Rushed Reactions: #4 Iowa State 78, #12 Little Rock 61

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on March 19th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Monte Morris, Steve Prohm and Iowa State are Sweet Sixteen Bound (Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Monte Morris, Steve Prohm, and Iowa State are Sweet Sixteen Bound (Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Iowa State Offensive Excellence. According to KenPom, the Cyclones are fourth in the nation in offensive efficiency. It’s easy to see why. They’ve got an excellent floor general in Monte Morris, a player always in charge. Georges Niang is a human mismatch, capable of scoring in the paint with the big boys, stepping out to the arc and knocking in threes, or creating off the bounce. Jameel McKay gets on the offensive boards and runs the floor. Abdel Nader can hit the three or attack the hoop. And Matt Thomas is the perfect off-the-ball compliment to the other pieces. It’s not often that even the best defensive teams in the nation have a chance of slowing the talented and versatile Iowa State offense.
  2. Little Rock’s Offensive Struggles. Little Rock does many things well, but supremely efficient offense is not one of them. Today, they had a four-minute scoring drought at the end of the first half, another six-minute stretch without points at the start of the second and another two and a half-minute scoreless streak in the middle of the second. Against a team that scores as efficiently and as often as Iowa State does, these droughts were back-breakers.
  3. Clean and Pretty. In order to have a chance in this game, Little Rock probably needed to ugly this game up in a barrage of floor burns and whistles. Instead, the teams combined for just 14 turnovers and 24 fouls (a few of which were late fouls intended to send poor-shooting Jameel McKay to the line). A handful of times, Little Rock tried to unleash the press that frustrated Purdue late on Thursday, but with ballhandlers like Morris, Niang and Thomas in charge, it never put a significant dent into Iowa State’s gameplan.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Iowa State 94, #13 Iona 81

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 17th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Iowa State Advances in a Fun-n-Gun Game (USA Today Images)

Iowa State Advances Over Iona in a Fun-n-Gun Game (USA Today Images)

  1. Lack of Depth A Positive. Assuming you can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, any reasonably well-conditioned team is not going to get tired in a tournament with three-minute timeouts, coach’s timeouts, longer halftimes and an assortment of monitor reviews. So if you’ve got five guys who are clearly better than the rest of your guys, why not play them all the time? Clearly Steve Prohm buys into this theory. Only three teams in the nation this year play their bench fewer minutes than Iowa State, and that’s a good thing. That means more minutes for guys like Georges Niang, Monte Morris, Abdel Nader, Matt Thomas and Jameel McKay, all of whom have averaged double figures this year and did so again today. In today’s up-tempo game (78 possessions), with the Cyclones maintaining a solid lead throughout, the bench earned a total of 29 minutes resulting in two points. Going forward, however, expect the Cyclones to gain an advantage by getting their best guys the most possible run.
  2. Die By The Three. Coming into the game, Iona was shooting 44.2 percent of its field goal attempts from three-point range, good for 20th in the nation, knocking them in at a 37.2 percent rate (57th in the nation). Three guys (A.J. English, Isaiah Williams and Deyshonee Much) had made at least 77 three-pointers coming into today, even if most of those were in tiny MAAC gyms in front of a few thousand fans. In the Pepsi Center today on a national stage, the Gaels shot just 2-of-13 from three in the first half in allowing a 12-point deficit. In the second half, things were a little better (5-of-11), but the damage had already been done.
  3. A Better Version Of Themselves. Iowa State is a great offensive team (third in the nation in offensive efficiency) that likes to play uptempo (53rd in tempo). Iona is built around its ability to get up and down the court (45th in tempo) and score efficiently (68th in offensivce efficiency). But in this game, it was just a matter of the Cyclones having bigger and better players doing the same types of things. Iona coach Tim Cluess put it simply: “When you play teams at this level, they’re going to have guys who are bigger, stronger and better playing basketball.” For Iona to have had a great chance in this round, they were going to have to play a team with a different style. Throw in struggles from three and an inability to get to the line, and Iowa State moves on.

Star of the GameGeorges Niang. Iowa State’s senior All-American does everything for the Cyclones, and today was no different as he led all scorers with 28 points. Early in the second half, when the Cyclones had turned it over on three consecutive possessions against the press leading to transition baskets, it was Niang’s open court ability to handle the ball that settled Iowa State down and forced Iona out of its press.

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Handing Out Big 12 Superlatives

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 7th, 2016

To say that the Big 12 had a good year would be a massive understatement. According to KenPom‘s advanced metrics, the league was the nation’s toughest. Not a fan of advanced metrics? That’s fine too, because the conference treated us to a surplus of intense games and is home of one of the two top contenders for National Player of the Year. Furthermore, the Big 12 is expected to propel seven good teams to The Big Dance — including a prohibitive favorite for the top overall seed — for the third straight season. It was a banner year regardless of what happens next, but before we look ahead to the postseason, let’s take some time for the Big 12 microsite to hand out some hardware.

All-Big 12 Team Selections

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Player Of The Year – Buddy Hield (unanimous)

Chris Stone: Perry Ellis and Georges Niang are a pair of worthy contenders, but everyone in the Big 12 is playing for second behind Oklahoma’s Hield. The Oklahoma senior averaged 25.1 points per game during Big 12 play and finished with a league-leading 65.2 percent true shooting rate, all while logging the conference’s second-highest usage rate. For a guard to attempt nearly 31 percent of his team’s shots while making them as efficiently as Hield did is exceptional, especially when you consider that almost 60 percent of his field goal attempts came from behind the three-point arc.”

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Big 12 M5: 12.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 17th, 2015

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  1. The Kansas offense is humming, thanks in large part to its dual point guard lineup, posits Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. With a more traditional lineup last season, the Jayhawks really struggled to find a balanced attack, particularly when Wayne Selden and Kelly Oubre had down nights. With Frank Mason and Devonte Graham at the controls this season, though, the Jayhawks are flying. They aren’t immune to the occasional slump as we saw in the first half of last weekend’s win over Oregon State, but we’ve seen enough to know that they’re going to bring it more often than not.
  2. A tip of the cap goes to Texas Tech for their 79-67 win over South Dakota State. Senior Toddrick Gotcher led the way with 17 points including 3-of-6 shooting from distance to go along with five boards. The Red Raiders lost the rebounding battle, but overcame it thanks to ten steals and just nine turnovers on offense. The win is significant for Texas Tech because coming into the game, the Jackrabbits were ranked higher in KenPom than schools like Georgetown, Syracuse, Providence and Saint Mary’s.  Tubby Smith‘s team had been on the hunt for a marquee win after missing their chance against Utah last month, so it was nice to see them pick one up Wednesday night. They still don’t project to contend for an NCAA Tournament bid, but significant improvement on last season’s measly three conference wins is a goal that should be within sight.
  3. The only other action from the Big 12 saw Baylor take down non-D-I foe Hardin-Simmons 104-59 in the first regular season college game ever played at Fort Hood in TexasJohnathan Motley, whose name can be seen peppering NBA Draft boards, paced the Bears with 23 points. Hardin-Simmons didn’t offer much in the way of competition, but it was still reassuring for Baylor’s chances to see Lester Medford play well, as he finished with 13 assists against two turnovers in just 18 minutes of action. Then again, pretty much everyone for Baylor had a good night handling the ball as they piled up 40 assists on 45 made baskets and committed just 15 turnovers as a team. Next up for Motley, Medford and the Bears is a big road game at Texas A&M on Saturday.
  4. TCU‘s administration opened up the newly-renovated Schollmaier Arena (formerly Daniel-Meyer Coliseum) to the media for tours in advance of the facility’s grand re-opening this weekend, and it’s a huge step up from the previous accommodations which were, to be kind, lacking. In addition to some of the standbys of renovated arenas like widened concourses and new bathrooms and concession stands, the Horned Frogs’ new digs include posh circular locker rooms, a brand-new video board, a club with floor-to-ceiling TVs and an area where boosters can watch postgame press conferences through a glass wall. Pretty swanky if you ask us. The Horned Frogs christen their made-over home Sunday against Abilene Christian.
  5. We discussed the loss of Iowa State sharpshooter Naz Mitrou-Long yesterday, but CBSSports.com took a closer look at what his absence means for transfer Deonte Burton, who is set to make his Cyclones debut on Saturday. Burton arrived in Ames from Marquette, where he had a reputation as a rim-rocking attacker, but Steve Prohm may need a more diverse array of contributions from the 6’3″ guard if Burton is to help Hallice Cooke and Matt Thomas shoulder Mitrou-Long’s production.
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Big 12 Preseason Superlatives and Predictions

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 12th, 2015

We noted a few times during the offseason that this year in the Big 12 will have a different tenor than the last few. There won’t be nearly as much attention on the one-and-done players because they aren’t around this year. Oklahoma and Iowa State will again be the token threats to end Kansas‘ long reign atop the conference standings, and the middle of the pack will again be better than the middle of the pack of every other conference. At the end of the day, experienced leaders will carry the Big 12 this season. This conference probably won’t be as wild as it’s been recently, but it’s still going to be a lot of fun, especially with two new head coaches stepping into plum jobs.

Below we will run down our preseason Big 12 superlatives and predictions, as voted upon by our four-man team.

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Player Of The Year

  • Brian Goodman: Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) – It’s really tough to do this when Georges Niang plays in the same conference, but I have to go with Hield. Both players can light it up from anywhere, but Hield has embraced defense in a way that Niang hasn’t. Hield also turned the ball over significantly less often than Niang while consuming a similar percentage of his team’s possessions, and it’s a good bet that he’ll be able to do so again. Lastly, despite Steve Prohm’s insistence that he won’t change much about the way Niang is used, I still need to see evidence on the court that Prohm will maximize his senior’s unique cocktail of impressive skill combined with not-as-impressive physical abilities. That may not be completely fair to Niang, nor do I think he’ll be a completely different player in the post-Hoiberg era, but when the other candidate has as many credentials as Hield carries, it tips the scales.
Buddy Hield is the microsite's consensus pick for Big 12 Player Of The Year. (David K Purdy/Getty Images)

Buddy Hield is the microsite’s consensus pick for Big 12 Player Of The Year. (David K Purdy/Getty Images)

  • Kendall Kaut: Hield – He’s the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year and plays on the team that I think is most likely to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title. Although he’ll miss the presence of TaShawn Thomas, Oklahoma returns most of the talent around him, which should free Hield to continue creating. His three-point shooting keeps Oklahoma in games where it should be getting blown out and gives the Sooners an ability to come back from a deficit. And until someone in this league shows otherwise, he’ll stay #1 for me.
  • Nate Kotisso: Hield – This seems like a lazy pick for conference Player of the Year, but this is a case where it doesn’t pay to get cute. Unlike me, Buddy Hield is the furthest thing from lazy; rather, he’s interested in making Oklahoma and himself a lot better this season. The senior guard is likely working on his game at this very moment, but then again, does anyone truly know when he takes time off to do other humanly functions, like, eat? This probably means winning this award again with his sights set on leading the Sooners to Houston in early April.
  • Chris Stone: Hield – While playing the third-most minutes and having the second-highest usage rate in the Big 12 last season, Hield was still the league’s third-most efficient scorer. The senior is everything you could want in an offensive player and he’s a capable defender who averaged nearly two steals per game as well. Without TaShawn Thomas around, Hield should be responsible for even more of Oklahoma’s scoring load, which is enough to make me think he’ll go back-to-back in the Player of the Year race. My dark horse for the award is Baylor’s Taurean Prince, who had better efficiency numbers last season but played far fewer minutes than Hield. If he can hold up in an increased role with a less effective point guard, Prince could take the award.

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Bryce Dejean-Jones’ Arrest Puts Iowa State in Tough Spot Tonight

Posted by Eric Clark on December 12th, 2014

Iowa State will be without starting wing Bryce Dejean-Jones for tonight’s big game against intrastate rival Iowa. The senior was suspended by head coach Fred Hoiberg following his arrest Thursday morning involving a noise disturbance at his home in Ames. Police found marijuana in the apartment and he was eventually charged with three offenses. The most serious charge, hosting a drug house, was dropped because officers were found to not have sufficient probable cause, but the other two charges relating to the noise disturbance remain pending, according to the Des Moines Register‘s Tommy Birch.

Iowa State will be without Bryce Dejean-Jones against Iowa on Friday. (Cyclones.com)

Iowa State will be without Bryce Dejean-Jones against Iowa on Friday. (Cyclones.com)

According to KenPom’s predictions, home team Iowa was already a four-point favorite over the Cyclones prior to the suspension. His absence will likely increase that number as Dejean-Jones represents a significant component of the Iowa State offense. The UNLV transfer has found his way in Hoiberg’s system, averaging 17.1 points per game while taking 23.1 percent of the team’s shots when he’s on the floor. Unlike Kansas’ situation with Jamari Traylor earlier this week, it will be more difficult for the Cyclones to find a replacement for Dejean-Jones’ production because he has been so critical to their offense. The senior is currently shooting 56.8 percent from the floor, 41.7 percent from behind the three-point line, and 89.7 percent on free throws, all while being the team’s leading rebounder with 6.9 boards per game.

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Five Takeaways From Monday Night at the CBE Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2014

Feast Week tipped off Monday night, and RTC contributor Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) dispatched this report from Kansas City, where Maryland pulled away late against Arizona State before Iowa State handled Alabama to win its fourth straight game in the Sprint Center.

Melo Trimble Broke Out Last Night in KC (KCStar.com)

Melo Trimble Broke Out Last Night in KC (KCStar.com)

  • Melo Trimble is going to be a load in the Big Ten. When Maryland’s attrition reached its apex over the summer (and arguably before then), it was easy to get down on their prospects for this season. Whether Mark Turgeon takes his remaining pieces to the NCAA Tournament is a question that won’t be answered for several weeks, but if they do, their freshman point guard will be a huge reason why. In just the fourth game of his career, Melo Trimble scored 31 points to nearly break a school freshman scoring record set by Joe Smith, but looked as poised and relaxed as a 31-point scorer could possibly look. While there’s a lot on the line for Maryland this year, the hope is that Trimble won’t need to be this good night and night out. Still, given shoddy performances by teams like Iowa and Indiana in the early going, there may be room for Maryland to ride its young star into the top half of the conference.
  • Arizona State lets a good offensive effort go to waste. The Sun Devils’ offense was stellar thanks to spacing and excellent execution, especially from deep. Arizona State rained in 14 threes, its highest total since November 12 of last year. Jonathan Gilling was white-hot, hitting seven of his ten three-pointers while Bo Barnes added on five on seven tries of his own. Arizona State’s undoing came in the final minutes as it missed several key rebounds and allowed Dez Wells to take over for Maryland. The game effectively ended on a possession where Barnes rushed a deep jumper with a bad angle. While ASU’s fiery 51.9% clip from distance Monday night is hardly sustainable, Herb Sendek’s team looked like it was much further along developmentally than most teams are at this point in the season, especially considering that they’re moving on without two huge pieces from last year. Unfortunately, they could find themselves wondering what might have been if they had managed to get just a few more stops.

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Big 12 M5: 11.24.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2014

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  1. In an early but big game for Bob Huggins and West Virginia, the Mountaineers impressed by beating defending national champions Connecticut, 78-68, in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Sunday night. The victory was keyed by a 17-4 run midway through the first half, and big games from Juwan Staten (21 points) and the Mountaineer defense, which forced 19 Husky turnovers, were especially crucial. Without a slate full of formidable non-con opponents, the win was very important for WVU from a resume standpoint. West Virginia can breathe easy for now, as they should have little trouble passing their next two tests, which come against VMI and the College Of Charleston.
  2. Amid the fallout for Kansas from last week’s shellacking at the hands of Kentucky was a minor injury, as it was revealed that freshman Devonte’ Graham sprained his shoulder in the loss. The injury isn’t said to be serious and it sounds like Graham will be ready for this week’s Orlando Classic, but with point guard play continuing to be a question, any development that brings more uncertainty to the picture isn’t good. If Mason shows any lingering symptoms, it will be interesting to see what the Jayhawks can get from Frank Mason.
  3. Oklahoma State big man Michael Cobbins was welcomed back to the team with open arms and showed that he was ready to go with a very solid performance against Milwaukee Friday night. Cobbins was sidelined for the Cowboys’ first three games of the season due to an NCAA ruling, but chipped in 15 points to go along with six rebounds, three blocks and a steal in an 82-68 win in his season debut against the Panthers. Oklahoma State now has everyone available as they gear up for a semifinal match-up tonight against Oregon State in the MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas. They’ll play either Auburn or Tulsa in the final or consolation round on Wednesday.
  4. Obvious as it is, we’ve talked several times about how important it is for Kansas State to avoid the kind of non-con gaffes that sent them scrambling into February to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. As it turns out, Bruce Weber‘s team didn’t listen to us, as it took a 69-60 road loss to Long Beach State on Friday night. Beating Purdue in today’s opening round of the Maui Invitational now becomes more meaningful than it was before, not so much because it would restore confidence in the Wildcats, but because it would set up a likely second-round match-up with No. 2 Arizona, where a win would do wonders for their tournament resume.
  5. Just in time for Feast Week, Iowa State will get a pair of reinforcements back tonight as Abdel Nader and Matt Thomas are now eligible to play in games. Both Nader and Thomas sat out the Cyclones’ first two games after separate run-ins with the law resulted in alcohol-related citations. We will have a full breakdown on what to expect from Iowa State in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic this week, but at the very least, Nader and Thomas can bring some offense to the Cyclone bench, which has scored just nine points so far this season.
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Big 12 Season Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 6th, 2014

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Iowa State.

Strengths: Georges Niang is getting most of the attention coming into this season, and he certainly should. He’s the best returning player in the Big 12 outside of Juwan Staten and his much-publicized physical transformation should help him stay on the court for as long as Fred Hoiberg needs him. Still, there’s a lot more to this team than just him. Dustin Hogue had a great junior season and played at least 35 minutes in seven of the team’s final nine games. Abdel Nader and Daniel Edozie bring depth to the frontcourt, as will Jameel McKay when he becomes eligible in December. Throw in long-range bombers like Naz Long, Matt Thomas and a skilled ball-handler in Monte Morris, then top it off with the promise of 7’1″ Greek import Georgios Tsalmpouris, and you can see the Cyclones throwing any of a number of looks at opposing teams. Iowa State been an offensive juggernaut under Hoiberg, finishing in the top 12 nationally in offensive efficiency each of the last three seasons, and his team has a great chance to pull off such a feat again. Even with Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane now gone, the team still has a deep arsenal of offensive weapons, so look for Iowa State to put up points in a hurry — same as it ever was.

With Hilton Magic at their back, Georges Niang and the Cyclones are back for another wild ride. (Ames Tribune)

With Hilton Magic at their back, Georges Niang and the Cyclones are ready for another ride. (Ames Tribune)

Weaknesses: While Hoiberg has always fielded strong offensive teams, did you know that he’s never had a top-5o defense in five seasons in Ames? His M.O. has always been to sacrifice blocks and steals to speed up the transition game, but while it usually works, it hasn’t made his defense any less vulnerable and there are similar questions this year. Kane’s replacement, newcomer Bryce Dejean-Jones, doesn’t have much of a defensive reputation. Tsalmpouris and Edozie could provide shot-blocking help, but with Edozie having played just sparingly and Tsalmpouris getting settled in, it’s hard to say how much either will contribute. The next biggest concern could be the speed at which Dejean-Jones gets acclimated on the offensive end, but given Hoiberg’s proven success with transfers, he should be just fine. The team’s biggest weakness is again its lack of size down low, which significantly reduces the Cyclones’ margin of error on down shooting nights (ISU went just 1-5 when it shot 40 percent or worse from the floor last season).

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Big 12 M5: Mid-June Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on June 16th, 2014

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  1. There may not be a bigger question mark at any position for a given team in the Big 12 than the point guard spot at Kansas. After Naadir Tharpe left the program, paving the way for signee Devonte‘ Graham to enroll in Lawrence, the question moved from “who will play at the point?” to “how will the freshman fare?” First-year point guards have rarely led the way for Bill Self’s teams at Kansas, so Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star is here to give the lowdown on the winding story of how Graham and Kansas matched up with one another. If Graham doesn’t pick things up in the Jayhawks’ system early, Self will again be left to his backup options of Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp.
  2. A pair of Iowa State Cyclones have had some run-ins with the law recently, earning sophomore guard Matt Thomas and Southern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader indefinite suspensions after each was cited for driving while intoxicated at different points in the offseason. As stupid of a decision as it is to drive while drunk, it would be a surprise if head coach Fred Hoiberg held either player out of game action once the season gears up. Still, both players have opportunities to make big impacts for the Cyclones next season, so it would be in everyone’s best interests for them to remain out of trouble off the court.
  3. Roughly one year ago, Stevie Clark was unofficially anointed the point guard in-waiting of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. However, after encountering a couple of legal incidents himself, Travis Ford dismissed him from the team, leaving an opening for a new floor general. Former LSU point guard Anthony Hickey is set to join the Cowboys and could fill that role as a transfer, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to get a waiver to play immediately. He has some makeup questions of his own, but if he is ruled eligible and realizes the opportunity in front of him, he could play a big part in steadying the Cowboys’ ship after a disastrous 2013-14 campaign.
  4. Last week, Kansas State rolled out its finalized non-conference schedule for the 2014-15 season, and while it isn’t a juggernaut, it looks plenty daunting. The Wildcats have two true road games (at Long Beach State and at Tennessee), and Bruce Weber‘s team will head out to Hawai’i for the Maui Invitational. This year’s field will be competitive as usual, with Arizona, San Diego State, Pittsburgh and Purdue among the competitors, but another interesting potential showdown could involve former Big 12 member Missouri. Last season, the Wildcats had to make up for some embarrassing early losses, but with an improved squad, they’ll obviously look for a much better showing this time around as they get ready for what lies ahead later in the season.
  5. In another scheduling tidbit, Baylor learned the team it will face in its Thanksgiving tournament, as the Bears will square off against Memphis in the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena on November 27 and will face either Illinois or Indiana State the following evening. In the aftermath of the losses of Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip from last year’s team, the Bears will need to make hay early if they are to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in the program’s history.
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Big 12 M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 29th, 2014

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  1. As if things weren’t already going bad enough for the TCU basketball program this season, the Horned Frogs were dealt another blow early this week when it was learned that freshman forward Karviar Shepherd will miss an indefinite amount of time to undergo surgery on his non-shooting hand. Shepherd had been a bright spot for Trent Johnson this season, averaging over eight points and seven rebounds in his freshman season. Shepherd’s injury took place on Saturday night against Kansas and leaves TCU with just seven scholarship players remaining on their roster and it just another dose of bad luck in Fort Worth this season.
  2. Fresh off a four for six shooting performance from behind the arc against Kansas State, Iowa State freshman Matt Thomas spoke about the negative comments he heard during the Cyclone’s recent losing streak , one where Thomas struggled to just 1-11 from deep. Thomas was regarded as perhaps one of the best shooters in this year’s freshman class, but heard things like “Matt Thomas should never play” on social media throughout the last couple weeks. With those struggles behind him, Thomas is now focused on his team’s trip to Allen Fieldhouse tomorrow night to take on Kansas who is still undefeated in league play. The Cyclones were a banked Ben McLemore three-pointer away from pulling off the upset a season ago, and to bring home a win this year, Thomas will most certainly need to be connecting from the outside.
  3. If I would have told you before the season that Andrew Wiggins would have been the last of the trio of talented Kansas freshmen to win the Wayman Tisdale Player of the Week award this season season in college basketball, you probably would have called me a liar (if you didn’t ask what the Wayman Tisdale POY Award was first). Perhaps it’s because of the hype that was bestowed upon Wiggins was so great that most of his weekly performances left most somewhat underwhelmed. Regardless, on Tuesday Wiggins was the third Kansas freshman in a row to earn the weekly award after averaging 22 points for the week. Wiggins has now scored 17 or more points in four of his last five games, with the blip being the poor performance at home against Oklahoma State. If he continues his assertiveness in getting to the basket and drawing fouls, watch out.
  4. When Oklahoma State big man Michael Cobbins went down earlier in the season due to an achilles injury, it was expected that the Cowboys would go through some growing pains in trying to figure out how to replace Cobbins’ presence down low, but not many expected that mid-way through the conference season, Travis Ford’s squad would still be struggling this much. Against Oklahoma on Monday night, foul trouble was again another huge issue limiting stars like Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash to just six and eight first half minutes, respectively. Smart battled foul trouble at home against West Virginia over the weekend, and for a player of his caliber, he has to be on the floor as much as possible. The Cowboys now sit at 4-3 in league play with wins over West Virginia twice and TCU and Texas at home. With three of their next five games against ranked opponents, Oklahoma State needs to develop an interior presence quickly.
  5. The way things began back in November and December for Bruce Weber and Kansas State were rough to say the least, but since that time, the Wildcats have slowly morphed themselves into a similar team to what Weber trotted out last season. What I mean by that is Kansas State has developed a reputation in just Weber’s second season in Manhattan as a team that for the most part beats the teams they are supposed to be on a consistent basis. After dropping two games last week on the road to Texas and Iowa State, Weber called this week “gut check time” for his team as they host stingy Texas Tech before going on the road to Morgantown for a tilt with West Virginia on Saturday. At this point, K-State should still be comfortably in the NCAA tournament, but a loss or two this week could be damaging to their resume, and in Monday’s bracketology, CBSSports.com listed the Wildcats as a potential bubble team.
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Big 12 M5: 01.27.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 27th, 2014

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  1. As good as Marcus Smart has been in his relatively brief college career, it appears some of his on-court antics are growing old on many college basketball fans. On Saturday against West Virginia, Smart was visibly frustrated after not getting some foul calls in his favor, but as John Hoover of the Tulsa World writes, the sophomore is just simply too good of a basketball player to dilute his on-court performances with his emotions.
  2. At this point in the season, Texas head coach Rick Barnes has to be the front-runner for Big 12 Coach of the Year honors. Barnes entered the season on the hot seat, and all he’s done to this point is lead his team to a 16-4 overall record (5-2 in Big 12 play) with three straight wins over ranked teams — a feat that had never been performed in the long history of Texas basketball. After a road win at Baylor on Saturday, Barnes praised the commitment to improvement made by his team this season, and it would appear that the members of the program have no intention of seeing their coach’s career in Austin end anytime soon.
  3. With so much quality depth in the Big 12 this season and the round-robin format to league play, teams are bound to face several ridiculously difficult stretches throughout the year. Kansas State has found itself in exactly this scenario after losing back-to-back games games against Texas and Iowa State last week. That’s the same Iowa State team that just dropped three games in a row of its own. In such a tough conference, the key for Bruce Weber’s Wildcats will be making sure that two losses in a week don’t turn into three or four over two weeks and threaten to derail the team’s hopes of postseason play.
  4. Speaking of Iowa State, the Cyclones’ win on Saturday at home against Kansas State may have provided more than just another number in the win column as Matt Thomas appeared to get back on track by knocking down 4-of-6 shots from behind the arc. Thomas had struggled with his shooting to start league play, making just 23.5 percent from three for someone considered as one of the best shooters in this year’s freshman class. While Fred Hoiberg’s team still shoots the ball well from deep, they would be improved tremendously if Thomas could consistently come off the bench for instant offenses in much the same way that Tyus McGee did a season ago.
  5. TCU head coach Trent Johnson came away from his home loss to Kansas on Saturday night mightily impressed by the enormous amount of talent Bill Self has at his disposal in Lawrence. Johnson said after the game that he believes that the Jayhawks have six pros on their team, but junior point guard Naadir Tharpe is the player who is the reason Kansas has been playing so well. Tharpe, along with freshman guards Frank Mason and Wayne Selden, managed to get through Saturday night’s rout without a single turnover, a tendency that has plagued the perimeter players at times this season.
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