Big 12 M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 3rd, 2014


  1. Oklahoma State fans were asking this question following the Cowboys’ win over Kansas on Saturday: “Is it safe to come back out?” It appears to be, fans. After everything the team dealt with since the start of 2014, OSU notched a Paunch Burger-sized victory over the Big 12 leading Kansas Jayhawks 72-65. The three-headed monster of Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown combined to shoot 15-for-30 from the floor, 23-for-29 from the line, 58 points, seven steals and seven blocks. While this was a major boost to a tournament profile that sorely needed one, they aren’t out of the woods just yet. They have Kansas State coming into Gallagher-Iba Arena on Big Monday. One would think a win tonight locks up an at-large bid for good.
  2. Should we/Kansas fans/NBA scouts begin worrying about the health of Joel Embiid? Last month, he missed a week and a game with nagging back and knee injuries suffered in the West Virginia win on February 8. Embiid left Saturday’s game holding his back and after some stretching checked back into the game. Bill Self addressed Embiid’s injury in his postgame press conference, saying he “only tweaked his back” and has “no idea” how it will affect him going forward. Ultimately Embiid’s back could be much ado about nothing but at the same token, it was a problem weeks ago and it’s a problem right now. Stay tuned. You know lottery teams will be.
  3. While Kansas State’s tournament resume lacks any quality wins outside of Kansas state lines, you gotta hand it to them for taking care of business on their home court (and Wichita). Iowa State was the latest club to enter the “Octagon” and leave doomed, falling 80-73 on Saturday. The ISU win all but clinched an at-large bid for the Cats who now sport victories over George Washington, Gonzaga, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas. If anything, the 2013-14 Wildcats have proven that you can go home again. And again. And again. And again. But seriously, it would be a mistake if they were left out of the field of 68.
  4. A great thing about this Big 12 season was the rekindling of the Red River Rivalry in hoops. Sorta. Oklahoma finished off Texas 77-65 in Norman. We knew going in that Texas had the height advantage so to combat this OU relied on what they do best: hit three-pointers. In fact the Sooners hit ten of them. With the win, Oklahoma became the only Big 12 team to sweep their season series against UT. In addition to that, this season marked the first time in the Big 12 era where the Sooners swept the Horns and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. How about the job Lon Kruger has done this season? He loses five of his top eight scorers from last year’s team and are somehow averaging 11 points more than a season ago.
  5. Baylor fans: Your team may be on the brink of history! But it wouldn’t be anything to stick your chest out over. Baylor enters the final week of the regular season at 7-9 in conference play and still is in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With their strong RPI and strength of schedule numbers, there is a chance for the Bears to be the first-ever Big 12 team to make the tournament with a sub-.500 league record. The Bears have a winnable home game against Iowa State on Tuesday followed by the regular season finale versus K-State in the Little Apple. Assuming they win one of those two; grouped in with their quality wins over Kentucky, Colorado, Dayton, Kansas State and Oklahoma State (twice); BU would make a strong case to take up one of those coveted 37 at-large spots.
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Three Thoughts on Baylor’s Monday Night Win Over Oklahoma State

Posted by Taylor Erickson on February 18th, 2014

Take a trip back in time to January 3, 2014. Baylor had just demolished lowly Savannah State at home in its final tune-up before conference play. Scott Drew’s team was 12-1, ranked 9th in the nation with neutral site, non-conference victories over a Spencer Dinwiddie-led Colorado team and a Kentucky squad that was ranked 3rd at the time. Baylor looked like one of the Big 12’s elite, possibly capable of threatening Kansas’ nine-year reign atop the league. On that same evening in early January, Oklahoma State was preparing for its first conference game of the season — a road contest at an up-and-down Kansas State group looking for a win to ignite its start in league play. The Cowboys, much like their fellow Big 12 competitors from Waco, had raced out to a 12-1 record to begin the season, and found themselves ranked 6th in the nation after non-conference victories over Memphis and the same Colorado team. Marcus Smart was averaging over 17 points per game, and perhaps even more so than Baylor, Travis Ford’s team looked like it had a legitimate shot to take down the then-shaky Jayhawks.

With a thin Oklahoma State front line, Baylor big men Corey Jefferson and Isaiah Austin proved too much inside.

With a thin Oklahoma State front line, Baylor big men Corey Jefferson and Isaiah Austin proved too much inside. (Waco Tribune-Herald)

At that time, a mid-February Big Monday battle in Waco between these two teams looked like must-see television. Boy, how quickly things can change. Instead of a match-up that could have (should have?) had serious league title implications, this game instead featured the eighth and ninth teams in the Big 12 standings, fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. The winner of last night’s game would move to three games back of .500 in conference play; the loser would stare at a 4-9 record and the notion of having to win every game left just to break even. What took place for the better part of 30 minutes on Monday night looked exactly like a contest between two bottom-dwellers, regardless of the names on the fronts of the jerseys. And if that wasn’t enough, a comedy of head-scratching coaching decisions down the stretch left most observers wondering what the heck they just witnessed. Nevertheless, a 70-64 overtime win for Baylor proved to be a tremendous feat for a team clinging to hopes of an at-large bid. Here are three thoughts on the showdown that was in Waco Monday night.

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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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Let’s Open the Wooden Watch List’s Doors Just a Bit Wider

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 22nd, 2014

Earlier today, the Los Angeles Athletic Club released its Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list, a veritable collection of this season’s top performers who are in the running for the sport’s highest individual honor. While the organization got most of the list right, this is sports coverage in 2014, so the proper response to the released list is to immediately poke holes in it and state cases for those who were overlooked. Of course, the way the season is shaping up, this might just serve as a list of Doug McDermott and the players he soundly beat on the way to taking Wooden Award honors in “The Year Of The Freshman.” But if the purpose of the list is to acknowledge players based on their performance thus far this season, there are five who deserve more consideration than they were granted by the LAAC.

Lamar Patterson has led Pitt all season and his Panthers are in first place. That isn't enough for Wooden Watch List spot? (Charles LeClaire/USA Today)

Lamar Patterson has led Pitt all season and his Panthers are in first place in the ACC. That isn’t enough for a Wooden Watch List spot? (Charles LeClaire/USA Today)

  • Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh: 17.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 122.8 ORtg, 59.8% eFG, 44.3% 3FG – It seems like everything about the Panthers this season has been criminally underrated, including its star forward. The senior has had just one bad game all season long (November 12 against Fresno State), and on the rare occasion when he isn’t an efficient scorer, he still finds ways to help Jamie Dixon’s offense.
  • Joel Embiid, Kansas: 11.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 67.9% FG, 115.3 ORtg, 68.4% eFG, 12.7% BLK – The Cameroonian freshman exploded onto the scene early in the season, and depending on whom you ask (as well as what time it is), is the leading prospect to be selected with the top pick in this June’s NBA Draft. With Tarik Black combating foul trouble and Perry Ellis fighting inconsistency on a regular basis, it’s tough to picture where the Jayhawks would be if not for its stud rookie center.

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Big 12 Game of the Year: Previewing Oklahoma State at Kansas

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 18th, 2014

Saturday afternoon’s tilt between Big 12 powerhouses Kansas and Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse has long been circled on the calendar as one of the most anticipated games in college basketball this season, thanks in large part to the two games that took place last season. In case you need a refresher, Oklahoma State strolled into Lawrence last February and snapped Kansas’ 33-game home winning streak. As if the victory alone wasn’t enough to disappoint Jayhawks Nation, Smart followed his 25-point performance with a beautifully executed backflip on the center of James Naismith Court, much to the chargin of the 16,300 fans in attendance. Kansas returned the favor two-and-a-half weeks later, when the Jayhawks won in double overtime in Stillwater thanks to a Naadir Tharpe bucket in the final seconds to push the Jayhawks ahead, although no backflip was performed.

Marcus Smart pulled off a backflip in Allen Fieldhouse a season ago while Jayhawk fans and Elijah Johnson look on in disbelief. (Emily Wittler/KANSAN)

Marcus Smart pulled off a backflip in Allen Fieldhouse a season ago while stunned Jayhawk fans and Elijah Johnson look on in disbelief. (Emily Wittler/KANSAN)

Now, fast forward eight months to October. During that time, Marcus Smart decided to return to Oklahoma State for a sophomore season, and the highly touted high school recruit Andrew Wiggins had decided to go to school at Kansas. While Wiggins was the focus of nearly every preseason magazine, Smart had a few choice comments on Big 12 media day for the heralded Jayhawk freshman, saying,  “A lot of people are saying he’s the best player now in college basketball.  All I’m saying is how can you be the best player in something you haven’t even played yet?” To be perfectly honest, Smart’s comments were probably fairly justified. Had Wiggins chosen to play his college basketball in a different location, Smart would have instead been the toast of the conference, but he was now forced to answer questions about a kid in Wiggins who had plenty to prove at the collegiate level. Smart would go on to say about Wiggins, “If he’s the best player like people say, if that’s the case, in order for me to be the best, I have to beat the best, right?  If he’s the best player, fans will get their money’s worth when we play Kansas.”

This showdown certainly has all the makings of must-see television on Saturday afternoon, and to get you ready for this action, I discussed some of the more intriguing aspects of this one with Kyle Porter, creator of the Pistols Firing Blog (@pistolsguy) and a must-follow for all Oklahoma State fans. Let’s take a look at the most anticipated game in the Big 12 so far this season.

Taylor:  Kyle, first off, thanks a bunch for getting together to preview this Big 12 showdown that will take place tomorrow in Allen Fieldhouse. To get us started, one of the more intriguing aspects of this game are the defensive match-ups that will be featured. Marcus Smart and Markel Brown put as much pressure on the opposing guards on the offensive end of the floor than maybe any team in the nation, and it’s no secret that Naadir Tharpe lacks on defense. Conversely, the injury the Michael Cobbins has left Oklahoma State fairly thin up front, and with the emergence of Kansas big man Joel Embiid, I’m curious on your thoughts of how Travis Ford will choose to defend Kansas in the frontcourt?

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Four Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s Win Over Texas

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 9th, 2014

With aspirations of winning the Big 12 conference regular season title entering the season, a loss in the league opener on Saturday at Kansas State wasn’t exactly what Oklahoma State had in mind. The Cowboys returned home to Stillwater for a tilt Wednesday night with a Texas team that has been better than many expected. While the Longhorns managed to keep this game interesting throughout the first half, the talent of Oklahoma State helped the Cowboys pull away late to a fairly comfortable victory. Here’s four takeaways from the action in Stillwater last evening.

Oklahoma State Used a Strong Second Half to Beat Texas

Oklahoma State Used a Strong Second Half to Beat Texas (

  1. Markel Brown went down hard early in the first half, but the fall didn’t seem to have much of an impact on him as he returned to contribute 27 points, five rebounds, and four assists. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Brown is probably the most underrated player in the nation. His play is often overshadowed by the incredible performances by Marcus Smart, but anyone familiar with Oklahoma State realizes just how good the senior guard in Stillwater also has been. Unfortunately for Travis Ford’s team, the loss of Michael Cobbins down low paired with the inconsistent play of LeBryan Nash, means that Brown and Smart will have to be on top of their game every night out to carry the Cowboys to a win. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 01.09.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 9th, 2014


  1. On Wednesday morning, Kansas head coach Bill Self encouraged freshman Wayne Selden to be more aggressive on the offensive end in looking for his shot. For Selden, that’s all he needed, as he went on to have a career night against Oklahoma in a 90-83 win: 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including five made threes. “The confidence my teammates and coaches have in me… that’s the main thing and being out there just playing, not thinking,” Selden told the Lawrence Journal-World after the game. As for fellow superfrosh Andrew Wiggins, he would finish 2-0f-9 for the night; it looks like he could use some words of encouragement from Self come Saturday when the Jayhawks welcome Kansas State to town.
  2. Who had the better stat line for Oklahoma State last night? If that’s the question that is asked after last night’s game against Texas, it’s easy to figure out that the Cowboys won. Marcus Smart had 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, six steals and a block while Markel Brown scored 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Smart had the better all-around game but it’s pretty rare to see more than one player on a college team put up great numbers in multiple categories. But what now for Texas? They’re 0-fer the state of Oklahoma to start Big 12 play, but their next two opponents (vs. Texas Tech, at West Virginia) are winnable games to push back to .500.
  3. It was a bit of a bummer to hear Bill Self say scheduling a non-conference series with Wichita State is not “best for our [Kansas] program,” but that’s not the only name-brand school in the state of Kansas. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber told The Wichita Eagle that he isn’t “against” the idea of a Wildcats-Shockers series but adds that he would be “smart about it [scheduling].” When told about Weber’s comments, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall said he’d be fine with a possible home-and-home with Kansas State, adding that he’d call Weber about future scheduling. I am all for this. The powers that be took Kansas-Missouri from us. We need something else good to take its place.
  4. When Louisville’s Chane Behanan was dismissed from the basketball team last week, Iowa State was reportedly one of the first schools to reach out to the forward to recruit him to Ames. Now, according to the Ames Tribune, the Cyclones are no longer interested in the junior. We know that ISU took on transfers like Chris Allen and Korie Lucious from Michigan State despite their admitted drug use. Could they have found out about Behanan’s problems in their initial inquiry and decided that he wasn’t worth the effort? We’ll never know. But the most important thing is for Behanan to get himself right, and then, if he so chooses, find a place where he can flourish both on and off the basketball court.
  5. Former NBA and Oklahoma State guard Richard Dumas has had another run-in with the law. Dumas was arrested by U.S. Marshals on December 19 and charged with eight counts of organized retail theft for allegedly stealing almost $800 worth of merchandise from Luke Air Force Base’s exchange store in Glendale, Arizona. Dumas was known for his talent despite an abbreviated career in the NBA due to recreational drug use. A profile piece on Dumas was done in the Arizona Republic in May detailing his long road to redemption and happiness. I have a feeling this story is far from over.
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Big 12 Midseason Merits and Demerits

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2014

It’s crazy to think that the season is already nearly halfway over. Over the last two months, the Big 12 had a terrific non-conference run. The league notched wins over the likes of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Memphis, Iowa, Michigan and Gonzaga; the conference proved that it has its share of individual stars beyond Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins, viewed as the toasts of the league back in November; and an argument can be made rather easily that the Big 12 is the best league in the country (or at least has had the best run to date). With league play tipping off tomorrow, it’s time for the Big 12 microsite contributors to take a look back and hand out some accolades, as well as shine a light on a some players and coaches from whom we expected a little more in the season’s first two months.

Player Of The Year

Marcus Smart headlines a long list of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Marcus Smart headlines a deep roster of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today)

  • Kory CarpenterMelvin Ejim, Iowa State: Ejim is third in the conference in scoring with 17.2 points per game and is fifth in field goal percentage, making 52.5 percent of his shots. He nearly averages a double-double as well, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game.
  • Taylor EricksonMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State – Smart has cooled off a bit recently after averaging over 31 points per game during a three-game stretch earlier in the season, but this award appears to be his to lose heading into Big 12 play. The conference slate should provide plenty of high-profile games that will undoubtedly deliver some great individual performances, allowing us to more confidently identify the league’s best player. Andrew Wiggins has been good, but for the time being, he hasn’t done enough to knock Smart from his perch.
  • Brian GoodmanMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State – Overall, Smart’s efficiency numbers have improved, and he’s still playing defense at a very high level. The Big 12 is as well-stocked with talent as any conference in the country, and Smart has produced the most for his team. That being said, the book on him is out. Whether he can score from outside when teams take away the paint could be the deciding factor for his POY candidacy.

Coach of The Year

  • BGFred Hoiberg – After the Cyclones outperformed expectations the last two years, Big 12 coaches vowed to stop sleeping on Iowa State, tabbing ISU to finish fourth in the annual preseason poll. As it turns out, even that may have been too low. Right now, the Cyclones are no worse than the third-best team in the conference, and Oklahoma State’s personnel issues could give ISU an opening to climb even higher.
  • TEFred Hoiberg – All Hoiberg has done is taken a team that lost several top scorers from a season ago and turned that into a 12-0 start to the college basketball season. Iowa State has three players averaging over 15 points per game, and it became the first school in league history to have five different players win player of the week honors.

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Big 12 M5: 12.27.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 27th, 2013


  1. A quick look at Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, and you’d find Kansas at #13 nationally, which makes sense given how Bill Self’s teams usually guard. If you really dig into the numbers like Jesse Newel of the Topeka Capitol-Journal did, though, you would find that Kansas ranks sixth in the nation in free throw defense. Anyone familiar with college basketball would quickly recognize that there’s really no such thing, as the metric is more or less determined by how well opponents shoot from the free throw line. So far, Kansas opponents have made only 62.0 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe versus the NCAA average of 69.3 percent. So perhaps Self and company have been a bit lucky so far this season as they continue to work to mold a young squad into the defensive team (beyond the free throw line) we’re used to seeing.
  2. Iowa State continued its hot play during the non-conference portion of its schedule after beating Boise State in the Diamond Head Classic title game in Hawaii on Christmas night. The showing in this tournament further cements the Cyclones’ spot among the nation’s best teams, bumping their RPI to fourth best in the NCAA. What this win also also does, as Randy Peterson explains, is to continue the discussion regarding Fred Hoiberg‘s future as a coaching candidate for many NBA positions. It’s obvious Hoiberg is a star in Ames, but fans should enjoy the time he’s around because it’s hard to foresee a lucky GM eventually luring in The Mayor.
  3. After struggling to a 13-19 record in their first Big 12 season a year ago, there was optimism among West Virginia fans that this year’s squad would be much improved. Through 12 games, however, Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers have the exact same record (7-5) as they did through 12 games last season. The difference this year is that most observers feel that this team is much closer to turning the corner and becoming a contender for a postseason spot. That feeling is shared by sophomore guard Eron Harris, who says Huggins’ coaching staff has been easier on the team as they too see how close this team is to putting it all together.
  4. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown might be one of the best-kept secrets in college basketball. On Monday, Brown was honored as the Big 12 player of the week, averaging 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in wins over Delaware State and Colorado. For the season, Brown is averaging 16.3 points per game with a sterling offensive rating of 131.1 (54th nationally), and at this rate will make it extremely difficult to keep off the All-Big 12 first team.
  5. While Kansas continues to be the favorite of most to win the Big 12 regular season title, they certainly won’t be without their fair share of opponents challenging for their claim to the league title. As Raphielle Johnson of points out, Baylor and Iowa State paired with Oklahoma State creates some serious competition along with the Jayhawks at the top. Even the middle tier of the league – teams like Texas, Kansas State, and Oklahoma – appeared to be a bit down coming into this season but have certainly shown that they should not be taken lightly during league play. In the first few months of the season, the Big 12 has made a statement as one of the best conferences in college basketball.
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The Quiet Cowboy: Markel Brown Keeps Producing For Pokes

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 23rd, 2013

We all know Marcus Smart. We first met him last winter, when he was busy terrorizing Big 12 opponents as a freshman. However, it turned out we didn’t know everything about Marcus back then, because he wound up shocking us all in April with his decision to eschew the NBA Draft for a year. But boy, have we had the chance to get to know him all over again this winter. By virtue of conducting Oklahoma State’s red-hot start, Smart’s name has dominated headlines for the past six weeks, and rightfully so. After all, among the many individual stretches of Smart’s dominance was this display. And this shot. Many will tell you he is the current favorite for National POY, and if you feel like arguing with them, good luck. So far, Smart has been that good.

Markel Brown -- Not Marcus Smart -- Took Center Stage For The Cowboys On Saturday Night

Markel Brown — Not Marcus Smart — Took Center Stage For The Cowboys On Saturday Night

But hiding somewhere behind the nation’s love affair with Marcus Smart – a fling I’m OK with, for the record – is a pretty freaking good basketball team. That basketball team improved to 11-1 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, dispatching a solid Colorado club (now 10-2) in the process. Smart was his typically proficient self (18 points, three assists), but that night served to remind us that he has some pretty capable teammates as well. Phil Forte, owner of the nation’s third-best individual efficiency rating entering the night, made four threes en route to a 16-point effort. Le’Bryan Nash pitched in with 15 points of his own, and did a little bit of everything else, contributing six rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three LOUD blocks. But of all the Cowboys who contributed to the cause, it was senior Markel Brown who offered the biggest lift. The senior scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and even chipped in three assists: a domineering effort, indeed, and on a sizable stage. If you didn’t know all that much about the Pokes before Saturday night, Brown’s performance surely rated as eye-catching. But if you did? Just another lethally efficient demonstration from one of the nation’s most underrated players.

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