Big 12 Previews: Texas Tech & Texas

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 25th, 2018

With games starting in less than two weeks now, we’re tipping off our 2018-19 Big 12 coverage by going around the league team-by-team. Be sure to check in throughout the season and follow Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman on Twitter @BSGoodman.

Texas Tech

The Red Raiders were one of college basketball’s best stories last year, riding a deep and talented rotation to a 27-10 finish (11-7 Big 12) and the first Elite Eight appearance in program history. It’s still incredibly fun to think about what might have been had senior star Keenan Evans not been saddled with a broken toe down the stretch, but even so, this team was wildly successful in coming out of the woodwork to hang with Kansas for most of the conference season and make such a deep run in March. It also served to establish second-year head coach Chris Beard as one of the hottest names in coaching.

Jarrett Culver will take the keys from Keenan Evans in Lubbock. (Getty)

Who’s Gone:

  • G Keenan Evans: 17.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.5 SPG
  • F Zhaire Smith: 11.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG
  • G Niem Stevenson: 7.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 39.2% 3FG
  • F Zach Smith: 6.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG
  • F Justin Gray: 5.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG
  • C Tommy Hamilton IV: 5.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG

Who’s Back:

  • G Jarrett Culver: 11.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 38.2% 3FG
  • G Brandone Francis: 5.1 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 38.4% 3FG
  • F Norense Odiase: 3.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG
  • F Davide Moretti: 3.5 PPG

Who’s Coming In:

  • G Matt Mooney (graduate transfer from South Dakota): 18.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 35.2% 3FG for South Dakota
  • C Tariq Owens (graduate transfer from St. John’s): 8.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.8 BPG for St. John’s
  • F Deshawn Corprew (JuCo transfer)
  • F Khevan Moore (four-star recruit)
  • G Kyler Edwards (three-star recruit)

Outlook: Beard may have lost his three of his best players from last season (Evans and Zhaire and Zach Smith), but there’s still a lot to like about this roster even if a league title is too much to ask. Jarrett Culver is a legitimate breakout candidate who is capable of scoring in a number of ways, and will be flanked by by floor-spacers in Matt Mooney, and Brandone Francis. Tariq Owens steps into the middle just one season removed from leading the Big East in blocked shots, and Deshawn Corprew’s rebounding ability on a 6’5” frame makes him an ideal small-ball four. A relative lack of depth is something the Red Raiders didn’t have to worry about in 2017-18, but it’s more likely to crop up this year. Still, expect this team to remain competitive. The Big 12 coaches somehow picked this group to finish seventh, but don’t make the same mistake.

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Predicting a Breakout Star From Each Power Conference

Posted by Ryan O'Neil on October 19th, 2018

In every Power 6 conference, there’s an established hierarchy in which the league’s most notable teams comfortably reside. In the ACC, there’s Duke, UNC, and Virginia. The Big East championship has in recent years gone through the Villanova Wildcats. In the Big Ten, Michigan State, Michigan, and Purdue have controlled the conference since former Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan’s retirement a few years back. Kansas has won the Big 12 regular season championship 14 years in a row. Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA have had a relative stranglehold on the Pac-12 for seemingly decades. In the SEC, Kentucky has been without question the league’s best team since John Calipari arrived in Lexington. But with the new season comes the possibility that the traditional powers may be toppled.  In this article, I’m going to identify one player from every power conference league who has the ability to lead his team to a surprise finish in the standings.  There’s just one rule — he can’t be a freshman.

ACC

Ky Bowman (USA Today Images)

  • Ky Bowman, Boston College. Boston College’s junior point guard often looked like the Eagles’ best player last season, even though he played in the same backcourt as eventual lottery pick Jerome Robinson. Bowman, an under-recruited prospect from North Carolina, is a great athlete whose best game last year included 30 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists against Duke. He’s dynamic in the pick and roll, and he has the ability to score at all three levels of the floor. An athlete that makes NBA scouts salivate, Bowman is especially nasty in transition. If he can become more consistent in his approach this season, Boston College is going to surprise some teams in the ACC.

Big East

  • Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s. Ponds was a first-team Big East performer last season for St. John’s after dropping at least 30 points on six separate occasions. Possibly no game better demonstrated his scoring ability than when he put up a whopping 44 points on a 16-of-23 shooting performance against Marquette. The arrival of Mustapha Heron from Auburn this season should take some of the offensive pressure off of Ponds by allowing him more space to operate. The Red Storm were a thorn in the side of several ranked teams last season, a trait that should become only more prominent with a more mature Ponds and Heron in the backcourt.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Nevada 87, #10 Texas 83 (OT)

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. David Changas (@dchangas) is in Nashville this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Nevada Wolf Pack forward Caleb Martin (10) reacts with the bench during the second half against the Texas Longhorns in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Big shot Caleb. Nevada’s Caleb Martin went 2-of-10 from three-point range and looked like he was trying to draw contact on nearly every shot he took from deep in the second half. But he never stopped firing, and after the Wolf Pack went down by four on a four-point play from Kerwin Roach, Martin hit back-to-back threes to put his team in control for what would turn out to be for good. The NC State transfer is a 40 percent shooter from three-point range, so it is not surprising that coach Eric Musselman let him keep shooting. Still, for the senior guard to overcome a rough first 40 minutes is a big reason Nevada moves on to Round Two, and Martin’s recovery was symbolic of the entire team’s effort. After shooting only 39.3 percent in the first half, the Wolf Pack hit 51 percent of their second half shots on their way to scoring 61 combined points in the second half and overtime.
  2. Nevada overcomes an enormous day from Texas’s backcourt. Kerwin Roach and Matt Coleman, neither of whom has been particularly efficient from behind the arc this season, were great from deep today, combining to go 10-of-15 from three-point range while scoring 26 and 25 points, respectively. That type of output ordinarily would – and Shaka Smart would argue should have today – result in a Texas win. But Texas’ big men struggled to take advantage of a number of good looks inside, and the heroic efforts of Roach and Coleman were not enough to carry the Longhorns into the Second Round.
  3. Nevada’s balance and ball security was too much for Texas. The Wolf Pack had five players score in double figures, with Kendall Stephens leading the way with 22 points. Given that four of those players average double figures, their output was not surprising. That balance is what got Nevada to the Mountain West regular season championship. In addition, Nevada, which takes care of the ball better than any team in the country, did a fantastic job of doing that in what was a fast-paced second half. It offset the 42-34 rebounding advantage the Longhorns enjoyed in game.

Player of the Game. Caleb Martin, Nevada. There are plenty of options here, but despite the lackluster shooting effort for most of the game, the Wolf Pack would not be headed to the second round without the late-game heroics of Martin. He also had 10 rebounds on a day when his team struggled on the glass. It was only his second double-double of the season. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Conversation: NCAA Tournament Takes, Part II

Posted by Brian Goodman & Chris Stone on March 15th, 2018

Yesterday, Big 12 microsite writers Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) reviewed Thursday’s Big 12 match-ups. Today, they’re back to talk about the roads ahead starting on Friday for West VirginiaKansas State and Texas.

CS: This is the fourth NCAA Tournament for Press Virginia and so far the Mountaineers have yet to make it past the Sweet Sixteen. That seems odd given how tough their defense is to prepare for. Do you think West Virginia can finally get over the regional semifinals hump this season?

Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers will need some help to make a deep run. (Washington Times)

BG: They certainly can, but it’s going to be a major challenge. The OVC was home to two of the top 15 teams in the country at generating turnovers — Tennessee State and Austin Peay — and Murray State won all three meetings with them. I like West Virginia’s chances to advance on Friday, but the Mountaineers’ pressure will not be anything new to the Racers and they’ve already proven they can win in spite of it. As far as the Round of 32 goes, West Virginia will likely have to contend with a Wichita State team that takes excellent care of the ball and crashes the defensive glass. Furthermore, the neutral environment in San Diego won’t swing the officiating in the same way it often does in Morgantown. And that’s just to get to the Sweet 16. If you can beat Virginia as West Virginia did earlier this year, you can beat anyone, but I don’t see the Mountaineers getting the requisite amount of help they’ll need to go any further.

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Friday Figures: Big 12’s Strength, Andrew Jones’ Injury & Nick Weiler-Babb’s Excellence

Posted by Chris Stone on December 15th, 2017

Friday Figures is a weekly feature where we look at some of the most intriguing statistics from the Big 12. This week, we’ll focus on the league as a whole, what losing Andrew Jones means for Texas and the breakout season of Iowa State‘s Nick Weiler-Babb.

The Big 12 is as good as ever. Despite plenty of turnover last offseason, the league once again looks like by far the best — read: deepest — conference in college basketball. According to KenPom, a team expected to finish .500 in the Big 12 would have an adjusted efficiency margin of +18.14, a full two points higher than the next best league. That mark would also be the third-highest margin for a conference in the KenPom era behind the 2003-04 ACC and last season’s Big 12. There are certainly valid criticisms of this year’s Big 12 centered around the Final Four potential at the top of the league, but there are also feasible arguments that every team in the league could be on the NCAA Tournament bubble this March if things fall their way. It appears that the fears of the Big 12’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

Andrew Jones is expected to miss significant time for Texas. (Image source: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

What life without Andrew Jones means for Texas. The Longhorns’ sophomore guard is out indefinitely after suffering a broken wrist against VCU, which is concerning given how poorly the team performed offensively without him in a loss to Michigan earlier this week. Jones was the lone player shooting well for Texas this season, connecting on 43.2 percent of his three-point attempts. Only one other player on the roster is shooting better than 30.0 percent from deep and the team made just 5-of-20 threes against the Wolverines. While poor shooting is a concern, the Texas offense over the last two seasons actually hasn’t been any worse without Jones on the floor on a points per possession (PPP) basis:

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Five Big 12 Feast Week Storylines to Watch

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2017

Feast Week is here, and with it comes the first chance for many Big 12 teams to see how they stack up against legitimate competition. The storylines around the league haven’t evolved significantly over the season’s first two weeks, but in case you need a primer, here’s a quick breakdown on what to watch for as you gorge yourself on college hoops and turkey this week.

Baylor will need Jo Lual-Acuil’s intensity this week in Kansas City. (Tom Pennington/Getty)

  1. Will Baylor assert its will on the offensive glass against Wisconsin? The Bears were the third-best team in college basketball at rebounding their own misses last season and are off to a strong start again this year — logging an offensive rebounding rate of 41.3 percent through their first three wins. Wisconsin, however, is a different animal than the likes of Central Arkansas, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Alcorn State, rebounding 83.5 percent of its opponents’ tries. Baylor’s offense has been very efficient in the first week-plus, but the Bears’ big men have effectively gone unchallenged inside. Ethan Happ and Andy Van Vliet bring an element of size that Baylor has yet to face, so outlasting the Badgers on the glass will be vital in this rematch from the 2014 Sweet Sixteen.
  2. How will Matt Coleman fare in facilitating Texas’ offense? The freshman point guard has brought some much-needed stability to Texas’ backcourt, dishing out 10 assists against just one turnover over 74 minutes across the Longhorns’ first three games. Still, Shaka Smart’s club ranks among the bottom 25 schools nationally in assists per field goal. Coleman’s distributing ability wasn’t needed in Saturday’s blowout win over Lipscomb, but it’s going to be a different story in Portland this week when the Longhorns face Butler and potentially Duke. Read the rest of this entry »
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Friday Figures: Big 12 Trends Worth Watching

Posted by Chris Stone on November 17th, 2017

Welcome to Friday Figures, a new weekly column where we’ll look at some interesting statistics from around the Big 12. There will be charts, graphs and plenty of references to KenPom. Obviously it’s still early, so this week we’re going to dive into a trio of numbers worth tracking as the season progresses.

West Virginia’s true shooting attempts differential always looms large. Under the “Press Virginia” system, the Mountaineers’ offense has never been the most efficient from a shot-making perspective. Dating back to the 2014-15 season, West Virginia has ranked 292nd, 177th and 139th nationally in effective field goal percentage (per KenPom). So far this season, they rank 185th. But what West Virginia lacks in accuracy, it makes up for in sheer volume by creating extra shots with offensive rebounds and opponents’ turnovers. Last season, the gap between the Mountaineers’ true shooting attempts (TSAs), a formula which accounts for free throws as well as field goal attempts, and their opponents’ attempts, was the largest in the country at 11.3 per game.

Data source: Sports-Reference

Tracking that differential in TSAs on a game-by-game basis has been a pretty good way to figure out West Virginia’s chances of winning. The chart above plots every game the team has played since 2014-15 with losses marked in red. Notice how the presence of that color increases significantly when the differential falls below 10.0? In two games so far this season, the Mountaineers have experienced wildly different results. Against Texas A&M, they only took 1.2 more TSAs than the Aggies, but in a blowout win against American, that gap was 25.4. One was a 23-point loss while the other a 34-point win. If you’re tracking West Virginia’s box scores this season, simply observe the gap in field goal attempts and free throws versus the opponent and you will likely be able to figure out how the game is going.

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Big 12 Burning Questions: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 6th, 2017

This preview is part of RTC’s Big 12 2017-18 preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will Texas ride the additions of Mo Bamba and Matt Coleman to an at-large bid?

Last Thanksgiving had barely passed when it became clear that something wasn’t right with Texas basketball. The young Longhorns were supposed to get back on track after losing two games to Northwestern and Colorado in the Legends Classic, but instead of licking their wounds and coming out with fire in their next home outing, they were embarrassed by Texas-Arlington. Bad games happen, certainly, and the Mavericks went on to win the Sun Belt last season, but considering the resources at Texas’ disposal and its accomplished coach patrolling the sideline, there was no excuse for such an effort. We all know how things went from there: The Longhorns tried unsuccessfully to play the entire season without a legitimate point guard, ultimately finishing dead last in the Big 12 standings despite having a first-round pick on the blocks in Jarrett Allen. Shaka Smart certainly isn’t on the hot seat in Austin on the heels of one forgettable season, but now that his team has been restocked with a level of talent that he didn’t have in his first two campaigns, it’s time for him to produce.

All eyes will be on Mo Bamba, but Texas needs more than just him to avenge a woeful 2017. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

Freshman center Mo Bamba will definitely help, perhaps as much as a one-and-done player can to change the direction of a program. There’s no player in the Big 12 who can match Bamba’s physical gifts of a 7’9″ wingspan on a 6’11” frame, and with great agility to match. He can block shots, run the floor, finish down low and face up his man in space. Allen and Cameron Ridley before him had their legitimate big man strengths, but Bamba provides a completely different skill set. In high school, he was able to produce offensively with his sheer athleticism, but how he develops his game in the face of more physical Division I competition will be worth monitoring. Additionally, Bamba’s presence on the roster may lead Smart to revive his patented “Havoc” defensive system now that he has a center who can get up and down the court. Read the rest of this entry »

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