Who Won the Week? Two Undefeated Teams, But Certainly Not The Third…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 7th, 2014

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Who Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Wichita State

Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

Cleanthony Early was outstanding this week for the Shockers. (AP)

The nation’s winningest team cleared its toughest conference hurdle Wednesday night in defeating Indiana State in Terre Haute, led by senior forward Cleanthony Early’s 19 points. From here on, the Shockers have better than 50 percent odds to go undefeated in the regular season, according to KenPom.com, and about 35 percent odds to make it to the NCAA Tournament unblemished. Wichita State’s reign over the Missouri Valley has been so strong this year that only two teams – Missouri State and Indiana State – have even finished within 10 points of them. Tomorrow’s game at Northern Iowa is the toughest remaining tilt for the Shockers, which also sandblasted Evansville 81-67 last Saturday.

(Related winners: Gregg Marshall, whose stock will never be higher, even if he never wants to leave; the Missouri Valley, which is certain to get some more NCAA Tournament win shares, even without Creighton in the conference. Related losers: Indiana State, the MVC”s second-best team, which probably has to win Arch Madness to make the NCAAs; Evansville, perpetually anonymous in purple.)

LOSER: Arizona

Of the triumvirate of teams that came into last weekend undefeated, only two came out unscathed. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they weren’t one of them. Their road trip to California, the toughest game left on their schedule at that point, turned out to be undone by a last-second jumper from Golden Bears’ guard Justin Cobbs over center Kaleb Tarczewski, giving Cal a 60-58 win. That news was bad enough, but worse was what came after — that sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, a starter, had broken his foot during the game and would be out for the season. In Thursday’s 67-65 win over Oregon, Arizona looked disjointed offensively and saw star freshman Aaron Gordon injure his leg in a game in which he made just 2-of-11 free throws. The Wildcats actually trailed the disintegrating Ducks with just 90 seconds left before point guard T.J. McConnell made a three-pointer that gave them the lead for good. Sean Miller only played seven players, even accounting for Gordon’s injury, and its lack of depth could be problematic should more injuries arise or should fouls accumulate. It’s a shame to see this happen because a full-strength Arizona team looked to be head and shoulders above all but a few others around the country.

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Iowa State Facing a Must-Win Today vs. Kansas State

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 25th, 2014

A little over two weeks ago, life for Fred Hoiberg and the Iowa State basketball program was about as good as it could get. The Cyclones were undefeated with home wins over Michigan and Iowa along with a difficult road win at BYU; DeAndre Kane’s name was being thrown out as a serious candidate for All-American honors; and it looked like the team from Ames might have the best chance of anyone to end Kansas’ nine year reign atop the Big 12 Conference.

After three losses in a row, Naz Long and Iowa State are left looking for answers.

After three losses in a row, Naz Long and Iowa State are left looking for answers. (AP)

Since that time, life in the Big 12 for Hoiberg and company has been anything but a dream. First came a disappointing road loss at Oklahoma, one in which the aforementioned Kane suffered what looked like a severely sprained ankle just two days before a home visit from Bill Self’s Jayhawks. In what seemed like a perfect opportunity to exorcise the demons that kept the Cyclones from taking down Kansas a year ago, “Hilton Magic” was anything but, as Iowa State finished the night shooting just 4-of-25 from three-point range in a deflating loss. Those two defeats were then followed up by a road loss at Texas last weekend, leaving fans and players alike with more questions than answers.

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Big 12 M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 15th, 2014

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  1. Kyle Ringo of The Dagger writes that Kansas is rounding into form, and after Monday’s takedown of Iowa State despite 24 turnovers, it’s hard to deny that the Jayhawks are beginning to click. It feels like we’ve all seen this movie before: Kansas stumbles just enough in the early going for many among the media to ponder whether this will finally be the year that someone else takes the Big 12, only for Bill Self and company to knock some sense into all of us by MLK Day. We may be just two weeks into conference play, but the Jayhawks appear to be showing all the doubters why they continue to receive the benefit of the doubt when it comes to predicting the Big 12’s pecking order.
  2. Tying up one final loose end from Monday’s marquee battle, Sports Illustrated‘s Brian Hamilton contends that Iowa State needs to improve its shooting if it wants to stay in contention. Based on the Cyclones’ 31.4 percent performance from the floor, it’s reasonable to come to that conclusion, but it also makes sense to simply chalk up their bad shooting night to a sterling defensive effort on the part of the Jayhawks. It would be helpful if ISU could challenge more shots in the paint, but since it isn’t realistic to expect Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang to sprout four inches overnight, Fred Hoiberg will have to rely on what he has it his disposal, which, as a reminder, isn’t so bad.
  3. Yesterday, we talked about Kansas State needing to keep Cameron Clark from going off on Wednesday, and judging by Clark’s 1-of-9 evening at Bramlage Coliseum (and a 72-66 victory for the Wildcats), it’s safe to say that Bruce Weber’s team executed its game plan to perfection. The win was an important one for K-State, in need of a bounceback win over a fellow bubble team after the beating handed down by the Jayhawks on Saturday. Somewhat suddenly, the Wildcats find themselves at 3-1 in conference play with a pair of very winnable games (vs. West Virginia and at Texas) coming up next.
  4. It may be hard to tell due to TCU‘s health problems, but the Horned Frogs are improving, according to the Star-Telegram’s Stefan Stevenson. While season-ending injuries to Devonta Abron and Aaron Durley have kept TCU from reaching its potential, they aren’t of much solace to head coach Trent Johnson. Still, there are silver linings in Amric Fields and Jarvis Ray’s development, and Kyan Anderson is an under-the-radar point guard. While no one expects them to beat Oklahoma State tonight, it will be interesting to see whether the Horned Frogs can make it somewhat competitive.
  5. Lastly, Baylor‘s athletic department will host a rally tomorrow in support of both its nationally-ranked basketball teams. As part of the festivities, the general public is encouraged to bring new or gently-used coats to donate to local homeless shelters, and Whataburger will provide nourishment to students. Hey, anytime we can plug a charity effort while buzz-marketing a regional fast food chain, we have to do it.
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Four Takeaways From Iowa State’s Win Over Baylor

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 7th, 2014

If you are just now turning your attention to college basketball, you can thank the Big 12 scheduling committee for throwing you a bone. One day after both teams moved into the top ten of the AP Poll (not ours, which as you saw tonight was more accurate), Baylor met Iowa State in Ames, with the Cyclones pulling away in the second half for a resounding 87-72 win in Hilton Coliseum. If you didn’t catch it, however, we have you covered with four key takeaways:

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn't need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn’t need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

  1. Welcome to the national spotlight, DeAndre Kane: The graduate transfer from Marshall has been terrific all season, but he completely outdid himself Tuesday night scoring 30 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out nine assists. Oh, he also had five steals. Kane excelled at picking his spots to drive right to the hoop, stop on a dime and pass, or pull up from three as well as regularly beating the Bears down the floor in transition. With conference play revving up in earnest, he is going to start gathering a lot of headlines, so be sure to tune in when the Cyclones hit the floor over the next two months. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Midseason Merits and Demerits

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2014

It’s crazy to think that the season is already nearly halfway over. Over the last two months, the Big 12 had a terrific non-conference run. The league notched wins over the likes of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Memphis, Iowa, Michigan and Gonzaga; the conference proved that it has its share of individual stars beyond Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins, viewed as the toasts of the league back in November; and an argument can be made rather easily that the Big 12 is the best league in the country (or at least has had the best run to date). With league play tipping off tomorrow, it’s time for the Big 12 microsite contributors to take a look back and hand out some accolades, as well as shine a light on a some players and coaches from whom we expected a little more in the season’s first two months.

Player Of The Year

Marcus Smart headlines a long list of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Marcus Smart headlines a deep roster of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today)

  • Kory CarpenterMelvin Ejim, Iowa State: Ejim is third in the conference in scoring with 17.2 points per game and is fifth in field goal percentage, making 52.5 percent of his shots. He nearly averages a double-double as well, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game.
  • Taylor EricksonMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State – Smart has cooled off a bit recently after averaging over 31 points per game during a three-game stretch earlier in the season, but this award appears to be his to lose heading into Big 12 play. The conference slate should provide plenty of high-profile games that will undoubtedly deliver some great individual performances, allowing us to more confidently identify the league’s best player. Andrew Wiggins has been good, but for the time being, he hasn’t done enough to knock Smart from his perch.
  • Brian GoodmanMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State - Overall, Smart’s efficiency numbers have improved, and he’s still playing defense at a very high level. The Big 12 is as well-stocked with talent as any conference in the country, and Smart has produced the most for his team. That being said, the book on him is out. Whether he can score from outside when teams take away the paint could be the deciding factor for his POY candidacy.

Coach of The Year

  • BGFred Hoiberg – After the Cyclones outperformed expectations the last two years, Big 12 coaches vowed to stop sleeping on Iowa State, tabbing ISU to finish fourth in the annual preseason poll. As it turns out, even that may have been too low. Right now, the Cyclones are no worse than the third-best team in the conference, and Oklahoma State’s personnel issues could give ISU an opening to climb even higher.
  • TEFred Hoiberg – All Hoiberg has done is taken a team that lost several top scorers from a season ago and turned that into a 12-0 start to the college basketball season. Iowa State has three players averaging over 15 points per game, and it became the first school in league history to have five different players win player of the week honors.

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Big 12 M5: 12.09.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 9th, 2013

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  1.  The Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd tied up some loose ends from Kansas‘ heartbreaking loss to Colorado. In case you were too caught up in Saturday afternoon’s football action, lost in the shuffle of Askia Booker’s buzzer-beater were Joel Embiid showing off an impressive array of post moves against the Buffaloes’ undersized frontcourt rotation and Andrew Wiggins putting up a season-high 22 points. The Jayhawks very clearly have a few things to work on, but it’s tough to be too disappointed with Kansas’ two losses in non-conference play, as both came on last-second shots in games away from Allen Fieldhouse.
  2. Iowa State needed an extra frame to beat Northern Iowa when Panthers guard Seth Tuttle banked home a three-pointer at the end of the second half. The Cyclones showed how vulnerable they can be when their threes don’t fall, as they shot just 28% from the perimeter in regulation. They made them when they mattered, though, as Melvin Ejim buried a pair of treys in overtime. Somewhat surprisingly, the win was Fred Hoiberg‘s first as a head coach over Northern Iowa. Iowa State, one of the most impressive programs in the still-young season, takes a well-deserved break until Friday, when Hilton Coliseum should be rocking for a meeting with Iowa.
  3. Reserve center D.J. Bennett has given Lon Kruger some quality minutes down low on the defensive end. The Sooners boast one of the highest-scoring offenses in the Big 12, but the defense isn’t quite where it needs to be for Oklahoma to comfortably rank in the top half of the conference. If Bennett can continue to help the team get stops on the other end, that may change.
  4. Dave Hickman of The West Virginia Gazette wrote an interesting piece late last week where he delved into the Mountaineers’ surprisingly low attendance numbers. If you ask us, the culprit isn’t hard to find: West Virginia‘s non-conference schedule has been short on attractive names. With all due respect to the following programs, no one is lining up to camp out for Mount Saint Mary’s, Duquesne, or Georgia Southern. To boot, the annual Backyard Brawl with Pittsburgh was put on hiatus when the two teams separated conferences. We’ll see how many fans show up at WVU Coliseum on Tuesday, when Gonzaga pays a visit to Morgantown.
  5. Oklahoma State guard Stevie Clark returned to action Friday night against South Carolina after serving a four-game suspension handed down by Travis Ford for undisclosed reasons. Assuming Clark stays on Ford’s good side, the freshman will have plenty of time to ease back into the lineup, as the Cowboys play just two games between now and December 21, when they will take on a Colorado team that will almost certainly be ranked later today.
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Big 12 M5: 11.22.2013 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2013

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  1. After fouling out during the home stretch of his team’s win over BYU on Wednesday, Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim briefly lost his cool and flashed an obscene gesture toward the Cougars’ student section from the bench. Immediately following the game, Ejim expressed his regret, apologizing via Twitter. Thursday morning, Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard defended Ejim while sympathizing with BYU fans who were offended. Nothing in Ejim’s background suggests that this was anything more than an isolated incident, and while a minority of college hoops fans wondered about possible disciplinary action by head coach Fred Hoiberg, nothing has been announced, and at this point, we’d be surprised to hear anything.
  2. Less than two weeks after opening their season with a clunker against Northern Colorado, Kansas State took another one on the chin, falling to Charlotte in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Starters Shane Southwell, Will Spradling, and Marcus Foster shot a combined 12-of-37 from the floor and Thomas Gipson fouled out in just eight minutes of action. Surprisingly, the Wildcats will have a chance to make good on the loss later this morning in the consolation bracket when they take on Georgetown, which was also upset in their tournament opener.
  3. West Virginia may finally be getting comfortable in Bob Huggins’ second season. The Mountaineers pounded Georgia Southern 101-68 in the first round of the Cancun Challenge, led by Juwan Staten’s 20 points. Also important is the fact that Staten was able to get some rest due to West Virgina’s big lead after the transfer played 119 out of a possible 120 minutes to begin the year. West Virginia’s 101 points are the most the program has registered since 2007.
  4. Not many people are talking about Texas this year, though considering their fairly easy schedule so far, that may be a good thing. In either case, the start that forward Connor Lammert is off to through his team’s first four games is definitely worth mentioning. The sophomore is averaging 10.8 points per game in just 22 minutes per game and has missed just eight of his first 28 shots while converting seven of eight chances from the free throw line. It will definitely be interesting to see how Lammert fares against much better competition next week at the CBE Classic in Kansas City.
  5. Kansas has an important meeting tonight against Towson at Allen Fieldhouse before departing for the Battle 4 Atlantis. While the casual fan may look at the match-up and not think much of it, Towson has greatly improved under head coach Pat Skerry after suffering through an NCAA record 41-game losing streak. Also of note is the connection between the Towson program and Kansas guard Frank Mason, who originally committed to the Tigers out of high school.
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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 M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 19th, 2013

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  1. Iowa State senior Melvin Ejim and Kansas underclassmen Perry Ellis and Andrew Wiggins earned Big 12 weekly honors, which were announced on Monday. Ellis, a sophomore forward, scored 24 points in last week’s win against Duke. Wiggins was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after finishing with 22 points against Duke. Ejim, a senior forward, made his season debut against #7 Michigan Sunday afternoon and led all scorers with 22 points and nine rebounds.
  2. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg couldn’t have asked for a better visit from Rivals.com’s #7 overall player Rashad Vaughn last weekend. It was capped with an impressive 77-70 win over #7 Michigan Sunday afternoon in Hilton Coliseum. Vaughn told Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register that the relationships he builds with coaches and schools will be a big factor in his recruitment, and the fact that Hoiberg played major college ball seems to be a positive for the Cyclones. Vaughn has offers from fellow Big 12 schools Baylor and Kansas as well as North Carolina and a handful of others. For the Big 12’s sake, Vaughn moving to Ames would be great for the league.
  3. Bill Self didn’t expect his team to jump Louisville for the #2 spot in this week’s AP poll, less than a week after knocking off #4 Duke in Chicago. “That doesn’t make any sense to me,” he told the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd Monday. Actually, it makes plenty of sense. The only thing worse than preseason rankings is voters hesitating to move teams down just because they won. National rankings should be based on resumes, not how your ballot looked last week. If Kansas has a better resume than Louisville when the ballot is due, the Jayhawks should be ahead of them.
  4. Oklahoma signed three recruits on signing day last week and as Ryan Aber points out, head coach Lon Kruger filled the holes he needed to fill to keep the momentum going around the Sooner basketball program. Two of the players, Dante Buford and Khadeem Lattin, are in the Rivals Top 150 for the class of 2014 and both players should make immediate impacts in the front court for the Sooners next season as freshmen.
  5. If West Virginia plans on bouncing back after last season’s forgettable showing, Eron Harris and Juwan Staten will have to play big roles offensively. They did just that on Sunday in a 96-83 win over Duquesne in Morgantown. The defense left a lot to be desired, but 61 combined points from Harris and Staten was more than enough for the Mountaineers. As Staten told Garrett Cullen here, the new hand checking rules should help both players immensely this season.
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Where Does Iowa State Go From Here?

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 18th, 2013

While many didn’t expect Iowa State to toss Michigan aside on Sunday, the 77-70 result was no upset. As long as Iowa State has fielded competitive teams, Hilton Coliseum has been one of the nation’s toughest road venues for visitors, especially those coming from outside the Big 12. Even before it was announced that Melvin Ejim would be available a solid two weeks before his original prognosis suggested, the Cyclones were one-point favorites, according to Ken Pomeroy. Yesterday’s win showed that while it’s still November, the Cyclones are further ahead than expected, especially on the defensive end. Dustin Hogue notched his first double-double in only his third game at the D-I level and Ejim stuffed the stat sheet with nine rebounds and three steals to go along with his 22 points. Fans are rightfully celebrating a win in the biggest game on their team’s non-league schedule, but it’s worth taking a look ahead to see what the near future portends.

Melvin Ejim and the Cyclones don't have much time to celebrate their big win over Michigan. (USATSI)

Melvin Ejim and the Cyclones don’t have much time to celebrate their big win over Michigan. (USATSI)

Things don’t get any easier for Iowa State, at least not right away. They have just two days to get ready for a date at BYU on Wednesday, and while everyone knows about the Cyclones’ perimeter power, they shot just 30 percent from behind the arc on Sunday. Even if great efforts from Ejim, Hogue and Georges Niang inspire Iowa State to go inside more often, their outside shooters will need to perform better if they want to outlast the Cougars at the raucous Marriott Center, especially if Tyler Haws is recovered from an abdominal strain suffered last week.

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Michigan Provides an Early Test for Iowa State

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 17th, 2013

Michigan and Iowa State are both off to white-hot starts this season. While neither have played competitive teams (their four combined opponents average out to a lowly KenPom rating of #320), the Wolverines and Cyclones have looked terrific in the early going, despite each team being without their best frontcourt player. Neither Melvin Ejim nor Mitch McGary have played a single minute this season, and while that would make a dent in most teams’ rotations, Fred Hoiberg and John Beilein’s teams haven’t skipped a beat. Among the squads’ four combined games so far, the slimmest margin of victory has been 27 points. That figures to change today, however, when the Wolverines and Cyclones square off at Hilton Coliseum early Sunday evening (5:00 PM ET). While McGary and Ejim’s statuses are up in the air, we should be in for a terrific game whether or not they suit up.

Michigan's Caris LeVert has come up big for Michigan so far this season.

Michigan’s Caris LeVert has come up big so far this season.

McGary may be a preseason All-American and Ejim a preseason all-conference pick, but both teams’ offenses will still be on display in Ames even if their stars spend Sunday afternoon on the sidelines. When either Iowa State or Michigan come up in conversations, the first thing that comes to mind is the dizzying level of havoc both teams can wreak from outside. Sophomore Nik Stauskas has connected on six of his first nine three-point attempts for the Wolverines, and that isn’t even good enough to make him the best shooter on his team this year. That honor goes to fellow sophomore Caris Levert, who has spread defenses by hitting seven of his first 10 attempts beyond the arc, allowing fans to breathe easy about Michigan’s backcourt following the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway. It may be early, but both Stauskas and Levert are shooting better on threes than on two-point shots, which is absolutely wild to think about (and at the same time, highly unsustainable). Throw in Glenn Robinson III and freshman Derrick Walton, who are both capable of shooting better than they have in the young season, and you have a group that can absolutely destroy teams with its firepower.

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Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Preseason All-Conference And POY Selections

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2013

After a seven-month wait, we can taste the start of the season. We tasked the four Big 12 Microsite contributors – Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso – with selecting their own all-conference teams and backing up their selections. For the sake of transparency, they are as follows:

All-Conference Picks

Right away, there’s a clear consensus on three players, with all four contributors agreeing that Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart and Isaiah Austin are the toast of the conference:

  • On Andrew Wiggins (TE): “There’s a chance by the end of the season we could be looking at a conference with the two best players in college basketball, period. Going with Wiggins here isn’t a knock on Marcus Smart, because I do think Smart will once again be fantastic, but Wiggins will be the best player on the conference’s best team. Both players come into this season with an extraordinary amount of pressure, and if the preseason banter between the two is any indication, we should be in for one heck of a season.”
  • On Wiggins (KC): “There has been some Andrew Wiggins backlash the last few months from people looking to be contrarian. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman picked not one, but TWO freshmen (Jabari Parker and Julius Randle) on his First Team All-American ballot. That was foolish, and so would picking against Wiggins for Big 12 Player of the Year. Marcus Smart is great, Wiggins is greater.”
  • On Marcus Smart (NK): “Smart is a once-in-a-blue-moon type of player who led the Cowboys in points, assists and steals last season. He also tied for second on the team in rebounds per game with 5.8 as the starting point guard. He’s got a basketball IQ that’s off the charts and is an incredibly selfless person on and off the floor. Clark Kellogg’s definition of a ‘stat-sheet stuffer’ was meant for players like Marcus Smart.”
  • On Isaiah Austin (BG): “As was the case with Marcus Smart, Isaiah Austin returned to school despite a very promising draft projection. His three-point accuracy can be a deadly weapon, and because of his height (7’1″), very few players will be able to disrupt his shot. Closer to the hoop, his reach makes him a target for easy baskets both on set plays and putbacks. If Baylor manages to shake things up at the top of the conference, he’ll be a huge reason why.”

Meanwhile, Nate Kotisso explains why Cory Jefferson could also be in line for some accolades: 

  • “Consistency will be the key this season. Baylor went 13-3 last season in games where Jefferson scored 15 points or more. We hope to see the same Jefferson that lit up the NIT.”

Taylor and Brian went slightly off the beaten path, giving preseason props to two of the country’s biggest sleepers:

Overlook Markel Brown at your own peril.

Overlook the Cowboys’ Markel Brown at your own peril.

  • On Markel Brown (BG): “Brown is a dangerously underrated player. While I enjoy watching hyped-up draft prospects as much as anyone, there’s something about the four-year player who constantly improves that will always get my attention. Casual fans may see Brown as a novelty dunking machine, but once you catch him in action over a longer stretch or dig into his numbers, you’ll see that there’s so much more to his game than that. While he isn’t shy about attacking the hoop with a level of authority completely atypical for a 6’3″ guard, Brown also provides value from the three-point line and can even hang on the defensive glass. I’m done sleeping on him and you should be, too.”
  • On Perry Ellis (TE): “While there’s certainly a case that could be made for putting Cory Jefferson here, I think it becomes difficult to recognize a team that won’t finish in the top two in the conference with two All-Big 12 selections. Ellis has been under the radar heading into this season after closing out last year with strong performances down the stretch and in the Big 12 Tournament for Kansas. While the trio of freshmen at Kansas are generating most of the buzz, I think there’s a good chance Ellis could lead the Jayhawks in scoring this year.”
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