Rushed Reactions: #8 Kentucky 56, #9 Kansas State 49

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 21st, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Julius Randle has been as advertised this season (sportsillustrated.cnn.com).

Julius Randle led Kentucky past Kansas State. (sportsillustrated.cnn.com).

  1. Kansas State had no answer for Kentucky’s size. Starting big men Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson stand at 6’9″ and 7’0″, respectively. Then Willie Cauley-Stein comes in off the bench at 7’0 as well. That doesn’t include three guards who are 6’6″ each in James Young and Aaron and Andrew Harrison. UK’s quintet of talented freshmen didn’t have its best game, but their prodigious size was enough to get by. Kentucky dominated Kansas State on the glass, owning a 40-28 edge in rebounds. Not many teams in the country — if any — can compete with Kentucky’s size across the starting lineup.
  2. Limiting the backcourt. Kansas State’s strength lies with its guards, and Kentucky did its best to take them away. As a result, stud freshman Marcus Foster had a rough night shooting. He entered the game averaging 15.6 PPG on the season, but his 15 points tonight came on a rather inefficient 7-of-18 shooting. Shane Southwell added 11 points as well, but he also produced inefficiently on 3-of-10 shooting. Will Spradling picked up a garbage-time three while going 1-for-8. Without the interior heft to score on a regular basis in the post, Kansas State’s guards were forced to shoulder the load. They just couldn’t get that job done Friday night.
  3. Block party. Willie Cauley-Stein is one of the best shotblockers in the country, ranking 13th in the nation by blocking 12.2 percent of opponents’ shots. Tonight he spearheaded a team effort in protecting the rim, swatting four shots in the contest. The Wildcats blocked seven shots as a team, including six swats in the opening half. Even when Cauley-Stein wasn’t blocking shots, he was altering them or deterring Kansas State from driving the lane altogether. K-State didn’t have much success going to the rim all night long.

Star of the Game: Julius Randle, Kentucky. Randle didn’t come out and dominate from the beginning. In fact, it took him about seven minutes to record his first points of the game, but he sure got going after that. Randle finished with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds and a block in 35 minutes of playing time. Aaron Harrison’s performance can’t be overlooked either, as the freshman guard went for 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by Walker Carey on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmwregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Walker breaking down the Midwest Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

Midwest Region

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Favorite: #4 Louisville (29-5, 15-3 AAC). Not to take anything away from the fantastic seasons completed by #1 seed Wichita State, #2 seed Michigan and #3 seed Duke, but Louisville is one of the hottest teams in the country entering the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals were likely dropped to a #4 seed due to their weak non-conference schedule and the fact that some of their wins in AAC play were over vastly inferior competition. However, when you have the talent and winning experience that Louisville possesses, seeding does not really matter all that much. Guard Russ Smith is one the nation’s elite scorers and he has shown throughout his collegiate career that he can go off for a monster night in any game against any team. Forward Montrezl Harrell has taken a huge step forward during his sophomore season and his 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game give the Cards an outstanding post presence. Toss in the fact that Louisville’s defense only allows 61 points per game and averages 10.1 steals per game and it should be clear why Rick Pitino’s squad is the favorite to return to the Final Four to defend its national title.

Should They Falter: #1 Wichita State (34-0, 18-0 MVC). If favorite Louisville is to stumble before reaching the Final Four, the undefeated Shockers are the team that is most equipped to do the job. While Wichita State has caught a ton of unnecessary criticism for its “easy” schedule, it is impossible to discount the fact that the team completed the nearly impossible task of finishing the regular season and conference tournament with an unscathed record. Throughout all the monotonous discussion about Wichita State’s merit as a top seed, it was often forgotten that Gregg Marshall’s squad has a solid nucleus that was on the team that advanced to the Final Four last April. Guards Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton, along with forward Cleanthony Early, played big minutes for the team last season and all four have experienced even more success in greater roles this season. Not only is Wichita State talented enough to return to the Final Four, it is also talented enough to cut down the nets at Cowboys Stadium on the first Monday in April.

Grossly Overseeded: #6 Massachusetts (24-8, 10-6 A-10). Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen had a fine season, but their résumé does not suggest that they were worthy of a #6 seed. After winning 16 of its first 17 games, Massachusetts went 8-7 over its final 15. Those seven losses included setbacks to non-Tournament teams Richmond, Saint Bonaventure and George Mason. The Minutemen were a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team as a result, and that was evident by the fact that they were the #6 seed in their conference tournament. What really makes the placement here a headscratcher is that George Washington and Saint Joseph’s finished ahead of them in the conference and they were given a #8 and a #10 seed, respectively.

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Big 12 M5: 03.13.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2014

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  1. Season accolades continued to roll in on Tuesday, as Andrew Wiggins was named as a second team All-American by the United States Basketball Writers Association. Wiggins is joined by fellow Big 12 member and countryman Melvin Ejim as well as Cleanthony Early, C.J. Fair and Sean Kilpatrick. Wiggins carries season averages of 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game into the Big 12 Tournament, and he may have to bump that production even higher if Kansas is to overcome the loss of Joel Embiid this weekend and beyond.
  2. More reports continue to swirl around the back of Embiid. It was revealed yesterday that the big man dealt with similar (though not identical) back problems this time last year as a senior at The Rock School in Gainesville, Florida. While every situation is different, it’s worth pointing out that Emeka Okafor went through a similar pattern of rest and rehab to how the Jayhawks are treating Embiid and returned in time to lead Connecticut to the 2004 national championship. We wouldn’t expect Kansas’ situation to pan out the same way, but would it be that big a surprise if it did?
  3. Yesterday, we brought up the under-the-radar status of Marcus Foster, who has thrived even without the spotlight of Wiggins, Embiid or any of the rest of the country’s top freshmen. While Foster could break out nationally with a big postseason, it’s also worth bearing in mind that as a freshman, he isn’t used to his season running this long. Foster has learned what the college grind is all about, largely thanks to having upperclassmen like Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Omari Lawrence along for the ride. You may remember that Foster was once a highly sought-after recruit, but conditioning problems led many prolific programs to pull back in their pursuit. Foster rewarded Bruce Weber’s loyalty by shedding some weight, and he’s enjoyed a great first year.
  4. Marcus Smart tends to get the majority of attention for Oklahoma, and most of the time, it’s well-deserved. However, there’s a very good argument to be made that it’s actually Markel Brown who is the leader of the Cowboys. The shooting guard endured two straight seasons where Oklahoma State missed the NCAA Tournament, and has improved every year he’s been on campus. After the Cowboys fell into an early 8-0 hole against the Red Raiders last night, Brown snapped his teammates out of the funk with long-range bombs, defensive stops and a highlight-reel dunk, just as he has most of the last two seasons. A much bigger test comes this afternoon in Oklahoma State’s rubber match against Kansas.
  5. With Oklahoma State’s win over Texas Tech last night, we bid farewell to the Red Raiders. At the time, Tubby Smith‘s acceptance of the job last spring was a head-scratching move, and we will still need a couple of years to see if he can recruit and develop enough talent to crack the occasional NCAA Tournament field, but this season, Tech was a much tougher out than many expected. The Red Raiders delivered upset wins over Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas, and were competitive in losses to Kansas and Kansas State.
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Big 12 M5: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2014

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  1. Over the years, the Big 12 Tournament has seen its share of jaw-dropping individual performers: Paul Pierce, Marcus Fizer, Kevin Durant, Mike Singletary, and Alec Burks, just to name a few. While we’re excited to see whether Andrew Wiggins steps up for Kansas and joins that list, you may also want to buy stock in Kansas State guard Marcus Foster. The freshman has come on strong lately, pouring in six 20-point games over his last 12 outings. Earlier this week, he joined Michael Beasley as the only freshmen in Kansas State history to be named to an All-Big 12 Team (Foster was selected to this season’s second team). His first test this week should be a fun one, as he will be matched up against DeAndre Kane and the Iowa State Cyclones tomorrow.
  2. The periphery of the NCAA Tournament bubble is not where West Virginia pictured itself at the beginning of the season, but November and December losses have come back to haunt the Mountaineers. Bob Huggins’ team won eight games in non-con play, but it’s the five losses outside of the league (to Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Missouri, Gonzaga and Purdue) that are wearing heavy for the Mountaineers as they face the latest in a string of must-win games, Thursday’s Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal. At minimum, they need to get to Saturday’s final to warrant legitimate conversation. It’s do-or-die time for the ‘Eers.
  3. Last Saturday, Oklahoma State faced a textbook foul-or-defend scenario at the end of regulation against Iowa State. Cowboys head coach Travis Ford opted not to foul, and he ended up paying the price, as Cyclone Naz Long hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime. As postseason play gears up, we may get the chance to find out if Ford learned his lesson. If Oklahoma State gets past Texas Tech tonight, it won’t be difficult to picture a quarterfinal meeting against Kansas coming down to a last-second tactical call. As the eight-seed, Oklahoma State is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but what will happen when the pressure’s on?
  4. In all sports, including college basketball, the thought process behind Coach Of The Year awards can be a polarizing one. It’s usually reserved as a mea culpa for those who underestimated the winner at the start of the season even though there are times when picking a winner should be much simpler than that. While Rick Barnes and Lon Kruger brought home the hardware (depending on if you look at the Big 12 coaches’ vote or the AP vote), Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com contends that a case can be made rather easily for Bill Self even though everyone knew he had the most talent in the league coming into the season. It’s tough to deny Parrish’s arguments. After all, if winning the conference with the league’s best talent was so easy, why hasn’t Kentucky done it the last two years?
  5. Oklahoma was one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12, finishing in second place behind Kansas with a workmanlike season. With a brief lull between the end of the regular season and the Sooners’ quarterfinal game tomorrow, The Crimson and Cream Machine took a quick look at Oklahoma’s personnel for next season. The biggest thing that comes to mind is that sophomore Ryan Spangler is going to get some help down low. Lon Kruger is bringing three forwards into the fold, and all of them weigh at least 200 pounds. Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal may be on their way out, but Oklahoma should be even better next year thanks to some incoming reinforcements in the paint.
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Celebrating The Big 12 Top Performances and Most Improved Player

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 11th, 2014

Yesterday, we went around the Big 12 and named an All-Conference First team and tabbed our Player Of The Year and Coach Of The Year selections. Today, we’ll narrow our focus to the best individual game of the conference season, both by team performance and by individual player performance, but we’ll also take a moment to recognize the league’s most improved player. For a nice cherry on top, we’ll also honor the single enduring play of the 2013-14 season.

Game Of The Year

Iowa State 98, Oklahoma State 97 (3OT), February 3 at Gallagher-Iba Arena

With such little difference in quality between the second-place team and the eighth-best team, we were treated to intense, close games on a regular basis. Big 12 microsite contributor Taylor Erickson (tc_erickson) breaks down why he went with this thriller.


TE: In a year where arguably the most difficult conference in all of college basketball provided a handful of memorable contests, none was more compelling than the triple-overtime thriller that took place in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in early February between Iowa State and Oklahoma State. This one was back-and-forth for most of the night, and looked for a brief moment that it would end in double-overtime with an Oklahoma State victory before a DeAndre Kane rebound and kick-out to Naz Long led to a game-tying three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left. In the third overtime, Marcus Smart missed a fadeaway jumper in the final seconds that could have pushed the Cowboys in front, but instead saw the visiting Cyclones celebrate with a win in Gallagher Iba Area for the first time since 1988. The individual performances were equally as impressive as the game itself with Kane finishing just one assist shy of a triple double with 26 points, ten rebounds, and nine assists. Iowa State’s big three of Kane, Melvin Ejim, and Georges Niang combined to score 65 points in the winning effort. Oklahoma State was lead by the trio of Smart, Markel Brown, and Le’Bryan Nash who also dropped in 65 points. This setback for Travis Ford and company was the third straight loss in a streak that eventually stretched to seven games, and took place five days before the infamous Marcus Smart shoving incident at Texas Tech. And as if this wasn’t all enough, when these two teams hooked up again this past weekend in Ames, Iowa, they left us one hell of an encore that featured another Naz Long three-pointer as time expired to send the game to overtime. This conference has delivered so many awesome performances this season, and you can bet we’re likely to see more of the same later this week at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.

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Big 12 Week In Review and Look Ahead: Don’t Mistake League’s Competitiveness For Superiority

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2014

The Big 12 may be one of the most competitive conferences in the country, but this week hasn’t been the most glowing endorsement for the league’s case as the best conference in the country. Monday’s game between Baylor and Oklahoma State was supposed to be a battle of teams in the top half of the conference (if we go by preseason expectations), but instead was a fight for ninth place that only went to overtime because of a sequence that was, well, very fitting of a ninth-place battle:

The next day, Texas squared off against Iowa State in a game with major implications for the Longhorns’ Big 12 title chances, but they were able to lead only within the first five minutes. While Texas kept the game interesting with a run early in the second half, the Cyclones pulled away to hold serve at home.

Meanwhile, 925 miles south, Kansas needed another miracle from Andrew Wiggins at the end of regulation to get past a salty but mediocre Texas Tech team in Lubbock:

The only other game this week saw Kansas State quietly beat TCU by 12. The Wildcats’ two best players, Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson, paired up for 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but they also combined to shoot 34.6 percent from the floor and turned the ball over nine times. As a team, Kansas State had a staggering 18 turnovers at home against the worst power conference team in the country, needing a second half run to get away for good.

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Big 12 M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 20th, 2014

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  1. Jimmy Burch is correct in that Oklahoma State will get a boost when Marcus Smart returns from his three-game suspension this weekend against Texas Tech. He is also correct in that the Cowboys have a slim chance to still gain an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament with Smart’s return. But he forgets that Oklahoma State lost four straight games before Smart’s suspension. Could Smart return and be “even better,” as head coach Travis Ford predicts? Sure. But will that lead to an NCAA Tournament bid? Don’t count on it.
  2. Lon Kruger won 15 games two seasons ago in his first campaign at Oklahoma. He won 20 games last season and made the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners are currently 18-6, and barring a surprising collapse, will finish with more wins than last season and reach the NCAA Tournament once again. As Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World reports, Kruger said before the season that he hoped to be in a position this time of year to make a run to the postseason. The Sooners aren’t locks for the Big Dance yet, but they are getting closer to that goal with every passing win.
  3. Kansas State is in virtually the same spot as Oklahoma. The Wildcats are 18-8 and have at least a few winnable games left on the schedule. It’s certainly a far cry from November when they started the season 2-3, including embarrassing losses to Northern Colorado and Charlotte. Freshman guard Marcus Foster has in the interim emerged as one of the best freshmen in the country, and the Wildcats are close to locking up a bid for the NCAA Tournament.
  4. As Mike Hlas states, Iowa State isn’t a great team, “but ISU is very good a lot of days, very entertaining almost every game, and is 20-5.” That, among other things, are the reasons the Cyclones might be the second most dangerous Big 12 team in March. They are entertaining because they shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more. And when they are hitting their jumpers they are tough to beat. It sounds clichéd (because it usually is), but the Cyclones could shoot themselves out of the NCAA Tournament on the first day or wind up in Dallas in the Final Four. Either way, we will know the reason.
  5. Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid came back from a one-game hiatus and was close to dominant in the Jayhawks’ overtime win against Texas Tech Tuesday, finishing with 18 points (a career high) and eight rebounds. Embiid told Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World that he was at “about 90 percent.” He looked much better than he did against Kansas State, and if he was truly back to that level already, Kansas fans should feel hopeful for March.
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Big 12 M5: 02.17.14 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 17th, 2014

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  1. When sophomore forward Perry Ellis plays well, his team plays well. And even though there is an asterisk to things accomplished against TCU (at home, no less) it wasn’t surprising to see Kansas beat the Horned Frogs by 30 and Ellis finish with 32 points, a career high. “He stretched it, took the ball strong to the hole,” Bill Self said after the game Saturday. “I think one of his two misses he got back and put in. Even more importantly, he made a couple great passes.” Naadir Tharpe and Joel Embiid might be the most important players for Kansas come March. But Ellis isn’t far behind. The numbers speak for themselves. 
  2. Gary Parrish over at CBSSports.com updated his Top 25 (and one) yesterday, and three Big 12 teams made the cut. Kansas remained at #7 after beating TCU on Saturday. Iowa State and Texas stayed put as well. The Cyclones remain at #10 after beating Texas Tech by six over the weekend while Texas is #22 following a home win over West Virginia. It was a slow weekend in the Big 12, but that changes in short order with Oklahoma State taking on Baylor tonight and Texas facing Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday.
  3. Who would have guessed that Oklahoma State would find themselves on the bubble this season? Not me, and probably not anyone who follows college basketball. The season-ending injury to Michael Cobbins and the loss of Stevie Clark due to disciplinary reasons hurt enough for the 16-9 Cowboys, but the three-game suspension of point guard Marcus Smart might have pushed them over the edge. Oklahoma State had dropped four in a row before Smart’s suspension following his altercation with a Texas Tech fan last week, and things haven’t gotten better with Smart gone. They have lost their first two games without him and face Baylor on the road tonight. They still face Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State, and I wouldn’t put the Cowboys in the NCAA Tournament field right now.
  4. It doesn’t have the same shock value as the Oklahoma State debacle, but Kansas State is in the third place in the Big 12 -ahead of teams like Baylor, Oklahoma State, andIowa State- thanks to freshman guard Marcus Foster. Foster is averaging 15.1 PPG for the Wildcats and was a key player in upset wins over Kansas (20 points) and Texas (34 points) in the last 10 days. He is one of the main reasons the Wildcats are firmly in the NCAA Tournament right now and are merely playing for seeding.
  5. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has had a successful start to his young coaching career thanks in some part to his willingness to give players a second chance. And as Luke Wynn of the SportsIllustrated.com points out, Cyclone guard DeAndre Kane is the latest example. Kane ran into  trouble both on and off the court while at Marshall before being kicked off the team by head coach Tom Herrion. Kane graduated and was eligible for a fifth year of eligibility while pursuing a graduate degree. He landed at Iowa State and is averaging 15.9 PPG,  6.6 RPG, and 6.1 APG for the Cyclones. He should lead the team back to the NCAA Tournament before getting plenty of looks at the professional level this summer.
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Big 12 M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 12th, 2014

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  1. After Kansas’ loss to Kansas State on Monday, Bill Self said that Jayhawks center Joel Embiid could miss some time to focus on recuperating from knee and back injuries. Embiid played just 18 minutes in the loss at Bramlage Coliseum, and the Wildcats exploited his health problems to attack the paint effectively. Embiid hasn’t officially been ruled out for Saturday’s game against TCU, but Self noted Tuesday that “he has no strength” and “he winces when he moves.” The Jayhawks will need their future lottery pick back and at 100 percent if they are to live up to expectations, but it appears they have a little bit of wiggle room to take it easy with their big man in the short term as they face a relative lag in the Big 12 schedule with the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders next on the docket.
  2. Speaking of the Wildcats, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber is doing a fantastic job of shaking the critics who believe that the second-year head coach can’t win with his own players, and guard Marcus Foster might be the poster boy for the campaign. The Texas native took home National Freshman Of The Week honors for his 34-point outburst against Texas last Saturday, and legitimized it by following up that game with a team-leading 20 points against the Jayhawks on Monday. The Wildcats aren’t a Tournament lock just yet, but they’re getting close, and their standout freshman is a big reason why.
  3. Texas took it to the short-handed Oklahoma State Cowboys throughout an 87-68 win that wasn’t even that close. Javan Felix led the way for the Longhorns, scoring 27 points and hitting six out of eight three-pointers. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that Texas led comfortably despite being without leading scorer Jonathan Holmes, who missed Tuesday’s game with a knee injury. With the win, Texas picked up a half-game on Kansas in the league standings, while the Cowboys fell firmly onto the bubble. We can only assume that Travis Ford is counting the hours until Marcus Smart can return to game action.
  4. Suffice it to say that Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has had better weeks. Following a gut-punching blowout at the hands of West Virginia, the Cyclones lost out on the services of Rashad Vaughn, a highly-touted guard prospect from Henderson, Nevada. Vaughn opted to stay close to home, announcing his intentions on Tuesday to attend UNLV and play for Dave Rice. While the Cyclones will lose DeAndre Kane at the end of the season, they still still figure to be in good shape moving forward with Matt Thomas, Monte Morris, Naz Long and Sherron Dorsey-Walker comprising what should be a highly formidable backcourt.
  5. TCU has an opportunity to turn their 0-10 ship around when the Horned Frogs welcome Baylor to Fort Worth tonight. Trent Johnson’s team has been outrebounded in nine of its last ten games, but Baylor’s rebounding core has left a lot to be desired, considering the athleticism of guys like Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers. Both teams could use a kickstart; The last time either team won consecutive games, Oregon and Ohio State were undefeated, Spencer Dinwiddie was healthy, and Michael Cobbins had only missed one game due to his torn Achilles.
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Four Takeaways from Kansas State’s Win over Kansas

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 11th, 2014

It seems rare when a team that comes back to force overtime in the manner that Kansas did ends up losing the game, but that’s exactly what happened in Manhattan against Kansas State last night. The Wildcats held a nine-point lead with under two minutes remaining (sound familiar, Kansas fans?) but some Jayhawks’ layups, putbacks, and a pair of costly Kansas State turnovers sent the game to overtime. No matter. The Wildcats continued to dominate the paint and won for only the fourth time in the series’ last 52 games, 85-82. Here are four takeaways from last night’s action in Bramlage Coliseum.

Marcus Foster has been a big reason for Kansas State's improved play as of late.

Marcus Foster has been a big reason for Kansas State’s improved play as of late.

  1. Kansas State is putting together a solid NCAA Tournament resume. After losing three out of five in the middle of January, the Wildcats now have back-to-back wins over top 15 teams. Their resume includes impressive victories over Gonzaga, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Last night’s win puts them at 17-7 and just two games back of Kansas in the Big 12 standings.
  2. Marcus Foster is legit. The Wildcat freshman guard had 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting and added a pair of late free throws in overtime to ice the game with 22 seconds left. He came into the game averaging 14.7 PPG but has been especially hot lately, scoring over 20 points in four of his last five games. He’s averaged 27 PPG over the last two games in wins over #7 Kansas and #15 Texas. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 10th, 2014

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  1. The Big 12 moved swiftly in the aftermath of Saturday night’s altercation between Marcus Smart and Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr by handing down a three-game suspension to Smart. The suspension also keeps Smart away from game day activities and team travel, although he will be allowed to continue practicing with Oklahoma State. It may not be easy for the sophomore, but some time away from game action could do him some good. Though it’s hard to count on it at this time, it would be quite the story to see Smart regroup and lead the Cowboys to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
  2. By the incredibly high standards of a Bill Self-coached team, Kansas came into last week struggling on defense, entering last Tuesday’s game against Baylor with the nation’s 39th-ranked defense according to KenPom.com. Just two games later, however, Kansas’ defense has improved considerably and is now up to 22nd in the country after bottling up the Bears and stifling West Virginia. Naadir Tharpe and Wayne Selden are still prone to lapses, but as was detailed in Luke Winn’s power rankings last week, Selden did a very good job of putting the clamps of long-range bomber Brady Heslip.
  3. Kansas State freshman Marcus Foster is on a certified hot streak, having nailed 23 of his last 32 shots over his last two games. In a conference stacked with talented freshmen, Foster has flown relatively under the radar, but it’s safe to say the secret is out. Tonight, he will have to keep it up against a Kansas team that locked him down to a 3-of-12 shooting dud earlier this season. It stands to reason that with the home crowd behind him, he’ll fare a little better this time around.
  4. Lost in the shuffle of everything that went down with Marcus Smart was a rather impressive win by the upstart Texas Tech Red Raiders in front of a packed house. Over 15,000 fans showed up to United Spirit Arena for the first time in seven years to see their team pull the upset, and many of them rushed the floor when the final buzzer sounded. With high-energy guys like Jaye Crockett, Dejan Kravic and a heck of a ballhawk in Robert Turner, don’t be surprised to see Tubby Smith’s team make some more noise before the season is over.
  5. Baylor‘s struggles to this point and the stretch run facing the Bears were the focal points of an article over the weekend by ESPN‘s Andy Katz. Without a marquee win since a December victory over Kentucky, Scott Drew’s team has more work cut out for it than it imagined having when the season started. With eight games left, plenty of opportunities remain, but whether the Bears capitalize on them is a completely different question.
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Big 12 M5: 01.28.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 28th, 2014

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  1. Early in the non-conference portion of the season, it looked like Kansas State was destined for a difficult season in year two of Bruce Weber’s reign as head coach in Manhattan. After losing talented players like Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez from a season ago, many believe Shane Southwell would be the one to fill the scoring void. Absent from any top 100 recruiting list was Marcus Foster, a freshman guard from Texas. In an article on Bleacher Report Monday, Foster told Southwell last fall he thought he could score around six points a game this year for the Wildcats. Southwell set the talented newcomer straight, explaining that he could average at least 13 or 14 this year. That claim appears to be spot on as Foster has averaged exactly fourteen points a game and has been a huge reason why Kansas State has far exceeded most expectations this season.
  2. In yesterday’s Big 12 Morning Five, we discussed Marcus Smart‘s antics on Saturday in reference to an article in the Tulsa World. Smart issued an apology via Twitter saying Saturday was not one of his prouder moments and he lost his composure, something that wouldn’t happen again. A trio of ESPN college basketball writers discussed on Monday whether an apology from Smart was necessary heading into the Bedlam rivalry at Oklahoma last night. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget just how young some of these players are and that like everyone else, they’re subject to mistakes from time to time. Moving forward, for Oklahoma State to truly maximize their potential, Smart has to avoid falling into a similar frustration as he’s simply too valuable to the success in Stillwater.
  3. For Kansas, the magic number to claiming a 10th straight Big 12 title is ironically enough now 10. That means that some combination of Kansas wins and/or losses by those teams sitting at second place equaling the number 10 is what the Jayhawks would need to win or share another conference title. The Kansas City Star took a look at remaining schedules among the league’s elite in an effort to handicap the race for the conference title. While there is still the entire month of February to be played, after Oklahoma State’s loss at Oklahoma last night, if Kansas beats Iowa State at home at Texas on the road this week, this one might be all but over.
  4. For as good as Baylor was early in the non-conference portion of the season, the Bears have been equally as bad as of late. Neutral site wins over Colorado and Kentucky seem like a thing of the past for a team that has started 1-5 in league play. For Scott Drew, he’s using last season’s downfall where Baylor started 5-1 and finished 9-9 as an example for how quickly things can change in college basketball. And, as Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News explained, Tuesday’s home game against West Virginia is about as must-win as it can get for Scott Drew and company this early in the season.
  5. Andrew Wiggins‘ best offensive output of the season came Saturday night in Fort Worth as the Jayhawks avenged the shocking loss they suffered a season ago at the hands of TCU. Wiggins scored 19 points in the first half and finished with 27 for the game, and did a much better job of attacking the rim drawing 10 free throw attempts for the game. Given his athletic ability, this is something that should be a staple in Wiggins’ offensive diet, but could Bill Self do a little more to make it easier for his star player to get to the rim? In a post on the Kansas SB Nation site, Self’s offensive spacing (or lack there of) is discussed in more detail and shows just how difficult it is at times for Wiggins to get to the basket. Perhaps as the season rolls on we will see more isolation calls for the talented guard because when he’s at his best attacking the rim, Kansas becomes that much more difficult to contain.
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