Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Kansas State (10-6)
Texas A&M (8-8)
Oklahoma State (8-8)
Iowa State (7-9)
Texas Tech (4-12)
All Conference Team:
Sherron Collins (G), Kansas
Willie Warren (G) Oklahoma
Craig Brackins (F) Iowa State
Damion James (F), Texas
Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas
6th Man.James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State
Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas
What You Need to Know.
KU Dominance. Of the 13 years that the Big 12 has held a conference tournament, Kansas has won the crown six times, which is the most of any Big 12 school. Kansas has been deemed the regular season conference champion nine times in those 13 years, sharing the title in three of those times. Every time Kansas has shared the title the Jayhawks were the two-seed in the conference tournament.
Two At the Top. It’s very possible that Texas and Kansas could share the Big 12 title this season. Texas’ toughest conference games are Kansas (in Austin), then Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road. The Longhorns seem to have the advantage over the Jayhawks when it comes to an easier conference schedule, but with KU bringing back all of its talent and adding one of the top freshman in the nation, I still believe that Kansas will stay atop the conference alone.
Where are the Tigers. Where do you rank the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 this season? After being picked seventh by the coaches in last year’s preseason poll, the Tigers finished third and won the Big 12 Tournament en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Mike Anderson will continue to play his “Fastest Forty Minutes” style, and behind leadership from senior guard JT Tiller (Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009), and sophomore guard Kim English, it’s hard to determine where Mizzou will be at the end of the season. Anderson has put together a very athletic lineup, which should be able to play to his coaching style, but their lack of experience and a consistent scorer could hurt them.
X-Factor. Freshman phenom Xavier Henry could be the key to Kansas’ hopes of a second national title in just three seasons. A late decider, Henry could very well be one of the most productive freshmen in the NCAA this season. He is surrounded by unbelievable talent that will hog most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up many scoring opportunities for Henry.
Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv). If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.
Location: Columbia, MO
Conference: Big 12, Automatic bid Coach: Mike Anderson (62-34 in three seasons)
08-09 Record: 28-6 (12-4) Last 12 Games: 10-2 (streak: 3 wins)
Best Win: 62-60, Kansas, 2/9
Worst Loss: 56-51, at Nebraska, 1/10
Off. Efficiency Rating: 114.9; #18 Def. Efficiency Rating: 88.2; #8
Nuts n Bolts
Star Player(s): DeMarre Carroll (Sr), 16.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 37.8% 3-pt FG; Leo Lyons (Sr), 14.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.0 APG
Unsung Hero: Zaire Taylor (Jr), 6.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, two game-winning shots (vs Texas, Kansas); J.T. Tiller (Jr), 7.9 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): none Key Injuries: none Depth: 38.7% mins (#23) Achilles Heel: Free-Throw shooting (66.8%, #242 in the country) Will Make a Deep Run if…: They can avoid an early hole. They are 1-5 this season when trailing by double digits at half, 27-1 when they’re not. Will Make an Early Exit if…: Cold shooting sets in, and Mizzou cannot press after made baskets
Last Year Invited: 2003 (NCAA Second Round)
Best NCAA Finish: 2002, 1994, 1976, Elite Eight
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): -0.31 wins per appearance
Six Degrees to Detroit: Some of Missouri’s best players in the late-’80s–Doug Smith, Lee Coward, Nathan Buntin, John McIntyre–were from the Detroit area, leading to the “Detroit Tigers” nickname for some of those squads.
Distance to First Round Site: 1498 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: Nothing specific, just a montage of Don Faurot (inventor of the Split T!), Brad Pitt, Norm Stewart, Sheryl Crow, Jon Sundvold & Steve Stipanovich, Robert Loggia, Chase Daniel & Jeremy Maclin, ESPN’s John Anderson (and Matt Winer), and the invention of Homecoming.
School Wishes It Could Forget: The Paige Sports Arena incident, the Popcorn incident, Ricky Clemons, Athenagate, and pretty much everything that happened to Mizzou basketball between 2003 and 2008. You appreciate a high-character team like Mizzou’s current squad a lot more when you’re seen some less-than-stellar characters make their way through town.
Prediction: The main expectation for this team is to make the second weekend and play a strong game against (likely) Memphis in the Sweet Sixteen. There is nobody in the West Region that Mizzou cannot beat, but Memphis has the defense to force bad shots and the streaky offense to potentially make a run in the first half to build some cushion for a Mizzou second half run. A second round game against Marquette could be explosive and fun, but Mizzou should have the depth and inside presence to wear down the Golden Eagles.
Major RTC stories: None Preview written by… Bill Connelly, Rock M Nation
With the release of the brackets on Sunday evening there has been quite a bit of controversy (Arizona over St. Mary’s being the predominant gripe) and there have been some interesting moments with Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps ganging up on Dick Vitale and almost bringing him to tears. However, it was nothing compared to the furor that we saw when the BCS released its final poll that determined the BCS bowl games and more importantly the national championship. We thought it would be a fun exercise to try to make a mock BCS basketball system. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. There are a couple polls I excluded for other reasons: Kenneth Massey’s (wasn’t updated yet) and Jerry Palm’s (not free). I did not throw out the high and low computer polls for two reasons: (1) we only had 3 available and (2) they were fairly similar with a few exceptions (Gonzaga in the RPI, but they weren’t going to be a factor anyways because of Memphis). ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI didn’t include the games from Sunday, but after looking at the final results they would not have had any impact on the rankings based on the teams involved. Here are the results:
Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and MVC Conferences.
Kansas didn’t rebuild, they reloaded this season. After questions whether this team would be able to be as good as they were last season with basically only Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, this new class has gelled together and Bill Self was able to prove that he is one of the best developers of talent in the nation and also the Big 12 Coach of the Year. As I said in my preseason predictions, Kansas could fly under the radar and by the end of the season have a seasoned team. I just didn’t think they would actually win the conference. Oklahoma has also had a great season, but the loss of Blake Griffin over two key games was the difference between winning the conference and finishing second. I’m sure a lot of people were surprised to see Missouri be as successful as they were this season. You just didn’t know if Mike Anderson had the guys he wanted to play high pressure defense. But probably the surprise for me is the performance of Texas. To be real honest, I am really surprised how many people feel so confident Texas is comfortably in the tournament after the inconsistencies this team has had this season. I had high expectations for them to win the Big 12, but the non-existence of a player to step up to play point guard has really hampered this team. But I’ll have more on Texas later. Kansas St., Texas A&M and Oklahoma St. all have realistic desires of making the NCAA Tournament.
John Stevens is featured columnist for RTC. His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.
Ask any college basketball coach what a team needs to succeed in March and you’ll get a variety of answers — solid point guard play, a big inside threat, conditioning, luck, a guarantee that John Stevens will NOT bet on you — all popular answers. A “go-to” guy is also a popular response, but I think history has shown that simply one standout player will not prove sufficient. These days you have to have a balanced squad in addition to having at least two players you can call actual “go-to” guys. A viable third option can have you breathing rarified air, indeed. This season has proven incredibly interesting in that we have a lot of teams that are being seemingly led — whose very identities are made — by a couple of standout players. In addition, if these teams that are led by Dynamic Duos see a helpful third option emerge — watch out. There’s at least one of these teams in each of the major conferences, so let’s take a look at them.
ACC — Miami (FL)
True, the Hurricanes’ schedule is a little bland, but you can’t ignore a team with tough wins both at Kentucky and at Boston College. Jack McClinton (16.9/2.8/3.1) and Dwayne Collins (12.1/7.8/1.3) have propelled this Miami team that has eleven guys who average at least 10 minutes a game which means that they have many options in terms of developing that third option. Cyrus McGowan is an efficient player who provides 7.2/6.1 and he does it averaging 5 minutes less than the other significant scorers on that team, but the most likely candidate here to step up as the third option is James Dews, who averages 9.2/2.7 but upped his game in those big wins above against UK and BC by contributing 18 and 12, respectively. You gotta give props to a guy who elevates himself in the big games.
Big 12 — Missouri
On their way to a 13-3 record so far, Missouri hasn’t exactly been sleeping on the job schedule-wise, tallying wins against USC and a surprising California side and losing a tough one to Xavier. To that end, DeMarre Carroll (16.1/6.6) and Leo Lyons (14.6/6.2) have been a true Dynamic Duo for the Tigers because after that the production falls off to Matt Lawrence (9.6/2.3), especially in terms of rebounding (note: of course, Lyons needs to get this recent traffic thing sorted out). Along with J.T. Tiller, Lawrence represents the most likely candidate to be the next option; Tiller averages the third most minutes on the team but Lawrence is actually more productive despite playing 4 fewer minutes per game.
I bet Demarre can beat me at curls. (photo credit: kansan.com)
Big East — Notre Dame
I know I don’t have to tell you about Luke Harangody; despite the special player he is I personally find more excitement watching Kyle McAlarney (16.6/2.6/3.4) because the man just has locker-room range. Seriously, he’d shoot from his dorm room if they’d let him. And even then you better get a guy on him. ND might not seem like a Dynamic Duo-led team because they have two other starters — Tory Jackson and Ryan Ayers — averaging over 30 minutes a game (Jackson actually plays more than Harangody, by the numbers), but the offensive dropoff is certainly evident after McAlarney and the team is defined by those top two fellows. Jackson is the obvious third option candidate, here; he puts together a good floor game on the whole (4.6 rpg/5.9 apg/1.5 spg). It’s not like he doesn’t do enough, but if he became even more of a third scoring option to take even just a little of the heat off of the Harangody/McAlarney exacta, Notre Dame will become an even bigger Final Four threat come March.
Big Ten — Michigan State
People still seem to be defining the Fighting Izzos by that rectal-exam-with-an-audience that UNC gave them a while back. This is a mistake. Raymar Morgan (15.1/7.1) and Kalin Lucas (13.9/5.9 apg) have been the Dynamic Duo for Sparty so far, as everyone knows, but these guys have reeled off nine straight since getting tuned-up by the Tar Heels and they basically have their third option back, now, in the form of Goran Suton, already averaging 9.2/6.8 in only nine games back. This will likely continue to rise. It makes Michigan State a team you cannot ignore as we enter the second half of the season. They’ve obviously put the North Carolina game behind them. Everyone else should, too.
Pac-10 — Arizona State
We all know James Harden (23.1/5.8/4.7) and we’re getting to know Jeff Pendergraph (13.6/7.1). After that, the offensive production and glasswork drops off a little to Richard Kuksiks (10.9/3.6), the apparent choice for presumed third option, here. He’s up to playing even more minutes than Pendergraph on the average, and he’s shooting a pretty tasty 53% from 3-point range. I am, however, going to anoint Derek Glasser as the best option for third-man-in; he’s only contributing 6.4 points (fifth on the team) but he’s a great distributor of the ball (5.3 apg, leads team), has shown a tendency to come up with a timely pilfer, and is darn reliable at the line (81.1%, second on team) — all important qualities during tournament time. Even the slightest increase in his point production would make ASU even more dangerous than they already are.
SEC — Kentucky
The textbook Dynamic Duo team. Probably not a better example in all of college basketball this season. We’re not even going to talk about Jodie Meeks’ (24.2/3.4, 90.1% FT) legendary performance last night and Patrick Patterson (18.9/9.3) is creeping up every online NBA mock draft, a bittersweet fact for Wildcat fans. After that, the offensive production falls all the way down to Perry Stevenson at 7.1ppg. Heck, Patterson is actually third on the team in assists (2.6). As far as possibilities for third-option status, with this team that’s a tough question. They are absolutely loaded with pure, talented athletes, but UK followers have waited all year for a third player to assert himself. Still hasn’t happened. It has to for this team, because Meeks can’t score 54 every night and there will probably be more than one night where Meeks goes cold and Patterson is well-defended (or vice-versa). My choice for third option for this team is DeAndre Liggins, the team’s assist leader at only 3.6 apg. If he can cut down on freshman mistakes and provide even a small increase in his point production, Kentucky will be formidable — and that means this year, not next year. Without a third option, Selection Sunday might get a little tense for this Kentucky team.
It will be especially interesting to see if Miami (FL), Missouri, and Kentucky eventually see a third player emerge for them, since they’re…well, it’s too early to use the “b-word,” but let’s just say they’re fighting for tournament entry right now. Even if it isn’t the player I’ve predicted, if any of these squads see a third person elevate his game in hopes of providing more assistance to the Dynamic Duo already leading them, you best keep an eye out for them. These teams are close to making the jump, even now. Adding a good third option to their particular Dynamic Duo will improve them exponentially, and I wouldn’t want to see any of them in my sub-bracket.
Miami (FL)’s Eddie Rios was suspended indefinitely for the second time this season for a violation of team rules. Missouri’s Leo Lyons was also suspended indefinitely relating to his arrest for failure to pay an outstanding traffic ticket. Pay your tickets, kiddies.
LMU’sBill Bayno resigned due to medical reasons; he will be replaced by assistant coach Max Good (currently 1-11 this season).
The First of Many Ginormous Mondays.
Louisville 87, Notre Dame 73 (OT). This was a fantastic game, and the third in a row that came down the last possession of regulation for the battle-tested Cards (who won all three). The Big East is going to be like this all year long, and the teams that can make plays in the last two minutes will be sitting at 11-7 and staring at a top four NCAA seed, and those that don’t will be at 7-11 and needing a nice run in the Big East Tournament to get back on the bubble. Terrence Williams and Luke Harangody were both pretty much unstoppable in a mano-a-mano passion play that rivaled anything we’ve seen in a while. T-Will blew up the stat sheet, going for 24/16/8 assts/3 stls, while Harangody showcased a variety of spins and fadeaway jumpers in a 28/13 night. Both teams stepped up their games defensively down the stretch, as Louisville outscored ND 3-2 in the last seven minutes. Harangody in particular didn’t score a single point during that period and overtime. Louisville moved to 3-0 in the conference, with #1 Pitt coming to Freedom Hall on Saturday. It’s amazing to think that a mere two weeks ago everyone was writing the Cards off, including us. A couple of final notes on this game – the Earl Clark slam “over everyone in the building,” according to Jay Bilas, was phenomenal (see below). It really seemed as if his arms were something like the trees in Lord of the Rings on that dunk.
Also, the final play of regulation where ND threw the ball into the backcourt did not appear from our view to be a backcourt violation as it was called by the ref. It was a harmless error from Louisville’s perspective, but how amazing would that ending have been if T-Will had ended the game on a wild play like that?
Oklahoma 78, Texas 63. What was most surprising about this game was just how uncompetitive Texas was throughout. Texas couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (34%), and AJ Abrams was the chief culprit (8-27 incl. 3-15 from three). Blake Griffin was his usual self, going for 20/10, but he was assisted by three other Sooners in double figures. Honestly, we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of production for Oklahoma outside of Griffin/Warren, but it hasn’t happened yet. Jeff Capel really has this team playing well.
Other Games of Mild Interest. Not much on the slate tonight, but Davidson and Steph Curry were in action.
Davidson 70, Appalachian St. 52. Curry Watch – 16/6 assts for Curry on 7-13 shooting in a road win.
In the wake of the Kelvin Sanctions fiasco, Indiana has responded to the five major NCAA allegations and believes that it has already punished flagellated itself enough. Since IU is painting Sampson as the fall guy, he felt the need to defend himself in a separate letter to the NCAA.
The NCAA is proposing a change to the college goaltending rule to make it mesh with the NBA version – a ball that hits the backboard may no longer be blocked whether it is moving in an upward or downward motion. Our biggest pet peeve, the lack of a collegiate block/charge restricted area under the basket, was merely “discussed.” Wonderful.
Orchestration, or tampering, Coach Crean? Say what you really mean.