What’s Trending: Chris Walker’s Tattoos, a Sea of Golden Bears, Michael Cobbins Buggin’ Out…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 7th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Chris Walker Debuts for Florida

Finally, after sitting out the Gators first 21 games of the season, the much-hyped freshman Chris Walker made his first appearance for Billy Donovan.

The highly anticipated debut left us with a definitive highlight, but it was not really related to Walker’s box score.

A Sea of Golden Bears Fans

Perhaps it is the look yellow and blue gives when a filter is applied, but there’s  an abundance of gorgeous pictures and videos that were captured from Saturday’s wild scene at Haas Pavilion following Cal’s upset of then undefeated and No. 1 Arizona. Click on the image below or here to browse through the entire feed from Instagram.

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Big 12 Bubble Watch: Texas is Here to Stay

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 23rd, 2014

Want a good laugh? Take a look at our Big 12 Bubble Watch from six weeks ago. Look at how gaudy those early season records were! Sigh, we were only kids then. But now is a lot different. Kansas appears headed for another Big 12 championship while early favorites Baylor and Iowa State are struggling to find themselves in conference play. Kansas State has turned around what could have been a disaster of a season following a co-Big 12 title last year. Oklahoma State is very much in the conversation for dethroning the Jayhawks and Rick Barnes’ Texas Longhorns continue to surprise us game after game.

(Ed. Note: While it was unclear in December who would win the Big 12, at least now we have a good enough sample size to project a team to take the conference’s automatic bid. For this particular scenario, that Big 12 champion is Kansas. Not considered in this Bubble Watch were TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia.) 

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I'm sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Rick Barnes has coached himself back into the Texas job this season. I’m sure I could have phrased that better. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In Very Good Shape

Oklahoma State: 15-3 (3-2); RPI: 12, SOS: 38

Analysis: It seemed like the world would come crashing down when Michael Cobbins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury and the Stevie Clark situation(s) flared up, but it wasn’t so. Marcus Smart is still doing Marcus Smart things and did you know Phil Forte is connecting on half of his three-pointers this season (53-for-106)? Seriously. Oklahoma State managed to be a few possessions from winning at both Kansas State and Kansas (and for that matter, a few possessions from losing at West Virginia). While having Memphis and Colorado as good non-conference wins, nice RPI and SOS numbers, no bad losses, and the rough part of their schedule still to come, Travis Ford’s team has plenty of chances to add to its portfolio.

Iowa State: 14-3 (2-3); RPI: 10, SOS: 11

Analysis: Surprised to see these guys here? The Cyclones’ struggles have been well-documented and their chances at a Big 12 regular season title are dwindling, but there is still a lot going right for this team. Remember that win over Michigan in mid-November? Its luster started to fade but the Mitch McGary-less Wolverines have re-entered the Big Ten title race with consecutive wins at Wisconsin and against Iowa. Speaking of the Hawkeyes, Iowa State beat them last month as well. At this point in the season, the difference between the Cyclones and Baylor is their head-to-head match-up in Ames where Fred Hoiberg’s team took them out with ease. What will be interesting to see from the Cyclones now will be how they deal with DeAndre Kane’s minutes. He’s played 35 minutes or more in every Big 12 game while battling an ankle injury. Will Hoiberg try to work Bubu Palo, who was placed back on the team by a county judge, into the rotation to supplant Kane? We shall see.

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Big 12 Game of the Year: Previewing Oklahoma State at Kansas

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 18th, 2014

Saturday afternoon’s tilt between Big 12 powerhouses Kansas and Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse has long been circled on the calendar as one of the most anticipated games in college basketball this season, thanks in large part to the two games that took place last season. In case you need a refresher, Oklahoma State strolled into Lawrence last February and snapped Kansas’ 33-game home winning streak. As if the victory alone wasn’t enough to disappoint Jayhawks Nation, Smart followed his 25-point performance with a beautifully executed backflip on the center of James Naismith Court, much to the chargin of the 16,300 fans in attendance. Kansas returned the favor two-and-a-half weeks later, when the Jayhawks won in double overtime in Stillwater thanks to a Naadir Tharpe bucket in the final seconds to push the Jayhawks ahead, although no backflip was performed.

Marcus Smart pulled off a backflip in Allen Fieldhouse a season ago while Jayhawk fans and Elijah Johnson look on in disbelief. (Emily Wittler/KANSAN)

Marcus Smart pulled off a backflip in Allen Fieldhouse a season ago while stunned Jayhawk fans and Elijah Johnson look on in disbelief. (Emily Wittler/KANSAN)

Now, fast forward eight months to October. During that time, Marcus Smart decided to return to Oklahoma State for a sophomore season, and the highly touted high school recruit Andrew Wiggins had decided to go to school at Kansas. While Wiggins was the focus of nearly every preseason magazine, Smart had a few choice comments on Big 12 media day for the heralded Jayhawk freshman, saying,  ”A lot of people are saying he’s the best player now in college basketball.  All I’m saying is how can you be the best player in something you haven’t even played yet?” To be perfectly honest, Smart’s comments were probably fairly justified. Had Wiggins chosen to play his college basketball in a different location, Smart would have instead been the toast of the conference, but he was now forced to answer questions about a kid in Wiggins who had plenty to prove at the collegiate level. Smart would go on to say about Wiggins, “If he’s the best player like people say, if that’s the case, in order for me to be the best, I have to beat the best, right?  If he’s the best player, fans will get their money’s worth when we play Kansas.”

This showdown certainly has all the makings of must-see television on Saturday afternoon, and to get you ready for this action, I discussed some of the more intriguing aspects of this one with Kyle Porter, creator of the Pistols Firing Blog (@pistolsguy) and a must-follow for all Oklahoma State fans. Let’s take a look at the most anticipated game in the Big 12 so far this season.

Taylor:  Kyle, first off, thanks a bunch for getting together to preview this Big 12 showdown that will take place tomorrow in Allen Fieldhouse. To get us started, one of the more intriguing aspects of this game are the defensive match-ups that will be featured. Marcus Smart and Markel Brown put as much pressure on the opposing guards on the offensive end of the floor than maybe any team in the nation, and it’s no secret that Naadir Tharpe lacks on defense. Conversely, the injury the Michael Cobbins has left Oklahoma State fairly thin up front, and with the emergence of Kansas big man Joel Embiid, I’m curious on your thoughts of how Travis Ford will choose to defend Kansas in the frontcourt?

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Four Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s Win Over Texas

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 9th, 2014

With aspirations of winning the Big 12 conference regular season title entering the season, a loss in the league opener on Saturday at Kansas State wasn’t exactly what Oklahoma State had in mind. The Cowboys returned home to Stillwater for a tilt Wednesday night with a Texas team that has been better than many expected. While the Longhorns managed to keep this game interesting throughout the first half, the talent of Oklahoma State helped the Cowboys pull away late to a fairly comfortable victory. Here’s four takeaways from the action in Stillwater last evening.

Oklahoma State Used a Strong Second Half to Beat Texas

Oklahoma State Used a Strong Second Half to Beat Texas (NewsOK.com)

  1. Markel Brown went down hard early in the first half, but the fall didn’t seem to have much of an impact on him as he returned to contribute 27 points, five rebounds, and four assists. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Brown is probably the most underrated player in the nation. His play is often overshadowed by the incredible performances by Marcus Smart, but anyone familiar with Oklahoma State realizes just how good the senior guard in Stillwater also has been. Unfortunately for Travis Ford’s team, the loss of Michael Cobbins down low paired with the inconsistent play of LeBryan Nash, means that Brown and Smart will have to be on top of their game every night out to carry the Cowboys to a win. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 6th, 2014

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  1. Is it time to hit the panic button in Lawrence? San Diego State walked into Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday and beat Kansas, 71-67, ending the Jayhawks’ 68-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents. The Aztecs committed five more turnovers, blocked five fewer shots, had five fewer assists, and took 10 fewer free throw attempts than Bill Self’s team, and still somehow managed to get the huge win. It doesn’t get any easier for Kansas, though, as their first five Big 12 games over the next couple of weeks come against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
  2. Speaking of panic buttons, Oklahoma State opened up Big 12 competition with a loss to still-streaking Kansas State. CollegeBasketballTalk cites Michael Cobbins’ season-ending injury as a key reason for the loss. Although Kansas State only outrebounded the Cowboys by one board, Cobbins’ presence would have been helpful against Thomas Gipson, who went for six of his 11 points in the final five minutes of the game. It’ll be something to continue to monitor as Travis Ford’s team deals with strong frontcourts at Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State midway through conference play.
  3. Oklahoma got its best win of the season on Saturday, rallying to beat arch-rival Texas, 88-85. The game could have ended differently for the Sooners, as Isaiah Cousins received two technical fouls that resulted in an ejection after elbowing Texas guard Demarcus Holland late in the game. In the first half, Cousins and Texas guard Isaiah Taylor were hit with technical fouls for jawing at each other. Fortunately, Jordan Woodard stepped up to score the Sooners’ final 10 points, sealing the win with two free throws at the 1:08 mark. Up next, Kansas invades the Lloyd Noble Center on Wednesday night.
  4. Another day and another win for unbeaten Iowa State. The Cyclones got out in front of Texas Tech by 15 before the Red Raiders mounted a comeback to tie the game with 12:33 in the second half. Enter the Cyclones’ Monte Morris. He checked in seconds later and finished the half with five points, one steal and a blocked shot in the 73-62 victory. I guess we can add Morris to the arsenal of Fred Hoiberg’s many weapons at his disposal.
  5. West Virginia basketball fans will remember Saturday’s win against TCU as its own version of “The Flu Game.” (Eh, maybe not). In addition to the Horned Frogs’ front line, Eron Harris battled the flu all week and still dropped 22 in WVU’s 74-69 win in Fort Worth. “I was sick all week—sick out of my mind,” Harris told MetroNews. “It was the flu. I just couldn’t go (during the week of practices), but I felt better waking up today (Saturday).” First there was Michael Jordan and now… Eron Harris. That’s a fair comparison in my book.
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The RTC Podblast: Legalize It Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 3rd, 2014

Happy New Year, everyone! After a brief hiatus over the holidays, the RTC Podblast is back for the first edition of 2014 and ready to get on with the rest of the season! As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts the proceedings, guiding the guys through topics that included the biggest takeaway from games the last two weeks, a number of injuries and suspensions that have come down lately, and most importantly, #rootforthesuit. A full rundown is below. We’ll be back on our regular schedule with the next full RTC Podcast dropping on Tuesday.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-3:48 – Most Important Game During the Holidays
  • 3:48-8:42 – Evaluating the Injuries and Suspensions Suffered by Contenders
  • 8:42-11:44 – Upset Alert on Saturday
  • 11:44-17:17 – Marquee Match-ups on Sunday (Including a #rootforthesuit game)
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Morning Five: New Year’s Day 2014 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 1st, 2014

morning5

  1. We will start off by wishing all of you a Happy New Year. We hope all of you had a great 2013 and that 2014 is even better. Today is a pretty light day in terms of college basketball action as the schools seem to be letting college football have its day in the spotlight. Still there are several interesting games with San Diego State at Colorado State, Boston College at Harvard, and Southern Methodist at Cincinnati being the most intriguing. If you are just killing some time before the games tonight, you should check out our “Best of 2013″ column that takes a look back at some of the best games, moments, and performances of last year.
  2. One team that is not having such a great start to the year is Oklahoma State as they lost Michael Cobbins for the season after he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the team’s win on Monday. Collins, a junior who was averaging 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game this season, was also the team’s top post defender. Although Cobbins might not seem like a big piece to the Cowboys title aspirations based on his numbers, he plays at a position where the Cowboys lack depth. The job of replacing Cobbins will fall to sophomore Kamari Murphy, who has some experience in the role as he filled in last year when Cobbins injured his toe in the preseason.
  3. The college basketball world lost one of its coaching giants yesterday as former Iowa State and Michigan coach Johnny Orr passed away at the age of 86. It seems ridiculous that we could say that Orr, a coach who made it to a national championship game and two more Elite Eights at Michigan, would be more strongly associated with Iowa State than Michigan, but it is true. Orr, who is the all-time wins leader at both schools, shocked many observers by leaving Michigan to take over at Iowa State, but he is credited with building “Hilton Magic” into what it is today.
  4. We are not sure why there are not more quality college basketball “mailbag” columns. Perhaps it is because everybody is using Twitter as their “mailbag” forum to answer questions. In any event, Mark Titus has an amusing and surprising well-thought-out  mailbag from yesterday (part 1 and part 2). Most of the content is similar to the typical discussion, but it is somewhat interesting to see hear the responses from the perspective of a former college player (ok, who sat on the bench… a lot).
  5. One of the interesting things with the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week selections so far this year is that we don’t think any of them are legitimate threats to win the Player of the Year award. Obviously all of them, like DeAndre Kane this week, are excellent players, but we have not heard of any of the four that have received the honor this year being serious contenders for the end of the year award. Similarly, the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Week honor has been gone to one player (Jabari Parker) who will probably win the honor at the end of the year, but the other three winners including James Young this week do not figure to be in contention for the honor at the of the year. We guess it goes to show you the power of consistency.
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Big 12 M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 31st, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. If there was any question about Iowa State’s depth heading into the season, those concerns should be alleviated by now as DeAndre Kane became the fifth different Cyclone to win Big 12 Player of the Week honors this season. This marks the first time in conference history that a school has had five different players win player of the week honors in the same season. Kane averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds per game in route to MVP honors as Iowa State won the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii last week. Kane is just the most recent example of head coach Fred Hoiberg playing the transfer market perfectly in the offseason, and has been a huge reason why Iowa State is undefeated to this point.
  2. When watching Kansas play up to this point in the season, the lack of consistent three point shooting has been a glaring hole for the Jayhawks, and a reason so many Kansas opponents have chosen to play zone defense against Bill Self’s squad. Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star dove deeper into Kansas’ three-point shooting, pointing out that just 18.8% of their scoring has come from behind the three-point line. Of the last 20 Final Four teams, 19 of them have all averaged at least 20% of their points from deep, with UConn’s 2009 team being the only squad to fall under that mark. Interestingly enough, the combination of Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, and Naadir Tharpe have all shot above 33% from three for the season, while freshmen Frank Mason, Conner Frankamp, and Brennan Greene, are averaging a poor 23% from deep. For Kansas to make a deep run in March, they will need a solid shooter to emerge from the group of Greene, Frankamp, or Andrew White.
  3. Oklahoma State has rolled through the non conference portion of their schedule with just one blemish in a rematch loss to Memphis in the Old Spice Classic. Buried under the great start for the Cowboys is the difficulties they’ve had rebounding the basketball. As NBCSports.com discussed in their New Year’s resolution series, Oklahoma State is 147th in offensive rebounding and 179th in defensive rebounding this season. While Travis Ford’s team has athletes all over the floor, they lack the size down low to really match up with some of the bigger teams they see. It will be interesting to see how this factors in during the Big 12 conference season.
  4. As I finish discussing Oklahoma State’s rebounding problems, news breaks tonight that the Cowboys may have lost starting forward Michael Cobbins for a considerable amount of time in a blowout win over Robert Morris on Monday night.  Cobbins spent the second half watching the game from behind the bench using crutches and wearing a boot, and head coach Travis Ford said after the game that the injury “doesn’t look good.” Oklahoma State can slide LeBryan Nash to the four spot with Kamari Murphy at the center position, but at 6’8″, Murphy will give up significant size to most teams in the Big 12.
  5. The departure of former Kansas State standout point guard Angel Rodriguez in the offseason left a void in the Wildcats roster, and undoubtedly had a significant impact on K-State’s slow start out of the gate this season. For Wildcat fans, there’s hope that freshman point guard Jevon Thomas can add a dynamic that they have been lacking two months into this season. Thomas became eligible with the conclusion of the first semester, and says his emphasis will be on the defensive impact as he makes his debut in Bramlage Coliseum on Tuesday afternoon.
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Previewing Saturday’s Oklahoma State vs. Colorado Match-up

Posted by Brian Goodman & Andrew Murawa on December 21st, 2013

There are a lot of interesting non-conference battles around the country this weekend prior to a holiday break for most schools. Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of them: Colorado vs. Oklahoma State in Las Vegas, Saturday 8:30 PM PST on ESPN2.< Oklahoma State will win if… It capitalizes on its huge advantage offensively and stays out of foul trouble. We haven’t heard a ton about Oklahoma State lately because they haven’t had a marquee match-up since Thanksgiving weekend, but the offense has continued to cruise. Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Phil Forte are doing their thing. On top of that, Le’Bryan Nash has bought in and been a key contributor as of late, averaging 17.3 points per game over his last three contests. This isn’t a good match-up for Colorado because the skill at which they excel the most, defensive rebounding, has a strong chance of being neutralized by one of the best scoring attacks in the country. There aren’t many areas where the Buffaloes will have an edge, but they do get to the line often. Michael Cobbins will need to keep up-and-coming sophomore Josh Scott in check because he’s a very good ball-handler and along with Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie, can make Oklahoma State pay from the stripe.

Marcus Smart Will Be A Priority On Both Ends of The Court for Both Teams Saturday Night (AP Photo).

Marcus Smart Will Be A Priority On Both Ends of The Court for Both Teams Saturday Night (AP Photo).

Colorado will win if… It takes lessons from what Memphis did to Oklahoma State, and it gets a little bit of luck. Clearly, the game plan against Smart all season has been to keep him out of the lane as much as possible and make him shoot jumpers. If Smart can get into the paint, he is deadly — not only in creating shots for himself, but in creating shots for his teammates. If you can keep him shooting jumpers, not only is he still a work in progress there, but he is very much trying to prove that such progress has been made. In his first appearance against Memphis, his jumper was in full effect, as he knocked down five threes in a dominant performance. In the second go-round, he was 0-for-5 from deep and limped home to a 12-point performance. In other words, keep Smart shooting jumpers and trust your scouting report that they largely don’t go in. While the Buffaloes are primarily going to plan man defense, if Tad Boyle thinks a zone will give his guys a better chance at accomplishing that, he’ll give it a try. The Cowboys are still good enough defensively to cause problems for the Buffs even without Smart scoring prolifically, but getting OSU’s best player out of his comfort zone will go a long way towards giving CU a chance.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: With a 5-0 record and the top spot in the KenPom rankings, the Cowboys are off to a hot start this season and the whole country is anxious to see how long they keep it up. Travis Ford‘s team has shown that not only should it contend with Kansas at the top of the Big 12, but it has a place in the national title conversation as well. The Cowboys have destroyed all comers, transforming their games into must-see television programming with Vine-friendly moments left and right. Do-everything NPOY candidate Marcus Smart is quieting the doubts people had about his shooting, and his teammates have been outstanding, particularly from deep. Four Cowboys have attempted at least 10 threes on the year, and all four are shooting 35 percent or better from distance. That’s a deadly level of firepower that few teams in the country can match. In the paint, Brian WilliamsMichael Cobbins and Kamari Murphy have all pitched in to clean up the glass, clearing up Oklahoma State’s biggest incoming question heading into the season.

Marcus Smart and the Cowboys look to keep rolling in Orlando after their resounding win over Memphis last week. (SI.com)

Marcus Smart and the Cowboys look to keep rolling in Orlando after their resounding win over Memphis last week. (SI.com)

First Round Preview: Oklahoma State begins the bracketed portion of the Old Spice Classic against Purdue on Thanksgiving. The Boilermakers have a perfect 4-0 record, but they haven’t played anyone of consequence, and squeakers against Northern Kentucky and Rider – both at home – unsurprisingly haven’t led to anyone jumping on their bandwagon. Ronnie Johnson and Terone Johnson are the team’s leading scorers, but at just 13.8 and 13.0 points per game, respectively, they don’t do anything that exactly strikes fear into the hearts of their opponents. Purdue’s offense is struggling from deep, hitting 31.1 percent of its shots from three, although they are shooting well inside the arc. Defensively, Matt Painter‘s team is still trying to rediscover the days of the late 2000s, when the Boilermakers locked down anyone they faced. However, poor defensive rebounding and an inability to regularly force turnovers continues to leave them searching for answers.  There’s no doubt that they’ll be motivated to take down one of the top programs in college basketball this season, but in what should be an up-and-down affair, the Cowboys should handle the Boilermakers rather easily.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2013

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

Where We Left Off: After a crushing loss to an under-seeded Oregon team in the NCAA Tournament, Marcus Smart made the pain go away for OSU fans, shocking Stillwater and the rest of the college basketball world by announcing his return for the 2013-14 season. That news briefly led prognosticators to peg the Cowboys as the most realistic challenger to dethrone Kansas atop the standings, but then Andrew Wiggins committed to the Jayhawks. Now, not only do we have a bona fide conference race, but a POY race too. The product is a scenario where each team’s destiny, whether you’re talking about the conference title race or the bigger picture of the NCAA Tournament, could very well hinge on how their respective stars perform.

Travis Ford has all the pieces he needs to make a serious run at Kansas. (Getty)

Travis Ford has all the pieces he needs to make a serious run at Kansas in the standings. (Getty)

Positives: Smart may be the heart and soul of Travis Ford‘s team, but Oklahoma State wouldn’t be a Final Four contender without a very good supporting cast. It isn’t without flaws (more on that in a bit), but there may not be a team in the country that can match Oklahoma State’s backcourt tandem of Smart and Markel Brown. While the former is a surefire lottery pick, the latter has improved every season he’s been on campus. He can still destroy a rim as ferociously as he did in his earlier years, but he’s upped his stroke from the free throw line as well as beyond the arc while lowering his turnover rate despite more possessions every season. There isn’t much more you could want from a four-year player. Phil Forte gives the Cowboys a one-dimensional but very capable long distance bomber, and junior wing Le’Bryan Nash is a refined three-point stroke away from being a total match-up nightmare.

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Big 12 M5: 10.14.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 14th, 2013

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  1. A big part of Iowa State‘s rise under Fred Hoiberg has come from the Cyclones’ ability to trump expectations and get the most out of its talent. After ISU outperformed predictions in the last two seasons, the league’s coaches are done sleeping on them.  Big 12 coaches pegged Iowa State to finish fourth in Thursday’s preseason poll after being tabbed eighth in 2011 and 2012. The Cyclones enter this season hoping to do something they haven’t done since 1997: make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight time. With the transfers that made up the core of Hoiberg’s teams the last two seasons now graduated, the vast majority of ISU’s roster will consist of players “The Mayor” recruited out of high school. Fourth place in the conference is definitely a reasonable goal for Iowa State this season, and it’s not difficult to see them finishing ahead of preseason third-place pick Baylor if things break just right.
  2. Yahoo! Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg compiled a list of 10 freshmen capable of making big impacts in 2013-14 and you’ll never guess which Kansas newcomer topped the list (OK, you probably will). It’s worth noting that no other Big 12 freshman cracked Eisenberg’s rankings, but we like to think of that as a testament to just how good the freshman class is nationwide. Still, just because they didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on other young Big 12 rising talents like Joel EmbiidAllerik FreemanElijah Macon, Wayne Selden and Ishmail Wainwright. Still, Andrew Wiggins is the gem of the league’s incoming class and is just another reason why we can’t wait for the opening tip.
  3. It was announced late last week that two Big 12 teams, Kansas and Kansas State, will hold open scrimmages for their fans. The Jayhawks will open the Allen Fieldhouse doors this Saturday, giving fans who were shut out of “Late Night In The Phog” earlier this month a second chance to see the 2013-14 squad. Kansas State, which didn’t hold a late night event of its own, will also host an open scrimmage on Saturday. The Wildcats aren’t quite looking at a full-on rebuild, but losing Angel Rodriguez, Jordan Henriquez and Rodney McGruder will hurt the defending co-Big 12 champions. Still, with the official start of practice coming earlier this season, the wait until the first regular season games lengthens so public practices are a great opportunity for teams to inject some extra anticipation into their devoted fan bases.
  4. If all goes according to plan this season for Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Travis Ford (and even if it doesn’t), Oklahoma State will need to rebuild in a hurry to stay in the conversation atop the Big 12 moving forward. The Cowboys took one step toward that goal on Saturday when they received a verbal commitment from recruit Mitch Solomon, a 6’9″ power forward who is considered the best 2014 prospect in Oklahoma. Solomon, along with shooting guard commitment Jared Terrell, gives the Cowboys a very solid foundation from which to reload. In 2014, we’d expect Le’Bryan Nash, Michael Cobbins and Phil Forte to be the leaders, allowing the incoming freshmen to be eased into supporting roles and gradually move up from there.
  5. Late last week, UNLV announced that it will partner with Kansas for a home-and-home series beginning in Lawrence in the 2014-15 season, with a return trip to Las Vegas planned for the 2016-17 campaign. Neither Dave Rice nor Bill Self have ever been shy about assembling tough non-conference schedules, so while we aren’t too surprised at this development, we’re nevertheless thrilled to pencil in a pair of must-watch games for the future. The Runnin’ Rebels have more to gain from ambitious scheduling than the Jayhawks due to the difference in competition their respective leagues provide, although Kansas will benefit as well. It’s also worth noting that a trip to Las Vegas gives the Jayhawk coaching staff a convenient opportunity to check out some of the recruits at nearby Findlay Prep, which churns out blue-chip prospects on an annual basis. We’re still waiting on the announcement of that annual Kansas-Missouri series, by the way…
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