCAA Tournament.

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Checking In On… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 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

  • Kansas Gets Exposed: For the second time in the last four years, Kansas suffered a surprising defeat to an overmatched team in Kansas City. This year’s victor was Davidson, who led nearly all game en route to an 80-74 upset over the Jayhawks. It was the third game this season where Kansas was held under a point per possession. This team might be the worst offensive team Bill Self has fielded at Kansas: there’s no real go-to guy like Marcus Morris, and the Jayhawks don’t have the three-point shooters to keep defenses from collapsing on Thomas Robinson in the middle. The turnovers are also an even bigger problem than last season, without the ability to score nearly at will to compensate.
  • Undefeated Squads Hold Serve: Both of the undefeated teams in the league narrowly retained that status, with Missouri trying valiantly to give Illinois the Braggin Rights game and Baylor doing the same with West Virginia. Frank Haith’s team won a rare close game, eking out a 78-74 win, and Baylor narrowly defeated West Virginia 83-81 in overtime, after which Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins had a rare instance of losing his cool.
  • Kansas State scored a tournament win over the weekend, downing Long Beach State on Christmas night to win the Diamond Head Classic. Angel Rodriguez was the star of the tournament, scoring 17 and 16 in the first two games. Rodney McGruder more than picked up his slack in the championship against Long Beach, scoring 28 on 10-11 shooting.  Kansas State now has a pair of good wins in the non-conference season and look like they will be in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Wildcats Have Plenty of Souvenirs To Bring Home After Winning The Diamond Head Classic. (AP)

Power Rankings

Because the marquee non conference games are virtually over, this week, I thought I’d grade the teams. I’m grading on a curve, so an A for Missouri isn’t the same as one for Kansas State.

  1. Missouri (12-0) – Grade: A. Missouri is 12-0 and while I am still not sure about Frank Haith for the long haul, he has to get credit for coming to Missouri and not changing anything. He recognized what he had in Marcus Denmon, Kim English, and Phil Pressey and let them be who they are. Haith’s Miami teams regularly played games where the pace lingered in the low-to-mid-60s , but this year Missouri is at 70.5 trips per game, basically right in line with where it has been the past three seasons.
  2. Kansas (8-3) – Grade: A-. Kansas sits only at 8-3, but actually are the highest-rated Big 12 team in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings at 8, one spot ahead of Missouri and two ahead of Baylor. Some of that is due to beating a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State, but a bigger factor has been Kansas’s stifling defense, which has held opponents to just 39.6% shooting from inside the arc. A year after losing two lottery picks and the very solid Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed, not to mention second-round pick Josh Selby, Bill Self is in the midst of maybe his best coaching job yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 12.22.11

Posted by bmulvihill on December 22nd, 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.

Tu Holloway is back from suspension to face Casper Ware and Long Beach State

There are too many three and four star games tonight to count, so in the interest of analyzing a few teams we have not touched on before, we picked three neutral court games that should be great.  Let’s get to the action.

Missouri vs. Illinois – 9:00PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)

  • There are two reasons Missouri is flat-out destroying opponents this season — they shoot lights out and they protect the ball. The Tigers are first in the country in eFG% at 60% and first in the country in offensive turnover rate at 13.6%.  It is very difficult to beat a team that hits a majority of its shots and does not have empty possessions.  The Mizzou offense will be matched up against a solid Illinois defense. The Illini gets on the defensive boards and blocks shots.  Unfortunately, Bruce Weber’s guys are a little soft on their perimeter defense giving up 35.5% from three. Tiger guard Kim English, who shoots a ridiculous 53.2% (33-62) from beyond the arc, could have a field day tonight if not checked.
  • Illinois cannot try to outshoot Missouri tonight.  They will get blown off the court if they do.  They must focus on defense if they are to have a chance.  Keep an eye on 7’1” Illini center Meyers Leonard and what impact he has on the game against a small-ish Tigers team.  The tallest Mizzou starter is the 6’8” Ratliffe, who will have to check Meyers.  However, there is still a significant size difference.  Meyers will need to have a career game to lead Illinois to a victory.
  • Missouri’s shooting will dictate who wins this game.  If the Tigers shoot their average, they should take the victory.  Expect them to shoot a few more threes than normal against a weak Illini perimeter defense.  If Illinois is to keep this game close, Meyers will have to find a way to dominate on both ends of the floor.  Illinois needs to slow the game down and D.J. Richardson needs to continue to protect the ball against the Tiger press for the guys in orange to have a fighting chance.

Baylor vs. St. Mary’s – 10:30PM EST on ESPN3 (****)

  • In Baylor’s last game against a West Coast Conference team, it barely escaped 86-83 at BYU.  Despite being outshot by Baylor by a significant margin, the Cougars kept the game close by dominating the offensive boards.  St. Mary’s is a better offensive rebounding team than BYU, so keep an eye on how many offensive boards the Gaels grab in this game.  With Baylor blocking so many shots and creating steals on 13% of opponents possessions, their long and athletic front line makes scoring on them very difficult. Speaking of front lines, keep an eye on the Bears’ forwards Perry Jones, Quincy Miller, and Quincy Acy on offense as well.  St. Mary’s does not have the same level of athletes to match-up with the trio.
  • Baylor is by far the toughest test of the season for Randy Bennett’s team.  Keep an eye on how the Gaels handle the initial Baylor onslaught.  In order for the Gaels to stay in this game, they need to own the boards on both ends.  They are currently one of the top defensive rebounding teams in the country and solid on the offensive boards as well. St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova is going to have to shoulder the offensive load.  Keep an eye on how he responds to the pressure.
  • St. Mary’s appears to be outmanned in this game, so hustle will be the key for them.  The size of the Baylor frontcourt could be too much for the Gaels.  Rebounding will be the key factor.  Baylor shoots the ball very well, but SMC can keep in close if they hit the boards.  Baylor needs to hang on to the ball and take advantage of their athleticism and length to win.

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Considering the Big 12 Overachievers and Pleasers

Posted by cwilliams on December 20th, 2011

Even though the 2011-12 college basketball season still has its youth, it is already easy to identify some of the individuals who have overachieved this season. Players who, for one reason or another, are not only meeting expectations but blasting through them. Overachievers are on every team and come in all shapes and sizes, but this group has shown through the first month-plus of the season that they will have a major impact on the Big 12 this season. The title of overachiever doesn’t stick with these players forever, though — they either become a star, or are considered an “almost-was.” Here we list the five Big 12 basketball players who are overachieving to this point in the season.

Nobody Likes the Overachievers in College. Except on the Hardwood. (

  1. Steven Pledger, Oklahoma – While it is probably safe to consider the entire Sooner roster as overachievers due to their impressive 8-1 start, Pledger seems to be the backbone of their success. He has become a proven floor general this season and has almost doubled his points per game from last year, even while averaging fewer minutes.
  2. Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech – While Tolbert was expected to be one of the Red Raiders’ key freshmen on this team, nobody expected him to be the entire team. Tolbert is leading the Texas Tech in both points per game (14.0) and rebounds per game (6.2), and he dropped 22 against Grambling, 16 against DePaul, and 27 against future Big 12 member TCU. Read the rest of this entry »
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