Big 12 Morning Five: 11.11.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 11th, 2011

  1. The biggest news in the Big 12 yesterday happened in the ACC. Miami’s DeQuan Jones will sit out the 2011-12 campaign while the NCAA investigates claims that he received $10,000 in cash from the Hurricanes’ coaching staff. Missouri coach Frank Haith, of course, was the head coach of that team, and his assistant, Jake Morton (now at WKU), was accused in a Yahoo! Sports investigation of delivering the actual cash. Jones sitting out doesn’t prove anything, but it means the NCAA’s investigation is serious enough to sideline him for an entire season of basketball. News like this can only continue to build pressure on Haith, who already faces an uphill battle against the fans in Columbia.
  2. We’ve said it a million times before: Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson are the two most important players on Kansas. Taylor missed the first two exhibition games due to a suspension and Robinson was dealing with an injury, but they’re both ready to go now, according to a recent report. Normally, Kansas is so loaded with talent and experience that a player here and there doesn’t make an enormous difference. In this case, though, Bill Self has a team still trying to find its way with considerable unproven talent. Robinson and Taylor cannot miss much game action if this team expects to compete for an eighth straight Big 12 title.
  3. Though most pundits don’t expect much out of Oklahoma this season, the Sooners could surprise the Big 12 if wing Cameron Clark lives up to his status as a sleeper. According to a recent article, Clark has matured into a leadership role and appears to better understand the demands of Division I basketball. He has all the physical skills, and now he’ll just need to grow into a star. It should only be a matter of time.
  4. If you’ve ever watched Kansas State play in person, the first player you’ll notice during pre-game warm-ups is Jordan Henriquez. He’s a seven-footer, but he looks even taller than that. Henriquez could be a dominant force inside this season if the reports are true about his improved tenacity and aggressiveness. Often, it’s hard for players with physical gifts to truly appreciate them until they’re challenged with adversity. It’s scary to think of how good Henriquez could be if he really learns how to play at this level.
  5. Travis Ford is lucky that his Oklahoma State squad has a number of candidates for starting jobs this year. And although it’s every player’s nightmare to hear this, Ford says there are no starting spots locked up quite yet. The Cowboys are especially deep in the backcourt, where any number of players could emerge as options. Up front, OSU will need immediate contributions from newcomers after losing leading Marshall Moses to graduation.
Share this story

The Big 12’s New Faces: Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash

Posted by dnspewak on October 27th, 2011

LeBryan Nash: The Essentials

  • Class: Freshman
  • Position: Forward
  • Height: 6’7”
  • Weight: 230 pounds
  • Hometown: Dallas, TX
  • Rivals.com Accolades: #6 overall, Class of 2011
  • High school statistics: 22 PPG, 8.7 RPG (2010-11)

The Breakdown

With leading scorer Marshall Moses graduating from a 9th-place team a year ago and only two seniors on the current roster, there’s only one reason Oklahoma State has a shot to shock the Big 12 this season. That reason? It’s got a name.  LeBryan Nash. Sure, coach Travis Ford has a couple of veteran leaders in J.P. Olukemi and Keiton Page, but his team has a chance for a special season if Nash plays like the superstar freshman most believe he is. The first thing that jumps out about Nash is his perfectly athletic build. At 6’7”, he blends his explosiveness, physicality and toughness to dominate on both ends of the floor.

LeBryan Nash is the X-Factor For Oklahoma State

Nash isn’t known primarily as a perimeter shooter, but that’s another skill he will provide for the Cowboys. His forte is slashing and attacking the basket, and due to his strength and size, he’s a nightmare for any defender to handle on-on-one. Like many elite athletes, some scouts worry about Nash’s attitude. One scout even called his body language “awful” during a game, but Nash apparently has admitted that his attitude is something he is consciously working on. It doesn’t necessarily make Nash a team cancer or a bad person; it’s just hard to stay level-headed when you’ve been dominant athletically for so long.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011


 

 

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 02.21.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 21st, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, every game now becomes critical. Syracuse and Villanova battle it out tonight in Philly, trying to position themselves for a double-bye in the Big East Tournament. In Lawrence, a shorthanded Kansas team will look to keep rolling against Oklahoma State. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#20 Syracuse @ #13 Villanova – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

The Orange Have To Limit How Many Slices They Allow Fisher To Make In That Zone

A Syracuse loss tonight would be their seventh in Big East play, likely knocking them out of contention for a double-bye at Madison Square Garden next month. If that happens, the Orange would still have to fight with a host of teams to avoid playing on Tuesday in the conference tournament. Villanova’s hopes would obviously be damaged with a loss as well, plus they have a tough remaining schedule. Whatever happens the rest of the way in the Big East, three teams with NCAA Tournament hopes will be playing on day one of the conference tournament and would have to win five games in five days to take the title. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 4th, 2011

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. Owen Kemp, the RTC correspondent for the Big 12, will return on Monday.

A Look Back

  • It’s been a season full of surprises around college basketball, and the Big 12 is no different. There are surprises on both sides of the spectrum, but the possibility of sending merely four teams to the Big Dance looms large here in early February. On the disappointing side, Frank Martin looks like he’s losing his team, which was ranked third in the country to start the season. Forward Freddy Asprilla, recently reported as leaving the team to play in the professional ranks in his native Colombia, citing a need to take care of his family, wound up at Canisius, which is even farther from Colombia than Manhattan. Making matters worse, fellow big man Wally Judge, once a can’t-miss recruit, left the team last week.
  • The Baylor Bears have also underperformed, and could join Kansas State in the bubble watch if Scott Drew can’t turn his recruiting prowess into quality wins in a hurry. Losses to KSU, Iowa State and Oklahoma have marred the Bears’ postseason prospects, but there are still chances for Perry Jones and company to regroup.
  • Missouri, hopeful to challenge the Jayhawks and Wildcats in November, already have four conference losses to their name after dropping Wednesday’s tilt in snowy Stillwater. Aside from a big rivalry game against Kansas in Lawrence on Monday, though, the toughest of the Tigers’ schedule seems to be behind them, with their remaining road games coming against Iowa State, Kansas State and Nebraska.
  • Things aren’t all bad, though. Oklahoma, a laughingstock after losing to Chaminade in the Maui Invitational, have reeled off four straight wins, and lo and behold, they sit tied for third with Texas A&M at present. Texas and Kansas remain the cream of the crop in the Big 12, with the Longhorns absolutely rolling through conference play with nary a threat, largely thanks to their defense, which has allowed a measly 53.4 points per game through seven conference bouts. The Jayhawks continue to play with heavy hearts in the wake of the death of Thomas Robinson‘s mother, Lisa. With their lone loss coming against Texas after a long night of grieving and consoling, the Jayhawk faithful are hoping for a shot at redemption against the Longhorns in the Big 12 Tournament, and are taking care of business in the meantime.

Power Rankings

1. Texas (19-3, 7-0) – A combination of focus, team defense and a brutal non-con slate has shaped the Longhorns to an unblemished 7-0 conference mark. Jordan Hamilton continues to make his claim for Big 12 Player of the Year by averaging 18.4 points per contest over his last five. Luke Winn has a convincing take this week on how Texas has made things look easy on the defensive end.

2. Kansas (21-1, 6-1) – The close losses to teams the Jayhawks should have handled more easily could be a thing of the past, based on the events of this week. Kansas completely dismantled their in-state counterparts, handling the Wildcats with ease on Saturday in front of former Jayhawk great Wayne Simien, who had his jersey retired at halftime. Tuesday, Bill Self got a small monkey off his back by winning in Lubbock after three straight losses on Texas Tech’s home court since he took the helm in 2003. The Morris twins have continued their high-efficiency styles of play, and their lone weakness of interior defense has been boosted almost to the point of becoming a strength, with Thomas Robinson pouring in two straight 17/9 performances.

3. Texas A&M (17-4, 4-3) – When a team like the Aggies, sitting in third place, fails to crack 50 points in consecutive contests, you start to wonder just how good the conference really is. In fairness, the Aggies had the unenviable experience of having to play the Longhorns twice in two weeks, so their current stretch of having lost three of four is a little deceiving. They boast the conference’s second-best defense in terms of points allowed, but Khris Middleton can’t do it all on his own when it comes to scoring. A steady supporting cast is important if Mark Turgeon‘s crew wants to make noise in the top half.

4. Missouri (17-5, 4-3) – This is where things get really murky, and the difference between a system like power rankings and the more objective (and authoritative) conference standings is apparent. Does anyone in the conference want fourth place? Colorado’s lost to Baylor and Missouri, Baylor and Oklahoma have already split with one another, the Sooners have fattened up on the bottom rung of the conference, and Missouri fell to Oklahoma State this week, remaining winless on the road in conference play. Distinguishing the 4-7 spots at this point is nearly a futile exercise, but perhaps Missouri can make a statement about that with a big rivalry game coming up on Monday against KU.

5. Oklahoma (12-9, 4-3) – Give credit where it’s due to Jeff Capel‘s charges, but hold off judgement until they come out of this stretch: Saturday’s Bedlam battle against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, playing host to Texas on Wednesday, and taking to Columbia in a fight at Mizzou Arena.  Steven Pledger had a career performance against the Cyclones last Saturday, pouring in 38 points in 44 minutes on 12-20 shooting, including 7-13 from long range.

6. Baylor (14-7, 4-4) – With their own Big Three in LaceDarius Dunn (20.7 PPG, 42.7% 3FG), Perry Jones (14.1 PPG, 57.1% FG, 7.0 RPG) and Quincy Acy (13.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG), the Bears can be entertaining to watch (especially Acy’s dunk reel), but head coach Scott Drew’s passive scheduling methods could come back to cost his team a tournament bid; If anyone knows how a mid-February break from conference play with non-D-I Wayland Baptist on the 15th will help Baylor get ready for March, let me know. It would also be helpful if Drew picked a defensive style and stuck to it.

7. Colorado (15-8, 4-4) – Colorado’s twosome of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins almost topped the Bears this week before falling four points short. They took their angst out on the helpless Cyclones, winning 95-69, so the Buffs’ up-and-down season continues. If Colorado can sweep Missouri this weekend with a road win (they already beat the Tigers at home), I’ll be impressed. I’ll be more impressed if they don’t go on to lose three in a row, because once you think you have Tad Boyle‘s crew pegged, they turn around and completely change your mind.

8. Kansas State (15-8, 3-5) – There’s only so much yelling and screaming that Frank Martin can do before his players become desensitized and the environment becomes inhibitory, and that might be the case here. Between Jacob Pullen‘s comments about refusing to play if the Wildcats find themselves in the NIT field (a growing possibility) and the various defections and NCAA rules violations, distractions have also been eminent. It’s not all on the coaching though, as Curtis Kelly has been disappointing, though his 16-point performance in Wednesday’s big win over Nebraska could be a sign of a leaf turned over.

9. Nebraska (15-6, 3-4) – The Cornhuskers’ stout defense may be coming back down to Earth, and the offense has also let the team down over the last week. Nebraska has shown flashes that it can be good (such as a win over Texas A&M and a double-digit lead at Allen Fieldhouse that was eventually surrendered), but they can’t get it all together.

10. Oklahoma State (15-7, 3-5) – Breaking a 1-5 stretch with a win over Missouri is a big breath of fresh air for the Cowboys. Sometimes, it’s good to have a diverse scoring attack, but in OSU’s case, it could be more indicative of the lack of a reliable playmaker. Marshall Moses, Keiton Page, and J.P. Olukemi have taken turns leading the ‘Pokes in scoring the last three games, but all three have also pulled vanishing acts this season.

11. Texas Tech (11-12, 3-5) – The Red Raiders had a nice three-game spurt with wins over Nebraska, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, but crashed in a Groundhog Day blowout loss to the Jayhawks. Kansas went inside with ease and had no problems whatsoever, and even Kansas reserve Brady Morningstar was in double figures in the first half. Pat Knight may want to have a copy of the Geneva Convention at the ready when his team ventures to Austin on Saturday.

12. Iowa State (14-9, 1-7) – The Cyclones have fallen off a cliff, Wile E. Coyote-style, and we’re still waiting for the little “poof” that finally signals an impact. Fred Hoiberg‘s squad has allowed at least 82 points in each of their last five games, all losses.

A Look Ahead

Before Rivalry Week, there’s an intriguing set of games around the conference on Saturday. Colorado will hit the road to Missouri, where we might see that 4-7 knot get somewhat untangled. In a battle of Big 12 train wrecks looking to regroup, Iowa State will play host to the Wildcats. At the top of the conference, Kansas and Texas get what look to be a couple softballs against Nebraska and Texas Tech, respectively, but the Jayhawks will be on watch after the ‘Huskers put a small scare into them a few weeks ago.

Other action around the league includes Baylor taking on Texas A&M, and the Gallagher-Iba half of the Bedlam Series between the Sooners and Cowboys.

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.26.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 26th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Coming off their huge win at Kansas on Saturday, Texas heads back out on the road to another tough environment and looking to avoid a letdown while the game of the year in the Mountain West takes place tonight in Provo, Utah. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#6 Texas @ Oklahoma State – 7:30 pm on ESPN (***)

Hamilton and the 'Horns Enter a Tough Environment Tonight, Even Without the Added Emotion

Emotions will be running high in Stillwater as the Cowboys take the court tonight and the Oklahoma State community honors the legacy of the ten lives lost in the plane crash that occurred ten years ago Thursday. Gallagher-Iba Arena is always a tough place to play and that will especially ring true this evening.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.19.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 19th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Three interesting contests headline tonight’s schedule, including NC State’s endeavor to pull a shocker of its own over now-#4 Duke. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Cincinnati @ #16 Notre Dame – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Abromaitis Plays the Most MPG for the Irish But Has Been Held Under His Season Average for Three Straight Games

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.12.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 12th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We’re going to mix it up today with this feature. With so many good games tonight (one of the best nights of the season thus far) here are some quick hitters on 10 important games you should be following this evening, including the top five teams in the land all playing on the road. Additionally, key conference battles are on tap throughout the night. Enjoy it, folks. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#2 Ohio State @ Michigan – 6:30 pm on Big Ten Network (***)

The Wolverines nearly knocked off Kansas on Sunday and they’ll get another crack at a top three team tonight when their rivals visit Ann Arbor. Michigan has to shoot the three well to win but that’ll be difficult against an Ohio State defense ranked in the top five in efficiency. Though Darius Morris (15.0 PPG, 7.0 APG) will try his best, Ohio State has too much talent and offensive firepower for Michigan to handle. Michigan needs their best defensive effort of the year combined with an off night for the Buckeyes in order to have a chance. John Beliein can rotate plenty of bodies on Jared Sullinger but that may be a futile effort against the uber-talented big man.

Sullinger, Lighty, and Co. Have Bucknuts Already Looking Forward to March (and April)

#5 Pittsburgh @ #19 Georgetown – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

The Hoyas are in serious danger of dropping to 1-4 in conference play as Pitt comes to DC. Georgetown hasn’t shot the ball well recently and has lost three of four as a result. The inconsistent play of point guard Chris Wright can certainly be blamed, but take a deeper look at the numbers. Georgetown’s defense is rated #61 in efficiency; not terrible, but it’s the lowest-rated Hoyas defense in six years (#66 in the ’04-’05 season). The Hoyas have given up 66.6 PPG, not a good number when your adjusted tempo is only 66.5 possessions and rated #228 in the country, indicating a slower pace. Georgetown’s dynamic guard trio has certainly struggled, a key reason why they’ve lost three of four, but the defense has also played a part and must get better. It’ll be put to the test against a Pitt offense rated the best in the land. The Panthers can punish you inside and out as well as on the glass. Yours truly has maintained for a while that this Pitt team is the best interior passing group in America and I see no reason to back off that statement. What Jamie Dixon has built in Pittsburgh year after year is quite remarkable but this may be his best offensive squad ever. The Panthers have played just one true road game all year (at Providence) but they’re experienced and so well-coached that it doesn’t figure to affect them all that much. Expect a desperate Georgetown team to come out ready to play, but we’ll take the Panthers here in a close one.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.07-01.09

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The first big hoops weekend of 2011 features many important games across the land. Here are five key games followed by a host of others. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Cleveland State @ Butler – 7 pm Friday on ESPNU (****)

With Butler’s loss at Milwaukee on Monday, folks in the Horizon League used to the Bulldogs’ dominance are excited that this may be the year someone else takes the title. Cleveland State leads the league by a game over Detroit and Wright State while holding a one and a half game lead over Butler heading into tonight’s game. Should the Vikings win on the road tonight and plow through the rest of their Horizon schedule, expect to see Cleveland State win the league. Obviously we’re a long way off from that but CSU is currently in a nice position. Butler’s problems have been on the defensive end. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 73.6 PPG in their losses while their defensive efficiency has dropped significantly from their top five ranking of a year ago.

The Bulldogs Need Mack Back On Track Tonight, And From Now On

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 12.31.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 31st, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A really good schedule awaits college basketball fans today on your New Year’s Eve. The Battle of the Bluegrass gets things going right away with an early noon tip, a game tailor made for Gus Johnson. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#12 Kentucky @ Louisville — 12 pm on CBS (*****)

Louisville will be shorthanded in this game but is favored according to the Vegas odds. The Cardinals, still without Jared Swopshire, will also be missing the services of Rakeem Buckles and Mike Marra this afternoon. Still, this is a game you must watch with Gus Johnson on the call. It is a unique rivalry that doesn’t get enough press and has only heated up with the addition of John Calipari and the switch of Rick Pitino from Kentucky blue to Louisville red. It started almost 100 years ago in 1913 but the teams have only met 41 times prior to today with Kentucky holding a 27-14 edge. These teams did not meet for 24 years from 1959 until an elite eight NCAA Tournament game on March 26, 1983. They have met every year since then with UK leading 18-11 in the modern era. One interesting fact is that Kentucky has never failed to win at least two games in a row after winning one throughout the entire history of this series. With the Wildcats on a one game winning streak entering the game today, that statistic, though ultimately meaningless, would suggest a UK win. Expect this game to feature a lot of threes, a big part of each team’s offense. Kentucky actually has five guys who can knock down a triple, much more than the average team. Doron Lamb and Preston Knowles are the big shooters for their respective teams with Lamb being the better of the two so far this year. The freshman has connected on 54% of his treys including a seven for eight performance against Winthrop, a large part of Kentucky’s #13 three point percentage. Knowles is Louisville’s leading scorer and a good defender who teams with Peyton Siva to really disrupt opponents on the defensive end. That will be a big factor against Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight, averaging almost four turnovers per game. Rick Pitino loves the zone press so expect a lot of trapping and aggressive on-ball defense from the Cardinals, trying to get Knight out of a rhythm and make him turnover-prone. As a whole, Kentucky takes remarkably good care of the ball with only 11 turnovers as a team. Calipari needs a good point guard to run his dribble drive offense and Knight is often the key to their success. He had an awful game in a loss to Connecticut and fouled out after committing six turnovers in UK’s loss to North Carolina. In the front court, Kentucky has the best player on the floor in Terrence Jones. The 6’8 freshman can score from almost anywhere on the floor and uses his superior athleticism effectively to create space. Another T.J., Terrence Jennings, has to have a good game defensively for Louisville. He’s a good shot blocker and must neutralize Jones inside. Despite their reliance on the three pointer, the Cardinals get a lot of points inside as well, the seventh best two point shooting team in the country. With Buckles out however, Louisville may turn even more towards the trey in order to win. Kentucky lacks a true scoring center as Josh Harrellson rebounds well but doesn’t look to score much, attempting just four field goals per game. Expect Kyle Kuric to step up in the absence of Marra and Buckles. He’s played more minutes lately and scored 25 points against Morgan State on Monday. Quite simply, this game is going to be a war. The fans hate each other, the coaches do too and even the players got into it right away last year. Most rivalry games are close and despite Louisville’s personnel issues, we expect this one to be as well. However, depth could rear its ugly head if the Cardinals get into foul trouble. Louisville fouls a lot and Pitino has to ensure that doesn’t become an issue. Even though they’re on the road, Kentucky is the better team and has to get the edge here. Take the Wildcats and the points today.

#13 Minnesota @ #18 Michigan State – 4 pm on Big Ten Network (****)

A critical game for both teams, the loser will face some tough questions going forward. With a loss today, Minnesota faces the real possibility of starting Big Ten play at 1-3 with a game at Ohio State next Sunday and Indiana in between. Michigan State would drop to 8-5 overall with a loss today, making Monday’s game at Northwestern a huge one for the Spartans. For Tom Izzo’s team, the three point line is critical in this matchup. Minnesota doesn’t defend it well at all (#260) and the Spartans shoot 40% behind a trio of capable long range bombers. Durrell Summers leads Michigan State in scoring and is arguably their best shooter from deep while Kalin Lucas and Korie Lucious can also knock down the trifecta. Tubby Smith likes to play a zone but that may hurt the Gophers in this matchup. Unless Minnesota extends their defense beyond the line, Michigan State can easily shoot right over it. Of course when you extend a zone there will be holes inside. Minnesota’s big men must lay down the law in the paint and force MSU to beat them from the outside. A strong defensive game will really limit the Spartans offensively and turn this into a rebounding battle, one Minnesota should feel confident in their ability to win. Michigan State has not been a vintage Izzo team in terms of defense and rebounding, a bad sign against a tall and talented Minnesota team. Trevor Mbakwe could be deadly against the Spartans today with his quickness and long arms around the tin. With Mbakwe inside and Blake Hoffarber outside, the Gophers will keep Michigan State on their toes all game long. Al Nolen must play better for Minnesota. Wisconsin shut him down on Tuesday night held the Minnesota offense in check en route to a victory. Turnovers will again be the story for the Spartans, averaging 16 per game. Extra possessions only enhance the Gophers chances. Michigan State looked awful against Syracuse and the Gopher bigs are even taller than Syracuse’s. Despite the KenPom prediction and the Vegas odds, we’re going against the grain and feel this game will come right down to the very end. This is anyone’s ballgame in East Lansing this afternoon.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

  • The run of non-conference tune-ups continues around the league, with teams facing a smattering of lower tier programs as is customary for this time of year. Still, an increasing number of compelling matchups are developing.  In-state rivalries, top-25 matchups, overtime excitement and a statement game all make an appearance in this week’s look back.  The first big game of the week in the Big 12 came as part of the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden.  Kansas and Memphis took to the court as top 15 opponents, but at the end of the day, a Memphis team that is very young looked very young and Kansas walked away with the win in its first matchup with a ranked opponent.  It was a game that was expected to kick off a great week of Big 12 basketball, but the majority of the excitement ended up kicking off a day later.
  • On Wednesday, the Big 12 slate featured six games. Texas Tech’s struggles continued with a loss to TCU, the same TCU that would get throttled by Nebraska later in the week.  The seat in Lubbock could be getting very hot for Pat Knight.  The Red Raiders sit 5-5 and it’s not looking like expectations will be met.  In Colorado, the Buffaloes played in-state rival Colorado State.  As in many rivalries, the game was a back and forth overtime thriller.  Tad Boyle and Colorado continue to look like a team beginning to find themselves and the win in overtime was a good test for CU.  On that same night, Vanderbilt took a trip to Columbia and battled Missouri into their second overtime contest of the year.  Marcus Denmon continues to make a name for himself in the early going. He was instrumental in the second half of the contest after a very slow start.  In classic Missouri fashion, the game ultimately ended on a Denmon steal that led to a layup on the other end with only seconds remaining.
  • In a rare Friday night contest, the Iowa State Cyclones went into Iowa City and took a game from Iowa.  The win moves the Cyclones to 8-2 and further legitimizes the team as a potential surprise success story in coach Fred Hoiberg’s first year.  Junior guard Scott Christopherson led the charge with 30 points and is looking like one of the most improved players in the league early.
  • Saturday saw eight teams in action and the Big 12 finished the day with eight wins.  The big one on the day took place in College Station, where Mark Turgeon and the Aggies made a statement with a win over #22 Washington as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.  The Aggies have looked better than expected in the early going, and this game more than solidified the team as a tournament player and further speaks to the job that Turgeon is doing at Texas A&M.
  • Late Sunday, it was announced that Wally Judge will be out of action indefinitely for Kansas State, with Frank Martin citing personal reasons. His absence does nothing to quell the inconsistencies in the Wildcats’ frontcourt.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (9-0) –  All week, Kansas coach Bill Self has not been particularly pleased with his team’s performance.  The knock on the Jayhawks is that they don’t know how to put teams away.  Despite all that, they’re winning games by wide margins and doing so while playing at less than their potential. Christmas will come early for Jayhawk fans, when stud recruit Josh Selby becomes fully eligible at the end of the week against USC.
  2. Texas A&M (9-1) – A&M has been answering the bell in the early going.  This week’s win against Washington made a statement that they are a team to be reckoned with in the Big 12 South. Khris Middleton and David Loubeau are leading the way, with perimeter contributions from Nathan Walkup.
  3. Kansas State (9-1) – Kansas State seems like a team struggling to live up to their preseason hype just a bit.  They’re a talented group, Frank Martin has proven his abilities as a coach, but they just haven’t quite clicked on a night in night out basis.  The loss of Denis Clemente might be the source of some of the problems, but it’s a long season and it’s a group that works too hard not to eventually find the answer.
  4. Missouri Tigers (8-1) – Missouri continues to play in some of the more exciting games of the early season.  After coming up short against Georgetown, the Tigers met Vanderbilt in an overtime contest that the Tigers would win by three.  Probably the biggest news in Columbia is the emergence of two leaders, Marcus Denmon in the backcourt and Ricardo Ratliffe in the frontcourt.  These two have the ability to lead Missouri to a conference title, but it’s still a work in progress.
  5. Baylor (6-0) – The Bears took an entire week off.  They currently sit as the only team to have played fewer than nine games in the nonconference and Scott Drew has done very little to challenge his team.  Struggling Gonzaga pays a visit to Dallas at the end of the week, where Baylor will look to score a win in the alumni stronghold.
  6. Texas (7-2) – The loss to USC has raised questions and scaled back expectations a bit in Austin. This week, a big win over a cupcake opponent and just a week from now, the Longhorns get an opportunity to make a statement with games against North Carolina and Michigan State.  That stretch of games a year ago signaled the beginning of the infamous slide.
  7. Oklahoma State (9-1) – The Cowboys continue to cruise through the non-conference and they are a team that has the makeup to compete with the other Big 12 South players.  Travis Ford has things going in Stillwater and Marshall Moses is playing like a man possessed, more than doubling his production from a season ago.
  8. Iowa State (8-2) – Fred Hoiberg is getting it done in Ames.  The team moves to a surprising 8-2 after wins against Southeast Missouri, Iowa and Texas Southern.  Scott Christopherson is third in the country in triples made (35), sporting a fiery 59.3% clip from deep. Freshman Melvin Ejim is proving to be a difference-maker early for the Cyclones.
  9. Colorado (5-3) – Colorado won in overtime against in state rival Colorado State.  The concern is that the bigs for Colorado State had a field day.  The Buffaloes have the horses in the backcourt, but on the interior, they have a lot to prove.
  10. Nebraska (8-2) – Another week, another two wins for Doc Sadler and the Cornhuskers.  The 11-man rotation in Lincoln is starting to turn a few into believers, but have been light on notable wins.  This is a team that can probably compete in the middle tier of the conference, but they lack a go-to player (different players have lead the team in scoring in each of the Huskers’ last five games) and the overall talent to get over the hump.
  11. Texas Tech (5-5) – At this point, about the only thing keeping Tech above Oklahoma is that they’ve at least been competitive in losing.  It will be interesting to see if Pat Knight can keep his team on board or if as the seat gets hotter, is this a team that packs it in.
  12. Oklahoma (5-5) –  Two wins this week, which was a much-needed change following a five-game skid dating back to the week before Thanksgiving.  This is still a team with a fragile psyche, but one positive is the emergence of Andrew Fitzgerald as a team leader in the frontcourt.  A year ago, Fitzgerald was a minor role player, but he now plays more than 30 minutes a game and leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.

A Look Ahead

  • A very slow week in the league as is often the case when students are in the middle of finals.  The light at the end of the tunnel does exist however, and it comes in the form of a ten-game schedule next Saturday.
  • Kansas State heads to Florida in a Power Six matchup to highlights the day.  Frank Martin has taken steps in the early going to challenge his basketball team, and this is another game that will help develop the toughness that Martin and the Wildcats take such pride in.
  • Two other matchups that had a little more fanfare a few weeks ago include Baylor taking on Gonzaga in Dallas and Texas heading to North Carolina to battle the Heels in Greensboro.  To start the season, Gonzaga and UNC were top 15 teams.  Both have struggled and fallen off.   This will still be one of Baylor’s biggest early season tests and for Texas, it represents an opportunity to make a few more believers as they sit almost a year removed from the beginning of last season’s collapse.
  • The biggest story on Saturday has to be the debut of top ranked freshman Josh Selby in Lawrence when the Jayhawks take on the USC Trojans.  The Jayhawks have been a pretty good team in the early going and all eyes will be on KU to see how the team dynamic changes with the addition of Selby.

Stats, Quotes and Other Notables

  • “To all the fans that jump on and off the bandwagon who think we suck, go cheer for somebody down the road then” – Jacob Pullen, calling out Kansas State fans who are expressing frustration over some of the early-season growing pains.
  • 5.8 Seconds.  – Time left on the clock when Marcus Denmon came up with a steal and a game-clinching layup to beat Vanderbilt in overtime.
  • 27-20 – The Big 12’s all time record in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood series which concluded its final year on Saturday.
  • 7-12 -  Scott Christopherson’s three point field goal line from Friday nights win over ISU in-state rival Iowa.

Player of the Year Watch

  • Jacob Pullen – (16.3 PPG, 4 APG, 40% FG) Even.  Pullen called out a fanbase and seems to have a little fire in his belly.  Keep an eye on his upcoming games, a focused senior leader can be a very good thing.
  • Marcus Morris – (16.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 64% FG) Even.  Morris added five assists, two blocks and two steals to his versatile array of production this week when the Jayhawks took on Memphis. A knee injury sustained against Colorado State gave fans a scare, but he later returned.
  • Alec Burks – (20.5 PPG, 48% FG) Even.  Burks had a big game in a win over Colorado State.  If he can improve his numbers from behind the arc, he’s got the rest of his game going well enough to be a problem for just about anyone.
  • Jordan Hamilton – (20 PPG, 7.0 RPG) Trending down.  Other Longhorns are stepping up to the plate and the big numbers that were coming early have leveled off a bit as the team has settled in.
  • LaceDarius Dunn – (22.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 53% FG) Even.  No change, no games.  Baylor sat idle all week.
  • Marcus Denmon – (16.4 PPG, 1.7 SPG, 51% 3P%) Even.  Denmon was the man of the hour in the Tigers win over Vanderbilt.  19 second half points and a late steal to secure the win just a day after his cousin was shot and killed in Kansas City.
Share this story

Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 6th, 2010

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

This week saw the return of more great Big 12 basketball to Sprint Center in Kansas City as well as a week highlighted by matchups around the league taking place as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.

  • The first major action of the week tipped on Tuesday night as Missouri played host to the #14 Georgetown Hoyas at Sprint Center in Kansas City.  The game represented the first true test for the Tigers, and much like Texas did early on against Pittsburgh, Missouri might have said plenty about what they have to offer despite a loss.  Georgetown hit the court with a haymaker jumping out to an early 18-point lead while Mizzou struggled to find their way.  After settling in, the Tiger pressure started to pay off and lead to points in transition.  From there the fastest 40 minutes of basketball finally got underway.  Missouri brought the game all the way back and held a lead late only to see it erased by a last-second lead and a brilliant overtime frame from Hoya guard Jason Clark.  Either way, the game made a statement for Mizzou.  They still have work to do in the halfcourt, but with the addition of Ricardo Ratliffe and the ability to force teams into their brand of basketball, Mizzou will be tough.
  • Thursday featured more action in the Big 12/Pac-10 challenge with Kansas, MU and Baylor all claiming wins over their respective opponents. The big news early? The way the Jayhawks won.  Kansas struggled at home against a resurgent UCLA team and after a Bruin three-pointer looked to have both teams headed to overtime, Kansas’ Mario Little drew a foul with seven tenths of a second on the clock.  Kansas would win 77-76.
  • Friday night, the Kansas State Wildcats took on Washington State.  Popular preseason Preseason POY candidate Jacob Pullen stumbled a bit and was a non-factor for most of the game.  Fortunately, the supporting cast handled business and K- State was able to secure a five-point victory to push the Big 12 to a 6-0 record to start the series.
  • Saturday saw three teams continue the series with Texas Tech being blown out by the Washington Huskies after escaping with a close win early in the week against Oral Roberts.  At this point, Pat Knight has his team at what many would consider a disappointing 5-4 early season record and buzz is building that Knight could be on the hot seat.
  • Elsewhere, Iowa State continued to look better than expected early.  While the Cyclones still lost the game in Ames, Cal is no cakewalk and the Cyclones were in the game until the very end before losing by just three.
  • The lone winner from the Big 12 on the day was from Colorado, who will soon be departing for the Pac-10.  Tad Boyle’s team looked like a group turning a corner in a 26-point win over Oregon State.   The Beavers are far from a good team, but Colorado might just be getting closer to being the team that many expected.

Big 12 Power Rankings

  1. Baylor (6-0) – The Bears looked the most impressive of any team this week, leading to the top spot nod in the power rankings.  They’re long, athletic and they can beat you in a variety of ways.  Scott Drew looks to have reloaded after losing a few players following last season’s Elite Eight run.
  2. Kansas (7-0) – After looking like a finished product through a few early season cupcakes, Kansas has plenty of room to improve.  UCLA took the Jayhawks to the brink with an impressive performance, and for the moment, Kansas drops a spot until they can find a way to better manage their defense on the interior.
  3. Kansas State (7-1) – The Wildcats are still getting used to being the hunted and Jacob Pullen is learning what it means to have all the attention.  Kansas State is handling business as expected against lesser competition, but like Kansas, when the level of play ticks up, things tend to get interesting.
  4. Missouri Tigers (6-1) – The Tigers might have shown as much about who they are in a loss as they have all year.  Despite losing to Georgetown they fought back from a big deficit, had the game in hand and played Mike Anderson basketball before dropping the game in overtime. Two days later, they went to Oregon and scored a nice win on the road to put the tough loss behind them.
  5. Texas (6-1) – Texas beat a bad team handily.  They play USC late Sunday night after this report wraps up so there’s a possibility they could make an argument for a higher spot, but for now other teams just did more to look good in a power ranking.
  6. Texas A&M (7-1) – The Aggies handled business against two lesser opponents.  Their depth and the multiple weapons on the interior continue to be a strength.  Circle next Saturday’s game against Washington as the Aggies will face a big test against the Huskies. With their top players still averaging less than 30 minutes per game, and ten players averaging at least ten minutes per game, Mark Turgeon is still trying to find the best rotation.
  7. Oklahoma State (7-1) – Oklahoma State was one of the teams expected to drop off after the Big 12 experienced one of the most successful seasons in its history a year ago. That doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case.  The perceived weakness on the interior has actually been a strength with Marshall Moses continuing to lead the way. They still need to prove they can hang with quality opponents (just one game against a KenPom top 50 squad, which they lost at home).
  8. Colorado (4-3) – After losing at Harvard a week ago, this looked like a team dead in the water early.  However, in a couple blowouts this week, Colorado looks like they could be turning a corner.  They’re finding themselves offensively and may be buying in to Tad Boyle’s defensive focus.
  9. Iowa State (6-2) – The Cyclones dropped two in a row this week to Northern Iowa and California after jumping out to a 6-0 start.  Still, things might be better than expected in Ames.  A team picked last by many has managed to compete in every game and in a very impressive stat at the moment, five players currently average double figures in scoring.  That’s balance and Fred Hoiberg has to like that.
  10. Nebraska (6-2) – The Huskers are doing what they’ve done over the past several seasons:  Pad their resume in the non-conference and then try to hold on.  They’re undefeated at home and continue to hang their hat on tough physical play.  Just one game this past week (against lowly Jackson State), but they took care of business Wednesday. It’s just hard to say this early against token competition if that success will translate to the Big 12 or fail once again.
  11. Texas Tech (5-4) – Tech appears to be on a path to underachieve in 2010-11.  A big loss to Washington and a narrow win at home against Oral Roberts are the signs of disappointment from last week.  Last year, defense was the concern, and that appears to be the developing trend yet again for Pat Knight in Lubbock.
  12. Oklahoma (3-5) – Oklahoma went straight from Maui into a tough stretch on the road against Arkansas and Arizona.  They aren’t winning, but they might be finding a reliable inside presence in sophomore Andrew Fitzgerald (14.6 PPG and 5.6 RPG).

A Look Ahead

  • This week, the Kansas Jayhawks dive in head first with their first ranked opponent in Memphis.  The game between the two teams will take place at Madison Square Garden as part of the Jimmy V Classic.
  • Wednesday’s schedule is full of solid games and in-state opponents.  Mizzou hosts a Vanderbilt team from the SEC that has experienced some success early this season and currently sits at 7-1.  Texas Tech and Oklahoma State host in-state opponents TCU and Tulsa, respectively, while Colorado will tip against in Colorado State in what promises to be a great test of the Buffaloes’ recent upswing.
  • Friday, the Cyclones head down the road to Iowa City to take on their big intrastate rival, the Iowa Hawkeyes.  The game presents an opportunity for Iowa State to get back on track and put an early feather in the cap of first-year coach Fred Hoiberg.
  • All that leads to next Saturday, when eight Big 12 teams will be in action across the country as we get ever closer to conference play.  The headliner for the day is Texas A&M and Washington as the Aggies play host to their Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series game and will look for an upset to continue the conference’s control in the series.

Stats, Quotes and other Notables

  • 6-4 – That’s the record of the Big 12 against Pac-10 competition through the first week of the Hardwood Series.  With two games to go, last year’s record of 9-3, which was the single best by one conference over the other during the series, will go unmatched. Two additional games in late December (Stanford at Oklahoma State and Kansas at Cal) as well as some past matchups like Kansas vs. Arizona in Las Vegas two weeks ago are not officially considered part of the series.
  • 18-18 – Georgetown goes 100% from the free throw line and in general shoots extremely well in an overtime win over Missouri.  The irony lay in that it took a missed Missouri free throw for the Hoyas to even have a chance at the end.
  • 4 years – That will be the duration of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series which wraps up this year after starting in 2007.  Seems like a mistake as the ACC/Big 10 Challenge enters it’s 11th year of existence.
  • “It was really a poor way to end the game on that call.” – Ben Howland, discussing the most talked-about call of the young basketball season. 

Player of the Year Stock Watch

  • Jacob Pullen – (15 PPG, 4.3 APG, 40% FG) Even: Pullen’s numbers are up, but he once again struggled against a solid opponent.  Ultimately his season will be judged on conference play and during the Tournament.
  • Marcus Morris – (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 62% FG) Trending Down: In his last two games, Morris has found himself in early foul trouble and it’s hurt his team.  He’ll need to play smarter down the stretch for Kansas to reach their potential.
  • Quincy Acy – (14.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG,55% FG) Trending Down: After a fast start, Acy might be coming back down to earth. The return of Dunn has no doubt played a factor, and at this point, he’s an important piece but probably not player of the year material.
  • Alec Burks – (19.9 PPG, 48% FG) Even: Burks’ numbers are falling, yet his team has played better.  Colorado seems to be finding themselves and Burks is still the leader.  His improvement on the defensive end might be the most welcome sign for coach Tad Boyle.
  • Jordan Hamilton – (20.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG) Even: A slow week and a poor game against USC for the Longhorns but Hamilton is still in the mix.
  • LaceDarius Dunn – (22.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 53% FG) Even: Dunn was welcomed back to Baylor after biding his time due to off-court issues.  His addition has paid dividends immediately, as the Bears look long, athletic and as explosive as anyone in the country.
  • Marcus Denmon – (16.4 PPG, 1.7 SPG, 56% 3FG) New: Mike Anderson’s team is balanced, so you don’t necessarily expect on player to rise above the rest in his system.  Denmon has, though, thanks to deadly outside shooting. 
Share this story