Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 6th, 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.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Fever Pitch, Columbia: The game of the year so far in the league ended with Missouri beating its archrival Kansas. The game was unfortunately marred by a questionable late charge call against Thomas Robinson as well as a 20-10 foul disparity favoring the home team, which has taken subsequent discussion away from the fantastic basketball that was played. Marcus Denmon had 29 points, shooting 6-9 from three, and Robinson had 25 points and 13 rebounds as each team showed why they’re among the best in the country. This might be the last meeting between the two schools in Missouri with the Tigers now moving to the SEC. Some fans of both schools want to see the rivalry saved, but, in basketball at least, it doesn’t make much financial or competitive sense for Kansas to play Missouri. Another sad consequence of conference realignment greed, but perhaps talks will revitalize after heads cool.

Missouri Turned Up The Volume For The Gameday Crew. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star)

  • Bears Try To Keep Pace: By holding serve, Baylor has crept back into the discussion, and the Bears are tied for the conference lead at 8-2 (there’s no head-to-head tiebreaker in the standings). They won by a total of seven points last week over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M so they certainly haven’t been impressive, but both wins came on the road and any road win is a good win. They still host Kansas and play at Missouri, so they are in control of their own destiny in the Big 12 race.
  • Jury Still Out On Haith: Ken Pomeroy wrote an interesting post last week regarding Frank Haith’s deployment of a zone defense in the final possession against Texas. Haith has gotten a lot of Coach of the Year support, but I think it is a bit overblown. As Pomeroy notes, if Texas had scored on the final possession, people would be killing Haith for deviating from the norm. Also, it was his attempt to kill the clock starting with over four minutes left that let the Longhorns back in it in the first place. Also, though Texas looked a bit confused, Rick Barnes still had a timeout left and somehow chose not to use it. Perhaps he thought he would get six in the next game. Haith has done a good job not upsetting things in Missouri to be sure, but remember that Bruce Weber went to a national championship game in his second season at Illinois.

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (21-2, 8-2): Marcus Denmon broke out of his slump in a big way on Saturday. The senior came into the contest against Kansas shooting under 30% from three in Big 12 play, but he hit six of his nine shots from deep en route to a game-high 29 points. The 6’3” guard also led the team with nine rebounds and has established himself as one of the best rebounding guards in the country. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Border War non-RTC, Is It a Duke Loss If Nobody Noticed, and Melo Returns to Syracuse…

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. Forget the Super Bowl, it’s Rivalry Week across the college basketball nation… On Saturday, it was a Border War to remember, followed by a Sunday battle for bragging rights in Michigan, and we have a whole slew of great rivalry games coming up this week. From Florida-Kentucky to Duke-Carolina to Syracuse-Georgetown to even Gonzaga-St. Mary’s and Creighton-Wichita State, center stage is now ours. For the next 35 days until Selection Sunday, games will count a little more than they did before as teams position themselves for the postseason. And for that guy who says the college basketball regular season doesn’t matter? Remind him of three of the last five Super Bowl champions — one 9-7 team and two 10-6 teams won it all, while a 16-0 and a 15-1 team ended up ringless. This is why we play the games.

Your Watercooler Moment. The “Last” Border War in Columbia Goes to Missouri.

Marcus Denmon Motions At Students To Stay Put (credit: The Dagger/J. Eisenberg)

The storylines coming out of the “last” Border War game in Columbia, Missouri, on Saturday night were compelling — Game of the Year type of stuff. Even beyond the hyperbole about marauding Jayhawkers, divorced families and the finality of it all (we’ll wager the two schools are playing regularly again within five years), the game itself captured the essence of college basketball rivalry better than any other we’ve seen this year. Both Kansas and Missouri are outstanding teams, filled with playmakers on each side who are, depending on the day, equal parts dominant and confounding. For parts of the game, Kansas’ favorite whipping boy, Tyshawn Taylor, appeared the best player on the floor — driving the ball with confidence for a 21-point, highly efficient 9-15 shooting game; but it was his late-game mistakes that again cost his team when it mattered most. A turnover followed by two big misses at the foul line with KU down only one point leading to an admittedly questionable charge call, again punctuate his bugaboos (inconsistency and turnovers, especially in the clutch), issues that will haunt Jayhawk fans long after he’s gone. His counterpart on the Missouri side, Marcus Denmon, had backslid considerably from his scorching nonconference start (34.3% against Big 12 competition), but for the first time in his career against Bill Self’s team, he played a focused and effective game, going for 29/9 on 10-16 shooting and singlehandedly leading the Tigers back from the brink of a crushing home defeat. The senior guard dropped a one-man 9-0 run on the Jayhawks in the span of just over a minute, first with a layup and-one, then with back-to-back dagger treys, to erase KU’s eight-point lead with two minutes to go and put the Tigers in position to win the game with just under a minute left. KU’s Thomas Robinson (25/13) was once again the best player on the floor, but it was Denmon’s leadership and poise under pressure against the Jayhawks that made all the difference. His attitude at the end of the game says it all — he and fellow senior Kim English reportedly instructed the student section to stay in its seats rather than flooding the court in a massive RTC. With age comes wisdom, and his position is correct — elite teams only rush the court under very circumscribed conditions, and the Missouri seniors did not want their accomplishment sullied by giving Kansas the pleasure. At the end of the day, the Tigers still have a couple of major flaws that they have to mask (notably, interior size and a porous defense), but with playmakers like Denmon, English, Flip Pressey and a team that believes in itself, we expect that the dream season will continue in Columbia deep into March under first-year head coach Frank Haith.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • Fab Melo Returns, Boeheim Ties Dean Smith For Third in Wins. Sophomore Syracuse center probably doesn’t know who Dean Smith is, but maybe with his extra tutelage over the last two weeks, he found time to learn some college basketball history as well. On Saturday, though, he helped his coach Jim Boeheim make history with his 879th win as he contributed a career-high 14 points in his first game back from suspension and again anchored the patented SU 2-3 zone as the Orange destroyed St. John’s from start to finish at Madison Square Garden. Boeheim’s squad had struggled through a road loss to Notre Dame and two close wins at Cincinnati and West Virginia while Melo was out of the lineup, but if Saturday’s performance with him back is any indication, Syracuse may be looking at a one-loss regular season (and Boeheim could catch Bob Knight’s 902 wins as soon as next December).
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Big 12 Weekend Primer: Kansas at Missouri

Posted by dnspewak on February 3rd, 2012

With College Gameday in the house, the Big 12 Conference lead on the line and a century-old rivalry nearing its end, the stakes could not possibly be any higher for Saturday night’s Border War showdown between Kansas and Missouri. It’s not just the league’s must-see game this weekend. It’s one of the most important regular-season games of the entire 2011-12 college basketball season, second maybe only to the rematch in Lawrence later this month. As for the rest of the league, Baylor must keep pace with a road game in Stillwater, while Kansas State will look to salvage its season when it hosts Texas A&M. 

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

  • #8 Kansas at #4 Missouri, Saturday, 8 PM CT (ESPN)
Years ago, Missouri earned a notorious reputation for knocking off Kansas in Columbia. In 1997, for example, the top-ranked Jayhawks left the Hearnes Center with a double-overtime loss, a game both programs will likely never forget. In recent years, though, KU has owned Missouri at Mizzou Arena, winning four of the last five contests — with the only loss came in 2009 on Zaire Taylor’s game-winning jumper in the waning seconds. That raises the anticipation for the 2012 version of the Border War, especially considering KU has vowed to discontinue the series because of MU leaving for the SEC. Since Wednesday, students have camped out for the best seats to College Gameday, making its first-ever trip to Columbia for a basketball game. It’s hard to count all of the storylines here, in fact. Both teams are ranked in the Top 10; KU leads Missouri by just one game in the Big 12 standings; they may never play at Mizzou Arena again; and, the entire nation will be watching to see the culmination of 100 years of rivalry.

Jeff Withey Could Be a Difference-Maker Against Missouri (KemperLesnik/B. Spurlock)

Expect some nerves in the first few minutes of the game. But once everyone settles down, this will be a terrific matchup between two teams with All-Big 12 talent at almost every position. We won’t see many substitutions — both Frank Haith and Bill Self play a very short rotation — but fatigue won’t be a factor in a game of this magnitude. For Missouri, it comes down to offensive execution, ball movement and a better defensive effort. Since earning a landmark win at Baylor two weeks ago, the Tigers have not played well in their last three games. First, they blew a late lead at Oklahoma State and allowed one of the league’s worst offensive teams to light them up. Then, last weekend, a poor shooting night kept Texas Tech in contention for much of the game, and on Wednesday, MU needed a game-winner from Michael Dixon to overcome yet another blown lead and a sluggish effort. Against the Longhorns, the Tigers’ lack of size became a major problem in the rebounding department.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.03 – 02.05

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 3rd, 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.

There are lots of good games on Saturday, highlighted by the big one in Columbia. Overall it’s a very nice day of hoops despite only a handful of truly terrific games.

#4 Kansas @ #6 Missouri – 9:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

KU Needs Taylor To Be Good Tyshawn on Saturday (credit: Missourian)

  • It doesn’t get much better than this. Two teams that don’t particularly like each other and a Border War rivalry with roots in the Civil War era. Missouri enters this game after surviving Texas in Austin on Monday. The Tigers have perhaps the best offense in the nation with incredible balance at the guard and wing positions. The question for Frank Haith and his team will be how effective Ricardo Ratliffe can be against Thomas Robinson inside. Ratliffe shoots almost exclusively in the paint and converts an astounding 75.1% of the time. However, Ratliffe will be going up against a front line of Robinson and Jeff Withey (3.1 BPG) in this one and needs to utilize his patented pick-and-roll more in this game. Ratliffe won’t have great success going one-on-one against either Robinson or Withey inside. Kansas’ defense ranks #4 in two-point percentage against but the Jayhawks are vulnerable to the three-ball. That’s where Missouri and snipers Marcus DenmonKim English and Michael Dixon can really take advantage of Bill Self’s team.
  • The Jayhawk offense is essentially a two-man operation. While players like Withey and Travis Releford contribute offensively, Kansas’ fortunes depend on Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor has taken his game to another level over the last month, highlighted by the back to back 28-point efforts against Iowa State and Baylor. The Kansas senior hasn’t shot under 40% from the floor since January 4 but will be the focus of Haith’s perimeter defense. Taylor is prone to turnovers and you can bet the Missouri guards will be ball hawking him all night long. If Taylor has a good ball handling night, Kansas will be in very good position to grab a road win. Robinson will get his points but it’s up to Taylor to put the Jayhawks in a position to win this game.
  • It’s hard to pick against Missouri at home but if any team is going to win in Columbia, Kansas is the one. With ESPN in the house for the top two teams in the Big 12, this will be as charged an environment as you will see all year in college basketball. Despite Ratliffe’s stellar shooting percentage, Kansas should win the battle inside. The duo of Robinson and Withey is incredibly difficult to score against and Robinson is obviously a load on the offensive end as well. However, the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena and the Tigers’ perimeter attack and balance should be enough to put Missouri over the top.

#3 Ohio State @ #23 Wisconsin – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  •  Ohio State can take command of the Big Ten with a win in this game. The Buckeyes hold a one game lead over Wisconsin in the loss column heading into Saturday’s matchup. If Ohio State has one weakness, it’s three-point shooting. Thad Matta is not going to beat Wisconsin, a team that shoots well over 20 threes a game, from outside. Matta has the best player on the floor in Jared Sullinger and he needs to use him early and often in order to set the tone. Ohio State is not going to turn Wisconsin over and fast break points will be at a minimum. The Buckeyes must execute their half court offense in order to win this game and the way to do that is through the big man in the middle.
  • The Badgers have righted the ship with six straight wins but will need a big game out of their supporting cast if they are going to make it a seventh. Jared Berggren in particular must contain Sullinger on the low block or else Aaron Craft can feed him all day long with no consequences. Offensively, Wisconsin will run everything through Jordan Taylor but guys like Josh Gasser and Ben Brust need to be hot from deep in order for the Badgers to pull off the win. Wisconsin will be limited to one shot per possession most of the time as it loves to run the shot clock down and shoot threes. Ohio State ranks fourth in defensive rebounding percentage, mostly thanks to Sullinger.
  • This game features the top two defensive teams in the nation in terms of efficiency. It’s likely to be a low scoring, low possession affair that comes down to the final minutes. Players like Ryan Evans for Wisconsin and Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith could be the determining factors. The battle at the point guard position between Taylor and Craft will be phenomenal but the complementary players usually put a team over the top in matchups like these. We think that’s what will happen at the Kohl Center on Saturday.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 2nd, 2012

  1. If any team has an excuse to underachieve this year, it’s Texas A&M. Head coach Billy Kennedy has more important things to worry about after learning about his Parkinson’s diagnosis before the season, and Jason King caught up with him in the midst of the Aggies’ disappointing campaign. Kennedy’s story has been publicized for months now, but King tells the story better than anyone else yet has. His depth, detail and raw emotion helps bring out the best in Kennedy’s spirit. On the basketball court, Kennedy said his diagnosis has kept the Aggies behind the curve in the learning process. The 2011-12 season might be a little too late for him to salvage, but Kennedy will eventually get this program going again.
  2. Halfway through the Big 12 schedule, it’s now time to reflect on the first nine games. This particular article doesn’t get very controversial, but the All-Big 12 team is debatable. The “honorable mentions” all have worthy arguments of making the squad, and point guard seems to be a really contentious issue. This writer chose Tyshawn Taylor, but Phil Pressey and Pierre Jackson are basically interchangeable there. And it’s also interesting to see no Marcus Denmon, since the senior guard has lost his swagger a bit during Big 12 play. Also, Ricardo Ratliffe may surprisingly have an argument over Perry Jones, especially considering how much he outplayed the NBA lottery hopeful in Waco. In the end, though, none of this matters. It’s just fun to argue about.
  3. Oklahoma State has always been a basketball school. Nobody used to want to play at Gallagher-Iba Arena, one of the more intimidating venues in college basketball. Students rallied around hoops, not football, and the winter was the most important sports season. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. As with any university, fans will support the most successful team at any given moment. Right now, football has become king in Stillwater. That’s not inherently bad, but it’s also a little sad to see the dwindling support for basketball at OSU. Travis Ford doesn’t need to compete with football for attention, but he’s got to get this program back on track and make GIA a pit again. It’s good for the league, and it’s good for college basketball.
  4. Missouri‘s football program earned a groundbreaking commitment from Dorial Green-Beckham on Wednesday, giving coach Gary Pinkel the top-rated recruit in the nation for the Class of 2012. Great for football, but we’re a basketball site. So why does this story matter? Read the final paragraph: “Green-Beckham said he met Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith during his weekend visit. Green-Beckham said playing basketball in Columbia was a “possibility” and that he would “probably” run track. He has said in the past it was unlikely he would play basketball in college.” Excuse me? Green-Beckham may not be as good at basketball as he is at football, but Rivals.com still rates him as a three-star small forward. And he’d take up a scholarship for football, not basketball. Sign him up if you’re Coach Haith.
  5. Finally, on a lighter note, there seems to be a little bit of a friendly war between Missouri and Kansas students in light of Saturday’s Border War game in Columbia. After MU students created a cheesy but funny video called “We Are Mizzou” — which featured several nerdy rappers — Kansas mocked the MU version with its own rendition. They are both beyond ridiculous, but that’s the point of these things. It’s just sad to think this could be the final time KU and MU students get a chance to go at each other if this rivalry really does end after this season.
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Checking In On… The Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 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.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Jayhawks Tumble In Ames: Kansas lost its first conference game, losing 74-62 to Iowa State in Ames. Kansas didn’t make many shots and sent the Cyclones to the foul line, but what will undoubtedly make Bill Self the angriest is the general lack of effort. Kansas had the second-lowest offensive rebound rate of Self’s tenure, and there were multiple times when a lone Cyclone got a loose ball despite three Jayhawks being around it. It certainly won’t be a fun couple of practices for the Jayhawks this week as they get prepped for Missouri.
  • Nash Bash: Like Kansas, Missouri was bitten by the upset bug, losing 79-72 in Stillwater. LeBryan Nash had by far the best game of his college career, pouring in 27 points on 12-18 shooting (3-4 from three), and the Cowboys held Missouri to just 4-19 shooting from distance. Missouri probably has the best offense in the country, but it is so dependent on jump shots that when they have an off night in that department, they seem to be a bit more vulnerable to an upset than the best offense in the country should be.
  • White Shows His Stripes: ESPN had a very nice story on Iowa State forward Royce White, highlighting some of the issues he has had in his life with anxiety. White had numerous criminal and other behavior issues while at Minnesota and while his anxiety should not be used as a blanket excuse, it is yet another caution that we as fans should not make our minds up about a player’s character without knowing the full story.

After Spinning His Wheels For Most Of The Season, LeBryan Nash Raised The Roof In Stillwater. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (17-4, 7-1): The Jayhawks remain in first in the rankings due to their loss being “better” than Missouri’s. They are just now hitting the meat of their conference schedule, with three of their next five games on the road at Missouri, Baylor, and Kansas State. Winning all three of them will all but lock up the conference title for Kansas, but if they play like they did in Ames they will be lucky to win one of them, and their streak of Big 12 titles could be over.
  2. Missouri (17-2, 4-1): The Tigers, as I mentioned above, rebounded nearly half of their misses at Baylor over the weekend and shot 68% from two, with Ricardo Ratliffe scoring 27 points on 11-14 shooting.  All season, they have struggled rebounding and at defending the two-point shot, so questions about how they will react when faced with size in the tournament are still valid, but they answered some of those questions on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 01.30.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 30th, 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.

Pittsburgh finally won two games last week and will look to win its third in a row at the Backyard Brawl in Morgantown. In Austin, Texas looks to stun highly-ranked Missouri. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

Pittsburgh at #22 West Virginia – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • After getting hosed by the referees at Syracuse, West Virginia returns home on Monday night to face rival Pittsburgh. While the Panthers have won two straight games after losing eight in a row, the Mountaineers remain a strong favorite despite Tray Woodall’s return to the Pitt lineup. The Panthers look like a different team with a healthy Woodall in the fold and Bob Huggins’ team will have to come up with a strong defensive effort in order to limit the Pitt point guard from getting into a flow. West Virginia’s two-point defense is not good, ranked #239 in Division I. If Woodall and Ashton Gibbs can get inside, Deniz Kilicli and Kevin Jones will have a hard time defending Nasir Robinson (9-9 FG vs. Georgetown) and Lamar Patterson. West Virginia’s biggest defensive strength is guarding the three-point line (25.9% in Big East play). If the Mountaineers can shut down Gibbs company from deep, they will have an easier time defending the paint and keeping the Panthers off the offensive glass, where they rank #1 in the nation.

    Huggins and the Mountaineers Will Be Fired Up After Their Controversial Loss at Syracuse

  • Pittsburgh’s offense has run much smoother with Woodall back but the biggest change might be defensively. The Panthers held Georgetown to 60 points and 47.5% interior shooting (below Pitt’s 51% in Big East play), something that will be very important against Jones and a West Virginia team that struggles from deep. If Pitt can force Truck Bryant into a bad shooting night (he’s had many of those), the Panthers will be in the game for all 40 minutes. Defending Jones is a very difficult task but Jamie Dixon just might be content to let Jones get his points and focus on shutting down Bryant and West Virginia’s young supporting cast. The Mountaineers need contributions from players like Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds in order to win consistently.
  • This is the 183rd meeting between these longtime rivals. Pittsburgh won both meetings last year and has won 16 of the last 23. We have a feeling this game will be closer than some might think. The Panthers look like a different team with Woodall back and healthy but West Virginia has the best player on the floor in Jones. Offensive rebounding is going to be the key in this game. Neither team defends the paint well but each crashes the offensive glass with authority. Pittsburgh has had problems with turnovers but that may not be the case with Woodall running the show. If West Virginia can’t create turnovers, it will have to score in the half court against a team playing with some renewed confidence. Call us crazy but we think Pitt has a legitimate chance to win this game. This one will come down to offensive rebounding and the play of Jones and Bryant.

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Tigers or Jayhawks, Who Ya Got?

Posted by cwilliams on January 23rd, 2012

The nice thing about rivalries is that when the two teams meet up, the intensity and atmosphere is always phenomenal, even if it’s a down year for either (or both) teams. That being said, whenever two rivals clash while both are having fantastic seasons, the intensity and atmosphere is unrivaled. That is what we are in for when Kansas travels to Mizzou Arena on February 4.

When Kansas and Missouri Face Each Other on February 4, It Will be the Egg McMuffin of the Big 12 season (adweek.com)

But before we get to that game, we need to solve this question: Who is better right now, Kansas or Missouri? The most recent national polls have Missouri at #2 and Kansas at #6, but many pundits are ranking Kansas higher in their personal “power” rankings. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Kansas a #1 seed in his lastest edition of Bracketology, with Missouri projected as a #2 seed. And, of course the message boards and blogs are also blowing up, with Kansas and Missouri fans each emphatically stating the reasons why their respective team is better. So, in order to find who’s truly better at this point, we need to dive in a bit deeper.

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Big 12 Weekend Primer

Posted by dnspewak on January 21st, 2012

For the second time in less than a week, all eyes will be on the Big 12. Missouri and Baylor, both ranked in the top-five, will square off in Waco on Saturday afternoon in college basketball’s prime matchup. Elsewhere, Oklahoma will look to win its third straight game as it heads to College Station, while Kansas will renew its rivalry with Texas in Austin.

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

  • Missouri at Baylor, Saturday, 1:05 p.m. CT (ESPN)

Baylor Will Look to Celebrate Again When it Hosts Missouri(AP/C. Riedel)

The Ferrell Center will host two top five opponents for the first time on Saturday, and it’s not a stretch to say this may be the most important home game in Baylor history. Now in his ninth season, it’s amazing that Scott Drew has built a program prestigious enough to play a game with this kind of national attention. His Bears have not lost at home this season, and Missouri’s only loss came on the road at Kansas State. The Tigers quieted the critics a bit by winning at Iowa State, but they did not look comfortable in Manhattan and fell out of contention in that game immediately. Kansas State’s physical bigs held Ricardo Ratliffe to just one field goal attempt, forcing him into foul trouble and taking him out of the game entirely. And here’s the bad news for Missouri: The Bears’ big men are even more athletically intimidating. Ratliffe and Steve Moore are the only two scholarship forwards on this Missouri roster, but they’ll have to somehow deal with Perry Jones, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy, not to mention players like Cory Jefferson and Anthony Jones off the bench. If you’re counting, that’s five players taller than 6’7”, and most of them can dunk like they’re playing with a Fisher Price basket. The Tigers simply cannot compete with that kind of size. Perhaps we’ll see a lot of 2-3 zone out of Frank Haith, something he’s not opposed to doing. In fact, Missouri has zoned opponents on many occasions this season, and it’s been effective at times. The problem is, Baylor has the guards this year to deal with any kind of defense. Brady Heslip can burn teams who pay too much attention to the paint, and Pierre Jackson has changed the entire dynamic of this team with his ballhandling, penetration and passing skills. If Heslip can knock down some shots and Baylor dominates the paint, this game could be over by halftime. However, the Bears have trouble holding on to the ball sometimes, and they also did not play very well defensively in a loss to Kansas on Monday. Also, while Missouri may not have played very well in Manhattan, Waco is hardly the same environment. Yes, it’s an enormous game this weekeend. The crowd will not be weak, not by any means. But they don’t make many places like Bramlage Coliseum, and MU has never played well there. It won in Ames, and it should not be taken lightly on the road at the Ferrell Center.

The key individual matchup is… Missouri’s guards against Baylor’s forwards. Missouri is mismatched with every single team it plays. That’s just what happens when you start four guards. Against Baylor, though, that mismatched is magnified. The Bears start Jones, Acy and Miller on the frontline, and they almost always have three bigs on the floor at the same time. Missouri rarely even has both Ratliffe and Moore in the game at the same time. In fact, it’s be physically impossible for the Tigers to play three forwards unless they inserted walk-on Andy Rosburg or former football player Andrew Jones, and that’s not going to happen. But Missouri has compensated all year for this lack of size. On Saturday, it’ll be especially important for Marcus Denmon to try to take advantage of his favorable matchup with his quickness. It’s also important for the Tigers to rebound well as a team and make up for their lack of size with extra effort and energy on the boards.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.20 – 01.22

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 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.

Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will look to keep rolling but a Big 12 clash highlights Saturday’s slate.

#5 Missouri @ #3 Baylor – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

This Clash Between Big 12 Powers Offers a Contrast in Strengths

  • This game could really come down to which team imposes its will. For Missouri, it would love nothing more than to speed the game up, force turnovers and not let Baylor get set in its half court defense. Missouri’s strength is its guard play. Frank Haith employs a four-guard lineup and it has worked wonders this season. The Tigers have shot the ball very well this season and that’s going to have to continue on the road in Waco. Missouri has struggled against teams with bigger front lines so its guards must shoot well if penetration is cut off and Ricardo Ratliffe is limited inside by Baylor’s trees. Kim English, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon can flat out shoot the basketball and Haith will need all three contributing in order to beat Baylor. It will be a bonus if Ratliffe can get anything going inside but Mizzou’s guards must continue to make shots in a tough environment.
  • Baylor is the stronger team inside and Scott Drew knows it. Getting Perry Jones III to assert himself in the paint along with Quincy Acy could be the key for the Bears in this game. Baylor will have the home crowd and energy behind itself and capitalizing on that is going to be very important against a team that loves to speed you up and force turnovers. In order for Jones and Acy to get the ball, Baylor’s guard play must be up to the task. Missouri will pressure Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton all game because the Tigers need to run up the turnovers and transition points in order to offset what should be a significant Baylor edge on the glass. If Baylor can slow the game down a bit, limit turnovers and get the ball inside, it should be on its way to a win. If Jones III and Acy are hot in the paint, that will open up Brady Heslip and Jackson from deep. Jackson does so much for this team with penetration, passing and shooting ability but Heslip is great spotting up or coming off a screen. Baylor has multiple weapons of varying height, something Missouri may have a very hard time dealing with.
  • As we said, Missouri must speed the game up and create turnovers against the turnover-prone Bears. Ratliffe is a very good post player but we’re not sure if he’s going to be able to score consistently as the only Mizzou big man against Baylor’s immense height in the paint. If Missouri can’t get anything inside it must knock down deep shots and get to the free throw line. The Tigers shoot 77.6% from the charity stripe and that could end up being their most efficient way of scoring against Baylor aside from the three ball. Baylor didn’t defend well against Kansas but Missouri was exposed in a tough environment at Kansas State. If Baylor is physical and sticks to the game plan of good half court offense, the Bears should win. Missouri should play better in its second time on the road against a very good team but you have to favor Baylor at home given the size mismatch.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia – 3:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPNU (****)

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Ten

Posted by cwilliams on January 20th, 2012

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

A lot can change in ten weeks of basketball. Pundits who wrote off Missouri after the loss of forward Laurence Bowers are eating their crow. Texas A&M has gone from Big 12 championship contender to a conference bottom dweller, playing with the offensive ability of my 1998 YMCA team. And at the same time, many things haven’t changed. Kansas is still unstoppable at Allen Fieldhouse, Frank Martin is still fiery, and J’Covan Brown continues to score almost all of his team’s points. Hard to believe, but Selection Sunday is only seven weeks away.

Will the Tigers be Celebrating in Waco This Weekend? (Photo by Chris Lee / clee@post-dispatch.com)

Alley-Oops

  • A Fear of Phog’s: Monday night’s marquee matchup of Baylor at Kansas proved that no matter how the Jayhawks roster is shaped up, they will always be the favorite when playing in front of the raucous crowd of Allen Fieldhouse. The previously undefeated Baylor Bears were the latest team to learn this, as they fell 92-74 in front of a revved-up group of Jayhawk faithful. Kansas has not lost since the Davidson debacle in Kansas City, and looks to continue its eight-game winning streak this weekend in Austin.
  • Top 7 Heaven: Yes, I’m biased, but I truly believe the Big 12 is getting overlooked in the “best conference” discussion. The Big 12 has the most schools in the Top 10. In fact, they have three schools in the Top 7, with Missouri, Baylor and Kansas. All three teams have players on the Wooden Award finalists list (Marcus Denmon of Missouri, Perry Jones of Baylor, and Thomas Robinson from Kansas), and all appear to have the necessary utensils for a deep tournament run come March.
  • National Love: On Monday, A&M and Missouri squared off on ESPN in the late afternoon. Later that night, Kansas hosted Baylor in a highly anticipated matchup, one that had college basketball pundits examining it all weekend. Every source of media you go to, you’ll see the college basketball experts writing about Kansas, Missouri and Baylor. This weekend is another highly anticipated ESPN matchup, when #5 Missouri visits #3 Baylor. Heck, even A&M is getting love on ESPN, being mentioned as the 2011-12′s biggest disappointment. Too soon?

Airballs

  • Oklahoma State: While some folks are still saying it is not time to write off the Oklahoma State Cowboys, I’m going to go ahead and do so, especially after Saturday’s embarrassing 106-65 loss to Baylor. I don’t see the Cowboys finishing .500 in conference play.
  • Texas’ Postseason Streak: The Texas Longhorns, who haven’t been left out of the field of 64 65 68 since the 1997-98 season, are in jeopardy of not dancing. While I’m ready to give up on the Pokes from Stillwater, I think Texas still has an opportunity and the ability to continue their dance marathon. However, they will need to learn to not rely on J’Covan Brown so heavily, and if Myck Kabongo and the other burnt orange youngsters are going to mature their game this season, now is the time to do so.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.18.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 18th, 2012

  1. Fred Hoiberg has injected new life into the Iowa State program this year as the Cyclones and Royce White in particular are starting to make headlines with their pesky play. They nearly knocked off Missouri at home, and they led Kansas at the Phog for a stretch during the second half. But don’t expect a celebration for moral victories in Ames any time soon. As Scott Christopherson puts it, “Oklahoma State does not care that we played Kansas tough at Kansas… Actually, nobody really cares.” That’s harsh, but it’s the mindset Christopherson and ISU need to have for the rest of the season. Hanging tough isn’t good enough in major Division I basketball– that’s what gets coaches fired and players scrutinized.
  2. Three Big 12 basketball players have made the Mid-Season Watch List for the Wooden Award, and none of the names will surprise you: Perry Jones (Baylor), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), and Thomas Robinson (Kansas). Overall, 25 players made the list, and the vote will not take place until March. Compared to Denmon and Jones, Robinson probably has a better shot at this national award, but all three will be in the mix for Big 12 Player of the Year and All-Conference honors.
  3. A little SEC news may have some collateral damage for the Big 12. Apparently, the SEC may be interested in using Kansas City as a possible host for the men’s basketball tournament in March. Obviously, that would conflict with the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament, which is slated to stay in the city for the time being. There’s no definitive answer on this issue right now, but it underscores a larger point: conference realignment is taking a toll on every team in every conference, and the arguments aren’t over at this point.
  4. With all of its injuries and personnel issues, it’s easy to forget about Oklahoma State. At 2-2, though, it’s not as though the Cowboys’ Big 12 season has been a disaster thus far. Yes, the 41-point loss to Baylor does not look good, but Travis Ford‘s teams have made a habit of storming back during his tenure. That’s not to say this Oklahoma State team will replicate that success, of course. Ford’s early teams had an emotional leader in Byron Eaton and a never-say-die attitude. Perhaps Keiton Page is the next candidate to lead Oklahoma State to the promised land– the NCAA Tournament– in his senior season.
  5. In desperate need of quality wins right now, Texas will travel to Kansas State in a game both teams need to win to salvage their seasons. The Longhorns are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than a decade. They will have to deal with Kansas State’s energetic home crowd, and the Wildcats cannot afford to drop another home game. At 1-3, it’s already been a rough start for Frank Martin‘s team. Things could get ugly in Manhattan if that record falls to 1-4.
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