NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big 12 Teams

Posted by Brian Goodman & Taylor Erickson on March 16th, 2014

Sunday night, the Big 12 realized the rewards of an outstanding 2013-14 season. Back in November, the league was expected to top out at five NCAA bids, but a league record-tying seven schools heard their names called on Selection Sunday. The conference’s selection of NCAA Tournament participants run the gamut from national title contender (Kansas, if the Jayhawks live long enough to see the return of Joel Embiid) to trendy second weekend picks like Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State, to a trio that not only outperformed preseason expectations but cemented their standings without needing extra wins over this weekend to do so (Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma). The league may not have a team that you can feel great about locking in for an appearance in Dallas in early April, but you can say the same thing for most power conferences around the country.

Can the Jayhawks get past New Mexico in the second round if they'll need to do so without Joel Embiid? (USA Today)

The Jayhawks have national title aspirations, but can they get past a potential match-up against New Mexico without Joel Embiid? (USA Today)

Kansas (Brian Goodman)

  • Seed: #2 South
  • Quick First Round Preview: Kansas will square off against the 15-seed Eastern Kentucky Colonels, winners of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. The Jayhawks shouldn’t have much trouble handling them — even without Joel Embiid in the lineup — but Jeff Neubauer’s senior-laden team operates with the nation’s fourth-best effective field-goal percentage (57 percent) and turns opponents over at a rate of 24.2 percent.
  • Intriguing Potential Future Matchup: A second-round match-up against New Mexico will await the Jayhawks provided both teams take care of business. Bill Self‘s team beat Craig Neal’s in Kansas City just three months ago, but New Mexico forward Cameron Bairstow didn’t have much trouble against Kansas’ front line even with Embiid, as he led the Lobos with 24 points in the losing effort.
  • Final Word: The Jayhawks reap the rewards of their historically intense non-conference schedule and relative walk to their 10th straight Big 12 regular season title with favorable placement in St. Louis, just a five-hour drive from Lawrence. Traveling Jayhawks fans will be in for a treat, as they can catch Wichita State, Kentucky and fellow Big 12 member Kansas State all under one roof.

Iowa State (Kory Carpenter)

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Big 12 M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 5th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Through the first 16 games conference play, Baylor amazingly played themselves out of and back into contention for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now it appears their at-large candidacy is all but sewn up by beating Iowa State 74-61 on Senior Night in Waco. Fittingly, Baylor seniors Brady Heslip (18 points, 5-for-8 from three) and Cory Jefferson (21 points, seven boards and two blocks) led the way and helped the Bears improve to 8-9 in the Big 12. How’s this for patterns: Baylor has made every even-numbered tournament year since 2008. Why mess with happy?
  2. On the heels of Senior Night, the Waco Tribune dove in to the story of fifth-year senior Cory Jefferson. It might sound hard to believe but Jefferson was a freshman on the 2010 Elite Eight team with guys like LaceDarius Dunn (!!) and Tweety Carter (!!!). You can tell Jefferson is a patient guy: he was willing to redshirt his sophomore season, stay on the team despite playing ten minutes per game in 2011-12 and then decided to put the NBA on hold to complete his college career in 2013. Now with a likely tournament bid and potential NBA career nearing, Jefferson is reaping the benefits of making the decision to stay in Waco.
  3. BREAKING: Bill Self is happy about something for once. The Kansas coach is looking forward to tonight’s Senior Night festivities when his Jayhawks take on Texas Tech in Lawrence. KU plans to honor Tarik Black, Justin Wesley and Niko Roberts and here Self is quite vivid about his feelings for these players. For whatever reason, folks have negatively chimed in about the team not properly “celebrating” the program’s tenth straight Big 12 title last week. At least on this night, something worth celebrating will be celebrated. Congrats to the Jayhawk seniors.
  4. Quietly, Oklahoma is after some valuable real estate on the final week of the regular season. The Sooners sit in second at 10-6 in the Big 12, tied with Texas but OU owns the tiebreak over UT by virtue of their season sweep. They will host West Virginia tonight and wrap-up the schedule against winless TCU on Saturday. It’s amazing to think that the coaches picked Oklahoma to tie for fifth in the preseason poll with Kansas State but are now on the verge of finishing right behind Kansas. It would mark the first time that had happened since Blake Griffin’s sophomore season in 2009. It’s looking more and more like Lon Kruger emerging as the favorite for conference COY.
  5. It’s now or never time for West Virginia. What WVU need to show the NCAA Selection Committee in the next ten days is that a) they can win games consistently, b) win games against quality opponents and c) win games against quality opponents away from home. They’ll get a chance to do all three starting in Norman tonight, Kansas at home Saturday and during next week’s Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. But all of that starts with the type of effort the team gets from leading scorer Eron Harris. Harris is a statistical oddity for a team’s top scorer: the Mountaineers are a surprising 3-7 when Harris scores 20 or more and just 2-4 in Big 12 games. Simply put WVU will need all hands to squeeze in an eighth Big 12 squad into the Big Dance.
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Big 12 M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 3rd, 2014

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  1. Oklahoma State fans were asking this question following the Cowboys’ win over Kansas on Saturday: “Is it safe to come back out?” It appears to be, fans. After everything the team dealt with since the start of 2014, OSU notched a Paunch Burger-sized victory over the Big 12 leading Kansas Jayhawks 72-65. The three-headed monster of Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown combined to shoot 15-for-30 from the floor, 23-for-29 from the line, 58 points, seven steals and seven blocks. While this was a major boost to a tournament profile that sorely needed one, they aren’t out of the woods just yet. They have Kansas State coming into Gallagher-Iba Arena on Big Monday. One would think a win tonight locks up an at-large bid for good.
  2. Should we/Kansas fans/NBA scouts begin worrying about the health of Joel Embiid? Last month, he missed a week and a game with nagging back and knee injuries suffered in the West Virginia win on February 8. Embiid left Saturday’s game holding his back and after some stretching checked back into the game. Bill Self addressed Embiid’s injury in his postgame press conference, saying he “only tweaked his back” and has “no idea” how it will affect him going forward. Ultimately Embiid’s back could be much ado about nothing but at the same token, it was a problem weeks ago and it’s a problem right now. Stay tuned. You know lottery teams will be.
  3. While Kansas State’s tournament resume lacks any quality wins outside of Kansas state lines, you gotta hand it to them for taking care of business on their home court (and Wichita). Iowa State was the latest club to enter the “Octagon” and leave doomed, falling 80-73 on Saturday. The ISU win all but clinched an at-large bid for the Cats who now sport victories over George Washington, Gonzaga, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas. If anything, the 2013-14 Wildcats have proven that you can go home again. And again. And again. And again. But seriously, it would be a mistake if they were left out of the field of 68.
  4. A great thing about this Big 12 season was the rekindling of the Red River Rivalry in hoops. Sorta. Oklahoma finished off Texas 77-65 in Norman. We knew going in that Texas had the height advantage so to combat this OU relied on what they do best: hit three-pointers. In fact the Sooners hit ten of them. With the win, Oklahoma became the only Big 12 team to sweep their season series against UT. In addition to that, this season marked the first time in the Big 12 era where the Sooners swept the Horns and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. How about the job Lon Kruger has done this season? He loses five of his top eight scorers from last year’s team and are somehow averaging 11 points more than a season ago.
  5. Baylor fans: Your team may be on the brink of history! But it wouldn’t be anything to stick your chest out over. Baylor enters the final week of the regular season at 7-9 in conference play and still is in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With their strong RPI and strength of schedule numbers, there is a chance for the Bears to be the first-ever Big 12 team to make the tournament with a sub-.500 league record. The Bears have a winnable home game against Iowa State on Tuesday followed by the regular season finale versus K-State in the Little Apple. Assuming they win one of those two; grouped in with their quality wins over Kentucky, Colorado, Dayton, Kansas State and Oklahoma State (twice); BU would make a strong case to take up one of those coveted 37 at-large spots.
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Big 12 M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 20th, 2014

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  1. Jimmy Burch is correct in that Oklahoma State will get a boost when Marcus Smart returns from his three-game suspension this weekend against Texas Tech. He is also correct in that the Cowboys have a slim chance to still gain an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament with Smart’s return. But he forgets that Oklahoma State lost four straight games before Smart’s suspension. Could Smart return and be “even better,” as head coach Travis Ford predicts? Sure. But will that lead to an NCAA Tournament bid? Don’t count on it.
  2. Lon Kruger won 15 games two seasons ago in his first campaign at Oklahoma. He won 20 games last season and made the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners are currently 18-6, and barring a surprising collapse, will finish with more wins than last season and reach the NCAA Tournament once again. As Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World reports, Kruger said before the season that he hoped to be in a position this time of year to make a run to the postseason. The Sooners aren’t locks for the Big Dance yet, but they are getting closer to that goal with every passing win.
  3. Kansas State is in virtually the same spot as Oklahoma. The Wildcats are 18-8 and have at least a few winnable games left on the schedule. It’s certainly a far cry from November when they started the season 2-3, including embarrassing losses to Northern Colorado and Charlotte. Freshman guard Marcus Foster has in the interim emerged as one of the best freshmen in the country, and the Wildcats are close to locking up a bid for the NCAA Tournament.
  4. As Mike Hlas states, Iowa State isn’t a great team, “but ISU is very good a lot of days, very entertaining almost every game, and is 20-5.” That, among other things, are the reasons the Cyclones might be the second most dangerous Big 12 team in March. They are entertaining because they shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more. And when they are hitting their jumpers they are tough to beat. It sounds clichéd (because it usually is), but the Cyclones could shoot themselves out of the NCAA Tournament on the first day or wind up in Dallas in the Final Four. Either way, we will know the reason.
  5. Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid came back from a one-game hiatus and was close to dominant in the Jayhawks’ overtime win against Texas Tech Tuesday, finishing with 18 points (a career high) and eight rebounds. Embiid told Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World that he was at “about 90 percent.” He looked much better than he did against Kansas State, and if he was truly back to that level already, Kansas fans should feel hopeful for March.
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Big 12 M5: 02.19.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 19th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Jim Weber at LostLettermen.com has an interesting proposal about fixing Oklahoma State basketball: T. Boone Pickens should offer Kansas coach Bill Self $10 million a year to leave Lawrence for Stillwater. And while he makes the comparison to Roy Williams leaving Kansas for North Carolina in 2003, the situations are apples and oranges. Williams went home to Chapel Hill, but he was moving (slightly) up the coaching ladder. Not down. Winning at Kansas is easy. Winning at North Carolina is easier. And after failing to win a national title in 15 years at Kansas, Williams probably wanted easier. Self wouldn’t be able to avoid returning to Lawrence like Williams can. And while it would be a challenge at Oklahoma State, I’m sure Self’s Big 12 title streak and search for another national title (or two) are challenging enough. At least until a serious NBA offer comes along.
  2. Gregg Doyel argues that Marcus Smart isn’t the sole reason Oklahoma State has been melting down the last month, and he is right. The loss of Michael Cobbins with an Achilles tear killed this team more than losing Smart for three games. Smart’s antics, Doyel says, will shoulder the blame for the collapse of a team that was supposed to overthrow Kansas for the Big 12 championship. But Doyel seems to forget that Smart has done plenty to bring this heat on himself. He made himself a sideshow with his endless flopping. He kicked a chair during a rough game against West Virginia and left the court during play, even though his team eventually won. And Monday night while watching his team lose at Baylor, he took to twitter to criticize a blogger for being too negative. It wasn’t just Smart’s suspension that doomed the Cowboys. He was leading them in that direction long before that happened.
  3. Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger has been in the game for a few seasons, so he knows a thing or two about handling a team late in the season. And with the Sooners (19-7) preparing for a late-season push for the NCAA Tournament and a favorable seed, he gave his players two days off this week instead of one. They will rest today as they prepare to face Kansas State on Saturday. While you always have to stay sharp, staying fresh in late February and March can be just as important.
  4. It’s refreshing to know at least one coach talks to his team about their NCAA Tournament chances as Selection Sunday draws closer. Bob Huggins told Cam Huffman of the Register-Herald that “We talk about RPI. I would just as soon them know instead of at the end of the year them coming in and saying, ‘Coach, I wish we would have known.’” I’m sure a lot of coaches in Huggins’ position have the same discussions with their players, but Huggins doesn’t mind letting the World know. And if you can get just a little more out of a few players by them knowing exactly what they need to reach the Dance, why not?
  5. When new NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he is in favor of changing the age limit from 19 to 20, Bill Self said he liked the idea. The only thing better than landing players like Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid is having those players around for two seasons. From the NBA’s perspective, another year of evaluation makes perfect sense. The college game would benefit as well. There would be more talent and it would be spread out more evenly around the country. And while 18-year olds shouldn’t be protected from themselves, it’s easy to see how both the NBA and NCAA would benefit from this change.
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Who Won the Week? Two Undefeated Teams, But Certainly Not The Third…

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

wonweek

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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