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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Fred Hoiberg’s Unique Formula Continues to Add Up To Wins

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 21st, 2013

On Wednesday night, the Iowa State Cyclones went into the Marriott Center and scored one of the better victories of this young season, beating an explosive (and previously undefeated) BYU team, 90-88. A check of the box score would reveal few surprises on the Cyclone side; Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane dropped in 21 points apiece to pace Fred Hoiberg’s squad, and fellow starters Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue and Matt Thomas all pitched in at least four field goals of their own. What that box score doesn’t reveal is that Iowa State was forced to play crunch-time possessions without Kane (ejected for a flagrant foul), Ejim (fouled out with two minutes left), and Hogue (fouled out minutes before Ejim); or that it sparingly used Daniel Edozie, who came up with the biggest play of Iowa State’s win — a blocked shot and subsequent recovery on a Tyler Haws jump shot in the final seconds. They were far from perfect down the stretch — especially at the free throw line — but the Cyclones showed off a necessary resourcefulness in claiming a statement victory in Provo. As unlikely and unusual as that game-ending lineup was for Iowa State, the challenge at hand must not have felt that foreign for their coach. Piecing together new casts has become commonplace for the Mayor; no two rosters in the Hoiberg era have born any sort of close resemblance, but the former Cyclone star has found a way to remold each and every new-look squad into a winner. Suffice it to say, after only four games, he appears to have done it again this year.

Fred Hoiberg's Roster Suffered More Turnover This Offseason, But That Hasn't Stopped The Mayor From Leading The Cyclones To An Impressive 4-0 Start

Fred Hoiberg’s Roster Suffered More Turnover This Offseason, But That Hasn’t Stopped The Mayor From Leading The Cyclones To An Impressive 4-0 Start

Hoiberg has lost at least three starters in each of his three offseasons in Ames, including last summer. The departures of seniors Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb, and Tyrus McGee meant Iowa State would be returning just two contributors from a year ago – Ejim And Niang. An exodus of that size, particularly without the arrival of a star-studded freshman class, would typically mean a rebuild is in order. Not in Ames. There’s a “transfers welcome” sign hanging from Hilton Arena these days, with the former Marshall guard Kane the latest talent to undertake Hoiberg’s relocation program. More newcomers join him in this season’s Cyclone rotation. JuCo transfers Hogue and Edozie both had a hand in last night’s win, while two promising freshmen, Thomas and Monte Morris – top 100 recruits both – round out the cast of new faces for the 4-0 Cyclones.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 6th, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Iowa State.

Where We Left Off: For Iowa State fans, please excuse us, we don’t mean to re-live a bad memory. The 2012-13 season ended with Aaron Craft ripping the hearts out of Cyclone Nation with a go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds of the second (or now third?) round of the NCAA Tournament last March. Iowa State made a serious statement a year ago, proving it belongs among the league’s best teams after finishing in a tie for fourth in the conference. While Hilton Coliseum has never been an easy place to play, Fred Hoiberg‘s mesh of young players and transfers has paid dividends in making Iowa State one of the scariest teams in the league every season.

Can Fred Hoiberg's Iowa State team build upon a fourth place finish in the league last season? (Ames Tribune)

Can Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team build upon a fourth place finish in the league last season? (Ames Tribune)

Positives: Fresh off a successful run in league play a season ago, there’s so much to like about where Hoiberg has this program headed. While this Iowa State team did lose several key components to graduation, they return Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang in the frontcourt, both of whom played significant minutes last year. Ejim is a double-double machine down low and one of the best rebounders in the conference (although Ejim is expected to be out for most of November with a knee injury), while Niang has crafty skills to score the ball around the basket, and the touch to stretch a defense with his ability to knock down the outside jumper. Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane will be leaned on to fill the void from departed point guard Korie Lucious after averaging 15.1 points per game a season ago for the Thundering Herd, and freshman Matt Thomas is a sharpshooter who will fit in beautifully with Hoiberg’s three-point heavy system, helping Cyclone fans get over the loss of Tyus McGee to graduation.

Negatives: Hoiberg has transformed Iowa State into “Transfer U.” since he took over as head coach, and the strategy has worked almost flawlessly during this period. That said, there’s always a bit of a risk in relying so heavily on impact transfers and hoping the roster will gel during the year. While there is still a ton of talent on this team, the departures of Lucious and McGee, along with Chris Babb and Will Clyburn will create a big uncertainty in the backcourt. Whether Iowa State can continue to shoot the ball from deep as well as it has in the past will be a major factor in the team’s success this season.

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Knee Injury To ISU’s Ejim Thins Cyclone Frontcourt For Non-Conference Play

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) on October 31st, 2013

One of the biggest keys for Iowa State this season is whether its defense will be good enough to make the Cyclones’ high-powered offense stand up. As someone who led the Big 12 in double-doubles last season, forward Melvin Ejim was going to be a big part of that objective. The preseason all-Big 12 selection led the conference in rebounding last season, but the Cyclones’ prospects of hitting the ground running were dealt a big blow when the team announced Thursday that the senior will miss four to six weeks after hyper-extending his left knee and suffering a bone bruise in practice Wednesday.

Iowa State will be without Melvin Ejim for at least one month following a knee injury. (AP)

Iowa State will be without Melvin Ejim for at least one month following a knee injury. (AP)

The injury will likely keep Ejim out of ISU’s most important non-conference battle, which comes against national runner-up Michigan at Hilton Coliseum on November 17. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll also be sidelined for the Cyclones’ tilt against BYU in Provo three days later. The recovery window pegs his probable return as either December 7 against Northern Iowa or December 13 for another intrastate game against Big Ten sleeper Iowa, though obviously that’s subject to change based on the recovery. In the meantime, look for Fred Hoiberg to try to patch his frontcourt together with one of his patented small lineups. Forward Georges Niang could slide up to the five spot, moving probable starter and JuCo transfer Dustin Hogue to the power forward slot. If Hoiberg finds that he needs a bigger body down low, junior Percy Gibson could see a bump in playing time, though he’ll be an offensive liability if he doesn’t improve from his mediocre sophomore campaign. The trickle-down effect could also push junior Naz Long into meaningful playing time.

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The Big 12, Halloween Style

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 31st, 2013

Ah, yes, the Halloween holiday is finally upon us. A time of the year when we all seem to be submerged in any type of pumpkin thing we can get our hands on. When most of the country is knee-deep in football season, except at schools like Kansas and Iowa State which have already thrown in the towel and turned the page to basketball. It’s the one time each year adults are allowed to rekindle the flame from childhood and dress themselves in literally anything you can imagine. In the spirit of this festive holiday, let’s take a look around the Big 12, Halloween style.

Trick:  Don’t fall for it, not even for a second. On Wednesday, The Sporting News released a slideshow of college basketball players in costumes they sported as kids many years ago. Scrolling through, you come across a young Brady Heslip, dressed as what would appear to be a lizard of some sort, and yes, he’s even rocking that great head of hair. While a juvenile Heslip appears awfully innocent, make no mistake about it, the grown-up version has a deadly stroke from behind the arc that consistently pains Big 12 foes.

Brady Heslip appears innocent, but will make you pay from behind the arc.

A young, innocent Brady Heslip, now deadly behind the arc. (Sporting News/Heslip family photo)

Treat:  Look at any national college basketball preview, and you’re bound to repeatedly see the names Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart. Those of us in the Big 12 will be treated (pun intended) to at least two match-ups between these college superstars, once on January 18 at Allen Fieldhouse, and again on March 1 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. There’s been no shortage of words between the two this preseason, along with head coaches Bill Self and Travis Ford, further magnifying what should be two absolute epic meetings between these schools in Big 12 play. Kansas fans were haunted during the latter half of the 2012-13 season by images of Smart back-flipping his way across James Naismith Court after the Cowboys pulled off the upset in Lawrence.  Here’s to hoping this year will provide plenty of new fireworks.

Trick:  If you’re familiar with the Big 12, chances are that you decided last season that West Virginia’s Mountaineer mascot stakes claim to the “best beard in the Big 12″ award. Make no mistake about it, his facial hair is Duck Dynasty-worthy, but a member of Kansas’ cheer squad is throwing a challenge flag in the direction of Morgantown. Don’t know what I’m referring to? Without further ado, we present you with KU’s yell leader, Cedric, or as he’s quickly become known among the KU fanbase, Thor (pictured below), who made his debut during the Jayhawks’ exhibition game on Tuesday night. We could go into further explanation, but the picture really speaks for itself.

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Big 12 M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 31st, 2013

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  1. As good as Tyus McGee was last year for Iowa State, early news out of Ames this season suggests freshman guard Matt Thomas might fill the void left by McGee without a hiccup.  Cyclone head coach Fred Hoiberg was a great shooter in his own right, and told the Des Moines Register on Wednesday “I ain’t tweaking that shot, I’ll tell you that.”  Fellow Iowa State teammates also couldn’t help but gush about Thomas’ ability to knock down shots from behind the arc.  As if you needed another scare on Halloween, just imagine one of the nation’s best shooters as a weapon in Hoiberg’s arsenal.  Yikes.
  2. As difficult as the rebuilding job at TCU was for head coach Trent Johnson, it appears the Horned Frogs seem to be heading in the right direction with the proper man at the helm.  On Tuesday, Johnson indicated that he believes his team in year two in Fort Worth is more skilled than that a season ago.  Among those looking to contribute for TCU this season, senior guard Jarvis Ray feels as if he’s playing with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder this season after missing the Big 12 campaign last year with a broken foot.  In what should be a weak bottom half of the Big 12, Ray and company will have a legitimate shot to significantly surpass last season’s conference win total of two games.
  3. To say that West Virginia‘s inaugural season in the Big 12 was a bit of a disappointment would be an understatement to say the least.  Bob Huggins’ squad struggled to a 6-12 record in the Big 12, and a 13-19 mark overall.  At the top of the list of disappointing players for the Mountaineers was point guard Juwan Staten, who figures to be an important piece for Huggins this season.  Staten seems to be using last year’s frustrations as motivation to improve his leadership for this go around in an effort to become the floor general West Virginia needs to really make their team go.  Don’t sleep on Huggins and West Virginia this season as Morgantown might just be a difficult place for many Big 12 teams to go get a win.
  4. While it appears that Kansas State may struggle at times this season scoring the ball, help in that department may be merely but a year away.  Maine transfer Justin Edwards will be forced to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules, but it seems he’s found exactly what he was looking for in Manhattan.  Edwards wanted more exposure against better competition, and there’s no doubt the Big 12 conference will provide him that.  Last year Edwards lead the America East Conference in scoring at 16.7 points a game, and while he won’t be able to suit up for the Wildcats this season, his focus during the down year will be on pushing teammates in practice and using his athleticism to bring competition to Bruce Weber’s squad.
  5. One of the more intriguing questions surrounding the Kansas Jayhawks this preseason is who, if anyone, will Bill Self choose to use the redshirt tag on for the 2013-2014 year?  As Tom Keegan of KUSports.com points out, it might be in Self’s best interest to avoid redshirting anyone this year.  Coming into the season, many believed sophomore guard Andrew White III might be a prime candidate, but it’s clear that White will hold a solid spot in Kansas’ rotation this season.  This likely leaves one of Self’s incoming freshmen, Brennan Greene or Conner Frankamp, as a more likely fit.  Although Kansas has only had one exhibition game in the books, it appeared that Frankamp might be the odd one out.  If history is any indicator, former Kansas high school standout Brady Morningstar has laid out a blueprint for Frankamp (a Wichita native) as to how patience could certainly pay dividends down the road in a Jayhawk uniform.
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Sizing Up a Key Freshman at Every Big 12 School

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 29th, 2013

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for RTC. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman

The 2012-13 season saw a handful of freshmen throughout the Big 12 make their presences felt around the league. Everyone knows about Marcus Smart, but he was far from the only rookie player who proved himself capable. Perry Ellis, Isaiah Austin, Rico Gathers and Georges Niang also showed opposing players and coaches that they belonged in the conference too. Further down the standings, Josh Gray, Javan Felix and Terry Henderson gave glimpses of what they can do when given opportunities to show their stuff  (although Gray later transferred out of the conference).

Andrew Wiggins will be the top freshman in the Big 12, but after him, it's not so black and white. (credit: ESPN.com)

Andrew Wiggins will be the top freshman in the Big 12, but after him, it’s not so black and white. (credit: ESPN.com)

Once again, the Big 12 will welcome a stellar class of incoming talent this season. We took a look around the conference and plucked one freshman from each team who we think will make the strongest impression. Top to bottom, the Big 12 doesn’t offer quite the depth the SEC — which claims eight of the top 12 prospects from ESPNU’s Top 100 (just to use one recruiting service) — will roll out, but we’re looking forward to watching newcomers from every Big 12 team make strong impressions in their opening campaigns.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: Like you, we’ve seen the YouTube clips and read the scouting reports and articles in publications ranging from Sports Illustrated to GQ. Also, like you, we’re ready for Wiggins to make his debut and show everyone in actual games why he’s been the projected top overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft for so long. We agree with Bill Self in that we don’t expect Wiggins to average 20 points per game – today’s suppressed scoring environments and Self’s reputation as a coach who prefers a balanced attack makes that outcome a longshot. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t think the phenom will make a huge impact on both ends of the floor.

Matt Thomas, Iowa State: Despite starting just two games last season, Tyrus McGee was the Cyclones’ second-leading scorer thanks to a white-hot 46.4% shooting clip from long range. Now that he’s gone, though, Fred Hoiberg needs someone to fill the shooting void, and we can easily see Thomas emerging as that guy. The 51st-ranked recruit on ESPNU’s Top 100, Thomas boasts the kind of range that can break games open and cut deficits in a hurry. Once he commands the attention of the league’s defenses, passing lanes will open up to deliver the ball to the likes of Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang.

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Big 12 M5: 10.18.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 18th, 2013

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  1. Remember earlier this week when it was reported by Bleacher Report that adidas and Nike were set to offer Andrew Wiggins a shoe contract in the range of $140 to $180 million upon completion of this season at Kansas?  As it turns out, that story was indeed a hoax.  A report issued on Thursday night by Sole Collector, an insider in the sneaker industry, included a photograph they obtained of the fraudulent offer letter which was both undated and unaddressed discussing the details of the Wiggins “shoe contract”.  How exactly the fake offer was brought to light is still unknown, but the details of the story further underscore the difficulty top recruits face in making decisions as they embark on their professional career.  It’s a sad truth, but many of these young athletes present such a profitable marketing potential that the number of individuals willing to leach themselves on in hopes of cashing out in their own right creates an incredibly dirty and misleading situation.
  2. In an article by NBC Sports exploring non-Jordan Brand or McDonald’s All American freshmen who could make an impact this season, Iowa State shooting guard Matt Thomas was highlighted as a perimeter sharpshooter who could potentially be the best outside shooter in this year’s class.  Thomas will fit perfectly in Fred Hoiberg’s three-point heavy system, and will help fill the void left by former Big 12 sniper Tyus McGee.  Given the national exposure that Hoiberg has generated at Iowa State the past few seasons for his up tempo, run-and-gun style offense, it would not be surprising to some of the top future shooting talent flock to Ames to get in on the action.
  3. Baylor coach Scott Drew announced on Thursday morning that consensus top 100 freshman recruit Allerik Freeman will miss 6-7 weeks with a hand injury. Freeman was expected to bolster the Bears backcourt scoring, and provide yet another skilled piece to compliment the frontcourt duo of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. An exact return for Freeman will not be determined for several weeks, but any action on or prior to Baylor’s showdown with Kentucky on December 6 will significantly improve Baylor’s chances of competing with the young, but talented Kentucky squad.  Perhaps the most important factor in Baylor’s success this season will be how they adjust to the departure of point guard Pierre Jackson.
  4. USA Today released their preseason coaches poll on Thursday, which featured #6 Kansas followed by Oklahoma State at #12.  Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas State also received votes, effectively ranking them 26, 41, and 43, respectively. Much of the league’s preseason attention has featured Kansas and Oklahoma State who will anchor the top half of the league all season.  Baylor certainly has the talent to work its way up in the polls, and will have a chance to prove this in their December showdown with Kentucky. It will be interesting to see how Iowa State and Kansas State adjust to significant roster changes and whether they can position themselves in the upper echelon of schools in the Big 12 come March.
  5. In an interesting insight to just how important recruiting is for coaches throughout the nation, Luke Winn’s Sports Illustrated piece on Andrew Wiggins that hit shelves earlier this week explained how Bill Self altered his game plan last March against Texas Tech in an attempt to impress Wiggins during his official college visit at Kansas.  Former Jayhawk point guard Elijah Johnson threw six first half alley-oops as Self felt this both gave Kansas the best chance to win, and also showed Wiggins family what they wanted to see.  While this may not be groundbreaking information for some, it does further highlight just how hard some coaches work to win recruiting battles.  This story naturally begs the question, how much will Self be willing to adjust his game plan this season now that Wiggins has joined the Jayhawks?
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