Marcus Smart Will Be Punished, But The Conversation Doesn’t End There

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 9th, 2014

Just when you thought Oklahoma State’s season couldn’t get any more disappointing, any more bizarre, it takes another turn.

The Cowboys’ season hit yet another low point in the closing seconds of its most recent loss. With about six seconds left in Oklahoma State’s game last night against Texas Tech, Marcus Smart fouled Red Raiders forward Jaye Crockett on a dunk attempt and fell to the ground right behind the basket. As Smart was being helped up, he turned around and exchanged words with a fan. We don’t know what was said by the fan, but whatever was mentioned clearly struck a nerve as it led Smart to break the invisible barrier between players and fans, and that’s something that simply can’t fly in the current landscape.

As we pick up the pieces, the incident immediately raises a number of questions: First of all, what did the fan say? Even though there was very little time remaining in the game, why wasn’t Smart ejected or otherwise led away from the court before things escalated? He’s certainly facing a suspension. What kind of discipline is adequate? As was raised from Richard Sherman’s on-field interview last month, is it simply too much to expect athletes to absorb everything that comes their way during or immediately following games?

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Big 12 M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 6th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Last night was the zillionth reason why winning a road game in the Big 12 is a you-know-what. Oklahoma arrived at WVU Coliseum to face West Virginia about 90 minutes before tip-off due to winter weather and still managed to stay in the game. The Mountaineers held the lead for much of the game but a three-point play from Ryan Spangler gave the Sooners a one-point advantage with 1:38 left. That’s when Eron Harris started making all the three-pointers: one that sent the game to overtime with 20.2 seconds left, and two more to put the game away for good. The Mountaineers now have wins against Baylor (losing luster), Kansas State and the Sooners in their last three games. But as we all know, the NCAA Tournament won’t be played at your home arena. A win at Kansas on Saturday would really send a message.
  2. Kansas center Joel Embiid said after its win at Baylor that he is “strongly considering” returning to campus for his sophomore season. The obvious part about this story is how much of this is a non-story. This is as pointless as reporters asking players whether they’re leaving for the NBA mere minutes after their season just ended. But I totally get why ESPN’s Jeff Goodman asked Embiid about his future: He’s gotta write about something, and Lord knows nobody else is asking the question to likely draft picks in early February. Goodman has already cornered the market for the answer from the potential top pick in this June’s draft. Game recognize game, Jeffrey.
  3. Marcus Smart was considered a consensus lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft but elected to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. In addition to a possible injury as a downside to coming back to school, Smart’s game is being scouted, analyzed and criticized more than ever before. NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster brings forth several compelling points about Smart’s poor decision-making at times and how a lack of awareness when it comes to his own strengths and weaknesses can hurt his team’s prospects this season. Beyond that, it could also hurt how NBA teams evaluate him when they’re deciding whether to make him their point guard of the future.
  4. CBSSports.com sat down with Texas head coach Rick Barnes this week and discussed his team’s surprising season, the new athletic director and some other things. One topic of conversation was center Cameron Ridley, who would get my vote for Big 12 Most Improved Player of the Year, if such an award existed. He was a player who was a project in every sense of the word and didn’t really have a set of skills when he stepped onto campus for the first time. Ridley was always an intimidating defender, but now he’s a better finisher around the rim and has vastly improved his conditioning (he has already played more minutes at this point in the season than all of 2012-13). Buzz Williams who?
  5. Former Baylor guard Pierre Jackson was drafted in the second round of last year’s NBA Draft but was subsequently cut from the New Orleans Pelicans in training camp. So now Jackson is venting all of his frustration of being cut on to the entire D-League. On Tuesday night, the Idaho Stampede guard dropped a ridiculous 58 points on 33 shots, grabbed six rebounds and dished out eight assists in a win over the Texas Legends. Jackson is also leading the D-League in points per game (30.2) so far. It’s only a matter time before an NBA team is wise enough to bring him up to the big time.
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Morning Five: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 6th, 2014

morning5

  1. By now all of you have heard of DeAndre Kane and at least part of his story including about his father and his time at Marshall before transferring to Iowa State, but we have not seen as thorough a description of Kane and some of the details of those incidents at Marshall as what Luke Winn provided in his article on Kane for Sports Illustrated. While Kane certainly comes across as a sympathetic figure it is interesting that he denies that any of the reported incidents happened despite multiple sources confirming the reports including one player who Kane reportedly punches who admits that he was at fault for the incident. Outside of the details on Kane it also has a guest appearance by Royce White, it also has a surprising story about how Lattrell Spreewell is one of Fred Hoiberg’s favorite teammates and how his experiences with Spreewell helped shape his view on accepting transfers.
  2. Richmond’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament appear to be over after they announced yesterday that Cedrick Lindsey‘s career at Richmond was over due a torn meniscus in both knees. Lindsay, the team’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, was the team’s only remaining senior after forward Derrick Williams quit the team. Richmond’s resume is good enough that with a solid February and March they could be on the bubble, but without Lindsey and Williams it is tough to envision them putting together such a run. Without Lindsey in the lineup even more burden will fall on Kendall Anthony, the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.8 points per game, but at this point Richmond fans might be better served looking forward to next season.
  3. Loyola’s bad season is about to get worse after they announced that Dylon Cormier, the top scorer in the Patriot League at 21.2 points per game, is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair two fractures in his left hand. The injury might have a bigger impact on Loyola than Cedric Lindsey’s will have on Richmond, but Loyola was nowhere near the point of having any postseason aspirations as they were only 9-12 prior to the announcement although they did manage to beat American, the top team in the Patriot League, last night without Cormier. It is possible that Loyola could rally without Cormier, but we would probably just consider last night’s result an aberration.
  4. As a general rule using “I’m not the only one” is never a good defense, but apparently that is what Marcus Smart has elected to use as his defense for his growing reputation for flopping. We can’t argue with Smart’s claim because we do see a lot of flopping, but we doubt that his defense will win him many supporters. What will win him supporters is getting his game back together as it and his Oklahoma State team have fallen apart. We are not quite ready to write off Smart and the Cowboys yet, but if they do not turn it around relatively soon they could be looking at a much lower seed in the NCAA Tournament than they expected coming into the season.
  5. Yesterday on ESPN’s Mike and Mike show, Jim Boeheim stated that college basketball is in “the best place it’s ever been.” On the surface it might seem like a ridiculous statement because of how much people complain about how college basketball has fallen off with many of the top talents only staying in college for the mandated one year before heading to the NBA, but Boeheim is looking at things a little differently. Boeheim’s argument is based more on parity. Some might call this mediocrity, but in Boeheim’s eyes there are benefits to not having a few dominant teams and instead having “a lot of really good teams”. On some level that is something we can certainly get behind and hope that it leads to a great NCAA Tournament.
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College Basketball by the Tweets: #BBN Whining, Berkeley Celebrating, Marcus Smart Flopping, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo on February 4th, 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.

Our latest College Basketball by the Tweets piece opens up again in Lincoln, Nebraska, where a young Cornhuskers fan is really excited to receive a headband from sophomore forward Terran Petteway following the team’s win over Indiana.

As the #BBN Turns

The so-called perfect recruiting class John Calipari brought to Lexington this season has been exposed to have a handful of imperfections. To make it worse, some of those issues may be that of the intangible kind (i.e., lack of effort, team chemistry) than pure talent. Following a rather ugly road loss to LSU last week, the #BBN whine train was chugging along quite nicely.

And then the ultimate jab from the in-state rival:

The ‘Cats did right the ship a bit over the weekend with a nice road win over Missouri, but signs point to continued road inconsistency for the rest of the regular season.

A Sea Of Yellow As No. 1 Goes Down

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Stevie Clark’s Dismissal Brings More Tumult to Oklahoma State

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 3rd, 2014

To say that Oklahoma State’s season hasn’t gone as planned would be a massive understatement. The Cowboys, Big 12 favorites before the start of the season, are struggling (for a conference contender) at 4-4 in league play. They don’t seem to have an answer for the hole left in the interior by Michael Cobbins’ injury and Marcus Smart is mired in the most prolonged slump of his two-year career. But the drama surrounding the program reached another level on Monday when head coach Travis Ford dismissed guard Stevie Clark from the team after the freshman was arrested over the weekend for outraging public decency. From a personnel standpoint, Clark’s loss is a big one, but after two prior incidents (an arrest for marijuana possession earlier last month, and a four-game suspension for an unspecified reason), it’s easy to see why Ford had to make the move. So now what?

Mere months after arriving in Stillwater, Stevie Clark is finished at Oklahoma State.

Mere months after arriving in Stillwater, Stevie Clark has already run out of chances at Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys’ margin for error, already paper thin due to their four conference losses to this point, has gotten even thinner. Rather than bringing in Clark to give Smart some much-needed breathers, Ford will either have to reach deeper on to his bench or just play Smart until his wheels fall off. Markel Brown, a player who has flourished as a shooting guard, could see more time backing up the point, but that’s not an ideal situation for either him or the team. The pinch could be felt more by the dropoff at Brown’s usual spot if he does log minutes there. Seldom-used junior Christien Sager could see an increase in playing time from his current 3.7 minutes per contest, although that prospect won’t exactly make Cowboys fans giddy with excitement.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Blowing Away the NPOY Competition

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 31st, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Michigan State was so close to landing a player in this week’s Award Tour rankings, but Gary Harris struggled in a loss to Michigan. His day will come… eventually. Providence’s Bryce Cotton and Ed Cooley are also very close to making their debuts on the watch lists as well. Cotton is an ironman who has carried the Friars after taking over as the point guard, while Cooley has kept the team moving forward after a rough start to conference play. Andrew Wiggins is quickly turning into the player everyone expected before the season — he was never bad or mediocre, just not a stud – until now. After 27 points against TCU and 29 more against Iowa State, Maple Jordan is rounding into form as Kansas’ second Big 12 Player of the Year candidate. Pitt’s Lamar Patterson struggled against Duke, but he’ll have several more chances in the coming weeks to prove he’s an ACC Player of the Year candidate.

Player of the Year

Thanks to some outstanding play of late, Justin Jackson (left), Xavier Thames, and Nick Stauskas are all in the POY discussion.

Thanks to some outstanding play of late, Justin Jackson (left), Xavier Thames, and Nick Stauskas are all in the POY discussion.

10. Justin Jackson – Cincinnati. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 11.1 PPG, 7 RPG, 3.3 BPG, 107.5 oRTG

Justin Jackson isn’t going to wow anyone offensively. He can score a few buckets here and there, be a playmaker occasionally, and draw a lot of fouls. So why did he make the Player of the Year rankings? He’s a dominant defender and rebounder. Jackson is arguably the best player on a Cincinnati team that is now 20-2 with wins at Louisville, at Memphis, Pittsburgh and SMU. He’s the only player in the top 50 in the country in block AND steal rate according to KenPom, and his late steal against Louisville helped seal an impressive victory in the KFCYum! Center against the Cardinals.

9. Xavier Thames – San Diego State. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.5 PPG, 2.7 APG, 121.6 oRTG

Xavier Thames has emerged as San Diego State’s top player after spending three years toiling in mediocrity thanks to poor shooting and turnovers. But as a senior, Thames has become a much more efficient scorer and distributor. He’s the main reason why the Aztecs could overcome huge personnel losses and improve from last year’s NCAA round of 32 squad.

8. Joel Embiid – Kansas. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 11.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 113.6 oRTG

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Big 12 M5: 01.28.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 28th, 2014

morning5_big12

  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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Big 12 Power Rankings: Baylor is Losing its Mind Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 27th, 2014

Here was a team that was picked to finish third in the Big 12 by the league’s 10 coaches. They fought their way to the Maui Invitational championship game where they lost to a still-unbeaten Syracuse team. They didn’t seem phased by arguably the best recruiting class in decades against Kentucky, beating the Wildcats on a neutral floor in Arlington. But for whatever reason, Baylor currently stands at 1-5 in the Big 12 with two-thirds of league action still to play. Granted, two of those losses came at Iowa State and at Kansas, but the Bears haven’t been able to take care of business at home either, falling to Oklahoma on January 18 and Texas over the weekend. But hey, if it took six games to get us all freaking out over Baylor, it’s entirely possible they can turn their season around in the final 12 contests, right? (Right?!) Well last week, our power rankings had two groups of two that found themselves tied. We did better this time around: only one!

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew's way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

As best told by this photograph, there are a lot of things not going Scott Drew’s way lately. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald)

1. Kansas — 4 points (previous: 1st; Brian, KoryNate & Taylor: 1st)

Comment: “What can be said about the Jayhawks that hasn’t already been said? Wayne Selden Jr. has been a different player since Big 12 play began and Andrew Wiggins had a career-high of 27 points against TCU. Curious to know how Joel Embiid’s knee is after bruising it in the second half Saturday. Based on how little media coverage it got after the TCU game, it probably isn’t serious.” – Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso)

2. Oklahoma State — 10 points (previous: 2nd; Brian, Nate & Taylor-2nd, Kory-4th)

Comment: “Marcus Smart played his worst game of the season, as this chair would tell you if it could, you know, talk. No matter, though, since the Cowboys still beat the Mountaineers.” – Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman)

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Big 12 M5: 01.27.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 27th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. As good as Marcus Smart has been in his relatively brief college career, it appears some of his on-court antics are growing old on many college basketball fans. On Saturday against West Virginia, Smart was visibly frustrated after not getting some foul calls in his favor, but as John Hoover of the Tulsa World writes, the sophomore is just simply too good of a basketball player to dilute his on-court performances with his emotions.
  2. At this point in the season, Texas head coach Rick Barnes has to be the front-runner for Big 12 Coach of the Year honors. Barnes entered the season on the hot seat, and all he’s done to this point is lead his team to a 16-4 overall record (5-2 in Big 12 play) with three straight wins over ranked teams — a feat that had never been performed in the long history of Texas basketball. After a road win at Baylor on Saturday, Barnes praised the commitment to improvement made by his team this season, and it would appear that the members of the program have no intention of seeing their coach’s career in Austin end anytime soon.
  3. With so much quality depth in the Big 12 this season and the round-robin format to league play, teams are bound to face several ridiculously difficult stretches throughout the year. Kansas State has found itself in exactly this scenario after losing back-to-back games games against Texas and Iowa State last week. That’s the same Iowa State team that just dropped three games in a row of its own. In such a tough conference, the key for Bruce Weber’s Wildcats will be making sure that two losses in a week don’t turn into three or four over two weeks and threaten to derail the team’s hopes of postseason play.
  4. Speaking of Iowa State, the Cyclones’ win on Saturday at home against Kansas State may have provided more than just another number in the win column as Matt Thomas appeared to get back on track by knocking down 4-of-6 shots from behind the arc. Thomas had struggled with his shooting to start league play, making just 23.5 percent from three for someone considered as one of the best shooters in this year’s freshman class. While Fred Hoiberg’s team still shoots the ball well from deep, they would be improved tremendously if Thomas could consistently come off the bench for instant offenses in much the same way that Tyus McGee did a season ago.
  5. TCU head coach Trent Johnson came away from his home loss to Kansas on Saturday night mightily impressed by the enormous amount of talent Bill Self has at his disposal in Lawrence. Johnson said after the game that he believes that the Jayhawks have six pros on their team, but junior point guard Naadir Tharpe is the player who is the reason Kansas has been playing so well. Tharpe, along with freshman guards Frank Mason and Wayne Selden, managed to get through Saturday night’s rout without a single turnover, a tendency that has plagued the perimeter players at times this season.
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Following Mr. Smart: Could Jabari Parker Give Us an Encore?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 25th, 2014

Last season Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart shocked the entire basketball world when he decided to return to Stillwater for a sophomore campaign. In a year in which he had taken home Big 12 Player of the Year, Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and unanimous first team all-conference honors, Smart had NBA scouts salivating about the prospect of drafting him. But against all odds, Smart turned his back on the NBA and decided it could wait another season. He wanted to enjoy the college atmosphere for another year and he wanted to compensate for OSU’s disappointing first round exit from the NCAA Tournament. It was hard to turn down the guaranteed money for what would have most likely been a top-five selection, but he did and here we are. Oklahoma State currently sits at 15-3 and is ranked 11th in the national polls, but a 3-2 start in Big 12 play means that the Cowboys are likely to spend the rest of the winter looking up at Kansas in the league standings. Smart has impressed individually as well — he’s a bona fide All-American — but he will be facing a much deeper field in this year’s NBA Draft if he decides two years is enough. This brings us to a similar situation in which a star freshman who is all but guaranteed a top-five draft slot has rumors swirling that he too is considering not making the jump.

Could Parker Commit to Duke Again?

Could Parker Commit to Duke Again?

Duke’s Jabari Parker is not Marcus Smart; they don’t play the game the same way or even the same position. But they are both incredibly talented underclassmen shouldering an intense offensive burden for Top 25 teams. In Parker’s case, whispers have been mounting over the past few weeks — most recently with Parker’s dad, Sonny — suggesting that Parker has yet to make up his mind about his future. Perhaps a typical reaction from a confidant, advisor, or family member, Parker and his team are wise to desire minimal distractions during Duke’s season. But after Duke landed the top overall recruiting class for 2014, fans and pundits alike began dreaming up scenarios of potential Duke lineups that include Parker along with top 10 prospects Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, five-star prospect Justise Winslow and fringe five-star recruit Grayson Allen. For an individual who has said that he hopes to leave a legacy at Duke as one of the all-time greats, Parker will only be able to do so if he brings home another title to Durham.

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Award Tour: Can Anyone Challenge Doug McDermott?

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 24th, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

While most players need the Jaws of Life to pry the Player of the Year award from Doug McDermott right now, the race to be named in the top 10 continues to be heated. Russ Smith fell out of the rankings after two more turnover-prone, poor-shooting performances. Casey Prather had two solid outings after returning from an injury against Auburn and Alabama. Gary Harris and Keith Appling have remained impressive during big man Adreian Payne’s absence. Xavier Thames seems to improve with each game and hasn’t been held to single figures since scoring five points against McNeese State a month ago.

Player of the Year

10. Lamar Patterson – Pittsburgh. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 17.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, 122.8 oRTG

The Panthers didn’t pass their tough road test at Syracuse, but Lamar Patterson battled Tyler Ennis as the stars in the Carrier Dome. After an early second half run by the Orange, Patterson single-handedly brought Pitt back with a trio of three-pointers from DEEP behind the line. Pitt couldn’t hold the lead, but Patterson definitely held near his spot in the Player of the Year rankings.

9. Joel Embiid – Kansas. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 11.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 114.4 oRTG

Joel Embiid Needs to Stay on the Floor (USA Today)

Joel Embiid Needs to Stay on the Floor (USA Today)

If case you haven’t heard, Joel Embiid has only been playing basketball for a couple years. OK, now that we have the most uttered piece of trivia in college basketball out of the way, here’s the lowdown on the Kansas freshman. Embiid would be one of the favorites to win Player of the Year if he could stay on the floor longer. He’s only averaging 22 minutes per game, which trails former Kansas stars Thomas Robinson (31.8 MPG in 2012) and Jeff Withey (30.9 MPG in 2013) by a considerable margin. His per-40 minutes average for blocks is five per game, but foul trouble frequently plagues the precocious freshman. In Sports Illustrated’s Power Rankings, Luke Winn shared a stat via Group Stats about Kansas’ efficiency with and without Embiid in the lineup. The Jayhawks are 0.19 points per possession better with him on their front line. That’s a major difference-maker.

8. Nick Johnson – Arizona. Last Week: 7
2013-14 stats: 16.4 PPG, 2.4 APG, 123.1 oRTG

During the non-conference slate, nearly every member of Arizona’s rotation stood out in at least one game to give the Wildcats’ incredible balance. Now that Pac-12 play is in full swing, Nick Johnson is without a doubt their star and go-to guy in the second half. Johnson is averaging 19 points per game in his last five outings while shooting 62 percent from two-point range. Remember, he’s doing that as a guard and not a back-to-the-basket forward.

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Big 12 Bubble Watch: Texas is Here to Stay

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 23rd, 2014

Want a good laugh? Take a look at our Big 12 Bubble Watch from six weeks ago. Look at how gaudy those early season records were! Sigh, we were only kids then. But now is a lot different. Kansas appears headed for another Big 12 championship while early favorites Baylor and Iowa State are struggling to find themselves in conference play. Kansas State has turned around what could have been a disaster of a season following a co-Big 12 title last year. Oklahoma State is very much in the conversation for dethroning the Jayhawks and Rick Barnes’ Texas Longhorns continue to surprise us game after game.

(Ed. Note: While it was unclear in December who would win the Big 12, at least now we have a good enough sample size to project a team to take the conference’s automatic bid. For this particular scenario, that Big 12 champion is Kansas. Not considered in this Bubble Watch were TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia.) 

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I'm sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I’m sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In Very Good Shape

Oklahoma State: 15-3 (3-2); RPI: 12, SOS: 38

Analysis: It seemed like the world would come crashing down when Michael Cobbins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury and the Stevie Clark situation(s) flared up, but it wasn’t so. Marcus Smart is still doing Marcus Smart things and did you know Phil Forte is connecting on half of his three-pointers this season (53-for-106)? Seriously. Oklahoma State managed to be a few possessions from winning at both Kansas State and Kansas (and for that matter, a few possessions from losing at West Virginia). While having Memphis and Colorado as good non-conference wins, nice RPI and SOS numbers, no bad losses, and the rough part of their schedule still to come, Travis Ford’s team has plenty of chances to add to its portfolio.

Iowa State: 14-3 (2-3); RPI: 10, SOS: 11

Analysis: Surprised to see these guys here? The Cyclones’ struggles have been well-documented and their chances at a Big 12 regular season title are dwindling, but there is still a lot going right for this team. Remember that win over Michigan in mid-November? Its luster started to fade but the Mitch McGary-less Wolverines have re-entered the Big Ten title race with consecutive wins at Wisconsin and against Iowa. Speaking of the Hawkeyes, Iowa State beat them last month as well. At this point in the season, the difference between the Cyclones and Baylor is their head-to-head match-up in Ames where Fred Hoiberg’s team took them out with ease. What will be interesting to see from the Cyclones now will be how they deal with DeAndre Kane’s minutes. He’s played 35 minutes or more in every Big 12 game while battling an ankle injury. Will Hoiberg try to work Bubu Palo, who was placed back on the team by a county judge, into the rotation to supplant Kane? We shall see.

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