Conference Tournament Daily Diaries: Saturday

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2011

RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West.  Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site.  Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week.  Yesterday’s coverage:  ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East (pending), Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West,  Pac-10 & SEC.

ACC Tournamentby Kellen Carpenter

  • Despite a collective freak-out Nolan Smith is obviously fine. He torched Virginia Tech en route to a 27-point performance. He played 39 minutes and didn’t limp. After the game he said that he had woken up and felt pretty good, was given a shot for the pain and that was that. Smith also basically admitted that there was no injury that was going to stop him from playing the last, precious few games of his college career. Bold words.
  • There were other bold words that came from a raucous Coliseum crowd. An insistent six year-old Duke fan had one message and one message alone for Virginia Tech’s star whenever he went to the free throw line: “Delaney! Give me your money! Give me your money!” A Hokies fan, noting that an inordinate amount of time seemed to be taken up wiping the floor, was adamant in his commands to the Plumlee frontcourt: “Stop peeing on the floor, Plumlee!” This apparently applied to both. The winner of the impromptu ACC semifinals heckling contest, however, was an older Clemson fan. For some reason that I do not know, this fan spent the entire game heckling. He didn’t heckle the Tar Heels and he didn’t heckle the referees as a group, but rather singled out referee Les Jones. For forty solid minutes, he yelled at “Leslie” about every single thing. It was weird and oddly masterful. Kudos to you, demented stranger.
  • The Tar Heels sent out a mixed message. Dexter Strickland joked on Twitter this afternoon that they were calling his team “The Comeback Kids,” after UNC turned yet another double digit deficit into an overtime win. Kendall Marshall, who played forty minutes, simplyannounced, “I’m tired.” Harrison Barnes didn’t tweet anything, because he is too cool for Twitter.
  • Harrison Barnes, in the best individual performance of the tournament, hung 40 points on the Tigers. That’s impressive enough, but the really impressive part is how he did it. He scored his 40 on a mere 17 shots. He made 6 of 8 three-pointers and 10 of 11 free throws. He had 8 rebounds, four of which were offensive boards. When you play like that, you are, factually, too cool for Twitter. Carolina fans will lift a drink to play that speaks for itself.
  • After both games were finished, the buzz around the Coliseum was palpable. It’s been ten years since Duke and North Carolina have met in the ACC finals, and the town, as a whole, seems legitimately excited about it. A rubber match to the split series is something that everyone involved with both teams’ desires. With a number one seed potentially at stake, and a not insignificant amount of pride, both seem poised to deliver a memorable showdown. Given North Carolina’s apparent propensity for dramatic tournament finishes, the chances of a great game happening seem awfully high.
  • While the rivals exult, Virginia Tech and Clemson fret. Both improved their NCAA stock, but neither was able to seal their destiny with a signature win. There is a degree of optimism for both teams and Seth Greenberg joked that he wasn’t going to sleep because he was so excited about the Hokies chances. A solemn Malcolm Delaney just shook his head and firmly disagreed: After all that had happened over his four years at Virginia Tech, he going to expect the worst and wasn’t going to believe it until he heard it himself. While I’m hopeful for Virginia Tech’s chances, I’m with tough and wise Delaney on this one. That said, I wish him the best. That kid is too tough and too good to never make it to the Big Dance.

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Set Your Tivo: Weekend Review

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 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.

This is the last major weekend before conference play begins in earnest and it features a bunch of solid games but none that really jump out at you as must-watch. All in all it’s a pretty good set of games. Don’t forget about the two games in the Bahamas on Saturday (Richmond vs. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State). They’re not on television but are meaningful, especially the latter. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Texas vs. North Carolina (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC) – 4 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

A Smaller Venue in Greenboro, But Still a Great Game

You may never see a game between two unranked teams have this much talent on the court as this one. Yes the Longhorns are ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls but they aren’t in our own top 25. Texas has played better this year on the strength of defense and better chemistry though a loss at USC was cause for concern. Still, Texas has a ton of talent and has the ability to turn this season into a successful one. Leading scorer Jordan Hamilton still has a so-so shot selection but he’s connecting on 41% of his treys, a positive sign for Rick Barnes. Freshman Tristan Thompson has also been a plus for the Longhorns, giving them an athletic post presence who can score and defend very well. When you look at this matchup with North Carolina however, Tyler Zeller (16/8) is going to have a significant height advantage inside. You may see Barnes turn to Matt Hill for a bigger defensive presence in the paint in an attempt to control UNC’s big man. Each team has had some issues at the point guard, especially North Carolina. The Tar Heels have seen better play from Larry Drew II (2:1 A/T ratio) but questions remain with the team averaging 15 turnovers per contest. With a talented freshman in waiting, Roy Williams has to make a decision on who should see the majority of time at the point as they head into ACC play. For Texas, Dogus Balbay has seen his minutes drop in favor of freshman Cory Joseph, a move that’s understandable from an offensive standpoint but questionable in the eyes of some who see the experienced Balbay as a team leader and an effective distributor, not to mention an outstanding defender. Texas is not a particularly great shooting team as a whole so the transition to Joseph could be more about transition opportunities and easy buckets plus Joseph is a much better shooter. As for North Carolina, getting Harrison Barnes going could be the key between middling outside the top 25 and being a consistently ranked team and #2 in the ACC. Barnes is still in a slump, shooting just 33% overall over his last five games including a dismal 5-24 (21%) from three. He’s still averaging double figures and has done a nice job rebounding but the Tar Heels need more out of their star freshman. To become a really good team, UNC needs John Henson to become a consistent third option. He rebounds very well but he’s in double figures one night and single digits the next. He may have a hard time with Thompson inside but Henson is able to stretch his game out a bit and that may open things up inside for the Tar Heels. This figures to be another close game, far different from last year’s Texas blowout. This time North Carolina has the crowd to their advantage and may come out on top by a few points. It’s a huge game for UNC, their last non-conference opportunity for a quality win. Texas still has games with Michigan State and Connecticut but this is a big game for them too in a quasi-road environment. We wouldn’t be surprised either way but a slight edge has to go to UNC in this game.

#5 Kansas State vs. Florida (BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL) – 3:30 pm Saturday on FSN (****)

This is the first of two key games for Kansas State, the second coming on Tuesday against UNLV. Winning one or both will certainly help the Wildcats grab a better seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. Against Florida, K-State will have to contend with the Gators’ trapping pressure defense, something that could be a problem given their propensity for turnovers and some point guard issues. Jacob Pullen has been the main distributor at four assists per game but he turns it over more than three times per game, the most on a team that averages 16 turnovers as a unit. Florida’s back court pressure could cause a lot of problems for Kansas State and plenty of extra possessions for the Gators. Pullen doing a lot of ball handling could also be a factor in his overall struggle relative to last season. He’s never been a great shooter, 40% overall from the floor for his career, but his three point shooting is down over six percent to 33% this season. It is true that other teams are trying to lock him up like Duke did, but Pullen has to work through this and become a better player in order to lift Kansas State to the next level where they can compete for a national championship. Frank Martin may go with Will Spradling at the point in order to take some pressure off Pullen. As for Florida, expect them to fire up three’s as usual (17 per game) even though the Gators shoot just 32% as a team. Billy Donovan loves the trey, yet another Rick Pitino protégé who sticks to the system no matter the personnel he has. Erving Walker has improved dramatically but Kenny Boynton still can’t find the range for Florida. Walker shoots 20% better than Boynton from deep yet Boynton has 15 more attempts this season. Kansas State should look to isolate Walker and aggressively defend him, keeping the ball out of his hands. Pullen and Rodney McGruder may have to match Walker’s deep shooting but Martin will be content with Boynton chucking shots up and hitting once in a while, requiring Kansas State to clear the boards well. Both teams rank high in offensive rebounding percentage so the Wildcats must put an emphasis on keeping Florida off the glass as that will lead to easy Gator put backs. Florida is #15 in two point percentage, largely a result of offensive rebounds and the play of Vernon Macklin inside. Macklin against Curtis Kelly will be a key matchup to watch in the low post as each player finishes well and can rebound the basketball effectively. Kansas State should not bank on outscoring Florida from the line considering their awful free throw shooting (55%) and Florida’s ability to keep opponents off the line, second in the nation in defensive free throw rate. Only three players on K-State’s roster shoot over 70% from the line and Pullen is the only one of those three who gets there often. Martin’s depth will take a hit if Wally Judge is out, dealing with personal issues, but we don’t think that will have a major impact on the game. Kansas State is still a very deep team, able to go eight or nine deep if necessary. This should be a terrific game that may come down to the very end. Ken Pomeroy predicts a two-point Florida win so this game is essentially a toss-up. We see it that way as well.

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Around The Blogosphere: Pe’Shon Nails A Dagger

Posted by nvr1983 on November 11th, 2010

We are still early in the season, but things are starting to kick into gear with our first huge shot of the (regular) season. Like we stated after opening night, if you are interested in participating in this feature and getting your site linked to contact us at

Game of the Night

  • Maryland 75, College of Charleston 74: “For 39 and a half minutes, there was no shortage of things I could’ve said about Maryland’s game against College of Charleston: the missed free throws, the turnovers, the sensational Andrew Goudelock, the fact that Maryland lost to College of Charleston in their second game, and so on. And then Pe’Shon Howard happened. And then I was left speechless.” (Testudo Times: Part 1 and Part 2)

Top 25

  • #4 Pittsburgh 97, Illinois-Chicago 54: “Pitt played nearly perfectly in every facet of the game. The team shot about 60% from the field, rebounded extremely well, and only turned the ball over six times. When the Panthers play that well, they will be nearly impossible to beat.” (SB Nation: Pittsburgh)
  • #16 Illinois 84, Toledo 45: “This was more like it. Illinois played its first complete game of the season on Wednesday with a 84-45 blowout of Toledo at Assembly Hall. All 11 Illini players that saw playing time scored, including walk-on Kevin Berardini.” (Chicago Breaking Sports)
  • #25 Texas 89, Louisiana Tech 58: “Through two games, this Texas team has looked as solid as anyone could have imagined. They are playing as a team, moving the ball, crisply on offense, and not settling for jump shot. On the other end, they’ve been able to win the rebounding battle in both games and held both opponents to under 40% from the floor. J’Covan [Brown] and [Jordan] Hamilton look like different players; [TristanThompson and [CoryJoseph have already been impactful; and [GaryJohnson and Dogus [Balbay] are leading by example. Heck, even Jai Lucas and [MattHill have provided some quality minutes. The competition takes a giant step up next week, but, again, through two games, I’m impressed.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
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RTC Class Schedule 2010-11: Texas Longhorns

Posted by zhayes9 on August 15th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After looking at Kansas last week, here’s a breakdown of Big 12 foe Texas and their quest to avenge last season’s disappointing collapse:

Gary Johnson: no longer a role player

Team Outlook: Rick Barnes lost three of his most productive players from last year’s up-and-down campaign. The fact that all three of those cogs were selected in the top-32 of the NBA Draft renders their descent from #1 ranked team to first round flameout all that more disturbing. Barnes and his burnt orange faithful are ready to look forward to a new season where, due to the incredible depth assembled last season, the drop-off talent wise isn’t monumental. While Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas are primed to finish in some order atop the Big 12, Texas isn’t too far behind. It’s also not blasphemy to suggest that the loss of a handful of bodies could be addition by subtraction for a coach that often struggled to maintain a consistent rotation. From scoring wing Jordan Hamilton to the rugged play of Gary Johnson to the lockdown defense of Dogus Balbay and a star studded recruiting class, the Longhorns could very well see their season last longer than it did last March.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 8.5. Coach Barnes has never been shy about loading up his non-conference schedule. That strategy certainly didn’t change in 2010 with a number of powerhouse programs both on the road and in Austin featured on the slate. After two warm-ups at home, Texas will travel to NYC for the 2K Sports Classic and face Illinois, a projected top-25 team that returns nearly all of their production from a year ago. Emerge victorious and it’s likely the Longhorns will face a Pitt team that brings back everyone but Jermaine Dixon from a squad that collected a #3 seed out of the always-challenging Big East. Texas was paired with USC in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood series game to be played out in LA. Finally, four rematch games will provide Texas with a challenge- December 18 vs. North Carolina in Greensboro, four days later in a true road game at Michigan State and two early January home dates with Arkansas and Connecticut.

Cupcake City: To avoid burning out his team, Barnes did schedule a few walkover games. Louisiana Tech is one of the two warm-ups for New York, but the Bulldogs lost both Kyle Gibson and Magnum Rolle. Sam Houston State is on the slate, a program that gave Baylor a brief scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March, yet once again they were hit hard by graduation. Texas State could contend in the Southland with a fair share of talent returning. Other squads on the slate include North Florida, Lamar, Coppin State and Rice with none of these contests on the road or on neutral floors. The Longhorns should cruise through these games.

Toughest Early Season Test: A matchup with Pitt at NYC would provide a stiff test, but this one isn’t even close: a true road game at Michigan State, a team that could easily be #1 in the nation when the Longhorns invade the Breslin Center. State only lost Raymar Morgan to graduation off of  last year’s Final Four club that completed the run without the services of star point guard and potential First Team All-America Kalin Lucas. Other than possibly Jacob Pullen, containing Lucas sets up to be Balbay and stud freshman Cory Joseph’s toughest task. Forwards Gary Johnson and the other star frosh Tristan Thompson will have their hands full with a healthy Delvon Roe and Draymond Green. The Spartans are also incredibly deep and always well-coached. Still, they have been vulnerable in the last couple seasons to losses on their home floor. Texas will need an A+ effort to accomplish that feat.

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Big 12 Tourney Daily Diary: 1st Round

Posted by jstevrtc on March 11th, 2010

I love days like yesterday.  Sure, the drive was a beautiful 8.5 hours of the same view — that is to say, farms, farms, and more farms, and where there weren’t actual farms, there was grass.  And it’s all flatter than a Shaquille O’Neal free throw.  But no matter the surroundings, it’s one of my favorite things to do.  Is there any greater feeling — especially right after thawing out from a tough winter — than packing a bag and a cooler (of fruit, granola, and bottled water, mind you), filling the gas tank, and hitting the road?  There aren’t many, for me.  Especially when the Big 12 Tournament is waiting at the end of that journey.  Don’t get me wrong, though — I was thankful for the satellite radio.  Have the satellite radio guys received their Nobel Prize, yet?  One second, I’m listening to ESPN Radio or Sporting News Radio dudes talking about hoops.  Then the NFL talk starts and I switch to, say, the BBC’s Europe Today, or a song by Gomez, or some blues from B.B. King.  Then back to hoops talk.  Fantastic.  And no, we’re not affiliated with them in any way.  I’m just being honest.

One of the best parts of any journey like this is when I text my friends who are at their jobs.  I’ll send them some generic message asking them what they’re doing, and they’ll respond with some variation of, “I’m at the office, knee-deep in status reports/memos/directives, trying to knock things off my action items list.  You never text during work hours.  What’s up?”  And I’ll type, “Oh, nothing.  I was driving to the Big 12 Tournament, enjoying some tunes, a gorgeous drive, a 70-degree day, and the prospect of four days of top-flight basketball.  Thought I’d give you a shout.  But you go back to your thing.”  Even though this is a blog and I’m allowed to type almost anything, I’ll spare you the vitriol that my friends offered in response.  Not even close to being safe for work.

So, as the comedian says, I’m here all week.  This’ll mostly be about basketball, but you might see some reviews of barbecue restaurants and/or interviews and pics from the festivities here.  This is such a great time of year, and this is the conference tournament at which to be.  Now, some notes from Wednesday’s games:

Texas 82, Iowa State 75

I didn’t know what we were going to get in this one, since Texas was obviously reeling, having dropped eight of 14, and Iowa State had just scored that victory over Kansas.  But is this what Texas needed, meaning the second season to arrive?  There’s a small part of me that’s been wondering if Texas mentally checked out at the midpoint of the season after they took their first loss because of the boredom that can take over teams.  A longshot, I know.  But there aren’t many reasons why a team this talented and athletic can’t get themselves out of first gear, a place they seemed to be stuck since the middle of January.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

Posted by nvr1983 on January 19th, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (17-1)(3-0) (2)
  2. Texas (13-4) (2-1) (3)
  3. Baylor (14-3) (2-1) (1)
  4. Kansas (13-4)(2-0) (5)
  5. Texas A&M (15-3) (1-2) (4)
  6. Missouri (15-3) (2-1) (8)
  7. Nebraska (12-4) (2-1) (7)
  8. Oklahoma State (12-4) (1-1) (6)
  9. Iowa State (12-6) (1-2) (11)
  10. Kansas State (11-6) (0-3)(9)
  11. Texas Tech (10-8) (0-3)(10)
  12. Colorado (8-8) (0-2) (12)

Baylor 98, Oklahoma State 92 (OT): Baylor was down by as many as 17 points in the 1st half, but made a run and was quite the deal to get the game into overtime, but Tweety Carter came up huge for Baylor hitting two three-pointers at the start of overtime. Then he finished off the Cowboys with a third basket and a key steal to seal the game for the Bears.

Sherron Collins, Kansas: Collins was the leader that the Jayhawks expected to have as he helped lead Kansas to wins in their first two conference games this week averaging 21 points (12/12 FT) and 5.5 assists per game. His leadership will determine the wins for Kansas in the conference season and how successful they want to be.

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #2 – Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Texas   (27-3, 14-2)
  2. Kansas  (24-7, 14-2)
  3. Oklahoma  (27-5, 13-3)
  4. Baylor  (25-5, 12-4)
  5. Oklahoma St.  (19-11, 8-8)
  6. Texas A&M  (19-12, 7-9)
  7. Nebraska  (18-11, 7-9)
  8. Missouri  (18-13, 6-10)
  9. Kansas St.  (18-13, 6-10)
  10. Iowa St.  (16-16, 3-13)
  11. Texas Tech  (15-16, 3-13)
  12. Colorado  (14-16, 3-13)


What You Need to Know.  Although Kansas won the National Championship last season in dramatic fashion, most of the team won’t be around to try to do the repeat shuffle like Florida did the previous two seasons.  However, that doesn’t mean the Big 12 Conference won’t have an exciting season in the wings.  The buzz around the Big 12 is that sophomore Blake Griffin from Oklahoma (who passed on the NBA, unlike is KU peers) decided to stay another year at Oklahoma to try to lead his team to a championship.  Griffin has already been mentioned for several preseason All-American teams and awards.  Texas returns a great nucleus of talent on a team that tied for the conference championship last year with Kansas.  Baylor is the biggest surprise coming into the season.  Head Coach  Scott Drew has brought this disgraced program back from the ashes a few years ago when Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson and information was later covered up by then head coach Dave Bliss. Baylor made the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in twenty years.   Iowa State and Texas A&M are led by former Missouri Valley Conference coaches, Greg McDermott and Mark Turgeon, respectively.  Although Kansas State made a splash back into the national spotlight showcasing Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, they’ll now take a step back into the pack, but with the salaries of their coaches including their assistants, they should be held to high expectations.  Nebraska will be playing small ball this year as they do not have a player over 6’8, but it isn’t like they haven’t triedMissouri is still trying to find its identity and coach Mike Anderson hopes to finally play his type of up-tempo, high pressure defense.  Although only in his third year at the helm, Anderson is on the hot seat.  Colorado has a lot to build on with mostly freshman and sophomores.  Texas Tech got a little head start when legendary coach Bobby Knight passed the keys to his son Pat Knight at the end of last season, while first year coach Travis Ford restarts the Oklahoma State program after the Sutton family was ousted. 

Predicted Champion.  Texas (NCAA #1).  Although Texas  hoped DJ Augustin wouldn’t leave Austin for the NBA, he did.  The Horns return four of five starters, though, (AJ Abrams, Conner Atchley, Damion James and Justin Mason) and most of the team that made it last season to the Elite Eight.  AJ Abrams can hit a shot quickly and from anywhere.  He is the top returning scorer in the Big 12 (16.5 ppg).  Without Augustin, Texas will be relying on Dogus Balbay to run the point.  Unfortunately, Balbay is returning from an injury and played on a Turkish club team with players who received money.  However, Abrams is also an option at point guard and feels confident that he can run the team.  The frontcourt is solid with veterans James (12/10 last season) and Atchley.  Height doesn’t always equal playing ability, but when you have four players on the roster that are over 6’10”  (Atchley, Clint Chapman, Dexter Pittman and Matt Hill) they have the ability to be physical underneath.  The thing that sets Texas apart from the other Big 12 teams is their NCAA Tournament and coaching experience compared to the other contenders.  I expect Texas to take it a step further this year and make a Final Four appearance. 

NCAA Tournament Teams.

  • Kansas (NCAA #4). Some might think that I am crazy for predicting Kansas to finish second in the Big 12 this season with only 2 players coming back with significant playing time (Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich).  Kansas will have seven newcomers to the program and some will be expected to be big players right away including juco All-American Mario Little, freshman twins Markieff and Marcus Morris and freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor.  Expect that there will be some growing pains.  However, Kansas is a beneficiary in scheduling, not only during the non-conference season, but in the Big 12 schedule as well.  The Jayhawks are participating in the CBE Classic that has them playing preliminary games at home and the semis/finals in Kansas City which is also basically at home.  Then in Big 12 play, they play the North schedule which means that they’ll play at Baylor and at Oklahoma only once, play Texas in Lawrence, while those three South teams have to play each other twice.  Playing at Allen Fieldhouse is not an easy task which makes their schedule amenable to success.  The Jayhawks will lose some early non-conference games and probably games they should not, but will be solid come conference and post-season time. The main cogs of the team that won the National Championship last year played together as freshmen and struggled early, but turned out to be one of the big stories as the season went along.  Similarly to that group, this season I see KU only getting past the first round of the NCAAs. 
  • Oklahoma (NCAA #5).  The media has picked Oklahoma to win the conference, Blake Griffin to be POY and Willie Warren to be the ROY. Warren was the leading scorer in the McDonalds All-American game and can seriously dunk.  If you want to see some of the talent Warren has to offer, check out this dunk.   Along with Griffin and talented freshman Warren, the rest of the team will be full of role players.  With so much of the focus on Griffin and Warren, that means that several other players need to step up their play to give Oklahoma additional options along with those two gifted players.  One of those players that might make an impact is 6’9” UCLA transfer Ryan WrightJeff Capel is a capable coach, but his 3rd year in the conference will keep them from winning the conference.  However, expectations are high and I expect Oklahoma to reach the Sweet 16. 
  • Baylor (NCAA #6).  Baylor is a team that returns its top eight scorers from last season led by Curtis Jerrells (15.3 ppg).  They were the Big 12’s highest scoring team and who could forget the epic non-televised 5 OT game with Texas A&M last season.  Kevin Rogers, LaceDarius Dunn and Henry Dugat are scoring machines that provide a depth of experience.  A senior-laden team, Scott Drew has built this team from scratch and is creating dividends by making he NCAA Tournament for the first time in two decades. But Baylor will not win the conference because their defense is suspect and their frontcourt will need to improve.  However, they tasted the feeling of the NCAA Tournament and got knocked out right away, but it will be different this year and I expect that they will make the Tourney again and at least win one game. 
  • Oklahoma St. (NCAA #7).  The Cowboys still have enough in the cupboard to make it to the NCAA Tournament even though they will break in first-year coach Travis Ford.  They are a little thin on the inside but return their leading scorer, James Anderson, and 80% of their scoring.  Having an up-tempo style that Ford likes to run will help minimize the frontcourt deficiencies.  They should do well enough to make it to the NCAAs, but will probably be bounced in the first round.
  • Texas A&M (NCAA #9).  Mark Turgeon in his 2nd year will be able to make one more run with the players that Billy Gillispie left behind before heading to Kentucky.  It remains to be seen if Turgeon will be able to recruit the right players to fit into playing in the Big 12.  Coming from the Valley, it is a big transition to try recruiting the right players for the large conference schools (note:  Bruce Weber (Illinois), Matt Painter (Purdue), Greg McDermott (Iowa St.)).  Though I see A&M sneaking into the NCAAs, this team could very well find itself in the NIT next March. 
  • Nebraska (NCAA #12).  Nebraska will be playing small ball this year and more in the up-tempo style that Doc Sadler would like to play, but the lack of an inside presence and a weak non-conference schedule will put them squarely on the bubble of the NCAA tournament.  This team could realistically have only one loss coming into conference play.  It has everyone coming back except for Aleks Maric who was their productive center, but even the newcomers were around the team and know the system as four players redshirted last season.  Having the confidence-building games will bring Nebraska into conference play on a high and they’ll benefit by playing in the North division, but they will struggle when they have a stretch of four games against South teams and Kansas. However, the Huskers will surprise some people this year, finish 7th in the conference and sneak into the NCAAs as one of the last at-large bids.

NIT Teams. 

  • Missouri (NIT).  The pieces appear to be in place in Columbia for the Missouri Tigers to start making some strides to return to the spotlight again but the depth is not there to run a full court, high pressure defense for Mike Anderson’s system to be completely successful.  They will have some success early in the season, but they will be tired by the time they get to conference play and will fall off from the picture.  They will be the last team into the NIT. 
  • Kansas St. (NIT/CBI).  Michael Beasley and Bill Walker are not there anymore so this team will have some significant challenges to replace those players.  They have a somewhat soft non-conference schedule except for the Las Vegas Invitational which will build up their win total, but will fall short in the Big 12 race to be considered for the NCAAs.  If they do not do well enough for the NIT, they will be in the CBI for the postseason.


  • Iowa St.  Greg McDermott is still getting his feet wet in his 3rd year as the roster has had a total turnover in the past two seasons (seven new players last year and another six this year).  Like Turgeon, it is hard to tell if he’s getting the right recruits to compete in the Big 12.
  • Texas Tech.  Although Pat Knight received the keys to the team mid-season last year, this team will struggle as they try to find their identity and whether they decide to implement a whole new scheme or keep with what Bobby Knight established and the players that were recruited for his scheme. 
  • Colorado.  Jeff Bzdelik is in year two of a total rebuild of this team, as eight players have left the team since Bzdelik arrived in Boulder in 2007.  They will probably start several freshman who will be overwhelmed.  Their offense is yet to be established as they try to run clock to keep the score in the 50s.  There are too many things going against the Buffs from being a factor this year.

Important Games.  The Big 12 has a great advantage in that they are key players in several major exempt tournaments this year that they can make a splash in:

  • Texas—Maui Invitiational
  • Oklahoma—Preseason NIT
  • Baylor—Anaheim 76 Classic
  • Kansas—CBE Classic
  • Oklahoma St—Old Spice Classic
  • Kansas St.—Las Vegas Invitational
  • Colorado (Rainbow Classic)
  • Missouri (Puerto Rico Tipoff)
  • Texas Tech (Legends Classic)
  • Texas A&M (South Padre)

Also some great non-conference matchups as a part of the PAC-10/Big 12 Challenge:

  • Oklahoma vs. USC  (12.04.08)
  • Texas vs. UCLA  (12.04.08)
  • Kansas @ Arizona  (12.23.08)

It is always a chore to get a large conference school to go on the road to play on a smaller team’s home court, but here are the road tests the Big 12 is taking on this year (not neutral site):

  • Nebraska @ TCU  (11.19.08)
  • Kansas St. @ Cleveland St.  (11.22.08)
  • Iowa St. @ Northern Iowa  (12.03.08)
  • Texas Tech @ Lamar  (12.13.08)
  • Oklahoma St. @ Texas A&M-CC  (12.14.08)
  • Texas Tech @ UTEP  (12.17.08)
  • Iowa St.  @ Houston  (12.18.08)
  • Oklahoma @ Rice  (12.22.08)
  • Texas A&M @ Rice  (12.31.08)
  • Colorado @ SMU  (01.05.09)

Conference Key Games.  These games will decide the conference champ:

  • Texas @ Oklahoma  (01.12.09)
  • Baylor @ Oklahoma  (01.24.09)
  • Texas @ Baylor  (01.27.09)
  • Kansas @ Baylor  (02.02.09)
  • Oklahoma @ Baylor  (02.11.09)
  • Oklahoma @ Texas  (02.21.09)
  • Kansas @ Oklahoma  (02.23.09)
  • Baylor @ Texas  (03.02.09)
  • Texas @ Kansas  (03.07.09)

Neat-O Stats.

  • 4-The number of 20-win seasons in Baylor’s 102-year history.
  • 5-Texas is one of just one of five schools to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament in four of the last six years (Duke, UConn, Kansas, Pitt)
  • 51-4—This is Kansas’ record in the last 55 games dating back to 2006-07 when Kansas lost to UCLA in the Elite Eight.  Their only losses since then leading up to their NCAA Championship last year were to Texas, Kansas St. and Oklahoma St. last season. 

65 Team Era.  The teams in this conference are a combined 268-222 in the NCAA Tournament with 35 Final Four appearances and five National Championships.  As the Big 12 conference, their first National Championship was with Kansas last season (the others were as the Big 8, which merged into the Big 12 in 1996-97).  The conference’s record in this era is 161-112 (.590), which puts it roughly on par with the SEC as a major conference.  Where the league has struggled (until last year, of course) was winning national titles.  Only KU in 1998 and 2008 have won championships during this era. 

Final Thoughts.  The Big 12 will be a top heavy league this year and in some minds might be down compared to years past.  It will have four strong teams that will easily make the NCAA tournament and then there is a log jam between 5-9 on who will step up to either make the NCAA or settle for the NIT for the post season.  It will be interesting to see if Texas will finally outlive the hype that is given to them each year to make it to the Final Four and be in line to play for the National Championship.  Oklahoma is poised to make a run, but if Griffin gets hurt, will they still be able to win games?   It will be interesting to see how Kansas does after winning the championship the year before but losing so much to not be considered able to repeat.  With 10 of the 12 teams in the conference participating in high profile early season tournaments, the Big 12’s season will be defined on how those teams do in those tournaments.  If they are successful, then they will be the talk of this basketball season.  If they fail miserably, expect them to get fewer teams into the Big Dance than they have the last few years.

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