Morning Five: 04.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2013

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  1. As we mentioned yesterday Marcus Smart announced that he would return to Oklahoma State and now he will have some company as Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown also announced that they will be returning to Stillwater. We has won’t get into the debate about whether or not Smart should have left because every writer has either chimed in for it, against it, or (our personal favorite) railed against those who were for it or against it. Although they did not rise from a stage in a ridiculous ceremony held in Miami three summers ago it should be cause for celebration as the Cowboys are now legitimate Big 12 contenders. We still would not bet against Bill Self, but the Big 12 race just got a lot more interesting.
  2. The mood in Ann Arbor was not quite as festive, but the decision by Tim Hardaway Jr. to leave Michigan a year early was expected by many. We are not completely sold on Hardaway Jr. ever becoming a NBA starter, but he certainly has the requisite physical skills and a good enough outside shot that he will get some looks from NBA teams. One of the more interesting things about his game is how little it has progressed (at least in terms of his statistics) over his three years at Michigan. We don’t normally advocate players leaving school early unless they think they are guaranteed a NBA roster spot (read: are assured of being a first round pick), but Hardaway Jr. has not shown as much progression from one season to the next as you would hope and this year’s class is weak (and his family should be financially secure) so we think it is a reasonable decision.
  3. If Hardaway Jr or any other Michigan players need any advice they can always turn to team captain Josh Bartelstein, the son of NBA agent Mark Bartelstein who has a fairly impressive list of clients, Based on the advice that Josh offered for the article it sounds like he would be a pretty good place for these players to start. We are sure that plenty of other schools have alumni that offer advice to players about whether or not they should or should not go, but probably very few are able to do so through current players. It will be interesting to see if the Michigan players decide to sign with Josh’s father.
  4. Florida Gulf Coast has had one of the more unique coaching searches for a mid-major given the sudden popularity of “Dunk City”, which the city is still calling itself in press releases. Yesterday the school announced that Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley would be the school’s head coach. Dooley may not be the huge name that some people thought the school could get, but realistically an assistant at one of the top programs in the country who also has head coaching experience (with a winning record) is a solid get for a school that most people did not know existed two months ago. Dooley has a reputation as a great recruiter although you can argue that being at Kansas helps a lot in doing that, but he should have some advantages (location and a style of play that appeals to recruits if he chooses to keep it) that could help him be successful in his new job.
  5. Yesterday Cincinnati announced that it would be extending Mick Cronin‘s contract, which should not be a surprise, but we have to say we are somewhat surprised by the length of the extension: one year with the possibility of three more years. Cronin, who already has four years left on his contact, can have the extension go from one year to three years if the Bearcats in either of the next two years. Cronin certainly is deserving of an extension given his team’s performance, but we have to wonder why the school would give him such a short extension with the understanding it is planning on keeping him for at least five more years. We just don’t see the point in adding on one year at this point.
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Big 12 Season Wrap: the Highs, the Lows, All the In-Betweens

Posted by dnspewak on April 15th, 2013

In a big-picture sense, the Big 12 provided us with no surprises this season. Kansas won the league again, TCU finished in last place, five teams made the NCAA Tournament, and all was right with the world. It wouldn’t have taken Nostradamus to make those predictions. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an interesting six months, however. There were flops–most notably from the state of Texas. There were overachievers–most notably from the state of Oklahoma. There were thrilling finishes, blown calls, standout freshmen and that one time Kansas somehow lost to TCU. Oh, and one team even won a championship this season in, well, the wrong tournament.

Game of  the Year: Kansas 68, Oklahoma State 67 (February 20)

This showdown in Stillwater was simultaneously the best and worst game of the Big 12 season. How’s that for logic? After the Cowboys stunned Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the winter and literally celebrated by doing back flips on the court, this revenge game took on even more importance in the league standings. Had Oklahoma State won, it would have seized the proverbial driver’s seat along with Kansas State and would have made the Jayhawks’ path to the regular season title very difficult. We had drama. We had overtime. Two, actually. And we had a game-winner in the final minute of regulation by Naadir Tharpe, who shook off a rusty performance to hit the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds to play. Instant classic, right? Certainly. The problem was, it was perhaps the ugliest game ever played by two top-15 opponents on the same floor. Kansas did not make a field goal in the first overtime and it did not make a field goal in the second overtime until Tharpe’s game-winner. That’s almost 10 minutes of basketball without a basket. In overtime! Overall, the two teams combined to shoot five for 32 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore played 49 minutes, missed nine of 12 shot attempts and finished with seven points after barely touching the ball in the overtime periods. And that’s the best game of the year? We still stand by our decision. This was the game that changed the complexity of the Big 12 title race, and two free periods of basketball is never a bad thing.

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 (February 25): Asterisk on this one. Kansas beat Iowa State in Ames — where the Cyclones hadn’t lost in more than a year — but it needed a blown call at the end of regulation to get the opportunity. You remember the situation. Elijah Johnson‘s charging toward the basket with five seconds left in the game, his team trailing by two points. Georges Niang sets his feet and takes what appears to be a pretty standard charge. But there’s no call, the ball bounces on the floor and the officials eventually blow the whistle on Niang during a scramble. That allows Kansas to tie the game and win in overtime behind Elijah Johnson’s epic 39-point performance. The Big 12 would later admit its referees should have called a charge, but that’s a moot point right now. It’s a shame we’ll remember this game as the No-Call Game as opposed to the Elijah Johnson Game.
  • Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 (March 14): The Bears needed a victory in this Big 12 quarterfinal to give themselves a chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Then they fell behind by 20 points. Dead in the water. Except Pierre Jackson started raining jumpers and floaters all over the place, and Baylor inexplicably tied the game in the final minute of regulation. But the officials made a controversial foul call (that’s a trend this year, across all conferences) and sent Phil Forte to the line, where he made both. That’s an exciting finish in and of itself. But it got even better: Nobody’s quite sure how it happened, but with just seconds left on a desperation, mad-dash possession, Jackson dribbled straight through two Oklahoma State defenders and found himself absolutely, completely wide open from three-point land. He had a chance to win at the buzzer. No hands contesting him, no defender in sight. He missed. That sent the Bears to the NIT, and at least they won that tournament. But Jackson’s failed buzzer-beater signaled the end of Baylor’s tourney chances, and it was another dark moment during an underachieving season.

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Assessing the Season: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by dnspewak on March 28th, 2013

As the season winds down and Big 12 teams continue to find themselves eliminated from the post-season, we’re taking a look back on a team-by-team basis at the 2012-13 season. Next up: Oklahoma State.

Final Record: 24-9 (13-5)

The Expectations: Oklahoma State was considered a mixed bag before the season began. There were whispers that Travis Ford should worry about his job status, and even though he’d brought in stud freshman Marcus Smart, Ford had gained an undesirable reputation as the Guy Who Recruits But Can’t Coach. Everybody universally agreed that with Smart, sophomore Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown and several other returning contributors, this team had good enough individual players to compete near the top of the Big 12. But would they be the right assortment of pieces? This had been a bad team a year ago, and heart-and-soul guard Keiton Page had graduated. Luckily, scouts and opposing coaches raved about Marcus Smart in the preseason. They told us he wasn’t a typical freshmen — that he was mature beyond his years and the missing piece that would help Nash reach his expectations as a scoring wing. He wasn’t necessarily a natural point guard, though, so there were questions as to whether he’d be effective in that position.

Marcus Smart Had a Huge Year

The Actual Result: Smart can play point. Pretty freakin’ well, actually. So well that he was named Big 12 Player of the Year. As the team’s top defender, top scorer, top assists man and second-leading rebounder, Smart was that rare freshman leader who demanded respect from his teammates and completely revamped the attitude within his program. He opened up more opportunities for Nash, and that was evident right away. In the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Cowboys dismantled North Carolina State thanks to 43 combined points from Smart and Nash — the Wolfpack were ranked in the top-10 at the time. The Cowboys struggled from a New Year’s hangover and lost four of six games from December 31 to January 21. They couldn’t close the deal at home against Gonzaga in one of the more anticipated home games at Gallagher-Iba in quite some time, and then they lost three road games at Oklahoma, Kansas State and Baylor. That’s when the light truly went on in Stillwater. On February 2, the Cowboys won at Kansas and rode into mid-February with a seven-game winning streak. With a chance to take control of the league and sweep Kansas on February 20, Oklahoma State dropped a double-overtime heartbreaker to the Jayhawks an in ugly game that set basketball back by at least five decades. It couldn’t break KU’s hold on the Big 12, but it prevented Kansas State from winning the league outright by knocking off the Wildcats at home in the regular season finale. KSU returned the favor by handling OSU fairly easily in the Big 12 semifinals the next week. Then, the NCAA Tournament selection committee decided to play a cruel joke on Oklahoma State, rewarding its 24-win season with a #5/#12 match-up against Oregon. The Ducks, ranked in the Top 25 for much of the year, were probably under-seeded by at least four lines. At least. Guess what happened? Oklahoma State lost.

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Big 12 M5: 03.26.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 26th, 2013

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  1. The search has begun for Texas Tech‘s next head basketball coach, but this is hardly a typical situation. One of the top candidates for the job is, um, the guy who coached the team this year. Chris Walker won only 11 games at the helm with the Red Raiders this season, but the league’s coaches praised him often for the way he dealt with the aftermath of the Billy Gillispie fallout. It would be silly to judge Walker based solely on his performance as an interim, so you’d have to think he’ll at least get a fair shot at landing the full-time position. The other names listed in the early portion of the search are, at the very least, intriguing: Scott Sutton (Oral Roberts), Doc Sadler (current Kansas staff member and former Nebraska head coach), Steve McClain (former Wyoming head coach and highly-regarded, longtime assistant currently with Indiana) and Barry Hinson (Southern Illinois). Sutton’s probably the best candidate of those choices, but he seems to have made a lifestyle choice to stay at Oral Roberts. Sadler didn’t fare well at Nebraska, McClain’s tenure at Wyoming ended poorly, and Hinson’s team finished in last place in the Missouri Valley this season. Surely, other names will emerge. You would have to hope so.
  2. Imagine this: Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, and Le’Bryan Nash playing another year together in Stillwater. Banners would be hung. Numbers might be retired. Championships might be claimed. But for that to happen at Oklahoma State, the trio would need to skip the NBA Draft this summer. That might be a tough proposition. Smart’s projected as one of the top picks in the 2013 NBA Draft. Brown’s considered a first-rounder. And Nash might be a second-rounder. If for some reason they did all return, we’re talking about a team with limitless potential. “It’ll be scary,” Nash told The Oklahoman. 
  3. Texas had a bad season. Then it played in the CBI and lost to in-state opponent Houston. Rick Barnes obviously wasn’t very happy, so when reporters asked him whether he would ever consider scheduling the Cougars during the regular season, he took a bit of an elitist tone. He said he’d only play them at home in Austin, which is unfortunately a sentiment you often hear muttered by power-conference college basketball coaches. The aforementioned link is pretty snarky and critical, but it has a point. Teams like Texas often say they have nothing to gain by playing a team from a perceived “lesser” conference on the road, but it makes life impossible for non-BCS schools in terms of scheduling. It hurts potential rivalries, kills fan interest, and deprives people of solid basketball during non-conference play.
  4. Sorry, awkward teenagers in Lawrence, Kansas: your middle school dance has been cancelled during the Kansas Jayhawks’ Sweet 16 game against Michigan. Probably a good idea, since there surely wouldn’t have been anybody there. Now, they will need to make sure they don’t reschedule the dance for Sunday, when a possible Elite Eight game could be played. Oh, and don’t schedule it for April 6 or April 8, either. You know, just in case.
  5. We leave you on one final note: former Kansas State basketball player Dick Stone has passed away. He was a star in the 1950s, but at the age of 78, he was killed on Thursday in Florida when a man driving a pickup truck swerved into his parked car. Very tragic and very sad, and not the best way to end the Morning Five.
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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by BHayes on March 18th, 2013

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmidwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Bennet breaking down the Midwest Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

Midwest Region

Favorite: #1 Louisville (29-5, 17-4 Big East). It stands to reason that the top overall seed in the field is also the favorite to emerge from the Midwest Region. No team enters the NCAA Tournament hotter than Louisville, winners of 10 straight games and 13 of 14. Consider the Cards’ dominant second half of the Big East Tournament championship game a final warning for this field of 68 – there is no scarier team in this tournament.

"No Sleep Until Atlanta" For Siva, Pitino And The Rest Of The Louisville Cardinals, Your #1 Overall Seed

No Sleep Until Atlanta For Siva, Pitino And The Rest Of The Louisville Cardinals, Your #1 Overall Seed

Should They Falter: #2 Duke (27-5, 14-5 ACC). It’s been a quiet few days for the Blue Devils, as the weekend’s ACC discussion largely revolved around Miami. But there they lurk at the bottom of the Midwest Region, poised as ever for a March sprint. Let’s not forget that the Devils’ ACC Tournament loss to Maryland was the first time Duke had lost with a healthy Ryan Kelly, and the senior’s clean bill of health is a far greater blessing for the Blue Devils than a #1 seed ever could have been. Duke also owns a victory over Louisville from back in November, albeit one with an asterisk attached – Cardinal big man Gorgui Dieng missed the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. For now though, Coach K and company are happy to let Louisville absorb all the buzz as the region’s favorite, while the dangerous Blue Devils attempt to navigate a manageable road to Indianapolis.

Grossly Overseeded: #6 Memphis (30-4, 19-0 Conference USA). Bracket projections had the Tigers anywhere between a #6 and a #9 seed. Josh Pastner’s team maxed out its seed line by receiving the #6, but now comes the hard part – beating an NCAA Tournament team. Memphis did that just once in the regular season (a win over #14 seed Harvard), a rare gap in the resume for any team in the field, much less a team so highly seeded. Let’s put it this way — Middle Tennessee, the most controversial at-large selection in this field and a potential Third Round opponent of the Tigers, had two more victories over NCAA teams, and just one more loss than Memphis. That’s not to say that the Blue Raiders are a better team than Memphis (although perhaps we will get to find that out), but you get the point.   

Grossly Underseeded: #12 Oregon (26-8, 15-6 Pac-12). Likely the most underseeded team in the entire field. Sure, the Ducks slogged their way to the finish line of the regular season, but the return of Dominic Artis and an impressive three-game run to win the Pac-12 Tournament had most bracketologists predicting a spot in an #8/#9 game for Oregon. Committee chair Mike Bobinski admitted that the Ducks were actually on the #11 seed line and had to be moved down as a result of logistical issues elsewhere in the bracket, but either way, this team is better than their double-digit seed would indicate.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on March 8th, 2013

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

With the first tickets to the Big Dance being given out this weekend and regular season titles still up for grabs in the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and A-10, it should be one amazing weekend of college hoops. It’s the most amazing time of the year, so sit back and enjoy. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#17 Syracuse at #6 Georgetown – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

Better Make It a Double.

Boeheim is looking for answers at Syracuse.

  • Syracuse broke a three-game losing streak this week against DePaul while Georgetown lost for the first time in 11 games against Villanova. With the loss, the Hoyas dropped into a three-team tie for first place in the Big East with Marquette and Louisville. The Orange have struggled recently and had a tough time against the Hoyas defense two weeks ago at the Carrier Dome. Jim Boeheim’s team only went 4-20 from downtown and could not get anything going from their guards. The Hoyas struggled on offense as well but were able to rely on Otto Porter once again who put in 33 points. In order for Syracuse to snap out of this funk, they need to get more production from guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams. If both players can take better shots by driving the ball to the hoop, we will see a completely different Syracuse team. Georgetown put Villanova on the foul line 42 times earlier this week. Given the size of Triche and Carter-Williams, both players should be going straight to the basket in an attempt to draw fouls or get lay-ups. Keep a close on both players, as they are the keys to this game. If they are settling for jumpers, Syracuse is going to struggle again.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 03.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on March 5th, 2013

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

For some teams, the Championship Fortnight (as Kyle Whelliston would call it) begins this week. For most others, this is the final week of the regular season. Many teams sit squarely on the bubble and need to impress in their final two contests to show they deserve to be in the Tourney. We’ve waited all year for March. It’s finally here and all indications tell us it’s going to be a wild month. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Illinois at Iowa - 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on BTN (***)

illinois john groce

It looks like John Groce and Illinois are in but a couple more losses might change the equation

  • This is a hugely important game for both teams. At 7-9 in the Big Ten, Iowa is need of two wins to make its case for an at large tournament bid. They close the regular season at home against Illinois and Nebraska. If they can pick up the two victories and get to .500 in conference, Fran McCaffery and company make a decent case to get in. For Illinois, it looks like they will get in however they can ill afford to drop their next two games. In addition to this game at Iowa, they must travel too Ohio State. A loss against the Hawkeyes puts a ton of pressure on John Groce’s team heading into the last game of the season, so this one is critical. Look to see if Iowa’s size bothers the Illini. Illinois is a much better two-point shooting team than they are at three-point shooting team. However, getting points inside against Iowa’s length could be tough to come by. Regardless, Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams, and D.J. Richardson must be aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and trying to get to the line. If Illinois is settling for jumpers on the outside, they will lose. Iowa needs to win this game with defense. Their offense just isn’t strong enough to win it for them. Protecting the ball and playing good defense without fouling are their top priorities. If they are turning the ball over and fouling, Illinois will win. The team that wins the free throw battle should come out on top in this match-up.

#13 Ohio State at #1 Indiana - 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • In the first match-up this season between these two squads, Ohio State had no answer for Cody Zeller and Victor Olidipo. They combined to go 16-of-21 from the field and 17-of-21 from the line, grabbed 16 rebounds, and scored 50 of the 81 points. Throw in Christian Watford’s 20 points and IU’s front line obliterated OSU. If the Buckeyes want any chance to win this game in Bloomington, they must get way better defense from Evan Ravenel, Amir Williams, DeShaun Thomas, and LaQuinton Ross. Offensively, they can’t run with Indiana, however OSU’s half-court offense is suspect at best. So while their defense must create turnovers and get out on the break, they must be careful not to turn this game into a track meet. OSU’s ability to win this game sits squarely on the shoulders of their frontline. They need better defense and more scoring. If they can get that, they have a chance to win. Otherwise, this could be a blowout. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Conference Call: February 9 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 9th, 2013

Welcome to another edition of our Big 12 Conference Call! This week has been some kind of something hasn’t it? We have seen TCU take down Kansas in perhaps the biggest upset in the Big 12 era as well as Baylor and Oklahoma’s attempts to play themselves off the tournament bubble. There are bigger questions that loom too. Who has the inside track for Big 12 Coach of the Year? And, if Kansas continues to slide, who will win the Big 12? Today, we’ll hit on those topics and more. 

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

2. If Kansas doesn’t win the Big 12 title, who will sit atop the conference standings at the end of the year?

3. Imagine yourself on this year’s NCAA Tournament Committee and you’re forced to choose Baylor or Oklahoma to put in the field of 68. Which team would you go with and why?

4. Who do you like to win Big 12 Coach of the Year?

5. Which of the three Texas schools will have the highest finish — UT, Tech or TCU?

******

An unreal night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

It was an unbelievable night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

KC: Absolutely. With the way Kansas had been playing in January, the loss to Oklahoma State was coming. The Cowboys have plenty of talent and nobody was going to go undefeated in the Big 12 this season, anyway. But the loss to TCU -ranked lower in kempom than the likes of Quinnipiac and Yale- is the worst Kansas loss since before Larry Brown was coaching in the 80′s. Point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe shot a combined 5-for-27 with three assists against the Horned Frogs. In his last eight games, Johnson has more turnovers (28) than assists (25). If that doesn’t trouble you, nothing will.

NK: Most definitely. Kory hit the nail on the head — a slip up was bound to happen. To be truthful, I didn’t see one of this magnitude. Their loss to TCU Wednesday has gone down as easily the biggest upset in the Big 12 era in my opinion. The Jayhawks could only win in spite of their point guard problems for so long. And now in a time where a team like Kansas is supposed to separate themselves from the rest of their conference mates, they find themselves in a tighter league race. At least it’s better for the fans of other teams.

DS: They’re in a heck of a lot more jeopardy than they were a week ago, that’s for sure. And yet the Jayhawks still sit tied atop the league with Kansas State, and they own the tiebreaker with that win in Manhattan. So forget the TCU debacle. With half of the Big 12 schedule left to play, Bill Self once again has his team in position to win a regular season title. Kansas has serious issues on the offensive end, and it’s hard to envision this team doing a ton of damage in March, but it’s still the class of the Big 12. With Self’s track record, I’m expecting to see vintage Kansas show up against the Wildcats on Big Monday. But that game in Norman is a tough one this weekend.

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Big 12 M5: 02.05.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 5th, 2013

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  1. The weekly polls were updated on Monday and Indiana climbed to #1 in both the USA Today/Coaches and AP polls after its big win over Michigan on Saturday. Kansas dropped to #5 in both polls after losing to Oklahoma State over the weekend. Kansas State has been climbing up the rankings in recent weeks, and the Wildcats jumped five spots this week to #13 in the AP poll after wins over Texas and Oklahoma last week. Oklahoma State vaulted back into the polls with its win in Lawrence, landing at #22 this week in the AP poll and #24 in the USAT/Coaches.
  2. Did anyone guess Kansas State would be sitting at 17-4 and #13 in the country this late in the season? Relative to the talent at each school, Bruce Weber is having a similar season to his first year at Illinois when he took Bill Self’s players to the Sweet Sixteen. Weber has kept Frank Martin’s defense-first mentality on the forefront and the Wildcats have a chance to claim a tie for first place in the Big 12 next week at Kansas. They completed a season sweep of Oklahoma over the weekend after forcing 14 Sooner turnovers and holding them to 38.8% shooting from the field. A similar performance in Allen Fieldhouse next Monday against the offensively-challenged Jayhawks could spur the upset.
  3. Speaking of those offensive-challenged Jayhawks, Bill Self publicly defended senior point guard Elijah Johnson on Monday, 48 hours after telling Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, “We don’t have a point guard.” Johnson was 3-of-14 from the floor with four turnovers in the 85-80 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday. On Monday, Self said he’s sticking with Johnson in the lineup even though he thinks his senior is thinking too much while adjusting to a new position. “But that is the horse that we are gonna ride,” Self added. “And I believe that will be the best for our team.” The vote of confidence is nice, but does Self have much of a choice? If there was a Plan B at point guard, we would have seen it by now. Self’s best bet is to pump up Johnson and hope the additional confidence improves his performance by March.
  4. It’s not like Kansas lost to TCU, though. Oklahoma State had previously beaten North Carolina State this season, so there’s definitely talent on the Cowboys’ roster. It will be interesting to see if the big win in Lawrence propels Oklahoma State to reach its potential, as John Klein of the Tulsa World suggests. Freshman point guard Marcus Smart (25 points, nine rebounds, five steals) is one of the best point guards in the country, averaging 14.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, and 5.8 RPG this season. Sophomore guard Le’Bryan Nash is talented and capable of huge offensive nights but inconsistent, and we saw what junior guard Markel Brown can do, scoring 28 points in Saturday’s win.
  5. Oklahoma is vastly improved from last season thanks to head coach Lon Kruger and a solid season so far from Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye (10.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG). But the Sooners’ guard play has been inconsistent at times this season, which led to a 52-50 home loss to Kansas State on Saturday. Senior guard Steven Pledger had 20 points in a win against Baylor but sat out the final eight minutes against Kansas State. Sam Grooms almost singlehandedly gave the Sooners the comeback win over the Wildcats, but he couldn’t find the floor for most of the first half because of defensive struggles. Oklahoma has the coaching and talent to make the NCAA Tournament, but more inconsistency on the perimeter and tough losses like Saturday’s could have them on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 1st, 2013

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

The biggest game of the season thus far is upon us, as the top two teams in the Big Ten collide in what could be an epic battle of offensive efficiency. There are some important match-ups in the other conferences as well that should keep your Super Bowl weekend packed with great sports. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#1 Michigan at #4 Indiana – 6:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Darius Morris may be gone, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is primed for big things in 2011-12. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s defense could be the key to a Michigan win. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Michigan versus Indiana should be one of the best offensive duels we see in college hoops this season. Both teams have scoring options all over the floor, shoot the lights out from two and three, and have proven to be incredibly efficient all season long. There is very little that separates these two teams on paper. One factor that could play huge role even before the game starts is the availability of Michigan forward Jordan Morgan. Morgan rolled his ankle early in the game against Illinois and sat out against Northwestern on Wednesday. Morgan gives the Wolverines another sneaky offensive threat and size on the inside. He is a key player on the defensive glass, which will be very important for the Wolverines. If Indiana gets too many second chance points, it will be a long night for John Beilein and company. You will also want to keep an eye on the potential match-up between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is clearly the Hoosiers most valuable player at this point and is filling up the stat sheet recently. Michigan must find a way to lock down Oladipo. Additionally for Michigan, keep an eye on Jon Horford. Horford has been very solid in the last two games making up for the loss of Morgan. The Wolverines will need Horford to be at the top of his game, if they want to win. Finally, keep a close eye on Michigan’s demeanor early in the game. If you recall, the Wolverines came out rattled and uninspired against Ohio State on the road. Early mistakes put them behind big. If that happens in Bloomington, it’s unlikely Michigan can bounce back against an offense as good as Indiana’s. If Indiana gets off to a fast start, you won’t see the Wolverines panic.  However, if the fast start is due to mistakes and uninspired play, it’s curtains. While the offenses will be at center stage in this game, the winner will be the team that plays better defense. Watch perimeter defense closely as both teams are excellent from distance. Whoever is able to defend the perimeter better will win the game.

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Big 12 M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 30th, 2013

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  1. We have seen the best (Puerto Rico Tip-Off) and the average (currently 3-3 in the Big 12) from Oklahoma State, but with a team as talented as the Cowboys are, why haven’t they been able to stake a claim as one of the top teams in this league? What’s keeping this team from flourishing? CowboysRideForFree has an idea of what it could be: the three-quarter court trapping press. The article cites this as a catalyst for making a comeback in the Oklahoma game even though they ultimately lost. And as recently as Saturday, the Cowboys fell behind 13 points to West Virginia before Travis Ford implemented a combination of the press and 2-3 zone to turn that game into a 14-point victory. Maybe it has something to do with the press but there’s much more to Oklahoma State’s inconsistencies than that. Not knowing what you’ll get from Le’Bryan Nash is part of the problem too. They better fix their issues fast because the last thing the Cowboys want is their bubble to burst come Selection Sunday.
  2. Wednesday could be an important day in the history of Iowa State basketball. Dating back to 1988, the Cyclones have made the trip to Gallagher-Iba Arena 17 times and 17 times they have left Stillwater empty-handed. That also means head coach Fred Hoiberg never saw a Cyclone victory there as a player either. Iowa State already knows the Kansas State win was a step in the right direction but now it’s time to really make a statement. Are they able to go on the road, to one of the toughest arenas in the Big 12, and beat a fellow bubble team? It’s a big game for both clubs but it would mean so much for the Cyclones to get this one without the help of “Hilton Magic.”
  3. Will Spradling is one of the more prolific shooters in the league but at just 35% from three on the year, the Kansas State junior is, ahem, shooting for more consistency from outside. Spradling says he’s going back to an old routine he used to do with his dad where he makes 50 threes during practice… with one hand. “I’ll do that at least once a day,” Spradling said. “That has my shot feeling great right now. Two of the last three games I’ve shot it well and played well. I feel like I’m getting better.” That’s about the worst thing you could hear if you’re an opposing coach.
  4. How bad has Texas been this season? Here is their season-in-review in a neat 257-word layout. The Horns scored their two season highs in points against North Carolina and Baylor, both games I happened to see take place live. But they have the tougher task of matching up against Kansas State in Manhattan tonight. Texas hasn’t won a game at the Octagon of Doom since 2008 and I will go ahead and say Kansas State will have their way with Longhorns. For the first time in the Rick Barnes era, they will be looking towards next season while still in the middle of their current season.
  5. History has told us that when a coach like Bob Huggins talks/yells/face turns bright red, players listen and respond in the way he would like. There hasn’t been a whole of that this season but in Monday’s game against Kansas, at last, someone finally listened. Aaric Murray explained how to appropriately listen to coach when he’s yelling: “You’ve got to listen to the message and not how he’s saying it. I think I was listening to how he said it instead of what he was saying. When I stopped worrying about him [Huggins], everything was fine.” 17 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals later, hopefully Murray is a success story. Now about the rest of his teammates…
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Big 12 Conference Call: January 12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 12th, 2013

Welcome to the first Conference Call of conference play! We are one full week into the Big 12 season and you can already put each team into one of four boxes: the you’ll-know-how-they-finish box (Kansas, TCU and Texas Tech), the disappointment box (Texas, West Virginia), the surprise box (Kansas State) and the don’t-know-where-to-put-them box (Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma). Today, we discuss the futures for some of these teams, some of the disappointing players and much more. 

Things have been a-ok for Bruce Weber and Kansas State (Associated Press)

Things have been a-ok for Bruce Weber and Kansas State (Associated Press)

  1. Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?
  2. Iowa State was a bank shot three away from picking up a huge win vs Kansas in Lawrence. What do we make of the Cyclones this season?
  3. If you were to stop the season right now, which Big 12 coach would be the first to get fired?
  4. Which player has been the biggest disappointment this season?
  5. Divisional round of the NFL playoffs are Saturday and Sunday. Who ya got?

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1. Two of the league’s biggest disappointments, West Virginia and Texas, played an ugly basketball game Wednesday with the Mountaineers prevailing in OT. Which team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday?

  • KC: Both teams will hear their names called on Selection Sunday when the NIT picks the scraps off the table. Even if you assume Myck Kabongo will return to his old self immediately next month, the Longhorns will be lucky to be above .500 at that time and Kabongo isn’t good enough to change that ship’s course. And again, that’s assuming he will be great from the get-go, and I don’t think that will be the case. With no marquee wins on the schedule, West Virginia probably needs 12 more wins this season — giving them 20 — to make the dance. You have to jump through a few mathematical hoops to find 12 more wins on their schedule at this point.
  • DS:  I’d be surprised if either West Virginia or Texas even make the NIT. The first half of the season has been a disaster for both squads. It’s been so bad, in fact, that both teams are ranked outside of the top 100 in the RPI. I mentioned earlier this week that it’d be silly to even attempt to determine what Texas must do from this point forward to make the NCAA Tournament. That’s how far off the bubble the Longhorns are right now, and the same goes for West Virginia. Look at the Mountaineers’ “resume,” if you even want to call it that. There’s that one-point win against a Virginia Tech team that has lost four straight games by a combined 96 points. Oh, and Bob Huggins‘ team also beat a better-than-you-might-think Eastern Kentucky team at home. So there’s that, too. Texas, meanwhile, is hanging its hat on a home win over a North Carolina team that’s crumbling by the day, and Myck Kabongo won’t return from suspension until mid-February. There are Great West teams with more compelling CBI resumes than Texas and West Virginia right now. Well, almost.
  • NK: Regardless of how this season was going to turn out for the Mountaineers, they weren’t going to be anything like last year’s team. That squad had Tournament-tested guys like Darryl “Truck” Bryant and Kevin Jones. Now with those players gone, Deniz Kilicli, Aaron Brown and Jabarie Hinds were supposed to assume bigger roles this season, but in turn, they are having worse seasons this year than last. For some reason, I can’t close the door completely on Texas. Javan Felix has proven he is more than just a back-up point guard in Kabongo’s absence. Though he needs to make shots at a higher percentage, Sheldon McClellan is a better number one option than anyone West Virginia has. I don’t think either team will make the Tournament now but I’d say Texas has better odds of making it than WVU.

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