Big 12 M5: 03.13.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 13th, 2013

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  1. It’s finally game day. The Big 12 tournament gets under way later today and Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg joins basically every other Big 12 coach in saying, “Any team can win it this year.” Maybe his Cyclones are the ones do it. They’ve beaten Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State already. If you remember, ISU was a desperation three-pointer and an incorrect offensive foul call from sweeping the season series away from Kansas. We shall see.
  2. Speaking of Iowa State, forward Anthony Booker apologized for giving an obscene gesture to the Mountaineers’ student section during Saturday’s game against West Virginia. Booker committed a flagrant foul and was sent to the bench by coach Fred Hoiberg with 5:40 left in the second half. There, he gave the one-finger salute, initially disguising it as simply resting his hand on his chin. In a statement released by Iowa State, Booker cites him getting “caught up in the emotions” of the game and realizes it “was a poor decision.” His actions violated the Big 12’s rules on sportsmanship but the league has given ISU their blessing in keeping Booker eligible. The Big 12 now considers the mattered “closed.”
  3. Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt hasn’t announced what he’ll do with the position of head basketball coach. But we know interim coach Chris Walker will be considered for the job. “Chris Walker has done an excellent job considering the circumstances that he accepted when he took the interim role. That said, there’s not one thing I believe Chris Walker could have done any differently or any better over the course of the basketball season,” Hocutt said. Walker has increased the Red Raiders’ win total by two games overall and in conference play. If Texas Tech decides to go with someone other than him, it will be their fourth different coach in four seasons. Just as in the situation with Kevin Ollie at UConn, I believe their permanent head coach is already in Lubbock; he just needs the interim tag removed.
  4. While players like Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash, and Markel Brown grab all the headlines and highlights for 23-7 Oklahoma State, there has to be a bring-your-lunch-pail-to-work kind of guy who does the little things to help patch wins together. That guy for the Pokes is Michael Cobbins. Despite starting the season on the injury list, he has returned to a starter’s role. In addition to averaging seven points, six rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, Cobbins was named to the first team all-Big 12 Defensive Team. A lot of people like the Cowboys as a sleeper pick in this year’s Big 12 Tournament, and if they are, Cobbins will be a big reason why.
  5. Here is a piece that will make you and I jealous that we aren’t college athletes. SportsBusiness Journal has kept a tally of the cool amenities that all the teams participating in the conference or NCAA Tournaments will receive. Compared to the other power six conferences, it looks like Big 12 teams will have a plethora of items offered such as a Canon Powershot camera, different models of watches and even a Samsung Galaxy tablet. The conference with the most to choose from appears to be the SEC who gives players the option of taking Beats by Dre headphones, a 16GB iPod Touch with music card, or a Sony Blu-Ray disc player with WiFi. At least we now know why Texas A&M and Missouri left for the SEC.
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Big 12 M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 8th, 2012

  1. With the election now in the rear-view mirror, Matt Norlander over at CBSSports.com wondered if the presidential race was decided by states with the best basketball programs. Norlander’s sample size is comprised of his site’s preseason top 26 because he felt it wouldn’t be as compelling if states like Alaska, Hawaii or Wyoming were put on a level playing field with say, Indiana and Kentucky. It was a close “race” between the number of red states and blue states but the electoral vote count will remind you of the results from Tuesday. It is also worth noting that each of the Big 12 teams in their top 26 are in red states. I’m just saying.
  2. USA Today Sports‘ Eric Prisbell and Nicole Auerbach give us a list of coaches with the most to prove this season and two of them are Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford. While these coaches do have some work to do this year to justify their positions, they’re at different levels on the totem pole. Weber is in his first year of a new job while Ford is a bad season away from losing his job. The article also lists UConn’s Kevin Ollie as another coach with a lot of pressure this year, so if you’re going to list guys who have limited head coaching experience with limited time with which to work, Chris Walker of Texas Tech would be as good a candidate as any.
  3. We now know how long Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins will be sidelined. Travis Ford announced he’ll be out “about a month” after suffering an injury in Monday’s exhibition victory versus Ottawa University. Le’Bryan Nash threw an alley-oop pass to Cobbins but the pass went over his head and he fell on an Ottawa player. This, of course, is bad news for a coach already without two key pieces in his rotation — Phillip Jurick who is still recovering from an Achilles injury and J.P. Olukemi who is dealing with a knee injury. Guard Brian Williams, of course, is also out for the season. Get well, Cowboys.
  4. Tuesday night West Virginia dominated its exhibition game like any good program, beating Glenville State, 95-53, and head coach Bob Huggins isn’t happy. As a team the Mountaineers shot 50% from the floor, Deniz Kilicli dropped 19 in an efficient 8-for-10 shooting night, Aaric Murray had 13 points, nine boards, and two blocked shots, while Juwan Staten had 16 points, six dimes and zero turnovers. So what does Huggins think? “We’re going to look at how we didn’t run any offense.” Riiiight, coach. I see what you did there.
  5. Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale are two of ESPN’s most visible college basketball personalities and while they have had moments of disagreement over the years, they have finally agreed on one thing: Oklahoma and Lon Kruger are on the rise this season. I don’t like the fact that Kruger doesn’t stay at places very long but what Vitale says is true: He can flat-out coach. Take a good coach like Kruger, the returns of Steven Pledger and Romero Osby, the arrival of Amath M’Baye, an emerging point guard in Sam Grooms, and I believe they will hear Greg Gumbel call their name out on Selection Sunday.
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Big 12 Team Preview #6: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 7th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Oklahoma State at the #6 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 15-18 record, 7-11 in the Big 12
  • Key contributors lost: Cezar Guerrero, Keiton Page, Fred Gulley
  • Head coach: Travis Ford, 5th season
  • Projected finish: 6th

The 2012-13 season is the most important in Travis Ford’s coaching career. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Years one and two: back-to-back NCAA appearances with fourth and sixth place finishes in the conference. Years three and four: one NIT birth with seventh and ninth place finishes in Big 12 play. Time is running out for head coach Travis Ford, a coach who enters his fifth season under the most fire with perhaps the best roster he’s ever had. Sure he gets credit for making the Tournament in 2009 and 2010 but the reality is key guys (like James Anderson, Obi Muonelo and Byron Eaton) were holdovers from the previous Sean Sutton era. Once Ford’s players came around, that recliner of his soon became a hot seat.

The Personnel

The question isn’t whether Ford can bring talent to Stillwater but if he can win with that talent. Le’Bryan Nash was a huge get in 2011 and Ford was able to add his second five-star recruit in two years with the signing last year of Marcus Smart. Accomplished head coaches like Billy Donovan and Mark Few were still yukking it up about the freshman’s game and attitude more than a full month after coaching Smart’s team to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championships. The Cowboys also got some good news about J.P. Olukemi: The NCAA has granted him a full year of eligibility instead of the fall semester exclusively. Considering he played in only 13 of 33 games last season, any Olukemi is better than no Olukemi.

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Big 12 Summer Update: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by dnspewak on August 7th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. The final team on the list — Oklahoma State.

2011-12 record: 15-18, 7-11 (7th place, Big 12)

While his peers in the coaching community were chasing recruits this summer and lounging by the pool, Travis Ford took the stand during a rape trial to testify on behalf of a former player. This wasn’t about basketball anymore. This was about the life of Darrell Williams, facing a prison sentence after two women at a party accused him of groping them in 2010. The soaring expectations in 2012-13, thanks to the arrival of freshman star Marcus Smart and the return of sophomore Le’Bryan Nash, would have to wait. Ford argued for Williams’ innocence on the stand, and several former teammates attended the trial. The defense argued that the two women may have misidentified Williams, but that didn’t convince a jury. It convicted the forward on two counts, sending him into an uncontrollable sob as police escorted him out. Williams was never a star, and he had not played since February 2011. Still, this is not your average legal situation. That kind of thing happens all the time — like this weekend, when police arrested Cowboys’ center Philip Jurick for marijuana possession. In those situations, programs discipline, suspend and move on. When a former player heads to prison on a rape conviction, though, it takes a little while to recover. So that’s where Travis Ford sits with this Oklahoma State program right now. After a traumatic whirlwind of a summer, he must now find a way to recover from the graduation of heart-and-soul guard Keiton Page and transform this collection of individually talented parts into a winning team. It’d be nice, too, if he could find a viable point guard.

For All The Criticism, It’s Easy To Forget Nash Won Freshman of the Year Honors in 2011-12

Summer Orientation: Everybody knows Marcus Smart. Just ask Billy Donovan and Mark Few about the OSU freshman, who wowed them at the U-18 Championships this summer. “He was our leader from the moment the players introduced themselves,” Few told CBS’ Gary Parrish. “He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever been around — and that includes all the Zags I’ve coached.” That single quote from Few sums up Marcus Smart at the most basic level. He may be a McDonald’s All-American with NBA talent, and he may be a scoring guard with ungodly physical gifts and slashing ability. That’s all great, but it’s not even what Smart is known for. He’s known as a leader. Clutch. A playmaker. The kind of guy who prides himself on his instincts, defensive prowess, smarts and basketball savvy rather than his point-per-game average. These are the qualities that have Travis Ford gushing about his freshman, to the point where he’s already anointing Smart as a team leader after he excelled in individual workouts this summer. Perhaps we’re reading too much into the Rivals.com star rankings and the spectacular performance at the U-18 games, and maybe all of this talk of early leadership and the “ultimate teammate” is overkill for a guy who hasn’t stepped on the court yet. The beauty of the situation for Smart and the Cowboys, though, is that he’s not necessarily counted on to carry this team. Le’Bryan Nash often had those expectations as a freshman a year ago, but his decision to return for his sophomore year means the two highly-touted talents can feed off each other.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.15.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 15th, 2012

  1. It’s easy to forget that Michael Dixon does not start for Missouri. The point guard may play second-fiddle to Phil Pressey at times, but he’s as important as any player on Frank Haith‘s team. Embracing his role as a reserve, Dixon still cracks the rotation with major minutes and has emerged as a go-to option down the stretch in close games. Known for his confidence and swagger, Dixon’s play has made an impression on Haith in his first season. “I love him,” Haith told the Columbia Missourian. And that pretty much sums things up, folks.
  2. In the aftermath of TCU’s upset win over UNLV last night, perhaps the future of Big 12 basketball isn’t so bleak after all. ESPN’s Andy Katz takes a look at next year’s league, which will lose Missouri and Texas A&M while gaining TCU and West Virginia. Katz makes an interesting observation with regards to the Mountaineers’ travel time, considering the school is located in an odd geographic area compared to the rest of the conference. Coach Bob Huggins said he’s not worried: “we’ll just charter in and out,” he told Katz.
  3. Kansas may not have played particularly well in a win over Kansas State on Monday night, but it did what it needed to do to secure a road victory in a difficult environment. One blog investigates some of the statistics behind the win, and as you can imagine, a lot of the credit needs to go to center Jeff Withey. Without a typical Thomas Robinson performance, Withey carried the team with his double-double and nine blocks. As a team, the Jayhawks did not rebound very well, but they got to the free throw line and held Kansas State’s offense in check with a gritty defensive effort.
  4. Want to talk about another gritty effort? Look no further than Texas A&M last night. The Aggies limited Texas Tech to 38 points in a victory in Lubbock by dominating the boards and stifling the young Red Raiders. The stats are ugly in this box score: Tech made zero free throws, allowed 15 offensive rebounds and shot 38.6% from the field. Only reserve Jaye Crockett broke double figures. A&M actually shot worse from the field and finished with more turnovers, but its rebounding got the job done.
  5. Unlike college football, redshirts in basketball are a little rarer. It does not take freshman as much time to acclimate to the Division I level from a physical standpoint, so you don’t see programs utilize the redshirt nearly as much. At Oklahoma State, though, two redshirt freshmen are making an impact in their first season. With injuries and transfers limiting Travis Ford‘s roster, Michael Cobbins and Brian Williams have made the most of their opportunities. Much has been made of Cobbins’ muscle gain and improved play, but Williams has also been a very nice surprise as a swingman averaging about 25 minutes per game.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.09.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 9th, 2012

  1. Frank Haith doesn’t need anybody to stand up for him anymore — not with a 21-2 record in early February. Still, Kim English has been a vocal supporter of Haith since the day he was hired, and he’s back at it on Twitter. “Please don’t get it twisted whose “players” we are… We are Frank Haith’s “players”!!!” English never mentioned Mike Anderson, but he didn’t have to. Missouri fans have already long erased that name from their vocabularies.
  2. Like Haith, when Kansas State hired Frank Martin, he also immediately became the butt of the Big 12’s jokes. He wasn’t a coach; just a caretaker of Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. But after establishing his own brand at KSU following the departure of those two stars, Martin has created a consistent program in Manhattan despite a slip-up this past month or so. The Wildcats are not elite, though, and at least one person argues that it’s because he’s failed to recruit a dominant big man. In a way, that’s true. But you’ve got to remember that there are only a handful of elite bigs out there on the recruiting trail. Martin has brought in Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels and several other productive forwards to team with his terrific guards. And who’s to say Thomas Gipson won’t eventually pan out?
  3. This is going to be weird: The first 2,000 Texas Tech fans to show up on Saturday will all receive cut-outs of Billy Gillispie‘s head, and the first 200 students all get free pizza (yeah, it’s been a rough year in Lubbock). That’s great and all, but the idea of 2,000 blow-up pictures of Gillispie around the arena is frightening– like something out of one of the Scream movies. Let’s hope it doesn’t become a national trend.
  4. After an encouraging non-conference start, Oklahoma has fallen flat in Big 12 play. It’s not a major surprise for a team that most considered a cellar-dwellar in the preseason, but if anyone would have overachieved, it’d have been Lon Kruger. Clearly, though, that isn’t the case with this team. At 3-8 now in the Big 12, OU probably does not have much of a shot at any postseason tournament, much less the NCAAs. Still, it’s not as though Kruger’s team has rolled over for Big 12 foes. They seem to fight everyone they play, yet they cannot figure out how to close out a game or pull a major upset. That’s a good sign for Kruger’s program, which should take off in the near future. Hey, Kruger has won everywhere else he’s coached — why not Oklahoma?
  5. Oklahoma State has a thin roster, and it’s even thinner up front. But Michael Cobbins is starting to play big for the Cowboys. He’s served as the main cog in the paint for a team that has defended very well this year, and he swatted four shots against Baylor. He played every minute of the game and limited the Bears’ production, which is not an easy task against a team that starts three All-Conference caliber forwards. With Philip Jurick out due to injury right now, expect to see Cobbins’ role expand even further.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.01.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 1st, 2012

  1. It’s been awhile since we’ve touched on realignment talk, and that’s probably a good thing. During the offseason, it dominated college basketball discussions and seemed to drive us all nuts. After a few months off, though, the topic is back at the forefront. Big 12 officials recently met to discuss the future, and CBS’s Brett McMurphy laid out the possibilities in his latest column. It’s interesting to consider a few of the candidates, including BYU, which has already has shifted from the Mountain West to the West Coast Conference/football independent. There’s also talk of Louisville joining forces with the Big 12… or, it’s possible the league could stay at 10 institutions. Whatever happens, you’ll probably hear these rumors heating up again this summer.
  2. In other boring institutional news, the Big 12 is still searching for a commissioner to replace Dan Beebe. According to CBS, there are at least four candidates in the running for the position. None are household names, but one person caught our eye: Jack Swarbrick. The name shouldn’t sound familiar, but his affiliation should — he’s currently the athletic director at Notre Dame. That program, of course, has been involved in several Big 12 rumors in the past several months. Does this mean anything? Probably not. But it’s something to think about.
  3. It’s only a matter of time before Royce White becomes nationally acclaimed for his breakout season at Iowa State. Especially after his team’s win over Kansas, the Cyclones are starting to make a name for their program under Fred Hoiberg. White’s the big man on campus right now, and he’s just trying to deal with the pressure as it builds. ISU hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2005, so it’s up to White and his crew to change the culture this year in Ames — for good.
  4. On the other hand, Bill Self has never had to change the winning culture at Kansas. He has continued the program’s storied tradition ever since he arrived in Lawrence, and even in a supposed “down year,” he’s got the Jayhawks right in the thick of the Big 12 race. It’s not as though KU’s success this season has surprised us, though. Forget the fact that even Self had concerns about this team heading into the season. It was obvious that Thomas Robinson would shine with more playing time, and it was pretty obvious that the Jayhawks wouldn’t miss a beat. Now, they’ve got to knock off Missouri on Saturday to really show the league who’s in charge.
  5. Depending on your athletic experience, you may have had to add weight or gain muscle mass at some point in your life. It’s a fun idea — to eat anything and everything in front of you– but it’s also a very difficult reality. Michael Cobbins is trying to accomplish that goal right now for Oklahoma State, and he’s totally committed. As in six protein shakes-a-day committed. Since redshirting last season, he says he’s gained 30 pounds. It appears to be helping. His improvement this year is drawing rave reviews from coach Travis Ford, who says he “can’t say enough good things about Mike.”
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