Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

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

A Look Back

  • Thanksgiving week tends to signal the unofficial start of basketball season as the non-conference competition ticks up a notch and holiday tournaments tip off in force.  For the Big 12, that meant trips to Hawaii, Kansas City, Cancun and Las Vegas, among other destinations.  For some, it was a positive experience, for others it was a bit of a negative, but for nearly all, the week provided a test and some answers as to where the early season concerns might lie.
  • Perhaps the biggest pair of games for the week in the Big 12 occurred in a city experiencing a resurgence in basketball relevance, Kansas City.  The Wildcats of Kansas State took to the court against two top-15 foes in successive nights.  The first resulted in a victory for Frank Martin’s team over a tough Gonzaga opponent in convincing fashion.  Kansas State’s hard-nosed, physical style wore down the Bulldogs and set the stage for a huge early-season matchup and a big time measuring stick with a game against top-ranked Duke.  Unfortunately for Kansas State, the Blue Devils played every bit the part of the #1 team in the nation.  Their defense came out and punched Jacob Pullen and the Wildcats in the mouth.  Duke experienced a comfortable lead throughout the game and while Kansas State stepped up the defensive effort after a slow start, missed free throws and turnovers kept a stalling offense on the ropes.
  • Elsewhere in the conference, the Kansas Jayhawks took on a surging Arizona Wildcats squad in Las Vegas.  The contest looked like a runaway early, but Kansas struggled for the first time all season before eventually putting away a pesky Arizona squad that appears to be well on its way to a return to the top of the Pac-10.  The win secured the Vegas Tourney Title for Kansas.
  • Another tournament winner from the Big 12 emerged in Cancun, as the Missouri Tigers ran through the competition with relative ease and took the Cancun Challenge with wins over Wyoming and La Salle.
  • Not all the holiday tournaments proved kind to the Big 12, however, as Oklahoma lost in every appearance during the annual Maui Invitational, including an embarrassing losing effort against perennial host and Division II school, Chaminade.
  • A few other notable wins in the conference as Nebraska kicked off the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series with a win over USC.  Texas A&M dropped a game to ACC opponent Boston College while Colorado and Texas Tech continue to struggle with early season competition, the pair losing to Harvard and St. Mary’s, respectively.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas Jayhawks (6-0) – Kansas looked vulnerable for the first time against the Arizona Wildcats during tournament play in Las Vegas.  With Marcus Morris on the bench in foul trouble, the Kansas offense wasn’t its normal self and Bill Self finally has a little bit to work on as he prepares for UCLA this coming week.
  2. Kansas State Wildcats (5-1) – It’s hard to fault a team for losing to Duke.  Watching the Wildcats take on the Blue Devils, it probably proved more about how good Duke is than what can be expected from Kansas State.  The Wildcats still played a high caliber of defense during stretches, and if they can learn to value the basketball a little more and knock down free throws, they’ll be in the conference hunt.
  3. Texas Longhorns (5-1) – Texas struggled against a pesky Rice Owl squad but managed to get a win as their schedule softened after a tough early stretch.  The Longhorns continue to show strength on the interior, an area that will be critical in any hopes at a conference title run.
  4. Baylor Bears (4-0) – Baylor continues to coast through sub-par competition, but did receive 24 points from LaceDarius Dunn in his first game back from suspension.
  5. Missouri Tigers (5-0) – The Tigers are still a tough read.  They are winning, but not necessarily in the convincing fashion one might expect.  Ricardo Ratliffe is looking the part of the big man they’ve needed, but the Tigers still look like a team trying to find itself.  That hasn’t been all that uncommon for a Mike Anderson-led team as they typically improve throughout the season.
  6. Texas A&M (5-1) – The Aggies dropped a game against ACC’s Boston College, but recovered with a win over nationally-ranked Temple at the Old Spice Classic in Florida.  Right now, they look to be the best of the Big 12’s middle tier, but Oklahoma State is in the rearview.
  7. Oklahoma State (5-1) – Oklahoma State is beating the teams they should, but dropped a close one to a tough Virginia Tech team that was ranked to start the season.   The early play of Marshall Moses has been cause for optimism in Stillwater, however, and the Cowboys could be better than originally thought.
  8. Iowa State (6-0) – Iowa State and Fred Hoiberg keep winning basketball games.  The competition hasn’t been particularly impressive, but they’ll get a chance to show what they can do against a real opponent in the very near future.
  9. Nebraska (4-2) – A win on the road (Hofstra) and a 20-point comeback over a Pac-10 opponent (USC) show that Nebraska might not be the worst in the conference.  This still isn’t a team with any tournament aspirations as of yet, but they might be able to outclass a few in their final season in the Big 12.
  10. Texas Tech (4-3) – Tech has lost two in a row, but against decent competition.  The same can’t be said for the two teams below and that might be the saving grace for Tech in the power rankings.
  11. Colorado (2-3) – Two potential lottery picks and the Buffaloes lose to Harvard?  Colorado was picked much higher headed into the year, but they just don’t look like a team that is going to live up to those expectations.
  12. Oklahoma (3-3) –  Three straight losses in Maui including one to Chaminade.  Not a good loss by any stretch and the Sooners look to be in trouble if Jeff Capel can’t get his team to recover.

A Look Ahead

  • The game of the week in the Big 12 once again tips in Kansas City.  The Sprint Center plays host to Georgetown and the Missouri Tigers in yet another early season marquee matchup in Big 12 country.  The Tigers have started the season 5-0, but will face their toughest test in the Big East power.  Georgetown brings a 6-0 record and a very efficient offensive game to Kansas City in hopes of pulling the upset.
  • Elsewhere in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, tradition-rich UCLA is headed to Lawrence for a game against the Kansas Jayhawks Thursday in a matchup of two blueblood programs.  Unfortunately, this is a game that, in name, has a little more excitement than the reality.  UCLA is down, Kansas is not and the Jayhawks will be heavily favored in this one.
  • Missouri will play in their second notable game of the week when they head to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks, a team that courted head coach Mike Anderson unsuccessfully in the offseason.
  • Other notable Big 12/Pac-10 games include Iowa State vs. Cal on Saturday as the Cyclones try to put a little more substance to the fast start this season.  Baylor takes on Arizona State, Texas Tech takes on Washington and the Colorado Buffaloes go head-to-head against Oregon State as they get a little preview of what’s to come in the future.

Stats, Quotes and Other Notables

  • #1. That’s where the Kansas Jayhawk rank overall, according to Ken Pomeroy’s basketball rankings in offensive efficiency and in defensive efficiency.  Interestingly, last year’s #1 team headed into the tournament was Duke.
  • “They knocked the living piss out of us.” Frank Martin describes the loss to Duke in a way that only he can.  Again, last week’s game probably spoke more to how good Duke really is and Kansas State and Martin will be better off having played them.
  • 24 points on 7 of 11 from the three point line. LaceDarius Dunn returns for Baylor in impressive fashion.
  • 4 points on 1 of 12 shooting. Jacob Pullen struggles against Duke.  Is it a sign of what Denis Clemente’s complementary play meant to Pullen as a scorer?

Player of the Year Watch

  • Jacob Pullen – (14.3 PPG, 4 APG, 39% FG) Trending down
  • Marcus Morris – (19.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 68% FG) Even
  • Quincy Acy – (17.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 60% FG)Trending up
  • Alec Burks – (23.0 PPG, 48% FG) Trending up
  • Jordan Hamilton – (22.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG) Even
  • LaceDarius Dunn – (24.0 PPG, 5 RPG, 61% FG) NEW
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Set Your Tivo: 11.26.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 26th, 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.

There are lots of good games today, most with implications are from tournaments. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Old Spice Classic Semifinal: #25 Wisconsin vs. Boston College — 12 pm on ESPN (***)

Wisconsin enters today’s game coming off a brutal to watch 50-35 win over Manhattan in the opening round yesterday at Disney. Jon Leuer led the Badgers with 16/13 in a game that had the same halftime score (17-10) as the Patriots/Lions NFL game. Boston College scored a thrilling 67-65 win over Texas A&M as Dash Harris’ coast-to-coast layup try fell off the rim as time expired. Reggie Jackson scored 21 points on 8-12 shooting to pace an Eagles team that shot 47% overall from the floor. BC held off a second half charge from the Aggies and overcame a 29-14 shellacking on the boards to pull out the win. Wisconsin is rated eighth in offensive efficiency but has struggled shooting the ball recently. They’ve shot under 40% in their last two games but have made up for it on the defensive end, especially yesterday. Bo Ryan’s stingy defense held Manhattan under 50 FG attempts and 28.6% shooting. Wisconsin is strong on the boards as well, ranking #1 in offensive rebounding percentage and #7 in the same statistic on the defensive side meaning they clean the defensive glass very well. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin has out-rebounded every opponent it has faced this season. That’s going to be a problem for Boston College, a team that ranks #267 in offensive rebounding and had a rough time against the Aggies yesterday. The Eagles shot it well from three for the first time all year against A&M and that’s something Steve Donahue may want to take advantage of again today. Wisconsin ranks #298 against the three, the one thing they don’t do well defensively. BC isn’t much better however, ranking #293. Expect a well played game at an average to below-average speed as Boston College protects the ball very well and Wisconsin doesn’t force many steals and turnovers due to their deliberate style of play. The Badgers have assisted on 63% of their made shots this year, a sign of a disciplined offensive system led by Jordan Taylor. We expect this to be a close game but Wisconsin has the edge in most areas and that should be good enough to advance to the finals of this tournament.

76 Classic Semifinal: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State — 2:30 pm on ESPN (**)

Oklahoma State got by a pesky DePaul team in the first round on the back of Marshall Moses’ 27/9 on 11-14 FG while Virginia Tech rolled over Cal State Northridge. This game features a lot of statistical contrasts and most would seem to favor the Hokies. The most glaring of which has to be turnovers. Virginia Tech does turn the ball over too much but they also force a bunch due to their style of play. Oklahoma State turned it over 25 times against an up-tempo DePaul team while Virginia Tech forced the same number against Northridge. That doesn’t bode well for today’s matchup if you’re a Cowboy fan. The Hokies get to the line extremely well and that should give them a big advantage in this game. The Pokes of OSU foul a lot, ranking #321 in FTA/FGA, a measure of how often your opponent gets to the line. Virginia Tech doesn’t take advantage as much as they should, averaging 69% from the stripe. Malcolm Delaney is the creator and best player for Seth Greenberg while Jeff Allen has had a nice start to his senior season in the post (11.5/9/4). He’ll play a key role defending Moses if he chooses to enter the paint. Virginia Tech blocks a lot of shots, ranked #16 in blocked shot percentage. Oklahoma State is even better at #12 so expect a war in the paint. Neither team shoots or defends the three very well so a lot of the action should be confined to be inside the arc with guard penetration and dishing to guys like Allen and Darrell Williams for OSU. The Hokies have an edge in talent and Travis Ford still isn’t too sure about what to expect from his club in a transitional year. Virginia Tech is a solid favorite here and should advance. For Oklahoma State to win, they’ll need to do a great job controlling the ball and getting rebounds in order to limit opportunities for the Hokies.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (11-0, 25-1) - The Jayhawks have pretty much made the rest of the Big 12 look like they belong in the Pac-10. The only game remaining on KU’s schedule where they have a reasonable chance to lose is the last game of the year, at Missouri.
  2. Kansas State (7-3, 20-4) - The Wildcats took care of the bottom feeders, beating ISU, CU, and NU in their last three games. They have another cake game at home against Nebraska and then they have a tough four game stretch starting with Oklahoma and ending with Kansas.
  3. Texas A&M (7-4, 18-7) - TAMU had the opportunity to pull off a huge upset on Monday night, but Kansas was just a little tougher and grittier down the stretch.
  4. Baylor  (6-4, 19-5) - What a win for the Bears over Missouri. After a very questionable intentional foul call on the Bears, Baylor came back and won the game on an Ekpe Udoh tip in. Baylor has already solidified their NCAA tournament hopes, but now they’re in a five-team battle for a top four seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
  5. Texas (6-4, 20-5) - Well if the 40-point win over Nebraska wasn’t a statement game, I don’t know what a statement game is. UT really needed to clear their heads before they start a road trip against two teams desperately in search of another signature win (Missouri and Texas Tech).
  6. Missouri (6-4, 18-7) – It was heartbreak city for the Tigers in Waco on Saturday.  Mizzou needs to beat Texas if they want a bye in the Big 12 Tournament.
  7. Oklahoma State (5-5, 17-7) - James Anderson came to play against Oklahoma, and unfortunately many OU players did not, literally.
  8. Texas Tech (4-6, 16-8) – The Red Raiders were so close to getting back to .500 in the conference, but they just couldn’t hold the lead against Texas A&M late in the game.  TTU needed that win because their next three games should be losses.
  9. Oklahoma (4-6, 13-11) – As if things weren’t bad enough in Norman, now they have two freshmen suspended (including Tiny Gallon), and Willie Warren is out with an illness. This year has got to be one of the biggest disappointments at Oklahoma for quite some time.
  10. Iowa State (2-8, 13-12) – The Cyclones were my sleeper pick this season, but that didn’t pan out nearly as well as I would’ve liked it to. Marquis Gilstrap will be back next season, but Craig Brackins will probably be going to the NBA.
  11. Colorado (2-8, 11-13) – If Colorado just had a big man they would probably be closer to around .500 in the conference than where they are at right now. Cory Higgins and Alec Burks are talents that will help them next season (if Higgins skips the draft), but other than those two players there isn’t much the Buffaloes have to throw at you.
  12. Nebraska (1-9, 13-12) – The 40-point loss could not have helped Doc Sadler make a case for why he should keep his job.

Player of the WeekJames Anderson (G), Oklahoma State. Anderson went for 31 points against his archrivals. Right now he is almost guaranteed the conference Player of the Year honor in my book.

Team of the Week – Baylor Bears.  They cut it close against Nebraska and Missouri, but they ended up getting two huge victories. Ekpe Udoh, LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter are some of the best players in the conference and it’s scary that they’re all on the same team.

This Week’s Predictions

  • Texas Tech at Baylor (Tuesday February 16, 8:00 PM ET) - I don’t think its possible for TTU fans to fathom making the NCAA Tournament after the loss to TAMU on Saturday. Sure, if the Red Raiders won at Baylor it would be a huge win but it wouldn’t do enough for them in the long run. I don’t see Tech giving Baylor much of a game. The three-headed monster of Udoh, Carter, and Dunn are going to be too much for Pat Knight and his Raiders to handle.  Winner: Baylor
  • Nebraska at Kansas State (Wednesday February 17, 7:00 PM ET) - It’s going to be tough for NU to play hard after that forty point loss against Texas on Saturday. Kansas State will also show no mercy now that they’re moving up in the national rankings. Look for Jacob Pullen and company to continue their winning streak.  Winner: Kansas State
  • Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Wednesday February 17, 8:00 PM ET) – This is a must win game for OSU because right now the Cowboys are squarely on the bubble. OSU cannot afford another bad road loss and they need to keep this winning streak going if they want any shot at a top four seed in the conference tournament. With all that said, I think Iowa State will pull off the upset behind great play from Marquis Gilstrap and Craig Brackins. The Cyclones almost pulled off a win at Missouri last Wednesday and I think they will find a way to contain Marshall Moses, which will leave OSU throwing up a lot of bad outside shots.  Winner: Iowa State
  • Oklahoma at Colorado (Wednesday February 17, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) - I like Colorado in this game for various reasons. First, I’ve always liked the scoring duo of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins. Second, there is no guarantee OU will even have some of their “better” players on the floor. Third, it’s in Boulder, which can be a pretty tough place to play.  Winner: Colorado
  • Texas at Missouri (Wednesday February 17, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) – This is definitely the most intriguing game on Wednesday’s slate. Texas is on a roll it seems after blowing out Nebraska. Missouri is trying to forget the heartbreaking loss to Baylor and get another signature win for their tournament resume. The Longhorns’ big weaknesses are turning the ball over and shooting free throws, two things that Missouri will make you do if you want to beat them. Missouri’s glaring weakness is the fact that they don’t have a big frontcourt player that can compete with the likes of Damion James and Dexter Pittman. I’m taking the Longhorns in this game because they are the hot team and I think they might be gelling at the right time.  Winner: Texas
  • Baylor at Oklahoma State (Saturday February 20, 1:30 PM ET) - James Anderson has had some pretty impressive performances at home this season, and I believe he’ll continue with that trend on Saturday when OSU avenges their loss to Iowa State and upsets a ranked Baylor team at home. The Bears have seemed to garner a ranking and then lose it the next week every single time they’re in the polls, so I don’t see why that will change this week.   Winner: Oklahoma State
  • Texas at Texas Tech (Saturday February 20, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) - The Longhorns put up 93 points on TTU the last time these two teams played so I don’t think there’s any question that this one will be high scoring. If the Red Raiders want to win they need to contain the inside and force Texas’ young guards to make shots. Sometimes Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton will make their shots, but I think you’re better off putting the hands in the game of those young guards than James or Pittman on the inside if your Tech. Still, it won’t be enough to stop the Longhorns, even in Lubbock.  Winner: Texas
  • Colorado at Kansas (Saturday February 20, 4:00 PM ET) – Here is the rematch of one of the most surprising games in the Big 12 this season, in which Colorado overcame a 16-point deficit to force overtime in Boulder. This time around I don’t think CU has any chance and this should be all but over before the second half begins.  Winner: Kansas
  • Texas A&M at Iowa State (Saturday February 20, 4:00 PM ET) - The Aggies play an up-tempo style of basketball that the Cyclones just can’t compete with. Mark Turgeon is making a case for Coach of the Year in the conference after losing Derrick Roland to a gruesome injury earlier in the year, and Turgeon will be able to lead TAMU to victory even if it is a close game.  Winner: Texas A&M
  • Kansas State at Oklahoma (Saturday February 20, 6:00 PM ET ESPNU) - In my season preview I listed this as the game that would be the battle for third place in the Big 12. Obviously I was way off, but KSU does have the opportunity to distance itself from the pack if they can pull off a win, which is sometimes tough to do in Norman no matter who is on the court for the Sooners. In the end, however, Kansas State will have enough firepower to wipe OU off the court.  Winner: Kansas State
  • Missouri at Nebraska (Saturday February 20, 6:00 PM ET) - Mizzou had a rough time in the first 30 minutes with Nebraska when they played in Columbia. However, it was one of Missouri’s worst shooting performances of the year and they still won by 17. If the Tigers can shoot well out of the gate this one shouldn’t be too close.  Winner: Missouri 
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 12th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. Other than Kansas students, graduates, former players and all former or current residents of Lawrence, was there anyone in this fine country of ours rooting for the #1 Jayhawks to beat a depleted Tennessee team, a group of kids and a stunned head coach that just dealt with the suspension and/or dismissal of four of its regular rotation players? All of the events that occurred in that two-hour window in Knoxville Sunday was a release of pent-up frustration and anxiety from a tumultuous week in which Tennessee was considered a prime threat to upend favorite Kentucky in the SEC one day and counted out as a SEC contender that must scratch and claw the final two months for an NCAA berth the next. Renaldo Woolridge banking in a three, the Vols maintaining their lead with Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince on the bench with four fouls, the coach’s son Steven taking a critical charge, a miracle Skyler McBee (one of three walk-ons playing substantial minutes) leaning trey that iced the game, and coach Bruce Pearl aiding the Volunteer mascot in waving the orange Tennessee flag while the sounds of Rocky Top reverberated throughout Thompson-Boling Arena summed up what college basketball should be about. Bill Self pointed this out after the game, but there are some moments during a season when a team officially becomes a team instead of a group of individuals. Even though Pearl would gladly reset the timer to New Year’s Eve and prevent four scholarship players from getting in that car, sometimes it takes a catastrophic occurrence that truly tests the mettle of a unit for them to band together and accomplish lofty goals. I think it’s fair to say Tennessee became a team Sunday night.

2. As long as Mike Anderson is employing his Forty Minutes of Hell hellacious press on demoralized opponents, especially on a home floor where his team has won 30 consecutive games, Missouri should never be totally counted out of the Big 12 race. Losing DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence from an Elite 8 squad isn’t easy to overcome, and certainly the ceiling for the Tigers isn’t nearly as high, but the ultra-talented and quick Mizzou backcourt should have enough firepower to carry them to an NCAA berth. Missouri carried an impressive 12-3 record into their Big 12 opener with #10 Kansas State Saturday, yet their overall resume wasn’t incredibly awe-inspiring with their best wins over Old Dominion, Illinois, Georgia and Oregon and opportunities lost in defeats at the hands of Richmond, Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts. The win Saturday was clearly a statement that Missouri will be a contending force in the Big 12 for that #3 spot behind Texas and Kansas. Anderson looks to have a workable combination with experienced seniors J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor (evident by Taylor’s tie-breaking 3 with under a minute to play) making plays in late-game situations, a promising sophomore backcourt duo of Kim English and Marcus Denmon carrying most of the scoring load, and a defensive unit that ranks seventh overall in D efficiency, first in turnovers forced and gives Missouri a fighting chance on any night.

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Morning Five: 01.05.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2010

  1. Joe Dumars’ son, 6’5 freshman forward Jordan (is that a joke?), has already left the South Florida program and enrolled at Michigan for the remainder of his career.  He’s only played 27 minutes so far this season, scoring all six of his points in a single game against Kent State.
  2. Oklahoma State’s Marshall Moses was suspended for one game almost immediately after his arrest for possession of marijuana and driving on a suspended license.  Averaging 11/10 on the season, he will miss tonight’s game against Coppin State.
  3. Tennessee update from the AD himself:  “we start at dismissal and work our way backwards.”  Sounds about right.  Let’s hope he means it.
  4. USC’s Kevin O’Neill said that delivering the news to his seniors that they would not have a chance to play in the postseason was much harder than ever getting fired (and he would know!).
  5. Here’s Seth Davis‘ annual Stock Report.  This is always a fun read, and his UNC “sell” looks particularly prescient after last night’s loss to Charleston, but there will always be a few quibbles on something like this.  We will not, for example, be buying anything Florida is selling, and we are definitely unloading what little Louisville stock we still have lying around, but overall, pretty good assessment.
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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part Two)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 27th, 2009

seasonpreview

The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December, January and the first part of February/March in case you missed them):

February 16- North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (#36 overall)- Many believe Georgia Tech has assembled the talent to play with the supposedly rebuilding reigning champs. Still, UNC should be the favorite to win the ACC and Tech may be right on their heels (no pun intended). Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors make up a frontcourt composed of two possible lottery picks. Iman Shumpert (5.0 APG) returns to bolster the backcourt at the 1 or 2 position while Zach Peacock and Mo Miller provide depth for a Tech squad looking for a late-season impact win.

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February 22- West Virginia @ Connecticut (#20 overall)- Whether Stanley Robinson is assigned Da’Sean Butler on the perimeter or Devin Ebanks in the post, Stix is the key for Connecticut this season and in this specific Big East battle. Robinson averaged 14.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG in his final ten contests last year and the UConn coaching staff strongly believes their athletic forward can replicate that success the entire season. He won’t be spending the first half in a sheet metal plant this time around, either.

February 23- Tennessee @ Florida (#62 overall)- The Gators could linger around the bubble this season in a difficult SEC East. Knocking off likely high seed Tennessee at home would send a message to the committee at this late date in the season. It’s imperative Kenny Boynton have an electric shooting game against Tennessee’s shaky defense for the Gators to have a shot. They’ll also need Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons to contain the Tennessee bigs inside and out.

February 24- Purdue @ Minnesota (#32 overall)- A difficult road contest for a Purdue team looking to capture the Big Ten title. Minnesota always plays at a different level defensively at the Barn, meaning this could be a battle of wills in the 50s that sends Big Ten haters screaming in the streets. How Minnesota’s youth, whether it be sophomores Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson or their freshmen Royce White and Rodney Williams, develops into late February should reveal whether the Gophers can pull off this upset.

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