Missouri Punishes Undermanned Oklahoma State Team

Posted by dnspewak on March 8th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. He filed this piece after Missouri’s. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

With his team trailing by 22 points by the first media timeout of the second half Thursday, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford clapped his hands eight times and grimaced, resigned to the fact his team’s season would end in less than 16 minutes. It was a minor miracle his team even defeated Oklahoma on Wednesday and had the opportunity to lose to Missouri, 88-70, in the quarterfinals. “I think fatigue was a little bit of a factor,” Ford said. “I think Missouri played up on that. That was probably something they talked about: ‘hey, Oklahoma State doesn’t have a whole lot of players… let’s go at them early.” Want the full rundown of OSU’s adversity this season? Start with this: Star freshman Le’Bryan Nash and big man Philip Jurick aren’t playing in this tournament due to injury. Two of his point guards, Reger Dowell and Fred Gulley, transferred within two weeks of each other before Big 12 play began. J.P. Olukemi hasn’t played in months after tearing his knee up. This is also a team playing Brian Williams out of position at the four and using Markel Brown to run the point at times.

Despite What This Picture Looks Like, It Wasn't That Hard-Fought of a Win for Missouri (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

But the Tigers didn’t care. They’ve got their own issues to worry about, like winning a Big 12 Tournament title and earning a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. They roared to a 49-24 halftime lead, looking like athletes from another planet. Missouri dominated the boards and dominated defensively, with Phil Pressey getting his hands on every basketball that came his way. The sophomore point guard finished with five steals. “I’m just playing defense the way I know how to play,” Pressey said. “That’s what my coaches want me to do. And I came out with some steals.” As usual, the Tigers shared the ball and knocked down open three-pointer after open three-pointer, using what Kim English called “Pete Carril” ball movement to shoot nearly 60% from the field. “We had tremendous ball movement. Good ball movement relieves the tension of the offense,” English said, as his coach winked at him for such an astute observation.

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Insider’s Practice Report: Missouri

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage from the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak

The second they took the floor at the Sprint Center this afternoon, the Missouri Tigers started talking. And they didn’t stop talking until their 40-minute practice window ended. “Let’s be crisp this whole time,” Kim English told his teammates at the very beginning. “No mistakes.” With a top seed in the NCAA Tournament on the line this weekend and a potential Border War finale with Kansas on Saturday, the Tigers can’t afford to lose focus. They vocally encouraged each other and practiced with great tempo, completing each drill with a purpose and running from spot to spot with a hop in their steps.

Ever The Comedians, Missouri Joked Its Way Through Practice

Of course, whenever they caught a free moment, the Tigers became comedians. As Marcus Denmon worked on throwing a hail mary/long release pass off an inbounds play at the baseline, he likened himself to Peyton Manning. English started singing. Michael Dixon pretended to shoot a game-winning three with nobody covering him, and assistant Tim Fuller caught slack for throwing a terrible pass in a drill. Frank Haith actually had to use a few choice words at one point to settle his team down, and he urged them not to take this Big 12 Tournament for granted. “I emphasize this to the guys all the time: some players have unlaced their shoes for good already,” Haith said after practice. “The Big 12 Championship is a priority.”

The practice only reached moderate intensity in the final few minutes, when Haith ran a defensive shell drill. Listen to the communication by each defender:

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RTC’s Big 12 Tournament Primer

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

After fighting through rush hour traffic and perhaps one of the windiest days in Missouri state history to reach Kansas City, we’re all set to kick off the Big 12 Tournament Wednesday night with a, well, rather bland matchup between Oklahoma and Texas A&M at 6:05 PM. As the weekend wears on, though, the drama will heat up about Missouri and A&M’s betrayal to the SEC, about a potential Border War showdown in the final, and about Texas’ last-gasp desperation to reach the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a team-by-team look at what’s important this weekend, as well as a few predictions (sure to be wrong, knowing our track record) and other analysis.


1. Kansas (26-5, 15-2): For the eighth-straight season, the Jayhawks earned one of the top two seeds in the Big 12 Tournament. Big surprise. Now, it must survive the next three games — and that potential showdown with second-seeded Missouri — to solidify themselves as a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

2. Missouri (27-4, 14-4): As painful as that overtime loss in Lawrence was on February 25, the Tigers could erase that memory entirely with a Big 12 Tournament championship this weekend. To even reach the title game, though, the Tigers would need to defeat either Texas or Iowa State for the third time this season. And that’s never any easy  thing to do. At least nemesis Kansas State is on the other side of the bracket.

Marcus Denmon Probably Wants Another Shot at Kansas in the Finals

3. Iowa State (22-9, 12-6): Look at that– the Cyclones have cracked the Top 25, another sign of Fred Hoiberg’s masterful coaching job this season. They said The Mayor couldn’t do it — his transfers would blow up in his face and it would doom Iowa State to another finish in the cellar. Hardly.

4. Baylor (25-6, 12-6): Besides a chance to earn more quality wins to improve seeding before Selection Sunday. it’s probably more important for the Bears to simply gain a little positive momentum before the Big Dance. After a blistering start, this team finished 1-5 agains the top three teams in this league and ended the season on a modest 4-4 note. At least one guy doesn’t need any more momentum, however. That’s Pierre Jackson, who torched Iowa State for 35 in a loss.

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Big 12 Season Recap and Postseason Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 7th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Conference Tournament Preview

The big attraction this year for many fans is the chance to see one more KansasMissouri battle before the Tigers leave for the SEC. If Kansas reaches the final, they will likely be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and there’s still a chance Missouri can nab one if they win the Big 12 Tournament as well. Given the general lack of depth on both teams it might behoove them to lose early and rest up for the NCAA Tournament, but their competitiveness and seed chasing will probably lead to one last matchup.

Let's Go For a Third, Shall We? (AP)

The Big 12 has likely locked up five bids in the tournament, with a sixth possibly going to Texas. The Longhorns will need to beat Iowa State Wednesday night to have a shot, and with how soft the bubble is this year, that will probably be enough.

Elsewhere, Baylor can potentially get a #3 seed if they make a run (though with their new uniforms I am wondering if there is a way we can keep them out of the postseason altogether) and Iowa State can probably get away from the dreaded #8/#9 game if they do so as well. Kansas State‘s seeding could range widely depending on its performance this week, but the Wildcats are soundly in the Dance.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.01.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 1st, 2012

  1. Fans and media are notorious for playing “what-if” games. While the players play the game, it’s up to the writers to quibble about statistics, legacies and revisionist history. Oklahoma State is no different, as this writer asks what would have happened had the legendary Eddie Sutton not had a bout with alcoholism. It forced him to step down after a sub-par year in the mid-2000s, and his son Sean Sutton did not fare well afterward. It’s an interesting thought, at the very least.
  2. Sorry, but here’s yet another feature on Frank Haith. This one’s a good one, though. We’re not sure we agree with the headline, as Haith hasn’t really changed the culture as much as simply building on what Mike Anderson had already implemented. Still, he’s done a terrific job and his story is remarkable. But you know that already. Just read the article and learn it again.
  3. Five Big 12 players landed on the Naismith “Midseason 30” list, and none of them will surprise you: Phil Pressey, Marcus Denmon, Perry Jones, Thomas Robinson, and Royce White. That ties the league with the SEC as having the most selections. It’s interesting to see MU land two players, whereas Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor did not make the list. Close call.
  4. If you’re interested in multimedia, check out this discussion of Oklahoma State guard Keiton Page. Yes, we’ve linked to a lot of articles about Page’s legacy during the past few months, but the senior is a divisive and intriguing player. It’s worth a look if you have the time.
  5. It may not have booked its NCAA Tournament trip, but Texas stayed alive with a victory over rival Oklahoma last night. Now, it’s time for the Longhorns to figure out a way to beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. True, Missouri proved that the Jayhawks are at least mortal and beatable on their home floor, but that was, well, Missouri. This is Texas, and the talent level in Austin this year is not nearly the same. Wilder things have happened though in sports, so that’s what Rick Barnes is going to have to bank on.
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Big 12 Morning Five: Leap Day Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 29th, 2012

  1. Before the season began, Iowa State was one of the Big 12’s most intriguing cases. After a losing season, coach Fred Hoiberg banked on four transfers to lead him to the promised land. It worked. The Cyclones are all but headed to the NCAA Tournament now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still an underdog. Royce White, a major part of Team Transfer this year, say it’s a role the team enjoys playing. That’s a good thing, especially since ISU will visit Missouri on an emotional Senior Day tonight.
  2. Hoiberg isn’t the only coach not afraid to take transfers. His opponent tonight, Frank Haith, has a Team Transfer of his own set to become eligible for the 2012-13 season. Of course, I wrote about this very topic a few months ago, and it’s interesting to revisit. In terms of “The Transfer Effect,” Iowa State has clearly reaped the benefits of Division I transfers. Maybe it will work for Haith, too. We’ll just have to find out.
  3. In addition to several transfers, MU will also welcome back Laurence Bowers to its frontcourt next season. Unfortunately, that’s because he’s sitting out this season with a knee injury. The forward will now watch his fellow senior class compete at Mizzou Arena for the last time tonight, and it has to be difficult to watch his graduating class move on without him. He says the ride this year has been somewhat bittersweet, only because he cannot compete against Big 12 foes with seniors Kim English, Marcus Denmon, Steve Moore and the rest of the team.
  4. Sick of Iowa State/Missouri talk? So are we. With a disappointing Big 12 season winding down, Oklahoma fans may be looking to next season— and Amath M’Baye in particular. His teammates and coaches love him, and they say he’ll make a major impact when he becomes eligible next season after transferring from Wyoming. M’Baye, who averaged double figures with the Cowboys, seems to be able to do just about everything on a basketball court. With the bulk of a young team returning next year, M’Baye may be the missing piece for Lon Kruger.
  5. Here’s an interesting nugget: Apparently Kansas and Nebraska have been in very preliminary talks to start up a non-conference game in the near future. Scroll down to the bottom of this article to learn a little more. It sounds like the two sides had simply talked casually about the possibility, and it’s not going to happen as of right now. Still, considering KU’s refusal to play Missouri because it left the Big 12, it’s odd to read that the school still considered playing the Cornhuskers of the Big Ten.
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Final Conference Meeting Between Kansas And Missouri Etched Into Lore

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the Big 12 Correspondent for RTC. He filed this report from Allen Fieldhouse chronicling Saturday’s heated battle between Kansas and Missouri. You can follow him on Twitter at @fetch9.

Luck is a funny thing. It was part luck that allowed Missouri to shoot 50% from three over the first 29 minutes of the game. It was part luck that led to them going cold down the stretch. And it certainly was part luck that kept Marcus Denmon’s long heave with 30 seconds left from rattling home. But the luckiest people were the more than 16,000 people in the building who got to witness perhaps the last regular season meeting between Kansas and Missouri.

Kansas Fans Touted Their Adoration Of Fabled Allen Fieldhouse

It’s one of the best rivalries in the country. It’s also one of the most overlooked. Most importantly, it’s based on pure hatred and history dating back to the Civil War. After the game, Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden expressed his bewilderment at why the series wasn’t going to continue. The explanation isn’t all that complex, but it is fueled by emotion. A continuation of the series outside of the parameters of conference play wouldn’t be the same. Unlike in football, where a Florida-Florida State matchup can have national championship implications, a mid-November meeting between Kansas and Missouri would just be a pit stop before the show that matters. Not to mention the fact that it hardly benefits Kansas to let Missouri back into the Kansas City market and assume all the pressure: win, and they’re supposed to, because they’re Kansas. Lose and it’s the end of the world.

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The Message From the Final Border War: KU and Mizzou Can Play With Anybody

Posted by dnspewak on February 27th, 2012

In the aftermath of Saturday’s epic finish between Missouri and Kansas, discussion in the mainstream media has focused on everything from the officiating to the drama of the Border War/SEC controversy. Out in the always-entertaining Twitter world, established analysts like Jay Bilas and Doug Gottlieb have criticized late-game foul calls tilted in Kansas’ favor, and just about every outlet has run a story begging the Jayhawks to continue the series despite Missouri’s departure from the Big 12.

Thomas Robinson Certainly Looked Like the Player of the Year on Saturday (photo by AP)

It seems they’re talking about absolutely everything except for the actual basketball game. And, for the record, the actual basketball game was pretty darn appealing to the national college basketball audience. We can quibble about how Missouri blew a 19-point lead and we can argue about how vulnerable Kansas looked during that atrocious stretch at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. Regardless of all that negativity, it was obvious from the opening tip that this was an even matchup between two elite teams. The first five minutes set the tone: Kansas and Missouri each threw a first punch, matching the other basket for basket. Mistakes were limited. Defense was top-notch on both ends. It was simply two terrific basketball teams playing as hard as possible in a game that mattered so much — for so many reasons.

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Missouri’s Path to A Road Win in Border War Finale

Posted by dnspewak on February 25th, 2012

We’ll remember this date: February 25, 2012. The day the Border War ended. The day Missouri and Kansas played their 267th and final game against each other. The day more than 100 years of hatred ended, the day the 2012 Big 12 Championship may be decided and the day that determined eternal bragging rights.

It’s a big day. The biggest ever at Allen Fieldhouse? That’s a tough call, according to coach Bill Self. From the Lawrence-Journal World:

“No, probably not,” Self said, asked if it was the biggest home game in his tenure at KU. “We’ve had other games where we had to win that game to win the league. In fans’ minds and our players’ minds since they beat us the first time when we felt we had them down the stretch, I believe it’s probably in everybody else’s minds, maybe other than the coaches’, the biggest game we’ve had.”

Bill Self This Isn't the Biggest Game at AFH History, But He Understands Why It's Touted That Way

Define the game however you’d like. At the very least, it’s a top five matchup between two teams vying for a Big 12 regular-season championship at one of college basketball’s most historic venues. Yet just about everybody is writing the Tigers off at Allen Fieldhouse, perhaps for rational reasons. They haven’t won in Lawrence in 13 years — January 24, 1999, to be exact, when point guard Brian Grawer scored 18 points and the Tigers limited arch-enemy Ryan Robertson to 1-10 shooting. Unless you’re a Kansas or Missouri fan, you’ve either never heard of those players or faintly remember their names simply because you followed college basketball at the time. That’s how long its been since Missouri last won a road game against Kansas, and it will have a difficult time handling the energy of the home crowd in the Border War finale on Saturday.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.24.12 – 02.26.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 24th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Somewhat unbelievably, the second-to-last regular season Saturday is upon us. Plenty of big time and bubble games are on the schedule as the stretch run really heats up.

#3 Missouri @ #4 Kansas – 4:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

  • The final Border War game promises to be another terrific display of basketball between two top five teams that really don’t care for one another. Missouri won the first meeting between these teams, but to do it again it will have to defend at a higher level. Both teams shot over 50% at Mizzou Arena three weeks ago, but Kansas has been the better defensive team all season long. Now playing at home in virtually impenetrable Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks have to like their chances in this one. Kansas has a huge rebounding and size advantage in the paint with Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey going up against Ricardo Ratliffe. While Ratliffe is a great finisher around the bucket, he was held to six points in the first meeting, limited by foul trouble in only 20 minutes of action. Kansas can neutralize Ratliffe and force Missouri to make shots. Missouri hit 10 threes in the first meeting, led by Marcus Denmon’s six. Kansas will have to tighten up a three point defense that ranks #173 nationally in order to prevent that from happening again.

    Can Denmon & The Tigers Rebound?

  • Denmon’s 29-point effort against Kansas on February 4 lifted him out of a slump and his high level of play has continued since then. Denmon and Kim English have to make shots or else Kansas will have a significant edge in this game. The Jayhawks should be dominant inside with Robinson going against Ratliffe with Withey by his side. Kansas is one of the best teams in the nation in two point percentage. Defensively, Bill Self has to be worried about the three point line. While Kansas is a very efficient defensive team, they can be beaten from the arc. Missouri is certainly a team capable of doing that as it moves the ball well and has a multitude of deep threats lining the perimeter. Frank Haith needs a good game at point guard out of Phil Pressey, otherwise Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor could take over the game quickly as they did against Baylor at the Phog. Taylor has had an outstanding senior season but is vulnerable to turnovers. Look for Missouri to target him defensively in order to prevent him from getting into a rhythm and setting up the Jayhawk offense.
  •  The big question mark here is can Missouri defend at a high level against an elite opponent on the road? The Tigers are last in the Big 12 in three point defense and their overall efficiency rating leaves a lot to be desired. Kansas is going to get its points inside but is not a particularly great outside shooting team. However, Taylor poses a big threat and must be held in check if Missouri is going to beat Kansas in a place where almost nobody wins. Until proven otherwise, we can’t pick against the Jayhawks in such an emotionally charged game as this one.

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