Big 12 M5: 02.21.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 21st, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Gary Parrish over at CBSSports.com has a good piece about coaches on the hot seat and Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford is rightfully mentioned. Ford’s job might have been saved after Marcus Smart decided to return for his junior season, but Smart’s implosion and the Cowboy’s fall from grace might leave Ford in the unemployment line.
  2. ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi updated his lates bracket yesterday and the Big 12 had several representatives. Kansas led the way as a #2 seed in the Midwest region, followed by Iowa State as a #4, Oklahoma and Texas as #6’s, and Kansas State as a #7. The Jayhawks probably have the easiest path with Wichita State as their #1, but don’t count out Texas in this bracket. The Longhorns would have a size advantage over every potential opponent until the Elite Eight.
  3. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, but Joel Embiid is about to break the freshman block record at Kansas. The 7’0” center from Cameroon is one block shy of the school’s freshman record of 63 blocks set by Eric Chenowith in the 1997-98 season. Embiid transformed from a two- or three-year project into the projected No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft, in large part to his ability to block shots.
  4. Here’s another good article regarding the return of Marcus Smart, this time by Sports Illustrated writer Brian Hamilton. “The jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament altogether is very real,” writes Hamilton. And he is write. The Cowboys were struggling before Smart’s suspension and they face an uphill battle when he returns this weekend.
  5. Iowa State is preparing to face lowly TCU tomorrow and head coach Fred Hoiberg had trouble finding bad clips to show his team from their win against Texas on Monday. Understandable. The Cyclones knocked off the Longhorns 85-76 and will probably be the second most dangerous Big 12 team in the NCAA Tournament.
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Big 12 M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 20th, 2014

morning5_big12

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

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 19th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Jim Weber at LostLettermen.com has an interesting proposal about fixing Oklahoma State basketball: T. Boone Pickens should offer Kansas coach Bill Self $10 million a year to leave Lawrence for Stillwater. And while he makes the comparison to Roy Williams leaving Kansas for North Carolina in 2003, the situations are apples and oranges. Williams went home to Chapel Hill, but he was moving (slightly) up the coaching ladder. Not down. Winning at Kansas is easy. Winning at North Carolina is easier. And after failing to win a national title in 15 years at Kansas, Williams probably wanted easier. Self wouldn’t be able to avoid returning to Lawrence like Williams can. And while it would be a challenge at Oklahoma State, I’m sure Self’s Big 12 title streak and search for another national title (or two) are challenging enough. At least until a serious NBA offer comes along.
  2. Gregg Doyel argues that Marcus Smart isn’t the sole reason Oklahoma State has been melting down the last month, and he is right. The loss of Michael Cobbins with an Achilles tear killed this team more than losing Smart for three games. Smart’s antics, Doyel says, will shoulder the blame for the collapse of a team that was supposed to overthrow Kansas for the Big 12 championship. But Doyel seems to forget that Smart has done plenty to bring this heat on himself. He made himself a sideshow with his endless flopping. He kicked a chair during a rough game against West Virginia and left the court during play, even though his team eventually won. And Monday night while watching his team lose at Baylor, he took to twitter to criticize a blogger for being too negative. It wasn’t just Smart’s suspension that doomed the Cowboys. He was leading them in that direction long before that happened.
  3. Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger has been in the game for a few seasons, so he knows a thing or two about handling a team late in the season. And with the Sooners (19-7) preparing for a late-season push for the NCAA Tournament and a favorable seed, he gave his players two days off this week instead of one. They will rest today as they prepare to face Kansas State on Saturday. While you always have to stay sharp, staying fresh in late February and March can be just as important.
  4. It’s refreshing to know at least one coach talks to his team about their NCAA Tournament chances as Selection Sunday draws closer. Bob Huggins told Cam Huffman of the Register-Herald that “We talk about RPI. I would just as soon them know instead of at the end of the year them coming in and saying, ‘Coach, I wish we would have known.’” I’m sure a lot of coaches in Huggins’ position have the same discussions with their players, but Huggins doesn’t mind letting the World know. And if you can get just a little more out of a few players by them knowing exactly what they need to reach the Dance, why not?
  5. When new NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he is in favor of changing the age limit from 19 to 20, Bill Self said he liked the idea. The only thing better than landing players like Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid is having those players around for two seasons. From the NBA’s perspective, another year of evaluation makes perfect sense. The college game would benefit as well. There would be more talent and it would be spread out more evenly around the country. And while 18-year olds shouldn’t be protected from themselves, it’s easy to see how both the NBA and NCAA would benefit from this change.
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Big 12 M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on February 18th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. With a healthy Joel Embiid in the lineup, Kansas is a national title contender. Without their 7’0” freshman center from Cameroon, however, the Jayhawks would be fortunate to make the Elite Eight. Embiid has become the most important player on Bill Self’s team this season. So when a few nagging injuries finally caught up with him in last week’s loss to Kansas State, it was wise of Self to sit his big man against TCU on Saturday. He looks to be back in the lineup for tonight’s game versus Texas Tech, so it’s safe to say that his recent knee and back problems were nothing a little time off couldn’t fix. At least that’s what Jayhawks fans everywhere are hoping.
  2. As Ken Corbitt points out here, Bruce Weber doesn’t generally like to foul when down three points late in the game. And whether he was a proponent of that strategy or not, Corbitt correctly points out that Kansas State’s double-overtime loss Saturday to Baylor wasn’t a good time to foul anyway. Baylor was down three but shot the ball too soon for Kansas State to foul. The Bears kept grabbing offensive rebounds, though, and in the confusion, Brady Heslip ended up with the ball and drained a three-pointer to send the game to its first overtime. If you’re going to foul, its best to do so with under six seconds remaining. There is no game-planning strategy available for an early three-point attempt followed by multiple offensive rebounds and a kick-out three.
  3. If you watched last night’s Baylor vs. Oklahoma State game on ESPN, you might recall that they showed a Big 12 Tournament bracket if the season had ended today. Last night’s opponents would be the #8/#9 match-up while Texas Tech — yes, Texas Tech — would be the No. 7 seed. The Red Raiders are currently 5-7 in league play and KenPom has the team as just five-point underdogs tonight against Kansas. A lot of that has to do with two people: head coach Tubby Smith and senior forward Jaye Crockett. Smith admits that he felt the need to win Crockett over after he was hired last year. It seems to have worked, as Texas Tech sits at 13-12 overall and should manage to win enough games to play in some sort of postseason tournament next month.
  4. Speaking of Baylor and Oklahoma State, last night’s game prompted both teams to appear on CBSSports.com’s most recent “Poppin’ Bubbles” segment. As Jeff Borzello points out, Baylor now has five top-50 wins this season and is riding a three-game winning streak. The Bears are 17-9 and could realistically get to 20 wins if we include the Big 12 Tournament. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, has lost seven straight games with and without Marcus Smart in the lineup. They have two winnable games coming up against Texas Tech and TCU, but end the season against Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. The Cowboys might be NIT-bound.
  5. Like every other Big 12 team has experienced at some point, Oklahoma is entering a brutal stretch of games, beginning this weekend. The Sooners will face Kansas State, travel to Kansas and play host to Texas in a span of eight days. At 19-7 overall, the Sooners look to be on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, but a late-season losing streak (no matter how much the committee claims recent performances don’t carry more weight) could hurt their chances next month. They end the season at TCU, but the aforementioned trio of games followed by West Virginia should keep Sooners fans on their toes for now.
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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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Who Won the Week? Tyler Ennis, Wisconsin, Grambling State & More…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 14th, 2014

wonweekWho Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. This week’s main event? Watching INCREDIBLY LARGE MAN Sim Bhullar and New Mexico State get upset by an Idaho team that was just 1-6 in its home dome at that point.

WINNER: Tyler Ennis

When you save your team’s undefeated season by making a buzzer-beating three-pointer to knock off a Top 25 team on the road, you’ve got the best week imaginable. Syracuse’s freshman point guard earned top honors this week thanks to that. Tyler Ennis’ 13-point, five-assist performance in Wednesday’s 58-56 win at Pittsburgh, including that last shot, pushed the Orange’s record to 24-0 and 11-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. OK, sure, maybe they won’t make it through consecutive road games at Duke, Maryland and Virginia in the next couple of weeks, but for another few nights, the magic lives on thanks to a phenomenal shot from a freshman phenom.

Tyler Ennis certainly had a week to remember. (Getty)

Tyler Ennis certainly had a week to remember. (Getty)

(Related winners: Syracuse, who also beat Clemson 57-44 on Sunday; Wichita State, which gets to avoid the singular spotlight of being the nation’s only undefeated team. Related losers: Pittsburgh, but thanks for setting the stage for a star.)

LOSER: Everybody involved in the Marcus Smart fiasco

One of last year’s phenom freshman point guards hasn’t exactly had the same season in his second try. Marcus Smart’s frustration seemed encapsulated last Saturday when the Oklahoma State sophomore pushed Texas Tech purported “superfan” Jeff Orr in the stands during the Cowboys’ eventual 65-61 loss in Lubbock. Nobody wins in this. Smart rightfully earned a three-game suspension for his actions. Orr, who has been caught making obscene gestures to other players, won’t attend a Texas Tech game for the rest of the season. The Pokes’ losing streak extended to five after following their loss at the Red Raiders with an 87-68 loss Tuesday at Texas. We’ll never know what Orr actually said to provoke Smart. We’ll never know what went through Smart’s mind. But we know that his team has slipped to 16-8 and 4-7 in Big 12 play. He’ll certainly have a lot of work to do upon his return, both on the basketball court and with his reputation.

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Big 12 Gears Up for a Bubblicious Weekend

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 14th, 2014

Big 12 teams continued to beat up on each other this week, with Kansas State prevailing in overtime over their in-state foes, West Virginia thrashing Iowa State and Texas Tech rising up to take down Oklahoma. As Kansas figures to hold serve at the top when they welcome TCU to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, the focus this weekend will shift to teams further down in the standings as they look to strengthen their tournament resumes. Big 12 microsite writers Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) took some time to discuss what the league’s four biggest bubble teams need to do, starting with this weekend’s slate, to crack the field.

The Mountaineers look to become just the second Big 12 team to beat Texas at home when they head to Austin on Saturday. (WVUSports.com)

The Mountaineers look to become just the second Big 12 team to beat Texas at home when they head to Austin on Saturday. (WVUSports.com)

BG: Let’s start off with the hottest team among those in the hunt for a bid, and that’s West Virginia. As they get ready for a big game on the road against Texas tomorrow, what do you make of their resurgence? Given that they went so long without an important win, what do you think they need to do the rest of the way to get back into the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence?

KC: West Virginia might need to win out in the regular season, for two reasons. They are 15-10 and only have three RPI top 50 wins, all of which came at home. They need more top 50 wins and they have four more opportunities in the regular season: At Texas, at Iowa State, at Oklahoma, and Kansas at home. Winning those four might give them enough quality wins to impress the tournament committee. The two remaining games are Baylor at home and TCU on the road. Losing either of those would kill their at-large chances. Speaking of Baylor, half of their wins have come against teams outside of the RPI top 100, and they have only four wins over top-100 RPI teams. They have five games left against RPI top-50 teams. Do they need to win all five to have any chance at an at-large bid?

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Big 12 M5: 02.11.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 11th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Marcus Smart‘s three-game suspension effectively begins tonight when Oklahoma State plays Texas in Austin, but some writers are arguing that he isn’t the only one at the heart of the Cowboys’ downward spiral. Dana O’Neil wonders why head coach Travis Ford didn’t play a bigger role in not only Saturday’s ugly ending but also in other incidents in which Smart visibly lost his cool. Mike DeCourcy also held Ford’s feet to the fire in a column Sunday night. While it isn’t Ford’s fault that Michael Cobbins tore his Achilles or that Stevie Clark decided to get arrested twice in one month, he definitely deserves some criticism and scrutiny for failing to reign in his star point guard.
  2. Texas forward Jonathan Holmes will be a gametime decision in the aforementioned game against Oklahoma State after he sustained an unspecified right knee injury in last Saturday’s loss to Kansas State. Holmes is the Longhorns’ leading scorer at 13.1 points per game, so if he can’t go in Austin, one would think they’d feel a pinch, but on the other hand, the Cowboys’ frontcourt isn’t exactly a picture of depth, either. Still, Rick Barnes would much rather have the big-bodied Holmes available.
  3. The morning after Iowa State took a 102-77 beatdown in Morgantown probably isn’t the best time to ask this question, but how tough is it to decide who has been the Cyclones’ most valuable player this season? While awards can be superficial, it’s worth noting that five of Fred Hoiberg’s players have taken home Big 12 Player Of The Week honors, and two of those players — Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane — have given opposing defenses headaches all season long. While it’s a cop-out answer, if the season ended today, there’s a good case for them to share the honor.
  4. While West Virginia blew out the Cyclones Monday night, the game ended on a weak note as Mountaineer guard Eron Harris was ejected for throwing a punch at Cyclone freshman Monte Morris late in the game. Earlier in the sequence, Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue picked up a flagrant foul for crane-kicking West Virginia forward Kevin Noreen as Hogue tried to come down with a rebound. The Mountaineers led by a staggering 29 points at the time, which makes the incident that much worse. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the Big 12 hand down a suspension to Harris for his actions that marred an otherwise astounding performance by the Mountaineers.
  5. Improved defense from Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins has given the Sooners a major boost as they have moved closer to locking up an NCAA Tournament bid. While Ryan Spangler has provided the muscle inside, Cousins has frustrated opposing floor generals with regularity. He may not have the gaudy steal totals of a Briante Weber or Jordan Adams, but he’s made life incredibly tough nonetheless.
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Morning Five: 02.11.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 11th, 2014

morning5

  1. Coming into the season we knew that the only thing that DePaul fans had to look forward to was debates over the proposal by Rahm Emanuel to build them a new stadium. What followed has been a 10-14 record overall and 2-9 in the Big East. To be fair they are tied with Butler and we suspect that any DePaul fan would have taken that part coming into the season. Now the Blue Demons will have to complete the rest of the season without Cleveland Melvin, who is no longer enrolled at the school. Melvin, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, has been suspended since January 25 for unspecified reasons so perhaps his departure should not be viewed as much of a surprise. We would suspect that Melvin’s next stop will be a trip to an international destination out of O’Hare.
  2. Toledo was dealt a huge blow in what should be a very big game in the Mid-American Conference as it announced that it had suspended Justin Drummond, its leading scorer, for one game after he was arrested for a DUI on Saturday night. Drummond will be held out of Wednesday night’s game against Ohio, which is in second in the Eastern Division of the MAC (Toledo is in first in the West). Drummond is averaging 14.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. Toledo will still have a shot at winning the game particularly since it is at home and fortunately for the them they will still be in control of their destiny with regards to getting an automatic bid with a favorite seed for the MAC Tournament so hopefully Drummond can learn from this mistake.
  3. We have heard a lot of takes on the Marcus Smart incident. Many of them have been good. Some of them have been ridiculous, but we are not sure that we have heard one quite like Tom Izzo‘s where he puts part of the blame on social media. If you have seen our Twitter feed you should be aware that we are not against social media so our view might be slightly biased, but to pin (at the very least) some of the blame for the actions of Jeff Orr and Marcus Smart on social media is borderline ridiculous. Do people say dumb stuff online? Of course. They also say dumb stuff in person. Players today might get bombarded with more direct criticism via online access, but to use that as a crutch for Smart’s action(s) is really letting him and others who have behaved badly in the public eye off the hook way too easily.
  4. The long-awaited renovation to Rupp Arena was unveiled yesterday when Lexington mayor Jim Gray revealed plans for the $310 million renovation. Gray is defending the expense as a key piece of economic development for the city. One interesting aspect of the project is that the city still has not revealed how it intends to pay for it. While Big Blue Nation is certainly passionate about its basketball it is interesting to see how apprehensive the quoted residents are about the project and how it will be funded. Having said that we have not seen many municipalities reject a stadium being built or renovated, but the Lexington residents do have the benefit of the school not being able to move.
  5. We are just about a month away from fans starting to look at their rosters and try to figure out who is coming back. In general fans view a high percentage of returning players as a good thing and it certainly seems like sound logic, but as Dan Hanner points out experience is not a guarantee for success. Given the state of college basketball where most of the top programs lose players to the NBA after a year or two it should not be surprising that most of Hanner’s examples involve lesser-known programs, but it is still interesting to see how many teams have struggled despite returning so much from the previous season.
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College Basketball by the Tweets: The Marcus Smart Shove Edition

Posted by Nick Fasulo on February 10th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

College basketball had its Richard Sherman moment Saturday night in Lubbock, Texas, as Oklahoma State superstar Marcus Smart shoved a notable Texas Tech fan named Jeff Orr to spark a flurry of discussion via Twitter. Even if you weren’t watching the Cowboys suffer their fourth consecutive loss, one quick check of your news feed would have immediately brought the story to your attention, along with varying opinions and perspective surrounding the incident. We now know that Smart has been suspended for three games. Below is how the story evolved from the initial reaction up through Sunday’s announcement of Smart’s suspension.

The Initial Reaction

It all started — for me at least — with a Vine of the Smart shove posted by CBSSports.com‘s Matt Norlander:

Within minutes, everyone had responded to the shove.  Some people immediately knew a developing story was afoot. The very first with the trigger was Pat Forde:

The subsequent knee-jerk tweets are fascinating to look back on. Certainly nobody is in the wrong, but based on what we learned, these now feel like nascent observations.

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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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Morning Five: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. By now you have heard that Marcus Smart has been suspended for three games for shoving an Oklahoma State fan (press conference quotes here). You have have probably formed an opinion about the incident as well as Smart and the fan (reportedly a longtime Texas Tech fan named Jeff Orr, who denies using a racial slur). As we stated when the incident occurred there is more than enough blame to go around to both parties here (including the officials and Oklahoma State coaches who let Smart stay in the game and on the court, respectively), but it is pointless to try to assign relative degrees of blame. The unfortunate thing for Smart is that this will be part of his legacy no matter what he accomplishes (see Bobby Knight and his chair). Hopefully he and the fan can learn from the incident and grow from it.
  2. The incident in Lubbock was not the only ugly one involving fans as Oregon coaches are reporting that an Arizona State student repeatedly spit on two Oregon staff members after Saturday’s game. According to Oregon, the same student also spit on staff members at halftime as the set up in Tempe requires the visiting team to walk between two student sections on their way to the locker room. Oregon declined to press charges so we probably will not find out the identity of the student, who will probably still be punished by the school. This incident has already been overshadowed by the Marcus Smart one because the staff did not react physically to the fan and they are not nearly as well-known as Smart, but it is no less troubling.
  3. The Marcus Smart and Oregon incidents will overshadow it (along with the Sochi Olympics and the Michael Sam announcement), but the bigger news in terms of its impact on this college basketball season and the eventual national champion may have come out of East Lansing as Michigan State announced that Keith Appling would be “out for a couple weeks” with a wrist injury. This is the same wrist injury that has been bothering Appling for much of the season and only adds to the growing list of injuries that the Spartans are dealing with this season. When they are healthy there probably is not a better team in the country than Michigan State, but the problem is how infrequently they have been healthy this season and at this rate we are not sure if we will see a healthy Michigan State team this season.
  4. Adam Silver, the new NBA commissioner, reportedly wants a higher NBA age limit raising the age from 19 years old to 20 years old. From a selfish college basketball fan perspective we would love this as it would most likely give us an extra year of college basketball for the best players assuming they decide not to go the Brandon Jennings route and play overseas. Realistically and practically we do not see it happening because as is the current age limit is on tenuous legal ground and it seems unlikely that the NBA Players Association would be willing to acquiesce to this even if it would theoretically give current members an extra year of roster protection from college players. So unless the owners are willing to give the Players Association major concessions on salaries/revenue sharing, which we do not see happening, we would not expect to see this change any time soon.
  5. A lot of people like to throw out various advanced metrics, but few do as good of a job explaining them as Ken Pomeroy does when he takes the time to blog about them. His most recent entry on looking at the factors that contribute to average possession length is a pretty thorough tutorial on why advanced metrics can be so useful. Essentially what it does it boils down several smaller factors into a more meaningful overall stat. There are certainly some limits to what they can be used for, but the field is an evolving one and will continue to get better.
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