Big 12 M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on October 25th, 2013

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  1. Here’s a great take on the Rick Barnes and Mack Brown situations at Texas by Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. Texas is arguably the best football job in the country and a top 10 basketball job, but both Brown and Barnes have struggled as of late. If it is any consolation for Barnes, he likely has a longer leash than Brown at this point in time. The Longhorn basketball team has little in the way of expectations this year, and like almost every other year, they have little expectations from locals. I wouldn’t be shocked if an NCAA Tournament bid saved Barnes next spring.
  2. Not only does Bill Self have one of the most talented rosters in college basketball, and not only is Bill Self one of the best coaches in college basketball, but Self has as much versatility as anyone heading into this season. He has tall guards, athletic big men, and everything in-between. This is what he told the Lawrence Journal-World‘s Gary Bedore about two of his starting guards, Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden: “We’ve got to get Andrew (Wiggins) and Wayne opportunities to catch in the post. They could be two of our very best post players,” Self said. That’s on a team with McDonald’s All-American forward Perry Ellis and potential top-10 draft pick Joel Embiid down low as well.
  3. From Michael Beasley to Jacob Pullen to Rodney McGruder to… Shane Southwell? Maybe. The 6’7” forward had a good season last year, averaging 8.4 PPG for the Wildcats. But as Ken Corbitt points out, he won’t be able to sneak up on teams this year. He will be the best offensive option for Bruce Weber this season, without a doubt, and his performance could make the difference between the NCAA Tournament and NIT for Kansas State.
  4. Lon Kruger landed a solid commitment from four-star forward Khadeem Lattin yesterday, Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World writes here. Lattin had offers from Texas, Memphis, and Georgetown, among others, according to Rivals.com. The 6’9” power forward will be one of the most talented players for Kruger next season as he tries to make Oklahoma a Big 12 contender for the first time since Blake Griffin was still in school in 2009.
  5. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star gives us the best breakdown of all that is Joel Embiid right here. The Kansas freshman has slowly been gaining attention since this summer, but on a team along with Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden, he has remained in the background most of the time. And while he might not start until Christmas or even later, there is a reason NBA scouts think he can become a certain lottery pick in next summer’s draft.

 

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Looking at the Big 12 Non-Conference Tourney Slate

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 24th, 2013

As the 2013-14 season of college basketball rapidly approaches, along with it comes a plethora of non-conference tournaments in exotic locations all over the map.  From Maui to New York, Anchorage to Puerto Rico, and everywhere in-between, the slate of early season match-ups provide an outstanding opportunity to usher in the new year in college basketball.  Big 12 schools will be in on the act, supplying us with our first real glimpse of what we can expect throughout the season. Let’s take a look at these non-conference contests.

Baylor – Maui Invitational, Maui, Hawaii, November 25-27:  Baylor will head to Maui for what is usually one of the higher profile and entertaining tournaments in the non-conference portion of college basketball.  Scott Drew‘s team will square off with tournament host Chaminade on November 25 as the Bears will try to avoid being the second team from Texas in as many years to fall to the Silverswords (Chaminade knocked off Texas in 2012 by a score of 86-73). Provided Baylor can handle Chaminade, a match-up with a beatable Gonzaga team likely awaits with a showdown against preseason top 10 Syracuse looming.  The battle of zone defenses between ‘Cuse and the Bears would be entertaining, as would Isaiah Austin showing off his range against any holes in Jim Boeheim’s defense.

Baylor Will Be Soaking Up the Sun in Maui this November

Baylor Will Be Soaking Up the Sun in Maui this November

Kansas State – Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Bayamon Puerto Rico, November 21, 22, 24:  The Wildcats wet their feet in Puerto Rico against a deep tournament field with the likes of Michigan, Georgetown, Florida State, and VCU, to name a few.  A quarterfinal match-up against Charlotte on November 21 sits ahead for Bruce Weber’s squad, and a win sets up a potential showdown with Georgetown. While Kansas State enters this season with slightly watered-down expectations after losing Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez from a year ago, a win against the Hoyas could provide the ‘Cats up with a chance to make some noise against Michigan in the finals. Thomas Gipson and Mitch McGary battling down low will certainly not lack for physicality.  Not only would a good showing in Puerto Rico boost K-State’s outlook on the season, but could help enhance the pipeline of Puerto Rican talent to Manhattan that Frank Martin developed during his time with the Wildcats.

Oklahoma – Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, Brooklyn, New York, November 22-23:  Oklahoma kicks off the semifinal round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic against Seton Hall at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on November 22. As we mentioned last week in our Big 12 preseason rankings breakdown, Oklahoma enters the 2013-14 season without 68.7 percent of their scoring from last season with the departure of standouts Romero Osby and Steven Pledger, among others. If Lon Kruger’s group can get by Seton Hall in the semifinal round, a match-up with heavyweight and consensus top five Michigan State awaits in the championship round. The combination of Gary Harris and Adreian Payne will be as good of an inside-out duo as Oklahoma will see for the remainder of the season.

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The RTC Interview Series: Big 12 Preview with Fran Fraschilla and Jason King, Part II

Posted by Walker Carey on October 23rd, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the Big 12, RTC Correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to two Big 12 experts in ESPN Big 12 analyst, Fran Fraschilla, and ESPN.com college basketball writer, Jason King.  (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

*Make sure to start with Part I of the Big 12 Preview, published on Tuesday.

RTC: Oklahoma lost its three leading scorers from last season’s NCAA Tournament team. Where will the Sooners go to for their scoring in Lon Kruger’s third season in Norman?

Lon Kruger

Lon Kruger Faces a Transition Year at Oklahoma

Fraschilla: Oklahoma is one of the youngest teams in the conference. It is likely to start a freshman and three sophomores. I think if there is one guy who will be able to pick up the scoring slack, it is going to be sophomore Buddy Hield. He showed flashes of brilliance last year. He has a scorer’s mentality and can be very versatile. People are forgetting that Ryan Spangler, a transfer from Gonzaga, is now eligible and the last time he was on the court he produced a very solid performance in Gonzaga’s 2012 NCAA Tournament win over West Virginia. He will be underrated for about a third of the season before people realize he will be one of the best big men in the Big 12. This is a young Sooner team that still might be a year away, but I still expect it to compete for a spot in the postseason.

King: I think it is going to be a transition year for Oklahoma. I do not think people appreciated just how good players like Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, and Andrew Fitzgerald were for this team. Those were really good players – especially Osby — and I was glad to see that he got drafted because he was one of the best players in the league. The problem Oklahoma is facing now is that they are not bringing in guys who can replace those departures right off the bat. There are some young guys, but that production just will not be the same. A lot of pressure is going to be placed on the backcourt of Buddy Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak to produce. I do not know if Oklahoma is going to have enough to return to the NCAA Tournament. It might be one of those seasons where you go through some bumps and get guys some experience, so the program will be back where you want it to be next season. The one thing Oklahoma definitely has going for it is that is as well-coached as anyone in the league. Lon Kruger has proven time and time again that he can get it done as well as any coach in this league. Due to that, you can expect Oklahoma to win some games that they are not expected to win this season. I just do not expect the Sooners to win those game consistently enough. This could be a tough season in Norman.

RTC: West Virginia had a nightmare debut season in the league. The Mountaineers experienced a bit of a roster overhaul in the offseason, as Deniz Kilicli exhausted his eligibility and Jabarie Hinds and Aaric Murray transferred. Do you believe some of those losses are addition by subtraction and what are reasonable expectations for Bob Huggins’ team in its second year in the league?

Fraschilla: I do not think it was an addition by subtraction situation for West Virginia because those guys still played major roles for the team at certain times. I believe there is a solid nucleus there that can definitely play better than it did last year. Sophomores Terry Henderson and Eron Harris are guys who showed at certain points last year that they can put the ball in the basket. The key for the team this season is going to be Juwan Staten, the junior transfer from Dayton. Staten did not hit a three last season in his first season on the floor for the Mountaineers. If Henderson, Harris, and Staten can improve their play, I think West Virginia can compete for a postseason berth. I do expect the team chemistry to be much better this year and guys to be more in tune with what Bob Huggins wants.

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The RTC Interview Series: Big 12 Preview with Fran Fraschilla and Jason King, Part I

Posted by Walker Carey on October 22nd, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the Big 12, RTC Correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to two Big 12 experts in ESPN Big 12 analyst, Fran Fraschilla, and ESPN.com college basketball writer, Jason King.  (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Big 12 Experts Fran Fraschilla and Jason King Share Their Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Big 12 Experts Fran Fraschilla and Jason King Share Their Thoughts With Us This Preseason

Rush the Court: The major storyline in the Big 12 this season will be what Andrew Wiggins does on the court for Kansas. What do you expect out of Wiggins in what figures to be his only season in Lawrence?

Fran Fraschilla: I think Andrew Wiggins is obviously an incredible addition. I am not sure if he is the alpha dog that people are expecting. He is a great teammate, an incredible athlete, and if anyone can get the most out of him in one year, it will be Bill Self. At times, he will take over games, and at other times, he will be content to stay in the background and let Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, and others dominate the ball.

Jason King: I think the expectations that have been placed on Andrew Wiggins are unfair. I think the hype surrounding him has gotten out of control. He very well might be the best player in the country, but comparing him to LeBron James is just too much. LeBron James was an alpha male coming out of high school. He was a big, strong, mean, aggressive guy. I believe Andrew Wiggins is a different type of player. I went to Kansas practice the other night and right now, his head is still spinning. He is still trying to adjust and learn the system. I think he is a special player, but he is a guy that may only average 13 or 14 points a night because he is playing with so many other very talented players. I think he will be just fine. It is just that so many people are expecting him to go in right away and score 20-22 points a night; and that probably is just not going to happen. We will still see plenty of highlights from him throughout the season and he will likely end up being one of the two or three best players in the country when all is said and done.

RTC: Focusing less on Wiggins and more on Kansas as a whole, what are realistic expectations for a very talented but young Jayhawks squad?

Fraschilla: Kansas certainly has the potential to get to the Final Four in Dallas and have a chance to win it all. Just like every other top team though, Kansas certainly has some deficiencies. Based on the talent level, the versatility of a lot of their players, and the proven leadership of Bill Self, I think Kansas is going to make a strong argument on the court that it is a team that can get to Dallas for the Final Four.

King: I think Kansas should win its 10th straight league title and anything less than that will be a disappointment. I think winning nine straight titles in a league like the Big 12 in this day and age with all the one-and-dones is very, very impressive. I believe no team in a major conference has done that since John Wooden’s days when I believe UCLA won 13 in a row. Winning the league title is expectation number one. I think the potential for this team is limitless. However, this is going to be a different kind of Kansas team. I think Kansas fans are so used to the Jayhawks just going out there and dominating mostly everyone from the start of the season to the finish. This is a team that won 31 games last year. I think this year, you might see it stumble a little bit more early on and drop some games early on that they would probably win in recent years. The non-conference schedule is the most difficult in America and it is the hardest I have ever seen Kansas play. Besides having to play Duke, you have the Battle 4 Atlantis, you have games at Colorado and at Florida, you have home games against Georgetown and San Diego State, and you have New Mexico at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. I just think with this hard of a schedule and so many young players adjusting to the college level that there might be some setbacks early on. Bill Self is such a great coach that he will have these guys playing their best basketball and the right time of the year, which is mid-January and on.

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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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Big 12 M5: 4.8.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on April 8th, 2013

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  1. Kansas center Jeff Withey has been named the co-defensive Player of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches announced on Sunday. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo shares the award with the graduating Jayhawk. Withey leaves Kansas with a number of records and awards. Last season his 31 blocked shots set a single NCAA Tournament record. This season he broke school and conference records with 146 blocks, breaking his own record of 140 which he set last season. In addition to his defensive awards, Withey also earned Second-Team All-America honors.
  2. While Michigan and Louisville prepare to win a national championship tonight, Iowa State waits to hear its fate after reporting NCAA violations stemming from impermissible phone calls and text messages between 2008 and 2011. Bobby La Gesse of The Ames Tribune thinks the Cyclones should look at Baylor, who faced a similar situation last year. As Le Gesse notes, the Bears were placed on three years probation and lost one scholarship for two seasons. With the NCAA involved, it’s anyone’s guess if Iowa State will face a similar punishment. At this point, predicting how the NCAA will react is a losing game. On a different note, for any readers dreaming of a career in collegiate coaching, check out the fine print in the column. The NCAA reviewed 900,000 phone calls made by Baylor coaches. That’s a lot of time on the phone with teenagers.
  3. Kansas freshman guard Anrio Adams announced that he was transferring last week. Then he announced he was staying. Now we don’t know what will happen. He was officially released last week but told The Lawrence-Journal World that is going to talk to Bill Self today when Self returns from the annual coaches convention at the Final Four. It’s hard to imagine Self telling Adams he doesn’t have a spot next season. But it’s hard to imagine him welcoming Adams back with open arms a week after he wanted to leave the program. But with only two point guards on the roster -one of which is a true freshman- Self may need Adams in the back court next season.
  4. As was previously discussed by Danny last week, Tubby Smith is now the head man at Texas Tech. The Big 12 now has six coaches who have been to a Final Four. And as Berry Tramel points out, there are now five coaches in the Big 12 with at least 500 wins: Bill Self, Tubby Smith, Bob Huggins, Lon Kruger, and Rick Barnes. It’s one of the best collection of coaches in the country and will look even better if Smith can resurrect the Texas Tech program. The league was decidedly average this season, but if Huggins and Barnes can rebound from sub-par seasons (which they should) and Bruce Weber can recruit to Kansas State (still up in the air) the league is set up to be great for the next half decade or more.
  5. Is there still a chance prized recruit Andrew Wiggins ends up at Kansas? The #1 recruit in the country is down to the Jayhawks, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Florida State, and is likely to announce his decision this month. His brother, a junior at Wichita State, told NBC Sports that he doesn’t think Kentucky is the best fit for his brother’s services. His parents attended Florida State and Kansas and North Carolina offer the obvious benefits of a blue blood. Good luck trying to dissect Wiggins’ recruitment any deeper though.
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Big 12 M5: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 4th, 2013

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  1. The very best in high school basketball came together for the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago last night. Sure the West beat the East 110-99 but fans were watching to see how their favorite school’s recruits did individually. Here’s the sad part — out of the 26 players on the floor, only one was committed to a Big 12 school. Kansas commitment Wayne Selden Jr. had himself an efficient night of basketball: 13 points on 5-of-7 from the floor (2-of-4 from three), five rebounds, three assists and a steal in 18 minutes. The nation’s top uncommitted recruit, Andrew Wiggins, is also considering the Jayhawks along with Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina. Wiggins led the East team with 19 points in the loss.
  2. Speaking of which, Kansas freshman guard Anrio “Rio” Adams announced his plans to transfer closer to his home in Seattle. In a statement released by the university, Adams said, “I feel like going home and playing closer is better for me and my family. This was definitely a family decision and it was a decision I wanted to do that would be best for my situation.” In a now-deleted tweet from his account, Adams announced his list of potential landing spots as Oregon, Washington, Arizona and UCLA. We don’t know how much this news affects KU’s recruitment of Wiggins seeing how they already a scholarship open but it’s an interesting development nonetheless.
  3. Crimson and Cream Machine scored an exclusive interview with Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger a few days ago. Kruger, the only coach to take five schools to the NCAA Tournament, offers his overall impression of his second season in Norman as well as a mini-preview of what is to come next year. (An aside: big ups to OU Athletic Department and Lon Kruger for making time for an interview with a fine blog like C&CM. We bloggers strive for legitimacy and little things like this can go a long way.)
  4. Anyone else suffering from college hoops withdrawal? Well grab yourself a happy helping of Baylor-Iowa coming up tonight for the NIT championship. As much as people knock on Scott Drew’s coaching abilities, the fact is he’s pretty darn good in postseason tournament formats: three NCAA tournament bids, two of them Elite Eights, and now two appearances in the NIT title game). There’s also some history at stake too. The NIT has been around one year longer than the NCAA Tournament and a Baylor win would mean the first ever NIT title for a Big 12 school. I could try to give you another selling point to watch the game except that my skull would spontaneously combust if I did.
  5. What’s in a contract anyway? Thanks to RedRaiderSports.com, we now know all about Tubby Smith’s deal with Texas Tech. First off, the contract will go for six years with a starting salary at $1.67 million in 2013-14. The deal will increase by $100,000 every after that. Now we’ll do a quick run through the incentives. If Tubby takes a team to the NCAA Tournament, he’ll earn $50,000 and there are more incentives for going deeper in the tournament. For example, If Tubby is able to make a Final Four on his last year of the deal (2018-19), Smith would make somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.47 million. And, if he’s able to keep the team GPA at the 3.0 level, you can add an extra $20,000 for a grand total of $2.49 million in 2019. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands to be doing this sort of thing.
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Assessing the Season: Oklahoma Sooners

Posted by dnspewak on March 27th, 2013

And then there was one. After Iowa State’s close loss to Ohio State and Kansas’ strong second half win over North Carolina on Sunday, only one of the Big 12’s five NCAA Tournament teams remained through the end of the first weekend. Oklahoma State played the best 12 seed in tournament history (Oregon) and got bounced. Kansas State forgot what time its game against La Salle started and apparently didn’t begin playing basketball until the second half — when it was too late. Oklahoma fell victim to San Diego State’s vicious defense. Iowa State got Crafted by Ohio State. Those locker rooms were surely quiet in the aftermath of those losses. Stunned, probably. Everybody thinks they’re going all the way — or at least have the ability to win a game or two in March — but for four Big 12 teams, the dream has ended. Once the disappointment fades, it’ll become apparent that most of these teams massively overachieved. Here’s our first look at Oklahoma’s 2012-13 campaign:

Lon Kruger Turned Things Around in Norman (Las Vegas Review)

Lon Kruger Turned Things Around in Norman (Las Vegas Review)

Final Record: 20-12 (11-7)

The Expectations: We touted Oklahoma as a potential sleeper pick on this microsite, but we were never very serious about it. With Lon Kruger at the helm and strong roster continuity due to an abundance of returning starters and contributors, the Sooners just seemed like the perfect candidate to surprise some people. Still, with as poorly as this team played at times a year ago, nobody dared predict Kruger’s team to do big things. The head coach would get this program rolling one day, sure, but it wouldn’t be this year. There were just too many question marks. Could they figure out how to score beyond Steven Pledger, last year’s leading scorer? Would their bigs improve? Would any of the freshmen guards contribute and actually provide some adequate depth? It seemed there were some decent parts for Kruger to work with, but this looked like the quintessential NIT roster.

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Big 12 M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 27th, 2013

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  1. Oklahoma was a pleasant surprise this season. Lon Kruger worked his magic to lead a struggling program to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Blake Griffin roamed the streets of Norman, so it’s fair to call the Sooners classic overachievers. As the article points out, there were a number of bright spots during the 2012-13 campaign. Romero Osby’s production increased as a senior. Buddy Hield became the team’s best defender and became quite the character in the locker room. Kruger transformed a losing mentality into a winning one almost overnight, but it wasn’t all good news this season. There were some negatives. The end of the season wasn’t good, for starters, but despite a late road loss to TCU and no postseason victories in either the Big 12 or NCAA Tournaments, the Sooners created momentum for next season, if such a thing even exists.
  2. Baylor doesn’t have any momentum, not after a fairly disastrous season that saw the Bears fall all the way to the NIT. Still, maybe Scott Drew’s team can at least salvage some pride this March. It continues this evening with a quarterfinal game against Providence. Baylor didn’t crash and burn in the traditional sense — it was on the bubble all the way through the Big 12 Tournament, after all — but that’s not good enough for a team with this much talent. Not with blue-chip freshmen in the frontcourt, the best player in the league in Pierre Jackson, and a dead-eye shooter in Brady Heslip. No matter how far Baylor advances in the NIT, that “what if” will linger into next November.
  3. Naadir Tharpe is a sophomore. He really is. For all the expectations, criticism and attention, it’s easy to forget he hasn’t even wrapped up his second full season of Division I basketball. That’s life at Kansas, though, which is why he’s playing such a key role on this team right now. Alongside senior Elijah Johnson, Tharpe has also carried the brunt of criticism from fans and writers for Kansas’ occasional offensive lapses and point guard problems. But that didn’t happen during the Jayhawks’ dominant second half against North Carolina this weekend, and it’ll need to stay that way as this team advances into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
  4. Texas Tech might need a new basketball coach if it doesn’t retain interim head coach Chris Walker, so it’s reaching out to various candidates. The results are not good so far. Southern Illinois’ Barry Hinson, an odd candidate considering he finished in last place of the Missouri Valley in his first year in Carbondale, said he has no interest. And New Mexico State’s Marvin Menzies said the exact same thing. Texas Tech isn’t the best job in the league, but the school has lured Bob Knight and Billy Gillispie to coach there in the last decade. Those are big names — especially Knight. It remains to be seen whether the TTU program can catch a big fish again this time around.
  5. Fred Hoiberg knows all about being awesome at things. Especially basketball. So he’s going to coach an All-Star game at the Final Four, featuring some of the best seniors in college basketball. It’ll be a nostalgic event for Hoiberg, who played in this same All-Star game as an Iowa State senior in the 1990s. See how he’s gone full circle?
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Rushed Reactions: #7 San Diego State 70, #10 Oklahoma 55

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 22nd, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #7 San Diego State and #10 Oklahoma in Philadelphia. You can also find Brian at @botskey.

Three key takeaways:

  1. The Mountain West picks up a much-needed win. In what has been an otherwise disappointing tournament for MWC teams, one of the conference’s better clubs was able to get on the board and advance. The win move the Mountain West’s record to 2-3 and the Aztecs have the potential to do even more with a tough (but still a #15 seed) Florida Gulf Coast team waiting in the wings on Sunday. Colorado State is the only other remaining standard bearer for the Mountain West and will go to battle in an interesting game with Louisville on Saturday. Given what has transpired and the matchups ahead, San Diego State is likely the final hope for the Mountain West.

    Surprise, surprise, Steve Fisher has his team playing well in the NCAA Tournament. Fisher's squad advanced to the Round of 32 Friday evening. (AP)

    Surprise, surprise, Steve Fisher has his team playing well in the NCAA Tournament. Fisher’s squad advanced to the Round of 32 Friday evening. (AP)

  2. San Diego State was impressive defensively. The Aztecs have been a good defensive team all year but they did a fantastic job shutting down second-leading scorer Steven Pledger and the Oklahoma supporting cast. San Diego State has the #15 defensive efficiency in America and it showed tonight. The Aztecs don’t have many players with a lot of height on their team but most of them have great length and quickness, something that bothered the Sooners all night long. Oklahoma shot just 39.7% and scored only 22 points in the second half as the Aztecs locked in defensively. San Diego State also dominated the glass, 40-29, the final task in closing out defensive possessions.
  3. It was a good year for Oklahoma. Lon Kruger got what had been a deflated Oklahoma program into the NCAA Tournament in only his second season in Norman. However, Kruger will lose three of his key player in Romero Osby, Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald. The recruiting class coming in is decent but it’s not going to make a huge difference next season. The Sooners may take a step back in 2013-14 but this season was still a strong building block for the future. Kruger has had success pretty much everywhere he has coached so I’d expect Oklahoma to continue to improve its program in the years to come after a successful 2012-13 campaign.

Star of the Game: Romero Osby, Oklahoma. Although it was in a losing effort, Osby poured in 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, single-handedly keeping the Sooners within striking distance for the majority of the game. San Diego State did a great job on Pledger and nobody else could get it going for OU. If it was not for Osby, this would have been a big time blowout.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by KDoyle on March 22nd, 2013

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#2 Georgetown vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast – South Region Second Round (at Philadelphia) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Florida Gulf Coast is one of the better stories in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Only in their sixth year as a Division 1 program, the Eagles are riding their first winning season in history thanks to the hiring of former Florida State assistant Andy Enfield. In Enfield’s first year, they finished 15-17, but were a game away from the NCAA Tournament as they lost to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun finals. This year, Florida Gulf Coast has been the team to beat, and it began with an early season win over Miami (FL). FGCU’s style of play greatly differs from today’s opponent, the Georgetown Hoyas. The Hoyas are predicated on a stingy zone defense that rarely allows for clean looks at the basket, and they play at a snail’s pace. Led by Otto Porter, Georgetown has a legitimate star that can carry them deep into the NCAA Tournament. FGCU very much likes to get up and down the floor with Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson leading the attack. If FGCU is able to get out in the open floor and score in transition, they’ll keep it close for much of the game. Problem is that not many teams control the pace of a game quite like Georgetown—that’s what makes them such a difficult opponent as they force the opposition to play their style of game. Historically, Georgetown has struggled in the NCAA Tournament under John Thompson III as they’ve failed to reach the second weekend in four of six appearances under him, but many believe this is a different Hoya team. FGCU is playing with house money and expect them to make a game of this, but in front of a heavy Georgetown crowd in Philadelphia the Hoyas are simply too much in the end.

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#2 Ohio State vs. #15 Iona – West Regional Second Round (at Dayton, OH) – 7:15 p.m. ET on CBS
One of the nation’s most balanced teams, the knock on the Buckeyes for the longest time this season was that they didn’t have a secondary scorer to help out junior DeShaun Thomas. We’ll get to that in a second, but let’s just say that Iona never had such a problem. Senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones has always been the main offensive weapon on this team, never afraid to look for his own shot, but the Gaels have always trusted guard Sean Armand and forward David Laury to chip in heavily in the scoring column. And as a result, the Gaels have one of the most efficient offenses in the mid-major ranks. The problem for Tim Cluess’ team is the complete inability to stop teams on defense; only nine times all season have they held an opponent below one point per possession in a game. Given that Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the nation (sixth in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com), you can expect the Buckeyes to at least slow Iona’s prolific offense. And given that Thad Matta has been getting significantly improved offensive play out of guys like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, you can expect the Bucks to take advantage of that buttery soft Gael defense. While Momo Jones, et al. have the ability to make some exciting plays when they’ve got the ball, their inattention to details defensively will allow the Buckeyes to have more than their share of exciting offensive plays as well.

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Oklahoma Has a Favorable Match-up in its First Tournament Game Since 2009

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 20th, 2013

Jeff Capel had it working in Norman. Building off the success of his predecessor Kelvin Sampson, Capel took the Sooners to consecutive  NCAA Tournament appearances in 2007 and 2008. Heading into practice, the 2008-09 season had all the makings of a season to remember. The Sooners boasted the future #1 pick of next year’s NBA Draft coupled with Willie Warren, a McDonald’s All-American from Dallas, not to mention the return of veteran contributors Taylor Griffin and Tony Crocker. They won 30 games that year before eventually losing in the Elite Eight to eventual national champion North Carolina.

Since 2009? Nothing.

For the first time since this guy suited up, the Sooners are dancing. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

For the first time since this guy suited up, the Sooners are dancing. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

But it was only a matter of time before a program like Oklahoma would rise again. Lon Kruger, known as a fixer of ailing programs, has the Sooners dancing in just his second season in Norman. As the Sooners hovered around the middle of the Big 12 this year, they were searching for a leader and found it in senior Romero Osby, He’s playing the best basketball of his career, and I believe that had he not made the step from role player to lead, the Sooners may have been on the outside looking in with this Tournament. After struggling to start the year, another senior, Stephen Pledger, has turned it on as well. Oklahoma finds itself as the #10 seed in the South Region paired with #7 seed San Diego State. As a result, OU can conceivably win its first foray back into the Madness since those Griffin brothers were still wearing red uniforms together.

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