Who Won the Week? Two Undefeated Teams, But Certainly Not The Third…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 7th, 2014

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Who Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Wichita State

Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

Cleanthony Early was outstanding this week for the Shockers. (AP)

The nation’s winningest team cleared its toughest conference hurdle Wednesday night in defeating Indiana State in Terre Haute, led by senior forward Cleanthony Early’s 19 points. From here on, the Shockers have better than 50 percent odds to go undefeated in the regular season, according to KenPom.com, and about 35 percent odds to make it to the NCAA Tournament unblemished. Wichita State’s reign over the Missouri Valley has been so strong this year that only two teams – Missouri State and Indiana State – have even finished within 10 points of them. Tomorrow’s game at Northern Iowa is the toughest remaining tilt for the Shockers, which also sandblasted Evansville 81-67 last Saturday.

(Related winners: Gregg Marshall, whose stock will never be higher, even if he never wants to leave; the Missouri Valley, which is certain to get some more NCAA Tournament win shares, even without Creighton in the conference. Related losers: Indiana State, the MVC”s second-best team, which probably has to win Arch Madness to make the NCAAs; Evansville, perpetually anonymous in purple.)

LOSER: Arizona

Of the triumvirate of teams that came into last weekend undefeated, only two came out unscathed. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they weren’t one of them. Their road trip to California, the toughest game left on their schedule at that point, turned out to be undone by a last-second jumper from Golden Bears’ guard Justin Cobbs over center Kaleb Tarczewski, giving Cal a 60-58 win. That news was bad enough, but worse was what came after — that sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, a starter, had broken his foot during the game and would be out for the season. In Thursday’s 67-65 win over Oregon, Arizona looked disjointed offensively and saw star freshman Aaron Gordon injure his leg in a game in which he made just 2-of-11 free throws. The Wildcats actually trailed the disintegrating Ducks with just 90 seconds left before point guard T.J. McConnell made a three-pointer that gave them the lead for good. Sean Miller only played seven players, even accounting for Gordon’s injury, and its lack of depth could be problematic should more injuries arise or should fouls accumulate. It’s a shame to see this happen because a full-strength Arizona team looked to be head and shoulders above all but a few others around the country.

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Big 12 Bubble Watch: Texas is Here to Stay

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 23rd, 2014

Want a good laugh? Take a look at our Big 12 Bubble Watch from six weeks ago. Look at how gaudy those early season records were! Sigh, we were only kids then. But now is a lot different. Kansas appears headed for another Big 12 championship while early favorites Baylor and Iowa State are struggling to find themselves in conference play. Kansas State has turned around what could have been a disaster of a season following a co-Big 12 title last year. Oklahoma State is very much in the conversation for dethroning the Jayhawks and Rick Barnes’ Texas Longhorns continue to surprise us game after game.

(Ed. Note: While it was unclear in December who would win the Big 12, at least now we have a good enough sample size to project a team to take the conference’s automatic bid. For this particular scenario, that Big 12 champion is Kansas. Not considered in this Bubble Watch were TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia.) 

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I'm sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I’m sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In Very Good Shape

Oklahoma State: 15-3 (3-2); RPI: 12, SOS: 38

Analysis: It seemed like the world would come crashing down when Michael Cobbins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury and the Stevie Clark situation(s) flared up, but it wasn’t so. Marcus Smart is still doing Marcus Smart things and did you know Phil Forte is connecting on half of his three-pointers this season (53-for-106)? Seriously. Oklahoma State managed to be a few possessions from winning at both Kansas State and Kansas (and for that matter, a few possessions from losing at West Virginia). While having Memphis and Colorado as good non-conference wins, nice RPI and SOS numbers, no bad losses, and the rough part of their schedule still to come, Travis Ford’s team has plenty of chances to add to its portfolio.

Iowa State: 14-3 (2-3); RPI: 10, SOS: 11

Analysis: Surprised to see these guys here? The Cyclones’ struggles have been well-documented and their chances at a Big 12 regular season title are dwindling, but there is still a lot going right for this team. Remember that win over Michigan in mid-November? Its luster started to fade but the Mitch McGary-less Wolverines have re-entered the Big Ten title race with consecutive wins at Wisconsin and against Iowa. Speaking of the Hawkeyes, Iowa State beat them last month as well. At this point in the season, the difference between the Cyclones and Baylor is their head-to-head match-up in Ames where Fred Hoiberg’s team took them out with ease. What will be interesting to see from the Cyclones now will be how they deal with DeAndre Kane’s minutes. He’s played 35 minutes or more in every Big 12 game while battling an ankle injury. Will Hoiberg try to work Bubu Palo, who was placed back on the team by a county judge, into the rotation to supplant Kane? We shall see.

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Oklahoma versus Kansas State Already with Bubble Implications

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 14th, 2014

Before I start, a quick shout-out to the Big 12 schedule makers for giving us great match-ups seemingly every night conference games occur. They deserve raises.

It'll be a contrast in styles when Lon Kruger's Sooners take on Kansas State. (Jason Bean/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

It’ll be a contrast in styles when Lon Kruger’s Sooners take on Kansas State. (Jason Bean/AP Photo)

You’ve seen and heard this before: The Big 12 has the best conference RPI in the country. In his latest bracketology, Jerry Palm has seven teams from the Big 12 making the field of 68, more than any other league. So the next biggest Big 12 Game of the Week of the Night gives us Oklahoma at Kansas State, the result of which will go a long way in figuring out how soft the NCAA Tournament bubble will be in two months. The Wildcats and Sooners are polar opposites of each other. Literally. Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in points per game (87.0 PPG) while Kansas State is dead last in that category (67.2 PPG). K-State is tops in the league in scoring defense (59.8 PPG) while Oklahoma sits at the bottom of the conference (79.2 PPG). It’s one of those “something’s gotta give” games.

Oklahoma’s four-guard lineup has been confusing for opponents to defend, as the Sooners run the floor, shoot from long range (38.4 percent from three as a team), and rebound well (fourth in the Big 12). Ryan Spangler, the lone ranger on the interior, is currently the second-best rebounder in the conference (9.2 RPG). Kansas State, on the other hand, appears to be more conventionally constructed with two bigs and three guards. The one-on-one match-up on which to focus tonight is Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield versus Kansas State’s Marcus Foster. Hield is averaging 20.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in Big 12 play while Foster was recognized as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week a week ago.

Before Saturday’s loss to Kansas, the Wildcats were on a 10-game winning streak which included wins over George Washington, Gonzaga and Oklahoma State. They are fortunate enough to have another important and winnable game at home here, but going forward, they’ll need to add additional credible road wins to their portfolio. The Sooners, despite a soft non-conference schedule, already have two marquee wins in Big 12 play: at Texas on January 4, and Saturday’s home win against Iowa State.

You can watch the Sooners and Wildcats tangle tonight at 7:00 ET on ESPN2. Something’s gotta give.

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Four Takeaways From Oklahoma Ending Iowa State’s Unbeaten Season

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 12th, 2014

Oklahoma came into its game against Iowa State with a bad taste in its mouth. The Sooners led for much of the first half against Kansas on Wednesday, but a late spurt from the Jayhawks just before halftime gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Cyclones came in as one of five teams with an undefeated record and had convincingly taken care of Baylor earlier in the week. Here are four things we learned from Iowa State’s visit to Oklahoma on Saturday.

OU's Cam Clark came into the Iowa State game leading the Big 12 in scoring. He only had 12...and the Sooners still won. (Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports)

OU’s Cam Clark came into the Iowa State game leading the Big 12 in scoring. He only had 12… and the Sooners still won. (Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Oklahoma Picked Their Poison and Chose Wisely: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed against a team like Iowa State. They can shoot, rebound, run the floor well and don’t turn the ball over much. So the game plan for Lon Kruger was to “surrender” the paint in favor of guarding the perimeter with all their might, and it worked. The Sooners, ranked 234th in Division I in two-point field goal percentage defense, according to KenPom, worked with their small lineup and allowed Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, DeAndre Kane and Dustin Hogue to get plenty of good shots in the paint, which they made. But ISU misfired on 20-of-26 attempts from three-point land. Will other Big 12 opponents take note of this strategy? Read the rest of this entry »
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Despite 11-1 Start, Oklahoma Season Outlook Still Unclear

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 22nd, 2013

Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso) is a Big 12 correspondent for Rush the Court. He filed this report after attending the Oklahoma-Texas A&M game in Houston on Saturday night.

Holy crap, what a basketball game, and I don’t mean that in a good way. The Sooners came into Houston riding a six-game winning streak with some rather impressive numbers. In four of those games, Oklahoma averaged 91.3 points per game, shot 48.2 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from three, and committed 10 or fewer turnovers. Texas A&M entered play on Saturday averaging 74.9 points per game, was shooting 49.6 percent from the floor and a modest 34.1 percent from the perimeter. Following the game, those numbers would go down (but for turnovers) for both teams.

OU's win over Texas A&M on Saturday night is perhaps their best win before Big 12 play. (AP photo)

Oklahoma’s win over Texas A&M on Saturday night is perhaps their best win before Big 12 play. (AP photo)

This meeting between former Big 12 opponents is probably one that shouldn’t happen again for a very long time. Oklahoma committed 22 turnovers, made fewer two-point baskets than the Aggies, and still somehow won the game by 12 points. Texas A&M was awful in so many respects. The Aggies had no desire to defend in their man-to-man defense, rebound (Oklahoma held an 11-rebound edge) or take good shots (26.9% FG; 2-of-23 on threes). I could try to break down this game more articulately but these Twitter reactions are just too golden instead.

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Big 12 M5: 12.18.13 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on December 18th, 2013

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  1. If anyone knows what North Carolina head coach Roy Williams is going through with respect to the suspensions of Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston, it is Texas head coach Rick Barnes. Last season, Texas guard Myck Kabongo was held out for the first 23 games of the season for a violation of NCAA rules, but it wasn’t until December 21 until Barnes even knew if Kabongo would play at all. This season, Williams and North Carolina sit in a similar state of semi-permanent limbo waiting for rulings on McDonald and Hairston. What exactly is the NCAA waiting on?
  2. Bill Self called his team’s passing so far this season “awful,” and he isn’t wrong. The Jayhawks have trouble in that department but thinks they are getting better as time goes on. “We’ve always played inside-out. I think we’ve been less effective doing that this year,” he told Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal. Perhaps most frustrating for Self is that he has two guys — Naadir Tharpe and Wayne Selden — who can make as sweet of passes as you’ll see any player in the country make, but they’ll turn around and fail to make a simple post entry pass on the next play. Frustrating, indeed.
  3. Oklahoma is 10-1 this season and senior forward Tyler Neal has been one of the reasons for the Sooners’ early success. At 6’7”, Neal has played all over the court this season, wherever head coach Lon Kruger needs him. “I’ve always kind of had that thought process that the more positions you can play — the more you can help the team and when guys go down whatever happens, foul trouble or whatever — the more you can be out there,” he told Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman. Neal is averaging 6.2 PPG and 3.6 RPG for the Sooners thus far this year.
  4. If you’re a fan of West Virginia sports, you will have some downtime this month. The Mountaineers’ football team is done for the year, and as Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette points out, the basketball team plays just two games in a 20-day period. WVU beat Marshall in a nice win on Saturday, it plays Purdue on Sunday, and then Bob Huggins’ team has another week off before playing William and Mary on December 29.
  5. Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall wants to play Kansas. Bill Self, on the other hand, doesn’t want to play Wichita State. Marshall told reporters recently that he offered Kansas a three-game series with sites rotating between Lawrence, Kansas City, and Wichita. Bill Self said he’s never heard from Marshall on the subject. You can tell the two sides won’t be playing anytime soon. The Shockers got another impressive win last night on the road at Alabama and improved to 11-0. They are ranked #11 in the country and would give Kansas a great game, but playing Wichita State doesn’t make sense for Kansas right now and likely won’t make sense as long as Self is coaching.
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Oklahoma’s High-Powered Offense Provides Some Hope in a Crowded Big 12 Race

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 10th, 2013

A month into the new season, the Big 12 may be more crowded at the top than originally thought. Perennial favorite Kansas is the most talented team, but the Jayhawks have looked vulnerable as their stud freshmen have shown that they are not immune to growing pains. After several signature wins, some other conference teams such as Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor have proven that they too will have the talent to compete with Bill Self’s squad. One Big 12 team that may be flying under the radar and could make some noise come conference play is Oklahoma. Lon Kruger’s young team is currently 8-1 with no bad losses — the single defeat was to Michigan State – and it may also have one of the best offenses in the league.

Lon Kruger

Lon Kruger has the Sooners playing well, but it’s crowded at the top of the Big 12. (AP)

In October, the Big 12 Preseason Media Poll selected the Sooners to finish fifth mostly due to the fact that Kruger had lost his top three scorers from the year before (Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, and Amath M’Baye) and did not have any immediate impact recruits to fill the void. Because of this, Oklahoma’s starting lineup consists of one senior, Cameron Clark, and four underclassmen. This was supposed to be a transition year for the Sooners, but after 27 years of success spanning six schools, maybe we should have had more faith in the underrated head coach. Those underclassmen who were supposed to take this year to transition into bigger roles are all averaging double-figure points per game and have converted the Sooners into the 13th most potent offense in the country, scoring 87.4 PPG. The reasons: They run their offense at a fast pace and score at a high rate. The young Sooners average 74.9 possessions per game (eighth nationally) and score 1.14 points per possession (25th).

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Yes, College Basketball Season is Finally Here

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 8th, 2013

College hoops fans everywhere, rejoice. Like Harry and Lloyd finally arriving in Aspen, we’re therrre. The anticipation for college basketball season has been building for the past several months, and we can finally take a deep breath and revel in the fact that the official start has arrived. Gone are the days of exhibition games and the abundance of preseason lists and rankings and speculation. Instead, they’re replaced by games that really count, and storylines that actually matter. Your weekends are about to get a lot more intriguing, and your weeknights a lot less boring. From Ames to Austin, Lubbock to Morgantown, and everywhere in between, the Big 12 is chock full of headlines bound to whet your appetite for action on the hardwood. So kick back, relax, and hear us out with a plethora of reasons on why you should be giddy with excitement for another rendition of college basketball.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

The Sprint Center will once again host the Big 12 Tournament in March.

  • For Kansas State fans, it’s a packed house − the Octagon of Doom − and Sandstorm pumping through the PA system so violently you can’t hear yourself think. And the thought of Bruce Weber pulling a purple blazer out of the wardrobe, similar to the orange one he donned at Illinois. Can Shane Southwell become “the man” in Manhattan?  We’ll have to wait and see.
  • In Fort Worth, the reminder of one of the biggest upsets in recent college basketball history has you clamoring for an encore performance again this year. An influx of new talent, and Trent Johnson at the helm provides reason to believe the Horned Frogs can make some noise in the Big 12.
  • Whether it’s a track suit on game day or a letter sweater on media day, there’s no doubt Bob Huggins in comfortable in his own skin. You can bet though, that experiencing his first losing record in nearly 30 years was anything but comforting. The West Virginia head coach is determined to turn things around this year in Morgantown. Is there enough talent this go-round to make the Mountaineers relevant in conference play? Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 11.07.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 7th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Texas finally made it official on Wednesday, hiring Steve Patterson to be the new director of athletics at the school. Patterson is leaving Arizona State after working as that school’s athletic director since March 2012, but he has plenty of ties to the state of Texas. He has a law degree from the Austin campus; he was the general manager of the Houston Rockets from 1989-93; he was senior vice president of the Houston Texans from 1997-2003; and he was part of the group that brought Super Bowl XXXVIII to Houston. A big decision ahead for Patterson will be how he handles the future of head coach Rick Barnes as the program has taken a nosedive the past few seasons. Fortunately for Barnes, Patterson won’t assume his new role until next summer.
  2. The promotions staff at Kansas State deserves a million percent raise for their latest ingenious idea. For K-State women’s basketball opener Friday night, the first 1,000 fans that enter the Octagon of Doom with a student ID will receive six slices of bacon in a tray. Kansas State’s sports information director Randy Peterson had this to say on the promotion: “Bacon is very popular.” And frankly, that’s all he needed to say. This man approves.
  3. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger announced Wednesday that the career of junior Keshaun Hamilton may be over before it had a chance to get started. Hamilton, a junior college transfer, has fallen behind Ryan Spangler and Cameron Clark on the Sooner front line but there doesn’t seem to be any playing time coming his way. “He’s kind of thinking through everything right now,” Kruger told the The Oklahoma Daily. “He doesn’t know if he wants to redshirt or go some place D-II right away in January.” As a sophomore at Labette Community College (KS) last year, Hamilton averaged 9.4 points, seven rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. It must be frustrating to arrive at a new place where he thought he’d get some playing time only to find there won’t be any. We wish him the best in his remaining career.
  4. SB Nation‘s Ohio State blog, Land-Grant Holy Land, has confirmed a report that several Nike brand schools, including Texas, will wear alternate throwback jerseys in a game or games yet to be determined later this year. Other Nike brands like Kentucky, Michigan State and Duke have throwback jerseys they could honor but… what exactly does Texas have to look back on? I guess they could try to resurrect the jerseys from the T.J. Ford/Final Four year in 2003. Kevin Durant would later wear his #35 with the same style in 2006. Sigh, those were happier times for Longhorns fans.
  5. Staying with SB Nation blogs, Wide Right & Natty Light has come up with perhaps the greatest shirt ever known to man just in time for the start of Iowa State’s season. If you’re a fan of the dearly-departed TV series Breaking Bad, then this has you written all over it. It’s Walter White meets Fred Hoiberg and thus creating: Hoisenberg, the hoops kingpin of Ames, Iowa. (!!!) If you’re not interested in buying it, it’s just as awesome to look at for free but if you do, show some love for WRNL and Iowa State hoops.
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Big 12 Team Preview: Oklahoma Sooners

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 4th, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Oklahoma.

Where We Left Off: Oklahoma returned to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since Blake Griffin was in Norman. It was a short trip, however, as the Sooners lost to San Diego State in the round of 64, 70-55. Head coach Lon Kruger enters his third season at Oklahoma and is one of the most experienced coaches in the country. He has gone largely unnoticed, though, especially this year in a league that has (rightfully) been focused on Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart and the budding rivalry between the two players and their schools. Kruger, on the other hand, is slowly turning things around at Oklahoma. He won 15 games his first season and 20 games last year. If he continues that upward tick this season he should get consideration for Big 12 Coach of the Year because his top three scorers are now gone.

Lon Kruger Will Face Plenty of Tests Early This Season (AP).

Lon Kruger Will Face Plenty of Tests Early This Season (AP).

Positives: Sophomore guard Buddy Hield gained meaningful experience last season as a freshman, averaging 25.1 MPG, 7.8 PPG, and 4.2 RPG. He deferred to upperclassmen like Romero Osby, Steven Pledger and Amath M’Baye, all of whom are gone. Hield could become the best offensive weapon for Kruger, which would mean good things for the future. Senior forward Cameron Clark also returns for the Sooners. Clark averaged 6.5 PPG last season while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Those two players, along with sophomore guards Je’lon Hornbeak (22.7 MPG, 5.6 PPG last season) and Isaiah Cousins (15.7 MPG) look to form the core for the Sooners offensively. Expect Hield and Clark to shoulder a lot of the load offensively early in the season.

Negatives: The Sooners averaged 70.6 PPG as a team last season and nearly 50 of those points per contest do not return this year. The top three leading scorers — Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Amath M’Baye — account for most of the missing production, averaging 37.7 PPG themselves. It’s unclear how that will affect returning players and if they will be able to maintain a similar offensive output. The 2013 recruiting class doesn’t look like it will make an impact this season either. Kruger signed a pair of three-star players, Frank Booker and Jordan Woodard, as well as unranked Keshaun Hamilton. It was a quiet recruiting class after signing Hield and Hornbeak, both four-star recruits in the class of 2012. With momentum following a five-win improvement last season, the Sooners will have surprised a lot of people if they continue that climb up the win totals column this season.

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Big 12 M5: 10.29.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 29th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. In the last few weeks leading up to the tip-off of the college basketball season, it seems like every media outlet universally decides to release as many meaningless preseason lists as possible. Despite how little weight these opinions actually carry, we love to read them anyway. On Monday, CBSSports.com posted a rundown of the top 30 players poised for a breakout season that featured Big 12 players Perry Ellis (#2), Thomas Gipson (#9), and Naadir Tharpe (#10). While there’s plenty of room for debate as to whom else from the Big 12 should have been included on this list, it’s clear that these three individuals will need to perform well this season for their respective teams to fulfill expectations. At Kansas, Tharpe will be the leader of the team at the point guard position, and despite the talents of Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden surrounding him, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Ellis lead the Jayhawks in scoring. In Manhattan, Gipson will pair with Shane Southwell to anchor Bruce Weber’s team.
  2. Ask anyone around the country who the best player in the Big 12 is this season, and you’ll probably receive a split vote between Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins.  Monday, NBCSports.com recognized Smart as its preseason Player of the Year, and joining Smart on the All American first team was fellow Big 12 rival, Andrew Wiggins. There’s been no shortage of words this preseason directed at Wiggins by both Smart and his head coach Travis Ford that have set up one of the most anticipated conference match-ups as there has been in recent memory. We will certainly enjoy the first two and a half months of the season, but the first meeting between these two teams on January 18 in Lawrence can’t come soon enough.
  3. As if the first two preseason lists we discussed weren’t enough, Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com posted an article discussing coaches on the hot seat as the season gets underway, and to no surprise, Texas’ Rick Barnes was featured. Although Barnes has made the NCAA Tournament 14 times in 15 years in Austin, the days of Kevin Durant, T.J. Ford, and D.J. Augustine are but a distant memory he once enjoyed with the Longhorns. Couple the lack of recent success with the fact that Texas has missed out on several recent high profile recruits from the Lone Star state – Julius Randle and Emmanuel Mudiay, to name a couple – and there’s no wonder Barnes’ job security seems to be in serious question. Given the facilities and alumni support at Texas, many consider the basketball program a sleeping giant waiting to erupt with the right fit at head coach.
  4. We discussed on Monday how Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger would be relying on Cameron Clark to bring leadership to this team this season, and because Halloween is on Thursday we figured any opportunity we had to use the name “Kruger” this week would be fitting (although the two are spelled differently, you get the point). This time, the Oklahoma head coach was featured at the school’s media day explaining how his trio of sophomore guards – Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak – would be looked upon to use the experience they gained during their freshman campaign to play a vital role in the Oklahoma system this season. Although the Sooners are replacing several outstanding scorers from last season, the goal will be to follow up last season’s success with a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
  5. In a press conference yesterday, Kansas head coach Bill Self explained how his lineup appears to be taking shape. Anticipated starters Naadir Tharpe, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Tarik Black are joined by Joel Embiid, Andrew White III, and Jamari Traylor, all of whom appear to be poised for significant minutes this season. In customary Self fashion, the lineup will fluctuate throughout the season, but the biggest battle in the first few exhibition games appears to be for the backup point guard position to Tharpe.  Both Frank Mason and Connor Frankamp were highly touted guards in Self’s latest recruiting class, and each will be important in spelling Tharpe at points throughout the season. Mason may be the more natural point guard of the two, while Frankamp is regarded as one of the best shooters in this year’s incoming class.
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Big 12 M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 28th, 2013

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  1. When former Memphis transfer and current Kansas Jayhawk Tarik Black began his search for a school to set up camp with for his final year of college, Bill Self recognized Black as an opportunity to provide leadership and toughness to his very young Kansas team. What Black received in exchange was a summer-long date with KU strength coach Andrea Hudy, who helped him tone up, which in turn has helped improve both his jumping ability and quickness. Black has been active in early practices this season, giving up his body for loose balls and setting an example for some of KU’s youngsters. While many of Self’s freshmen have garnered the media’s attention, Black might be just as important in providing physicality to a Kansas frontcourt that otherwise would lack toughness.
  2. The new college basketball rule changes have created quite a buzz in the last few weeks, impacting the way Kansas State guard Will Spradling thinks about playing defense. K-State head coach Bruce Weber said that after taking a charge in practice, Spradling will go back and review film to determine if the call would hold in live action. In addition to the new emphasis on the charge rule, defenders will be unable to “hand check” an offensive player in an effort to clean up the game this season, although many believe the rule changes will instead result in more free throw attempts. After teams tip off the season in exhibition play this week, we have a feeling Spradling won’t be the only one reviewing his defensive approach.
  3. Oklahoma State kicked off its exhibition schedule with an 80-70 win on Sunday against Campbellsville, an NAIA opponent from Kentucky, and it appears Travis Ford was underwhelmed with the effort, to say the least. In his post-game comments, Ford stated that after great practices the first two weeks of the season, his team has been lackluster during the last week and Sunday’s performance mirrored that stagnation. We know Marcus Smart’s team certainly has the ability to win big time games like it did in Lawrence last season, but to have a realistic shot to win a conference title, sustained focus night in and night out in the Big 12 is crucial.
  4. Lon Kruger’s team enters the 2013-14 season with the difficult task of not only replacing the scoring from former players Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye, among others, but also filling the leadership void left by last year’s group. Enter Cameron Clark, who recently spoke about having a conversation with Osby, who told Clark to work hard and lead by example. Clark’s teammate Buddy Hield has noticed a difference in his demeanor this year, and said that while Clark is not overly vocal, when he talks his teammates tend to listen. It will be interesting to see if Clark’s leadership can help Oklahoma stay in the upper echelon of Big 12 teams this season.
  5. The biggest complaint surrounding Bruce Weber’s tenure at Illinois was his inability to sustain consistent success after making the NCAA championship game with players recruited by Bill Self. After experiencing tremendous success in his first season at Kansas State, many wonder if Weber can learn from his previous experience to keep his team among the league’s elite.  On Saturday night, Weber received a verbal commitment from 6’5″ combo guard Tre Harris, who currently attends Fishburne Military Academy in Virginia. Harris is considered a good shooter and will pair with fellow 2014 commitment Stephen Harris to bring viable scoring threats to the Wildcats next season.
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